Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga was released in North America on November 17, 2003. It was developed by AlphaDream and published by Nintendo. It marked the return of Mario RPGs to portable consoles. Like many other Game Boy Advance Mario games at the time, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga also has an option to play the original Mario Bros. (with updated graphics). Gameplay is very similar to that of Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG, as well timed button presses allow the player to inflict more damage and reducing or countering enemy attacks. The game was granted a sequel, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, but it was criticized for not being as interesting or humorous as its predecessor.
In sprite-ripping communities, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is well-known for its colorful, cartoon style. The way the sprites are outlined (with small gray dots in certain locations) is also one of the style's key features.
Unlike previous adventures, Superstar Saga takes place in the Beanbean Kingdom. While certain parts of the game are located in the more familiar Mushroom Kingdom, the action and story all takes place in the Beanbean Kingdom.
The game introduced a new series of moves called Bros. Moves in which Mario and Luigi attack as a team, when performing a Bros. Move players will relay on the amount of Bros Points (BP); the higher the BP the stronger the attack also the degree of difficulty of the move is determined by the amount of BP as a higher number required a more complex button combination. Mario and Luigi cooperation is also used outside of battles as the work together to solve different puzzles. As in any other role-playing game, in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga players boost power by leveling up, in which several stats increase by each level gain, some of these stats include attack, speed and defense. Players can also improve their stats by collecting different items like clothing and badges.
In the overworld, the game differs from a traditional RPG in many aspects. The ability to jump and solve puzzles is one that is more commonly seen in action games, but (being the Mario brothers), these abilities are in place. The overworld gameplay is very similar to the SNES RPG Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, a game from which Superstar Saga derives many of its gameplay aspects. Many of the puzzles in the overworld focus on the cooperation between the brothers; having the player take them on separate paths on several occasions.
Interestingly, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is one of the few Game Boy Advance games to use the rumble option when placed in the Game Boy Player on the Nintendo GameCube.
The game begins with the Goodwill Ambassador from the Beanbean Kingdom (as well as his assistant) arriving the Mushroom Kingdom to present a gift for Princess Peach from the ruler of the Beanbean Kingdom, Queen Bean. However, it turns up to be an attack by Cackletta, an evil witch, and her quirky assistant Fawful. Fawful uses his headgear to steal Princess Peach's voice and replace it with a rather "explosive" (literally) vocabulary. Our heroes, Mario and Luigi, are at their house when Toad runs up screaming for help. Mario quickly gets ready to go to the castle, but doesn't realize he is dragging Luigi by the clothesline.
When he reaches the castle, Bowser is there (who was attempting to kidnap Princess Peach, but couldn't because he was afraid she would blow up his castle every time she spoke). Mario comes to a quick stop, and Luigi flies off the clothesline and hits Bowser. Bowser challenges Mario to the first "boss battle" of the game. After the battle, Bowser agrees to assist the brothers in getting back Princess Peach's voice.
The first order of business is to go to the Beanbean Kingdom. Mario and Bowser are going to leave in the Koopa Cruiser, along with all of Bowser's minions. The Koopa Cruiser is about to fly off, when Luigi comes to say goodbye. Bowser thinks that Mario's brother is one of his minions, so he grabs him and puts him into the Koopa Cruiser. While the three are on the deck of the ship that night, they spot an unidentified object flying their way. It ends up to be Fawful and Cackletta, and Cackletta orders Fawful to stop them. Bowser gets taken out, but the brothers easily destroy Fawful's headgear, rendering him useless. Unfortunately, he still manages to destroy the Koopa Cruiser and it crashes on the Beanbean Borderlands.
The brothers head into the building containing the Border Bros., who guard the border between the Mushroom and Beanbean Kingdoms. Mario and Luigi are given a map of the Beanbean Kingdom, and are granted passage into the Stardust Fields. Eventually, they locate Bowser who is stuck in a cannon owned by Tolstar, the self-proclaimed king of Stardust Fields. He wants coins to free Bowser from the cannon. As the brothers are searching for coins, they encounter the Starshade Bros., who teach them Bros. Moves. When they give Tolstar the coins, however, he attacks. The brothers defeat him but due to a misconception, Bowser is fired out of the cannon.
