After a Mario-filled game-rumor bonanza earlier this year, Nintendo appears to be paying those rumors forward with its first Mario game announcement of 2020. Thursday morning saw Nintendo issue a YouTube announcement—without its usual 48-hour tip-off to fans—for its first Paper Mario game in four years.
Paper Mario: The Origami King is slated to launch digitally and physically on July 17 for Nintendo Switch consoles, and it sees the series wildly expand upon its action-RPG roots—as opposed to the more straightforward 2016 Wii U game Paper Mario: Color Splash.
Unlike a “mainline” Super Mario action game, Paper Mario games stand out with an emphasis on plot, dialogue, and family-friendly humor, and today’s Origami King reveal sees the series continue that streak. One minute, a “flat,” sticker-shaped Mario is leaping and flying over an overwhelmed Mushroom Kingdom castle, which is being attacked by an origami warlord set on “folding the world,” along with Bowser as an unlikely ally (apparently already origami-folded to assumably tamp down his evil abilities). The next moment, Mario is chilling on a train while a classic Bob-omb sits near him as a passenger, dryly remarking, “Me? Well… I’m Bob-omb.”
The above gallery includes a look at the varied traversal you can expect in the upcoming game, which includes JRPG tropes like an airship (only this one is attacked by rival paper airplanes) and hints of the series’ first “open-world” sections, which range from a desert-romping wagon to an ocean-spanning boat. The latter looks remarkably like something out of Nintendo’s classic GameCube game The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
Meanwhile, the below gallery, captured from a pair of Nintendo videos, shows off a new battle system. Like in prior Paper Mario games, Mario is controlled in classic run-and-jump fashion in the “overworld,” but when he bumps into a bad guy in those moments, Mario is transported to a JRPG-styled, turn-based battle but with button-timing twists. This time, Mario will contend with enemies surrounding him on all sides, and he’ll get the option to rotate those enemies’ positions on a disc. Should any enemies be lined up front to back, then Mario can use a “jump and keeping jumping” maneuver to hit them all at once (assuming you perfectly time a tap of the “jump” button when landing on each one). Other games in the series included many other attack types, and we imagine those will have additional clever impacts on this rotating-grid interface (perhaps a fireball that scorches all enemies standing side by side).
Paper Mario originally launched on the N64 in 2001 as the spiritual successor to the unlikely smash hit Super Mario RPG, an action-RPG series co-developed by Nintendo and Square for the Super Nintendo. Super Mario RPG (and its cast of original characters) has been dead and gone ever since, while Nintendo has since maintained two of its mascot-filled action-RPG series: the console-minded Paper Mario and the handheld-minded Mario & Luigi. Now that Nintendo has streamlined its hardware business with a single console, instead of a home/handheld split, it remains to be seen whether Mario & Luigi has also been retired as a concept.
Today’s reveal included a possible hint of Nintendo’s next announcement: a cheeky moment in which paperized Mario dons a Samus Aran helmet from Metroid and fakes like a gun-toting hero. Whether this means Nintendo is ready to reveal a new Metroid game, either the long-in-development Metroid Prime 4 or a rumored 2D Metroid callback, remains to be seen. Either way, the reveal did not hint to any other rumored classic-Mario launches in 2020, particularly remakes of popular 3D platformers like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy.
Listing image by Nintendo