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  • Contested Sequel:
    • Super Paper Mario. While most people agree that the story is good, the removal of turn-based combat didn't sit well with a lot of fans, and there are lot of arguments about whether or not the gameplay is good. Many Paper Mario fans have embraced it since then, especially after Sticker Star came out, but there's still a number of people who dislike it.
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    • Some see Color Splash as a Surprisingly Improved Sequel that improves on the flaws Sticker Star had, proving that the new franchise direction could work and praising the comedic writing as being on par with the other entries. Everyone else just wants the series to return to the same gameplay as the first two games and will point to the flaws that Color Splash does retain from its predecessor.
  • Dork Age: It's generally agreed that the subseries started going through one with Sticker Star, which was a heavily controversial game for removing the story, exploration and RPG elements that made previous installments so beloved. Especially as each new installment carries interviews that explain why these changes have occurred; from implications of Nintendo wanting to streamline branding by having Mario & Luigi to be the sole "Mario RPG" series, to higher-ups explicitly placing restrictions on the creation of new characters for some reason. Sticker Star is definitely seen as the low point of this era, as while Color Splash and The Origami King are host to the franchise's staple writing and Scenery Porn, Sticker Star completely lacks them, in addition to having the most disliked gameplay in the series. Even as Intelligent Systems improves at finding workarounds, many fans deeply wish that all these arbitrary restrictions on the franchise's direction be removed and that the series return to its proper RPG roots.
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  • Even Better Sequel: The Thousand-Year Door to the first game, thanks to taking most of the things that made the latter great and taking them Up to Eleven, resulting in what most fans believe to be the best game in the series, the Mario RPGs and even one of the best Mario games as a whole.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Goombario and Goombella have a large fanbase, due to both being the first partners in their respective games, being goombas and being similar in personality.
  • Fandom Heresy: In some circles, it's treated as a serious crime to like Sticker Star or Color Splash, especially if one compares them favorably to The Thousand-Year Door or to a lesser extent, the original or Super Paper Mario.
  • Fandom Rivalry:
    • Inter-fandom example. Fans of 64 and The-Thousand Year Door think that Intelligent Systems should go back to the formula of the first two games after Sticker Star and Color Splash proved to be contestable among fans. Meanwhile, the fans who liked Color Splash and were more forgiving of changes made to the series believed that the developers should be able to experiment more, and that fans of the first two games were blinded by nostalgia, and that they should just stop complaining and accept the direction the series is headed in, to which fans of the first two games believe that they should be allowed to criticize the direction the series in going in regardless.
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    • One exists with Intelligent Systems' other big series, Fire Emblem, with a number of fans bitter at the attention and prioritization that Fire Emblem has been receiving from both Intelligent Systems and Nintendo over Paper Mario ever since Fire Emblem Awakening's release and success. Yes, despite the fact that Fire Emblem is that studio's own personal franchise which had existed for almost a decade before the first Paper Mario game was released.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Due to their highly controversial status and several inconsistencies among other games, most fans would rather pretend that Sticker Star and (to a lesser extent) Color Splash never existed, which is allegedly reinforced by certain plot points in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam.
  • Franchise Original Sin: Several criticized elements in Sticker Star were present in previous installments, but due to Sticker Star's minimalist storytelling and lack of creativity, these elements ended up being Flanderized and, surprisingly, 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, and The Thousand-Year Door even had Mario fold himself like origami. The first two games were considered charming and clever for their use of the paper theme, but Sticker Star's explicit comments on it went past the point of being irritating. It was also only starting with Sticker Star that characters were actively aware they were made of paper in the game's world, whereas the previous games were simply depicting an adventure of Mario's differently than normal.
    • 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 and enemies of all shapes and sizes. Sticker Star, on the other hand, is so bare-bones that it ignores Peach's existence for most of the game and casts Bowser as a straight-up mute, and every enemy and character are depicted with their modern designs — even the King Mooks are just shiny Giant Mooks. 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 characterization has never actually been that complex or involved. 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 World 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 (though this is offset by the main controllable characters, who do have varied responses in cutscenes), 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 moved 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.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Americans and Europeans love Paper Mario; in Japan, its country of origin, the series is not nearly as popular.
  • Hype Backlash: A very strong backlash against both 64 and The Thousand-Year Door began occurring around the time of Origami King's announcement and release, due to how some people perceived fans of the former two games to be elitist in their views regarding Origami King and that those fans complained too much about changes being made before they had a chance to play the game.
  • It's Easy, So It Sucks!: A very common complaint about Super Paper Mario and Color Splash, mostly because they barely focus on combat at all and thus nearly all of the enemies and bosses are very simple to defeat, as well as the fact that you have access to very overpowered tactics that take away all of the challenge.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!:
    • Probably the biggest point of criticism directed at Color Splash is the fact that it follows on the same formula as Sticker Star, which is the least liked game in the series.
    • Ironically, this was also Miyamoto's reaction to Sticker Star during development, feeling like it was a "3DS version of The Thousand-Year Door", which is what led to the final product and a lot of controversy.