As Mario and Luigi continue, they enter Hoohoo Village. Here, they find Fawful again, who blocks their path to the Beanbean Castle by placing a boulder in their path (that can only be destroyed with a hammer). The Hammerhead Bros. live in Hoohoo Village, and they are willing to make hammers for the brothers if they can find a Hoohoo Stone on the top of Hoohoo Mountain. They accidentally wake up Blablanadon in the process, however, who has been sitting on a large egg for some time (without knowledge of what the egg contains). When the egg hatches it has the Dragohoho in it. After the brothers defeat it, it turns out that Cackletta had transformed the Beanbean Kingdom's hero, Prince Peasley, into that monster. Prince Peasley gifts the brothers with a special rose, which will allow them to enter the castle. The brothers go back down the mountain, gather their hammers, and continue on their quest to Beanbean Castle.
When the duo make it to Beanbean Castle Town, it is evident that Cackletta has staged a recent attack. They hurry to the castle, where the rose grants them entrance, and meet with Queen Bean's head adviser, Lady Lima. She doesn't believe that the two are the famous Mario Bros., so she asks that they fix the castle's sewer. While fixing the pipes, Mario and Luigi discover the real Lady Lima, as well as some servants. They rush upstairs, where Cackletta had just succeeded in taking the Beanstar (a wish granting star), and sends Queen Bean to attack them. Having been transformed by eating a Belly Blech Worm, Mario and Luigi go to find the only known cure: Chuckola Cola.
The Château de Chucklehuck is the only location in the Beanbean Kingdom where Chuckola Cola is brewed. There, the brothers encounter "master thief" Popple, and his sidekick Rookie. After easily disposing of them, the brothers find Cork and Cask, the owners of the château. After teaching the brothers new out-of-battle Bros. Moves, the duo uses these newfound moves to gather Chuckola Fruits to grant them access to the Mother Chuckola. The creator of Chuckola Cola, Bubbles, is in there, telling jokes to the soda, the rare Chuckola Reserve. He sends his creation to attack the brothers, now the Chuckolator. After defeating it, Mario and Luigi got it back safely to Queen Bean, where the antidote is applied. She instantly transforms to her normal self.
Prince Peasley flies in to report that Cackletta has made a lair of some sorts in Woohoo Hoonivesrity, so naturally it is the brothers' job to investigate. After finding Cackletta and Fawful about to use Peach's voice (through the use of Peach Bots) to activate the Beanstar. However, it causes the Beanstar to explode with anger, destroying the Peach Bots. Just then, Mario and Luigi jump in. They beat Cackletta to a pulp, which is when Fawful absorbs her spirit into his headgear. When he is about to fight the brothers himself, Prince Peasley sweeps in and knocks Fawful off into Stardust Fields.
Meanwhile, the brothers find Popple and Rookie, who are trying to steal the Beanstar. They are defeated by Mario and Luigi yet again, but after the battle a Peach Bot falls through the ceiling and irritates the Beanstar again. It flies through the ceiling, with Mario, Luigi, Popple, and Rookie intact, launching them into four directions and breaking the Beanstar into four pieces. Mario and Luigi land on an island in the Oho Ocean, known as Oho Oasis, where they learn Firehand and Thunderhand. They make it out of the Oho Ocean and go to the Beanbean International Airport, where Princess Peach is due to fly in. When Peach lands, it is revealed that her voice was never actually stolen, and that Birdo was disguised as Peach. Princess Peach decides to visit immigrant Toads while she is in the Beanbean Kingdom, in the town of Little Fungitown.
To get there, they have to travel in Teehee Valley, which is inhabited primarily by monsters. Mario and Luigi, however, manage to escort Peach to Little Fungitown in safety. As the duo is exploring the village, Mario manages to win an Invincishroom, which gives him Bean Fever, a condition which will slowly transform him into a Beanish (the species that are the primary inhabitants of the Beanbean Kingdom). Luigi travels to the Guffawha Ruins (after being hypnotized into thinking he is Mario) and gathers the Crabbie Grass, the only known antidote for the Bean Fever. On his way back to the hospital, however, Cackletta attacks (in Bowser's Koopa Clown Car) and kidnaps Peach. Luigi quickly revives Mario, and the two race back to the castle.
