There was a time when Paper Mario was one of my absolute favorite series. I loved just about everything about them. I loved the aesthetic; I loved the characters; I loved the writing, the combat system, and the way they made Mario’s world feel bigger than the same old Mushroom Kingdom we’ve seen time and time again. All of this is still true for the first three games in the series, but I cannot say the same for the last three games. After waiting for almost a decade, I think it’s time for me to finally bid Paper Mario a fond farewell.
I was really hoping that maybe Paper Mario: The Origami King would get things back on track, but it didn’t. It was marginally better than Sticker Star and Color Splash, but it’s still vastly inferior to the original games. The game looks great for the most part, I’ll give Nintendo that much at least. The paper aesthetic is rather pleasing to look at, even if that appeal is extremely thin. It’s also worth noting that the team behind it at least tried to make an interesting battle system too. The lining-up and arranging of enemies was rather novel at first, but, just like everything else in this game, it wore out its welcome pretty quickly.
Everything else that made Sticker Star and Color Splash a grating experience is still very much present in The Origami King. There are, once again, no new and/or unique characters to be found here. Aside from Olivia and Olly, everything is either a generic Toad or a plain koopa, bob-omb or whatever. There’s potential for interesting characters even with the generic designs, but none of them stick around long enough to be fleshed out. It also ensures that they end-up quickly forgotten too. Speaking of Toads, there are way too many of these little idiots littering the world, and none of them have anything interesting to say; I gave up saving them rather quickly and instead opted to try running through everything as quickly as possible. The days of slowing down and appreciating what’s going on are very much over thanks to this and a few other issues.
I’m also not a fan of Olivia (who never shuts up), the pointless battles (they only award coins), and the obnoxiously on-the-nose writing style that’s been getting stronger with every new game. For example, papercraft isn’t just the art style of the game. Nope, it’s reality. Every character in the game is fully aware that they and their world are made of paper, and they use that knowledge to make all manner of blunt jokes. It doesn’t make sense; if this is normal, than how exactly is it funny to the character? The in-universe idea of folding is also strange. It’s both acknowledged as something that can happen, but it was never encountered until the Origami King showed up. It is also both irreversible and easily fixed. All Mario has to do to unfold a Toad is whack it with his hammer, but all those folded soldiers are still somehow doomed. Combine this with extremely in-your-face and/or on the nose writing and you’ve got all the ingredients necessary for a thoroughly aggravating experience. There’s also no challenge whatsoever to be had here, but that’s minor compared to everything else.
After being so thoroughly disappointed with Paper Mario: The Origami King, I’ve decided that I’m done with this. Nintendo has shown that they now have a clear vision for how they want these games to play, and nothing is going to change their mind. I’m sure there are many out there who enjoy this new (now-established) style of Paper Mario and more power to you if you do. I hope you get to continue enjoying it for a long time to come. As for me, it’s clear that I’m no longer the target audience for this series. At long last, the time has come to say goodbye and focus on other games in the future.
Are you still enjoying the Paper Mario games? Where would you like to see the series go after this?
Image from Nintendo eShop page