The first game in the New Super Mario Bros. series didn't add much new to the table, as Mario platformers went. There were few original characters or concepts, the few new powerups were either rare or useless gimmicks, and even most of the Video Game Settings were recycled from Super Mario Bros. 3note the Pipe Maze and Macro Zone biomes were replaced with Death Mountain and Jungle Japes biomes. This was generally not seen as a big flaw, as... well, it was in the title; it was the first new major 2D Mario game in over a decade. When the series got its second entry, the core gameplay and aesthetics changed little, with nearly all the powerups and biomes being recycled, but it featured co-op play, the return of the Koopalings, Yoshi returning as a Power Up Mount, more challenging levels, and being the first console 2D Mario since Super Mario World, all of which were strong enough for the game to sell itself as a new experience. But with New Super Mario Bros. 2, the closest thing to a defining gimmick the game had was "there are lots of coins around for no reason, collect them for a Bragging Rights Reward." And when New Super Mario Bros. U came out (and went on to be rereleased twice), not only did it hit in the same year as 2, but it had almost nothing to sell itself on; just one new briefly-appearing biome, yet another mobility powerup, and baby Yoshis. NSMBU still looked and played basically the same as the prior three in the series, which was made even more evident by the game being a Wii U launch title, and therefore the first HD Mario game. The things that had once been novel selling points had now been recycled multiple times over, and as a result, the lack of originality became one of the biggest criticisms for the entire sub-series, not helping was that Nintendo eventually released Updated Re-release games rather than new ones, such as New Super Luigi U (which focused on Luigi as the main playable and added Nabbit to the roster) and New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (the Nintendo Switch rerelease which added Luigi U's content plus Toadette as a playable character with her own unique powerup).
Critiques of games released in the period between Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Odyssey tend to center on how homogeneous they became, being very light on new characters, settings, mechanics, or ideas (barring the latest gimmicky movement-based powerup), and being way too focused on the aesthetics and characters of the 2D console games. But as mentioned above, in the early days of the New era, this reuse of older characters and aesthetics was seen as a good thing, since it had been so long since players had seen them. After spending years in Isle Delfino or space, it was kind of nostalgic to go back to old-school Mushroom Kingdom levels. But when those aspects went from things that hadn't been seen in years to coming out with clockwork regularity, players became a lot less enthused. The Koopalings were probably the most notorious example; it was a legitimate surprise when New Super Mario Bros Wii brought them back, but when they served as the bulk of the boss fights in 2, Wii U, Luigi U, Deluxe, Paper Jam, and Color Splash, and became playable in spinoffs such as Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros.note Albeit they functioned as alternates for Bowser Jr. with the exact same playstyle., and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, a lot of players became downright sick of them.note Not helping things was the Retcon by Nintendo that they were no longer Bowser's children, just high-ranking minions, and Bowser Jr. was his only son.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars attracted controversy due to the decision to give it a limited release, with the announcement trailer flat-out stating that the game would be removed from sale from both physical and digital marketplaces after March 2021, even though distributing the digital version costs nothing and removing it is a completely pointless move that would only screw consumers over. This happened previously with the Wii port of Super Mario All-Stars. What made that more bearable was A) with the inability to download it and then remove it, it was less obvious, B) The port was a physical disc, and a Wii port of a SNES game would be rather niche, so making it limited-edition was more understandable, and C) the original versions of the games were available on Virtual Console, while there is yet to be another way to play the 3D games on Switch.
Many of the later games in the series were criticized for giving players more lives than they could possibly lose, but the trend started in Super Mario Bros. 3. Not only were coins and 1-Up Mushrooms much more plentiful in that game, but there were other chances to get 1-Ups; if you match three of the cards you get at the end of the level, you can get 2-5 1-Ups, and are guaranteed a 1-Up even if the cards don't match. The reason for this was to help the player stock up on extra lives in the early game, which they would need for the later worlds. Plus, the original SMB 3 on the NES didn't have the ability to save the game, thus making the extra lives even more necessary as to not make the gameplay too frustrating. Later games, however, added the ability to save in addition to being noticeably easier, thereby making 1-Ups mostly irrelevant until they were removed in Super Mario Odyssey in favor of deducting 10 coins for each death.
