Paper Mario 64 is my favorite video game of all time, and the badge system is a large reason for that. It's versatile, unique, and allows for much more customization than would normally be possible. It allows players to choose their own play-style, and prioritize what abilities they'd find most suitable for their palette.
Because of this, I don't think any badges in this game are bad at all, spare a few. They all benefit you in some way, and even Slow Go (which doesn't cost any BP to begin with) has a moment to shine in Tubba Blubba's castle. But because of 64's low badge point cap, you'll want to have the most bank for your buck.
Also, just a quick warning. This is gonna be a LONG post, as I'm going to elaborate in depth on why each badge is in the position that I placed it in.
But enough talk, this is my Badge Tier List/Guide for PM64. Have at you!
✪ God Tier ✪
These are the chosen ones that I almost never play the game without. All three badges that cost exactly 4 BP fit into this tier for me, of which are All or Nothing, Quick Change, and Zap Tap.
All or Nothing is basically a cheaper alternative to Power Plus assuming you can nail the action command frequently, which doesn't take much skill to achieve. Being cheap-ish on the BP and very easy to make usage of, there's not much else to be said here.
Quick Change, on the other hand, has to be the most broken badge in the game, at least in my opinion. For only 4 BP, you get to infinitely change partners with both Mario and your partner themselves as much as you want without wasting a single turn. Ever. The utility of this one in particular is absolutely insane, and I think if the developers added a small FP cost to using this, it would've been more balanced. But as it stands, it is my go-to badge as soon as I can procure it.
Zap Tap is the weakest of the God Tier, and arguably doesn't even belong here. However, for how early you can get this badge (costs a mere ten star pieces from Merlow), it is crazy effective throughout the entire adventure. It allows Mario to shock any enemy that makes physical contact with him, doing 1 HP of damage and cutting off their assault. This alone makes certain enemies a complete joke, allows you to steamroll through the Master fights, and even lets you jump on electric enemies (such as the Electro Blooper) for free. Plus, even one point of damage in Paper Mario isn't that bad with all things considered, especially when the enemy is taking damage every turn. Overall a must have, at least for my playthroughs of the game.
✪ High Tier ✪
This amazing yet still balanced tier consists of the following badges: Double Dip, Group Focus, I Spy, Quake Hammer/Power Quake, Power Bounce, Refund, and Speedy Spin.
Double Dip, costing only 1 BP and 3 FP, lets you use two items in the same turn as Mario. This can be incredibly useful, as items in this game are pretty great overall, not to mention how this badge triumphs over Triple Dip in almost every way. But I'll talk more on that later.
Group Focus is what it says on the tin can. It allows your partners to use the focus command, and for only 2 BP and not costing any FP, it's a damn good badge to have. It sadly doesn't stack with Deep Focus, but I still find it to be a helpful and captivating badge to utilize.
I Spy is useless if you're using an online guide, are unbelievably familiar with the game, or don't care about star pieces at all. However, for those who want to collect star pieces naturally and easily for Merlow's badge shop or something, then I cannot recommend this one enough. You obtain it very early on as well, overall a nifty piece of equipment for Mario to take advantage of.
Quake Hammer and Power Quake rock. Whenever you're not Power Bouncing large threats into smithereens, you're screen nuking No Man's Land with your hammer to great effect, all while on the cheap to boot! QH only costs 1 BP and 2 FP for 2 points of damage, while PQ costs an appropriate 2 BP and 4 FP for 4 points of damage. I'll talk later on why Mega Quake didn't make the cut for high tier, but for now let's move on.
Power Bounce has the potential to be the single most powerful badge in the entire game. Basically, you keep on bouncing onto the enemy's skull until there's nothing left of them...As long as you can nail the action command, that is. This move unfortunately has a pretty heavy cap on some enemies and boss fights though, so use this one with care. On the bright side of things, the Dodge Master badge does increase the cap of Power Bounce, so if you find yourself abusing PB, then be sure to get your hands on DM as well.
Refund and Speedy Spin are just awesome. While Refund gives you back a good chunk of coins whenever you use an item, Speedy Spin puts Mario's spin dash move in the over-world on steroids, allowing him to blitz through areas in an unfathomable time. They're not that amazing on paper, but the utility offered by them are second to none, especially regarding Speedy Spin. You can slap on Double Dip with Refund as well to create a combo of item destruction that gives you a ton of money back to boot. Every way the Sunday, I simply love these two.
This great set of badges consists of the following: Close Call, Damage Dodge, Defend Plus, Dodge Master, Happy Heart/Flower, Ice Power, Jump Charge, Last Stand, Pay-Off, Power Plus, Power Rush, and Spike Shield.
Close Call is a great starting badge, costing only 1 BP and giving Mario a 33% chance to dodge any enemy attacks while in the Danger state. Simple, yet effective and cheap.
