Truly 2017 was a banner year for Paper Mario challenge runs, with the Glitz Pit Discord server surging in popularity and several players popping into the scene. Discussion of strategies, loadouts, and mechanics of the Paper Mario series has abounded, but the badges, arguably the series’ combat’s defining trait, have always been a particular focal point. Some badges are loved by all, some ridiculed by all but a few dedicated apologists, and many fall everywhere in-between.
Since stacking badges is what this blog was built on, I’d like to do something a little different here, and exposit my current thoughts on the matter at length, giving my personal ranking of every badge in Paper Mario: TTYD and some justification as to their placements.
To start, I won’t be considering these badges (the “FX-Esque Tier”) in my tier list:
- The Attack FX badges and W Emblem / L Emblem are merely cosmetic and cost nothing to equip, so they’re obviously a matter of taste (even if W Emblem alone is the clearly supreme stylistic option).
- Seeing as TTYD gives you many options to optimize strategies to minimize or maximize focus on HP, FP, SP, items, etc.; HP and FP Plus are an invaluable convenience for adjusting your stats as you see fit, without needing to ever level up anything but Badge Points. However, as they’re functionally equivalent to level-ups in HP or FP at any given time, they’re not really possible to rank alongside the majority of badges with unique effects.
- Timing Tutor is useful for building mastery of Stylish Action Commands for a nominal BP cost, and on the other hand, freely skippable if you are well suited to perform them. An excellently designed badge for beginners with no use (but no downside, other than slightly clogging Charlieton’s inventory) to experts.
- Double Pain is good for adding extra challenge, and rarely (but occasionally) for manipulating Mario’s HP value. No major positives, but it’s free BP-wise and is really only meant to be an extra challenge.
- Finally, Slow Go is obviously meant as a joke, nothing more. Only shame is that it’s not hidden somewhere needlessly cryptic like its predecessor in Paper Mario.
As for the rest of the badges, I initially grouped them roughly into four categories – well above average, above average, below average, and well below average usefulness. I then tweaked their scores slightly, adding more granularity, and comparing badges with similar niches against each other. Eventually, I ended up with a fairly balanced seven-tiered setup – Tiers F, E, D, C, B, A, and S.
Coincidentally, the higher and lower tiers ended up being clearly delineated by the middle tier (Tier C). Most of the ones in that tier are decently generally usable badges with modestly useful effects, whereas ones above it (S/A/B) are much more frequently usable and/or heavily useful, and ones below it (D/E/F) are only usable in special cases (and often less useful even in those cases).
Of note, I generally didn’t consider stacking more badges than are naturally obtainable in the game (assuming only one of each available badge – and no Power Rushes – are bought from Pianta Parlor).
Without further ado, here are the tiers from bottom to top (badges in each tier ordered alphabetically):
Generally badges I’d never dream of using seriously in a battle.
- Bump Attack is really placed this low largely out of spite; it’s undeniably of some use by the time you get it, but that’s really a symptom of going through the Pit leaving you unfortunately overleveled. Furthermore, it makes a very unsatisfying reward while in the Pit, especially considering the difficulty jump between the floors 61-79 and floors 81-99. Arguably, First Attack is just as usable anyway for much less BP (and badge setup churn), and is available from the shop about as early as it’d be usable.
- Chill Out is useful for dodging a very few enemies’ First Strikes (basically just Z-Yuxes and maybe Chain Chomps / Moon Clefts), and being in Dazzle’s shop with many useful badges as alternatives doesn’t do it any favors.
- Head Rattle is a big missed opportunity. Confusion is a very fun status, but it only targeting the frontmost grounded enemy limits its use considerably. Not only are you taking out most of that enemy’s potential weaponization in dealing damage to it, but you’re then unable to use a number of moves afterward (including all Hammer moves save for Hammer Throw) without doing further damage to it.
- HP Drain and HP Drain P are massively nerfed from the former’s Paper Mario incarnation; dropping attack power by 1 in exchange for at most 1 HP restoration per turn is virtually never worth it when there’s so many other ways to mitigate damage.
- Peekaboo is a waste of both BP and Star Pieces. Experienced players should have enemy HP values memorized and keep track of them, whereas inexperienced players already have access to Goombella’s Tattle for the exact same information. Knowing Koops’ Shell Shield is the only unique benefit it provides, and that is questionably useful at best.
- Pity Flower is not the worst badge in concept, but unless you’re sponging a good deal of low-damage hits on Mario specifically, the 1 FP you’ll regain 30% of the time is not worth the HP you lose. If the FP restoration was guaranteed, or the amount restored was tied to the damage taken, it could see a bit more use, but otherwise it’s filler for Pre-Hooktail Pit Bonetail setups at best.
