Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door feature image

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Review

Not for you if:

  • You're looking for a challenging Mario game
  • You can't hit a QTE
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A remake of “Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door” was released under the same name for the Nintendo Switch on May 23. The award-winning GameCube original will now finally meet a larger audience, though it’s not the first entry in the Paper Mario series to come to the Switch. Let’s take a closer look so you can determine whether this 2D plumber should make his way into your Switch catalogue.

TL;DR

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door perfectly showcases Mario’s charms outside of the classic platform genre. The gameplay is easy enough, the combat is turn-based, the characters are unique yet timeless, the puzzles optimally use various unique abilities, and the humour is all-around and accessible. You might not typically classify Mario games in the “cozy” genre, but Paper Mario ticks all those boxes for me. It’s the perfect game to sit back, relax, and unwind.

Gamecube original Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

The Origins of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Paper Mario was originally developed as a sequel to Super Mario RPG. The game features elements from RPGs, adventure, and puzzle games. Perhaps most notable are the visuals, which feature paper cutouts, rather than the gameplay.

However, the gameplay is also significantly influenced by the paper-based nature of the characters and environment. ‘Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door’ is the second game in the Paper Mario series and received much praise back in 2004 for its unique game design. Together with the original Paper Mario, it’s generally viewed as the best game in the Paper series.

Remake

The 2024 remake includes, of course, new visuals and music. Interestingly, the title of the game does not indicate that this is actually a remake. While a lot of remakes’ main target audience is people who played the game before and want to play it again out of nostalgia, I think Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is appealing to a new audience that has never played the GameCube-exclusive title before. There are, however, indications in the game itself that this is in fact a remake, such as the year 2004 on the title screen, the ability to switch to the original soundtrack, and some in-game references that are pretty outdated.

Apart from the visuals, Nintendo has fortunately also added some quality-of-life improvements to the fast travel system and item capacity. Parts of the English script have been reviewed to bring it into current times, for example, to reinstate the trans status of a previously censored character (read more here). There’s also the addition of two secret bosses, though surprisingly the game now runs at 30FPS instead of the original 60FPS. However, I can’t say I really noticed an impact on my gameplay.

Asking the real questions

The Adventures of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Can you guess the main plotline of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door? It involves a certain princess who’s gone missing…

This Smells Peachy

Peach gets kidnapped and Mario has to find her. No surprises there, right? But here’s the twist: it wasn’t Bowser who imprisoned Nintendo’s princess! It’s actually a running joke during the game. When Bowser finds out someone else had the audacity to kidnap Peach, he sets out on an adventure of his own to try and find her (and uno reverse her kidnapper?).

After every chapter, you get to briefly play a scene as Peach at the kidnapper’s hideout, and directly after that, a mini-level as Bowser. These short intermezzos are a good example of the humour and overall wittiness in this Paper Mario title.

Then who did kidnap Princess Peach? Well, it all started when Peach visited Rogueport, a seaside town built on top of the ruins of a previous town destroyed by a cataclysm. She acquires an old treasure map and mails it to Mario, since he is the professional adventurer, after all.

The X-Nauts, led by Grodus, have been after that map and capture Peach. They are looking for the treasure hidden behind the Thousand-Year Door. That door can only be opened with the seven Crystal Stars, the locations of which are indicated on the treasure map she just mailed to Mario.

Mario to the Rescue

Mario comes to Rogueport and meets Goombella and Professor Frankly, who fills him in on the magical treasure map and the Thousand-Year Door. He doesn’t know where Peach is, so he decides to start searching for the Stars, hoping that will eventually lead him to Peach. The treasure map shows the location of one star, which, when found, needs to be brought to the Thousand-Year Door.

When you do, the map will reveal the location of the next star. This takes Mario to various areas and introduces him to a ton of different characters, some of whom will join him on his quest. I won’t spoil more details about the actual treasure since that’s quite an intriguing part of the plot!

The Gameplay of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Paper Mario offers an interesting range of gameplay mechanics, from puzzles involving paper physics to turn-based combat. While this may sound intimidating on paper (keke), the game is actually quite easy. I imagine this game is perfectly suited for both a young audience and adult cosy gamers.

Curse You, Mario

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door sends Mario into different areas in search of the Crystal Stars. The game is linear since the areas unlock one by one. Early on, you’ll notice there are some areas you want to go but cannot reach yet. Slowly but surely, Mario will unlock paper-related skills that are instrumental in reaching your destination. Each area hides one of these skills in the shape of a “curse.” Oh, the horrible fate of turning into a paper plane! By introducing these skills at a slow pace, the gameplay stays interesting without ever feeling overwhelming.

Centre Stage

The way Mario runs into new encounters often reminds me of classic Pokémon games, where you can dodge Pokémon in the world to avoid combat or actively choose to engage in it to level up. When Mario runs into a new encounter, the scene changes to a stage with an audience. Mario and one of his partners face off against one or multiple enemies in turn-based combat. Each of Mario’s partners has unique abilities, and you’ll want to swap them out depending on the enemy you are facing. For example, there’s no point in doing a jump attack on a spiky enemy.

Mario can do a jump attack, a hammer attack, or a special attack. You can also choose to use an item or a tactic, such as swapping out a partner or choosing to defend for one turn. With every new Crystal Star, Mario unlocks a new special attack. These attacks cost star power, which is gained by appealing to the audience watching the battle.

These special attacks can really turn the fight around if you’re dealing with a long boss battle or facing a large group of foes. The basic jump and hammer attacks have no cost, but you can use upgraded versions of them which will cost you Flower Points (mana, basically). To perform any attack successfully, you will need to complete QTEs (quick time events).

Don’t avoid too many encounters, as winning battles will give you coins and star points (and sometimes items). Every time you reach 100 star points, Mario levels up, and you’ll be able to choose whether you want to increase HP, FP, or Badge Power.

I Forgot My Badge

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has an actual loot system in place. Mario has a certain amount of “Badge Power,” points he can spend to equip badges. There is a wide range of badges available in the game, ranging from upgraded attacks and increased defence to increased damage taken.

You can find badges in the world, but you’ll also be able to buy them in shops with the coins you earned in battle. Don’t be tempted to put every level up toward increased Badge Power, though. The upgraded attacks from badges cost Flower Points to execute, so you’ll quickly run out of FP if you don’t balance your build well.

And More

Of course, there is more to the game than just finding Crystal Stars and levelling up through turn-based combat. If you look closely, you’ll find “secret” locations with loot items. A specific item, Shine Sprites, can be used to power up your companions, which I recommend doing.

I did not really go out of my way to collect every single one and still had more than enough Shine Sprites to power up every companion. You’ll also find Star Pieces, which you can use to buy badges from Dazzle in the Rogueport Sewers. You can also talk to every single NPC in town—who knows what might happen if you do…

The Verdict for Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Whether you played the original or not, you won’t regret buying this remake. The gameplay, the characters, the writing, the puzzles, the jokes… Simply put, you’re bound to have a good time with Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. I often found myself giggling at what they had cooked up next. Of course, there’s a haunted pirate ship. WWE fighting? Naturally. Nintendo could really only pull these things off in Paper Mario, and I’m so glad that they do.

Big thanks to CDMedia for the chance to review this title.

HI!

Romy Vermeeren

Posts published: 80

Cat lady, linguist, all round geek. Always gaming with my boyfriend, reading fantasy books, watching anime or wasting money on shiny cardboard.