Damage Dodge is great as well, allowing Mario to take one point less of damage per badge so long as you nail the action command against enemy attacks. It's not too far up there because having more than one starts taking a toll on your BP, and conversely, if you only have one active, then the effect isn't that strong anyway. Still though, it's versatility and usefulness is indisputable.
Power Plus and Defend Plus, despite both costing a whopping 6 BP, are pretty useful if you want to have an easy attack/defense boost without any repercussions or chance of fail. A tad overrated in my opinion, but I still think they're both great on their own.
Dodge Master, on top of increasing the cap of Power Bounce and possibly (cannot confirm) making some of the offensive action commands easier, allows Mario more leeway and time when blocking enemy attacks. Costing a mere 2 BP, this is one of the best badges in the tier, in my opinion. Another simple, yet effective badge.
Happy Heart and Happy Flower increase Mario's health and flower points by one respectively at the end of every turn. They are quite useful considering they're only 3 BP each, though the effect isn't going to change the world anytime soon. Even just one turn in this game comprises of Mario, Mario's partner, and then the enemy taking turns, so although it's nothing more than a slight passive boost, it can still prove worthy of equipping.
Ice Power is simultaneously crazy good, and crazy situational. On top of allowing Mario to jump on fire-type enemies, it increases his damage against them by 2 hit-points. A must have for Chapter 5 and Star Road in particular.
Jump Charge has its moments for sure. Costing a measly 1 BP and 2 FP, this increases the power of Mario's jump by 2. Since Mario's jump hits twice, you're getting a much better damage boost than the likes of the Smash Charge badges. More on why S. Jump Charge isn't in this tier later.
Last Stand is another badge that activates when Mario is in the Danger state, halving the damage he takes so long as his HP is sitting at or below 5. Not the most useful to me, since you generally want to heal out of the Danger state, but I'm not going to deny that most of, if not all of the Danger badges in this game kick some serious ass at times.
Pay-Off is one I've recently grown to appreciate. Depending on how much damage that Mario takes in a battle, he gains the exact number of coins that he took in damage. This is infinitely better than Money Money simply because of how cheap the badge is, 2 BP compared to MM's 7 BP.
Power Rush is another staple of the Danger-state exclusive badges, increasing Mario's attack power by 2 in the process whenever he's below 6 HP. I'm not sure if the Danger-state badges work in Peril mode, when Mario's at exactly 1 HP, but either way, Power Rush is very useful indeed.
Last up is Spike Shield. This simply allows Mario to jump on spiked enemies, which is more useful than you'd think. There's actually quite a few spiked enemies in this game, all of which are dangerous without this badge. SS is a little above situationally useful for me, and is a great pick for any player who wants to counter what is otherwise a big weakness of Mario.
This decent set of badges consists of the following: D-Down Jump/Pound, Deep Focus, Dizzy Attack, Dizzy/Shrink/Sleep Stomp, Feeling Fine, Fire Shield, Heart/Flower Finder, Flower Saver, HP/FP Plus, Hammer Throw, Lucky Day, Power/Mega Jump/Smash, Mega Rush, Money Money, Peekaboo, Pretty Lucky, and S. Jump Charge.
D-Down Jump and Pound are your run of the mill jumping and hammer attacks, just ones that completely negate your opponent's defense stat in the process. Very simple, and moderately useful considering how you can get these both fairly early on.
Deep Focus I'm not a huge fan of since partners aren't affected by it, but it almost doubles the effect of Focus for Mario, and keep in mind you can get more than one of these. And for only ONE BP per badge, this one is certainly more than meets the eye.
Dizzy Attack dizzies the enemy that you spin into in the over-world. One thing I didn't know before was how you can actually stack this with the Spin Attack and Speedy Spin badges, which makes this one even better. You also gain this badge quite a bit earlier than Speedy Spin, for reference. All around a pretty underrated badge.
Dizzy, Shrink, and Sleep stomp all do exactly what they say on the tin. The only confusing one is Shrink, which lowers an enemy's attack by 2. All of the Stomp badges have a certain percentage depending on the enemy to afflict the tin's status condition, which can range from very useful to barely at all in comparison to other badges. Still though, they have their moments.
Feeling Fine gives Mario a complete immunity to status conditions. If you play well, you shouldn't be affected by negative status conditions very often, not to mention how not many enemies give them out in the first place. Still though, 3 BP isn't that bad, and the effect itself is quite nice regardless. Your mileage may vary with this one.
Fire Shield decreases the damage Mario takes from fire-type attacks by one, and allows him to jump on said enemies. Not quite as useful as Ice Power, and you don't procure the badge as early as IP either, but combined with both simultaneously, you'll have a fire-destroying Mario set that will curbstomp both Chapter 5 and Star Road alike.