- Return Postage is of minimal use for much the same reason, on top of being a somewhat lackluster reward for defeating the Pit. At least it’s highly salable (not that that is likely to be a concern after a Pit run anyway).
- Simplifier‘s hit to Star Power regeneration far outweighs its use for easier Action Commands in general. It is useful for scouting in the Pit of 100 Trials as it makes the run-away meter much easier to fill. It’s also debatably useful for getting an extra bounce or two out of Power Bounce, but rarely does the difference between 8 and 9 hits equal night and day (and if you have good timing you’ll end up capping at the same point on bosses anyway).
- Tornado Jump‘s tornadoes do fixed damage (depending on the number of badges equipped), and doesn’t do enough ancillary damage to aerial enemies (which are rare in the first place) to be worth it over a battle item, or Fiery Jinx, or Earth Tremor, or what-have-you. It is useful for clearing out Mini-*-Yuxes or Grodus Xes, but that’s about it.
Badges I find occasionally worth considering (or consistently in specific cases, but with relatively small effect).
- All of the P badges (Defend Plus P, Feeling Fine P, Happy Heart P, HP Plus P, P-Down D-Up P) are in this tier for pretty much the same reason; partners are generally tanky enough on the whole that it’s not worth the BP to make them safer. Not really a lot to say beyond that.
- Hammer Throw is outclassed in nearly every situation it could be potentially useful. Swoopers are just as easily hit with Earth Tremor or Quake Hammer, as well as some partner attacks. Spiky Parabuzzies have far too much DEF for it to be viable. For virtually everything else, a standard Jump or Hammer will suffice. It can theoretically have a niche against airborne Ruff or Ice Puffs, but I’ve yet to be in a situation where there wasn’t some reasonably inexpensive alternative.
- Lucky Start‘s effects are too short-lived, underwhelming and unpredictable to be worth the BP it costs. It can be used to farm HP/FP by repeatedly running away if you really hate your “A” button (and Sweet Treat). It’s particularly unusable if planning to use Danger strats, given the chance of getting the HP-Regen status.
- Refund doesn’t yield all that much salvage since it rounds 75% of the item cost down rather than up (as in Paper Mario). Nonetheless it can be a decent fill-out badge if you have a spare BP and a packed inventory.
- Soft Stomp is reasonably useful (though not 100% reliable) on some very late-game bosses, but certainly not indispensable.
Mostly badges that fairly typically get use, but aren’t all that useful, or are very useful in a very limited set of use cases.
- Charge and Charge P pretty much never see use outside of boss battles, and quickly fall on the massive-overkill side if they are used flippantly, essentially adding 2 damage per hit per charge in the turn their charge is expended for negligible FP (and you’ll have plenty of multi-hit options from early in the game). Arguably these could be placed in a higher tier on those grounds, but they’re really nearly wholly unnecessary considering the existence of power / Danger badges, Power Punch, and Power Lift.
- Damage Dodge P is generally a bit more useful than the rest of the defensive partner badges, since it’s cheap to equip, available early, and combining it with the Defend command offers a lot of control over partner HP values. It won’t do any good against some late-game bosses due to piercing attacks, though.
- First Attack isn’t quite as convenient as Spin Attack from Paper Mario, but it isn’t as inconvenient to get or equip as Bump Attack, and its effect is appreciated when backtracking through previous chapters’ areas, especially in completionist playthroughs.
- Hammerman‘s extra point of power comes at the expense of Mario’s generally more versatile and powerful Jump moveset. Could be more useful depending on your preference of partner strategy and HP/FP consumption.
- Ice Power is completely invaluable against one family of enemies and completely pointless outside of them.
- Ice Smash‘s status ailment can be devastating if it works, but the Frozen status doesn’t last too long without two copies, and there aren’t a lot of targets that it can hit and work reliably on that can’t be dealt with more easily in other ways. Clock Out is generally a far better choice for reliability, or Sleepy Stomp / Sheep for turn count.
- Money Money is too expensive and appears too late in the game to be as useful as it should be, but it can be useful for farming extra Pianta badges or recipe ingredients for a completionist playthrough nonetheless.
- Pretty Lucky P can be useful for mitigating partner health loss in the long term, or bolstering their evasion rate in Danger, but isn’t generally as useful as Heart Finder for the former purpose. Can be helpful or actively harmful if it activates against moves that hit the front and back player-controlled actors in sequence if they’re in front, as Mario will be forced to perform the last defensive action taken (including a miss) even if it would be undesirable.
