Paper Mario (series)

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This article is about Paper Mario, the video game series. For other uses, see Paper Mario (disambiguation).
Paper Mario
PaperMario-serieslogo.PNG
First Installment Paper Mario (2000)
Latest Installment Paper Mario: Color Splash (2016)
Number of Installments 5
Parent franchise 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. 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[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 Paper Mario: 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. Also, in this game Kersti is replaced by a paint bucket named Huey.

Games[edit]

Main series[edit]

Title
Cover, original release and system Synopsis
Paper Mario
Papermario.PNG
Japan August 10, 2000
Nintendo 64
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.

The game was rereleased for the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, and for the Wii U Virtual Console in 2015.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
PMTTYD.jpg
Japan July 22, 2004
Nintendo GameCube
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
SuperPaperMarioBoxart.jpg
USA April 9, 2007
Wii
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
Paper mario sticker star box-art.png
USA November 11, 2012
Nintendo 3DS
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. 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
PMCS Boxart.png
USA October 7, 2016
Wii U
Paper Mario: Color Splash was released for the Wii U in 2016. 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.

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
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, 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.

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.