Heart and Flower Finder are...Alright, I suppose. If you're approaching the late game and are sustaining massive damage from enemy encounters, then these badges could be your godsend. Otherwise, I usually don't bother. But that doesn't mean these aren't useful, especially considering just how early on you can obtain these.
Flower Saver would be one hell of a sick badge if it was just cheaper and more accessible. This sucker costs 25 Star Pieces and 6 BP, and what do you get? All special moves from Mario and his partner cost one FP less. It still surprisingly has its moments here and there, but don't get too excited for this one.
HP and FP Plus are the very definition of an early game badge. They're both amazing early on and really make up for Mario's low natural stats if you decide to skyrocket your Badge Point cap before upgrading Health and Flower Points, but late game? They're both almost totally worthless and offer little to Mario but a waste of 3 BP per badge. Take advantage of them for all that they're worth in the early game so you can increase your BP total, then drop them in favor of other badges as your Health and FP stats improve via level-ups. At least that's how I like to go about it, but I digress.
Hammer Throw is pretty situational. For 2 FP and BP alike, you can throw a hammer at enemy single enemy on-screen. It's certainly nice to have on hand, but you won't be using it too often, even in the early game.
Lucky Day gives Mario a 25% dodge chance! That's about it, and it's pretty effective, despite costing a crazy 7 BP for what's only an alright passive ability. Certainly a better badge than HP Drain, at least in my opinion, but again, I must digress.
Power Jump, Power Smash, Mega Jump, and Mega Smash are all what they imply on the tin. They do more damage, aaaaand that's about it. Not very useful, quite outclassed most of the time, and the Mega's are really cost-inefficient, but Power Jump in particular has some early game moments of glory. But that's the only one of the four living in the hall of fame...For the first chapter or so, at least.
Mega Rush increases Mario's damage output by 4, but only when he's in the Peril condition, sitting at exactly 1 HP. Broken and god-like for speedruns, and way too unsafe nearly everywhere else. If you ever find yourself using this badge to good effect, then consider yourself a total badass.
Money Money doubles the amount of coins you receive after winning a normal enemy battle, and would be great if it didn't cost you 7 BP and 20 Star Pieces to get your hands on. In addition, I find playing the game without it perfectly fine, especially if you equip Pay-Off while doing so. Far from a bad badge, but it takes a hit on your resources for only a moderately beneficial effect.
Peekaboo is a perfect example of mileage varying depending on who you ask. If you 100% Tattle on absolutely everything like I do, then this badge is completely worthless. If you're extremely familiar with enemy HP in this game, then this badge is totally worthless. If you don't even care about viewing the opponent's health, then this badge is worthless to the max. However, 3 BP isn't too bad a cost for allowing a player to see every enemy's health instantly without having to Tattle or remember from pure memory, and I can't pretend that some people don't love this badge. Even I'll admit it's extremely convenient for not that high a cost, so overall, quite an alright pick.
Pretty Lucky gives Mario a 10% dodge chance! For only 3 BP, it's not too shabby. Still better than HP Drain, and arguably better than Lucky Day for the lower BP cost. You can even stack this with Close Call and Lucky Day in order to become a mean, obscene, dodging machine. I hear Lackilester's Cloud Nine cancels these badges out though, so if you're going to use that, then keep this information in mind.
Finally, we have S. Jump Charge. This would be much higher up if it wasn't so cost-inefficient, not to mention you only procure this badge at the tail-end of Chapter 6, right before boss fight Huff N. Puff. For 2 BP and for some reason 4 FP, you can increase your next jump attack's power by 3. The problem is, Jump Charge is infinitely more cost-efficient, giving you +2 jumping power for only 1 FP and BP. Useful for speedruns and highly impatient people, I suppose, but not much else.
This tier is for the badges that, while still beneficial, become either purely outclassed by other, more practical choices, or aren't that great to begin with. Some of these can still kick ass, on the contrary, but I find them all to have gotten the shorter end of the stick.
This okay set of badges consists of the following: Chill Out, First Attack, HP Drain, Mega Quake, Multibounce, P-Up/D-Down and P-Down/D-Up, Smash Charge & S. Smash Charge, Slow Go, Spin Attack, Spin Smash, and Triple Dip.
Chill Out is...Okay, I guess? 2 BP for a complete resistance to enemies landing first strikes on Mario isn't a terrible passive ability, I must say, but why bother when there's clearly more effective badges out there? Especially in this game when your max BP is only 30, you'll really have to figure out what your idea of a perfect Mario is. And whatever that idea may be, it most likely doesn't include Chill Out.
First Attack makes it so that if Mario lands the initial strike on an enemy in the over-world that no longer gives out Star Points (basically this game's experience system), then the opponent will immediately dissipate with no battle taking place. Considering how early on you can get this badge, on top of costing a mere 1 BP, it's actually pretty alright...Better than Bump Attack, at least, but we'll get to that atrocity later.