- Shrink Stomp can be fairly useful on the handful of bosses it works on, and perhaps particularly tough enemies, depending on the player’s preference. However, Mini-Egg has the same chance of working and gives you multiple attempts, so it’s almost always a better option.
- Super Appeal P can help make the most of an unspent or otherwise-unspendable partner turn, but only one copy appears naturally, and by the time you have it, the extra 0.25 SP units restored aren’t of much consequence.
- Unsimplifier is sometimes effective in boosting SP restoration, but makes a handful of moves, as well as Superguarding, a much less viable option due to the increased difficulty of their Action Commands.
Also the middle tier, and now we’re definitely in the realm of generally useful badges.
- Defend Plus is a solid, obvious, but slightly BP-expensive way to mitigate damage. Particularly useful against fast multi-hit attacks like Magnus 2.0’s audience launcher and the like, and particularly useless against some very late-game bosses with mostly piercing attacks.
- Double Dip and Double Dip P are incredibly versatile tools, particularly for efficiently strategizing boss battles. Their FP cost (especially with Triple Dip) is fairly high, but that can be mostly mitigated by using at least one FP restoration item. Late-game this can remove the need for Charge badges entirely, and earlier in the game it allows setup with Power Punch, Point Swap, Trial Stew, etc. in combination with recipe items to hit pretty much any stat breakdown you want. Their biggest drawback is being located fairly late in the Pit and in the main story.
- Happy Heart is a decent filler badge for picking up occasional extra health in long battles (for instance, in Pre-Hooktail Pit), particularly if you prioritize heavier-hitting in-battle badges to the Finder badges. Their effect is negligible in comparison to a Slow Shroom if you can afford the inventory space (and detour to the Deepdown Depot), though.
- P-Down D-Up is the only defensive badge (alongside its partner variant) to work against piercing attacks – including all stage effects and enemy items – which can be a game-changer against a number of enemies if you can afford the loss of attack power (or the badges to offset it).
- Piercing Blow is invaluable for Pre-Hooktail Pit runs against anything highly defensive and immune to fire (particularly Chain Chomps and Moon Clefts), or as a low-FP alternative even if Fire Drive does work. It is generally overshadowed by Earth Tremor, Quake Hammer, or various item / partner attacks, and is equivalent to or worse than Power Smash for enemies with 2 or less defense.
- Power Jump and Power Smash are the go-to very-early game options for dealing a lot of damage in a single blow, and remain effective for that purpose during the entire game if you have the FP to spare for a double- or triple-stacked version of the move. They fall behind the upgraded boots’ Jump moves quickly on low-DEF enemies, though.
- Spike Shield makes Spiky Parabuzzies tremendously easier to deal with, as well as allowing you to use Jump’s often superior firepower (and Jumpman) against lower-defense spiky foes. It also makes Bristles approachable, though Quake Hammer is plenty effective at neutering them on its own. Plus, there are spiky enemies it’s not terribly effective at dealing with (notably Clefts).
- Super Appeal is nice for quickly regenerating Star Power, particularly early in the game or when stacked. It’s particularly nice for dealing with Dull Bones audience against Bonetail, as it guarantees a 1.00 SP fill-up in no more than two Mario Appeals (and often one Mario and one partner Appeal).
- Zap Tap completely blocks leeching attacks, and is a good failsafe in Pre-Hooktail Pit, particularly for direct attackers that would be otherwise impossible to kill if you’re inconsistent at Superguarding them. It also has an edge-case use in allowing you to use contact attacks on enemies with the Electric status (not charged Puffs, though).
Getting into the upper tiers. These badges are generally fairly potent and usable a sizable amount of the time.
- Close Call P is a great, very inexpensive safety net for Danger/Peril partner strats, activating nearly a third of the time (or over half the time with both copies). It’s not the best way of ensuring their safety, though.
- Damage Dodge is another inexpensive defensive boost if you’re not opting to Superguard everything to oblivion, and a fantastic tool for targeting specific HP amounts with Mario. Naturally, still it’s of no use against piercing attacks.
- Feeling Fine is far more useful on Mario than his partner, removing the need to worry about nearly all potent status effects (Freeze being the notable exception), and freeing you to go for Superguards on nearly anything. It’s only available very late in the game, but it’d be most particularly useful on late-game bosses anyway.
- Flower Finder‘s 1-3 guaranteed FP drops per battle are fantastic at maintaining high FP across multiple field battles.
- Heart Finder is useful for the same reason, and is unique (as opposed to Happy Heart / Lucky Start) in being able to restore HP to Mario and his partner at once. Being able to choose when and whether to pick up each individual drop also means being able to target specific HP values for Mario or specific partners, so you can keep partners in Danger or Peril as desired. Furthermore, it can uniquely (aside from items) bring 0-HP partners back to life in a Peril (or Danger) state.
