The world of Paper Mario is vast and expansive, spanning six games and likely more in the future. Each RPG includes a new story, new mechanics, and above all, new bosses. These fights range from captivating and new to a heap of shredded garbage, but we’re not going to focus on the latter right now.
Regardless of whether you’re a Paper Mario fan or a Paper Mario fan, boss fights are a staple of the games, so we thought we’d rank them, providing you with the Top 10 Bosses of the Paper Mario Franchise. There are multiple criteria for these rankings, including difficulty, originality, design, fun, and where I decided to put them. Keep in mind this is my opinion, which is almost fact, but isn’t.
(There are spoilers of Origami King in here, FYI.)
10. Steak, Paper Mario Color Splash
Yes, you read right: Steak. A gosh darn steak. You fight a steak in a Paper Mario game, and you best believe I’m putting it in this top 10. The absurdity alone lets it crack this list, but it’s also a pretty fun boss fight. You have to use your battle cards to prepare it, tenderize it, and grill it like a real steak, and the animations the steak does when fighting it are pretty hilarious. It’s so original and ridiculous, but at the same time, truly feels like it belongs within the realm of Paper Mario. It’s sad this was on a Wii U title, as many gamers did not get a chance to experience fighting sentient meat.
9. General Guy, Paper Mario
There’s nothing I like more than taking down an oppressive authoritarian regime. And sushi; I love sushi. General Guy greets you at the end of Paper Mario Chapter 4 with an army of Shy Guys at his command just waiting to pulverize Mario even though every single one of their comrades were already defeated by the paper plumber in order to reach this point of the game. Regardless, General Guy is here to put up a fight, sending in wave after wave of Shy Guys, using a TANK, and throwing explosives. It’s an enjoyable fight, and the feeling you get from beating all those enemies in one battle is reward enough.
8. Rawk Hawk, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Oh man, I can’t look at that photo without instantly playing his battle music in my head. You’re introduced to this awesome might of a bird in an arena as he body-checks a Koopa wearing full-body armor and proudly displays his champion’s belt for the crowd to see. As you climb the ranks for a chance at the title, there’s so much buildup that there’s a whole puzzle beforehand where you get locked in the locker room before the fight. When you finally get to battle the Rawk, it’s a whole spectacle: the crowd is cheering, the music is blasting, the boss uses the stage to his advantage, it’s just awesome. Plus, when you refight in the Glitz Pit post-game and become champion, you can replay this fight over and over, listening to the soundtrack every time!
7. Doopliss, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Here’s another boss battle with an amazing soundtrack. Doopliss isn’t the most difficult fight, but what he lacks in difficulty he makes up for in character and surprises. After you beat him the first time, you collect the crystal star and then the game seems to just stop. There’s a purple blob in the middle of the screen, and the first time I played this game I thought it had broken. It turns out that purple blob is you, and he’s stolen your name and body! You then have to spend the rest of the chapter figuring out his name (It’s Doopliss, I’ve mentioned that) and then refight him a second time. So technically, you don’t beat him until you’ve beaten him once, finished the chapter, and beaten him a second time.
6. The Vellumentals, Paper Mario: The Origami King
The newest Paper Mario game ushered in many new bosses, among which were The Vellumentals. These massive elemental titans are here to kick butt and chew bubble gum, and they’re all out of gum, and they’re also paper so they can’t chew it. I grouped them all together because each of them are fun to fight in their own respects, and the abilities they give you after defeating them are amazing to use in battle. Each of these bosses require puzzle solving skills (as that’s the main mechanic in The Origami King) and have different gimmicks required for defeat. Plus they’re just stunning to look at.
5. King Olly, Paper Mario: The Origami King
Moving into the top half of this list, we are again featuring another boss from the newest Paper Mario title.
