9 tips to master Paper Mario: The Origami King, from battles to finding Toads

If you're welcoming Mario into the fold of your Nintendo Switch library, we've got plenty of advice.

Jackson Ryan Former Science Editor
Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
Jackson Ryan
5 min read

Mario: "I'm back."


Seven months in to 2020, we've had a global pandemic, murder hornets and a parallel universe hoax. But finally, the mustachioed plumber of the Mushroom Kingdom has arrived to restore some normality to our lives. It's like Mario's pulled a Michael Jordan and faxed through a simple two-word statement after an extended hiatus:

"I'm back."

That may seem like a weird analogy to make, but it's appropriate, I assure you -- the first Mario game of 2020 has arrived in the form of "Paper Mario: The Origami King" for the Nintendo Switch, a game all about paper, origami and, occasionally, faxes. It's a game that has been described by CNET's own Scott Stein as a "distracting beach read" and lord knows we need a distraction right now. 

It may not be the Mario-shaped distraction we necessarily want, but it's the one we've got. For those unfamiliar with the series, Paper Mario is a constantly-evolving franchise of Mario-based role-playing games. Games in the franchise include hokey jokes, strange memes and turn-based battles. If you've never played one before, you might be looking for a little help. We've got you covered with a handful of tips that will send you on your merry way through the lush surrounds of the Origami King's folded worlds.

But first: Origami King introduces ring battles, which basically places Mario at the centre of a dartboard for each turn-based fight. Before each battle begins, you need to complete a puzzle of sorts, sliding and spinning enemies into rows or 2x2 squares so you can take them out with your boots or hammer. These puzzles are relatively easy to solve but can get tricky as you progress further into the game.

The tips below focus mostly on making battling much simpler and faster, because it can become quite a grind when you're just hammering away constantly. So, uh... let's-a-go, as they say.

The Best Nintendo Switch Games to Play in 2023

See all photos

1. Use the overhead view in battle

You won't always need to do it, but sometimes you might want to switch to the overhead view in battle. I had no idea this was an option until later in the game because I am the type of person that doesn't go through the extensive Help menu. Just press right trigger during a battle and the view will switch -- can make things a little easier for you. 

2. The + button is your friend

If you're struggling to find a solution during a ring battle just hold down the + button and give yourself extra time by spending a few coins -- it's always worth it to line enemies up because it usually means you can eliminate goombas and shy guys in one turn, preventing any damage AND you get extra coins for doing so!

3. Whack everything!

Throughout the game world, there are hundreds of hidden Toads. These Toads will help you in battle (if you pay for it) and sometimes give you items when you find them in the world. It is mostly obvious where these toads are hiding -- because they are pretty much everywhere. But if you go around whacking absurd-looking flower pots, baskets, butterflies, logs, pillows, pots... you'll find the majority of them without even trying.

Eventually, you'll get an item that can locate where these Toads are. Speaking of...


Hit everything. Seriously.


4. The Toad Radar is critical (for completionists)

Once you defeat the first boss and remove the red streamer, you'll get access to a laboratory on Picnic Road. Inside, a Prof. Toad will hand you the Toad Radar, an equippable item that tells you how close you are to a hidden Toad. Most of the time, finding a Toad is pretty routine and you can just bash them with a hammer, but there are a few locations where finding a Toad is particularly tricky. The radar is super handy -- and it's only downside is you'll need to head back to the Lab to recharge it every now and again. Fortunately, you can fast travel back to the Lab from most locations in the game world.

5. You can't waste confetti so party on, Mario

Honestly, I wish I knew this simple truth sooner. Confetti plays a big role in The Origami King, because it lets you paper over gaping holes in the game world known as "Not-Bottomless Holes." To plug the gaps, you hurl confetti into the air and watch it rain down on the holes -- but sometimes it seems to miss entirely and you're left to feel like you just wasted an explosion of tiny paper. You didn't. Confetti that doesn't land on a hole isn't lost, so feel free to throw that stuff around like you're at a wedding. 


6. Motion controls off

Joy-Con drift killing you? Not enjoying the motion control system? Just turn it off in the settings. There's a couple of times it was a bit finicky for me and once I turned it off I completely forgot it was even a thing. It's not necessary at all. Switch it off.

7. Timing is everything

If this is your first Paper Mario game you'll be experiencing the turn-based battles of the franchise for the first time. A key component of the Paper Mario experience is timing an attack -- when you jump on an enemy, you need to press the A button at just the right time before you land on their head and when you whack them with a hammer, you want to time your A button press with the expanding circle that appears around your whackin' tool. 

Timing is critical: It increases the attack power and helps you finish battles much more quickly. If you need a little further help, you can also practice at the Battle Lab, situated in Toad Town, to really get the timing down. 

8. Stock up on boots and hammers

Early on you reach Toad Town, a hub-type area situated outside Peach's Castle which you can travel back to, via pipe, quite often. It's full of shops, staffed by friendly Toads, that will make your journey a whole lot easier. Once you discover certain items in the game world (they're hard to miss), they'll be available to buy: I recommend buy a few shiny hammers and a decent supply of iron boots -- the latter will allow you to jump on top of spiked enemies like spinys and sidesteppers. 


Boss battles are all about arrows and strategic attacks.


9. Boss battles are tactical. Go slow

Boss battles offer up a little variation to the standard slide and spin ring battles. Instead of lining enemies up, you have to line arrows up to direct Mario close enough to the boss to attack. The key thing to remember here is to add extra time if you need with the + button and think through each attack strategically. Each boss is taken down using a slightly different method -- so as to not ruin the fun of working it out, the best thing to do is pick up the envelope that appears on the ring during the first turn and learn how to approach the boss. 

Bonus: Petition Nintendo to increase the text speed

Okay, that's not really a tip but man, having to sit through the slow scroll of an incredibly text-heavy RPG is a bit of a drag, isn't it?