Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64 and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for GameCube are two games from the Paper Mario series that I will cherish forever. When Super Paper Mario released on the Wii, I was a little disheartened when the developers removed the adorable character partners and replaced them with Paper Princess Peach, Bowser and Luigi, and focused more on platforming. However, it wasn’t until Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the 3DS where I knew the RPG series I grew to love would never be the same.
Why the Departure?
It is important to note that the Mario & Luigi RPG series by AlphaDream and the Paper Mario RPG series by Intelligent Systems, are similar in some ways although the latter was less action-oriented, and more strategy-based and story-focused. Where Paper Mario: Sticker Star changes compared to its previous title is due to the fact that Mr. Miyamoto didn’t find it necessary for a Mario game to have a story and wanted to stick to established characters.
At E3 2016, an interview with Risa Tabata, a developer behind Paper Mario: Color Splash, explained why they veered off from the classic Paper Mario series with their most recent title. In short, they felt that because there was already an RPG series, Mario & Luigi, they didn’t feel the need to make another concurrent RPG series. For some reason they only kept the “paper” art-style but changed everything else. This didn’t make sense to me at all because both series are vastly different, in my opinion.
Furthermore, now that AlphaDream has recently shut down and declared bankruptcy, perhaps we can return to the two earlier Paper Mario games’ formula? If you can’t wait that long and need to fill the void that the series has left, check out my list below of games inspired by the Paper Mario RPG series!
Follow Vi, Kabbu, and Leif as they uncover the secrets of the Land of Bugaria! Explore and combine your team’s abilities to solve puzzles, defeat powerful enemies and find ancient treasures! With turn-based action, unique companions, and cheeky dialog, this game resembles the most to the old Paper Mario series.
It’s developed by Moonsprout Games and published by DANGEN Entertainment, and you can already purchase the game for under $30 on Steam, itch.io, and Humble Bundle. Bug Fables will also be releasing on the Nintendo Switch and PS4 later this year.
The Heroland theme park offers guests an authentic RPG-style adventure for a price, but when a scruffy young park guide and his guests uncover ulterior motives by the organizers, legends become reality, and guests must take the fate of the park (and the world!) into their own hands. The developers, FURYU Corporation, may not have said they were inspired by Paper Mario but I’m certainly getting that vibe from the colorful cast to the 2D art-style.
There is a lot of dungeoning in this game but it also features 20 characters to guide and befriend, customization of weapons, and more! Published by the same company that gave us Story of Seasons and Rune Factory (XSEED Games, Marvelous USA), Heroland is already playable on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Steam.
This “paper RPG” is still in early development (plan of Q1 2021) the solo developer has released a short demo for PC on itch.io here that focuses on platforming and exploration. You’ll be going on an adventure to “find all the fruit and become very happy!”
There’s another demo in the works which will include the following: most game mechanics including battles, leveling up, item collecting, more in depth NPC interactions, more thought out puzzles, a short spin off story, polished platforming, and mini games!
Loaf is a quirky turn-based (and timed button pressing) RPG where you play as a charming main character of the same name, a bread-boy made of flour. Team up with a colorful cast of characters in order to save the land from ancient beings. It’s currently in early development by WildArts but I’ll be sure to update everyone with more information.
Here Comes Niko
Here Comes Niko is a relaxing adventure game in development from indie studio Frog Vibes. Meet the animal islanders that need your help to complete tasks via multiple activities. It definitely has that “paper” art-style, and a super cute summery soundtrack. The two developers plan on releasing the game on PC and possibly the Switch, although there is not set date.
A Frog’s Tale
Solo developer, AJ Norman, has created a “mesh between traditional 2D Zelda games and the Mario RPG series (Paper Mario, Mario & Luigi)”. The game is a top-down pixel art-style, and focuses on exploration and puzzle solving. Enemy encounters are turn-based with a unique twist to the combat system involving action commands synced to the rhythm of the music. The game is still in early development but you can help fund it via GoFundMe here.
I’d like to hear from you and what you think about the Paper Mario series and where you’d like it to go moving forward!