Paper Mario, the first game in what became a long-running series, first released for Nintendo 64 in Japan in 2000 and elsewhere 2001. Unlike other Mario games, Paper Mario had a unique visual style as everything was represented as 2D paper cutouts in a 3D world.
As with most Mario games, you are tasked with rescuing Princess Peach from Bowser. This time, he’s stolen the Star Rod and can grant any wish. You must free the seven Star Spirits in order to gain the power necessary to defeat Bowser and save Peach.
As part of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pass, Paper Mario is the newest release for the N64 portion. Like the other releases, it maintains the same presentation, visual style, and controls.
Below, you will find complete controls for Paper Mario on the Switch and the N64 controller for Switch. Gameplay tips will follow.
Paper Mario Nintendo Switch overworld controls
- Move and Move Cursor: L
- Jump: A
- Hammer: B (requires Hammer)
- Spin Dash: ZL
- Toggle HUD: R-Up
- Item Menu: R-Left and Y
- Party Member Menu: R-Right
- Party Member Ability: R-Down and X
- Menu: +
- Change Tab Left and Right (in Menu): ZL and R
- Confirm (in Menu): A
- Cancel (in Menu): B
Paper Mario Nintendo Switch battling controls
- Move Cursor: L
- Select Action: A
- Cancel: B
- Change Attack Order: ZL
- Action Commands: A (requires Lucky Star)
Paper Mario N64 overworld controls
- Move and Move Cursor: Analog Stick
- Jump: A
- Hammer: B
- Spin Dash: Z
- Toggle HUD: C-Up
- Item Menu: C-Left
- Party Member Menu: C-Right
- Party Member Ability: C-Down
- Menu: Start
- Change Tab Left and Right (in Menu): Z and R
- Confirm (in Menu): A
- Cancel (in Menu): B
Paper Mario N64 battling controls
- Move Cursor: Analog Stick
- Select Action: A
- Cancel: B
- Change Attack Order: Z
- Action Commands: A (Requires Lucky Star)
Note that L and R are denoted as the left and right analog sticks on the Switch. R-Down or C-Down will need to be used for one specific Party Member’s abilities in battle, so keep this in mind. You cannot remap the controller.
To help improve your gameplay adventure, read the below tips to prepare yourself before you begin playing Paper Mario.
Tips for exploring the overworld in Paper Mario
The overworld is set into different sections, with other areas represented by doors or pathways leading out of the main area. To reach even the next step in a set of stairs, you must jump, which can make climbing stairs a bit of a nuisance. If you come across a green tube, this will transport you back to Mario’s house.
One thing to ensure you do in every area is interact (hit A) with every bush and other items that present a red exclamation point when you’re near. Not every bush will provide you with an item, for example, but it is an easy and cheap way to earn some coins, particularly in the beginning of the game.
Once you unlock the Hammer about ten minutes into the game, hammer (B) the tall trees you come across as they may drop items. These can be coins, consumables like Mushrooms, or even a key item in the early stages of the game that proves a great gift for a certain NPC.
Save Blocks are rainbow colored boxes with an “S” inside, similar to the weapon blocks in Mario Kart 64. As its name suggests, these allow you to save your game when hit. However, with the Switch’s “Suspend” capability, you can create a Suspend and Restore Point whenever you want by hitting the minus button (–).
You will also come across various interactable objects on the overworld. If you see a heart within a clear box (Heart Block), this will refill your HP and Flower Points (FP, used for abilities) completely.
Super Blocks are blue circles within a golden box, which upgrade your Party Members. There are enough in the game to fully upgrade all of your Party Members.
Brick Blocks can be hit in midair or grounded, using Jump (A) or the Hammer (B) depending on their placement. Some blocks may produce nothing, but Question Mark Blocks will give you coins and items. Some Brick Blocks will be Question Mark Boxes in disguise, so hit all of them!
Springboards will help you jump to higher elevations. Certain areas in the game are only accessible using a springboard, and some items will require the use of one as well.
Larger blocks – such as the Yellow Block that impedes your path early – require the Hammer to destroy. However, the upgraded Stone and Metal Blocks will need upgrades to your Hammer to destroy. These will block both story-related and item hunting paths, so gaining the capability to break them is critical.
The Exclamation Point Switch is a switch with a white exclamation point that is triggered by jumping on the switch. This will reveal hidden paths or cause bridges to form, and are generally used to solve puzzles, though the first one in the game presents a comical scene. A blue one is one-time, while a red one can be used multiple times.
You will also see your forthcoming enemies (and battle) on the overworld. Some will charge at you, some will not. Still, you can gain the advantage prior to battle – or have the tables turned on you.
How battling works in Paper Mario
You can gain a free attack (First Strike) by jumping or hammering an enemy on the overworld map. You can also utilize certain Party Members to initiate a First Strike, dealing more damage than Mario would depending on the character. This will always result in that enemy being hit for damage. Of course, if the battle results in multiple enemies, the front-most enemy will take the damage.
