Paper Mario: A 2D Trip to the Past

Paper Mario: A 2D Trip to the Past

Erika Lewis

Disclaimer: This article is a part one of three and contains spoilers for the first two Paper Mario Games.


If you’re an avid Super Mario fan you probably are familiar with the spinoff series, Paper Mario. It was originally released on the N-64 and has found a way to progress all the way to the Nintendo Switch. For those who are unaware or unfamiliar with Paper Mario it is a branch off of the main Super Mario timeline and takes place in its own world. These games are very different from the Mario that everyone knows and loves, from the game play to the characters to the villains. Each of the six games have different plots, characters, and places that make them unique from the main franchise and each other which makes them stand out from the rest. 


Paper Mario

The very first game that started the entire franchise was simply called Paper Mario. It was released for the N-64 on August 11, 2000 making the game over 20 years old. However, despite it being from 2000 it is still an amazing quality game, maybe not in appearance but through the storyline and characters. 

Speaking of the story lines, it is more complex than one might expect from a game like this. I don’t want to spoil much about the plot but I will reveal it holds similar elements to regular Mario games. In this game you have to rescue Peach from Bowser who has taken her. In order to do that Mario also has to free the seven star spirits that Bowser had imprisoned. They are important as it is only through their combined power that Mario would be able to defeat Bowser who, after stealing a magic rod, is able to make himself invincible. 

Another very important part of the plot and fun of the game is the characters you meet throughout the game that join your party. As you play through the game Mario comes across several characters that join him on his journey, all of them being able to help Mario in some way. The first character you meet is a Goomba named Goombario who is Mario’s biggest fan. His ability is he is able to tell you how much health and defense an enemy has as well as some tips on how to defeat him. It definitely comes in handy the farther you progress through the game. The next character is Kooper who is a koopa troopa. He is not only helpful in battle, as his attacks do more damage, but he is also useful for grabbing things that are just out of reach for Mario. The next character is a bob-omb named Bombette who is adorable and powerful. Her attack, explosion, is good for getting through enemies with high defense and she can also blow up cracked walls to find secrets behind. 

The next character is Parakarry, a Paratroopa, who doubles as a mailman. In the game he helps carry you across gaps that are just a little too wide for Mario to jump across. This can lead to Mario finding several cool treasures. Another partner that joins Mario’s little band is a Boo named Bow who plays an especially useful role in the bossfight that ends the level you find her in. She is able to turn Mario invisible which makes him invincible for one turn. There are three final party members who join Mario’s small gang but it’s best to leave some surprises. 

Now something, if you are unfamiliar with Paper Mario, that might confuse you is why Mario is allowing enemy species to join his team and why they want to join him. Well, something that Paper Mario does differently is it gives even the “monsters” personality and character. They are no longer just enemies that get in Mario’s way but are friends or characters to have funny banter with. That is definitely a large part of what sets Paper Mario apart from the rest of the franchise. 

Something else that sets the game apart is that in between chapters you are actually able to play as Princess Peach. In fact, there is a whole small plot with Peach trying to find ways to help Mario as well as doing some other things. Everything you have to do between each level is also different from each other. There is one part when you just walk around for a little before being visited by a young star named Twink, who plays a rather important role, and there is a different part where you have to bake a cake. Whether the activity seems fun or dull it is definitely interesting as we get to see Peach, at least in these games, doesn’t just sit around when she’s been captured by Bowser. 

Speaking of Bowser he just so happens to be the main villain and baddie of this game. Him and his trusted assistant Kami were the ones in charge of capturing Peach, imprisoning the star spirits, and overall attempting to sabotage Mario. A nice thing though is despite both of them being evil they are also rather comedic. Although the game in itself doesn’t always take itself seriously and has tons of humorous moments, Bowser and Kami’s banter is definitely some of the humor at its peak. They make the game a lot more entertaining and it’s always fun seeing them converse with each other as you know it’s going to be more funny than ominous. 

