Super Mario is arguably Nintendo’s most popular property and the titular plumber has been the publisher’s mascot for decades. When we think of the franchise, players’ minds often gravitate to the nostalgic platformers or the high-octane Mario Kart series. However, Mario RPGs are engaging entries in the franchise too.
Whether you’re looking for a union between brothers or a visually-pleasing adventure with Paper Mario, Nintendo’s RPG corner of Mario games has something for everyone. Here’s a list of every Mario RPG and where their popularity stands with fans.
12 Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Released on the Nintendo 3DS in 2012, Paper Mario: Sticker Star often divides audiences, with some saying it’s at least better than Super Paper Mario and others demanding more appreciation for it. It’s also often praised for its music and decent graphics for the time it was made in.
Even though no Mario RPG on this list is inherently bad, the lackluster story built for Sticker Star is constantly in the crosshairs, therefore, there are so many other titles that have received higher regard from the fandom.
11 Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
The first Mario & Luigi union in an RPG was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2003 and was later remade for the 3DS alongside Bowser’s Minions and also appeared on the Wii U Virtual Console in 2014.
Superstar Saga has remained in the average tier for a Mario RPG and therefore nestles into a lower ranking despite its remake getting more praise. Nevertheless, the title’s unique sense of humor and relatively easygoing gameplay was a great entry point for younger players going into the franchise fresh.
10 Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
The second Mario and Luigi team up on this list comes in the form of Dream Team, known in Japan as Dream Adventure, which was released on the Nintendo 3DS back in 2013. The title was created in order to celebrate the Year of Luigi – the 30th anniversary of the character.
Despite being treasured within pockets of the fandom for its unique concept, Dream Team doesn’t do quite enough to propel the series to its full potential, even though some mark Antasma as the best villain out of all the antagonists of the RPG series.
9 Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam
Releasing two years later on the 3DS was Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, or Paper Mario Mix, an underrated title that was a blend of Paper Mario and the brothers’ series and was frequently praised for its papercraft battles.
One major criticism found after playing Paper Jam regards its vanilla-level design and overall story, which holds this entry back in the lower ranks of our list. However, the fandom’s reception towards boss fights and the accompanying score was largely positive, with some favoring it more than others.
8 Paper Mario: Color Splash
The second Paper Mario entry on the list belongs to Color Splash released on the Wii U back in 2016 and was the first of the series to flaunt high definition. It was also another RPG to steer into the action-adventure genre and made good use of Nintendo’s Wii U GamePad.
Despite many Mario fans insisting that Color Splash should be above Sticker Star and other previous titles, its influence on the RPG genre doesn’t contest with the higher-ranking games on our list.
7 Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
Partners in Time is one of the most underrated Mario RPGs in existence, according to the fandom, and it was released in 2005 on the Nintendo DS and later on the Wii U Virtual Console in 2014. It’s also one of Mario’s classic games that have joined the current Nintendo Switch Online catalogue for new generations to play.
Combining one of the better storytelling arcs in the list with inviting locations and memorable bosses gives Partners in Time replayability, but the entry just misses out on the top spot.
6 Super Paper Mario
Releasing in 2007 for the Wii, Super Paper Mario was a gateway for the series to dabble in the action-adventure genre – a controversial move that wasn’t well received by every fan of the franchise – but remained a groundbreaking feat in the eyes of some.
While it deserves a higher ranking on this list for its story, villains, and ability to balance a buffet of genres in one title, some players are still unable to endure the encounter with Mimi and Nintendo would do well to keep this antagonist out of any future remakes.
5 Paper Mario: The Origami King
The most recent Paper Mario release was The Origami King which launched back in 2020 for the Nintendo Switch to celebrate the Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary. It’s adored by fans who consider it a visually-stunning entry for the modern age and a fitting evolution of the series on Nintendo’s modern console.
The Origami King was a decent, middle-of-the-road entry into the series, flaunting a vibrant world with bizarre characters, but left more to be desired in our top-four ranking.
4 Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Legend of the Seven Stars has received four releases in the last 20 years, beginning with its debut on the SNES in 1996 and then on the Wii U Virtual Console. It holds its reputation as a Super Mario classic and paved the way for many entries on this list.
As the first RPG to feature Mario, this entry is the epitome of Super Mario fun, complete with stellar music and another great plot that gets emotional more than once. Being developed by Square, it’s considered a rare and often treasured project between the two companies.
3 Paper Mario
The original Paper Mario, which was released on the Nintendo 64 in 2000, is responsible for embarking on a fresh, exciting idea in the greater Super Mario franchise and it set a standard for future titles.
Despite this entry dividing the fandom once more, there’s no denying the influence it had on the IP and its stance as a solid Mario RPG game. The music of this title in particular is often pinpointed as a staple in the series, honored with a soundtrack release by Famitsu in 2000.
2 Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
The final Mario & Luigi outing on our list is Bowser’s Inside Story which is awarded second place in the ranking for being the Mario RPG with the highest replayability factor in the series. It was also one of the first titles to make use of the Nintendo DS’ touchscreen, which added a novelty to the title’s release.
Originally launched on the DS back in 2009, Bowser’s Inside Story was initially applauded for letting you play as Bowser. Now, its battle system, storytelling, and music still hold up in the present day.
1 Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Taking the number one spot on our Mario RPG list is the popular Paper Mario title, The Thousand-Year Door, which was originally released on the Nintendo GameCube back in 2004. Many fans consider this to be the staple of the Paper Mario series and one of the best games on the retro console.
This title is rumored to be coming to Nintendo Switch Online which would allow modern gamers to indulge in this classic. The Thousand-Year Door is an easy top-spot steal for its ability to hone the essence of a Mario game, nailing the humor, storytelling, music, and more in one charming title.