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  • 8.8: Game Informer originally gave the game a 6.5, with the reviewer's primary complaint being that the writing was bad. The ensuing fan backlash actually prompted two letters of apology.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Lucky, the Bob-omb who runs the Happy Lucky Lottery. Given that his lottery is rigged internally,Explanation  some players characterize him as a two-faced scam artist who sells tickets for a rigged lottery to trick people into spending 100 more coins for a new ticket, where he'll reset the win timer so that it takes you another year for a shot at the grand prize. Worse is that if you try to beat him at his own game by turning back the GameCube clock for another shot at a matching number, he guilt-trips you into confessing and when you do, he accuses you of being the cheater, and forces you to pay 500 coins to "help restart the lottery".
  • Anticlimax Boss:
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    • Macho Grubba from Chapter 3. Despite having a whopping 60 HP, which is massive for this point, considering that the last chapter boss only had 30 HP and the next one will only have 40 HP, he's still incredibly easy to beat with attacks that are easy to Superguard. He spends most of his turns getting temporary stat buffs instead of attacking, and is more vulnerable to status effects than most bosses.
    • Grodus. While his attacks deal solid damage and come with annoying status effects, he has only 50 HP and 1 Defense, which isn't much for this late in the game. While the Grodus X minions he summons can draw out the fight, they go down easily to pretty much any attack that hits all enemies. For a fight that was built up for almost the entire game, it's not unheard of for it to be over in less than five turns. Perhaps justified because of the fight with Bowser and Kammy immediately after it with no chance to heal beforehand.
  • Arc Fatigue:
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    • Chapter 2 is a tedious escort mission through the Boggly Tree with a confusing layout and lots of backtracking, which is sometimes cited as a roadblock for players replaying the game.
    • Chapter 4 requires you to go back and forth between Twilight Town and the Creepy Steeple multiple times on a narrow route filled with dangerous enemies. What makes this worse is that your partners are taken away before the first trip back to Twilight Town and you only get them back once the chapter is over. You do get Vivian once you do get back to Twilight Town, but this only makes things slightly more bearable.
    • Chapter 7 has you get permission from Goldbob, who lives in Poshley Heights, and bringing General White, first seen in Petalburg near the beginning of the game, to Fahr Outpost in order to use the Big bomb cannon than can launch Mario and his friends to the Moon. While getting permission for Goldbob is not as much of a big deal, General White makes you go on a wild goose chase around almost every area of the game (Petalburg, Keelahul Key, Glitzville, the Great Tree, and Twilight Town all in that order), only to find out that he went to Fahr Outpost on his own while you were looking for him, fell asleep, and you have to hit him a couple of times in order for him to wake up and continue the story. To make things worse, there is a sidequest that involves looking for General White a second time.
  • Ass Pull:
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    • During the final battle, the Crystal Stars act as communicators for the people of the world to convey their support and encouragement to Mario and his friends, which ends up fully restoring their HP and nullifying the Shadow Queen's invincibility. While a heartwarming and inspiring moment and a recurring element in the series, there was no previous foreshadowing or hints that the Crystal Stars had the ability to do this, particularly compared to the Star Spirits or the Pure Hearts doing the same thing in their respective games.
    • TEC's return to life at the end of the game. Not even TEC is sure how this is possible, though he suspects Peach has something to do with it.
    • Beldam, not Grodus, was the one behind everything. While the Shadow Queen turning on Grodus is to be expected of powerful evil beings, the subsequent reveal that Beldam was using Grodus and knew this would happen comes completely out of left field even though the Shadow Queen is a Living Shadow, just like the Sirens.
  • Awesome Music: See AwesomeMusic.Paper Mario.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Beldam. Some love her for turning out to be the real main antagonist with her plot to revive the Shadow Queen and being fun to fight in the Shadow Siren boss fights. Others hate her for her total verbal abuse toward Vivian and Doopliss, two of the most popular characters in the game. There's also debate as to whether it was right for her to be Easily Forgiven at the end of the story despite everything she caused.
    • The Punies as a whole. Many people consider Chapter 2 as their least favorite of the game because of the Puni mechanic, which made people dislike them and find them annoying. Others find them to be quite charming in dialogue (especially the funny Puni Elder) and don't factor in the chapter's mechanics when judging them as characters.
    • Pennington—is his incompetence funny or annoying?
    • Flurrie is this gameplay-wise (as a character, she's seen as The Scrappy as worst and uninteresting at best, due to her odd design and being tied to the contested Chapter 2). Some players consider her moveset of single-hit, single-target attacks and support moves to be gimmicky and unreliable, while others think that she's worth experimenting with due to her ability to damage-tank (with Lip Lock) and dodge-tank (with Dodgy Fog), and Gale Force being useful in removing boss add-ons and most dangerous late-game enemies, and contrary to popular belief, using it does not prevent the player from getting experience points.
  • Best Level Ever:
    • The Glitz Pit in Chapter 3. It's primarily battle-focused with no two enemies being the same, the plot is interesting, and even Bowser pops up at the most appropriate time.
    • Chapter 6's train ride is an incredibly varied and interesting chapter. It focuses on Mario riding a train across the country, and has elements of mystery. You visit a number of different and varied locales, and the boss of the chapter is challenging but fair and looks awesome.
    • While the first half of Chapter 7 is typically seen as the low point of the game due to the unnecesary long search for General White, many will agree that the second half more than makes up for it with the X-Naut Fortress. Finally raiding the enemy's headquarters is already cool as-is, but you do it while faced with with tough enemies, fun puzzles, and incredibly catchy music.
