Paper Mario music is subtle, relaxing… and underrated.
The Games That Define Us features carefully chosen music and remixes from the franchise of the game represented. Music is a key component of sharing the emotions one feels about a game, so we hope you will press the play button if you’re in a position to do so.
Just a brief summary if this is your first time here: This collaboration is a 34-day long adventure through video games. Each piece is its own unique audiovisual experience, complete with artwork, designs, music, and (most importantly) amazing works of prose by brilliant bloggers around the world. This adventure will take you through nostalgia, joy, ambition, self-discovery, regret, anxiety, frustration, mourning, and every human experience in between. Video games exist as fragments on the timeline of our lives, and each one of us have chosen the adventure we feel most defines us.
Now for the game that represents a big regret in my life — I call myself a Nintendo fan, but I’ve never played Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Admittedly, Nintendo has not been making it easy for me, with Gamecube games rarely appearing as ports or remasters.
Perhaps one day I’ll be able to enjoy this beloved entry in the Mario RPG pantheon, but for now I’ll have to settle for a retrospective by one of my favorite bloggers! It’s Ian from Adventure Rules! A fellow collab-master, Ian is famous for Blogger Blitz, which is an innovative battle of imaginations. If you’re interested, I would start here, and work your way forward in time. Ian was also a brilliant contributor to the Hyrule blog, with his exploration of Clock Town. Basically, Ian is awesome. Here are a couple more recent posts on Adventure Rules I particularly enjoyed:
Happy Thanksgiving to those in the U.S., and we hope you enjoy the next chapter of The Games That Define Us!
– Matthew, Normal Happenings
Game: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Release Date: April 22, 2004
Fandoms are amazing communities where people with like interests can connect and explore the things that make them happy, and for me that’s exactly what Paper Mario became. Online, I found commonality with other gamers that I couldn’t find with the kids in my local community.
When I was a kid, renting games from video stores such as Blockbuster was a pretty common part of my gaming experience. I discovered a lot of games that I wanted to buy by renting them, playing far enough in to fall in love, and then putting them on a Christmas or birthday list later down the line. It was in this way that I discovered the original Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64, and once I got my hands on that game I was hooked faster than a Cheep Cheep in the inevitable Mario Fishing title that’s gonna come out on Switch someday. So when, a few years later, a sequel came to the GameCube, you better believe that game landed the top spot on my Christmas list.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door came out when I was 12 years old. I got it the Christmas of that year so I ended up being 13 when I played it. This is an impressionable time in a kid’s life; early teenager-y is all about discovering your unique identity and learning your place in the world. You begin to settle into what will likely be the core of your personality. Various things will change to be sure – I’m not the same man now that I was two years ago, let alone fourteen – but in some ways we never change. For me, the features that became set in stone during that era were my fascination with storytelling, my sense of humor, and my love for geek culture.
At age 13, I wasn’t doing too great. Many of us aren’t during that time. For me, my hobbies and interests set me apart from a lot of my peers in school. I lived in a rural community that values rural things: nature, sports, family. Gender roles are rigid, the arts take a back seat to other aspects of life, and education is seen as valuable by some but as an unnecessary luxury by just as many. As a young man who was more interested in music and theater than basketball or cars, who liked to spend time alone instead of talking with other kids, and who loved fantasy and magic, I had a hard time making connections. Gaming helped me to feel like I had those connections with fictional characters, and with Paper Mario I took things to a new level I’d never explored before: fandom.
The term fandom has a lot of connotations, and there are certainly versions of it that are negative. I have encountered individuals within fandoms who make me cringe with their mindless dedication to the thing they love, their unwillingness to see their passion as an opinion rather than a cold, hard fact. But fandoms are also amazing communities where people with like interests can connect and explore the things that make them happy, and for me that’s exactly what Paper Mario became. Online, I found commonality with other gamers that I couldn’t find with the kids in my local community.
Paper Mario made it easy by having such interesting locations and characters to explore. The game’s third chapter, for example, is set in the fighting arena known as the Glitz Pit, a location where creatures of all types gather to face off in battles with all the brutality of MMA and the performative smack talk of WWE. I remember finding communities in forums where people would create their own Glitz Pit fighters and compete in tournaments using fan-designed rulesets. It inspired me to create one of my own, a tabletop RPG based on Glitzville – a project that even to this day I’ll break out and work on from time to time.
Then there are the X-Nauts, goofy flunkies to a powerful and deadly mastermind whose ultimate goal is to rule the world alongside his dark goddess. I once stumbled upon a forum thread where folks created their own X-Nauts – not powerful generals to go along with the leader, but the goofy underlings who simply screwed around and caused trouble in their day-to-day lives. I laughed at the stories as folks roleplayed all sorts of ridiculous scenarios from concerts to dance parties to botched missions to defeat Mario.
In addition to community activities, I loved reading about the thoughts other folks shared about the game’s lore and mysteries. Paper Mario is somewhat simple on the surface, but there are all kinds of deeper details you can dive in to and speculate about as well. What is the true origin of the Shadow Queen and her mysterious servants? Are the cursed chests really the original heroes who wielded the Crystal Stars against her? Would Nintendo ever create a Paper Luigi to tell the full story of his battle against the Chestnut King? Whether it was reading about these theories or just reading more stories about my favorite characters in the game such as Vivian or Prince Mush, I spent many an evening diving deep into the world of fan theories and fan fiction as well as writing my own.
To this day, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is still my favorite video game. The jokes gel perfectly with my sense of humor – in all reality, they likely molded and cemented my sense of humor into what it is today. I love the characters, whose simple concepts make them easy to attach to and whose hidden stories help them to develop beyond one-note partners into fully-fleshed personalities. I love how much story potential there is in the game’s world, whether it’s all the tales of thievery and corruption that could be told in Rogueport, the mysteries that take place on the Excess Express, or the fighters who rise and fall from glory in the Glitz Pit. While I have gone on to consider myself a part of many fandoms, Paper Mario will always be my first and the one which helped me to learn that I could make connections with people other than the ones who happened to be in the closest proximity to me. While it would be many years before I ever decided to make my own voice heard online, it was thanks to The Thousand-Year Door that I understood I wasn’t alone in my passions or interests. When the time came when I had the confidence to create my own space, I knew there would be people out there as passionate about games as I was.
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