The Paper Mario series is a spin-off of the main Mario series, along with the other Mario RPGs (Mario & Luigi franchise, Super Mario RPG). The main concept behind the Paper Mario franchise is that everything in the games is made out of paper. In addition, according to Shigeru Miyamoto, the games are designed with beginning and amateur gamers in mind, designed with simplistic role playing concepts. All three games in the franchise have been well-received, with the first game having attained the highest aggregate score. The games have been praised for their humor, accessibility, and their blend of role playing gameplay and platforming.
Paper Mario was originally planned to be Super Mario RPG 2, the sequel to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars on the Super Nintendo, and was first announced at Space World 1997. Since its announcement and release, Paper Mario and the two sequels have appeared on many platforms. The original Paper Mario was released for the Nintendo 64 and iQue Player, and then later released on the Virtual Console. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door was released for the Nintendo GameCube and Super Paper Mario was released for the Nintendo Wii. A fourth title in the series, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, was released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2012.
The gameplay of the series has essentially stayed the same throughout all three of the games, although there are some changes (some larger than others). The role playing mechanics are based off of Super Mario RPG; attacking and defending are largely based on timing, with attacks rewarding more damage for well-timed attacks. Mario also has a set number of health points and flower points (for special attacks). Gaining experience levels Mario up, which can be done in combat.
Another key part of every Paper Mario game are the partners acquired on Mario's adventure. Each partner has a special ability both in the overworld and in battle to assist Mario in solving puzzles and fighting. Mario can only travel with one partner at a time, but this can be switched out at any time.
Badges are purchased and equipped, and then give a variety of effects based on the badge. Each badge takes up a set amount of badge points, so Mario can only equip so many badges. Badge effects range from helpful (boosted health or stats, regeneration, item or Star Point bonuses, special attacks/armor, etc.) to humorous (changing Mario's costume or shoes). In addition to buying badges, Mario can purchase a wide array of items (and even combine them in cooking minigames).
Differences in Gameplay
While the general gameplay remains the same, The Thousand-Year Door and Super Paper Mario both differed from the original formula. In The Thousand-Year Door, gameplay was largely unchanged. Only a few gameplay aspects were added or edited. For example, battles now take place in front of an audience, and depending on how well the player is doing in battle, the audience has a chance of assisting or hurting Mario.
Super Paper Mario is where the gameplay was more radically altered. The first two games were role playing games with platforming aspects, while Super Paper Mario flipped the concept into a platforming game with role playing aspects. The third game also features the unique ability to flip between 2D and 3D, opening up new areas and used extensively in the puzzles and enemies in the game. Battles no longer take place in Super Paper Mario. Instead Mario uses traditional Super Mario Bros. tactics, and stomps his way through enemies.
All three games are known for their humorous and entertaining plots. In Paper Mario, the game is set in the Mushroom Kingdom. When Bowser steals a wish granting Star Rod and kidnaps Princess Peach, Mario must reclaim the seven Star Spirits to fight Bowser. Along the way, Mario meets eight partners: Goombario (Goomba), Kooper (Koopa), Bombette (Bob-Omb), Parakarry (Paratroopa), Lady Bow (Boo), Watt (Li'l Sparky), Sushie (Cheep-Cheep), and Lakilester (Lakitu).
The Thousand-Year Door picks up after the events of Paper Mario, when Princess Peach visits a port town named Rogueport, a town built on the site of an ancient cataclysm (a legend which states that an old town sunk into the sea). When she goes missing, Mario begins to search for her, unraveling the mystery of the sunken town and the mysterious X-Nauts, an alien species led by Sir Grodus. Based on a treasure map Peach bought in Rogueport, Mario searches for all seven of the Crystal Stars, which are told to unlock the treasure upon attaining them all. In actuality, the Shadow Queen is the "treasure" unlocked; the cause fo the ancient cataclysm. When Peach is merged with the Shadow Queen, Mario fights her in the final battle, defeating her and restoring order to the kingdom.
In Super Paper Mario, Peach is kidnapped yet again, this time by Count Bleck, a magician who follows the book Dark Prognosticus. This book foretells destruction if the marriage of Bowser and Princess Peach occurs, which Count Bleck sets up. Mario teams up with a Pixl named Tippi (his main partner for this adventure). In order to prevent destruction, Mario must collect the eight Pure Hearts. After doing so, (and a series of other events) Mario manages to reverse the hypnosis that was causing both the marriage of Bowser and Peach as well as Luigi's insanity and defeat Count Bleck.