Paper Mario: The Origami King (2020)

Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the Paper Mario series knows how contentious the modern games are. The early games in the series were considered masterful RPGs, but Nintendo decided to ditch the formula for whatever reason and take Paper Mario in a different direction. With every new release, fans are clamoring for a return to glory, and the latest entry shows how being caught between two genres is hampering the series. Paper Mario: The Origami King is not a bad game by any means, but it is confusing and feels like the directors have no idea where to take the series. Despite enjoying my time with the game, I couldn’t help but think how much better the game would be with just some minor changes.

I will not hide my biases, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door was one of my favorite games growing up. The sense of adventure, mystery, comradery, and imagination were enthralling. You explored a diverse and interesting world, gathering a whacky cast of characters to explore with. All the while gaining experience and items to become stronger. The combat was turn-based, you’d select from a list of moves for Mario and his partner based on whatever you felt was best in a particular battle. While it wasn’t incredibly complex, there was some strategy and tactics involved, which is something that cannot be said for Paper Mario: The Origami King.

Before I get to my issues with the combat system, I must mention that Paper Mario: The Origami King does an adequate job with nearly every other aspect of the game. The world and adventure itself are actually extremely engaging. There are plenty of imaginative areas, each one with their own self-contained story that you must unravel. This is reminiscent of the original games in the series, in order to defeat the big-bad-guy you have to travel across the land and do something in each of the main areas. While the main plot itself is fairly straightforward, most of the sense of adventure can be found when exploring the more contained locales.

There are plenty of fun and unique areas to explore, which for me was the highlight of the game. The Japanese castle theme park, the cruise ship, the spa in the sky, the open sea dotted with islands, there are some fantastic places that would fit right in when it comes to classic Paper Mario. There are plenty of towns that are fun to explore and find the secrets of. Moreover, the writing and wit in this game is truly remarkable. When I think of Nintendo, I rarely think of games with clever writing. Most of their catalog either has minimal dialog or extremely cheesy writing. Paper Mario: The Origami King can be genuinely funny, with plenty of wit that doesn’t necessarily bash you over the head to the point of being annoying.

For lovers of collectibles, there is plenty of secrets to be found. The areas in Paper Mario: The Origami King aren’t overwhelmingly large, but they are absolutely packed with stuff to find. Between rescuing Toads, finding trophies, and uncovering secret Hearts, I always felt that there was something to be found. Solving little puzzles or spotting hidden markers is always a welcome detour when exploring the world.

Where the game inspires ire for me mostly has to do with the executive decisions stifling creativity. It is no secret that some executive has decided that spin-off Mario games are heavily limited in what they can include. There can be no new races of creatures, any new characters cannot be named, and existing races can only have a slightly modified experience. What this equates to is a lack of interesting characters. If the level of writing is any indication, the writers on this game were clearly talented. I wish they were given the chance to create a cast of fantastic characters and partners to accompany Mario on his journey.

The single most frustrating part about Paper Mario: The Origami King is also a result of executive meddling: the combat. For some bizarre reason, somebody high up at Nintendo has decided that the Paper Mario series should no longer be RPGs. As a result, the modern games rely on gimmicks to fuel their combat systems instead of traditional turn-based combat. In the case of Paper Mario: The Origami King, the gimmick is what I shall refer to as “ring puzzles”. When getting into combat, enemies are spread across four concentric rings, with Mario standing in the center. You can turn the rings clockwise or counter-clockwise, and also shift portions of the ring in and out. Ultimately, the point of the system is to line up enemies so Mario can hit them all with a single attack. If you line up all the enemies in a line or a square, you get an attack bonus and can hit them all with a given attack.

I honestly don’t think that the ring puzzle system is an inherently terrible idea. It could potentially add some strategy to a battle, letting the player line up enemies in different patterns so they can choose different attacks. But ultimately the system is binary: you either get a perfect line-up or you don’t. There is no strategy or tactics whatsoever, it is simply a puzzle of lining up enemies within a given timeframe and number of moves. If you fail the puzzle, you take a bit of damage and the battle lasts a little longer. I tried to avoid combat as much as possible since there is barely any benefit to doing it, it was incredibly repetitive, and it just felt like a waste of time. And it’s not like this is a minor part of the game, the combat system is half of the game. I love puzzles but this system just does not work.

