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Every Super Mario RPG, Ranked

Mario might be known to some as “Jumpman,” but some of the plumber’s best games are actually RPGs, not platformers.

Taking a platformer series known more for its gameplay than its story or worldbuilding into the narrative-rich RPG genre may sound like an odd choice, but Mario made the transition very well back with the original Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars on the SNES. In fact, Mario’s first RPG worked so well that not only is the beloved SNES classic now getting a full remake for the Nintendo Switch later this year, but it also spawned multiple Mario-themed RPG sub-series, including the humorous adventures of the Mario & Luigi series, the ever-evolving Paper Mario franchise, and even a duo of tactics RPGs with Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope.

So far, Nintendo’s main man has starred in 14 RPGs–a surprising number for a mascot mostly known for running and jumping. And while not all of Mario’s role-playing outings measure up to the quality of genre pillars as, say, Chrono Trigger, there are several that easily rank among the best RPGs on their respective systems, and a few could be counted among the very best RPGs of all time. That’s pretty good for a dude mostly known for jumping on things and saying “Wahoo!”

In light of the upcoming Super Mario RPG releasing on Switch on November 17, and the fact that multiple other classic Mario RPGs are now easily available on the Nintendo Switch via the Nintendo Switch Online service, we decided to rank Mario’s many RPGs into a definitive list.

If you’re curious how we feel about Mario’s other games, be sure to check out our rankings of every Super Mario platfomer. We also have similar rankings for The Legend of Zelda series and mainline Final Fantasy titles as well.

14. Paper Mario: Color Splash

  • Platforms: Wii U
  • Released: October 7, 2016

Despite pulling up the rear on our list, the Paper Mario series’ Wii U entry, Color Splash, is still an enjoyable overall experience. The gameplay stumbles in places–notably the tedious cutout ability and uneven card-based battle mechanics–but some ideas like the painting mechanic are more fun. And though many lament the samey-ness of the supporting cast, the snappy writing and well-executed paper-based world design make the adventure worthwhile.

Read our Paper Mario: Color Splash review

13. Paper Mario: Sticker Star

  • Platform: 3DS
  • Released: November 11, 2012

No two games in the Paper Mario series are alike, and Sticker Star took the Paper Mario series in a more gameplay-focused direction compared to many of its predecessors. Sticker Star swaps out the varied characters and in-depth narrative of previous games for platformer-lite level design and a new Sticker system that, on the surface, adds a new layer to combat and makes for rewarding exploration. Unfortunately, the lack of post-battle rewards like XP and absence of strong narrative hooks undermines its innovations. Nevertheless, Sticker Star maintains the beloved Paper Mario charm that makes the series so compelling.

Read our Paper Mario: Sticker Star review.

12. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

  • Platforms: 3DS
  • Released: December 3, 2015

After years of existing as parallel franchises, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam finally gave fans of both Mario RPG subseries the crossover they wanted. Paper Jam features elements from both Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi in one game, including a mashup of both series’ visual styles and combat mechanics. While this results in some fun twists in the combat and level design, none of these crossover elements are used to their full potential and the narrative and writing feel uninspired compared to Alpha Dream’s previous entries in the Mario & Luigi series.

Read our Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam review

11. Paper Mario: The Origami King

  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Released: July 17, 2020

Paper Mario: The Origami King takes the series from the 2D dioramas of previous games into a fully 3D world. The large-scale environments are fun to explore, and the game’s creative art style–naturally inspired by origami papercraft–is a joy to look at. The Origami King also reintegrates some of the RPG systems missing from other Paper Mario titles, including post-battle rewards that offer a smattering of progression to chase after. However, the battles themselves take a more puzzle-like approach that, while fun for a while, lacks the longevity of a more traditional RPG combat system.

Read our Paper: Mario The Origami King review

10. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

  • Platforms: 3DS
  • Released: July 12, 2013

Like other 3DS games, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team takes advantage of the 3DS’s built-in stereoscopic 3D, making it easier to appreciate the game’s 3D environments. Prior entries in the series were fully 2D, but Dream Team’s 3D levels add extra depth to the platfomer-RPG hybrid–even if the art direction feels uninspired at times. The rest of the game retains many of the core gameplay systems and concepts of previous Mario & Luigi titles, giving Dream Team a solid RPG footing, while feeling just a little too safe compared to other titles on this list.

Read our Mario & Luigi: Dream Team review

9. Super Paper Mario

  • Platforms: Wii
  • Released: April 9, 2007

The third Paper Mario game, Super Paper Mario, foreshadowed the series’ pivot from traditional RPGs to more experimental gameplay ideas–in this case, a hybridization of action-RPGs and platforming, wrapped in a perspective-shifting gimmick where Mario can swap the level from 2D to 3D to reveal secrets and aid in puzzle solving. The other characters in Mario’s party–including Luigi, Peach, and Bowser–have their own unique powers that aid them in the game’s light platforming sections and real-time combat. These new ideas work well with the Paper Mario aesthetic, and though it’s less of an RPG than some fans prefer, it’s still an excellent entry in the franchise.

