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Ranking the Bosses of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

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Ranking Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Boss Battles

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is an all-time classic, a fundamentally great game with extremely memorable characters. A massive improvement over its predecessor, The Thousand- Year Door upped the ante in many different ways, incorporating new mechanics, new character designs, new bosses, and new partners in a way that feels both original and entertaining.

But it’s the bosses that shine the brightest in The Thousand-Year Door. They’re funny, they’re colorful, and they’re oftentimes very silly. That’s what makes them so great to rank.

With that being said, here are some ground rules.

Rule #1: We’re only including the main bosses and the game’s two optional bosses. Mini-bosses don’t count. I’m also leaving out forced story losses.

Rule #2: Multiple encounters with the same boss will be considered as the same encounter.

Rule #3: There is no Rule #3 this time around!

With that out of the way, let’s get down to ranking!

13. Atomic Boo

Atomic Boo is an optional boss fought in Creepy Steeple after releasing all of the Boos present within the chests. Mario has to be a bit mean to the Boos in order to fight it, but it is not too difficult of an encounter and makes subsequent treks through the Steeple much easier.

Why does it rank at the bottom of the list? Namely: unoriginality. Many of the bosses in The Thousand-Year Door are known for being silly, interesting, or colorful. Atomic Boo is none of these. Still, it’s not a bad way to start off the list and things will only get better from here.

12. The Shadow Sirens

I find these bosses extremely annoying. Besides Vivian, who’s a great character that has her own interesting backstory involving gender identity, pronouns, and localization that stretches way back into 2004, the rest of the characters are terrible.

Bedlam is the typically super-mean, overbearing older sister that always causes problems for the Shadow Sirens. Marilyn is an idiot that doesn’t say or do much.

Even Doopliss, one of the best characters in the game, can’t save this sorry bunch when he joins them later on. The other two Sirens’ annoying, tropey designs end up obfuscating his brilliance.

The boss battle, itself isn’t that interesting either. They’re witches. They use spells. They hit pretty hard.

Yeah, that’s about it.

11. Lord Crump

I’m not a massive Lord Crump fan. Sure, the guy’s kind of an idiot, which itself is funny, but he never really feels like a threat to Mario and Co., serving more as a foil to Sir Grodus’ moustache-twirling brand of evil than anything else.

It doesn’t help that his boss mechanics are dead simple. He jumps and body slams you in the first fight, which is more an introduction to the game’s combat system than anything else. The second fight, on Keyhaul Key, is slightly more interesting, but still boring by the standards of the rest of the game.

At least his fourth wall breaks on Flavio’s Ship are funny.

10. Cortez

Here’s where we start seeing boss encounters that are no longer bad. Cortez’s fight is interesting and his fight goes through a number of phases that are unique and varied. Finding out how to damage him on each phase, avoiding damage from his various weapons, and taking him down is a lot of fun.

However, my favorite part of this battle is how it subverts expectations.

Until this point, we’ve defeated every boss we’ve encountered to get their Crystal Star. However, after realizing we just want his Crystal Star, Cortez just straight up gives it to us! It’s a great way to end a boss battle and one that I wish more games would take.

9. Bonetail/Gloomtail/Hooktail

I’m grouping these three bosses together because they are effectively the same. Sure, there’s some small differences, but they’re variations on the same model and all siblings, according to the game’s lore.

Bonetail is the most powerful, but the least interesting. Resting at the bottom of the Pit of 100 Trials, he’s quite difficult to beat, with 200 HP and a litany of difficult encounters right before him. That being said, from a design perspective, he’s pedantic at best. An undead dragon? Seen that before.

Gloomtail is interesting because he’s found in the game’s final section and has a number of powerful attacks that make him relatively interesting to fight. In the end, though, he’s still just another dragon boss.

