The Nintendo GameCube classic video game Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door returns with updated graphics on Nintendo Switch! Join Mario and friends in an RPG adventure to discover the legendary treasure behind the ancient Thousand-Year Door. Will Mario complete his papery quest, or will he crumple under the pressure?

IF you told me two decades ago I’d be writing a review about one of my favourite GameCube titles for a newspaper, well I’d probably find that more believable than the fact that this is a remake of a 20-year-old game.

There’s been six entries in the Paper Mario series, and overall more than a dozen Mario games in the role-playing game(RPG) genre. I’ve played a bunch of them, but they probably peaked in 2004 with the release of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (TYD). That makes it a perfect candidate to be remade for the Nintendo Switch.

This game is well-loved thanks to its cast of characters and its battle system that improved on its predecessor, the original Paper Mario (2000), in almost every way. Battles are turn-based but the player must time their attacks and defensive manoeuvrers to succeed.

Later Paper Mario games strayed away from the RPG elements and brand new characters, which is very sad in my opinion. In contrast, each location you visit in TYD is fully realised with interesting personalities that have their own stories and arcs as the main narrative unravels over the course of the game. There are plenty of memorable locations, including a strange forest, a battle arena in the sky, a cursed island, and an overnight train. The plot holds up to this day, coming out at a time when most Mario stories revolved around Princess Peach being kidnapped by Bowser. It’s an epic story and there’s mysteries to uncover that are engaging through to the final boss.

Turn-based battles sees the player time their button presses to inflict more damage.

This 2024 version closely resembles the original 2004 game, but improves in a number of key areas that make this the definitive way to play.

The original’s notorious backtracking has been mitigated with more options to fast-travel, and there’s now a very quick and easy way to switch partners in the overworld – which greatly improves the pacing of the game. This adventure is easier than the GameCube version, but there are difficulty options veterans can choose if they desire a challenge. It took me about 40 hours to complete the story, but I wasn’t rushing it.

The Switch version does have a lower frame rate than the original, which is puzzling, but ultimately doesn’t affect the experience negatively. The text dialogue appears to be slower, which is frustrating for a game with so much written word. The first two chapters of the game can drag a bit, especially for returning players, as there’s so much dialogue to establish the story, and your combat options are limited. From about chapter three onwards, it was hard to put the game down and it became obvious, once again, why TYD has a legacy.

My favourite addition has to be the new music. Old songs are remastered, have new sections or are completely redone, giving them new flavours. Never underestimate how death metal guitars can completely change the vibe of a boss battle.

Paper aesthetic adds to the game’s charm.

The battle theme against regular enemies in the GameCube version got old very quickly, but in the Switch remake, each of the eight chapters have their own tune, and sound very different. I was pleasantly surprised to hear a completely jazzed up theme in Chapter 6.

There’s an option to switch to the old tracks, most of which were always terrific, but I found greater joy in experiencing this classic with the new tunes.

The beauty of most Mario RPGs is that they’re more accessible than many traditional role-playing games, but still have deep and satisfying mechanics for older gamers. Anyone remotely interested in Mario, RPGs or action games should give this game a try. It’s not just my nostalgia, it’s an absolute must-play in 2024.

Review copy provided by publisher.