My Top 5 Paper Mario Partners
From Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Paper Mario is a unique, colorful, refreshing take on RPGs (before Nintendo stripped it of the RPG elements, that is). It took common, nameless mooks, as well as the Mushroom Kingdom itself, and gave them character. No longer were Goombas and Koopas merely enemies meant to obstruct Mario’s path, they, along with other enemies from previous Mario games, became the world’s inhabitants with their own identities and lives.
In typical RPG fashion, Mario meets various character throughout his adventure that join his party, aiding him in his quest with their unique abilities. Though not all partners were created equal, it would seem. I’ve compiled a list of the top five best and worst partners based on story, design, and utility using a four-point star system.
Without further ado, here it is:
#5 Best — Lady Bow
Lady Bow is the snooty princess of Boo’s Mansion. Her design is simple and elegant: she features a distinguishably green hue, a pair of cute red bows (of course), and a rather fluffy looking pink fan. Lady Bow appears to be based on the Ojou or Noble-woman archetype. In game, she forever displays an unimpressed expression constantly offset by maniacal laughter after winning a battle. She imprisons Skolar, the Star Spirit Mario is looking for and uses him as leverage to have Mario defeat the local Boo-eating monster, Tubba Blubba. This genius display of chaotic good compliments her pompous, entitled attitude. She doesn’t even immediately dangle Skolar in front of Mario, instead, she tests him first to see if he lives up to his reputation! Once Mario’s proven himself, she joins the party (like it or not!!).
Unfortunately, her combat prowess is limited; Her attack deals four damage in separate one damage increments meaning she does a whopping zero damage to enemies with even a single defense. Her “Spook” ability is a glorified flee that costs FP, provides no star points if successful, and to make matters worse, it can fail. If not for these short-comings, the good Lady Bow would have been much higher on this list.
#4 Best — Yoshi Kid
The feisty, battle-ready Yoshi Kid was an egg that eventually hatches into a life of professional fighting at the Glitz Pit. Mario rescues him from a pig working at a hot dog stand that wanted to cook him… yup. He’s got seven possible color schemes depending on how long he’s in his egg once Mario saves him and you even get to name him once he hatches (I always just named him “Kid”). He’s got the typical Yoshi look besides a small tuft of hair on his head and the remnants of his egg as what appears to be… a makeshift diaper? Yoshi Kid is an unafraid badass despite his age. He’s got a mean stare, a cool smirk, and he is always ready to fight. He’s the partner many of us were really excited to acquire on our first playthroughs, especially since he was exactly what we needed to defeat the progress halting Armored Harriers.
Not to mention he provides the “move faster” field ability relatively early on, as opposed to the predecessor’s Lakilester, who is literally the last partner we receive, forcing you to hoof it until he joins your party toward the end of the game. In terms of quality, Yoshi Kid is a jack-of-all-trades. He delivers on all ends, but just barely misses the mark for me.
#3 Best — Goombella
Goombella is an intrepid and sassy archaeology student at the University of Goom on a mission to uncover the mysteries behind The Thousand Year Door. She displays a girlish charm with long eyelashes, a pink tone, some blush, and a thick blonde ponytail. This is wonderfully contrasted by an outfit that says she’s ready to explore a dirty cave somewhere. Mario rescues Goombella caught up with the X-Naut gang when he arrives at Rogueport, joining him for the entire adventure right off the bat. What strikes me most about Goombella is her dedication to her field. Though she may come off as a ditzy blonde chick, she proves to be more than just a pretty face and is actually extremely bright.
Not only did she bring a lot more personality and flair to Mario’s adventure than Goombario (especially where field tattles were concerned), she was much more involved with the main plot, which goes a long way since most partners have no real reason to remain with Mario after their chapters end (besides the whole saving the world thing). Her tear-jerking unrequited love with Mario at the end of the journey was the bitter-sweet cherry atop her character. In terms of combat, multi-bonk and Rally Wink have their uses, but she’s definitely not the most exciting partner of TTYD in terms of combat.
#2 Best — Sushie
Sushie is the unfortunately named caretaker of some Yoshi kids on Lavalava island. She’s a simple, purple cheep-cheep with perpetually closed eyes and an orange tail-fin, hair, and lips. For me, Sushie’s charm comes from just how unique she is. Her appearance, while forgettable, is unusually unfeminine for a female partner.
Oh yeah, and unlike pretty much everyone else, she’s never heard of Mario.
She’s a hopeless romantic and a kick-ass GRANDMA by the end of the game. She truly shines in battle, being one of the strongest partners in the game. She fearlessly body-slams enemies, can provide Mario with some extra defense, and her final ability has her squirt water with enough force to ricochet her around like a rabid wrecking ball of doom. It has the highest damage potential of any ability in the game and hits all enemies. Stryder7x shows us it’s so strong that pushing it to its limits crashes the game on the original console version or heavily slows it down on the Virtual Console.
Yes, she got trapped in a tree by some Yoshi kids and needed Mario to rescue her, but she’s a fish and she’s getting old. Give her a break.
As an early example of competent older ladies in video games, Sushie easily takes the #2 spot on my list. But #1 spot simply has to go to none other than…
The Best ★— Vivian
Yep, you saw this coming.
Vivian is what Mariowiki simply describes as a “Shadow” of the Shadow Sirens who are three sisters of an ancient race bent on resurrecting their evil queen to take over the world. Vivian’s design is just so excellent, it can be summarized as gothically alien, yet adorable. She sports a cute, striped witch hat atop pink curls for hair that conceal her eyes (Assuming she has them). The mickey mouse-esque gloves with all five digits detailed are an important part of her expressions. From the constant effeminate hand flair, to the pondering fist to chin while considering her battle options, to the bewitching point of a successful fiery jinx, to the gleeful clasp during a stylish! move (you get the idea).
Not only does she have an amazing design, her story is impeccable. She’s totally relevant to the main plot and her character develops quite a bit. After being subject to much berating and belittlement by her elder sister, she eschews their goal to bring the shadow queen to life and joins Mario in doing just the opposite, since Mario was the only person to ever show Vivian any kindness. I’m a sucker for bad guys who join the good guys in RPGs, and Vivian is one of the best examples of that in my opinion. Alongside Mario, She eventually gains confidence and sheds her inferiority-complex.
“I’m with Mario all the way! Today, Sis…I’m going to punish YOU, you hear me?” — Vivian
Now then, the elephant in the room. Vivian is a man in the Japanese version of the game, and honestly, I wish this carried over to the North American version. Politics aside, it’s different, and I like that. It promotes the idea that Mario is joined by a ragtag from all walks of life and I feel like a major point to the partners in Paper Mario is the diversity.
All this topped by the fact that she’s arguably the strongest partner in battle makes Vivian an easy fan-favorite. She’s a godsend when it comes to bosses; she deals some of the highest overall damage with her burn effect and the one-turn-invincibility is more necessary in this iteration of the series. When it comes to Paper Mario partners, Vivian is the whole package and earns her spot at #1.
And that’s my list! What do you agree with? Disagree with?
What does your list look like? Leave a response and let me know!
Thanks for reading!