King Olly may just look like a cute little origami creation, and in fact here’s a video on how to make him yourself, but he’s much more menacing. As the game’s main antagonist, he’s also the final boss, meaning there’s a lot of pressure on Nintendo to make the battle good. A final boss can make or break a game, as even a mediocre final boss can leave players feeling upset that all the buildup wasn’t worth it. Luckily, Nintendo delivered. It’s a three-phase fight: the first is Vellumental refights, as Olly has the ability to transform into them; the second is Bowser transforming into Origami and fighting the folded king himself; and the final phase has Olly massively increasing in size and adding a ticking clock which will suffocate you with toxic gas if you don’t defeat him in time. It’s a beautifully done fight with great graphics and stakes. The reason it’s not even higher on this list is that while I like the new boss battle system in Origami King, I personally prefer the old style from the original two games.
4. Cortez, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
LOOK AT HOW AWESOME HE LOOKS! Are you looking? Look more. Good. This is what a boss should look like. Cool weapons, undead, dope hat, the trifecta. Like King Olly, Cortez is also a three-phase fight, albeit not as expansive, but with enough variety to make each phase interesting. Cortez earns his spot this high on the list because of how fun it is to battle him, using different strategies in each phase of the fight (or if you’re a speed runner just maxing your damage and killing him in six hits) and doing so in the cabin of an old pirate ship. The entire chapter is set around the life of a sailor, and what old sailor story doesn’t include pirates, skeletons, and sea monsters? Plus, once again, the soundtrack during this fight is insanely good.
3. Dimentio and Super Dimentio, Super Paper Mario
I’m aware they’re two different bosses but Super Dimentio is the final form of Dimentio and it was all part of his plan, so I’m putting them together. Plus, it’s my list. Fight me. Moving on, Dimentio is one of the best characters to ever come out of the Paper Mario franchise. He’s cunning, smart, joyfully evil, and in the big twist of the game, it’s revealed Dimentio was the evil mastermind the whole time. It’s always a joy to fight him, even if some of the battles are easy, but it’s even more enjoyable just to watch the cutscenes he’s in and see his part of the story play out. The fact that such an interesting and intricate character is not just a plot device but also a reappearing person you get to battle and interact with time and time again is a treat, and I think the developers told his story arc well and fully.
2. Bowser, Paper Mario
I know this is the Thousand Year Door character model and not the N64 one, but the N64 model is very blocky and pixelated, and this one looks better. Anyway, every Mario fan knows who Bowser is, and he’s been quite prominent in the Paper Mario franchise. He’s appeared in all six entries, is fought in five, and is the final boss in three. However, the number two spot on the list goes to Bowser from Paper Mario on the N64. The game starts out with Bowser using his new item, the Star Rod, to defeat Mario and blast him out of the sky into a field (Odyssey did not invent that trope). You spend the rest of the game saving the Star Spirits, and finally reaching Bowser’s castle in the sky for the final showdown. It’s a difficult fight, especially since there’s no super guarding in the original game, and is the true test of final strength. When you finally deliver that final blow, defeating King Koopa after he flattened the floor with you earlier, it’s one of the most satisfying feelings in a Mario game.
Before we get to number one, here are our honorable mentions: Bonetail, Rubber Band, The Master, Mimi, Count Bleck, Crystal King, Scissors.
And now, without further ado…
1. The Shadow Queen, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
This comes as a surprise to no one, either because they agree or it’s a predictable number one. Either way, the Shadow Queen is the winner of the Best Paper Mario Boss. This boss takes everything that made the final Bowser fight in the first game an amazing conclusion and expands on it. I remember as a kid being stuck on this boss for the longest time until one day I finally watched her HP go down to zero and the magical text box that said, “Ayeeeeeeeee,” let me know I had defeated her and received my reward of… one star point. It’s the ultimate troll, but that doesn’t mean the fight isn’t great. The music is perfect, the character design is haunting even for a Mario game, the fact that a quarter of the fight you’re battling a possessed Princess Peach is so creative, and the fight it really is a test of skill. Also, massive props to Nintendo for making the final boss a 150-year-old spirit like something out of Dark Souls.
Anyway, that’s the list. Feel free to read it again to see if anything changed, but since it’s not a live document, it won’t. Who are your Top 10 Paper Mario Bosses? Make your own list, for all I care.