Paper Mario is a beloved spin-off RPG series for everyone’s favorite mustachioed plumber. As the title suggests, everything in this world is made of paper, including Mario. Starting life on the Nintendo 64, Paper Mario was set to be the successor to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars until it took on a life of its own. Since the original game’s release in 2000, there have been quite a few titles ranging pretty greatly in quality.
Related: The 10 best Mario games of all time
All Paper Mario games, ranked
Here is our ranking of every Paper Mario game from worst to best.
6. Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Sticker Star is easily the most mediocre entry in the Paper Mario series (so far, at least). Released in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS, Sticker Star went further away from the series’ roots in RPG mechanics with an over-reliance on the sticker mechanic. You would use them in battles and the environment to progress. The problem is that fighting does not reward you anything. There’s no XP in the game, and sometimes you have to do a lot of backtracking to find a random object in the world (literally called “Things”) to make into a sticker to progress. Also, the partner gameplay prevalent in previous entries was removed from this game, so there are no unique characters here.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star is not a bad game per se, but it is not worth your time to play. The game completely lost the series’ identity at this point by deemphasizing battling, removing the charm of the past game’s colorful characters, and the sticker mechanics are plain boring.
5. Paper Mario: Color Splash
Color Splash is a step up from Sticker Star, but not necessarily anything worth playing, either. Released on the Wii U in 2016, this game came out when Nintendo was ramping up to leave the Wii U behind and look forward to the Nintendo Switch, which shows. Graphically, the game looks beautiful, but that is about where the praise ends.
Many of the same mechanics in Sticker Star make their way over here and remain boring, repetitive slogs of gameplay. Again, there are no unique partners, and you only see the most mundane of Mario characters, Toad. Battles are slightly rewarding, but only towards upgrading your hammer. Color Splash was released on a dying console that was never that popular, to begin with. It is best that it stays there and is forgotten.
4. Paper Mario: The Origami King
The Origami King is the Switch’s Paper Mario game, and while it has its defenders, we are not the biggest fans of it. While we agree that the overall story and world have improved from Sticker Star and Color Splash, the battle system here is always based on a ring puzzle. Maybe Paper Mario can not really be considered an RPG series at this point, but at least the series is no longer at its very worst. Origami King looks good and has some charm, but you have to enjoy ring puzzles to want to play this for more than a few hours.
3. Super Paper Mario
Now we finally get into the games that are worth your time. Super Paper Mario was released for the Nintendo Wii in 2007 and started moving away from the RPG mechanics that made the previous two entries beloved games. The game plays more like a traditional Mario 2D scroller with the twist that you can switch the perspective to 3D whenever you want. You also get to play as Luigi, Peach, and Bowser in this game. Their usefulness in the game is not necessarily as prevalent as Mario’s, but it is nice to see them here and playable.
With Super Paper Mario focusing on platforming rather than the RPG gameplay that people had loved up until this point, it was a move that could have easily made this game as forgettable as Sticker Star and Color Splash if it was “just another Mario platformer.” However, the storytelling is top-notch, and the gameplay is fun, making this Wii title an enjoyable experience.
2. Paper Mario
The first Paper Mario game was released for the N64 in 2000 and introduced the world to 2D paper-like objects occupying a 3D world. Looking back at most games released on the N64 shows that many of those games did not age well. That being said, Paper Mario could easily be given a slight touch-up and look great on the Switch today. This game brought a colorful world made of paper woven into the game’s natural storytelling and humor. The turn-based combat introduced here was simple to understand but deep and enjoyable. Mario had his set of moves, and the companion characters were unique and added a new twist to the world and battles.
Paper Mario was a beautiful twist on what we knew a Mario game to be. It was a worthy successor to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars while also being its own thing. Everything here, from the paper environment to the brilliant writing, made this one of the best games to play on the N64, even at the end of that console’s life.
1. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
The Thousand-Year Door is an example of how to handle a true sequel perfectly. Released on the Nintendo GameCube in 2004, this game took everything introduced in the N64 title and turned it up to 11. The story was deeper, funnier, and more robust; combat was even better with brand new colorful partners; and you could interact in the open world much more than the original. It’s a masterpiece of an RPG that expands on everything introduced in the original game for the better.
The Thousand-Year Door is an absolute GameCube classic and a brilliant sequel to the N64 game. It remained so faithful to the original game that people at the time criticized it for not being different enough, and that could be what led Nintendo down the path to making Super Paper Mario, Sticker Star, and Color Splash. Regardless, Thousand-Year Door remains the best Paper Mario game made, and if you have a GameCube or Wii, you should definitely pop the disc in and try it again.