Paper Mario is a turn-based RPG for the Nintendo 64 that combined the world and characters of Super Mario with traditional RPG mechanics and a light-hearted, entertaining story.
Following Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars on the Super Nintendo, Paper Mario carves out its own identity by introducing a storybook aesthetic that would become the foundation of its own series. Characters look like paper cut outs and move around a 2D interconnected world featuring towns, islands and dungeons to explore. There are many locations to explore all over the Mushroom Kingdom filled with their own unique citizens and the story helps to flesh out the friends and enemies of the Super Mario world.
The narrative of Paper Mario is fairly straight forward, but the writing and characters are charming and entertaining. The overarching plot follows Mario as he is on a quest to free the Seven Star Spirits imprisoned all over the Mushroom Kingdom by Bowser. While defeating Bowser and regaining the Star Rod is a simple premise, the game is split up into 8 Chapters that focus on smaller story beats featuring a host of different side characters that enhance the overall story. From helping the Boos defeat a seemly invincible monster eating their ghostly friends, to being caught up in a murder mystery in a town full of penguins, each chapter is full of memorable characters and amusing interactions.
The battle system uses turn-based combat with the twist of adding button combos and timing to attacks to increase damage or defend against enemy assaults. Regular and special attacks have a variety of inputs to help keep you engaged during battle. Mario can use his hammer to attack enemies on the ground, while he needs to use his jump command to hit airborne enemies. He can also use items and call on rescued Star Spirits to perform extra powerful spells. Mario is not alone during battles, as he is joined by 8 other party members across his adventure that all have their own unique moves to help out during fights. You regularly need to switch between all of Mario’s other party members to have the best advantage in battle.
The other characters also have unique actions they can use outside of battle that help Mario explore and solve puzzles during the overworld and in dungeons. You can also collect and equip Badges on Mario to improve his battle prowess. These include the abilities to increase heart points, increase attack damage, adding additional special attacks to your arsenal or providing you with hints to where hidden items can be found. The gameplay comes together to make an enjoyable adventure that keeps you engaged throughout the whole playtime.
The soundtrack of Paper Mario is upbeat, whimsical and really fits each area of its world. From the cosy tunes of “Toad Town Theme”, to the darker beats of “Siege on Bowser’s Castle” and the energetic “Battle Theme”, there are plenty of memorable songs that will get stuck in your head as you explore the Mushroom Kingdom.
Paper Mario has an engaging battle system, interactive world and a colourful cast of likeable characters. If you wish to play a charming and fun RPG then you should play Paper Mario.