    • Chapter 8, since it's the final chapter, is awesome as well, being packed with interesting puzzles, several bosses, the fight against the Big Bad (followed by a good case of a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere) and of course, the grand finale.
  • Best Boss Ever:
    • The Shadow Queen stands out. After her introduction and the Hopeless Boss Fight, followed by one of the best moments in the entire game, she reveals herself as a severely difficult boss in an otherwise not-too-difficult game (depending on how you play it, of course) with a very varied moveset, dark blood-pumping music and the fact that she's an all-out Marathon Boss with a whooping 150 HP, which is impressive considering that only one other enemy, the optional Bonus Boss Bonetail, has HP going into triple digits.
    • Cortez, the fifth boss, definitely counts. He's a Sequential Flunky Boss that changes patterns entirely every time you "beat" him, with an interesting moveset that involves skill to counter, and also has one of the best boss themes in the game. Not to mention that he's also one of the hardest bosses up to that point.
    • Magnus Von Grapple. Both versions, fought as the second and seventh chapter boss respectively, with one of the best boss themes in the game, also have quite interesting attacks with some hilarious dialogue. And even though the 2.0 version has one attack that's hard to avoid, it doesn't change that it's one of the more challenging bosses.
    • Grodus. He's the boss of Chapter 8 (not counting Bowser, who's fought right after with no chance to stop and heal), and boy, does he put up a fight, being a Shielded Core Boss that uses several dangerous tricks but isn't unfair at all, and best of all, this is the same asshole that has been hunting you down for nearly the entire game, kidnapped Peach and threatened to rule the world, so beating up his ass results in a very strong Catharsis Factor.
    • Bowser in both instances he's fought. Yeah, he has almost zero reason to be there except for accidentally saving Mario from Grodus, but he puts up one hell of a fight either way, especially the second time around when he's aided by Kammy Koopa and you're likely worn out from defeating Grodus.
    • Smorg. Yeah, it's a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, but the fight itself is very fun, and a great conclusion to Chapter 6. The blood-pumping music especially helps.
    • Doopliss, one of the best examples of a Mirror Boss. It helps that he's fought after one of the more annoying parts of the game.
    • Rawk Hawk is a mid-boss, but his awesomeness is comparable to that of a major one. With epic rocking music, awesome build-up and a challenging but fair fight (especially in BP-only runs), it makes for a memorable fight.
    • The fight with Lord Crump after chapter 5. He has a squad of X-Nauts assisting him, which make multiple varied and interesting formations as the battle goes on. It has a cool atmosphere and isn't too hard or long.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • The Smorgs, the boss of Chapter 6. They just show up to block the switch to lower the drawbridge at Riverside Station, then the next morning, they attack the train, kidnap the passengers, get a beatdown from Mario, and are never seen again. Word of God says there was going to be a scene establishing that Beldam had summoned them, but it got cut out.
    • Bowser ambushing you in the Glitz Pit, a fight you can completely skip by running away. Made especially strange in that a little later in the game, Bowser's subplot involves him attempting (and failing) to go to Glitzville.
  • Breather Boss: Doopliss does not have many fancy attacks and he has less HP and attack than the previous boss. He also comes between Macho Grubba, who can attack twice in a turn and up his attack and defense, and Cortez with powerful attacks. Even in his second battle which is harder the real threat comes from your partners who fight alongside him.
  • Breather Level: The Excess Express in Chapter 6. It's more puzzle-oriented than battle-oriented, but it does have a "dungeon" portion with some fairly tough enemies, including the hard-to-counter Spiky Parabuzzy. Professor Frankly even lampshades just how easy a three-day train ride will be compared to the backbreaking work of the other chapters (while you still have work to do, of course). The chapter boss, Smorg, is a big jump in difficulty, but not enough to be unmanageable.
  • Broken Base: The overall quality of Chapter 4 is heavily contested. While almost no one will defend the gameplay part, with all its back-and-forth between Twilight Town and the Creepy Steeple, there's the argument of whether or not everything else in the chapter makes up for it. People who like Chapter 4 point to the atmosphere and visuals being some of the best in the game (particularly Twilight Trail), Doopliss being a great villain who provides lots of laughs while also coming dangerously close to ending Mario's adventure, this being the part where the much-lauded Vivian joins your party, and the "end of chapter" twist being an effective Player Punch. On the other hand, detractors are quick to point out how a good story arc doesn't mean anything if the act of playing through it all isn't fun or engaging. All in all, while it's agreed the chapter excels at everything besides the gameplay, whether you think it's good or bad depends on what you consider more important to the experience.
  • Catharsis Factor:
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome:
    • Like with the first game, just about every experienced player only ever focuses on leveling up their Badge Points and never raises any other stat past 20. It's an even bigger case than before thanks to the addition of Superguarding, which negates all damage if pulled off, and the max BP cap being raised from 30 to 99.
    • For the exact same reasons as Goombario in the previous game, it's particularly easy to just stick to Goombella. She can display enemies' HP with Tattle (and Tattles are now kept in the Tattle Log, giving you more incentive to use it on everything), her Multibonk can deal great amounts of damage, and she has good, solid attack power overall. Even if she can't hurt an enemy, the Quick Change badge and Rally Wink allow her to avoid wasting turns.
