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Ranking the Paper Mario Bosses



Ranking the Paper Mario Bosses

What is the Best Boss Battle in Paper Mario?

Paper Mario is such a wholesome game. It’s like hugs from your grandma, freshly baked cookies, your favorite snuggly blanket, and hot chocolate on a cold winter day all rolled into one. Cute characters, fantastic music, and a timeless aesthetic make the N64 classic an all-around fun time.

One of the best parts about Paper Mario has to be the bosses. Colorful, funny, and, oftentimes, riffs on existing pop-culture tropes or Mario staples, the Paper Mario bosses are some of the most interesting and funniest characters in a Nintendo game. Naturally, I decided to rank them.

Rule #1: We’re only including the main bosses. Mini-bosses like the Anti Guy or *checks wiki* the “4 Fuzzies” don’t count as major boss battles. I’m also leaving out forced story losses.

Rule #2: Multiple encounters with the same boss will be considered the same encounter. If you all really want me to rank all (four!) of the Bowser fights in this game, just let me know in the comments.

Rule #3: Exceptions can be made to Rule #1. There are a couple of optional bosses that are iconic enough to include.

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

14.) Kent C. Koopa

This guy just looks like a jerk, doesn’t he?

Okay, this guy’s just a big jerk. He blocks your way, won’t let you pass unless you bribe him, and is actually pretty difficult to fight.

You can cheese his boss fight by hitting him with moves that put him to sleep, and that makes it at least a little easier, but he’s pretty difficult, with one attack that does 10 damage, an enormous amount in Paper Mario.

At least when you finally do defeat him, it’s good to see such a fundamentally unlikable character get his comeuppance.

13.) Lava Piranha

These guys look cool, but their boss battle is pretty lame.

Well, he’s a Piranha Plant. Oh, and he’s on fire. Oh, yeah, and he has three heads. You wanted something else?

Use Sushie’s Tidal Wave to move against it.

Yep. That’s it. Well, on to the next boss!

12.) Kammy Koopa

Kammy is a great villain, just not a great boss.

This easy boss encounter is fine. It’s boring but serves as an introduction to the mechanics of the game. Not much to say here. She’s only got 10 HP.

The later boss encounter with her in Peach’s Castle is a story fight that’s easy to complete and not really difficult either.

Welp, that’s Kammy Koopa for you!

11.) Goomba King, Blue Goomba, and Red Goomba

Yeah, these guys aren’t all that exciting.

This guy is straight-up boring. I get it, I get it, he’s supposed to be kind of a warm-up for the rest of the game, an interesting, albeit bland, starter course for the rest of the banquet. In a game with so many other memorable characters, he just falls flat. He’s not intimidating. He’s kind of—actually scratch that—he is stupid. And, he lacks a memorable character design.

Add to that the boss battle, being the first major one in a game that eventually introduces many partners, is kind of bland. Having just Goombario, who’s the blandest of the party members, to begin with (I’ll save any more comments for a future “Ranking the Party Members of Paper Mario” piece) to fight him with doesn’t help matters either.

Overall, the Goomba King and his two lackeys make for a boss battle that’s more snoozy than interesting.

10.) Tutankoopa

Tutankoopa is a very unoriginal name for a very unoriginal boss.

I’ve never been a fan of the “we’re going to Egypt” schtick and I don’t think Paper Mario doesn’t it particularly well either. Tutankoopa is…well…a koopa mummy. He doesn’t say anything particularly interesting. His boss battle isn’t anything particularly interesting. His character design isn’t anything particularly interesting.

Oh, and he appears during the most boring chapter in the game. That doesn’t help things either.

He’s not objectively bad. He’s just kind of bland. In a game as colorful and interesting as Paper Mario, that’s a real shame. Half of these characters practically leap off of the screen during their appearances, stealing the show for all to see. Tutankoopa, yeah, he’s just kind of there.  

9.) Crystal King

The Crystal King has a really cool design, too bad he recovers health THREE TIMES!

