To this day I think Legend of the Seven Stars is better than Paper Mario. That said, The Thousand Year Door is probably in my top 20 RPGs of all time.
About sixteen years ago, Square and Nintendo paired up to, in an absurd mixing of seemingly heterogeneous ingredients, produce an unlikely game. Mario, a character who - save for the eventual spin-offs - for years had been restricted to appearing in titles where he would simply walk from one point of the screen to another, would dress himself up in RPG mannerisms and save his princess by doing something other than squashing goombas. Super Mario RPG went straight into the genre's hall of fame, completely forgetting that it was supposed to fail miserably, as the combination of turn-based battles with Mushroom Kingdom oddities, and no medieval elements to be seen, was just too far out there to work reasonably. Not only did Mario succeed masterfully in his first role playing outing, but he also liked it so much that he was promptly available to add RPGs into his rotation of gaming niches that need to be occasionally explored.
Once Square abandoned Nintendo, mostly due to the company's stubborn decision to stick to cartridges when CDs were clearly the best option, nobody would have been willing to bet that Nintendo would manage to keep Mario's RPG exploits very much alive, after all that was an area where Square, not Nintendo, had been always known for their uncanny prowesses. It took Nintendo about four years to do so, and aided by the creation of an internal studio whose main focus would be Mario's new ventures into that territory, Mario showed up once again, this time in paper form, instead of in the isometric 3-D models of Legend of the Seven Stars and surprisingly, to some people, the title managed to claw its way above and beyond its predecessor.
Paper Mario made some changes to the formula Square had set up: the concept of a party was thrown out, and it was replaced with the delightful simplicity of a pleasant number of unique partners and their one-dimensional leveling up system; and battles became more fast-paced and demanding of players' button pressing abilities, as there were tons of moves and items whose use was heavily benefited by timely actions. However, more importantly than tweaking a very traditional battle system and giving it some of the wackiness that is expected of a game with the Mario stamp on it, Paper Mario noticed the one thing that made Super Mario RPG so ridiculously successful, and in that accurate acknowledgement, the game followed its path into gaming greatness.
As it turns out, the magic of Super Mario RPG rested on the fact that, for the first time in over a decade, the Mushroom Kingdom truly welcomed players into its arms. What once was simply an outrageous scenario for gorgeous platforming, quickly became a real explorable world where this weird assortment of turtles, mushrooms, ghosts, humans and beasts of nameless species coexisted in one strange society. Talking to those Koopas and discovering that they had concerns other than not being killed and thrown out of a ledge by Mario, interacting with Toads and buying those thematically accurate items and just exploring that place in a well-paced engaging manner was like getting a shiny backstage ticket to visit what goes on behind the scenes of your favorite TV show or rock n' roll concert.
Sitting comfortably between the ridiculous self-mocking Earthbound humor and the family-friendly speech one would expect from a Mario game, Nintendo - and Square - found the right tone to give soul to their tale, and in the definition of that line, the Paper Mario series has taken us to some unforgettable locations. We have seen Mario become the star of a wrestling arena surrounded in mystery, we watched the plumber enter a toy box infested with Shy Guys and save vain selfish flowers who were having a little sunlight problem. Mario has gone to the moon, to outer space, to the videogame underworld, to prehistoric times, into a haunted forest where Boos were threatened by an invincible creature with a shameful weakness, and into an ice palace. He has had his identity stolen, taken a train ride in a deserved-vacation mood, fought a dragon, forced into slave labor, explored some tropical islands and, in a weird turn, has even visited Bowser's Castle.
Paper Mario Sticker Star, coming out in about a month, is exciting not only because it is yet another part of an incredible string of impressive games, but it is also heavily anticipated because its promising battle system that holds hundreds of possibilities due to the use of tons of different stickers as the main means to battle. However, as amazing as the battle system might be, the real reason to be excited about it is that regardless of how many Paper Mario chapters one might have played, Nintendo and its absurdly talented script writers will always find a way to give us yet another glimpse onto a bizarre part of the Mushroom Kingdom and set up plain cartoonish situations for our beloved hero to face.
Iv'e been following Sticker Star, from various sites and i just keep getting excited.
Plain and Simple, it is its own game, like Super Paper Mario but will keep the Turn based Battles that the series is known for, its sticker system is much more complicated and will require good thinking and strategy. Another thing i noticed is that it is remarkably, using things from the past games to create something different. PM and TTYD's Turn Based Battles, SPM's Level Progression and Super Mario RPG's Map and travel system. All mixed to make its own unique game, kinda like Super Mario 3D land is to 2D and 3D Mario but will have its own personality.
And then there's the cardboard Diorama style which is so creative and charming which needs no praise than it already has.
@hotdiddykong I am very excited to explore the possibilities the sticker battle system will provide. Just one month to go! =)
@pigfish2 I have very high expectations for it. I think that, once it comes out, it will be the best game in the system.
I just finished Super Paper Mario today and found it to be lackluster. I have reservations about Sticker Star, because I'm not keen on consumable attacks, even if there are a lot of them.
I had the same concerns however it seems that the game is built around the system to not make it a chore, but i guess time will tell.
@JustPlainLucas Yeah, Super Paper Mario is definitely the weakest of the bunch, but I still think it is a great game.
I love the Paper Mario series, they've boasted some of the best Mario games out there. But, the original Super Mario RPG is still, in my mind, the best RPG ever, and possibly my favorite game of all time.
I'm looking very forward to Sticker Star, but it would be a dream come true if Square and Nintendo got back together for a true sequel to Mario RPG on Wii U or something. Now if only Square would stop trying to shove FFXIII down our throats...
@SloganYams Maybe it is because I am not so much into traditional RPGs, but I have always looked at Super Mario RPG as being weaker than Paper Mario, Paper Mario TTYD, and the first and last Mario and Luigi games.