  • "Common Knowledge": Only the X-Yux's X is pronounced "cross", not the X-Nauts themselves. Koops' "Tissues to the extreme" joke wouldn't make sense otherwise.
  • Crack Pairing: Vivian and Doopliss are very often shipped together despite not having any notable interactions, mostly for both being important to Chapter 4 and serving the same role in the Shadow Sirens.
  • Demonic Spiders:
    • Amazy Dayzees. Their only attack deals twenty points of damage, and puts both of your characters to sleep. Normally this isn't an issue, as they usually run away and you'd only seek them out for their star points. However, they can rarely appear in enemy formations on the final floors of the Pit of 100 Trials, making it a coinflip as to whether they leave peacefully or hit you with a massive amount of damage on top of the rest of the attacks that turn.
    • Regular Crazee Dayzees are usually no big deal, but their singing attack can be annoying, as it can put Mario and/or his partner to sleep and is hard to block due to its animation. Worse, they are almost never alone, which means that if you're unlucky, you'll repeatedly get put to sleep by their attacks and take a lot more damage than you normally would, as you can't guard (and thus avoid falling asleep) while asleep. This is especially dangerous during Mario's brief time alone, as not only are all attacks obviously geared towards him (versus the enemies occasionally targeting the partner in normal battles), but the Dayzees are sometimes accompanied by hyper enemies or Amazy Dayzees; the former can boost themselves up to deal huge damage and the latter sometimes runs away, but if it doesn't, can inflict 20 damage. The threat of a Game Over during this part is very real.
    • The X-Yux's HP isn't very high, but if it attacks, its beam will immobilize Mario unless he superguards it. While Mario's unable to act or defend, it will build up its mini-Yuxes until it has four, which shields it from damage and allows it to shoot five beams every turn. On top of that, it's immune to status effects, so you can't use Clock Out to stop it from moving or Showstopper to just kill it before it can move. While it is a Unique Enemy, failing the Thwomp quiz in the X-Naut Fortress forces you to fight two at once.
    • Some of the later monsters in the Pit of 100 Trials can be brutal:
      • The Badge Bandits who are found after the half-way point of the pit, whose attacks are hard to guard against and, as their name suggests, can steal your badges, though you get them back after defeating them.
      • The enemies on Floors 81-89 include Spunias, Piranha Plants, Arantulas, and Dark Bristles, which all have notable immunities, high health or defense, and very strong attacks. Thankfully, the Wizzerds from the previous set of floors are no longer present, and they don't have many ways of buffing themselves.
      • Floors 91-99 have even stronger enemies, though some of them have pretty notable flaws (Swampires can't hurt an electrified character, and Bob-ulks take a long time to ready their Suicide Attack). The aforementioned Amazy Dayzees can be deadly if they don't flee, while Poison Puffs lack any clear weak points and can charge up a powerful poison breath attack that surrounds them in an anti-contact cloud. The worst are Elite Wizzerds: 12 HP, 8 attack, 5 defense, and the ability to buff, heal, and Doppelgänger Spin, and they can appear in groups of four or five.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Vivian, whether it's for being a very sympathetic Anti-Villain who turns on her sisters to join Mario, being a Cute Witch with an original design, being a surprisingly well-written transgender character in non-English and German versions, or her incredible usefulness in combat. She's the most beloved of all the partners, hands down. There's also the fact that, of all the partners from the Paper Mario series, Vivian's design is completely unique, and not from a preexisting race in the Mario universe (possibly excluding Flurrie, who many argue is based on the Puff line of enemies). She is consistently requested to return for future games and, much like Lady Bow from the first game, may have become a Breakout Character had the series not wanted to stick with mainline Mario characters. Nintendo is seemingly aware of her popularity as she is one of two reps from this game (the other being The Shadow Queen) to get spirits in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
    • For a character that only plays a major role for a short time, Jolene is pretty popular with the fans for her Sugar-and-Ice Personality and being one of the more attractive Toads.
    • Rawk Hawk, to the point where he's one of only three Paper Mario characters to get a nod in Paper Mario: Sticker Star, along with Parakarry and Goombella.
    • The Yoshi partner. Not only is Yoshi already a popular species, but he's a newborn that the player gets to hatch. The fact that you get to name him and he can come in different colors means you're allowed a basic level of customization as well. Helping things is his endearing Cute Boisterous Bruiser personality.
    • Doopliss, for being the source of a lot of the game's funniest moments while also being a surprisingly effective and savvy villain. The Chapter 3 and 4 areas are chock full of darkhorses, it seems.
    • Goombella is beloved for her sassy personality, her good design, her use in battle and her mix of sweet-hearted charm and Deadpan Snarker moments.
    • Flavio. Even though his crew hate him, the fans surprisingly adore him. Even more so after the discovery of a glitch that lets him stay in Mario's party permanently.
  • Even Better Sequel: Widely agreed to be a better game than its predecessor for multiple reasons. Namely an improved battle system, more unique locales, even more memorable characters, a far more original plot, epic boss fights and more. The result is a game that is often seen as the best of the Paper Mario series and even the Mario RPGs in general, and maybe one of the best Mario games ever made as a whole.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Possessed Peach has this appeal.
  • Fanon:
    • It's never stated in the game that the X-Nauts are aliens, but it's a common fan interpretation, given that their base is on the moon.
    • It is generally assumed that The Shadow Queen is of the same species as the Shadow Sirens, but the game never explicitly gives them a species.