The boss battles were a little better than the standard combat in the game, as they functioned slightly differently. They were still ring puzzles, but you had to line up the rings to guide Mario to the correct spots to take certain actions. They did feel a little too lengthy, but I think that is a function of how they were designed. Each boss seems like they only have a single tactic to beat them. Usually, you have to do a couple of specific actions in a row to deal damage. I think the battles would be fairly quick but there is a lot of trial and error trying to figure out which actions you need to take to actually damage the boss.

The confusing part about Paper Mario: The Origami King for me is how hard it tries to not be like the RPGs of the olden days, but how zero effort was put into actually doing something different. The combat is still turn-based, but instead of tactically choosing moves you just attempt a ring puzzle. There are still partners in the game, but due to creativity being stifled they aren’t unique and have no name. They also only part of your party for a single area, are nearly useless in battle, and have no abilities in the overworld. There is still progression, you receive Hearts that boost your max health and damage. Instead of battles just giving you experience and leveling you up, rewarding the player for participating in battles, you just receive those special Hearts at set points in the game. There are still badges to augment your battling capabilities, but there is no actual choice or strategy in which ones to equip.

While I undoubtably miss the old Paper Mario formula, I’d be ok with something new. But Paper Mario: The Origami King isn’t something new, it’s simply the same RPG formula but with the actual good parts stripped out. Turn-based combat without strategy, partners without names or abilities, level-ups without experience, and badges without build diversity; the game still has all the systems of the old games, but without the context that makes those systems function in an engaging way. If Nintendo made Paper Mario to be an action-adventure game it’d disappointing but it’d be preferable to these half-assed RPGs that seem to just dangle the game that players actually want in their faces without quite giving it to them.

Overall, Paper Mario: The Origami King is a competent game. It has an imaginative world and plenty of diverse locations. The writing, dialog, and art are superb, but is hampered by the directives sent down by executives. Paper Mario is a series caught between two genres, and it suffers for it. The fans want RPGs, and the games are perfect for that style of gameplay, but the executives at Nintendo want it to be an action-adventure series without actually committing to it. It is for these reasons that I give Paper Mario: The Origami King a 6/10. Exploring the world of Paper Mario is fun, but even as somebody who loves puzzle games, I absolutely could not stand the ring puzzle combat system.

Super Mario Sunshine (2002)

I think we all fall in love with some piece of media that we know is massively flawed. Maybe your guilty pleasure is a reality TV show, or a cringey rom-com, or maybe you are a fan of 100 gecs. For me, Super Mario Sunshine is my broken game of choice. I’m willing to admit my intense nostalgia for this game, but having played it many times I am well aware of its flaws. Maybe it’s because of the warm island vacation theme of Super Mario Sunshine, but playing this game just makes me happy. It’s like wrapping up in a thick blanket with hot chocolate in winter, Super Mario Sunshine is cozy.

Just from a technical standpoint, Super Mario Sunshine was a pretty massive improvement from its predecessor: Super Mario 64. Visually the game is much more appealing, and in my opinion, it controls a lot smoother as well. There are some other significant differences from its predecessor: the world design, the mission structure, and the inclusion of F.L.U.D.D.. I think all of these changes have pros and cons, and they definitively make Super Mario Sunshine unique.

The world of Super Mario Sunshine is a tropical paradise, through and through. The plot of the game is that Mario and company set out for vacation on Delfino Island, but get wrapped up in helping restore the island after a mysterious villain frames Mario for covering the island in graffiti. The player will visit the various attractions of this tropical island including villages, theme parks, resorts, beaches, and other serene environments. I love the consistent atmosphere of Super Mario Sunshine. Every other Super Mario game focuses on variety of distinct areas, while this game goes all-in on the vacation theme.

I’ll admit that I am not much of a beach-goer in real life. Yet for some reason I love every single beach level in any video game. I always attribute this to growing up with Super Mario Sunshine and its lush palm trees, clear waters, bright sunlight, and tropical tunes. This all begins with the phenomenal hub area of Delfino Plaza. From there you can access all of the other areas in the game, but I spent countless hours as a kid just running and jumping through the streets, leaping on top of the buildings, and sliding on the beach. There are plenty of secrets to be found which makes it a compelling area to explore. The vibrant colors and bright sunlight make it a warm and welcoming area, allowing the player to play around with the various mechanics of Mario’s controls.

The number one thing that sets Super Mario Sunshine apart from its peers is its unique movement mechanics. Mario can do all the classic moves from Super Mario 64, with the exception of the long jump. Instead, Mario comes equipped with F.L.U.D.D., which is a device that allows the player to spray water and use water as a jetpack. You cannot float around indefinitely, but you can get an extra couple seconds of hangtime during a jump. The reason that Super Mario Sunshine is divisive is for its use of F.LU.D.D., the argument is that it deemphasizes the traditional platforming. The player no longer has to make precise jumps, and can float around for a second before landing on platforms.

