Paper Mario artstyles: which do you prefer?

What is your favorite Paper Mario artstyle?

  • Paper Mario

    Votes: 2 10.5%
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door / Super Paper Mario

    Votes: 7 36.8%
  • Paper Mario: Sticker Star

    Votes: 1 5.3%
  • Paper Mario: Color Splash

    Votes: 9 47.4%

  • Total voters
    19

Ultra Violet

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Throughout its lifespan, Paper Mario has undergone some art-style changes, from its N64 inception, to the Wii U entry, Paper Mario: Color Splash.

Paper Mario first started on the Nintendo 64, where its graphics are sprite-based and they're simply animated frame-by-frame, as traditionally speaking (characters don't have elaborate animations for the most part, running has only like, three sprites while idle animations take three sprites and that includes a blink animation). It was originally called "Mario Story" in Japan before opting its English name, probably because it appeared to look like a pop-up book similar to how Yoshi's Story was coined. The character sprites are simple, low res, and they're graphics you can easily draw with a simple image program like MS paint, spouting few colors. Characters tend to have a darker palette in the game compared to the brighter colors used in the next titles: the whites appear as grayer and muter if you look at Mario's gloves.



Most characters are drawn in one sprite, while others require assembly, such as Bowser.


Its environment, as it's from an N64 game, was simple. You had flat colors and simplistic polygons representing much of the environments, and a lot of the aspects of the environment is represented by 2D sprites, such as bushes, leaves, rocks, signposts, and a multitude of other things. The only shadows are simple circles generated by the character, while there are only a few cases of metallic shading in the game that I recall. Aside from the flatness, Paper Mario didn't really use much paper elements other than some cute aesthetic effects such as Paper Mario falling down, going to bed, or getting stuck in the ground.



Onto the next two entries, Thousand Year Door and Super Paper Mario (they're lumped together because they practically use the same graphics as each other), and the character sprites become more refined and higher res, meaning that their sprites cannot be easily be drawn with a simple art program like MS Paint. And in addition, most characters require assembly to be used, and animating the characters properly requires a program that can keyframe the rotations, making the character animations look very smooth, very reminiscent of cartoons that use Adobe Flash. This is probably why you're not going to find animated characters on MarioWiki unless someone can accurately portray the animations as they are in the game, and it requires meticulously piecing the characters together to be as accurate as possible as well as making accurate keyframes.


Also, unlike Paper Mario, more characters are drawn with 3D in mind, such as Hooktail and the Shadow Queen, whereas in the original, almost all characters (barring like that whale that takes you to Lavalava Isle) are sprites.

The environment in both TTYD and SPM have received an upgrade in terms of resolution as well, but the overall shaders and other lighting effects remain simplistic, with still, the only shadows cast being that from the characters themselves. However, the greater resolution and hardware power from the GCN enables environments to be much more vivid and support a greater palette of colors, making environments stand out more. In addition, both TTYD and SPM use the paper part of the game much more liberally than what happened in the N64 incarnation of the game, though not to the extent of the next entries.



Paper Mario: Sticker Star is the first handheld Paper Mario, so the game has to be adapted for a tiny screen. However, there were quite a bit of changes that incurred from Super Paper Mario to Sticker Star. First, Mario has reverted to the frame-by-frame animation rather than the smooth keyframes, making him closer to the N64 counterpart, though the sprite design retains TTYD and SPM's style, just at a lower resolution to suit the Nintendo 3DS's power.



In addition, the world has a greater emphasis on crafts than the other games, giving the environment a more crafted feel to it by introducing visible seams and craft textures to the world. The shading engine is a bit more improved than the previous games, but it's not a huge upgrade all things considered, as the Nintendo 3DS isn't a particularly powerful system.



Paper Mario: Color Splash is the latest Paper Mario game at this time of writing, and it's the first game to take advantage of HD hardware. The character sprites are in greater resolution, and they have reverted to a more muted palette compared to TTYD and SPM. In addition, characters receive a white outline, likely added to increase contrast between the characters and the environment. The outlines and color of the sprites are also more refined than they were in TTYD and SPM, having less artifacts around the sprite due to compression. Characters still move in frame-by-frame animation than keyframes for the most part, but because they all have white outlines, they don't require assembly to be displayed properly.


However, the environment has received a dramatic upgrade. Paper Mario: Color Splash is the first Paper Mario title to have a dynamic lighting system, where objects cast shadows as they should and characters sprites actually change color if they are underneath a shadow for the first time. Subtle bloom is used for areas with high lighting, especially when there's lava. The environment itself is more clearly constructed from crafts, taking advantage of higher resolution textures, bumpmaps, and specmaps to portray a more realistic environment: you can see cardboard bumps, cloth fabric, rock detail, and much more of the tiny stuff that the Wii U is capable of.



