Review: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (Switch)

Man, I can’t believe I’m writing this review in 2024. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (Or Paper Mario TTYD) is my favorite GameCube game. This remake again proved why this is my favorite Paper Mario and GameCube title. It hits hard for me both in the nostalgia and clever writing departments. Curious why? Let’s fold our Mario and roll into the review.

 

As Lander already wrote in its preview, the original was released on GameCube in 2004. Most Switch players’ first adventure with Paper Mario was probably Paper Mario: The Origami King, which is quite a different game than its predecessor. Paper Mario TTYD has very different gameplay mechanics and is much more true to its predecessor on the Nintendo 64. But before we get too technical, let’s dive into the story briefly.

Story

The story starts with Princess Peach going missing again and Mario being tasked to find her. Nothing new to see here, but the location certainly is new. The Princess was last seen in Rogueport, a mysterious coastal town far from the Mushroom Kingdom. Interestingly enough, this will also form the game’s central location. The shady-looking Rogueport offers a different vibe than the colorful and safe Mushroom Kingdom; discovering a darker central location is like fresh air. Princess Peach invited Mario over to look for a hidden treasure that is said to be located underneath Rogueport. She included a map with her letter, but the Princess was already gone when Mario arrived. Legends have it that seven Crystal Stars can unlock the Thousand-Year-Door, a powerful door that will transport you to a mysterious lost kingdom, a kingdom where we could maybe reconnect with the Princess.

 

 

With only a mysterious map to guide him, Mario must find out where Princess Peach is currently taken hostage. Paper Mario games are pretty text-heavy, so during your first hour in the game, you’ll have to go through a lot of dialogue before things get going, but after the first real chapter, the story will pick up pacing and serve a couple of curveballs. The story is one of the main selling points of this game, and it’s good to see that it still stands strong, even compared to the modern Paper Mario games. This might still be the best and most fun story ever featured in a Mario RPG. There are a couple of reasons for this.

 

 

First, your enemy isn’t Browser but a mysterious secret society called the X-Nauts, which will certainly lead to some unexpected encounters. Bowser is still featured, just like Peach, even playable, but I won’t go into spoiler territory about his role and motivation. Humor is the main accelerator of the story, and it doesn’t change from the original. This is a humorous take where characters launch joke after joke to keep things entertaining and unexpected. You’ll play in a different setting whenever you seek a new Crystal Star and meet new enemies and friends. This variation and never knowing what to expect is where the game truly shines, and even though I completed it somewhere in the early 2000s, I could still dream my way through the first chapters without ever needing to think about what I needed to do. The main story is great, but be sure to follow some side-quests to play some of the more absurd Mario levels ever.

Gameplay

What I love about the earlier Paper Mario games is exploring the different locations and getting some platform action while looking for secrets. As I mentioned, this is the second installment in the Paper Mario franchise, and this one doesn’t offer an open world to explore. You might be disappointed if you expect the same freedom as in the Origami King. The Thousand-Year-Door is a bit more traditional in its platforming and puzzle segments and includes some backtracking, which was all a big part of gaming back in 2004. I prefer the more Metroidvania-style gameplay because there are many fun things to discover, and the more you advance, the more complex and original everything becomes. Sure, it’s all a bit simpler at first sight but don’t let this deceive you, there are many challenges and surprises along the way and it’s still one of the most original Paper Mario games out there. During the first chapters, I was fully immersed in the story and loved platforming and puzzling my way towards the next big fights. Each time I returned to Rogueport, I gained new powers and friends to solve small puzzles in the town or help some troubled resident out of its pickle.

 

 

And there are a lot of fights in this game. As a true (J)RPG, combat happens in turns. Mario and his sidekick can perform attacks, special attacks, use items, and even use other tactics to win the fight. You’re never randomly thrown into combat in the overworld, but you see your enemies walking around. If you manage to hit them in the overworld, you’ll get the first attack on the combat stage which already gives you some advantage. Encounters not being random is a big plus since you won’t have to fight all enemies; you can easily avoid enemies in the overworld if you don’t feel like fighting. Or you can even find some help to skip them all together.

Badges, Timing, and Combat Mechanics

Once in combat, there are a couple of things to keep track of. First things first, you have your attacks and defense. Both will be more effective when you time your input correctly. Letting go of your hammer at the right time will inflict more damage while pushing the A-button at the right time when an enemy attacks will guard you against more damage. This is nothing new for those who played other Super Mario RPG games so it’s no surprise this mechanic makes a return. On top of that, combat has some deeper layers, too; take badges, for example. These are found everywhere in the world if you look closely enough or if you manage to solve some puzzles. Badges can give you added strength and better defense, or they can even change the music of your attack (including frogs, peachy, and other interesting sound choices). Experimenting with those badges is an important part of the game; finding the right set will give you some huge advantages. Talking about advantages, you can also use your special attack during combat, which will be charged with the crowd’s cheers. The better you fight, the more spectacular you will enter the theatre, allowing you to perform your special attacks faster. Combine this with the unique abilities of your companions, and you will understand that the combat goes much deeper than you would expect at first sight.

 

Remake-thoughts & Conclusion

Paper Mario TTYD is one hell of a remake. It still offers some of the best characters the Paper Mario universe can offer; it has excellent writing and is set in the same universe as Super Mario Sunshine (which is also in my top 3 GC games). The remake has some quality-of-life upgrades, mostly in the graphical department, which makes certain button presses easier for the current generation. It also has a new soundtrack, but for those still searching for that GC nostalgia, you can buy a badge early on to revert to the GameCube tunes, so don’t worry. The whole art style has also been overhauled and looks smooth and glossy, making it jump out of my TV. I can only imagine what it looks like on the Nintendo Switch OLED since I don’t have one.

 

 

So, to conclude – Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is one of the best Paper Mario (if not the best) Paper Mario games out there. I might even call it the best RPG in the Mario Universe, and yes, I also played the excellent Super Mario RPG. It just clicks, the gameplay, the art style, the writing – it goes from a very happy, frolicking puppy story to some very dark and horrid story moments and offers unique locations for each star. This way, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door stays fresh, even after 20 years. I highly recommend this to old and new players since it offers so much fun that it’s pretty hard to put it down. I played a day in handheld mode and had to switch to docked since my Switch drained its battery – which hasn’t happened in a while – so take that advice when picking up this title.  Oh, and Nintendo, joking about Paper Luigi and nothing making it happen is not funny – give us Luigi’s quest for Princess Eclair!

9.5/10

Tested on the Nintendo Switch.