While it is true that Super Mario Sunshine has less emphasis on pure platforming challenges, it still manages to capture the player’s creativity to attempt tricky maneuvers. I spent hours just trying to scale walls use a combination of side-flips, wall-jumps, and jetpacking. Not to mention that F.L.U.D.D. can be upgraded with extra nozzles that further break the player’s ability to quickly maneuver around the map. Furthermore, Super Mario Sunshine benefits from the fact that it isn’t a pure platformer. The game feels like a hybrid of an adventure game and a platformer. There are more exploration and puzzle-solving elements in Super Mario Sunshine opposed to just platforming, which it shares in common with Super Mario 64. I quite like this combination as it makes the game feel like a genuine adventure across Delfino Island, rather than just a set of arbitrary platforms to jump between.

Super Mario Sunshine is what I would classify as experimental. The use of F.L.U.D.D., the lack of emphasis on platforming, the consistent theme, and the unique level structures all make for an atypical Super Mario experience. Most levels in the game have the player preform some task before they can acquire a shine and complete the stage. While I think that this approach succeeds most of time, sometimes the experiment goes wrong. Super Mario Sunshine has an unusual number of god-awful levels. I don’t mean that they are just boring or forgettable, but instead are truly painful and are known for making people tear their hair out.

In a game where there are 120 shines to collect, not every one is going to be a winner. But Super Mario Sunshine contains over a dozen stages that I dread revisiting every time I play the game. Most of these levels fundamentally change how to move, and all of them feel like janky nightmares. The lily pad level for example has the player steer a sinking lily pad down a fast-moving stream of deadly water using only their water nozzle. You have to precisely collect 8 coins during the ride, and if you miss a single one you have to restart the stage. Not to mention that just getting to this area is a 10-to-15-minute ordeal of tediously waiting on a boat. Super Mario Sunshine benefits from its willingness to experiment, but be prepared to play some genuinely terrible levels.

As previously mentioned, there are 120 shines total in the game. There are eight areas, including the hub world of Delfino Plaza. Aside from the standard levels in each area, they all also contain 30 blue coins. You can trade in 10 blue coins for a single shine. The blue coins are a classic example of a great idea that was terribly executed. The blue coins encourage the player to explore the environments around them, uncovering secrets and trying to jump to hidden locations. Exploration is the strong suit of Super Mario Sunshine, and the blue coins are a huge aspect of this. With such a wonderfully constructed paradise, it would be a shame if the player wasn’t prompted to spend time looking around.

While the blue coins are great at encouraging exploration, they have some major flaws in their execution. First and foremost, there are 240 of them in the game. Meaning that there are 24 shines that are comprised of blue coins; that’s 20% of the total shines in the game. Honestly, that is just too many, they could achieve the same effect with only half that amount. The next issue is that they feel genuinely bad to collect. When grabbing a secret item, I should feel accomplished. Instead, the blue coins make me feel annoyed. The reason for this is that every time you collect one a text prompt appears that asks if you would like to save the game. The text box and saving process only takes a few seconds each time, but over the course of 240 blue coins it can get grating. Interrupting the player’s experience is typically not a good thing.

The biggest problem with the blue coins, however, is how they are spread out across the areas. Each area has 30 blue coins total, and there are 8 separate levels in each area. The issue is that some blue coins only appear in certain levels in the area. For example, one blue coin may be in the first and second missions, but may not be in the following missions. Furthermore, the game does not tell you which missions you are missing blue coins in. You may know that you need 5 more blue coins from an area, but you have no idea which of the eight levels that those blue coins reside in. To legitimately find them all you would have to thoroughly explore all 8 missions in an area. It would be incredibly tedious and repetitive.

Truthfully, I use a guide to find whatever blue coins I’m missing by the end of the game. I’m not sure how anybody is expected to find them all legitimately. I understand that blue coins are an entirely optional objective. But at the same time, I feel like the Super Mario games are designed such that the player is encouraged to collect all 120 stars or shines. You may only need 50 to complete the game, but honestly that feels wrong. The fix for the blue coins would be to simply inform the player how many blue coins are left in each mission to collect, that way you could visit the levels and know that there are blue coins present. It would save a lot of wasted time and frustrated exploration.