      • Hell, their species being "Shadow Siren" is this to begin with. The term is very clearly meant to refer exclusively to Beldam and her sisters, regardless of what they are, but fans treat it as if it were the species' actual nomenclature.
    • The unnamed Magikoopa who delivers a message to Kammy Koopa during the first Bowser interlude is commonly believed by fans to be Kamek.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Vivian/Koops has quite a big following, probably because of how shy both are. All of this despite Koops already having a girlfriend.
  • Franchise Original Sin:
    • Sticker Star was hated by fans for going overboard with the paper aesthetic and the characters commenting constantly on it. In The Thousand-Year Door, the characters themselves never outright said that they were made of paper, but the game took advantage of the aesthetic with the "curses" Mario gets throughout the game, which allowed him to roll up into a tube or become a paper plane or a boat. Worth mentioning however is that these abilities were treated as curses, and therefore unnatural, whilst in Sticker Star they were anything but.
    • Sticker Star's Thing weakness system was also one of the biggest criticisms the game had, but The Thousand-Year Door did something similar with the Hooktail battle, in which you could capitalize on her hatred of crickets by using a badge that made the sound of one with each of your attacks. That said, while the badge weakened Hooktail, you still had to deplete her health normally, avoid falling prey to her tricks and finish her off after she replenished her health. It also helps that this only happens once, and Hooktail is only the boss of Chapter 1. Not to mention, if you didn't use the badge, the battle was still winnable and could even be considered a fun challenge. In Sticker Star, however, the major bosses are Purposely Overpowered without the right Things, which themselves are also overpowered, often to the point of being the only real preparation you needed.
  • Game-Breaker:
    • The "Danger Mario" setup, the epitome of a Glass Cannon. By setting Mario's max HP at 5 with Chet Rippo and equipping tons of Power Rush badges, which can easily be gotten at the casino, Mario can deal obscenely huge amounts of damage. Add in badges that let Mario take less damage or dodge attacks while in Danger and several Life Shrooms in case Mario dies, and you can kiss the difficulty good-bye. This is alleviated somewhat by the fact that you can only make the best use of it late in the game, as you need Bobbery to reach Chet Rippo and can only get there with him after you return from Keelhaul Key after finishing Chapter 5, but it still makes the rest of the game (as well as the Pit of 100 Trials, if you haven't cleared it already) a breeze. You can also use it earlier if you're good at keeping Mario's HP within the threshold for long periods of time.
    • Partners can also benefit from Danger/Peril setups. Leaving their HP low while using attack-raising badges, Power Lift, and Power/Mega Rush P let them deal massive damage while being at less risk than Danger Mario. This is especially great for Goombella and Yoshi, who can hit multiple times with their attacks.
    • All Crystal Star powers are useful, but three of them are considered especially great, and are received within the first half of the game:
      • Clock Out freezes all enemies on the battlefield for up to three turns, and they can't attack once the effect wears off. Immobilize does not suffer as much from Contractual Boss Immunity and has a change of working on everything except Bill Blasters, Yuxes, and Bonetail. With the Emerald Star's power, you effectively have more than enough time to dish out incredible amounts of pain.
      • Power Lift gives Mario and his partner Attack and Defense buffs depending on the amount of arrows popped during the action command. These buffs can quickly stack up to incredible levels, sometimes to even +5 or +6, drastically increasing your entire party's damage output and resistance. Though the buff only lasts for three turns, that's more than enough to lay a real wallop on whatever stands before you.
      • Art Attack deals three damage for every circle you make around the enemy. It is an Armor-Piercing Attack, and if done correctly is able to do a surprisingly high, consistent amount of damage on one or more enemies.
  • Goddamned Bats: The Spiky Parabuzzies found in Chapter 6's Riverside Station, as well as the Pit of 100 Trials. They can't deal much damage, but they have both spikes and wings, making them immune to most of Mario's attacks unless he has Spike Shield (which is hidden much better than it was in the first game). The only partner who can hit them with a basic attack without being damaged themselves is Vivian, who can't burn them because of their immunity to fire. A group of them takes a long time to deal with unless you resort to an item or a Crystal Star move.
  • Good Bad Bugs:
    • By doing some sequence breaking to get to Chapter 5 early, Flavio can "join" Mario permanently. This can lead to some hilarious cutscenes where he randomly warps in or flies off for no reason while the game tries to figure out what to do with him.
    • The "Hazard Respawn Glitch" allows players to sequence break into Chapters 5 and 6 as early as Chapter 2 when the Super Boots are obtained. This can lead to getting the Ultra Stone during Chapter 5, and even getting to West Rogueport during the Prologue, which helps prepare for Pre-Hooktail Pit runs. This can also be used to obtain Ms. Mowz early as a party member by skipping to a later Event Flag when her sidequest is available. She's even active during Chapter 4, where she doesn't leave Mario's team with the rest of the party, resulting in a party consisting of Mario, Vivian and Ms. Mowz.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • In Chapter 6, Doopliss steals Nitro Honey Syrup, shell earrings and a gold ring to combine them into a bomb to destroy the train and kill Mario. Come 2006, there was a panic about terrorists making bombs right on the plane.
    • Admiral Bobbery's "sacrifice" in Chapter 5 where his final resting place just ends up being a literal place to rest becomes a bit more uncomfortable come Paper Mario: The Origami King, when another Bob-omb ally makes a Heroic Sacrifice... and doesn't come back.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: In her Ultra Hammer tutorial, Toadette gets sad about not being able to see Mario anymore. Many years later, she's now a more prominent character in the mainline games, and in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe she finally gets joins Mario on an adventure.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In the scene before you recruit him, Bobbery, having mistakenly come to think that he had just died, thinks that Mario has adventures in the afterlife.
