Paper Mario is a role-playing game spin-off series of the Mario franchise, developed for Nintendo by affiliate company Intelligent Systems. The series is renowned for its distinctive visual style, which consists of 2D paper cutout characters moving about in 3D papercraft worlds. It is considered a thematic and spiritual sequel to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, the first game to introduce RPG elements into the Mario franchise, and follows many conventions established in that game. The first installment in the Paper Mario series was launched on Nintendo 64 in 2000/2001, and five sequels have since followed: four for home consoles, and one handheld entry.
Gameplay and premise
Paper Mario combines traditional role-playing gameplay elements with concepts and features from the Mario franchise. The main protagonist, Mario, overcomes obstacles placed in the game's overworld by jumping and using his hammer. The graphics consist of a mixture of 3D environments and 2D characters who look as if they are made of paper. Battles in the Paper Mario games borrow elements from Super Mario RPG and traditional role-playing titles; and feature a turn-based system, in which players select an attack, defense, or item from a menu; and an "action commands" mechanic where the player can receive substantial attack or defense bonuses when they perform a timed button press correctly or follow some other instruction. Mario's health is measured in Heart Points (HP), of which one or more are consumed by attacks from the enemies he combats in battle; once his HP is reduced to zero, the game will end and the player will have to reload from the last save point reached.
The first three Paper Mario games present their stories in the context of a novel, divided into eight chapters (nine counting the prologue).
In the first three games, Mario gathers around him partners with specialized skills required to advance progression in the game, and must often face puzzles and boundaries based around said partners' abilities. The partners are accumulated as the player advances into different locations; only one may accompany Mario in the overworld, although the player can interchange them at any time. Partner characters can also assist Mario in battle. In the first Paper Mario, damage inflicted against them results in temporary paralysis. By Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, partners were given their own HP meters and were able to receive the same kinds of damage inflicted upon Mario; when their HP is reduced to zero, the partner becomes inactive for the rest of that battle and later battles until recovery.
The early Paper Mario games also feature special moves which Mario and his partners can perform with a finite capacity; each move consumes a particular number of Flower Points (FP) when performed, and as with HP, these statistics were originally only assigned to Mario, but were shared among him and his party members by The Thousand-Year Door. Both HP and FP can be increased upon a "level up", which occurs every time the player reaches or exceeds 100 experience points, called "Star Points" in-game; these are earned in various numbers once Mario has finished a battle. The first two Paper Mario games also feature an on-screen gauge to display "Star Power", which is required to perform moves of another type that accumulate in number as the player progresses through the game. The first two Paper Mario games' battles take place on a stage. The Thousand-Year Door also has Mario battle in front of an audience, who can assist him by replenishing Star Power, throwing helpful items at him, or inflicting damage on the opponent if he performs well in combat; for every 10 levels, the stage will increase by fifty audience members for a total of 200 after level 30.
The original Paper Mario games allow the player to locate hidden battle upgrades in the game's overworld, promoting one partner character to a new rank at a time. In The Thousand-Year Door, Mario is "cursed" at different points in-game with abilities that enable special moves in the overworld, all based around the paper theme: Mario can fold into a boat or paper airplane by standing on a special activation panel, roll up into a scroll of paper, or become paper-thin. This game's environments also follow the paper theme; for example, illusory objects that conceal secret items or switches can be blown away by a gust of wind due to the environment's paper-like qualities.
Progression through the Paper Mario games depends upon interaction with the non-player characters (NPCs), who will often offer clues or detail the next event in the storyline. As in other RPGs, the player can find or purchase stat-boosting items from NPCs to help in and outside of combat. The effects of items range from healing Mario to damaging the opponent. Badges can also be obtained that yield bonuses during combat, like added moves and gradual health restoration; each consumes a set number of Badge Points (BP), meaning Mario can only equip a limited number of badges at a time. Badges, like items, can be purchased from NPCs in shops or obtained from defeated enemies. When equipped, badges can permanently enhance a particular skill or aspect; some badges, such as Power Jump or Quake Hammer, can even give Mario new moves.