The other advantage to this is that if you successfully land a First Strike to some flying opponents, they will begin the battle grounded and with damage. Flying opponents can only be hit with a jumping attack, but once they’re grounded, you can then use Mario’s Hammer and your Party Member’s grounded attacks to deal damage. Landing a First Strike on flying opponents will make these battles that much less frustrating.
However, be wary, as if you miss your First Strike attempt, certain enemies will instead deal First Strike damage to you. While the Goombas early in the game don’t, stronger enemies later in the game will make you pay for your preemptive mistake.
In the battle menu, you can either attack with Jump or Hammer (with Mario, upgrades requiring FP), use items, or strategize (red flag) by choosing the option on the semi-circle menu. You can switch the attack order with a Party Member by using Z or ZL. Certain enemies can’t be attacked by jumping as you will find early on with the Spiked Goomba. In these situations, hammer away!
If you want to switch Party Members, this option is under the red flag for strategizing. Once you have multiple Party Members, knowing their strengths and weaknesses will be key to having easier battles. Note that switching Party Members uses a turn, leaving you with one less attack or item to use.
When you are using upgraded abilities, you will expend Flower Points. You begin with five, but can improve this number up to a maximum value of 50. Abilities will range in how many FP they cost, and it is always recommended to enter boss battles with full HP and FP.
It is important to note that the entire party shares Mario’s HP, FP, Badge Points (BP), and Star Energy. This makes it a little more challenging. You should have little trouble facing multiple enemies with your Party Members next to you, especially if you make use of Action Commands.
Paper Mario Action Commands explained
After you reach the Shooting Star Summit and watch the ensuing events, Twink the Star Kid will present Mario with the Lucky Star, a present from Peach. This enables you to land Action Commands during battle.
At the simplest, Action Commands can add extra damage to your attack and mitigate damage received from enemies. There are three different types of Action Commands: timing, holding, and mashing.
Timing Action Commands require you to hit A just before an attack. On offense, this will result in Mario or a Party Member landing a consecutive attack. On defense, this blocks the attack, potentially nullifying the damage based on character levels. Some attacks are unblockable, and you may still take some damage when facing tougher foes though the damage will be lessened.
Holding Timing Actions require you to hold the left analog or analog stick on the controller until a threshold is hit, releasing the stick for a stronger attack. With Mario, this is the Action Command for using the Hammer, for example.
Mashing Action Commands require you to tap a button repeatedly to cause greater damage. It’s as simple as it sounds, so get your mash finger ready!
How to level up in Paper Mario
In Paper Mario, experience is gained by defeating enemies through earning Star Points. When you amass 100 Star Points, you will gain a level. Each enemy will give you a variable number of Star Points, with mini-bosses and bosses rewarding you with a greater number.
With each level gained, the number of Star Points earned diminishes. If Mario’s level is equal to or greater than an enemy, then they will not reward you Star Points. If you come back to the early stages of the game after gaining some levels, the Goombas in the area will not reward you any Star Points because you are much too strong and they do not present a challenge.
With each level up, you are able to choose an upgrade between adding HP, FP, or BP. Early on, it is probably best to invest in HP and then once you have a Party Member or two and have gained a few a levels, invest in the other two. Investing in BP will allow you to equip more Badges while investing in FP will allow you to land more stronger abilities in battle.
The only real place to farm experience comes later in the game, but the enemies shouldn’t be so difficult that you have troubles making it through the game without needing to farm enemies.
Here are the max stats for Mario’s character:
- Level: 27
- HP: 50
- Flower Points: 50
- Badge Points: 30
- Star Energy: 7 (one for each of the Seven Spirits)
Invest your level ups how you see fit with the above information. There are eight chapters in the game plus the prologue, so you should be able to max out your stats before finishing the game.
Why you need to collect Star Pieces in Paper Mario
In Paper Mario, Star Pieces are a collectible item that play a crucial function: you trade them for Badges! While not all Badges will be traded with Star Pieces, many can only be obtained through trading Star Pieces.
Badges add certain effects, such as Chill Out preventing enemy First Strikes from landing, and thus can be critical to your success. Equipping Badges spends BP, so you will have to judge for yourself what Badges work best with your BP.
Star Pieces are littered throughout the overworld and sometimes hidden underground. They are yellow, diamond-shaped items that glitter on the screen. They resemble Revives from the Pokémon games. There are 130 Star Pieces in Paper Mario.
You can trade your Star Pieces on the second floor of Merluvlee’s Place by speaking to Merlow. It’s not a one-to-one trade as some Badges will require multiple, sometimes tens of Star Pieces to unlock. Some Badges have multiple forms – like Attack FX A through E – causing the total number of Badges to hit 80. The total amount of Star Pieces are the equivalent needed to unlock all of the Badges from Merlow.
The chalkboard in Mario’s house will keep track of how many of the 130 Star Pieces and 80 Badges you have unlocked. Check here for your progress reports.
Paper Mario looks to once again recapture another generation of gamers with its release on the Switch Online Expansion Pass. Use the above tips to help you enjoy the game and its fun, comical story. Now go save Princess Peach!