Paper Mario (series)

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This article is about Paper Mario, the video game series. For information about other uses, see Paper Mario (disambiguation).
Paper Mario
PaperMario-serieslogo.PNG
PM Group.jpg
First Installment Paper Mario (2000)
Latest Installment Paper Mario: Color Splash (2016)
Number of Installments 5
Parent Series Mario
Key Staff Ryota Kawade

Paper Mario (Japanese: ペーパーマリオ Pēpā Mario) is a role-playing game spin-off series of the Mario franchise, developed for Nintendo by its direct subsidiary 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 four sequels have since followed: three for home consoles, and one handheld entry.

Gameplay and premise[edit]

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.

Original format[edit]

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; however, by 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[edit]

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.

Partners appear in the form of "Pixls," 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.

Post-2012 format[edit]

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 Color Splash are not classified as RPGs per se, but are instead action-platformers designed in an RPG style.

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.

Chronological overview[edit]

Main series[edit]

Title
Cover, original release and system Synopsis
Paper Mario
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Japan August 10, 2000
Nintendo 64
The series began in 2000 with Paper Mario. This was the second Mario RPG to be made, the first being Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. This game was originally going to be called Super Mario RPG 2, but the name was changed due to copyright issues with Square Enix. The game starts off with Mario receiving an invitation to Princess Peach's Castle, but when he arrives, the castle is lifted up into the sky. This was caused by Bowser, who has stolen the legendary Star Rod, which can grant people's wishes. After being defeated, Mario must rescue the seven Star Spirits to be able to return to Bowser's Castle, recover the Star Rod and save Peach. The game was released on the Wii's Virtual Console in 2007 and the Wii U's in 2015.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
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Japan July 22, 2004
Nintendo GameCube
Later, in 2004 Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door was released. Known as Paper Mario RPG in the Japanese territory, this game introduces the Paper Mario moniker in Japan. The antagonist is Sir Grodus, the leader of the X-Nauts. The X-Nauts have kidnapped Peach, and Mario heads to the seaside town of Rogueport to rescue her by finding the Crystal Stars. The game is a role-playing game like its successor, and shares many of its gameplay mechanics. Bowser makes his first playable appearance during platforming sequences.
Super Paper Mario
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USA April 9, 2007
Wii
The third installment in the series, Super Paper Mario, removes the turn-based system and becomes a platformer-RPG hybrid. Mario and Luigi go to Bowser's Castle to rescue Princess Peach, but learn Count Bleck is behind her disappearance, and soon Luigi, Bowser and the entire Koopa Troop get captured as well. Mario must travel to the town of Flipside with Tippi to recover the eight Pure Hearts and prevent the world's destruction. Alongside the new platforming format, a new mechanic is introduced: Mario can Flip between 2D and 3D, changing the perspective of the environment at any time. The game was released on the Wii U's Virtual Console in 2016.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
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USA November 11, 2012
Nintendo 3DS
The fourth installment of the series was released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2012, making it the first handheld installment of the series. Unlike the previous title, the perspective is 3D again, but the game stops being a RPG and focuses on puzzle-solving and using stickers to attack. When Bowser accidentally destroys the Sticker Comet, Mario goes on an adventure with Kersti to recover the six scattered Royal Stickers, restore the Sticker Fest and rescue Princess Peach. Not being a RPG, this game removes elements of previous Paper Mario titles such as partners and Experience Points.
Paper Mario: Color Splash
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USA October 7, 2016
Wii U
The fifth installment of the series was released for the Wii U in 2016. The game involves Mario using the Paint Hammer in order to color in colorless characters and level elements and progress through the story. This coloring feature is also implemented into battles, which appear to be quite similar in gameplay to Paper Mario: Sticker Star.

Crossover[edit]

Title
Cover, original release and system Synopsis
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam
Mario & Luigi - Paper Jam - NOA Boxart.png
Japan December 3, 2015
Nintendo 3DS
The fifth release of the Mario & Luigi series crosses over with the Paper Mario series, and was originally released in late 2015. One day, Luigi stumbles upon a magical book and accidentally releases paper versions of the Mario characters based on their designs in the Paper Mario games (notably Paper Mario: Sticker Star). Despite some arguments, the two Bowsers decide to team up, combine their Koopa Troop armies, and kidnap the two Peaches. Thus, the Mario Bros. team up with Paper Mario to rescue both versions of Princess Peach from Bowser and Paper Bowser.

Main characters[edit]

Character
Image Brief Biography
Mario
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Mario is the main hero of the series. He is often saving Princess Peach from Bowser using his trademark Jump and Hammer, but also saves her from other villains in the series, such as Grodus and Count Bleck.

In Paper Mario, he recovers the seven Star Spirits to get the Star Rod back from Bowser after the villain steals it from Star Haven and lifts Peach's Castle in the sky alongside his own. After meeting many partners along the way, he successfully rescues the Star Spirits and Princess Peach, retrieves the Star Rod and defeats Bowser and his army.

