Paper Mario: Sticker Star Review


Mario’s adventures have led developers to think outside of the box for the many different games featuring puzzles, sports, strategy and even fighting games. While fans of the famous plumber have experienced it all, there was a special element introduced back in the Super Nintendo days that had fans seeing Mario in a whole new light, Role Playing Games. Super Mario RPG was an amazing title that was developed by Square Enix that introduced Mario into the RPG limelight. Mario would then take his RPG adventures to the Nintendo 64, Gamecube and Nintendo Wii. This time the focus would change to a 2D papercraft art style designed by Intelligent Systems, the team behind the Fire Emblem series.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Platform Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS

Developer:  Intelligent Systems 
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: November 11, 2012
MSRP: $39.99

The story begins as the Mushroom Kingdom is celebrating the Sticker Star Festival. Mario, Princess Peach, and the Toads are celebrating until Bowser causes havoc. Mario tries to stop Bowser but gets knocked out. He awakens crumpled up and finds out that the princess has been kidnapped and the town of “Decalsburg” is in havoc. Mario meets the keeper of the Royal stickers named Kersti who blames Mario for all the havoc and forces the silent hero to help using the power of stickers to save the day.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is the first Paper Mario game for the handheld system. With the previous Paper Mario titles splitting into chapters, Paper Mario: Sticker Star instead splits it into areas reminiscent of the original Mario titles. Each area is filled with Bowser’s minions, hidden paths, mid-bosses and stickers. Mario must fight or dodge his way to each goal to proceed to the next area. Some stages may have more than one exit, making you work to complete the stages. Other stages will be filled with mid-bosses or requirements, forcing you to go back and search for items that can be turned into stickers to proceed.


In a change of pace from the previous Paper Mario games, Mario’s actions are based off of stickers, so entering a battle with zero stickers leaves Mario without any way to battle. Don’t fret though, you can always find stickers in the town or stage by hitting or peeling the infamous “?” boxes. Defeated enemies will also randomly drop stickers. If you need to, you can always buy them in town or from certain toads along the way. Mario is also equipped with a hammer to help him with many of the hazards along with his infamous jumping ability.

In battle stickers are key to winning. There are a few hundred stickers in the game under the class of jumping, flower, hammer, mushroom, and turtle shells. There are dozens of other collectible stickers used for battle. Each sticker takes a space and later on you find larger stickers that take up more space, requiring you to manage your sticker pages. As you defeat bosses, you can unlock more pages. Finding out what each item does and its usefulness can be key in battle, especially when fighting against specific enemies. I don’t think it’s smart to jump on spiked enemies, but you can if you have the Iron jump shoes. Items like Turtle shells, line jumps, snow balls and fire/ice flowers are great against multiple enemies.


When you see an enemy you have a choice to fight them or avoid them, you can surprise your enemy by jumping on them or hitting them with the hammer or battle sticker. Later in the game you’ll get the ability to use the spinner, a slot machine-like game where you can get a box of battle stickers and a special rewards like an item, health or coins. You can also choose to run from battle by mashing the A button. If you miss your escape, be prepared to take some damage. Have no fear, because Mario doesn’t just stand there. He can defend by pressing the A button right before the attack, and when using a sticker Mario can do more damage. Each item is unique so you need to test it our for yourself.


Bowser has in his possession a very powerful tool that allows him to mess with the world called “paperize”. Paperize allows items to be taken out or moved which Mario’s enemies use to stop him. Thanks to Kersti Mario can put items back or fix incorrect items.

Once you complete the game, you can try for 100% completion. One of the toads has a sticker collection and asks you to help him complete it. The good part is you only need one of every sticker; the bad part is you need one of every single sticker including special stickers. You may even see a certain green brother around in the game, make sure when you see him to paperize the screen.

Recently many of the Nintendo 3DS titles have really taken advantage of the 3D capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS, but Paper Mario isn’t one of them. You could easily play the game in 2D the whole time. The papercraft visual style the game uses is vibrant and enjoyable. Intelligent Systems takes the 2D element and messes around with it to create some creative atmospheres and enemies, taking advantage of their paper flat design.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star is a game you can easily enjoy. You will find yourself lost and backtracking quite a bit. There will even be times that you won’t be able to find a path you need until you find the right special sticker. The game loves to be challenging and tough, but luckily Kersti will give you hints in battles or on the map, albeit sometimes useless.


Paper Mario:Sticker StarPaper Mario: Sticker Star is the first game in the series with play that’s as distinct as its papercraft appearance.

The Paper Mario series has benefited from its unique visual style and clever writing, but it’s always fallen back on relatively safe gameplay. The turn-based battles of the first two games were fast-paced, but the mechanics weren’t a huge stretch from any other Japanese RPG. And 2007’s Super Paper Mario was, for all intents and purposes, a straight-up platformer — albeit a platformer with some surprising gimmicks.

