Mario shocked in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Screenshot by Gameskinny

A Paper Mario Theory Introduces Two Versions of the Character

The Paper Mario games may carry a secret of multiversal proportions.

Nintendo’s Mario universe is one that’s anything but linear. With stories and narratives going in many different directions, it’s hard to say what the main storyline could be. As a result, many theories posit ideas to make sense of the stranger parts of the franchise, like the theory that believes there are actually two Paper Marios.

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Could There Be Two Paper Marios?

We all love the Super Mario Brothers just as much as we love their baby versions. However, the Paper Mario franchise has also provided a version of the character that is just as fun and possibly even more creative. With many titles in the series, it’s clear this iteration is just as important as any other Mario, but according to one Reddit theory, this is because the series explores two types of Paper Marios.

In Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, we are introduced to a book with a mushroom on it. This opens up a universe inhabited by the Paper Mario character, allowing us to experience a crossover we didn’t know we wanted or could even have. However, the trailer for the Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door remake opened on another red book with a yellow super star on it. But what could the two books signify?

As the theory explains, the book in Paper Jam is a portal into the paper universe, hence why both realities overlap in the game. However, the book in The Thousand Year Door is meant to symbolize a creative way to tell a Mario story, in this case, in paper form. Therefore, what we have here is two types of Paper Marios: a real one and a symbolic one.

How Many Games Make Up the Paper Mario Theory?

Luigi hit his head in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam
Screenshot by Gameskinny

Admittedly, it’s hard to say which games are legitimately set in a paper universe or just use the aesthetic as a storytelling device. But we can assume, at the very least, that the first two games in the series, Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, act as stories set in Mario’s main universe. While the original Paper Mario didn’t start off with a book opening, it did have a callback to the red book with a yellow star, cleverly reminding us of the opening of the original game, which featured the Star Haven. With that in mind, it’s possible the red book with a star was more than a nod but a wink that these games are truly connected.

Even Super Paper Mario, which came out eight years before Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, opened without establishing that the universe was separate from the mainline Mario universe. However, it was Paper Jam that made a point to distinctly separate the two realities. As a result, there are at least four games in total that help give legs to this theory and show that there’s clearly a loose Mario multiverse that has only passively been explored. But for every point that adds to this clever theory, there is at least one that forces us to question its validity and whether or not there is any deeper meaning to the paper universe.

Does the Two Paper Marios Theory Make Sense?

Paper Mario and Goombella in The Thousand Year Door
Screenshot by Gmaeskinny

If you look at this theory in chronological order, the late addition of a Paper Mario universe sets up the idea that everything before was just a fun way to tell a traditional Mario story. If no dialogue was shared in Paper Jam to differentiate the two universes, it could be assumed that they are distinct from one another. There’s also an aesthetic difference between Paper Marios, such as the Marios in Paper Jam, Paper Mario: Color Splash, and Paper Mario: The Origami King, which all have a white outline around the character models. Meanwhile, the games before Paper Jam don’t have a white outline, further setting up the fact that these are two different characters.

However, it could be that these design changes are all tied to developer choices, and, in reality, it’s all in the same universe. That would mean that Paper Jam is nothing more than a fun crossover, and there’s still only one Mario. It’s a less exciting explanation, but without an official answer, it can’t be ruled out. Even still, I believe that a world with a separate Mario is exciting and opens the door for more adventures and maybe even another crossover in the future.

For more fun theories and guides, check out our Super Mario hub page!

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Nicholas Brooks
Nick is a Freelance Writer at Gameskinny and brings with him over a decade of writing and editing experience from sites like CBR and Gameskinny. He also runs a small podcast called Popsubclub, where he interviews individuals in the entertainment industry as well as talks with peers. Nick's love of video games is only a small part of his passions as he's also an avid fan of movies, comics, music and theme parks. Make sure to follow his Instagram (@Comicsubclub) for more.