Several criticized elements in Paper Mario: Sticker Star were present in previous installments, but due to Sticker Star's minimalistic storytelling and lack of creativity, these elements ended up being Flanderized and, thus, much less enjoyable.
Sticker Star takes the idea of "paper-thin characterization" to its logical conclusion by including excessive self-aware humor about the characters being two-dimensional, visual gags like characters stacked like sheaves of paper, or having various models become bent or creased. Truth be told, the characters and setting played with the paper theme from the beginning—North American ads for the N64 game featured Bowser dangling Peach above a paper shredder, The Thousand-Year Door had Mario fold himself like origami, and Super Paper Mario had entire sequences in which the world was drawn and colored like a drawing at the start of a chapter for the first time, plus other parts of a level being drawn in when certain puzzles were completed, and several characters appearing using special effects where a box is drawn up then flips to reveal the characternote Mario himself when flipping dimensions, specific types of enemies with the same power, and Count Bleck and Dimentio (in his case as a ripple effect) doing it regularly (Bleck's other minions doing it at least once in the game, mainly Nastasia in the wedding scene and O'Chunks and Mimi near the end of the game), just to name a few examples. The first three games were considered charming and clever for their use of the paper theme, but Sticker Star's explicit comments on it at the expense of other charming aspects went past the point of being irritating.
Sticker Star's conflict of "Bowser kidnaps Peach again" received criticism for being overly simplistic, despite the original Paper Mario 64 having the exact same premise. The 64 version, however, took time to characterize both Peach and Bowser and was packed with characters, allies, enemies, and Arc Villains of all shapes and sizes (and it was the first Paper Mario game, so the series did not yet have its reputation for more involved and original storylines). Sticker Star, on the other hand, is so bare-bones that it ignores Peach's existence for most of the game, casts Bowser as a straight-up muteGeneric Doomsday Villain, reduces Luigi to background cameos carefully inserted into levels, and depicts every enemy and character with their generic modern designs — even the King Mooks are just shiny Giant Mooks with no personality. Noteworthy in that early promotional materials tried harder to maintain the older designs for enemies such as Goombas, but ultimately defaulted to modern designs in the final game. The only creative variety you will encounter in the world around you is Kersti (a stand-alone character) and a few Toads with different colored spots.
Paper Mario storytelling and characterization have never actually been that complex or involved, the sole exception being Super Paper Mario and its aspirations to cosmic-scale romance. The partners you received, if they had character arcs at all, usually had them concluded by the time they joined up with your party, and their contributions to the story were mostly generic reactions filtered through their respective Character Tics. NPCs outside the hub also had generally limited dialogue only slightly beyond Welcome to Corneria levels. Super Paper Mario and Sticker Star suffered by not even rising to that level: SPM's non-Tippi partners had only a paragraph or two of total dialog on encounter,note At least in terms of Pixl partners, as the game also featured additional playable characters such as Peach, Bowser, and Luigi who Mario could switch out with and had more notable character development while Sticker Star only provided you with Kersti; Sticker Star further tripped up with its hub world inhabitants, who were all singularly obsessed with stickers and paper, where their predecessors had unique lives and affairs of their own. Color Splash actually moves back towards the characterization levels of previous games to the point Huey, the resident Exposition Fairy, is in the running for one of the most characterized partners with Tippi and Vivian, but Color Splash retains other unpopular elements from Sticker Star, so it still has much to overcome for that recognition.
The marginalizing of story even in games known for story became evident as policy in Super Mario Galaxy 2, which, compared to the original, was essentially a retread without much of the scope, stakes, or character. Fans of the original were annoyed at the weaker story, as it'd been largely well-received and not gotten in the way of the gameplay, but as Galaxy 2 turned out incredibly strong on the gameplay front, they were content to Play the Game, Skip the Story. However, this seemingly led to Nintendo and Miyamoto taking the lesson not that "story doesn't need to be good", but "story shouldn't be good," leading to a similar approach being taken in Sticker Star without taking into account the difference in genres: platformers are mostly defined by their gameplay, and one not having an Excuse Plot is the exception rather than the norm, so a weak story can be more than made up for with fun mechanics and level design. RPGs, however, are a more story-heavy genre, so even the best game mechanics (and Sticker Star's revised combat system was not exactly well-liked by fans) would be difficult to enjoy without good writing to back it up.