In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Mario receives a letter from Peach, saying she's found a treasure map at Rogueport. He then learns she has been kidnapped by the evil group of the X-Nauts, who are after the seven Crystal Stars as well. Using the magic of the Magical Map, Mario goes to find the Crystal Stars and Princess Peach, and meets new partners along his adventure. Mario obtains new powers and can turn into a paper plane, paper roll and paper boat. After many difficult battles, he destroys the Shadow Queen's soul in the Shadow Palace and saves Peach again.

In Super Paper Mario, Mario finds himself thrown in an interdimensional adventure, in which, with the help of Tippi, he must find the eight Pure Hearts to prevent Count Bleck from using the Chaos Heart to destroy all worlds. After being reunited with Peach, Bowser and Luigi and facing Count Bleck's minions, Mario successfully defeats Dimentio and foils the Dark Prognosticus' prophecies.

In Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Mario must recover the six Royal Stickers to restore the wish-granting Sticker Comet after Bowser destroys it and kidnaps Princess Peach. With the help of Kersti, he retrieves the Comet Pieces and Royal Stickers and defeats Bowser again.

In Paper Mario: Color Splash, Mario must recover the six Big Paint Stars to restore the Prisma Fountain's paint, repaint the entirety of Prism Island, hunt down the members of the Rescue Squad V, and defeat Bowser and the Koopalings, all with the help of Huey, a living paint can.

Princess Peach
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Princess Peach is the damsel-in-distress of the series. She is the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom and lives in her castle. Though captured throughout the games, Peach still is not completely helpless, and does whatever she can to lend Mario her help.

In Paper Mario, Princess Peach holds a party at her castle but Bowser disturbs it by lifting her castle into the sky with his own, defeats Mario, and captures Peach and many of her guests. Peach remains sealed inside her own castle for the majority of the game, but with the help of Twink recovers information for Mario by sneaking past Bowser's guards. However, she becomes unable to help Mario after she gets taken to the top of the castle in preparation for Mario's arrival and battle with Bowser. During Mario and Bowser's confrontation, Peach wishes to the Star Spirits for Mario to get stronger, creating the Peach Beam and allowing for Bowser to lose his invincibility. She is eventually rescued by Mario and her castle is brought back to its righteous location.

In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, while on a stop to Rogueport, Peach sneaks away from Toadsworth and finds a Magical Map being given to her by Beldam. She sends Mario the map by mail, but gets kidnapped by the the X-Nauts afterward and ends up being kept in their secret base on the Moon. Thanks to TEC-XX, she is allowed to communicate with Mario and obtain information on Grodus' plans, but in compensation she must teach TEC what love is. Later on, she gets taken away from the Moon and into the Shadow Palace, as she was being kept for the purpose of using her body to revive the Shadow Queen. After Mario defeats her in her possessed form, she returns to normal and leaves Rogueport with him, but eventually brings him on another treasure-hunting adventure after finding another map.

In Super Paper Mario, Princess Peach gets kidnapped by Count Bleck and forcefully married to Bowser so that the Chaos Heart may be created and destroy all worlds through the Void. She later manages to run away from Bleck Castle and joins Mario on his adventure to find the eight Pure Hearts and counter the Dark Prognosticus. After being reunited with Bowser and Luigi and fighting Count Bleck's minions (specifically Mimi), she defeats Dimentio and puts an end to the Chaos Heart.

In Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Peach hosts the Sticker Fest but gets kidnapped by Bowser after a Royal Sticker falls on his head following the destruction of the Sticker Comet. She remains in Bowser's Sky Castle, waiting for Mario to rescue her. After Mario solves this incident, she hosts the renewed Sticker Fest.

In Paper Mario: Color Splash, Peach brings Mario a letter she received from Prism Island, revealed to be a drained Toad. Peach takes Mario on her ship to Port Prisma where they find it drained of color. While Mario sets off on his adventure with Huey, Peach stays behind at Port Prisma. After Mario collects the Big Red Paint Star, Black Bowser kidnaps Peach, taking her back to his castle. Peach will occasionally send Mario a Holo-Peach message to keep him updated on her situation, until Black Bowser drains her color. After Mario defeats Black Bowser, he restores Peach's color and they escape on Luigi's kart.

Luigi
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Luigi is Mario's younger, less courageous brother. His role in the Paper Mario series tends to be minor and irrelevant to the storyline, with the exception of Super Paper Mario.

In Paper Mario, Luigi goes to a party hosted by Princess Peach at her castle, but escapes when Bowser starts lifting the building into the sky. He spends the remaining of the game at Mario's House, waiting for his brother to rescue Peach and writing his secret diary. After the castle is brought back to the ground, Peach hosts another party and Luigi leads the following festival.

