Paper Mario Origami King
Image: Nintendo

In all honesty, I dropped off Paper Mario: The Origami King quicker than I hoped I would. But whilst I may not remember the last checkpoint I reached during my second playthrough, or exactly who was accompanying me, I do remember how much the game made me laugh. In the end, it was the lacklustre battle system that prevented me from truly loving the game, but the top-notch comedy at least saw me through to the end of the story.

It all started in the early game. As soon as I saw a folded Bowser struggling to follow Mario up the stairs, and as soon as I heard him remark, ‘Hey, slow down! I’m walking with my face here!’ I was in stitches. And throughout the rest of Origami King, the funny moments just kept coming. Whether it was Mario’s adorable animations or the razor-sharp quips the NPCs came out with, this was a game with perhaps the best gag rate I’ve ever experienced.

And with 2020 being the year it has been, I think we can all agree that a good laugh was much needed.

King of Comedy

But why exactly is the humour in Origami King so successful? Well, the way I see it, there are two different types of humour on show: visual slapstick and dialogue jokes. Slapstick humour is defined as a type of physical comedy involving absurd situations and overexaggerated movement. To take another example from the early game, Mario finds himself flung from Peach’s Castle only to land upside down in the canopy of a pine tree, his little boots waving frantically in the air. Of course, it’s a struggle to escape, and we all giggle until he lands safely on the forest floor and adjusts his cap like nothing’s happened. This is classic slapstick humour, and just one of many such moments beautifully executed throughout the game.

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Whilst the slapstick humour in Origami King is undeniably excellent, I would argue that the dialogue is even funnier. In fact, the lines that NPC’s come out with are my favourite moments of the game. Mario’s time with each character is sometimes short, yet always memorable. Exchanges such as Bob-omb explaining his ailment as ‘You know that memory-loss thing? What's it called... Ambrosia? Amnesty? Thinky Thinky Panic?’ come thick and fast, and sometimes left me having to put down the controller because I was in fits of laughter.

Even more impressively, Origami King is an extremely accessible game and the written jokes are designed to be consistently funny, no matter the age of the player. The writing really is fantastic, and the flow of gags never dries up even though the video game medium can’t rely on improvisational humour, like say, TV or stand-up comedy can.

House of Fun-ny

So, are there any other Nintendo franchises that are as funny as Paper Mario? Thinking about Nintendo Switch and its first-party titles, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is perhaps the only other game to have consistently made me laugh. Luigi’s Mansion 3 primarily employs slapstick animation to elicit humour. Titular character Luigi is not like most heroes you see. With an all-consuming fear of anything spooky, he’s the least likely member of Mario’s gang to be the hero in an eerie ghost story. Watching Luigi panic every time he comes across a ghoul is what makes the game so hilarious. Plus, being the type of person who’s afraid of everything, I can relate. All things considered though, with less prolific dialogue and written jokes, Luigi’s Mansion 3 didn’t have me laughing quite as much as Origami King did.

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Of course, there are other Nintendo Switch games that could be classed as comedies. The South Park games are very funny, but to really enjoy them you probably need to have watched and loved the show. I’ve only dipped into the cartoon, and the humour is sometimes a little too crass for my taste. There are also a few indie experiences that provide a good laugh such as Untitled Goose Game. Playing as a mischievous goose and terrorising a village and its peaceful residents is an experience that every Switch owner should have, but the game is really quite short, and I was left wanting more.

Can They Take A Joke?

Whilst there are third-party and indie comedy experiences, is there room for more AAA first-party Nintendo comedies? As you might have guessed, I think there is! I suppose Nintendo could either resurrect old comedy-focused franchises or develop new ones. As for old franchises, the first thing that comes to mind is Kid Icarus: Uprising.

The last instalment of Kid Icarus came in 2012 for the 3DS. Pit and Lady Palutena’s priceless banter is up there with some of the best video game dialogue of all time. In fact, the game was bursting with moments included just for laughs, breaking up the intense battles and fast-paced gameplay. Animal Crossing is another Nintendo staple that is just begging for an injection of laughs. In New Horizons the pool of nearly 400 villagers only grew by 8, and no new personality types were added at all. What if Nintendo added a comedian personality type? With so much dialogue in the game, a group of villagers solely designed to make the player laugh would be a welcome addition.

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When it comes to Nintendo developing new comedy franchises, what about a potential Wario and Waluigi game? These pantomime villains are ripe for their own comedy adventure, perhaps with the two reluctantly teaming up to rescue Mario and Luigi at the behest of a Princess Peach they seem unable to say no to. But there are other famous Nintendo characters that also seem to skew towards comedy. What about a Donkey Kong game with the focus on giggles rather than platforming? Wouldn’t that be a barrel of laughs? (Sorry.)

Do you know of any other funny games available on the Switch? Let us know in the comments!