Paper Mario Review (N64)

One of the great thing about Club Nintendo is that if you are going to buy Nintendo games, you can earn a few extra ones at no additional cost. This month, Paper Mario was one of those titles for 250 coins and I was super excited to finally be able to play it through. So how does it stand more than 10 years after it’s release? (Note: Paper Mario is available on the Wii Shop channel and not currently on the eShop)


Entrusting Intelligent Systems to follow up the legendary Super Mario RPG for the SNES, the Super Mario world is paper-fied but still maintains the RPG elements while adding a few of its own. Go on a quest as Mario traveling around with partners like a a Goomba, Koopa, or even a Boo.


First off, the graphics hold up fantastically! It’s a little hard to believe this is an N64 game if it weren’t for the button prompts and a small few graphical glitches. Otherwise, this game holds up probably even better than Wind Waker thanks to the paper aesthetic. Its a great game to play on the Wii U gamepad but you still need a Wii classic controller.

Please fix this Nintendo

Please fix this Nintendo

Later in the game, the frame rate occasionally suffers, generally when using a move like tidal wave with a bunch of enemies, but it isn’t too bad.


The sound is good with a few sound effects you come to expect in a Mario game. There is no voice acting, but I didn’t miss it at all. The music itself worked well with the game. You can also use a few items that change the sound made in battle just for some variety.


Since this is an RPG, one of the main components is the story. However, one thing Mario RPGs started being known for is its humor and charm. This game is no exception. It may not be as funny as later games, but it has its moments, probably more so to people who haven’t learned what to expect (though reading Bowser’s diary was a good moment). Most of the time you play as Mario, but there are a few moments in most chapters where you control a limited Peach, sneaking around the Castle using the same passage way over and over.

Get used to this

Get used to this

There are a few fan service items found in the game such as 8-bit Mario in Bow’s mansion. I can’t tell you how long I played with that little bit.


The regular gameplay takes place in a 3D diorama world and a separate battle screen. In the overworld, you can talk to various people and solve puzzles, many utilizing the different abilities granted by your partners. One plus side is that your different partners are used throughout the game and not just when you m. There is plenty to explore in the game as there are a few sidequests to occupy your time or perform along the way. At first you move slow, but you can eventually buy an item that speeds up your dash considerably and use pipes to travel to different places quickly in typical Super Mario style.

Pipes: A World Traveler's Best Friend

Pipes: A World Traveler’s Best Friend

As you travel around the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond, you’ll meet many characters and enemies. There is typically a mini-boss you have to face sometime during the chapter and since it’s normally the same one, you can find some humor. For the most part while traveling, you are able to and susceptible to “first strikes.” This allows the player or enemy in the overworld to attack automatically at the beginning of the battle. Otherwise, you normally go first. You still have to be careful because if you use the wrong move and not properly prepared, you could take damage instead of giving it.

Oh yeah! First Strike FTW!

Oh yeah! First Strike FTW!

In the Overworld, you will also find one of the elements this game adds to the RPG world, Badges! These can be found all over the Mushroom Kingdom. Some are bought or traded for and some others are the result of side quests. A few badges provide upgrades to Mario’s abilities such as more power or defense. Some allow Mario to be safe while jumping on spikes or fire creatures. Others grant Mario the ability to use another move such as an earthquake hammer attack or multiple jumps. Either way, these items become essential to the game and finding your favorite combination can take a while. The tricky part is that they take up what are called Badge Points which are only increased through leveling up or dealing with a shady character. The thing about leveling up is that you can only increase HP, FP (the game’s version of MP), or BP and only one of them at a time. This adds another layer of strategy to this first-glance 2D RPG.



In the battle screen, you control Mario and one of his partners. This limitation requires some planning as you need to figure out which partner is best for the current situation. You can switch partners, but that takes one of character’s turns. Each partner has the ability to switch, do nothing, or do their normal abilities/special attacks. Mario has a lot more options as in addition to the partner’s powers, he can jump or hammer, use an item, or use a star power. While normal attacks are free to use, special attacks take Flower Points, this game’s version of MP. There are multiple ways to recover FP, as well as HP such as Items, Heart Blocks,  Toad Houses, finish a chapter, and leveling up.

Recovering HP and FP

Recovering HP and FP with a Heart Block

Star moves, however, are a little more complicated. They use your Star Gauge, with the number corresponding to the Stars you have rescued. If it isn’t full, then each time it’s Mario’s turn after the first round in battle, it will slowly fill. To speed up the process Mario can Focus. However there is a special item called the “Group Focus badge” that can allow the partners to Focus as well. The other ways to replenish your Star Gauge is to use a Toad House, Level Up, or Complete a Chapter.

In the actual battle, you might be surprised how much variety there is. With numerous opponents with various attacks, it takes a while to get used to their patterns to successfully block their attack. At some point early in the game, like by the end of the 2nd chapter, you gain the ability of the action command. This allows the player to increase the power of his attack by performing a certain action at the right moment, or lessen the damage taken by pressing A at the right moment.

Using a special attack

Using a special attack

Mostly each partner has his or her own action command and then each special attack might have a unique action command. For example, tidal wave makes the player enter a random sequence of A, B, and C-down to increase its power, while Power Shell simply has the player hold left until the right moment. This helps keep the game from becoming monotonous.

Something that might scare some people is the inability to save anywhere. However, the game has plenty of save blocks scattered throughout the overworld, and generally where you hope to come across one as you progress. This makes it possible to play in spurts and also help ease your mind. One thing the game also does is make it so enemies you defeat won’t reappear in the dungeon until you leave the actual dungeon. This allows for ease of mind as you backtrack through the dungeon. Of course some dungeon design effectively utilizes the camera angle and other elements to create more puzzles to explore.


The game might feel slow at first, and the lack of the action command at the beginning might feel worrisome to veterans of Super Mario RPG, but many tutorials are optional, permitting people to replay with some ease. I never once felt locked out of finding something until I hit the very end game. However, I did find level grinding to be tedious until said endgame as enemies that use to give you one star point (experience point) soon give nothing and if you don’t have the First Attack badge, you still should fight them unless you want to lose money.

2 for one enemy? Rarely happens as you level up.

2 for one enemy? Rarely happens as you level up.

Also to note is that you cannot skip cutscenes. However, since this is an old game that just holds up really well, that can be forgiven.


Paper Mario’s story and the character models may be two dimensional but the rest of the game is everything but. So much depth is provided in the games making this an interesting and fun title to play. There are a few conventions that show its age as well as its limits, but the gameplay still shines in the end. You might pay $10 for this classic on the Virtual Console, but you get a game that can take a week of constant play to beat with consistent quality. My recommendation is for turn-based RPG fans that want a little taste of action as well as fans of Super Mario RPG.

Paper Mario Review (N64)
  • Timeless Graphics
  • Badges
  • Various Attacks
  • Slow Leveling
  • Can't skip cutscenes
8.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (6 Votes)
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About The Author

Feature Writer/Game Reviewer

Blogger in the IGN community and no longer for Always Nintendo. You can find him still blogging in the IGN community as FalconRise