The Mario & Luigi series never really had many interesting Toad NPCs, there may have been Toadbert, Toadiko and Dr. Toadley, but that was it. Most were just the standard multicolored Toads, and by Dream Team the standard multicolored Toads were the only Toads to speak of, outside a token appearance by Toadsworth. This was mitigated by the fact that there were other interesting and unique NPCs that were unique to the series. Paper Jam does away with the unique NPCs and has most of the NPCs be generic Toads or Paper Toads.
On a related note, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is often mocked for an overabundance of Toad NPCs. While Superstar Saga and Dream Team have a good range of different species as NPCsnote namely due to them being set in different locations, the Beanbean Kingdom and Pi'illo Island respectively, as opposed to the Mushroom Kingdom, Partners in Time and Bowser's Inside Story do not. In Partners in Time, the NPCs are limited to the Toads at Peach's Castle and the Yoshis on Yoshi's Island while the only non-Toad NPCs in Bowser's Inside Story are the brainwashed minions in Bowser's Castle. It is slightly easier to forgive it in these games because that is still more NPCs who are not Toads than the three in Paper Jam (two Yoshis and Wiggler/Flutter); Paper Jam also has the misfortune of coming after Paper Mario: Sticker Star where making all the NPCs Toads severely tainted the species' reputation for many fans.
Similarly, the issues the Mario & Luigi series had with tutorials and padding go back to the original games too, with the first having things like the Border Jump and Hammerhead/Starshade Bros tutorials to slow the pace down. This was in part mitigated by how Superstar Saga didn't have that many mechanics to teach in general, and was willing to end without dragging things on too much. Bowser's Inside Story and Dream Team merely increased the number of these segments, which ended up turning the game from one with a tutorial or mini game every area or two to one with a tutorial or mini game every twenty minutes and made the issue more noticeable. This is also a rare case of the sin being addressed. Paper Jam and the Superstar Saga and Bowser's Inside Story remakes streamline the tutorials and make them largely optional. The former game introduced several guides for the field and battle that can be viewed in the pause menu and allow you to brush up on techniques for movement and combat at any point, and also shortens field move tutorials, giving you a prompt on how to do them at the top of the screen and allowing you to talk to Starlow for an in-depth explanation. The remakes lose the shortened field move tutorials to mimic the original games, but excise almost every other tutorial and just inform you that the Battle Guide is updated instead.
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! also introduced a new gimmick that forced players to use two characters at once (one for driving and one for using items). Since both of the kart riders can hold items, this meant the amount of items in play was doubled, leading to item spam in the whole race and increasing the chances of getting an item that screws everyone else over. Most of the more powerful items, however, were limited to certain characters, with a signature powerful item for each racer, the only exception being that unlockable characters King Boo and Petey Piranha could use everyone's signature items rather than having any of their own, which was a fair balance since the only items usable by every racer were the more abundant items such as bananas and mushrooms. Mario Kart Wii amplified the problem with items by introducing more items that can either screw everyone over or screw one person over if they can't shake the item off. On top of this, the game had twelve players in a race instead of the standard eight, and the stronger items could now be used by any racer, which meant more items popping up and causing chaos, even though the stronger items were more common if the user was further behind in a race.
Bikes by themselves were not inherently bad; Waluigi had a motorcycle as a vehicle in Mario Kart DS, but that game hadn't introduced distinctions between karts and bikes, so it didn't have any problems. However, bikes were made distinct in Mario Kart Wii by losing the ability to do Super Mini-Turbos, but getting the ability to do wheelies to compensate, and wheelies being much more beneficial than Mini-Turbosnote an instant speed boost at the cost of making steering much harder, vs. Mini Turbos giving a burst of speed when you wiggle the joystick while driftingled to a mass migration to bikes. This one was also addressed, with Mario Kart 8's bikes only doing wheelies as a cosmetic effect during boosts.
