The Paper Mario series of spin-off games built a strong reputation with early entries such as The Thousand Year Door, becoming known for a fun, vibrant RPG setting and its large cast of enemies and NPCs. Unfortunately, the same can't exactly be said about the last few releases, which have felt to some fans as though the Paper Mario series is just phoning it in and hoping its distinctive aesthetic will carry less interesting designs to success.
One thing that stood out to Reddit user "Skirdus" in particular was the rapidly diminishing cast of female characters in the series. Indicative of Paper Mario's turn away from varied character designs, the graphic Skirdus put together demonstrates exactly how much the amount and quality of character design have dwindled. It's gotten to the point where Color Splash only had four female characters, and three of them were recurring main-game characters Peach, Wendy, and Birdo.
The problem isn't strictly that there aren't enough girls: it's that there aren't enough interesting designs, period. Because the Mario universe seems to operate on the classic (and frankly overdone) video game "male-as-default" rules, what this infographic is really singling out is the fact that there aren't enough NPCs. That means as the cast dwindles, the amount of female characters dwindles even faster. Because they aren't usually implemented as "grunt" enemies, in games with fewer NPCs or less varied enemy design, female characters become about as rare as bigfoot.
While Skirdus' graphic doesn't include The Origami King, it still doesn't come anywhere close to the cast of the original or Thousand Year Door. There are a lot of possible reasons as to why, but most people have settled on one very obvious explanation for the sudden, dramatic drop in cast size: Nintendo literally prohibited the Paper Mario team from modifying "classic" Mario character designs as of Sticker Star. Best explained here, developers admitted they aren't even allowed to make characters that "touch on the Mario universe," leaving the team to essentially make designs with a hand tied behind their back.
Had this rule been in place from the start, memorable characters like Goombella would never have existed, and neither would all the visually distinct Toad NPCs. If the team can't make twists on designs, how is anyone meant to make visually distinctive background characters while still making it feel like a Mario game? It's hard to be certain. One thing we do know is this – we miss the bigger cast, and especially miss the interesting female character designs.
Trying to decide whether to play in Offline or Play Mode in Icarus? Here's what you need to know.