Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door – Review

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a perfect remake of an all-time classic.
paper mario thousand year door

In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, you can tell a crotchety old woman that you love her, for no reason other than to spark her ire. You can meet and befriend a cloud woman with a heaving, exposed bosom, then use her super breath to menace tiny, innocent creatures known as Puni. As all of this occurs, Princess Peach is locked in a room with a sentient computer that’s slowly falling love with her.

In a word, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is bonkers. And I’m so very, very glad it’s now available on Nintendo Switch, for an entirely new generation of players to discover its quirks. When it originally launched for GameCube in 2004, it was roundly praised as one of the best modern Mario games, and it’s lost none of its charms in its Nintendo Switch transition.

As before, you play as Paper Mario – a hero traversing a paper-fied world of magic and monsters. While Bowser is once again causing trouble, he’s not the antagonist this go around. That honour belongs to the X-Nauts, a group of strange alien warriors who kidnap Princess Peach in the search for a mysterious treasure known as the Crystal Stars.

These serve as MacGuffins for hauling Mario along a chapter-based adventure, set around the seedy town of Rogueport. It’s from this location that Mario branches out in search of the Crystal Stars and Princess Peach, with each chapter bringing odd new surprises, and a plethora of clever puzzles, challenges, and boss fights.

In truly delightful fashion, The Thousand-Year Door treats the entire adventure so unseriously. There’s the aforementioned teasing of an old woman. The creepy, hilarious segments of Peach questioning the nature of love, in the face of a digital partner. There’s Madame Flurrie and her hilarious, extremely off-putting design and old Hollywood tendencies. It’s just fun, and silly, and all the better for its irreverence.

Read: Super Mario RPG Review – Wish upon a star

paper mario gameplay
Screenshot: GamesHub

Its absurdity is also well supported by snappy, clever dialogue that gives the game a sense of charming sarcasm. Characters you meet are usually pretty rude, making for a lovely dissonance as Mario baulks at all the drama. Here he is, a sweet little Italian man trying to save his beloved Princess, and he’s constantly faced with strange townsfolk who want absolutely nothing to do with him.

There’s also a surprising amount of edge in these interactions, with strong adult themes found in Rogueport and its surrounds. In the town square, there’s a threatening noose hanging, suggesting murder is commonplace. The outer rim of the town is also filled with criminals who steal your coins, threaten your life, and suggest gambling to overcome your troubles.

It’s surprising and refreshing for a game like this to touch on edgier themes. It’s a more mature adventure by design, and while some themes will seem risqué in the modern era, they add to the unique texture of The Thousand-Year Door. It’s a layered game, and one that explores the nature of love and evil, while also making the odd comment on modern society – of course, all with tongue firmly in cheek.

Per early previews, there are some slices of modified dialogue in the game, but for the most part, this is the same Paper Mario that first entranced GameCube players, and that’s absolutely for the better. Even without a fresh lick of paint and revamped character models and textures, The Thousand-Year Door would sing. With these features, it’s fair to claim it’s the definitive way of playing the original adventure in the modern era.

paper mario thousand year door combat
Screenshot: GamesHub

There is some GameCube-era hangover in the game’s overall design, particularly in its slower pace and occasionally frustrating turn-based battles – Mario’s low damage and slower turn-based fights can grate – but the game maintains its intrigue with clever story hooks, and all its compelling weirdness.

And there’s just so much of it. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a massive game. You’ll need to set aside 25-30 hours to romp through every chapter, and in that time you’ll be sent on a wonderful, quirky odyssey of discovery.

You’ll gather a tiny army of pet rock-like creatures. You’ll climb a tower and defeat a ginormous dragon, whose head eclipses your battle stage. You’ll make friends and enemies with pirates. You’ll share a non-consensual kiss with a flirty mouse thief (?) The point is, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is weird, confident, and a total delight.

If you’re discovering it for the first time with this remake, you’re in for a bizarre treat. It’s one of the stranger chapters in Mario history, and it hauls you alone a complex, layered, overtly strange journey through a world brimming with personality.

paper mario thousand year door review
Image: Nintendo

The game’s scope is vast and impressive, and while it requires commitment to see it to the end, the adventure is consistently rewarding, and jam-packed with memorable secrets and bizarre characters.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for Nintendo Switch does an excellent job of letting the quirks of the original game shine, in a refreshed release that feels perfect for newcomers and Paper Mario veterans alike.

Five stars: ★★★★★

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Nintendo Switch
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 23 May 2024

A copy of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. GamesHub reviews are rated on a five-point scale.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.