Read our Super Paper Mario review

8. Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time

  • Platforms: Nintendo DS
  • Released: November 28, 2005

Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time is a time-hopping adventure where the mustachioed brothers explore the Mushroom Kingdom’s past and present at the same time. The game leverages the Nintendo DS’ dual-screen layout, with players controlling Mario and Luigi on the bottom screen, and Baby Mario and Baby Luigi on the top screen. This dual-team approach extends to the puzzles and combat as well, with certain actions in one timeline affecting the other. If there’s one place Partners in Time struggles, it’s the writing; its main questline feels flat compared to other Mario & Luigi games. Thankfully, it’s still just as funny.

Read our Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time review

7. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Released: August 29, 2017

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a frankly absurd mix of ideas that somehow works. Not only is this an official crossover featuring Mario characters teaming up with Ubisoft’s Rabbids; it also features turn-based tactics combat in the vein of XCOM, explorable 3D levels, and RPG elements like skill trees and upgradable gear. And while the story isn’t groundbreaking–it is a Mario and Rabbids game, after all–it’s still interesting enough to keep you engaged throughout the entire adventure.

Read our Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle review

6. Paper Mario

  • Platforms: Nintendo 64
  • Released: August 11, 2000

The original Paper Mario might seem quaint compared to later Mario role-playing game spin-offs, but its charming art style, humorous writing, and streamlined RPG systems are just as enjoyable in 2023 as they were in 2001. Originally envisioned as a spiritual follow-up to Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario evolved many of the gameplay ideas introduced in the SNES classic, while crafting a unique adventure that stands out as the best RPG on the Nintendo 64. And thanks to its inclusion in the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack collection, you can easily revisit this classic today.

Read our Paper Mario review

5. Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope

  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Released: October 20, 2022

After the success of Mario’s unexpected team-up with the Rabbids in Kingdom Battle, Ubisoft continued the series with Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope. Rather than simply iterate on the tactical gameplay of the first game, Sparks of Hope makes bold revisions to the formula, implementing a free-form approach to the turn-based combat and level exploration alike. Sparks of Hope also leaned more into storylines of past Mario games that’s rewarding for longtime fans.

Read our Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope review

4. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story

  • Platforms: Nintendo DS, 3DS
  • Originally released: February 11, 2009

Many Mario RPGs subvert the established Mario and Bowser rivalry, but none do it quite like Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. Instead of simply teaming up as uneasy allies, players swap between Mario and Luigi–who are helplessly trapped within Bowser’s guts–and Bowser, who is on a quest for revenge against an even bigger threat to the Mushroom Kingdom. Completing objectives as Mario and Luigi unlocks new powers for Bowser, providing a nice dose of gameplay and narrative synergy, and the general absurdity of the situation makes for some of the funniest moments in a series already renowned for its humor.

The DS and 3DS versions feature the same story and general gameplay, but slightly different visual styles and music. The 3DS version is also rebalanced for a smoother difficulty curve, includes additional content, and removed the need to blow into the mic during certain battle sequences.

Read our Bowser’s Inside Story review

3. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

  • Platforms: SNES, Nintendo Switch (remake)
  • Originally released: May 13, 1996

27 years later, Mario’s inaugural RPG adventure remains one of his best thanks to its charming isometric visuals, clever writing, and incredible soundtrack composed by Yoko Shimomura. Co-developed with SquareSoft for Super Nintendo, Super Mario RPG laid the groundwork for all other Mario RPGs to follow, featuring a mix of platforming, turn-based combat, and rewarding exploration. It’s also one of the deepest role-playing experiences on this list, with plenty of interesting systems and battle strategies to experiment with. For years, Super Mario RPG was only playable on SNES (and Super NES Classic Edition), but thanks to the upcoming remake for Nintendo Switch, it will soon be easily available once again.

2. Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

  • Platforms: GameBoy Advance, 3DS
  • Originally released: November 17, 2003

AlphaDream’s inaugural Mario & Luigi RPG is still the franchise’s best. The game’s setting, the Beanbean Kingdom, introduces an all-new side of the Mario universe, replacing the familiar fungal theme of the Mushroom Kingdom with bean-based characters, puns, and levels. And while future Mario & Luigi games would evolve the gameplay in unique ways, Superstar is one of the purest Mario-themed RPGs you can play today.

Superstar Saga originally released on the GBA in 2003 and received a 3DS remake in 2027. While many prefer the pixel and art music of the GBA original, others prefer the 3DS remake’s rebalanced gameplay and extra content. Both versions get out not, but the GBA original is much easier to play thanks to its inclusion in the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack.

Read our Mario & Luigi: Super Star Saga review

1. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

  • Platforms: Gamecube
  • Released: July 22, 2004

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is not only the best Mario RPG and the pinnacle of the Paper Mario series, but it’s also one of the best RPGs ever made, full stop. While other Mario RPGs try to streamline traditional RPG gameplay and feature more humorous storylines, The Thousand-Year Door features an epic fantasy tale and well-written side characters that are surprisingly moving at times. The gameplay also offers plenty of customization for the many party members you recruit, and engrossing turn-based combat–but it’s all presented with the simplicity and charm fans expect from a Mario game, making it far less overwhelming than your average RPG.

Now if only Nintendo would re-release it so more people can experience this GameCube classic.

Read our Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door review

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