The Top 7... Mario spin-offs

2 - Mario & Luigi: The Superstar Saga (GBA)

Like WarioWare, this series began as a one-time affair and eventually became an entire franchise, the most recent entry being Super Paper Mario. Technically, this award is for the entire Mario RPG series, but we honestly feel Saga was the best of the bunch.

Mario fans and RPG fans aren't the most obvious mix, but these games manage to blend light role-playing elements with tried and true Mario antics. So, instead of running into invisible, randomized enemies, you actually encounter them on the map. Mario can jump on 'em and deal a little damage before the turn-based battle even begins, then continue to use timed button presses mid-battle to deal and avoid damage.

For example: an enemy sends a spear flying at Mario. If you just stand there, hitting Fight-Fight-Fight all the time, you'll take a lot damage. However, if you hit the defend button at the right moment, Mario will curl up and deflect most of the attack. It sounds simple, but later battles demand intense concentration and make you feel like an active participant in the skirmish.

Super Mario RPG has the mid-'90s CG look, which dates the game horribly. The three Paper Mario games all use the 2D gimmick to excess and tend to feature way too many chatty characters. Saga, on the other hand, looks like a normal Mario game with no crazy visual style and keeps the dialogue snappy. It also lets you play as Mario and Luigi, together, for most of the game. Both can jump and defend independently, so battles become more involved than the Paper trilogy.

They're all immensely entertaining, and the most accessible, least pretentious RPGs out there, but Superstar Saga completely melted our hearts. If Game Boy games do end up on the Virtual Console (or the DS), this better be on the top of the list.

Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.