The coins mechanic was heavily disliked by players for nearly every game it appeared in. Super Mario Kart used coins as a way to boost speed, and you'd lose coins for being hit, going off course, or being bumped. Mario Kart Super Circuit brought the coins back, and they doubled as a requirement to be met if you wanted to get the best rank. Mario Kart 7 had the coins return once more, though they would only give you a slight speed boost and you wouldn't spin out from a bump if you had no coins. However, coins were needed to unlock parts for your karts, and it got really ridiculous, with some parts requiring thousands or even beyond ten thousand coins to unlock. Mario Kart 8 not only retained the coin system and unlocks that the previous game used, but now coins can be an item you can pick up, which means that your measly two-coin bonus will not protect you from the red shell the person behind you will use, in addition to Mario Kart 7's Lucky Seven, an item that summoned seven items for you to use in a race, being upgraded to the Crazy Eight with the addition of the coin item among the other seven.
Decomposite Characters or Palette Swaps clogging up the roster goes back to Double Dash!! , which included baby versions of Mario and Luigi as well as Koopa Paratroopa and newcomer Toadette. Although fans were not fond of them, they mostly didn't mind, as Baby Mario and Luigi were a reference to the well-loved Yoshi's Island, Paratroopa was a recurring Mook whose inclusion was necessary to serve as a partner to the returning Koopa, and Toadette was heavily influenced by the female Toads from Paper Mario 64 and thus distinct enough from the regular Toad character. However, later games would take this concept and run it deep into the ground to varying levels of success. DS introduced Dry Bones, the skeletal form of Koopa Troopa whom had originally appeared in Super Mario Bros. 3 and various later games, Wii introduced Baby Peach, whom had previously appeared in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time and the Yoshi's Island sequel, Baby Daisy as a counterpart to Baby Peach whom newly debuted in the game, and Dry Bowser, Bowser Stripped to the Bone as seen in New Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart 7 featured Metal Mario, Mario using the Metal Box power up from Super Mario 64 whom also got used as a boss character in Super Smash Bros., and Mario Kart 8 has the four previous babies, all seven Koopalings, Baby Rosalina as yet another new baby character, Metal Mario, and Pink Gold Peach (giving Peach a metal form just like with Metal Mario) in the basic version, and Tanooki Mario, Mario with the Super Leaf power-up introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3 in its Super Mario 3D Land incarnation, Cat Peach, Peach with the Super Bell power-up from Super Mario 3D World, and Dry Bowser, all as Downloadable Content for a total of ten alternate versions of other characters, more than a quarter of the roster. All of them are divisive at best or scrappies at worst. The Deluxe version of 8 eventually added Gold Mario, yet another Mario recolor whom is Mario with the Gold Flower power-up from New Super Mario Bros. 2, as the sole character to unlock, further exacerbating the issue. The removal of original characters like King Boo, Diddy Kong, and Birdo in these games didn't help either. However, most of the forgotten characters from past games would eventually return in Mario Kart Tour, which helped restore faith in a lot of people by featuring several brand new playable characters such as Pauline and Nabbit who had never been playable in the Mario Kart series beforehand and including tons of unique and interesting costumes for certain characters as well.
Elements of the series originating outside of the main Mario games started all the way back in 64 with the inclusion of the Rare-designedDonkey Kongnote Replacing a Magikoopa, likely Kamek, who was seen in earlier builds and was himself a replacement for Donkey Kong Jr., who unlike his grandfather (whom was retconned as Cranky Kong in those games) didn't have any connection to the core Mario cast, and Double Dash!! included Diddy Kong as well, but their technical connection to the Mario world led most gamers to give them a pass. In later games, however, the connections to the Mario series became as tenuous as "they're both on a Nintendo console and Nintendo created both of them". DS had R.O.B. as an unlockable character who didn't have any connections to Mario, but the fact that it was the only non-Mario character meant that fans saw it as a fun Unexpected Character and tolerated its presence. Wii brought in a kart based on Captain Falcon's Blue Falcon, and introduced Miis as a playable character (who became mainstays of the series). 7 had two racetracks and one battle course set on Wuhu Island from Wii Sports Resort, a game that very heavily featured the Miis. 8 (and its Updated Re-release8 Deluxe) is when it became a problem, as it used DLC to introduce Link, Villager, Isabelle, and the Inklings as playable characters, along with tracks based on those three franchises, F-Zero, and Excitebike. Mario Kart 8 is one of the better-received installments, but there's criticism about the game feeling more like Super Smash Kart than Mario Kart. The Arcade GP installments also regularly feature Namco characters such as Pac-Man, Mametchi, and Don-Chan as part of the roster.