This week Nintendo will release the next installment in the beloved Mario & Luigi RPG series of games, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam. The Paper in Paper Jam comes from the inclusion of “Paper Mario”, a now separate entity from the rest of the Mario universe. While on paper (haha) this seems like a cool crossover of two of Nintendo’s popular RPG series, it is apparent that Nintendo doesn’t know what to do with Paper Mario. The history of the series has certainly experimented in an attempt to innovate, from platforming with RPG elements to combat with stickers. However, these later titles can’t hold a candle to the two games that fans and critics remember fondly. Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door are two games that Nintendo knows that fans love, hence why they keep re-releasing the first title. But a re-release can only get you so far, and I can’t help but feel like what we need isn’t a re-release, but a remake or remaster.
If you haven’t played either game, then you’re seriously missing out. Essentially Super Mario RPG but with a paper twist, Both Paper Mario and its sequel have some of the best writing, level design, and gameplay of games in the entire Mario franchise, and that’s saying something. Over the years, Paper Mario has diverged from this formula in the later titles. But in all instances, it tries to stay true to its RPG roots. But as this most recent crossover shows, fans aren’t really in love with Paper Mario as they used to. Which is why a return to form would bring life back to the series.
Nintendo, the masters of putting out the same game over and over again would be more than capable of making an updated version of these classics for their next console. As they’ve shown with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, taking a classic and making it better is possible without being just a means for a nostalgia cash grab. Sure they would be tapping into the nostalgia of fans like myself who remember these games fondly, but think of all the new people who could discover this without being turned off by the graphics of the N64 or GameCube.
In addition to Nintendo having the resources, the potential graphics boost to the series could attract new fans alone. As games like Tearaway (not a Nintendo title I know, but it gets the point across), Yoshi’s Wooly World, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn have shown, novel graphical aesthetics can have people playing a game. Then the paper motif could reach new heights and live up to its namesake. Of course, graphics alone don’t make a game, but by preserving the writing and gameplay of the originals would maintain an already established level of quality by bringing it into the next generation of gaming.
I don’t expect Nintendo to listen to someone like me, but it’s nice to imagine the possibilities. But you know the thing about paper is the best thing to do when you’re done with it is to recycle and make something new.