- Item Hog is useful for the fairly substantial increased chance of held and random items dropping, but perhaps better for the ~5% chance of a Dried Shroom dropping from a battle with no enemy held items, allowing for resuscitating a 0-HP partner to Peril.
- Last Stand P is useful for targeting partner Peril, and more generally for allowing partners an additional attack or two after reaching Danger status. Unlike Paper Mario‘s Last Stand, it (and the Mario variant) takes effect last in damage calculation and rounds up, so it won’t outright prevent damage unless none would have been taken before it factors in.
- Mega Rush is obviously incredibly potent in dealing damage, but it’s relatively risky to attempt maintaining it through enemy attacking turns. It’s at its best if you can manipulate Mario’s HP and use it to finish out a boss battle.
- Lucky Day isn’t quite as cost-efficient as Pretty Lucky (and nowhere near as much as Close Call if in Danger), but without farming extra evasion badges it’s still a decent evasion boost. Where it obviously shines is in Pre-Hooktail Pit runs, substantially lowering the average damage taken on floors 91-99 and against Bonetail.
- Multibounce is useful for grounding multiple winged enemies in a single turn, or dealing modest damage to all enemies in a set for minimal cost (or more than modest, with sufficiently increased attack power). Also likely the go-to cheese badge for unambitious Danger Mario “strategists”.
- Quake Hammer, despite a none-too-flattering fixed damage and FP cost compared to Paper Mario‘s array of similar badges, is nonetheless especially effective against a set of high-DEF enemies, particularly if they’re flippable and/or immune to fire (Beetles, Bristles, Clefts, Chomps, Koopatrols). It can still be decently potent in general with sufficiently increased attack power, but there are likely better options.
- Sleepy Stomp is unparalleled for taking a single enemy out of commission for an extended period of time. It’s available very early in the game, and particularly indispensable for Pre-Hooktail Pit runs. Typically loses out to Clock Out for general utility later in the game.
These are generally incredibly potent at their best or very solid general choices.
- FP Drain is an incredibly underrated badge. For a single BP and at the cost of a single point of attack power, it effectively acts as a Flower Saver that works on any of Mario’s attacks that deal damage, even 0- or 1-FP moves, so long as you can foot that extra point in advance. The lost attack power is very easily recuperated in late-game, given the many cheap attack power-raising options that exist.
- Happy Flower is similar in appeal to Happy Heart, without the potential to screw up HP targeting if you’re planning to employ Danger / Peril strats. Again, Gradual Syrup blows its inflow out of the water if you can afford to carry one (or two, if you have both Mario and his partner both use one).
- Last Stand is great as a last gasp to survive an additional attack or two, similarly to Last Stand P, though again not nearly as potent as Paper Mario‘s equivalent.
- P-Up D-Down is the cheapest way to get extra attack power without cutting off strategic attacking options (Jump / Hammer moves or intentional missed Action Commands), at the expense of taking an additional point of damage from everything, including piercing attacks. Naturally, that downside can be mitigated with extra defensive setup, evasion, exploiting enemy AI, or Superguarding, or even be exploited to reach Danger/Peril earlier.
- Power Plus and Power Plus P are the most BP-hungry and blunt way to raise your attacking power, but are nonetheless effective and generally not too expensive to be worth considering.
- Power Rush P is doubtlessly useful, but is really the “poor man’s” Mega Rush P, as keeping partners in Danger is barely easier than keeping them in Peril for substantially lower gain. The extra damage on top of Mega Rush P can be useful in theory, but is often unnecessary, especially with the existence of non-badge sources of increased attack power.
- Pretty Lucky is a fairly useful badge for filler (particularly with two equipped), or in conjunction with stronger evasion badges. It often isn’t advantageous in cases where you need to deal damage to direct attackers with counterattacks or Zap Tap, as Sweet Treat should often be sufficient on its own to mitigate the lost health from failed Superguards if your partner Appeals.
- Quick Change‘s primary function is to preserve a partner’s status (be that Peril health, or Charge / other positive status effects) indefinitely by switching to another partner before the enemies’ attacking turns. Aside from that, there aren’t many compelling use cases for it, and it has a steep BP and Star Piece cost to boot. It’s not all that necessary for partner Peril strats in Pre-Hooktail runs either, unless you have extra restrictions (such as a speedrun or low-Mario health run).
The best of the best; unmatched in utility and/or viability.