    • After beating the game, talking to the gamer Toad in Petal Meadows reveals that he's been playing the sequel to this game, noting that Luigi fans shouldn't miss out. Sure enough, of the four playable characters in the next game, Luigi has the most plot importance and even makes up part of the final boss.
    • In one of Luigi's stories, he has to dress as a bride to get an audience with a two-headed snake. In Super Mario Odyssey, Mario is able to wear a wedding dress as one of the many unlockable costumes.
  • Ho Yay:
    • When scanning Vivian during the first fight against the Shadow Sirens, Goombella will say the following:
      Goombella: She doesn't seem all that noteworthy. Uh... She is kinda cute, I guess... She might even be cuter than I am... I guess... ...Uh... What am I thinking?
    • Some of the female party members have kissing-related moves (Flurrie's Lip Lock, Vivian's Infatuate, and Ms. Mowz's Kiss Thief), which can be used on female enemies like the Shadow Sirens, Kammy Koopa, and the Shadow Queen.
    • The trouble center mission, "Looking for a Gal" involves having Goombella out in order to impress Goom Goom, the Goomba who initiates it, but he can comment on the other party members too, including the male ones. In particular he compliments Koops' shell and appreciates Yoshi's petite size, but still turns them down. Yoshi and Bobbery's responses have them tell Goom Goom that he is not their type either.
  • Hype Backlash: Due to the large number of requests for the Paper Mario series to return to the style of this game by longtime fans and critics of everything post-Super Paper Mario, this has sprouted up in newer players who became fans of the series after the original trilogy. Said new fans often point out that The Thousand-Year Door has flaws just as the later games do (frequent Padding and linear area design are usually cited), but that nostalgia for this game causes these flaws to be played down while later games' are played up.
  • Idiosyncratic Ship Naming: The Vivian/Koops ship is called ShadowShell, based on their respective species, with Vivian being a Living Shadow and Koops being a Koopa (a turtle like creature).
  • It Was His Sled:
    • It's hard to go into the game without knowing that Vivian pulls a Heel–Face Turn halfway through and joins Mario, given that it's part of why she's so popular.
    • The Thousand-Year Door was set up to seal the Shadow Queen. It's kept a secret at first while gradually revealing this to the player, but it quickly became very well known.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Vivian has a decent amount of ships to her name. She has been shipped with Mario, Koops (who has a girlfriend), Goombella, Doopliss, Lady Bow, Geno and Larry Koopa. This isn't even getting into the dozens of Original Characters she's been shipped with as well.
  • LGBT Fanbase: Vivian has one, as in many translations of the game, she is implied to be transgender. She is also considered to be an extremely well written trans character, with this not being the only thing that makes her special.
  • Like You Would Really Do It: Was anybody actually worried over Peach's "death" after the final boss fight?
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Ms. Mowz is a coy, flirtatious Badge thief who regularly breaks into places to steal Badges, then sells them at her own store, the Lovely Howz of Badges. Running into Mario multiple times while infiltrating dangerous and heavily guarded locations, Ms. Mowz takes the time to steal kisses from him and give him advice before escaping each time. Posting an anonymous request at the Trouble Center, if Mario takes it she sends him to find a cleverly hidden Badge before revealing that she hid the Badge to test his abilities and decides to join his party, using her item finding and thieving skills to help him in his adventures.
    • Pirate King Cortez is the scourge of the Pirate's Grotto, and keeper of the fifth Crystal Star, attacking and shipwrecking all who come near Keelhaul Key with his Ember army, including several innocents. Cortez prepares traps in Pirate's Grotto to stop any intruders, complete with bone-chilling warnings. To even get into the Grotto Mario needs the jewel Flavio's father stole from Cortez several years ago. Helping to stop the X-Nauts in an Enemy Mine with Mario after he is defeated with his army, Cortez is a frightfully competent pirate king.
  • Memetic Badass: In wake of the Flavio glitch, Flavio has been given the reputation of a god by the fandom for his tendency to teleport during cutscenes while offscreen, stand on water, phase through a pirate ship, and stand in front of the moon, among other things.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Grubba trapping King K and Bandy Andy under a box and leaving them to (presumably) die after draining their powers with the Crystal Star. And he's been doing this for years, with Jolene's brother Mush being one of his victims.
  • Nightmare Retardant:
    • Doopliss has abilities that remain terrifying throughout Chapter 4, but that doesn't change the fact that the one responsible for the town's curse is a Bedsheet Ghost in a party hat and bowtie who is sitting in an easy chair watching TV when you first meet him. Your partner even lampshades how ridiculous Doopliss looks.
    • The black chests count as well. The first time you open one, the encounter is (at first) somewhat scary...until the spirit explains the nature of the curse just put upon you. The second one is less scary because of the choice of words, and also because you end up getting Cursed With Awesome again. The third time, you already know how it's gonna go, and by the last one, Mario is clearly just letting the last spirit put on its act.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The Shadow Queen only appears in the final room of the game as the surprise final boss, but she definitely makes the most of her only scene and became one of the most well-liked Mario villains.