Unlike Tutankoopa, the Crystal King actually has an interesting design. His boss fight features smaller ice enemies that need to be defeated in order to make the fight easier, and his character design is top-notch, with an intriguing design that makes you question what exactly he is. The Crystal Palace is also a really neat stage, with tons of Duplighosts and some really neat puzzles. Oh, and his music is next-level awesome.

The problem is that the Crystal King lacks any sort of personality and his boss fight can be kind of a pain. I’m pretty much always against HP recovery moves, especially in RPGs like Paper Mario, where HP numbers are so low. The Crystal King is able to recover health up to three different times! Three! This is a problem we’ll get into later on the list, but if once is annoying and twice is irritating, then three times is probably infuriating to the player.

Overall, the Crystal King isn’t a bad boss fight. He’s got a great character design and interesting attacks. He just lacks any sort of character and his HP recovery moves are frustrating.

8.) The Bloopers (Blooper, Electro Blooper, Super Blooper)

Bland bosses, great locations.

I’m parking these three minibosses here because, well, there’s only so much you can do with a blooper as a villain. The first one is a miniboss and the second two are optional encounters down within Toad Town Tunnels.

Running into the second two deep within Toad Town’s Tunnels later in the game is an interesting choice. It adds a layer of mystery and surprise to one of the blander sections in the game. Exploring in an area with few rest areas and a long trek back to the surface only to find a boss waiting for you is an interesting dynamic that I think is really fun. That being said, the boss battles themselves are, well, blooper reel quality.

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

They’re not the best boss battles, but the surprise of the second two encounters moves them up a few tiers on the list.

7.) Bowser???/ The Koopa Bros.

These guys are actually pretty charming characters.

The Koopa Bros. are a really funny group of characters that I like a lot. However, they’re kind of an inferior version of a boss that we had already seen in Super Mario RPG: the Axem Rangers. Those were generally funnier than their Paper Mario equivalents but at least there are some good lines here and there for the Koopa Bros.

As a boss fight, the Koopa Bros. have some funny and interesting moves that bring a smile to my face. Their paper mâché facsimile of Bowser is as stupid as it is hilarious. They definitely have a lot of personality.

It’s just a shame that their boss battle is…kind of dull, to be honest. They are as flashy as you would expect from a knockoff of Power Rangers, but they lack the sort of defining features that a lot of the best Paper Mario bosses have.

6.) The Master

The Master is one difficult boss to take down.

The Master began a Paper Mario tradition of optional super bosses that were tougher than the final boss. While later bosses in this category included really interesting variations on existing villains, like Bonetail in The Thousand-Year Door, and Wracktail and Shadoo in Super Paper Mario, The Master is kind of…bland.

Don’t get me wrong, I love how this boss battle plays out. The Master has as much HP as Bowser, hits like a truck, and is quite a challenge to take down. I love these sorts of encounters, especially in a game that’s generally as easy as Paper Mario.

Despite that, the “kung fu master” schtick is a little tired and old at this point. It plays out the same in a lot of different media (even the Canadian animated show Slugterra had an “unbeatable master”). If The Master had a bit more of a personality or was a little bit more sinister, it would be a bit different.

As it is, The Master has the opposite problem of most Paper Mario bosses: great mechanics and a lackluster personality.

5.) General Guy

Paper Mario Boss Tubba Blubba General Guy
I love General Guy’s boss fight. The waves of enemies, the music, and the general goofiness of it all make it a lot of fun.

Alright, we’ve entered the world of awesome bosses now. General Guy is just an all-around blast.

The music? Top-notch, with an excellent boss theme that sounds like a military march, to begin with before descending into the typical Paper Mario silliness.

The boss fight? Lots of fun! Not only does General Guy’s fight go in waves, with a few regular enemies first before fighting General Guy himself, but it also relies on the player knowing that they need to break the tank’s light bulb. Otherwise, they get hit with a powerful lighting strike.

Personality? General Guy and the entire Shy Guy’s Toy Box have tons of it. It’s these sorts of interesting, unique characters that I miss in modern-day Paper Mario games, ones with hilarious designs and funny idiosyncrasies that make them stand out in your mind, even years later.

