In the realm of video games, few franchises have managed to captivate players with as much charm and creativity as the beloved Paper Mario series. Known for its unique blend of RPG elements and platforming, these games have consistently delivered memorable adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond. One title, in particular, dared to break free from convention and take the series in a bold new direction. Super Paper Mario, released for the Nintendo Wii, introduced players to an innovative narrative and gameplay experience that strayed from the traditional formula, daresay, for the better. In this review, I, Brighton Nelson, will delve into the phenomenal world of Super Paper Mario, exploring its strengths and weaknesses and ultimately uncovering what makes it a standout title in the Mario universe. So, grab your Pixl companions and prepare to embark on a journey like no other as we dive into the unique and captivating world of Super Paper Mario in today's article... a Super Paper Mario Review: Built different, but in a good way.
Battle System - 6
First, let's get the worst part of Super Paper Mario out of the way. While I don't hate the combat in this game, this sure isn't the first time I've discussed its flaws—I talked about it in my article discussing the top five worst RPG battle systems. While the battle system is incredible and unique for a platformer (at least in concept), it hardly compares to its predecessors, or in my opinion, one of its successors, Paper Mario: The Origami King. While I am okay with innovation and change, there is one core problem with this action-based combat system: it is mind-numbingly easy. Most bosses can godown in around a minute with the most minimal of planning... the final boss can literally be killed in two hits with Bowser and Thudley and a Bone-In-Cut. That's a little embarrassing. I felt this game actively wanted bosses to be short, which is sad because some of these fights could've been genuinely fun if they were a lot tougher. Overall, this combat had immense promise with a mix of platforming and RPG elements, but in the end, it just could've been so much more.
Story - 9.5
This game is revered for having the best story of any Mario game, and while one Mario game does it slightly better, Super Paper Mario's story holds such a special place in my heart. While the story is so simple in concept, centering around Count Bleck wanting to destroy the universe, it is brilliant in its execution. This game told a story of love, death, and doomsday. The story starts with a bang, introducing the main antagonist, Count Bleck, an insane marriage of Peach and Bowser, the Light and Dark Prognasticus, Flipside and its characters, and Tippi. The following hours of the game are an intriguing slow burn through different levels and environments; however, after each chapter, there is an engaging B-Plot with Count Bleck and his villains, as well as some story pieces coming through letters of the past and chapter epilogues in Flipside. What truly ends up carrying this story is the diverse cast of mysterious villains, with Count Bleck being my favorite Mario villain and one of my favorite villains of all time. His motivation is one of loss and despair—he lost the one person who meant the most to him, and he believes the best way to end the world's pain is to simply end the world. This is dark, and while the player never would agree with Bleck, the game makes you understand his motives so well. This game really picks up in Chapter 6, making it a mad dash to the ever-climactic finish. This game also had remarkable individual chapter stories, which, while not as interesting as those in Ppaer Mairo: The Thousand-Year Door, did an excellent job of fleshing out the incredible world and making the stakes feel free, as these worlds are all suffering from believing in their impending doom. The whole Chapter 7 was just utterly insane, and the amount of mind-blowing plot twists in the final act is incredible. I have never played a game with a better finale to its story—it is so beautiful and makes me cry every time. While some people say this is the best story ever told (I know, crazy), I wouldn't go nearly that far. But it is still phenomenal and one of my favorite RPG stories of all time.
Characters - 10
By extension of the story, the characters here are fantastic. From the first minute of the game, I was already incredibly intrigued by them. From the aforementioned Count Bleck to the mysterious and charming Dimentio, from the calm and calculated Nastasia to the comic relief character, O' Chunks, from the interesting shapeshifter Mimi to the eccentric Mr. L, the villain line-up here is phenomenal. But it isn't just the villains. Peach and Bowser are more fun than ever here, and Luigi truly gets to shine in this installment, something that doesn't happen often in Paper Mario. Tippi is awesome, Squirps and Luvbi have compelling (albeit short) side stories, Merlon is a vibe, and all the Pixls have some charm to them. Chapter villains like Fracktail, Merlee, Franis, and King Croacus have so much going for them, even if their stays are brief. The characters and story in this game make the game feel so alive and are part of why this is one of my favorite games of all time.
Music - 10
Wow, this soundtrack is brilliant! Every track in this game builds a perfect atmosphere, making the game unique. This is one of the rare video game soundtracks that I still jam out to years after I played the game for the first time. The game's soundtrack never ceased to amaze me, even from the game's first minutes. One of my favorite parts about the Paper Mario series is that each installment always has such a distinct musical flavor from the last, and in this case, it takes a more electronic approach, which sets it apart from pretty much every other RPG I've played. Ultimately, this soundtrack is phenomenal, and it's in the running for the best Paper Mario soundtrack ever.