The first two entries in the series feature special sidequests, which recur upon the completion of most game chapters, where Princess Peach is playable; these transitions feature varying objectives and actions, mostly stealth-based. In The Thousand-Year Door, Bowser got his own sidequests where he traverses through multiple side-scrolling levels based on the original Super Mario Bros.
Super Paper Mario
Super Paper Mario changed the series' format to blend RPG gameplay with platforming gameplay. The majority of the gameplay is in 2D, but Mario is also given the ability to "flip" into 3D. By doing so, the perspective shifts and the 2D level rotates to reveal a hidden z-axis, placing Mario in a 3D environment. Mario can thereby maneuver around obstacles impassable in the 2D perspective, or find items, enemies or varying landscapes only visible along the z-axis. There is a drawback to this, however; if the player stays in the 3D perspective too long, the HP meter is depleted, one point at a time.
The game uses a scoring system where points are accumulated through defeating enemies and using items. Like the pre-existing Star Point system, this system allows players to level up and gain stronger attacks and higher resistance to damage from enemies or hazards. Peach, Bowser, and Luigi become secondary player characters over whom the player gains control as the game progresses, with each having their own sets of abilities independent of Mario's: Peach can float over long distances and block attacks with her parasol, Bowser can use his fire breath, and Luigi can perform a special jump where he folds and then launches into the air. The Super Paper Mario format also does not make use of the standard turn-based format; instead, enemies are fought directly upon encounter.
In addition to the other three heroes, Super Paper Mario features "Pixls" as partners, digital fairy-like characters who grant the player abilities such as throwing or destroying obstacles, becoming tiny, or defending against enemies. One of these, Tippi, can also allow the Wii Remote pointer to be used like a spotlight in highlighting and reading the descriptions of items and enemies, or in spotting hidden objects. However, Tippi is the only one of the Pixls who maintains substantial amounts of dialogue throughout the game and who has an individual backstory.
In Paper Mario: Sticker Star, the gameplay was overhauled again, with this formula differing drastically from those of previous games in the series. Various critical elements of the original gameplay are absent, namely special moves points, badges, the experience point system, and the use of partners. As such, Sticker Star and its follow-up game Paper Mario: Color Splash are not classified as RPGs per se, but are instead action-platformers designed in an RPG style. Both games also mostly excluded new characters unique to the series and a similar setting with previous games, the reason being that Shigeru Miyamoto felt a more complex plot was unnecessary in a Mario game.
Instead of partners as employed in the first Paper Mario and The Thousand-Year Door, Mario is accompanied by Kersti, a sticker fairy, who bestows a special sticker power upon him. A major facet of this format is the extensive use of collectible Stickers, which are used to gain new abilities and make progress. Mario collects Stickers by finding them from various areas in the environment, purchasing them using coins, or receiving them from NPCs. The player has limited inventory space, and larger Stickers take up more room. Stickers are used both in combat and for interacting with the environment. The player can also make Kersti "Paperize", or flatten the visible overworld to allow Mario to place a Sticker in a certain area, activating some kind of event. Mario can also find real-world objects, known in-game as "Things", which can be turned into a special type of Sticker that will often help Mario solve puzzles in the overworld. Once rendered into Stickers, Things can be pasted onto strategic areas in the environment to cause certain events, or used in battle. Each Thing has its own unique function; for example, a baseball bat can strike every enemy present with one hit apiece; scissors can fly off the screen and cut up the display to deal damage to all enemies; and a mechanical fan will blow enemies around and deal damage to all of them at once, or move and destroy overworld obstacles. What kinds of attacks are available to Mario in battle is determined by the Stickers currently on hand.