  • Sacred Cow: In the eyes of most fans and classic RPG fans, The Thousand-Year Door, being just as acclaimed (if not more so) as it was upon release. Super Paper Mario is also entering this territory thanks to it being Vindicated by History after Sticker Star's release, with fans claiming it to have one of the best stories in the Mario franchise.
  • Scapegoat Creator: Shigeru Miyamoto for the longest time has gotten all the blame for the series' Dork Age, everything to the story, characters and the combat system. While his philosophy of keeping things simple has a shred of truth, the ignorance has lead to people forgetting that Intelligent Systems were the ones who developed the games, most of all Kensuke Tanabe, who produced the game; despite the fact that he was the one who ignored the game's existing fanbase to among other things, simplify the combat and make all the NPCs generic Toads. Granted this may have something to do with the fact Tanabe keeps saying that he wants to follow Miyamoto's advice(with it being clear he took it too far). Thankfully, more and more fans are slowly beginning to realize who is to blame, although plenty still give Miyamoto all the blame.
  • Sequelitis: A very common reaction when it comes to the later games in the series, with the worst offender being Sticker Star, which is widely seen as the worst installment in the series for a multitude of reasons, like the Excuse Plot (in a series renowned for excellent storytelling), the total lack of original characters and its unintuitive, consumable item-based battle system.
  • So Okay, It's Average: While some fans don't exactly hate Sticker Star and Color Splash, they don't love them either, and most fans would consider them average and unremarkable games at best. Super Paper Mario's gameplay could also be considered this, mostly because of its easiness and the fact that it hardly requires any strategy beyond using the Goomba Stomp unlike the previous games, although many fans agree that the excellent writing and story make up for the gameplay.
  • Tainted by the Preview: Color Splash, big time. The moment it was announced that the mechanics would be like Sticker Star's, almost everyone hated it. Even after later trailers revealed that it would at least fix some of the most glaring problems that Sticker Star had[[note]]while its combat also revolves around consumable resources, said resources are far more plentiful; battles also having more of a point now, increasing the amount of paint you can hold vs. being mostly pointless), people still refused to give it the time of day.
  • That One Level: Chapter 2 in the first five games can get annoying pretty quickly. In Paper Mario 64 and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, it's because of the enemies getting noticeably stronger than they were in the first chapter without Mario having much of an advantage to match; in Super Paper Mario, it's because of Merlee's Mansion being tedious to get through (especially 2-3), not to mention having one of the biggest doses of Nightmare Fuel in all of Paper Mario; in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, it's because the levels tend to be The Maze, at least one of them has some borderline-Guide Dang It! moments, and the boss pretty much imprints upon you the game's (commonly pointed to as being flawed) boss weakness system. In Paper Mario: Color Splash, there's Mondo Woods, a level which contains huge enemies that can eat chunks of your hp, Marmalade Valley, which ends on a section which can give you a Non Standard Game Over (fortunately there's a Save Block directly before it), and Kiwano Temple, a Temple of Doom filled with deadly spikes that do 12 damage (when you only have 75 hp) and a timed section at the end that leads to a non-standard game over should you fail it (which is also preceded by a convenient Save Block).
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • Paper Mario 64 and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door are widely regarded as excellent games (especially the latter), while Super Paper Mario was rather divisive when it came out due to its completely different formula, but became Vindicated by History thanks to its excellent storyline and characters and especially because of its very polarizing successor, which is widely considered the weakest entry in the series and it isn't especially helped by the equally polarizing Color Splash, thanks to being reminiscent of the former in many ways.
    • The news that the games can no long have variant designs on existing characters like in the first two games (apparently enforced since Sticker Star) has also not gone over well with the fanbase as they liked that the Toads and enemies weren't all similar to one another and made the worlds feel more exotic. Many complain that stripping them of unique designs robbed some of the personality of the series, especially considering Paper Mario is meant to be a spin-off from the mainline games.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Go on any message board relating to the series and expect to see something about how it was a massive shame that the partners from the first two games never returned for anything later on in the series. This goes especially for the massive fan favorites such as Lady Bow or Vivian.
  • Tough Act to Follow: The series greatly suffers of this. Both the first game and The Thousand-Year Door are highly regarded RPGs, with the latter in particular being declared as the very best of the series. Since then, none of the games have attained the same amount of praise. Super Paper Mario is considered a step down in terms of gameplay but still has a highly regarded storyline. Sticker Star, however, is often called the worst of the series due to its barebones plot and highly unintuitive gameplay (ironic in that Miyamoto made the developers change it from the previous one to keep from growing stale) on top of Color Splash following the previous games' steps. But still, especially given that Sticker Star was a highly polarizing game and Color Splash follows the same formula (which is intended to be the standard), it's safe to say that the series won't get away from The Thousand-Year Door's shadow anytime soon. The Origami King plays with this in that it easily surpassed Sticker Star and Color Splash in terms of fan reception in spite of being forced to follow the design philosophies of those games, but plays this straight with the original first two RPGs of the franchise.
  • Vindicated by History: Super Paper Mario got a lot more respect after Sticker Star was released when people focused on the detailed plot (especially compared to other Mario games) and the gameplay being better than that of Sticker Star. The focus on platforming gameplay still causes a major Broken Base, but the story is now largely regarded to be on the same league as the first two games.

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