Social criticism is the foundation of The Twilight Zone. If there has ever been any confusion about the show’s true purpose, it’s probably because the original Twilight Zone episodes often had to disguise their messages. Inspired by his battles with network censors who were quick to cut anything that may upset even the worst kinds […]

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It’s sometimes hard to think of the Super Mario RPG games as even a spiritual franchise. It’s often easier to think of them as some kind of gimmick that is occasionally revisited once in a while. Yet, between the various series that belong to that spiritual franchise, there have been a surprising number of games released over the years that you could describe as a Super Mario RPG. Many of them are better than they sometimes get credit for, and each of them often offers something unique that sets them apart from the pack. That makes the process of ranking them surprisingly difficult.

Before we dive into that, though, here are a few points to keep in mind:

– Remakes and remasters are not included in these rankings. Where remakes and remasters are available, a “best possible version” rule was utilized.

– Camelot’s Mario sports titles with RPG elements are not generally considered part of the Mario RPG canon and are therefore not included on this list. However, they are generally incredible games.

– The Mario + Rabbids franchise is included in these rankings as it is widely recognized as part of this canon and offers enough RPG elements to fall under the strategy RPG umbrella.

With that out of the way, here are the best (and worst) Super Mario RPGs:


14. Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Sticker Star makes several changes to the Paper Mario franchise that are largely designed to de-emphasize that series’ more traditional role-playing elements. The game focuses much more on combat and exploration than plot, and a sticker collection system essentially replaces more traditional RPG leveling mechanics. 

And that is why Sticker Star earns the bottom spot on this list largely by default. Sticker Star is a solid little action platformer that looks great and feels good on a handheld device. However, it doesn’t feel like much of a Paper Mario game or, for that matter, an RPG. Maybe you could argue for its entertainment value compared to the other games at the bottom of this list. Ultimately, it just doesn’t do much to advance this franchise or honor its best qualities.


13. Paper Mario: Color Splash

The most generous ways to describe Color Splash typically revolve around the word “potential.” The game looks fantastic, its writing is generally quite good, and the game tries to use the Wii U’s touchpad in interesting ways that feel true to the game’s aesthetic.

Unfortunately, the game commits a cardinal sin for any Super Mario RPG: it’s not very fun to play. The game features way too many combat sequences, and the new mechanics designed to liven those sequences often make them feel even more tedious. To make matters worse, the game often de-emphasizes the series’ historical role-playing elements to focus more on item collection and the aforementioned combat. There’s just not much here you won’t find done better (or at all) in other games. 


12. Paper Mario: The Origami King

Here’s where things start to get tricky. 

Like some of the other games at the bottom of this list, Origami King makes several changes to the Paper Mario franchise that were clearly implemented with the best intentions. Its origami-inspired art style is stunning, the game tries to be more of an RPG than its immediate predecessors, and there are genuine incentives to explore its world that include (but are not limited to) helpful rewards tied into the discovery of hidden objects. 

However, you can count me among those who cannot find many nice things to say about this game’s combat system. I love the idea of arranging enemies around a grid to trigger puzzle-like combat bonuses. Unfortunately, the act of doing so soon proves to be needlessly tedious. Even worse, the continued absence of a proper XP system means that rewards for participating in these battles are minimal. There are too few ways to spice up the variety of the combat beyond what little deviations the game offers. 


11. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

Learning to love (or maybe just like) Paper Jam means making peace with the burdens of its crossover status. Yes, after years of requests, Paper Jam finally delivered the Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario crossover fans had been waiting for. Unfortunately, someone decided to emphasize the one element both series had sometimes struggled with: environmental exploration. Sadly, the emphasis on t

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