In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Luigi goes on his own adventure that is documented in the Super Luigi series. After Mario leaves on an adventure to Rogueport, another letter is received at Mario's house, from Minister Crepe of the Waffle Kingdom. Luigi travels to the Waffle Kingdom to rescue Princess Eclair from the Chestnut King, and meets many partners along the way to recovering the seven parts of the Marvelous Compass in hope to locate Eclair. As his travels bring him to many continents, he stops regularly at Rogueport and as such meets Mario and tells him his story. Ultimately, Luigi defeats either the Chestnut King or Minister Crepe depending on who tells the story, and brings peace back to the Waffle Kingdom.

In Super Paper Mario, Luigi gets kidnapped by Count Bleck as the Dark Prognosticus calls him the perfect host for the Chaos Heart. Luigi gets brainwashed into Mr. L and acts as an antagonist to Mario, Peach and Bowser and attacks them with his Brobot. However, Dimentio sends him to the Underwhere, undoing his brainwashing and allowing him to join back Mario's party. It is revealed that Dimentio planted a seed in Luigi's mind along the way, turning him back into Mr. L for the final confrontation and merginng with him and the Chaos Heart to become Super Dimentio. Mario's party defeats Super Dimention, giving Luigi back his mind and appearance, and ultimately saving the world from being destroyed by the Chaos Heart.

In Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Luigi is found in five locations, aimlessly adventuring around the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario can make him leave using Paperization, which will lead to a newspaper entry being written about Luigi's whereabouts.

In Paper Mario: Color Splash, Luigi is found in six locations across Prism Island, and Mario can find him using the Cutout Technique, leading to Luigi giving Mario coins before running off-screen. Mario will receive mail from his brother each time he is found, telling him about various game mechanics. After collecting all the Big Paint Stars, Luigi will drive into Port Prisma on his kart to give Mario and Huey a lift up to Black Bowser's Castle.

Bowser
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Bowser is Mario's arch-enemy, with ambitions of world domination with Peach at his side. As the leader of the Koopa Troop, he is a recurrent and formidable threat to the Mushroom Kingdom, but does not wish for its destruction.

In Paper Mario, Bowser and Kammy Koopa steal the Star Rod, a magical device that grants wishes, and imprison the seven Star Spirits who are supposed to protect it. Bowser also uses his castle to hijack Princess Peach's Castle, with Peach still inside, and lifts the castle high into the sky. He wishes to become invincible and to beat Mario, but is eventually defeated thanks to the power of the Star Spirits and his castle explodes.

In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Bowser learns that Peach has been kidnapped and that Mario is after Crystal Stars and leaves for Rogueport to rescue Peach and beat Mario to the punch at getting the Crystal Stars. With Kammy Koopa, Bowser travels through the lands surrounding Rogueport, but always falling behind Mario and the X-Nauts' progression, before accidentally finding his way to the Palace of Shadows and fighting Mario.

In Super Paper Mario, Bowser gets kidnapped by Count Bleck and married to Princess Peach to give birth to the Chaos Heart, which would destroy all worlds as the Dark Prognosticus foretells. Although he is pleased with the matter of becoming Peach's husband, disturbances during the marriage cause him to be sent to The Bitlands while most of his army remains in Bleck Castle and gets brainwashed into servitude. Although opposing Mario is usually Bowser's priority, not letting all worlds get destroyed is more important for him, or else he would have no territory to rule over in the first place, and this leads to him joining Mario and Peach in their adventure to recover the eight Pure Hearts. After facing many obstacles and fighting against his own troops as well as Count Bleck's commanders (notably O'Chunks), Bowser defeats Dimentio and prevents the world-ending prophecy from taking place.

In Paper Mario: Sticker Star, on the night of the annual Sticker Fest, Bowser shows up and touches the Sticker Comet, causing it to explode and the Royal Stickers to get scattered over the Mushroom Kingdom. One of the Royal Stickers lands on Bowser, granting him strength but also turning him insane and out of control. Bowser wrecks havoc on Decalburg and sends his troops to cause incidents throughout the Mushroom Kingdom after kidnapping Princess Peach. Although Kamek and Bowser Jr. are Mario's main opponents throughout his adventure, he eventually discovers the location of Bowser's Sky Castle, defeats him, takes back the final Royal Sticker and rescues Peach. Bowser shows up again during the second attempt at celebrating the Sticker Fest and tries to touch the Sticker Comet again, but gets scolded by Kersti.

In Paper Mario: Color Splash, Bowser jumps into Prisma Fountain in Port Prisma, wanting to turn his shell rainbow colored. He accidentally mixes the colors of the fountain, turning it into black paint, which then brainwashes Bowser, turning him into Black Bowser. Black Bowser orders his minions to drain all the color from Prism Island and its inhabitants, using it to make more black paint to cover the world. When Mario fights Black Bowser, he is briefly freed form the black paint's control before reverting back to Black Bowser, growing giant. Mario and Huey eventually save Bowser from every drop of black paint, finishing him off before his castle begins to fall.

Similarities between the games[edit]

Artwork of the first four Paper Mario games

Trivia[edit]

  • 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 Toad living 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.
    • The novel written by Herringway is titled "Mario Story" in Japanese. In Luigi's Mansion, Neville can be seen reading a book with the same title.

References[edit]