HP Drain is purely preference based. I strongly dislike it because it costs 15 Star Pieces and 3 valuable BP just to decrease Mario's attack power by 1 so that he gains another single hit point per turn, but if you're really stressed for health and have no other options, then it can be worth a grab. There are probably some crafty ways to make use of this badge, but I haven't found any myself.
This is probably going to be my most controversial placing, but here me out. Mega Quake deals 6 damage to all enemies on screen. Sounds awesome, right!? Well, costing 3 BP and (for some reason) 7 FP, it's not only cost-inefficient, but on top of being available only after Chapter 5, it gets totally outclassed by other means of attack. Bombette's Power Bomb is fundamentally the same thing, just 1 FP cheaper and not hitting enemies on the ceiling, which rarely ever happens to begin with. Star Storm only costs 2 Star Power bars to unleash a full-on screen nuke that deals 7 damage, with the offensive star item being the exact same thing (albeit 1 hit point weaker), and to top it all off, you gain access to all of the above eons earlier than the Mega Quake. By no means a bad badge, I just think there's much better options that late into the game.
Multibounce allows Mario to jump once on every enemy on screen. Only really useful if there's more than two enemies in the battle, and even then, it gets totally outclassed by the Quake badges as soon as you obtain them. Some people really seem to like this one, but I find it one of the least useful in the game.
A part of me is actually quite fond of the P-Up/D-Down and P-Down/D-Up badges, as you can find many crafty ways to place them into a Mario set. And for 2 BP, the price to pay is rather minimal. The problem? Even 2 BP is stretching it for the negligible effect that these two badges provide, and considering how you can only grab these by no earlier than the midpoint of Chapter SEVEN, it's easy to see why nobody cares for these. Not horrible, but when all is said and done, there are always better options than these two.
The Smash Charges just aren't useful at all. Maybe if you're using the good Quake badges, but since the hammer only hits enemies once, it doesn't quite get the attack boost that the Jumping attacks do.
Slow Go is arguably useful in Tubba Blubba's chapter, but absolutely nowhere else. Hell, I don't even use it in Chapter 3, because not only do I enjoy fighting every enemy possible, but it's not that hard to walk in PM64 without accidentally running. Plus, not having this badge on allows me to go from slow to fast on a dime, so...Not that great.
Spin Attack is similar to First Attack, just utilized with Mario's spin dash and costing an extra 2 BP. I prefer FA because of the cheaper cost, but this one's not atrocious, per say. I also like the animation of this one.
Spin Smash allows Mario, for 1 BP and 2 FP, to throw his hammer at an enemy, consequently hitting the opponent behind the one you aimed at in the process. The big problem with this one is that you can only procure it after Chapter 3, which is FAR too late in the game to get any semblance of usefulness out of this badge.
I'm gonna say it here, and never again. I personally think that Triple Dip sucks, and is completely outmatched by Double Dip. For starters, you're never gonna need to use three items in a single turn, unless you're a special player that primarily fights with items or something. Secondly, this badge is 3 BP and 6 FP, while Double Dip was only 1 BP and 3 FP. Meaning, the latter is far more cost-efficient. Lastly, you gain this one in the Crystal Palace, which is all the damn way in Chapter 7. Double Dip you can buy right after Chapter 2, for reference. I strongly dislike this one overall, though it certainly has uses for other players.
Runaway Pay Tier :(
This badge just sucks. For 2 BP, you can run away from a battle while still keeping the star/experience points that you've already received from defeating the enemies that you have. Technically a benefit, but never really used by myself or anyone else...Ever.
Bump Attack Tier :'(
This is the worst badge in the entire game, hands down. For FIVE BP, you can walk into a weak enemy that no longer offers star/experience points, and watch them die instantly. Also technically a benefit, but...Why? Why would you even bother?
Attack Sound FX Tier
Feel free to make your own, because I'm exhausted right now.
And that was my complete Paper Mario 64 Badge Tier List/Guide! Hope I made you think, and for anyone who actually read this all the way through, I salute you. At first this was going to be a brief and simple list of my favorite badges, but it quickly became a damn FAQ in and of itself, based slightly more off of objective usefulness rather than what I myself enjoyed.
See ya'll later! Apologies for the overkill length though. I was 100% writing this as I went along...
Edit #1: Quick grammatical fix.
Edit #2: Also, my bad! You can have multiple Spin Dash badges together, so something like Dizzy Attack + Speedy Spin would totally work.
Edit #3: Additionally, HP Drain doesn't totally suck, since a Jump attack would technically count as two attack turns, thus you'd gain 2 HP from it. Though you'd better at least have the Super Boots if that's the strategy you're going for.