This format is continued in Paper Mario: Color Splash, but tweaked slightly so that the gameplay revolves around colors instead of stickers. Mario uses his hammer to "paint" background elements, characters, and parts of the environment that have been drained of their color, in order to make progress through the game. Also, in this game Kersti is replaced by a paint bucket named Huey.
|Cover, original release, and system||Synopsis|
August 10, 2000
|The original Paper Mario, released in Japan as Mario Story and originally known as Super Mario RPG 2, was released for the Nintendo 64 in 2000/2001 to positive media reaction and commercial success. It is set in a paper-based version of the Mushroom Kingdom where as Mario is attending a party at Peach's castle, the palace is suddenly uprooted and lifted into the sky by Bowser's aerial fortress. The Koopa King invades the castle, emerges victorious over Mario, and kidnaps the princess. The story centers on Mario as he tries to reclaim the seven Star Spirits, whom Bowser and his assistant Kammy Koopa had incarcerated in playing cards in an invasion of their residence, Star Haven, during which the tyrant also stole their fabled treasure, the wish-granting Star Rod, which he had used in his defeat of Mario to make himself completely invincible.|
|Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door|
July 22, 2004
|Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, originally released in Japan as Paper Mario RPG and tentatively known as Mario Story 2 (Japan) and Paper Mario 2 (North America and Europe), was released in 2004 for the Nintendo GameCube. Like its predecessor, it was well received by critics.
The game is set in a cursed island across an unnamed ocean in a remote area of the Mushroom Kingdom. Peach contacts Mario about a treasure map that she had bought in Rogueport, a town of thieving and notorious characters located on the aforementioned island. Once the princess goes missing, Mario takes it upon himself to search for her. Along the way, he must retrieve the seven legendary Crystal Stars, which together unlock the Thousand-Year Door, a mysterious portal fabled to lead to certain fortune. Little does he know, however, that Peach has actually been kidnapped by the Secret Society of X-Nauts, a group of cybernetic soldiers led by Sir Grodus, who are also searching for the Crystal Stars. Eventually, the X-Nauts give Peach's body to be possessed by a demon called the Shadow Queen in a bid to recover her full power, and Mario and his friends must destroy the princess's possessor in order to free her.
|Super Paper Mario|
April 9, 2007
|Super Paper Mario was released for the Wii in 2007 and was the only entry to blend side-scrolling platformer gameplay with RPG gameplay. It was originally developed for the GameCube, but silently moved to its successor platform, the Wii.
Luigi, Bowser, and Peach are kidnapped by the villainous Count Bleck, who controls a book of power called the Dark Prognosticus. To fulfill what is foretold in this tome, he arranges a wedding between Peach and Bowser, and thus summons the Chaos Heart to open a black hole known as "The Void", which will eventually grow large enough to destroy the entire universe. Mario is found by the Pixl character Tippi, who transports him to the interdimensional town of Flipside, where he must travel across various dimensions to collect the eight Pure Hearts, which together can be used to banish the Chaos Heart and reverse the destruction. Mario reunites with Peach and Bowser, who agree to help Mario. Count Bleck periodically sends out his minions: the warrior O'Chunks, the immature shapeshifter Mimi, and the mysterious dimension-traveling jester Dimentio. Luigi is brainwashed into the gentleman-thief alter ego "Mr. L", who also antagonizes the heroes; but upon being defeated in battle, regains his memory and joins his brother's cause. It is gradually revealed as the game progresses that "Count Bleck" is the villainous pseudonym of an insane man named Blumiere, and Tippi is a transformed version of a human figure named Lady Timpani, who was banished to wander between dimensions by Blumiere's disdainful father when he learned of her romantic relationship with his son.
Once all eight Pure Hearts have been collected, Mario and company enter Count Bleck's castle, where Bowser, Peach, and Luigi engage in one-on-one battles with Bleck's minions. Mario confronts Bleck but is unable to attack due to the Chaos Heart making him invincible; however, the other three heroes reappear, use the Pure Hearts to halt Bleck's defenses, and help Mario defeat him. Dimentio then becomes the game's true villain; decides to use the Chaos Heart to create a new universe in his own image; and fuses it, Luigi, and himself into a new entity called "Super Dimentio", whom Mario and his friends must use their combined might and the power of the Pure Hearts to defeat in order to restore every world and dimension in the universe.