  • Padding: A common complaint about the game is that the level layouts and chapter objectives often leave Mario running back and forth across areas in-between more engaging segments:
    • Some of the fight conditions Grubba sets down for you in Chapter 3, such as "Don't attack for the first three turns" or "Let your enemy damage you five times", can unnecessarily drag out the fights.
    • Chapter 4's events take place across Twilight Town, Twilight Trail, and Creepy Steeple. Your first trip through Twilight Trail is fine enough, but after the fake chapter ending, you have to return to town. Vivian joins you there, and you have to go back to the steeple to find Doopliss's name with her help. You then go back to Twilight Town to confront him, and he flees back to Creepy Steeple, making you go through Twilight Trail again to actually fight him. That's five trips through the area, with no changes past the initial visit.
    • The first section of Chapter 5 takes place on Keelhaul Key, between the base camp and the entrance to Pirate's Grotto. After your first visit to the grotto, you meet Bobbery, who wants you to get Flavio's Chuckola Cola; he's back at the camp. Once you give it to him, he joins your party and you have to go back to get Flavio, then return to the entrance so Flavio can open it. And after you beat the chapter, you still have to go to the entrance and back to get Frankie's wedding ring.
    • The search for General White makes Chapter 7 much longer than it needs to be and the order you visit past locations seems to be designed to take as long as possible, even with the warp pipe shortcuts. To say nothing of the sidequest where you have to chase him around again.
    • The 100 "I love yous" Francesca makes Frankie say when they lose the ring on the island. It's unskippable and really feels like it drags on far too long for a quest that shouldn't even be that long. The only other gag even present is a counter for each "I love you" starting from 10.
    • The Trouble Center allows Mario to do short sidequests at certain locations. Most of these take place outside of Rogueport, forcing you to go back to those areas, hear what you're requested to do, and then finish the task; sometimes it also involves going to other places. You can only have one trouble active at a time, which is inconvenient when two are located in the same area (The Great Boggly Tree has two in the same room, and the Pit of 100 Trials makes you go to floor 20 for one and floor 50 for another.) For example, in Jolene's trouble in Glitzville, she has you collecting dirty clothes in the locker room. You have to give these to a Goomba in Rogueport, then go back to Jolene, and then back to Rogueport to choose another trouble.note Then Toodles' trouble involves getting back a book she lent to Jolene. Keep in mind that Toodles lives in Poshley Heights and you first have to go there, then go to Glitzville to get the book from Jolene, and then go back to Toodles' house.
    • Hooktail's Castle has two secrets you need to revisit it for, but they don't become available at the same time. Either you go through all of it again twice (once when Ms. Mowz's Trouble Center quest becomes available to recruit her, and once with Bobbery to get the Up Arrow and the ability to raise partners to Ultra Rank), or you wait to do both at once but unlock Ms. Mowz a whole chapter later.
  • Player Punch:
    • Sir Grodus shutting TEC-XX down, if you really felt for TEC.
    • Seeing Doopliss possess Mario's body and running around pretending to be him, while the player is unable to do anything about it just yet or even return to Rogueport, can be a little jarring.
    • Watching Vivian get bullied by her sisters. Even when you first meet them, it's bound to make the player feel horrible for her.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Flurrie has endured no shortage of hatred and is outright reviled by a large portion of the fanbase, being regarded as a pompous, self-absorbed windbag even though her actual character couldn't be farther from that. She devotes herself to aiding the Punies out of a very skewed (in their favor) sense of Because You Were Nice to Me, and she remains a down-to-earth Proper Lady for almost the entirety of the game. Beyond the fact that she asks Mario to reclaim a lost necklace of hers before she helps him, the only thing about her to actually get hung up on is her design — and even that is meant to be a stylized take on her being some sort of cloud spirit.
  • Sacred Cow: In the eyes of popular gaming sites like GameFAQs and classic RPG fans, this game is the golden standard for Mario spinoffs and even Mario games, period. Nowadays it's practically immune to criticism, especially as the newer games get considerable backlash while this one (along with the first and to a lesser extent Super) still gets a lot of praise from gamers, just like it did back when it was released.
  • The Scrappy:
    • General White is despised for the copious amount of backtracking he makes the player go through during Chapter 7. He makes you do it again if the player takes up Goldbob's request in the Trouble Center.
    • Francesca Pianta is hated for her selfish attitude as well as having a controlling Sickeningly Sweetheart attitude towards Frankie. When she hears that her father Don Pianta is sick and misses her, rather than be concerned for her father's health, she selfishly forces Frankie to say "I love you" 100 times which in and out of game just serves to waste the player's time. Also, Frankie's trouble in losing his ring implies she has a temper with regard to their love for each other.
    • Podley is generally disliked for not obeying Scarlette's Last Request by not giving Bobbery her letter, essentially ruining his life.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • A few of the elements injected by the audience/stage into battles are not well-regarded, mostly for being random events that can screw you over even in the Pit of 100 Trials:
      • Falling stage props. While the background scenery tipping over is slow and predictable to defend against, sometimes buckets or spotlights will fall from above at way too high a speed to properly react to, and some can inflict the Dizzy condition, which makes most attacks miss.
      • Random stage fog reduces everyone's accuracy to about a 50/50 chance. While this can potentially save your hide if an enemy misses you, it can also ruin you just the same. Bobbery's explosions and Flurrie's Gale Force can get rid of the fog, but it can still waste turns and the game never tells you that you can get rid of the fog this way.