A final thing about this game is throughout it Mario is able to collect badges. These badges can do some pretty useful things such as boosting attack, defense, flowerpoints, they’re basically the magic points of the game and can help Mario use special attacks, or other useful things to help Mario. There are also some that are a bit more on the goofy side and their only purpose is just to make the game a bit more fun. 


Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door

The second game in the franchise is Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door which was released for the gamecube July 22, 2004. Despite the fact that it’s for such an old system the graphics are immaculate compared to the first game. Although the graphics are greatly improved the game itself has several similarities to the original, at least when it comes to gameplay. 

The plot and setting, however, are very different. The game, instead of taking place anywhere close to Princess Peach’s castle, takes place in a town called Rouge Port. This town is extremely dark and sketchy, at least for Paper Mario standards. And the town, which has gang members, thieves, and bandits, isn’t even the darkest the game has to offer. Thousand Year Door is definitely the “darkest” game in the series so far. However the tone of the game brought with it amazing partners that joined Mario on his journey. 

The first partner, much like the original, is a goomba named Goombella and she is a college student. Her ability is very similar to Goombario as in she is able to tell Mario the health and defense of enemies as well as giving some tips. The next partner, again similar to the original, is a koopa troopa named Koops. He has all the same abilities as Kooper except his personality is a little less bubbly and excited. The third partner is where the game starts to spice things up and differ from the original. Your third partner is a cloud spirit named Madame Flurrie. Her main ability is she can blow wind which can help reveal hidden secrets in certain places. 

The fourth member that joins Mario’s party is a newborn Yoshi who you are actually able to name (I named mine My Dude) who has a very aggressive personality. He is able to not only transport you across gaps too big to jump across but one of his attacks he is able to eat the enemy then spit them back out causing damage to two enemies. Your fifth companion is actually originally one of the bad guys, more on that later, and her name is Vivian. The way Mario comes across her and has her join him is actually a quite interesting story. Her abilities are similar to Bow, except instead of making you invisible she pulls Mario into the shadows. The fifth partner is a bob-omb named Admiral Bobbery who, as I’m sure is assumed, was originally the captain of a ship. His ability is the same as Bombette’s. The final partner is actually optional and she is not necessary to beat the game. I will leave it a secret about who she is but the interesting part about her is you encounter her several times before she joins your team. 

Moving on to the villains of the game. They are actually different from the first as the main villain isn’t Bowser. The main bad guy is named Sir Grodus who is the leader of the organization called the Secret Society of X-Nauts. Now, I had mentioned that Vivian was originally one of the bad guys. She was part of a trio called the Shadow Sirens. They are enemies you encountered who were trying to bring back the real bad guy, the Shadow Queen. Because of all the villains it makes the plot of this game one of the more complex ones only second, I could argue, to the third Paper Mario games. 

Something interesting with this game is that Bowser is not the bad guy of the game. He is there as more of a comedic “bad guy” who is trying to find Peach so he can kidnap her as well as trying to find the crystal stars, the same stars Mario collects in this game. He does this by tracking down Mario and Mario never really has to fight him, give or take one or two times that are kind of optional. The fun thing is that you can play as him between chapters much like how you were able to play as Peach. He is accompanied by his new assistant Kamek Koopa who fills Kami’s role. 

Now I mentioned playing as Peach in the last game and you can in this one as well. Except instead of being trapped in her castle she is being held by the X-Nauts on the moon. She manages to sneak around after befriending a character named TEC who is a computer. The “missions” Peach goes on in this game go from just speaking with TEC, to making an invisibility potion, to posing as one of the guards. It is also through her friendship with TEC that Mario is able to trace her to the moon. However, most importantly with this game and its similarities to the original it still carries the same level of humor that makes it enjoyable. 


Among these two games there is so much I wasn’t able to touch on but there is so much these games have to offer. And these two aren’t even the end of this humorous series. In total there are six Paper Mario games which leaves four left. Much like these two, they all have so many unique characters and storylines. There are still adventures for Paper Mario to have and it’s curious as to where the franchise in general went after Thousand Year Door. The game style definitely changes, but if it was for better or worse that’ll have to be for you to decide.