Like the previous two entries, this game received positive reviews and sold well. It was rereleased on the Wii U eShop in 2016.
|Paper Mario: Sticker Star|
November 11, 2012
|Paper Mario: Sticker Star, known as Paper Mario: Super Seal in Japan, was released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2012 and incorporates the series' papercraft style into its unique gameplay mechanics and is the first handheld game in the series. The Mushroom Kingdom welcomes the arrival of the Sticker Comet, and those who wish on it have a good chance of their wish being granted by the Royal Stickers that reside within. Mario attends the Sticker Fest, a festival held in Decalburg to accommodate the comet's arrival, and as the attendees begin to make their wishes, Bowser crashes the celebration and attempts to make his own wish by touching the comet, causing it to explode, and scattering the six Royal Stickers across the kingdom. One Royal Sticker lands on Bowser, corrupting him with its power, and the Koopa King moves to kidnap Peach and knock Mario out. After regaining consciousness, Mario encounters Kersti the sticker fairy, caretaker of the Royal Stickers, who demands that Mario help her recover them. So, they embark on their journey toward Bowser's sky castle and attempt to match his sticker power, defeat him, and get the princess back.|
|Paper Mario: Color Splash|
October 7, 2016
|Paper Mario: Color Splash was released for the Wii U in 2016 and is the final Mario game and only game in the series to be released on the console. Mario and Peach get a letter from Prism Island, which turns out to be a color-drained Toad, and then set sail for Port Prisma, only to find it deserted, with many spots and objects drained of color. A large metal vault appears at the bottom of the dried-out fountain, which reveals Huey, the paint can character who guards the fountain. Huey asks Mario to assist him in recovering the Big Paint Stars, the main sources of color for the entire island, from Bowser and his Koopalings. While Mario is scouting the island, Peach is kidnapped by Bowser, who had tampered with the Color Fountain to create toxic black paint, which then transformed him into the more malevolent and meaner-spirited Black Bowser. After recovering the Paint Stars, Mario and Huey infiltrate Black Bowser's Castle, where they must halt his weapons factory's operations, defeat Bowser in battle, rescue Peach, and restore peace to the island.|
|Paper Mario: The Origami King|
July 17, 2020
|Paper Mario: The Origami King is the sixth Paper Mario game. It was released for the Nintendo Switch in 2020. The game follows the adventure of Mario and Olivia as they attempt to save the Mushroom Kingdom from an origami invasion led by her brother, King Olly. King Olly has a hatred for any paper being and plans to reshape the entire Mushroom Kingdom into origami. Its inhabitants being folded into his faithful origami soldiers in the process. Mario and Olivia have to wander the land to find and destroy the streamers protecting Peach's castle and Olly who has taken residence inside it after folding Peach into one of his origami minions. With the help of various allies, the duo will have to gather the power of the four Vellumentals and defeat Olly's underlings, who have been tasked with protecting the streamers. On their way to defeat the origami king, they must also discover the reason behind Olly's actions and save the inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom they encounter from the origami menace.|
|Cover, original release, and system||Synopsis|
|Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam|
December 3, 2015
|Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, known as Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros. in PAL regions, and released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2015, is a crossover between the Paper Mario games and the Mario & Luigi series. While attempting to fix a hole in Peach's castle library, Luigi trips and knocks over a mysterious book containing the Paper Mario world, causing the paper-thin residents within it to spread across the Mushroom Kingdom. Afterwards, Bowser combines his evil army with that of his paper counterpart, and they kidnap Peach and her paper version. Mario and Luigi must now team up with Mario's paper counterpart to set everything right, defeat both Bowsers, and bring all the paper people back into the book.
Paper Jam can be considered the aftermath of Sticker Star and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, resulting in the sprite-based residents of one universe meeting their paper-thin counterparts from the other one. Paper Mario can use his paper thin body to perform his own unique actions that will help the brothers, or make copies of himself during battle to deal extra damage or attack multiple enemies at once. Mario and other characters also gain their own papercraft versions which can be used in certain sections of the game to defeat papercraft enemies.
- Princess Peach
- Lady Bow
- Admiral Bobbery
- Ms. Mowz
- Sir Grodus
- Shadow Queen
- Count Bleck
- Mr. L
- Kammy Koopa
- Lord Crump
- Bowser Jr.