4.) Jr. Troopa

Paper Mario Boss Tubba Blubba Jr. Troopa
This little guy…he’s persistent, I’ll give him that. Stupid, but persistent.

Okay, I’ll admit it: Jr. Troopa is annoying.

Like, really annoying.

He’s like that kid brother that won’t leave you alone, keeps breaking into your room, and, oh, also ate the last Pop-Tart. Pure evil.

However, I love his persistence. Sure, his boss battles are annoying and you fight him six times in Paper Mario. SIX! But, he’s the sort of guy we could all aspire to be like. I mean, he swam across an entire ocean just to get a shot at beating up Mario. That, my dear audience, takes some gumption.

His boss fights are interesting too. Sure, it’s more of the same over and over and, well, over, but his pure stupidity and hilarity make him one of the funniest characters in the entire game.

You might think he’s stupid and you’d be right, but I’d be amiss to say that he isn’t inspiring, that he doesn’t call out to something deeper within us all.

Either that, or he just can’t take a hint.  

3.) Huff N. Puff

Paper Mario Boss Tubba Blubba Huff N. Puff
Huff N. Puff is a great boss battle with epic music and unique mechanics.

Huff N. Puff has some great mechanics. I love how you have to be careful how you attack him or he’ll spawn Tuff Puffs that can cause some serious damage.

His character design is original and interesting and his boss music is intimidating and mysterious. He could easily be considered the toughest boss battle in the game, given how he spawns additional enemies every time he’s attacked and hits pretty hard in addition.

He looks cool, he hits hard, he has interesting boss mechanics, his music is great, and he’s memorable. I think that’s all you can ask for from a great Paper Mario boss. I just wish more encounters in the game were like him.

2.) Bowser

Paper Mario Boss Tubba Blubba Bowser
Bowser is actually kind of threatening in Paper Mario, something the rest of the series wouldn’t follow up on until Color Splash.

While his boss fight earlier in Peach’s Castle is pretty easy, Bowser’s final form is a difficult encounter befitting the end of the game. Powered up by the Star Rod, Bowser makes for an awesome final boss fight.

His music is awesome, the stakes feel high, and this is one of the few Mario games where Bowser feels legitimately threatening. He’s as evil here as he is in any other Mario game and, for once, it’s not played off for laughs or made fun of, like in later titles.

If there’s one problem with this otherwise perfect boss fight, it’s Bowser’s ability to heal himself—for 30 HP. I said this earlier in the list, but healing seems like a lame way to artificially extend a boss fight. Bowser’s fight is epic enough already, it’s not necessary to extend the fight more with mechanics that are this frustrating.

That being said, this boss fight comes close to perfection. High stakes, epic music, and a legitimate threat to defeat are the keys to a good final boss battle in RPG. Bowser hits all these milestones and more and *just* misses out on our final slot.

1.) Tubba Blubba and His Heart

Paper Mario Boss Tubba Blubba
I love the Tubba Blubba fight. It teaches you about bullying, life, and removing your own heart in order to be invulnerable.

Tubba Blubba is nightmare fuel, plain and simple. He’s designed ominously, has a hole where he removed his heart, and placed said heart in the bottom of a well for safekeeping.

He’s insecure and has an actual motive for being evil, having been scared by the Boos of Boo’s Mansion and Gusty Gulch so many times that he’s actively resorted to taking revenge on the inhabitants by eating them.

Yeah, this game’s rated E for Everyone.

Tubba Blubba is an interesting villain, not only because he’s a classic example of the victim-turned-villain, but also because we’re supposed to feel bad for him. He was bullied by the same Boos that we’re now helping to defeat him. We’re enabling bullies because the guy that they bullied turned into a murderous psychopath.

Okay, that got dark quick.

Ignoring my invasive psychoanalysis, Tubba Blubba’s fight and the mystery surrounding his Heart and where it belongs are interesting dynamics that add to an already great boss fight. Beating him isn’t too difficult, but he makes us think about who Mario’s really helping in this game.

Or, maybe, I’ve been watching too many video essays on YouTube.


Tell us, 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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