Hooktail is, by far, the most interesting of these three. We have a motivation to beat her since she’s eating a lot of Koopas in Petalburg, she has an interesting weakness: crickets, and, she’s our first major boss battle in the game, serving as a skilltest of sorts for players early in the adventure.

8. Magnus von Grapple (1.0 and 2.0)

This series of boss fights is so silly and I love every second of it. Our first encounter with Magnus von Grapple is in the Great Tree of Boggly Woods. Though I said I’m not a fan of Lord Crump himself, his fight in this giant mecha is really funny and deserves a place on the list higher than just his vanilla fights.

There’s some dissonance in seeing Crump’s flat, 2D sprite riding in a 3D, polygonal suit and his attacks are just so over the top and silly that they give the fight a lot of charm.

The second fight, on the Moon of all places, is equally funny and kind of dastardly when you think about it. Sir Grodus tells us later on that he left Crump there to lose and, thus, allow Mario to open the Thousand-Year Door for him. For all his efforts, Crump gets booted into Deep Space.

Though, he does make a return to Poshley Heights later. Maybe money and a cushy retirement can reform evil?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

7. Macho Grubba

I absolutely love what they did with Grubba’s localization. Modeling him after a Southern, pro-wrestling fight promoter and giving him an ominous backstory involving blackmail and making problems…ahem…“disappear,” is a great move that I think really pays off in this chapter.

His boss fight has some cool mechanics that I liked as well. Grubba using the same Crystal Star move that Mario will learn, later on, Power Lift, is a neat touch and one that makes an already hard-hitting boss hit—well—harder. His motivation, wanting to relive his glory days as a fighter, is understandable and nothing crazily elaborate.

Add to that the entire atmosphere of Glitzville, discovering the secrets behind fighters’ disappearances, uncovering the secret exits and entrances to various areas around the arena, and finally unmasking Grubba for who he is, and you’ve got the makings of an excellent boss fight.

6. Bowser and Kammy

Bowser Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door Boss
Kammy Koopa Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door Boss

Bowser in The Thousand-Year Door is just hilarious. Yes, he’s not nearly as menacing as he was in the original Paper Mario, but he’s a lot funnier and, in a game with actual villains, that works out well.

The first fight against Bowser, when he interrupts one of Mario’s fights in the Glitz Pit, is relatively easy and doesn’t have much going for it.

However, Bowser and Kammy’s fight within the Palace of Shadow is absolute genius. With the player weak and possibly low on items after having faced Sir Grodus, Bowser and Kammy present an actual challenge, something that’s refreshing in what is, otherwise, a relatively easy game. It’s all too easy to exhaust items and have nothing left in the tank to face these two.

5. Doopliss

Doopliss Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door Boss

While I promised to leave forced story losses out of the ranking, Doopliss’ first fight is too interesting to leave out, as it’s one of the greatest fake-outs in Mario series history.

After you “defeat” Doopliss the first time around, the same “End of Chapter” screen appears, the same music plays, and “Mario” gets the Crystal Star, just like normal.

That is until the camera cuts back to reveal that Doopliss swapped bodies with Mario. Honestly, while there are a lot of criticisms of Chapter 4 being very repetitive and a real pace-killer, this fight earns back a lot of that lost charm.

The second fight against him, where he uses your own partners against you and convinces them that, yep, he’s the real Mario, is a really neat subversion of expectations that plays well given Chapter 4’s overall theme.

Doopliss’ final fight, as part of the Shadow Sirens, also helps lift up a rather boring fight. As I mentioned earlier, the Shadow Sirens themselves are rather uninteresting and trite. Doopliss, though, makes the fight much more interesting, reprising his role as a Mario impersonator one final time.

Overall, I just love Doopliss as a character. He’s hilarious, menacing, and original, using the Duplighost design that we’ve seen before in new and interesting ways.