- A Flash game called Super Paper Mario Memory Match was released in 2007 to promote Super Paper Mario.
- In 2016, a browser game was released on the Play Nintendo website called Paper Mario: Color Splash Trivia Quiz.
- Paper Mario - 1.38 million
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door - 2.05 million
- Super Paper Mario - 2.49 million (best selling)
- Paper Mario: Sticker Star - 2.21 million
As the above shows, each new game in the series has sold more than the previous until Sticker Star. It is unknown if this tradition will continue if the franchise does. It is thought that the original didn't sell very well due to the fact that it was released so late in the Nintendo 64's lifespan.
The Paper Mario has been referenced in two of the Super Smash Bros. games including Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The references were nothing more than cameos, but they included:
- Super Smash Bros. Melee - There was a Paper Mario trophy available.
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl - There were various trophies from the series, mostly Super Paper Mario, available. Some stickers were also included.
- Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U - There are some trophies available as well as a Paper Mario themed stage exclusive to the 3DS version.
- Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam - A crossover with the Mario & Luigi series.
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate - The Paper Mario stage from the 3DS returns as well as many Paper Mario-themed Spirits.
Similarities between the games
- In the first four entries, the story is introduced by a narrator.
- In the four console entries, the story opens up with a letter at the Mario Bros.' House.
- In the first five games, Mario has to fight one or more of his allies at least once. In Paper Mario he fights Lakilester, in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door he fights Vivian along with her sisters and also fights the tricked Goombella, Koops, Flurrie, and Yoshi with Doopliss, in Super Paper Mario he fights Bowser and Mr. L (Luigi) twice each, in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, each Wiggler Segment is fought, and in Paper Mario: Color Splash, he fights Black Bowser and a group of angry Toads.
- In the first three games, Mario is able to temporarily transform into an 8-bit version of himself: after falling into a vase in Boo's Mansion in the first game, after landing behind a curtain in X-Naut Fortress in the second game, and whenever he obtains a Mega Star in the third game.
- Each of the first three games has narration with Mario falling asleep. When he wakes up, the storyteller asks if he's been listening, followed by Mario lying by nodding. In Paper Mario, Madam Merlar tells the story. In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Luigi and the shopkeeper in Twilight Town tell the stories. In Super Paper Mario, Merlumina tells the story.
- The first five games involve one or more giant Bloopers as a boss.
- In Color Splash, the giant Blooper is a target to fire cannonballs at.
- The first five games involve a grassland setting followed by a fortress of some sorts during the first chapter or world in the game.
- The first five games have at least one game show event. In Paper Mario there is the 64th Trivia Quiz-Off, in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door there are the 65th Super Fun Quirk Quiz and 66th Annual Quirk Quiz, in Super Paper Mario there is the "That's My Merlee!" show, and in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, there is Snifit or Whiffit, and in Paper Mario: Color Splash, there is Snifit or Whiffit Seabed Edition.
- In the first five games, the final boss is a powerful version of a member of the team of Super Paper Mario: in the first game it is an invincible Bowser using the Star Rod, in the second game it is Princess Peach possessed by the Shadow Queen, in the third game it is Super Dimentio who is a mixture of Dimentio, the Chaos Heart and Mr. L, in the fourth game it is a giant Bowser turned insane by a Royal Sticker, and in the fifth game is Bowser infused with black paint.
- The first five games had a remix of the Super Star theme play somewhere. In Paper Mario, when Mario runs around a certain Candy Cane in Pleasant Path, the theme will start playing. In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, when playing the Bowser segments, if the player collects enough Meat in a level, Bowser grows huge and the theme plays. In Super Paper Mario, when the player obtains a Mega Star, the theme plays, and in Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Paper Mario: Color Splash, the theme plays when the player grabs a Star.
- The Paper Mario title itself is mentioned in several games. In the party at the end of Paper Mario, a Bumpty mentions that Herringway is writing a novel called "Paper Mario". The same occurs in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door with the blue Toadliving in a house in the Rogueport west side, who also writes a Paper Mario novel based off Mario's adventures, which gets adapted into a play.