So anyway, after this run-through of the Paper Mario games, which art-style do you like the most? Me, I like Color Splash the most, because I enjoy the realistic environment that better hardware is capable of, but the other games also have their own perks that I enjoy. As for the animations, both have their strengths and weaknesses to me: the frame-by-frame is like a flipbook style while the computerized smooth animation is pleasant to look at.
 

Sven Svennson.

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Have to admit.
Even with all it's flaws, Paper Mario Colour Splash has the best art style.
So, I agree with you.
 

winstein

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I always thought that Colour Splash is a natural evolution of the Paper Mario aesthetic. The more realistic crafts used made the environment felt more tactile than ever before. Even if it's not the game that the more dedicated Paper Mario fans wanted, it has definitely made great use of the HD upgrades in a sensible way. The best part is how the developers did their homework (plus, they got to eat a steak!).

(Also, that screenshot made me realise that the Toads are supposed to be spelt "Key".)

Thank you for reading.
 

Fawfulthegreat64

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I prefer TTYD and SPM's, discounting the understandably controversial character designs SPM introduced i think it was the peak of Paper Mario's sprites. TTYD with the HD texture pack is already nearly perfect visually, but if they took Color Splash's added expression and emotive animations, and applied it to the smooth keyframed animation style of TTYD, it would be perfect imo. I don't like the stop motion, the solid colors or the white outline. The overworld in CS is good though, despite I still miss the vector graphics. I think there is a happy medium that, if applied, would peak the series' art direction. But yeah in terms of character sprites TTYD all the way.

(I know i have a CS sprite in my sig but admittedly it was a quick edit because i liked Mario's pose and wanted to make him drink a monster. One of these days I'll get around to redrawing it so it has the shading style of TTYD)
 

Batgirl

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my opinion:
I prefer TTYD and SPM's, discounting the understandably controversial character designs SPM introduced i think it was the peak of Paper Mario's sprites. TTYD with the HD texture pack is already nearly perfect visually, but if they took Color Splash's added expression and emotive animations, and applied it to the smooth keyframed animation style of TTYD, it would be perfect imo. I don't like the stop motion, the solid colors or the white outline. The overworld in CS is good though, despite I still miss the vector graphics. I think there is a happy medium that, if applied, would peak the series' art direction. But yeah in terms of character sprites TTYD all the way.

(I know i have a CS sprite in my sig but admittedly it was a quick edit because i liked Mario's pose and wanted to make him drink a monster. One of these days I'll get around to redrawing it so it has the shading style of TTYD)
 

zelen !!

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yea think ill have to agree with preferring ttyds artstyle.. no need to make it all cardboard in a remake but the cs lighting i think would slap
i really like pm64's sprites too theres a sorta charm to them even despite the occacionally weird color palettes
look the yellow on this is brighter than the white
relatedly whats up with it and cs having such oddly dull sprites anyway?? i dont get it
 

Toucan Sam

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Honestly, I think the OG Paper Mario has my preferred aesthetic, although I'll admit that must just be bias since that's the one I've put the most time into, so I have nostalgia for that art style that I don't really have with the later ones.
 

Koops

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Wether you are a fan of the first three or not, there is no denying whatsoever that Color Splash simply looks beautiful, and I would love to see the next game take after its artstyle, or even just copy paste it really.
 

Noct

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While the novelty of the diorama-style in CS was kinda neat for a little bit, I would prefer something more akin to PM64 and TTYD in the future. I feel like the arts and crafts aspect of it is a little overplayed and would prefer more organic environments like Boggly Woods.
 

Mcmadness

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Colour Splash easy. If they aren't taking advantage of the paper visual aesthetic then this series has nothing going for it compared to the rest of the franchise visually.
 

Batgirl

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If they aren't taking advantage of the paper visual aesthetic then this series has nothing going for it compared to the rest of the franchise visually.
ttyd looks great if you run it in hd with texture pack, n do not need to go all out with the paper stuff, just feeling like a cool popup story book is enough
 

Mcmadness

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ttyd looks great if you run it in hd with texture pack, n do not need to go all out with the paper stuff, just feeling like a cool popup story book is enough
The Paper stuff is about all the series has to give it any notability, the more they emphasize it visually the better.
 

Ultra Violet

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relatedly whats up with it and cs having such oddly dull sprites anyway?? i dont get it
I thought it may be because of diffuse reasons and that the characters take place in a dynamic lighting environment but it still looks dull, even in bright settings. I think it may have been done to introduce contrast between the characters and the highly saturated environment.

Oh, and I'm one of the few people who likes the white outlines on the characters, it draws attention to them thanks to the high contrast between black outlines and white outlines, because without the outline, the characters sorta blend in the environment.
 

Dr. Peach

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TTYD/SPM because of the nostalgia.
 

Toadgamer

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While people kinda hate color splash, I gotta give it to the devs for making such a beautiful art style, and it looks the most paper out of all the five Paper marios. Hopefully if we get a Paper Mario HD we get a similar art style, or maybe even the same one.
 

Goombuigi

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While I really like how the environment looked is PM:CS, I prefer the character look from TTYD and SPM.
 
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