Mario: A Retrospective Part 5

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And yet Geno never made it into Brawl. What a shame.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 came out on Sunday and while I intend to get you a review by next week, my copy is still en route since I chose the free shipping option. In the meantime, we still have more Mario games to go through before we can get to the newest game. Today, I want to hit the RPG’s. Away we go!

Super Mario RPG:

"What, no sequel to this awesome game?! How dreadful!"

Back in the glorious times of the SNES, RPG’s were experiencing a boom of epic proportion. You might even be able to argue that the SNES is the best system ever for the RPG. But we’re not here to argue that. Rather, I want to point you toward my second favorite game ever: Super Mario RPG, a title we were all extremely surprised to see. Nintendo Power, my source for all things games when I was a kid, pitched the new game to us completely wrong, talking about how Mario was making the jump into the 3rd dimension. While Mario did technically look like he was in 3D and he could move in a 3D space, the game wasn’t about the platforming. I just didn’t get it when I first rented Mario RPG. Now though, I realize that it is simply amazing. There’s not a bit I don’t like, and more than anything I just want to see Geno, Mallow, Booster, and the Axem Rangers make an appearance in some new titles. Seriously, we need a Mario RPG 2. A used copy could cost you upwards of $30 on Amazon, but the Virtual Console has you covered for $8.

Paper Mario:

Oh the paper-themed world that would await us.

Mario 64 came and went and while the 64 saw other Mario hits appear like Mario Kart 64, Mario Golf, and Mario Party, we still hadn’t heard a thing about a follow-up to Mario RPG. Then Nintendo Power informed us that there would be a new Mario based RPG called Paper Mario, a game that intended to use 3D backgrounds with paper-thin characters. Odd, and very disappointing news to those waiting for Geno to come back, but was the game good? Oh my yes. While it simplified the whole RPG formula with heavily reduced numbers (a big turn could result in an attack that does over 30 damage), it made sure to get the style just right. Humor was pushing to the foreground and after the excellent first Paper Mario ended it was apparent that we needed a sequel to this series as well. The original Paper Mario is another slightly more expensive used classic at over $20, but the Virtual Console yet again comes through with this title for $10.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door:

The first chapter boss is a dragon named Hooktail that eats the audience? This has to be a good game.

I didn’t really think much when I heard there’d be a new Paper Mario game other than “Boy, I hope they bring the characters back from the first game.” As is always the case, they did not, so I would be forced to relearn Mario’s partners and their importance as best as I could. Luckily, it wouldn’t be overly difficult since Paper Mario 2 is definitely an improvement over the first game. The humor is far better, the characters are vastly more interesting, and the whole game figured out the sweet spot of just adding more good concepts to an already solid framework. I did, however, grow weary of the constant fetch quests that appeared, purely to extend game time, but overall Thousand-Year Door is an excellent game to own. Somehow a used copy of Thousand-Year Door will only run you $11 on Amazon, so you’re not doing too bad on price if you’ve been buying these titles as I list ’em.

Super Paper Mario:

Hooray for nerd references!

The third Paper Mario game was inevitable, and for a while Nintendo Power told us it would be for the GameCube. Eventually it just dropped right off the face of the earth and I forgot all about it. Then it reappeared as a Wii title and it became apparent what happened. While I’m not in favor of just pushing GameCube games onto the Wii, Super Paper Mario still turned out to be a fantastic game, though it utterly did away with the concepts that Paper Mario introduced. It wasn’t truly an RPG since the focus was placed on platforming again, but you could still level up and gain new abilities as you progressed through the game. All of this aside, this is the funniest game in the series and I could probably attribute that all to Francis the chameleon nerd. The concept of everyone being paper-thin was pushed to its limit here and getting to see Mario flip the levels from 2D to 3D was well done. While I’d like to see a new Paper Mario, who knows if it’ll ever happen. However, with the 3DS getting shown next month at E3, I could see a Paper Mario game working perfectly. In the meantime, Super Paper Mario is under $20 on Amazon.

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga:

Okay, you probably wouldn't understand what's happening here if I tried to explain it.

While the consoles were doing their thing with Paper Mario, the Game Boy Advance decided to bring Luigi into the fray in a new RPG. I don’t quite remember why it’s called Superstar Saga, but I do remember that it’s amazing. Part of this is because of the return of high numbers in terms of damage. Something just feels more satisfying doing a huge round of damage with numbers like 750 rather than 20. But what really sold me on the Mario & Luigi games, besides the humor, which is also spot on, was the combat system. It took the same concepts from Mario RPG and Paper Mario of hitting attack buttons at the proper time to do extra damage or hitting the block button to avoid damage and made them really, really good. Now you could entirely avoid damage by jumping over an enemy projectile or keep an attack combo going as long as you were paying attention. Oh, and the Koopalings came back, so more power to Mario & Luigi. Go ahead and grab one of the best GBA titles for $11.

Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time:

Time to up the ante, eh boys?

And then the DS appeared and a new Mario & Luigi game was announced. It became the second DS game I ever bought, partly on a whim since I liked the first one, but it’d quickly become one of my favorites. It was almost exactly the same game, play-wise, as the first one, but it added two new characters to keep track of and the whole split-screen gameplay that allowed some enemies to be in the top screen firing projectiles down onto the Bros on the bottom screen, meaning you had to pay attention. Partners in Time was simply a tight experience and made for a lot of fun. But what more could they do next?

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story:

Flaming crescendo of epic!

Apparently they could do a lot more. The third Mario & Luigi game, also for the DS, kept the already solid formula and kept building upon it, adding Bowser as a character while Mario & Luigi did their thing in Bowser’s body. I can’t recommend the Mario & Luigi games enough, especially if you’re a fan of Mario RPG. Yes, they’re simplistic compared to most RPG’s on the market, but they’re some of the most well written games available and they play perfectly, so don’t miss out.

We haven’t heard of any new RPG titles with Mario in them, but we can only hope that the next Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi, or especially Mario RPG title is just around the corner. But remember, this Mario Retrospective isn’t done yet. We still have sports and parties to delve into, so come back tomorrow for the next part. Which is it going to be? Come back and see.

You can catch up on the Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 in the meantime.

Want to read more on Mario? Check out these articles:

Mario: A Retrospective Part 6

The 20 Greatest Mario Enemies Ever

Why You Own a Wii: A Review of New Super Mario Bros Wii

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About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.

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