Mario is one versatile tradie. Throughout the years, Nintendo’s moustachioed mascot has saved princesses, freed kingdoms and overcome the most despotic of enemies, usually with an arcade-styled run and jump and a peppy “Let’s-a-go!”.
But the Paper Mario series has always had more of a strategic bent. With the tale of Paper Mario: The Origami King unfolding this month on the Switch, we take a look back at the franchise – and check out what’s new.
The story of Paper Mario began with plans for RPG specialists Intelligent Systems to create a sequel to Super Mario RPG. It soon evolved into a new franchise, with the unique flat look of characters – hence the “paper” – all a part of a book-styled aesthetic.
Despite being a turn-based role-playing puzzle game rather than another pure action hit, the aim of Paper Mario was to keep things simple and appealing enough for those new to the genre – after all, the basic quest was a familiar one, in which Mario saves Princess Peach from Bowser. Paper Mario released for the Nintendo 64 console in 2000 in Japan, and soon made its way west the following year – to critical acclaim.
The success of Paper Mario ensured that a sequel would eventually appear, and it happened in 2004 in the form of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door for the GameCube. Keeping many of the elements that made the original so popular, in particular the look, this time Mario’s quest was to save Peach from new characters, the usually moon-dwelling X-Nauts. Their intent was to use Peach’s body as a vessel to resurrect the Shadow Queen, but naturally Mario was having none of that.
“,,,there’s a whole lot of origami going on.”
The title may suggest a dolled-up version of the original, but 2007’s Super Paper Mario for the Wii was a whole new experience, that still kept an eye on what made the franchise so loved. While maintaining RPG elements, it was a little more platformer-skewed, introducing an interesting 2D/3D dimension-flipping mechanism that revealed otherwise hidden treasures. Mario once again set out to save Peach, who was kidnapped by the creepy Count Bleck and forced to marry Bowser. Ugh!
In 2012, it was time for our flattened friend to go portable, in the super-enjoyable return to more turn-based action that was Paper Mario: Sticker Star for Nintendo’s 3DS. Steering the series’ look towards even more of a distinct papercraft vibe, as the title suggests the big new introduction was those things that every kid can’t get enough of – stickers! More than ornamental, these gifted Mario with various powerup abilities in his quest to, yep, save Peach from Bowser.
Nintendo’s Wii U console introduced some unique hardware elements, in particular the touchscreen controller. 2016’s Paper Mario: Color Splash utilised this with painting elements brought into play – along with that other thing that kids love, trading cards. Mario was both tasked with a quest by a sentient paint can and, of course, had to rescue Peach from Bowser. Tradition!
Which brings us to 2020, and Paper Mario: The Origami King for Nintendo’s Switch. The established formula isn’t messed with to any great degree, however this one sees Mario entering into 360°, more timing-dependent ring-based battles alongside classic platforming and puzzle-solving action. Plus, as the title suggests, there’s a whole lot of origami going on.
Mario also has an origami companion named Olivia, and the assistance of a cool new powerup, the “1,000 Fold Arms”, which allows him to manipulate the papery landscape. This time it’s all in the name of defeating Olivia’s brother King Olly, who’s brainwashed Bowser’s army and unleashed a plot to fold the Mushroom Kingdom, kidnapping Peach for good measure. Just to rile serial royalty saviour Mario up even more, of course…
Paper Mario: The Origami King launches exclusively for Nintendo Switch on July 17. Pre-order now at JB Hi-Fi.