- All or Nothing is a cheaper Power Plus with virtually no downside; you lose only the ability to strategically omit Action Commands (or the damage from the last, unsuccessful jump in a Power Bounce). Obviously it is not a good choice if you’re not solid on Mario’s Action Commands in general, but most of them are fairly straightforward and easy to land, even with Unsimplifiers equipped. Its only flaw is its only being obtainable terribly late in the game.
- Close Call is a cheap and effective safety net when Mario is in Danger, particularly when stacked in duplicate (~55.1% misses), or in duplicate with the other evasion badges (upward of 70% misses). Adding Last Stand(s) to the mix can allow near impenetrablility of Mario’s defenses in Danger, for a measly handful of BP. Both natural copies are available very early in the game, and they can be farmed (albeit not terribly effectively) basically at the start of the game as well, if you want to truly overkill your evasion.
- Fire Drive is nearly always a viable attacking option for non-aerial enemies, and is absolutely indispensable (daresay, the linchpin) in Pre-Hooktail Pit runs. In addition to doing massive damage early-game, it can inflict the burn status on pretty much anything that isn’t immune to fire attacks, dealing ancillary damage and completely confounding lingering Dark / Elite Wizzerds. Stacking both copies is virtually never a good idea, by comparison; the boost in attack power is negligible for the whopping 10 FP and 3 extra BP cost.
- Flower Saver is the single most generally useful badge in the game, for my money; it is available incredibly early in the game via Dazzle, and there is virtually no time (especially after obtaining Spin Jump) that bringing Mario’s 2-FP moves to 1-FP is not useful. The second badge can be useful as well, bringing Quake Hammer and Power Bounce to 1 FP and Fire Drive to a modest 3. Combined with FP Drain and/or Gradual Syrup(s), nearly all of Mario’s moveset, natural and badge alike, can become virtually free.
- Flower Saver P isn’t quite as mind-blowingly useful as the Mario variant, but it brings down the cost of several key moves (notably Power Shell, and all of Goombella’s and Yoshi’s moves) substantially, especially if worn in duplicate.
- Jumpman‘s extra point of power comes at the cost of his defense-piercing, harder-hitting, and multi-target hammer moveset, but given most Jump moves have at least 2 hits, it raises damage dealt by at least 2 points for a negligible BP cost. Star Powers and partner attacks can fill the void of multi-target and piercing attacks, and additional power-increasing badges (or Power Jump) fill the more-damaging niche of the Hammer reasonably well.
- Mega Rush P makes Pre-Hooktail Pit runs considerably less daunting (though it is by no means essential). Using it with Heart Finder works wonders at maintaining partner Peril across multiple field battles, whereas Quick Change often makes it near-impossible to lose the status within a single battle. In conjunction with Goombella’s Multibonk or most of Yoshi’s attacking moves, it is arguably the most broken badge in the game.
- P-Up D-Down P, in particular if stacked via Elite X-Naut farming, is essentially equivalent to having permanent Danger / Peril partner strats. Even a single copy paired with Power Plus(es) P turns partners into destructive powerhouses, at a relatively nominal cost to defense for an Ultra-Ranked partner.
- Power Bounce can, as expected, take advantage of Mario’s slightly wider array of attack-power raising options than partners to blast through pretty much any foe. It’s also (arguably more sportingly) useful for tackling annoying enemies in Pre-Hooktail Runs as soon as possible, often in conjunction (for high-HP enemies) or parallel (for multiple moderate-HP enemies) with Goombella’s Multibonk.
- Power Rush is a cheap and a safe option (compared to Mega Rush) to maintain raised damage output in repetitive field battles, as well as an easier and safer damage boost than Mega Rush to target from initially max HP in a boss battle. Obviously stacking multiple copies from the Pianta Parlor, and/or using it in conjunction with perma-5 HP Mario, makes it the most boringly broken badge in the game, but it doesn’t deserve all the stigma it gets for that if it’s used creatively.
With that, this is my complete Paper Mario: TTYD badge tier list as it currently stands, in a single image for brevity:
Feel free to discuss your opinions on the matter (and no doubt lambast my disservice to
Quick Change such-and-such badge) in the Glitz Pit Discord server or my own personal Discord server, Club Jdaster64; I’m generally around both frequently, and there’s plenty of Paper Mario series discussion to go around. If you’re interested in this sort of qualitative discussion of Paper Mario mechanics in addition to my usual technical fare, Kappy (organizer of the Glitz Pit and Paper Mario wizard) has a blog for this sort of stuff that you can check out here.
Of course, if you’d like my take specifically on more stuff like this, feel free to shout out suggestions for similar topics in the comments here, or on my Discord server. Might be worth pooling together some of the top challenge runners’ minds to form a “Paper Mario Back Room” badge tier list in the future, or something; who knows.