It ends up that when Peasley launched Fawful, he landed in the Stardust Fields. Rookie landed here as well (it is revealed that he is an amnesiac Bowser). Fawful puts Cackletta's spirit in Bowser, forming Bowletta. Back at the castle, everyone is gathered. They are surprised by the new state of things, and suddenly they receive a ransom message from Bowletta. She wants the Beanstar in return for Princess Peach. Prince Peasley bets the brothers 99,999,999,999 coins that he will find the Beanstar shards first.
The first Beanstar shard is located in the Teehee Valley on the ship S.S. Chuckola. The ship is filled with skeletal sailors, as the ship was sunk many years ago, before the desert dried up. The brothers manage to fill the area up with water again, but as soon as the ship makes it to the Oho Ocean, it sinks. The Beanstar floats out of the ship, and Mario and Luigi follow it to Gwarhar Lagoon. The duo get new abilities from the Jellyfish Sisters here. They find the Beanstar as an ornament on Hermie III. The brothers battle Hermie III, and get the Beanstar shard back.
The remaining three shards don't take quite as long to find. One is found with a stylist named Harhall, another is located in the Yoshi Theater and is collected from Boddle after the brothers get all of the Neon Eggs for him, and another one is in the Chucklehuck Woods, at an area known as the Winkle Colosseum (where Popple tries to steal it, but fails). Back at the castle, Lady Lima has another message from Bowletta. Bowletta wants the brothers to bring the Beanstar shards to Joke's End. Prince Peasley had the idea to try and trick Bowletta and Fawful with a Fake Beanstar. They make it to Joke's End, where a girl named Jojora appears. She calls Joke's End her "playground." They eventually find Jojora and defeat her and her friends.
After making it to Fawful, Fawful sees right through their Fake Beanstar ploy. He stole the real Beanstar, but Mario comes up with a plan. Toadsworth had given the brothers an extra dress for Princess Peach. Luigi puts on the dress and pretends that they have the fake Princess Peach. Bowletta falls for the ruse this time, and tosses the real Princess Peach out of the Koopa Clown Car, and takes the fake Princess Peach to the Koopa Cruiser. Luigi in the Koopa Cruiser, manages to recapture the Beanstar and escape.
Luigi lands in Teehee Valley, and sinks in a sand pit. Mario goes to investigate, and finds him underground, tied up. Popple jumps in with his new "Rookie," Birdo, who has fallen in love with Popple. They beat him and Birdo, and head back to Beanbean Castle Town. Bowletta has attacked the town again, this time leaving it in shambles. She is using Bowser's Castle to attack, which floats in the sky. Mario and Luigi go to Blablanadon in Hoohoo Village to ask him to fly the brothers up to the castle. Once in the castle, the brothers defeat all of the Kooplings, many of Bowser's and Cackletta's minions, and eventually Fawful. After defeating Bowletta, the brothers are brought down to incredibly low health, and Bowletta sucks them in, where they fight Cackletta's spirit. Luckily, the brothers escape the castle before it explodes. The Beanbean Kingdom is free of Cackletta, once and for all.
The game has many unique--and humorous--characters scattered throughout it. The main protagonists, of course, are the titular brothers: Mario and Luigi. They remain silent throughout the entire game, conversing only through comical motions. Bowser is not the main antagonist in this game, instead being a helpful character (until his inevitable possession). Cackletta, the main antagonist, is a witch who is determined to gain world domination. Her sidekick, Fawful, is one of the most humorous characters in the game, known for his use of the phrase, "I HAVE FURY!" and such nonsensical lines about condiments. Also encountered on several occasions is a thief named Popple, who is usually attempting to steal the same treasure that the brothers need for their quest.
Also helping out the brothers is the royal family of the Beanbean Kingdom: Queen Bean (who is turned into a monster by Cackletta) and Prince Peasley (also transformed into a monster). Prince Peasley is somewhat of a celebrity is the kingdom, and one part of the game focuses around an autograph from him. As with all 2D platforming Mario games, the goal is to rescue Princess Peach.