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Soapbox: Paper Mario’s Ms. Mowz Taught Me How To Appreciate (And Steal) The Little Things

Ms. Mowz
Image: Nintendo Life

Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they’ve been chewing over. Today, Kate discusses one of Mario’s criminal — and criminally underrated — pals…

Sometimes I suspect that, in another life before this one, I was a thief. In this life, I’m a relatively boring, mostly law-abiding person – albeit one who’s occasionally tempted to ‘accidentally’ put in expensive produce as something cheaper when I’m at the self-checkout, AKA God’s little test – but when a game gives me the chance to be light-fingered, I go all in.

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It’s not entirely my fault. Skyrim is simply a stealing simulator with a story as far as I’m concerned. Dragon’s Dogma and The Witcher 3 are both full of people who leave their valuables unguarded in big, enticing chests all the time, almost like they want me to take it. And if people didn’t want me to nick their stuff in Baldur’s Gate 3, they shouldn’t leave it lying around on the ground. It’s a victimless crime! NPCs aren’t real, and they don’t have feelings, or any need for a big ol’ sack of gold, anyway. Besides, my real life is full of complicated, difficult moral choices, so when I play games, I get to be a pilfering git, repercussion-free.

Most games that let you steal are RPGs – the epic fantasy games that allow you to be whoever you want to be, dirty thief included. But there are elements of thievery in other games, too, like Final Fantasy’s Steal move and Pokemon’s Thief move, which rob the opponent of their held item. You might think that this low-stakes, one-item-at-a-time kind of thievery isn’t as thrilling as regular, taking-stuff-off-the-shelves or pickpocketing stealing, but here’s the thing: It absolutely is. Normal stealing is exciting because you’re getting stuff for free. Move-based stealing is exciting because you have no idea what you’re going to get. It could be a potion; it could be a rare late-game item; it could be money. Stealing! Yeah!

Ms. Mowz
Image: Nintendo Life

Now, there isn’t a lot of morally dubious behaviour in a Mario game, in general. Mario and his pals are surprisingly well-behaved for a game where the closest thing to police is a cohort of very stupid mushrooms. But in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, we get to see a much shadier side of the Mushroom Kingdom in Rogueport, where the seediest of seedy people hang out. It’s incredibly dark for a Mario game. There’s a gallows! There’s gang violence! There’s a mafia! And… there’s Ms. Mowz.

She’s a hit of hot sauce on Mario’s baked potato, and I don’t mean that as innuendo.

You first meet Ms. Mowz on your mission to find the dragon Hooktail and save the town of Petalburg. She’s the one who gives you the hint on how to defeat him, by finding a certain badge within the castle, and she even gives Mario a little smooch on the cheek before escaping out the window. Scandalous! You meet the masked mouse a couple more times throughout the game, crossing paths with her as she seeks elusive and valuable badges, but it’s not until you agree to help her out – an entirely optional and easily missable side-quest – that you befriend her for good.

And once you have befriended her, she’s one of the best companions in the game (in my opinion), thanks to two of her unique abilities. The first is being able to sniff out secrets, like Star Pieces and coins, which you’ll be thankful for in the late game when you need them for upgrades. The second, as you might have already guessed, is thievery.

Ms. Mowz
Image: Nintendo Life

Ms. Mowz’s Kiss Thief move can steal money, items, and even badges from an unsuspecting victim, both adding to Mario’s own inventory and making sure that the enemy can’t use whatever they were holding. And I know, tactically, Ms. Mowz as a companion is… fine. She can’t hold a candle to Bobbery’s explosions, Vivian’s Veil, and Yoshi’s… everything, because Mowz’s damage moves are not very good. Even the stealing isn’t great, because most of the time all you’re going to get is a single coin.

But I’m not in it for the gains! I’m not in it for the power! I’m a Ms. Mowz stan because I just love the thrill of larceny.

Paper Mario is a game that lets you mix things up in a big way. You can change your badge loadout, you can change your companions, and you can make bad tactical decisions if you want to, especially if those bad tactical decisions are fun. I like to equip the Luigi outfit and the Attack FX badges, even if they do nothing. I like to use attacks that do lots of damage instead of being good at the game and using the more subtle moves. And I like to have Ms. Mowz with me. She’s cute, she’s flirty, and she gets me free stuff. I mean, forget Peach – Ms. Mowz is the girlfriend Mario really deserves.

That’s the other thing that’s so wonderful about Ms. Mowz, actually – the uniqueness of being a total coquette in a game series that’s usually quite chaste. She’s unafraid to call him things like a “handsome cheese-hunk” (ew), to wink at him, and to give him more kisses than Peach has in the entire history of Mario games. She’s a hit of hot sauce on Mario’s baked potato, and I don’t mean that as innuendo. Ms. Mowz is emblematic of the weird, wonderful, and slightly daring stuff that Thousand-Year Door is known for. She’s exactly the kind of spice the series needs, and I love her.

Ms. Mowz
Image: Nintendo Life

So, yes, Ms. Mowz isn’t a powerhouse of strategy and combat power. Among all of Mario’s companions, she often ranks the lowest for that very reason. But I love stealing. And I love Ms. Mowz. Maybe the best companions aren’t always the ones that maximise our damage output, but the ones that offer the most joy within our experience of the game. This is a lesson I encourage you all to take with you in other games, too – put down the min-max guides, and stop and smell the roses every once in a while. Sometimes those roses will teach you how to pick pockets.

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