‘Super Paper Mario’ romance drama, new Illumination spinoff

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

The lead up to Illumination’s theatrical Mario movie has definitely been a wild one. Even the minutes long teaser released back in 2022 spawned near half-hour long YouTube poop compilations and an ungodly amount of cringe TikTok memes. Granted, I do hold judgment of any character casting till I see it in action, but Chris Pratt has a lot to juggle with the monotone voice acting he’s teased with this. 

Nonetheless, the more interesting dimension speculation for this film is the plot, at least in terms of just trying to imagine what it would even be. I remember all the way back in High School when this was first announced, and the discussions on what the actual plot of a Mario movie would be, given it mostly follows the rescue-the-princess-from-the-castle formula that was already centuries old by the time “Shrek” mocked it. It’s a hero journey that is used as an end-goal excuse to run through eight  worlds of increasingly mushroom-induced imagery, but it lacks actual character development or downtime-dialogue. 

All the way back then in those back of the classroom discussions and now after finally beating it decades after release, “Super Paper Mario” remains a clear-cut example on how to adapt the characters and world of Mario into an engaging emotional storyline.

“Super Paper Mario,” developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo in 2007, is a RPG platformer starring the 2D paper variant of the iconic plumber, the third in the “Paper Mario” series. Keeping with the spin-off tone, “Super Paper Marion” follows another run-of-the-mill quest by Mario and Luigi to save the princess, only to be interrupted by the mysterious Count Bleck and his magic plan to kill everyone in a mass genocide. Yes, no princess or magic triangle that grants wishes, just the universe in rampage. The formidable Bowser and even Luigi are seemingly killed off in the opening 20 minutes, so tensions are raised right off the bat. 

Mario soon finds himself in a weird pocket dimension where a wizard and magic butterfly give him the ability to swap from 2D to 3D with a press of the A button, humorously showing you a traditional Mario stage but through his perspective. This gimmick is your main tool to overcome eight worlds in a quest to find the magic pure hearts, another Dragon Ball MacGuffin, to defeat Bleck and save the universe. The gameplay is the standard Mario platforming, but with some RPG items and unique enemy encounters to spice things up. 

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    Now, all the preamble of a Mario movie plot might not make sense with this context, channeling the same energy of Robert Rodriguez’s “Spy Kids.” While that may be partially true on a surface level, as it gets very looney, the actual story of Super Paper Mario is surprisingly witty and emotionally charged as you grow fond of its cast. 

    Mario has no dialogue but everyone from Princess Peach to Count Bleck’s humorously stone-face assistant Nastasia has way more than a sonnet’s worth of jokes and 4th wall breaks. Poking fun at the hallmarks of a Mario journey to creative and fun scenarios that feel unique in this world, from a fictional reality TV show run by cavemen to a 100-man samurai showdown that increasingly runs out of budget. The usual RPG moment-like exposition that can be interrupted by weirdness.

    It’ll keep you glued to each scene. 

    Humor is not the only monkey wrench thrown in here, as the game is a love story in the end. Now, much can’t be said without spoilers, but “Super Paper Mario” is a slow burner towards it’s more emotional strength, with a plot misdirection that snowballs overtime into a compelling narrative of someone’s unhealthy love for one leading to self-harm. That sounds indeed very dark, but miraculously results in a fitting tale of the Paper Mario series that proves the upcoming movie has the material to pull something good off. 

    Then again, I saw Despicable Me 3 in theaters, so my hopes can only be so optimistic. 

    “Super Paper Mario” is available on Wii. 


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