Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Review – Good as new!

Reviewed May 21, 2024 on Nintendo Switch


Nintendo Switch


May 23, 2024





There’s a reason Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for Nintendo Switch doesn’t come with a fancy remix title like Redux or Deluxe. Rather than completely remaking this GameCube classic, Nintendo has improved upon it with a deft touch, making this release the definitive way to play the game; you’ll never need the GameCube version again. Sadly, this release doesn’t come with any new extra content for those who have already played the original as Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury did, but I get that it’s been long enough that a remake is worth playing for its own sake.

With twenty years of nostalgia for this tile under our belts, it’s good to know that we weren’t all just wearing rose-tinted glasses: this game is still freaking awesome. Its appeal has proved timeless since its release, and for good reason; its iconic paper cut-out style hasn’t aged a day, its story and characters are packed with charm, and its turn-based combat is tight and fast-paced. The changes made to the game are minor, so much so that if it’s really been two decades since you’ve played the original, you’d be forgiven for not noticing what’s new. There wasn’t much Nintendo needed to do to improve this GameCube masterpiece, but improve upon it they have.

Princess Peach has gone missing while on a treasure hunt, but not before sending Mario a map that reveals the location of the legendary seven crystal stars. Mario starts his search for the wayward princess in the rough and aptly-named town of Rogueport, where he meets a new friend, Goombella the young archeology student. From there, Mario will journey to several varied environments to locate the crystal stars, finding new friends, and enemies, on the way. Meanwhile, Peach has her own mini adventure while captured by the antagonist Grodus and his army of X-nauts as they attempt to steal the crystal stars from Mario to open the titular Thousand-Year Door. This story is untouched from the original, which stands to reason; why fix what isn’t broken? This is the game that perfected what the original Paper Mario pioneered: a fun, goofy adventure with tonnes of personality supported by a simple but smooth turn-based battle system. Thousand-Year Door incorporated a genius aesthetic layer of a theatre performance, where the “battle screen” takes place on a stage in front of an audience that reacts to what’s happening in battle. It added an extra layer to combat, where timing your button presses right would make your attack “stylish”, which would make the crowd go wild and award you more Star Points to use on more potent moves.

Thousand-Year Door was the series’ high point for party members, too. The iconic Vivian and Flurrie are completely new designs that aren’t simply common Mario enemies dressed up with accessories. Even the likes of Goombella and Admiral Bobbery have unique silhouettes, despite falling a little closer to the common Mario design tropes. More recent Paper Mario titles have been restricted from altering existing Mario designs to the same extent when creating new characters, so we’ve seen less and less of these imaginative designs as the series has gone on. I hope the renewed excitement for Thousand-Year Door will encourage Nintendo to reverse what I believe to be a short-sighted and needlessly self-defeating policy.


What’s new, Paper Mario?

Nintendo has given the game a magic touch-up to the few aspects that needed it, while managing to keep everything that makes the original special. First and most obviously, the game’s visual look has been brought in line with the modern Paper Marios, which already does a lot to make the game feel shiny and new. The outline of the paper cut-out characters and objects like coins have been made thicker and more clearly resemble paper, background objects are more detailed, and lighting and shading effects are more complex and better convey that the 2D characters are walking around in 3D space. The improvements might seem subtle, but there’s no question that the Switch version is a massive improvement. Mario and his partners have been given more sprites that properly face more directions: previously, Mario’s partners would always face towards the screen even if they were moving backwards. Paper Mario: The Origami King still looks better by way of its torn paper and cardboard visual effects, but Thousand-Year Door is a close second.

“Nintendo has given the game a magic touch-up… while managing to keep everything that makes the original special.”

This new version also features an all-new rearranged soundtrack, which is mostly excellent, though personally, I feel like the energy of some tracks has been reduced by switching the crunchy synthetic sounds with more traditional instruments. With that said, the updated soundtrack is worth it just for the unique battle themes for each chapter that it adds. In the original, only boss fights had unique music, and every enemy encounter along the way had the same battle theme. Well, no longer, as each area remixes this battle theme with instruments and effects more suited to the environment. If you prefer the old soundtrack over the new, there is an easily obtained badge shaped like a GameCube that can be equipped to change the music tracks back to the original. Another fun new touch is that each character now has a specific sound bite that accompanies their dialogue, instead of the generic sound the original had for all text. It might sound like a small change, but it goes a long way to adding a bit more life and energy into the story.

A lot of the improvements are simple quality-of-life ones that almost feel like they’ve always been there. There are some new warp pipes that make backtracking easier, and you can now swap between partners on the go without pausing to access the Party menu. Even saving your game is streamlined and faster.

In addition to this are some new gameplay features that we’ve come to expect from modern titles, like optional hints when you’re stuck, more advanced options, and unlockable sound and art galleries for collecting all of the optional shine sprites and star pieces. Another good addition is an option to try again from your most recent battle if you get a Game Over screen, instead of being forced to start from your previous save.

The Switch version leaves the battle system completely untouched. Later Paper Marios experimented with various kinds of battle mechanics, some more gimmicky than others, but Thousand-Year Door offers a return to a more classic Mario RPG turn-based combat. It’s a strong system that still holds up today, though in retrospect, Thousand-Year Door’s level-ups could have done with some dressing up, or maybe even excluded entirely. Levelling up will only allow you to increase one of two boring stats, or the obviously superior choice: 3 extra BP, the stat that lets Mario equip a large variety of badges that grant new abilities or battle effects. These badges can be bought in shops, but also found in secret locations throughout the game, making them fun to find and rewarding to collect. Many of them boost the same stats that levelling up would otherwise give you, arguably rendering the other levelling up options superfluous.

If there was one thing that was due to be completely remade, it might have been the maze of sewers below Rogueport, which you need to navigate frequently to unlock new areas and other secrets. The Switch version has added a fast-travel room of warp pipes that will transport you directly to each area, but the sewers are still confusing to navigate and you can get lost a little too easily.

With that being said, it’s because nothing major has been altered that makes Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for Nintendo Switch feel like a genuine replica of the original game that we loved so much. The UI has been refined and moved around and there are very minor changes to some dialogue, but it all feels the same, which is what counts.




  • Keeps everything we love about the original game
  • Various quality of life improvements remove some flaws of the original
  • Improved graphics make the game look like a modern title
  • Rearranged soundtrack sounds amazing, but the original's there if you want


  • A missed opportunity for some additional content

Nostalgia goggles haven’t failed us: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is still a masterpiece. With vastly improved graphics, a great rearranged soundtrack, and a few tasteful gameplay touchups, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for Nintendo Switch is now the best version of this fan-favourite classic. The only thing missing is extra content for those who have already played it, but for everyone else, there’s no reason not to pick this one up.