I enjoy spending time at the Nintendo store in Sandton City. Opposite Trumps Biltong and their delicious honey-glazed chilli strips, the store is both an expression of confidence in the local market as well as a tactile reinforcement and love-letter to all things Mario and co.

Paper Mario

I also enjoy making small talk with the staff while loitering/browsing and asked one of them who was ringing up a Ninja Turtle top I chose in March which game he was looking forward to. I was not prepared for the gushing evangelism that followed. His eyes lit up as he described the joy of getting to replay Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.

He quoted obscure characters I never heard of and hummed some of his favourite themes. I didn’t think too much of it but was certainly piqued. I never played the 2004 original as I didn’t own a Nintendo Gamecube so missed out on classics like Super Mario Sunshine and WWE: Day of Reckoning (read my WWE2K24 review to understand how much I love my wrestling games).

The game released a few months later and so many of the reviews were similarly passionate, as if a generation rediscovered their favourite childhood treat. So, this is a review for those who never played the 20-year-old original because if you did, I’m pretty sure you already bought this version. It also lacks nostalgia and any first-hand experience of the quality-of-life upgrades. I approached it like a person from a small town would approach a Spur. Having heard of its glory but only experiencing it much later than the privileged.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for Nintendo Switch is a turn-based role-playing game (RPG) set in a gorgeous papercraft world. Mario teams up with various characters, each bringing unique abilities to the fray.

The combat system, while simple to grasp, incorporates action commands that require precise timing, adding a layer of strategy and engagement. The game gradually introduces new mechanics, ensuring that the experience remains fresh and incentivising play.

The only Paper Mario game I played before this was Origami King and while it was fun, I didn’t enjoy the combat, especially the bosses (they felt like Mario Party mini-games, and not the fun ones).

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is much better when it comes to combat, and I appreciated the levelling up. It reminded me a lot of Ratchet and Clank where my weapons and health would increase or gain XP even if I was losing and dying, so I was being rewarded for playing as opposed to just defeating enemies.

The grind did catch up to me several times and repetition did set in, in spite things like a badge system that added a layer of strategy. It would have been cool if the there was an option to make the timing a little more forgiving.

Visually, the remake is a standout. The papercraft aesthetic is given new life with updated graphics that add depth and detail to the environments. The world unfolds like a pop-up book, with clever use of perspective and animation that make exploring each area a joy. There are some framerate issues, especially with multiple enemies onscreen but it never took me out of the moment.

It took me a long time to finish this game, mostly because I couldn’t play important parts without Sami. He really enjoyed watching me play and could recap the story and characters’ motivations, which reminded me a bit of Wizard of Oz. The backtracking got to me a few times, so I can’t imagine how bad it was in the original as many reviewers praised the developers for addressing it.

Also, I know it’s standard Mario fare but would have appreciated if there was voice acting and its very text-heavy (granted, a weird criticism of an RPG which is typically story/ narrative heavy, sort of like complaining that water is wet). I would have liked an option to speed up the dialogue, especially as I’m a fast reader. These are minor gripes but does affect my opinion of the game.




  • Gorgeous graphics with a detailed papercraft aesthetic
  • Engaging turn-based combat system with strategic action commands
  • Eclectic characters and charming storytelling
  • Some of the best gaming memories I’ve made with my son


  • Framerate issues, especially with multiple enemies onscreen
  • Repetitive gameplay and occasional grind, with some backtracking
  • Text speed is slow
Value for Money

Final Verdict

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a great game and I encourage you to try it even if you haven’t played any of the previous games. The game is overflowing with charm, mostly engaging combat and a delightful world filled with eclectic characters that will give you many hours of enjoyment.