4. Sir Grodus

Sir Grodus Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door Boss

Sir Grodus is probably the most menacing villain in The Thousand-Year Door. He’s not as powerful as the Shadow Queen or as hilarious as Bowser, but he has a plan, and for the most part, his plan works to perfection. Sure, he doesn’t exactly end up in the greatest of shape after releasing the Shadow Queen—getting struck by a bolt of lightning will do that to you—but everything from kidnapping Peach to manipulating Mario to opening the Thousand-Year Door for him worked.

Also, he has to have one of the coolest lairs in Mario series history. The X-Naut Fortress is just spectacular, from top to bottom. We get little glimpses of it as Peach throughout the first part of the story. However, when Mario arrives there later and the music kicks in for the first time, that’s when it really starts to shine.

That being said, Grodus’ boss fight is really unique. He summons little mechanical minions, called Grodus Xs, that prevent him from being damaged. Having to defeat these minions before dealing out damage to Grodus could have been exhausting and annoying but, the way the boss battle is constructed, it actually ends up being a great way to up the stakes right before the end of the game.

3. The Smorg

Smorg Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door Boss

The Smorg are easily the creepiest of the bosses listed here and what they lack in personality, they make up for in an unsettling design and slow, almost horror-like reveal. When we first meet them at the abandoned Riverside Station, they’re only in small groups blocking the train’s way out, with Mario having to defeat them and lower the bridge manually. Things seem to settle back down.

Until the next day.

Mario and Co. wake up to discover that everyone is gone and the train is very quiet. As they make their way to the front of the train, completely covered with Smorg. They then make their way to the roof where they confront the Smorg, who have coalesced into a group and absorbed many of the characters we’ve met on the train already.

The boss fight is pretty interesting too. With a variety of different forms, some hard-hitting moves, and an excellent boss track, the Smorg fight is easily one of The Thousand-Year Door’s best.   

2. Rawk Hawk

Rawk Hawk Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door Boss

From his smug confidence to his hilariously over-the-top moves, Rawk Hawk has all the makings of a great boss battle. His boss music is the best in the entire game, an energetic piece that sets the tone for an epic pro-wrestling smackdown. As the culmination to Mario’s climb to the top of the Glitz Pit’s rankings, the fight with Rawk Hawk feels earned with the Champ trying his best to stay the Champ.

The first fight is great, but the ability to rematch Rawk Hawk in later chapters is my favorite touch. Fighting your way back up the Glitz Pit rankings and challenging Rawk Hawk once more is an absolute blast.

Plus, the guy talks just like a pro wrestler, oozing self-promotion and self-aggrandization everywhere he goes. He’s a colorful, interesting, and well-fleshed-out character that only just falls short of my top spot.

1. Shadow Queen

Shadow Queen Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door Boss

The Shadow Queen is my top pick. Why?

Because her boss fight is just brutal.

I can’t tell you how many hours I poured into this boss battle as a kid, learning and relearning the moves, practicing, and sitting through that opening monologue time after time (boy would cutscene skip have been helpful.) She hits hard and, if you’re not prepared, it’s easy to fall behind early and never be able to recover.

Even on my latest playthrough, where I purposefully overleveled myself, I still had a bit of trouble and was sweating it out by the end of the fight. The fact that she’s placed at the end of a long and winding dungeon just after two boss battles and far away from anywhere to buy items only makes it worse.

While her character design is great and the possessed Peach angle makes the fight even more interesting, it’s the sheer difficulty of this encounter that makes it a worthy capstone to a great game. No other boss, except Bonetail, comes close to the challenge the Shadow Queen marks at the end of the game. That—and that alone—makes her a fitting #1, the finest boss battle in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.

***

What did you think about this ranking? Sound off in the comments below.

Although a gamer since before I can remember, there is not a better definition of me than these three words: Christian, moderate, and learner. I am steadfast in my Faith, my Beliefs, and in my Opinions, but I am always willing to hear the other side of the discussion. I love Nintendo, History, and the NBA. PhD Graduate of Liberty University.

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