I have concluded my series of retrospectives on the Paper Mario franchise. I discussed Paper Mario, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Super Paper Mario. One aspect that I delved into for all three reviews is the strong chapter design. Before I can play Paper Mario: The Origami King, I will rank the top-10 chapters from the three games I reviewed. Spoiler warning as I discuss the plot details of each chapter.
10. ‘The Battle of Fort Francis’ Chapter 3 of Super Paper Mario
Chapter three is the first of three chapters from Super Paper Mario on the list. This is a fun chapter that is a love letter to nerds and fans of the original Super Mario Bros. Chapter three starts off with Tippi getting kidnapped by the nerd chameleon, Francis, who takes her back to his fortress. Mario and Peach meet up with Bowser, and together, the three of them join up and journey to rescue Tippi. There is an underground level that resembles the original Super Mario Bros. games, and inside Fort Francis, there are many references to previous games. It is a unique chapter with many great easter eggs. The only reason it is lower on this list is because the Dotwood Tree section is annoying and tedious.
9. ‘Hot, Hot Times on Lavalava Island’ Chapter 5 of Paper Mario
This is the first of two chapters from Paper Mario. This chapter has Mario and party travel to Lavalava Island to rescue the fifth Star Spirit from Lava Piranha inside Mt. Lavalava. Joining us is the clumsy Professor Kolorado and his blunders throughout the chapter provide a lot of levity in a chaotic journey. There are more amazing aspects of this chapter such as Yoshi Village, Raphael the Raven and a volcanic eruption. Also, saving Yoshi kids in a jungle is great as well.
8. ‘The Thousand-Year Door’ Chapter 8 of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year-Door
The final chapter of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is the first of five entries from that game on this list. After Mario and party collect the seven Crystal Stars, they opened the Thousand-Year Door. Behind it is a vast underground city where the Shadow Queen, the demon of destruction, lays dormant. Mario and party enter it to stop Grodus from awakening it and destroying the world. It is a fantastic end of game dungeon, allowing the player to feel the stakes of the mission. The final boss is one of the most intense fights in the entire Mario universe, making the conclusion more satisfying.
7. ‘For Pigs the Bell Tolls’ Chapter 4 of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
In other lists I have seen of this subject, this chapter is usually at the top. However, it is only seventh for me as the amount of backtracking brings down my enjoyment of it. With that established, this chapter is awesome. The atmosphere in Twilight Town is breathtaking as the eeriness sets in quickly. It has the best opening on this list as you see a villager turn into a pig right in front of you. You also fight a boss who steals your name and body. The icing on the cake is the Creepy Steeple, where the boss lives. The entire place is creepy, making it the perfect chapter to play on Halloween night.
6. ‘The Key to Pirates’ Chapter 5 from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
This chapter is about finding a treasure on an island guarded by pirate ghosts. That right there already makes this chapter great. What makes this chapter special are two scenes that occur on ships. First, Mario joins a crew on the ship of the rich merchant, Flavio. While heading to Keelhaul Key to collect the Crystal Star, pirate ghosts attack and sink the ship, forcing the crew to wash ashore on the island. Then, after defeating the pirate ghost Cortez, you convince him to fight for you and attack an X-Naut ship hoping to steal your Crystal Stars. I enjoy this chapter due to the creativity of it.
5. ‘The Underwhere/The Overthere’ Chapter 7 of Super Paper Mario
This is the first of three chapter sevens in my top five. This is the lowest due to the weak boss fight. Despite that, it is still amazing. This chapter answers the question, “what is the afterlife of the Mario universe?” To fix a Pure Heart and recover the final one, Mario and party are sent to the heaven and hell of this universe. Problems are further complicated when enemies from The Underwhere invade The Overthere. The atmospheres presented are some of the best in the series. The Underwhere is a dark and hopeless abyss while the Overthere is a blissful paradise. It is an epic adventure and its ending left me in tears.
4. ‘Into Outer Space’ Chapter 4 of Super Paper Mario
My favorite chapter of Super Paper Mario takes place in Outer Space. The party arrives in space and quickly realize they cannot breathe. So they have to go back to Flipside and get a helmet in order to survive in space. They then must journey to get to the Whoa Zone, a space graveyard where the heart is kept. The music and the adventure is spectacular. Some of the gameplay resembles an arcade space shooter. Going through space was exciting and it featured the best gameplay in Super Paper Mario. The chapter boss is brainwashed Luigi and that is the perfect way to end this space journey.
3. ‘Mario Shoots the Moon’ Chapter 7 of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
This chapter is nothing short of epic. It starts out with the realization that both the final Crystal Star and Princess Peach are in the X-Naut Fortress on the moon. To get to the moon, Mario must use the Fahr Outpost cannon to blast his way onto the moon’s surface. Once he gets there, he storms the fortress, battling many different underlings to obtain the last Crystal Star. However, Peach is not there. The music makes it exciting on top of the thrilling conclusion for the Crystal Star hunt. Also, there are Bomb-ombs that live in a snowy village that speak like Russians. The only negative is at the beginning of the chapter, you have to tediously search across the different worlds to find a person.
2. ‘A Star Spirit on Ice’ Chapter 7 from Paper Mario
I love icy regions in video games and Paper Mario‘s chapter seven presents one perfectly. To save the final Star Spirit, Mario must travel to Shiver Mountain near Shiver City. Once he climbs Shiver Mountain, he must pass through the Crystal Palace and defeat the Crystal King. The snowy atmosphere this game presents is tremendous, enhanced by the stellar music. “Over Shiver Mountain” and “Freeze!” are two of the best pieces of video game music I have ever heard. This chapter also includes a village of star kids, a murder mystery and an intense boss battle. This chapter is the best section of Paper Mario.
1. ‘Of Glitz and Glory’ Chapter 3 of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Sports and mystery are two of my favorite sources of entertainment and this chapter perfectly combines the two. Mario signs up to be a fighter in The Glitz Pit in Glitzville, a city that floats in the sky. While climbing through the ranks as “The Great Gonzales,” Mario uncovers corruption and criminal activities behind closed doors to obtain the Crystal Star. I love everything about this chapter. You get a baby yoshi as a partner, you get to fight in front of crowds, there are shocking twists, etc. The championship fight against Rawk Hawk is one of my favorite moments in video game history.
Do you agree with my list? If not, what would you add or change? Comment down below.