Sticker Star takes Paper Mario in a bizarre direction. A few returning RPG mechanics blend with ideas plucked from collectible card games and classic ‘90s adventure titles to form something that’s completely original. Sticker Star‘s strange concoction frustrates from time to time, but as its true nature becomes clear, it rewards in equal measure.


Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Paper Mario: Sticker Star kicks off with a kidnapping. A Mushroom Kingdom festival is interrupted by a super-powered Bowser, and Princess Peach is taken. Mario is the only plumber in the land capable of mounting a rescue effort. Aside from its parade of classic Mario villain cameos, Sticker Star‘s plot doesn’t have any surprising twists or turns, and the dialogue doesn’t have the the laugh-out-loud hilarity that was present in the Mario & Luigi series of handheld RPGs.

Sticker Star focuses instead on weird new mechanics. The turn-based combat of previous Paper Mario games has been modified to make use of the titular sticker system. Rather than choosing from a menu of attack options, Mario collects stickers representing each move, from the classic foot stomp to fire and ice flowers to HP-recovering mushrooms.


Mario’s sticker book space is limited, but using a sticker once consumes it. As your collection grows, the game becomes a test of resource management, with each battle serving as a puzzle you must get through in the least amount of moves possible. Each encounter forces you to make difficult decisions about which stickers to use and which to save up for the next boss fight. This setup enhances the tension of the MP/mana management of other RPGs, since you cannot attack, defend, or do anything besides run away without stickers.

Sticker Star‘s combat system entertained me despite its simplicity. There’s a literal rhythm to it, as you must tap ‘A’ to power up your attacks and defend against enemies. Battles also employ a sensible, satisfying logic. If you jump on an enemy who’s wearing a helmet, your attack won’t do any damage. Swing a hammer at a bad guy who’s holding out a spear, and you’ll take a hit before you can harm him. It engages players like few other RPGs, both with the active element of combat and the strategy of picking out the right stickers for each foe.


Fear of running out of viable combat options drives Sticker Star‘s other strength: exploration. The world is split into a series of mostly linear levels, but each locale is packed with secrets. Stickers are plastered across every wall waiting to be peeled off, and hidden doors lead to items that can be turned into even more powerful stickers. Even pieces of scenery can be placed into your sticker book and transferred to a new location or rotated to help you find the path forward.

Sticker Star rewards exploration in a very direct way. The game has done away with experience points and leveling up, so you’ll also increase your maximum HP by completing sidequests and finding bonus hearts in out-of-the-way locations. Being thorough as you wind your way through lengthy levels will ensure that your sticker collection doesn’t run low. The game builds a satisfying loop out of burning through stickers in combat and refreshing them as you explore.

EVERY SCREEN PRESENTS AN ABUNDANCE OF POSSIBILITIES FOR SECRETSPart of the reason exploration feels so good is that Paper Mario: Sticker Star gives you so many ways to interact with the world. You can jump on stuff and perform basic platforming. You can hammer the ground or walls to expose hidden passages. You can “paperize” the world, temporarily flattening it to allow you to use stickers to influence the environment. Every new screen presents an abundance of possibilities for cool secrets, and almost all of them pay off.

In a few instances, the focus on exploration hinders Sticker Star‘s pacing. The game sometimes goes overboard with its expectation of how much you’ll scour each environment. The worst offender is a haunted mansion that would be a great level if not for the fact that you can’t move on until you’ve found a dozen or so ghosts in devious hiding spots. You must perform the equivalent of an old-school pixel hunt across every room of the mansion.

Obscure requirements cause problems elsewhere in Sticker Star. “Thing” stickers — real world items such as baseball bats, fans and radiators — are generally used to solve environmental puzzles. For example, if a big pool of lava is blocking your path, you can slap down an air conditioner sticker to freeze it.

Boss battles also become more dependent on these item-based solutions. An ink-spewing squid at the end of one area is nearly impossible to beat if you don’t bring along a sponge sticker to soak up its attacks. Mixing combat and puzzles is a problem because it happens without warning and without a way to call up new stickers during the fight. If you enter a boss battle without the single specific sticker needed for victory, you might as well reset the game and try again. At least “Thing” stickers can be purchased in the town hub and replaced in your book after you’ve used them, so it’s not difficult to prepare once you know which sticker is needed.




Paper Mario: Sticker Star‘s few problems are written into its very structure as an amalgam of genres. If you go in expecting an RPG, you’re apt to be disappointed by simplified battles and stats. If you’re in it for the puzzle solving, the frequent combat breaks may get on your nerves. But if you can accept those conditions, Sticker Starhas something special buried beneath its covers. Nintendo tends toward smooth, straight-forward design, butSticker Star is the opposite of that. It’s a flawed, offbeat, endearing little game.