      • Once you reach higher ranks, the nozzles on the front of the stage will sometimes spew ice jets, fire, or explosions at the combatants. Unlike other stage elements, these all deal more than one damage, and the ice jets can potentially freeze you while the fire and explosion jets can make Bulky Bob-omb enemies explode instantly so that you either die from their explosions or get weakened enough that another attack can kill you.
      • Boos can turn the heroes or the enemies invisible at random, Crazee Dayzees can sing a lullaby and put a huge chunk of the audience to sleep, causing you to get less star power as a result, Shy Guys can run to the backstage and make stage props fall on someone's head, Bulky Bob-ombs take up two chairs in the audience, thus reducing your maximum audience size, never throw any items onto the stage, and sometimes will light their fuse and explode, taking out a huge chunk of the audience. Dull Bones are probably the worst of them all, as they do not provide any Star Power to Mario and only ever throw damaging objects at him, being an effective waste of a seat.
      • The audience as a whole can be a horrendous distraction, as if you screw up the timing on your attacks or counter poorly, your audience starts to leave, making you get less Star Power from the audience, which you need to pull off your special attacks. Things get even more complicated when they can mess with the stage or throw things at you, ranging from rocks that do damage to helpful items.
    • Enemies constantly pursue you in an attempt of initiating a fight, regardless of relative strength level, and their vision range is increased compared to the first Paper Mario game. This really becomes a problem in the more tedious parts of Chapters 4 and 7 as well as general backtracking for sidequests and exploration because there will always at least one random enemy that only gives one experience point when defeated chasing you non-stop.
    • First Attack and Bump Attack badges not working in the Pit of 100 Trials. Half the pain of the Pit is the super difficult lower levels, the other half is the tedious slog through the unchallenging higher ones.
    • Enemies can hold items and use them in battle. This gets particularly annoying with status-inflicting items like Dizzy Dials or Sleepy Sheep, or even healing items such as Super Shrooms and Life Shrooms. If you don't kill the enemy on the first turn, they are very likely to use the item, and if said item is a Life Shroom, the enemy will be revived upon defeat.
  • Self-Fanservice: Vivian in particular gets a lot of this. Often she will be given actual breasts and a more realistic humanoid figure instead of the wispy spirit look she has in game. She is also often given a penis, because of her being a trans woman in the Japanese, French, Italian, and Spanish versions.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge:
    • Pre-Hooktail Pit, where you go through the Pit of 100 Trials and defeat Bonetail before you challenge Hooktail, the first chapter's boss. The closest the run gets to Hooktail is visiting her castle to obtain the Paper Mode technique, which is needed to enter the Pit itself.
    • A common challenge is to defeat Hooktail without using her weakness. It makes what is otherwise a pretty easy boss into a difficult one.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: While the game isn't too much harder in comparison to the previous game, it's still quite a bit difficult overall; enemies have more health and strength than they did before and they can also carry items and use them against you. The game also has several kinds of Non Standard Game Over (some you can get around while others you'd have to jump into them on purpose) whereas the previous game didn't have any. Some bosses have attacks that can't be guarded or super guarded.
  • Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer: Lampshaded by Lahla; any time you hang out in the Pianta Parlor, she points out that rescuing the Princess is important, but also encourages you to have fun.
  • Signature Scene: The Shadow Queen's awakening and the world being plunged into darkness because of it, followed by her Demonic Possession of Peach, thanks to how much build up there is to it and how Surprise Creepy it is for a Mario game.
  • Spoiled by the Format: Did you really think Chapter 4 would be finished in about 15–20 minutes?
  • Shipping Goggles: Most of the fans of the Vivian/Goombella pairing will point to Goombella's Tattle log on Vivian, in which Goombella calls her cute. This is the sole interaction that the two have, and Goombella backtracks shortly after saying it.
  • That One Attack:
    • X-Yux's primary attack can immobilize you, and it can only be neutralized with a well-timed Superguard. The more Mini X-Yuxes there are surrounding it, the more lasers it can shoot per turn.
    • The Crazee Dayzee's sing attack. It has an obscure timing for dodging and can put you to sleep if you fail to block it correctly.
    • Magnus Von Grapple 2.0 would be easy if it weren't for its audience-machine-gun attack, which deals ten hits of three damage apiece and comes out very fast, on top of reducing your audience size.
  • That One Boss:
    • The Shadow Queen is quite hard, even by Final Boss standards. Despite having only 1 Defense and her Attack being outmatched by a boss from 10 minutes ago, she gets multiple attacks per round, as well as being very difficult to time for dodges. And all of said attacks ignore your defense, so the damage starts racking up very quickly. She also has an attack that will drain your HP to replenish her own, and at one point, restores her health completely at the expense of the audience. She also has more health than the two preceding bosses combined, at 150. There's also a pair of very long unskippable cutscenes before the real fight starts, which you have to go through for every attempt. She was even harder in the Japanese version, where none of her attacks were Superguardable.
    • Bowser's appearance out of nowhere in the final chapter, primarily because Mario is likely worn out from the preceding battle with Grodus. Bowser and Kammy both have quite a bit of health and hit hard, and you have no opportunity to heal in between. Most guides recommend you grind so that you level up on Grodus for a full heal to avoid getting completely trashed.
  • That One Level:
    • A major part of Chapter 2 is an escort mission for the Punis, who number 101 in total. It's made very tedious by the confusing level layout, the Puni Orb mechanics slowing exploration down, the bubble and blowing mechanics having wonky hitboxes, and the fact that the Punis can get stuck on terrain, flee from any nearby enemies, and can drop out of the swarm seemingly at random, forcing you to go back and get them to move on. The Timed Mission near the end doesn't help, especially since the timer keeps running in menus, battles, and cutscenes.