Art & Graphics - 8
While I think this might be the worst-looking Paper Mario game for me, it is still Paper Mario—one of the most beautiful-looking game franchises of all time in my eyes. The environments and 2D backgrounds are progressively more inspired and beautiful than the last, and the UI is incredible. Sadly, something about the characters and enemy models didn't click with me as much, and the 3D environments always felt lifeless. However, this is primarily personal taste—I still think this game looks fantastic. Overall, while this is my least favorite Paper Mario game in terms of art and graphics, being one of the worst of my favorite game series isn't all that terrible.
Chapters - 9
Paper Mario games are unique because of their diverse and lived-in environments, and Super Paper Mario creates these environments just as well as the last few games. From Lineland, a beautiful opening dimension with four distinct levels that break free from the simple grassland and dungeon of every other installment in the series, to Gloam Valley, a stunning swap with warm colors that ends off in Merlee's Mansion, which hosts some of my favorite levels in the game; from the Bitlans, a game that hearkens back to the roots of the Super Mario Bros series while pushing it in a new creative direction, to Outer space, a fun )albeit flawed) romp through space with shooter levels and low gravity zones galore. No level feels like the last, and every level seamlessly transitions to the next, making each chapter have chosen themes that still allow for a ton of experimentation. On top of the levels are Flipside and Flopside, two of my favorite hub towns in gaming that really only Rogueport can beat. With the way the story is told, the level-like format feels much less choppy than in sticker Star or Color Splash, making dimensional travel through the different doors fun and charming. In summary, this game has some of my favorite Paper Mario locations, and even if they can't quite reach the highs of The Thousand-Year Door or The Origami King, this category deserves a score of 10 out of 10.
Sidequests - 10
This game has some outstanding sidequests—some of the best in the series. From finding new optional Pixls to taking on the two Pits of 100 Trials and Sammer's Kingdom; from searching for treasure with treasure maps to collecting cards to boost your damage output; from finding a secret arcade to discovering the details of the Light and Dark Prognasticus; quite frankly, there were so many quality sidequests in this game, and I think they are perfect. Heck, we thought they were good enough we wrote an article about them! There aren't too few or too many, too long or too short—they perfectly round out the edges of an already phenomenal experience—of one of my favorite games of all time.
Customization System - 8.5
There's a reason this is my favorite platformer of all time—it has some fantastic ideas, which makes it so sad the battles are such pushovers! No platformer I've ever played lets you switch your characters on the fly like this one, and the Pixls made this game so fun and unique! The characters all feel so different in both platforming and combat! I also love how the system has a simple experience system, with the score and effectiveness of your platforming increasing your power level so seamlessly. My most significant problems with this system aren't that damaging, but they hold this score back from perfection. First of all, I would've loved it if every character could flip, and instead, Mario would just have his hammer as his bonus. Switching between the characters felt choppy, and having Mario get his hammer so late was quite disheartening! My other problem is the underutilization of some Pixls—I would've loved to see more reasons to use Dottie, Piccolo, and (to an extent) Slim. These Pixls were so fun and unique, but they weren't as well utilized as they could be... I just wish we could get a Super Paper Mario 2! I also love how the cards buff the power of your characters; it makes it super fun to collect multiples of the same cards and become an ultimate battle machine! I was able to get like ten Goomba cards by the end of the game, and all the numbers piling up ended up giving an insane amount of damage. In the end, I love how this game feels—a more slow and puzzle-based platformer that has leisurely level designs, and due to this customization system, this more laid-back, RPG-centric platformer is my favorite platformer of all time, as well as one of my favorite RPGs of all time.
Quality of Life - 10
Okay, this game has some obscene issues, but they aren't all that bad in the end. The elevator loading times and getting between Flipside and Flopside are both overly prolonged, and a couple levels have some wacky designs, with the block "puzzle" in Chapter 5, as well as those ill-conceived Cursyas. On the other hand, though, I look back on some of these ill-conceived ideas with a smile—when zany, flawed ideas add to the game's charm, as questionable as they may be, I can't dock too many points from it. This game, Final Fantasy VIII, Breath of the Wild, Mario 64, Star Wars Jedi: Survvior, and Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch are some other examples of games that I found some wacky quality of life issues in, but I was able to look past them because they made me smile and laugh at their bizarre design choices. I look back on these games with fond memories—Super Paper Mario is just one of those games for me... perfectly flawed.
Fun Factor: 10
Overall Score: 91%
Letter Rating: S+
This game was a testament to me that the Paper Mario franchise could go in bizarre directions and be infinitely experimental yet still stand as one of my all-time favorite games. While this wasn't necessarily carried over into Sticker Star, which was a massive decrease in quality, I still need to finish my playthrough of Color Splash, so I should refrain from commenting on it. Still, I love it when a series tries new things successfully. As much as I adore the first two games in the series, Super Paper Mario and The Origami King still stand as two games that have helped define the reasons I love gaming—games that have roused creativity and have inspired me to do what I do with this website. Super Paper Mario may not be for everyone, but I recommend you give it a chance—it may be a life-changing and entertaining experience like it was for me. Whether you are an RPG fan, platformer enthusiast, or a casual gamer who typically sticks to mainline Mario, this game is a must-play and is more than worth a purchase.
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Primary Version: Super Paper Mario (Nintendo Wii)