I have completed Super Mario Sunshine numerous times, but my most recent playthrough may be the last time that I 100% the game for a long time. At its best, Super Mario Sunshine is an adventure in a tropical paradise. Controlling Mario is a wonderfully smooth and fun experience. On the flipside, Super Mario Sunshine contains many infuriating levels and a healthy chunk of hard-to-find blue coins. In the future I’m just going to stick to the good, and avoid the bad, and I suggest everyone else do the same. Super Mario Sunshine is not a perfect game, but it is a favorite of mine. Something about that relaxing atmosphere keeps be coming back time and time again.

Super Mario Odyssey (2017)

It was a big claim when Nintendo placed Super Mario Odyssey on the same plane as Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. Super Mario 64 arguably being the most influential game of all time, and Super Mario Sunshine is no pushover either. Sure, the Super Mario Galaxy games are phenomenal, but we haven’t had a Mario game in the style of Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine in 16 years, so a ton of hype was built around the release of Odyssey. Upon release, Odyssey has received a massive amount of praise, but surprisingly a fair amount of criticism as well. So, did Super Mario Odyssey live up to its hype for me? Yes. Easily.


The Super Mario series is probably my favorite series of all time, especially the 3D entries. Naturally, Super Mario Odyssey was my most anticipated game of the year for me, even more so than Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Thankfully, I was not disappointed by Super Mario Odyssey. The Super Mario series is defined by the tightness of the controls and just how satisfying it is to move around as Mario. Super Mario Odyssey sports the greatest controls of any of the 3D entries. In addition to the classic moveset of jump, backflip, walljump, triple jump, and dive Mario has a few more tricks up his sleeve due to the addition of Cappy. Cappy, a sentient hat, is Mario’s new friend and provides a large variety of new moves to traverse the world. On top of the variety of new tricks that Cappy allows, the big addition is that Cappy can possess enemies. This lets the player use the movesets of enemies to progress through levels. It is enormously fun to chain these possessed enemies together with Mario’s standard moveset to allow for some crazy combinations to achieve a ton of distance. It is an absolute joy to just jump around the levels as Mario is known for.


Super Mario Odyssey is centered around the open-world exploration of 17 different kingdoms. Each of these kingdoms starts off with a scripted sequence that throws back to Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. The camera zooms in on your objective, and off you go. After you complete these scripted story missions, the entire kingdom opens up for you to discover. First and foremost, Super Mario Odyssey is a collectathon. There are almost 900 objectives, known as moons, spread across the 17 kingdoms. The biggest task in collecting them is just finding them, so if you are looking for a pure platforming experience you are not going to find it here. This is just a pure treasure hunt, finding something new every few minutes, supplemented by just how fun it is to control Mario.


While many have praised Super Mario Odyssey, there has been a lot of negativity surrounding it as well. There are two key criticisms: it is too easy, and it is repetitive. I can understand where these criticisms come from, but I do not think they are valid considering what this game sets out to achieve. First of all, this is a Mario game, it is meant to be accessible for casual players, children, anybody can play Mario. So, it being “too easy” feels like a misdirected jab. Would I have liked challenging levels that fully use the expansive moveset that is offered? Yes. But again, this is not meant to be a challenging game. Most of the challenge is hunting down the numerous moons that a crammed into every nook and cranny of the levels. The second criticism is that while there is a ton of moons to collect, most of them are repetitive tasks or are deemed as “garbage” moons where no effort is required. This holds some weight, as many of the moon tasks are reused frequently, but I would argue that you are not meant to collect every moon. You only need 120 to beat the game, and since you open up the final kingdom at 500 moons, it seems that there are 400 extra moons tagged on. Some would argue that these are tacked on content meant to pad the game’s length, but I think otherwise. All these extra moons make it so that every player can achieve the 500-moon benchmark without straining themselves searching for every last moon. All those extra moons are just there as a buffer so everyone can find moons at an extraordinary rate, and as some extra content if you really enjoyed the game and want to hunt down some extra moons.


Super Mario Odyssey may not be the most innovative game of the year, but is some of the most pure, unadulterated fun that I’ve had in a while. Sure, it’s not the hardest game, and it is a collectathon at heart. But somehow, Super Mario Odyssey elicits a feeling of childhood joy that is rarely found in modern day games. It’s a colorful potpourri of platforming, and just pure fun. For these reasons I give Super Mario Odyssey 10/10. I may just be nostalgic, but I genuinely believe Super Mario Odyssey can make anyone feel like a kid again.