    • Chapter 4 is infamous for the amount of backtracking, requiring five trips on the Twilight Trail at the minimum. What makes it a pain is the enemies, who are capable of very strong attacks, and the fact that all your partners have left you for this segment. It gets a little better when Vivian joins you halfway through, but only a little.
    • Pirate's Grotto from the fifth chapter, particularly the part where Boat Mario has to get past some rolling waves.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Jolene's brother and the Glitz Pit's first champion, Prince Mush. After you beat Grubba and the Crystal Star releases him, he could have been a good Bonus Boss along with Bonetail and the Atomic Boo. Instead, after the end of Chapter 3, you never see him again.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • More than a few fans would have enjoyed a defictionalized version of Luigi's adventure. That there's a Toad kid in Petalburg who was playing the Paper Mario games and speculates if they'll release a "Paper Luigi" doesn't help.
    • In spite of Vivian being her former servant, the Shadow Queen gets no special dialogue should Vivian be the partner during the battle with her.
  • Tier-Induced Scrappy:
    • Koops' options in battle are limited to attacking on the ground, and unlike Kooper from the first game, he doesn't get a fire move to help deal with ice-based enemies. While his innate Defense of 1 may seem appealing compared to every other partner having 0 Defense, he has the lowest HP of all partners (tied with Ms. Mowz) and can be flipped over just like enemy Koopa Troopas. Coupling that with his low attack, he'll almost never see use in the lategame. Shell Shield can protect Mario from any attack and absorb quite a lot of damage if executed right, though.
    • Ms. Mowz is seen as very cumbersome in combat. Her one helpful move is to steal badges and items from enemies, while all of her other moves are outclassed by something else. Love Slap pierces defense and costs no FP, but only deals four damage at Ultra Rank and can't hit enemies that aren't on the ground or have a way to repel contact damage. Tease gives enemies the "Dizzy" status, which doesn't affect everything and is pretty inconsistent as far as statuses go. Smooch uses 10 FP to recover 10 HP for Mario, when an item or special move could do the same for no FP cost.
    • However, if you use the characters in just the right way, they can mow down enemies like nothing.
      • For Koops, his Shell Slam ability slams through all ground enemies and pierces their defenses. If combined with the two Power Plus P badges, and an attack boost from Power Lift, he can kill every single ground enemy in one fell swoop with relatively little cost.
      • For Ms. Mowz, combining her natural attack power can be naturally upgraded to 6 with the Power Plus P badges. If combined with another attack buff, i.e. Power Lift or an item, she can easily kill high defense foes one by one without losing any FP. It's perfect when there are aerial and ground enemies, as she can handle the ground enemies while Mario takes care of the aerial ones.
  • Tough Act to Follow: Every single Paper Mario game that released after The Thousand-Year Door has drawn comparisons to it, as it is very frequently cited as the pinnacle of the series, if not Mario RPGs as a whole. Thanks to the drastic shifts in direction the series took in later games, the comparisons are seldom positive.
  • Underused Game Mechanic:
    • The informed main purpose of the Ultra Hammer, unlocked after Chapter 6, outside of battle is to smash stone blocks. However, these are much less common than expected.
    • After appearing early on in Hooktail Castle, elevator blocks don’t reappear until much later in Palace of Shadow, and even then in a much smaller role.
  • Unpopular Popular Character: Despite being universally hated in-game, Flavio has a surprising fanbase thanks to his eccentric personality and association with a glitch.
  • The Woobie:
    • Vivian is blamed for literally everything that goes wrong for the Shadow Sirens, has a necklace she found taken from her by Beldam, and gets repetitively kicked around by her sisters, and she's implied to be transgender, which Beldam isn't any kinder about in the versions where it's inferred. It's quite surprising that it took her that long to finally be fed up with Beldam's abuse and join up with Mario.
    • Bobbery's backstory involving Scarlette qualifies him as one.
    • Podley the bartender is difficult not to feel sorry for given his guilt in his connection to the aforementioned tale of Bobbery, even if it is warranted, as well as his mysterious past involving the character Eve in the sidequest involving said character.
    • Jolene and Prince Mush. Their family was poor, Mush disappeared as a result of Grubba's machine, resulting in Jolene having to work for Grubba to find her brother and having to put on a brave face the whole time.
    • Even Mario qualifies. Having your body and name stolen by a Jerkass, and no-one recognizing you with nothing but your jump, a hammer, some badges, and whatever items you had. While everyone talks about how great you are. Not to mention having your girlfriend transformed into the Big Bad before your eyes.
    • Luigi is either this or an Iron Butt Monkey due to a certain request in Poshley Heights. Basically, a fangirl of Luigi's wants to meet him, and in order to do that you need the L Emblem. When you show up, the real Luigi also shows up and she thinks Mario is the real one, practically crushing poor Luigi. That's right, if you want 100%, you have to be a dick to your own brother.
    • TEC-XX. He knows nothing about love, but he still cares for Peach, helping her get information to Mario and trying to cheer her up when she misses the Mushroom Ball. But then he's shut down by Grodus, only to use the last of his power to tell Mario where Peach is and activate the teleporter back to Rogueport. He gets better at the end of the game, but it's still distressing in the moment.

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