I’m a huge fan of Paper Mario 64. Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door was ok but honestly other than maybe the writing I don’t get why that game is so beloved by fans. I think it’s pretty inferior to Paper Mario 64.

After The Thousand Year door however every Paper Mario game has been a disappointment. In every new game in that series that comes out they remove more of the RPG features and things that people loved from the originals.

Fans have been begging Nintendo to make a Paper Mario game like the original two but they just refuse to do that for some reason.

And this is where the indie scene comes in because an indie studio game has made the exact game that Nintendo refuses to make and it’s fantastic.

The game is called Bug Fables and is literally a Paper Mario game just minus the Mario characters and branding.

Let’s start out with the trailer for the game.


Bug Fables Metal Island Screenshot

It’s Just like Paper Mario

Despite the name this is literally a Paper Mario game. You’ll see the influence everywhere from the graphics, gameplay, world design, humor and animations.

The ground has the exact same pattern the ground in a Paper Mario game has, it has the same cooking system, pretty much the same animations and sound effects for when you get an item or win a battle, etc.

In this case this is a very good game since the only other games like this are Paper Mario 64 and The Thousand Year Door.

The way they avoid getting sued into oblivion by Nintendo is by having a whole unique world and cast of characters.

But basically if you’re a fan of the original Paper Mario games you’re absolutely going to love Bug Fables.

Bug Fables Battle Screenshot

The Story

The story takes place in a world called Bugaria where bugs are sentient and you have different bug kingdoms. You start off in the Ant Kingdom as a team of explorers featuring the main characters Vi the bee, Kaabu the beetle and Leif the moth.

The Ant Queen has hired different teams of explorers to try and find artifacts related to finding something called the Everlasting Sapling which is supposed to give eternal life.

Your main characters are fantastic, well written and have unique and fun personalities. Vi is headstrong and always cares about getting paid or rewarded. Kaabu is more of a rule follower and does things by the book and tries to do the right thing. Leif is quiet and has a mysterious path. Together these three characters have excellent chemistry and make a fantastic team for the different scenarios that play out throughout the story.

There are also tons of other recurring side characters such as leaders of the different bug kingdoms and other exploration teams. They’re also super well written and fun every time you encounter them.

Over all the story is fantastic. It’s got high stakes but at the same time doesn’t take itself too seriously and is full of light moments and humor.


Fight in the Forbidden Lands


If you’ve played a Paper Mario game before then you’ll know exactly what to expect gameplay-wise.

You explore 3D environments with your 2D characters, often times doing some light platforming and solving puzzles.

The battle system is exactly like the Paper Mario games. It’s turn-based and uses timed hits. Certain enemies are flying and can only be hit with specific attacks until you knock them to the ground. Other enemies are armored and need to be hit with certain attacks to flip them.

The major difference here though is instead of having Mario as a main character plus one side character you have three main characters.

Each turn each of your three main characters can attack or pass their turn to another character who gets a second turn but with a slightly lower attack power the second time.

This makes for some interesting strategy as you can swap characters around and attack in any order you want or multiple times with the same character.

Vi attacks with a beemerang and is the only one that can target flying enemies. Kaabu has the highest attack and defense and can flip enemies by attacking with his horn and Leif fights with ice magic that can freeze enemies or attack enemies that have burrowed into the ground.

There’s lots of strategy and the battle system is a ton of fun.

The game also has a medal system which is more or less the exact same thing as the badge system from the Paper Mario games. You have a certain number of medal points and you can equip medals with various bonuses for different amounts of MP.

There’s also an optional Hard Mode medal that you can equip for free which makes battles harder but they give you better rewards.

My only real complaint with the gameplay is how you unlock abilities that open up more of the world. These sort of abilities are common in games like this but every time you get one the character just suddenly remembers they can do that. For example Kaabu part way through the game just remembers that he can dig under the ground and from then on you can dig up items and tunnel under obstacles. There’s no reason why you couldn’t do that before. Vi likewise just suddenly learns she can fly and carry the party across gaps. And it’s the same for every single ability each character gets like this.

Instead they should have gotten some kind of magic item or had someone teach them the skill because having the character be suddenly remember they could do something right when the plot requires it seems weird and it happens several times throughout the game.


Medals menu

Spy Cards

Bug Fables has an absolutely fantastic card collecting minigame called Spy Cards.

In battle you have an ability called Spy which shows you the enemies HP and weaknesses but it also turns the enemy into a card that you can use in this game.

In the game you face off against your opponent and each turn try to cause as much damage to them as possible while also blocking as much damage as possible.

If you over power your opponents cards you deal 1 HP of damage to them. If you run out of 5 HP you lose.

Cards require a certain number of points to use and each turn you get one more point. Eventually you can use tons of cards at once but you only get to draw three a time so you have to be careful which ones you use.

In addition to causing damage or defending against damage cards also have unique abilities like summoning other cards, removing your opponent’s cards or causing other unexpected effects.

It takes a bit of getting used to but once you acquire a ton of cards from enemies and bosses and learn the strategies it’s a ton of fun.

My only real complaint here again is that there isn’t enough of this minigame. You play a bunch of it at the beginning and you have to seek out and challenge 4 card masters in order to get a pass to get to a special location where there’s a card tournament.

After you win the tournament there’s really no reason to keep playing the minigame though and you can only play against the 4 card masters and in the tournament.

I kind of wish you could challenge NPCs all over the world like with something like Gwent or Triple Triad because the card game is really that fun.

Collecting cards by spying on enemies is an interesting idea too.



The music of Bug Fables sounds exactly like it belongs in a Paper Mario game.

Here’s the main battle theme for example:

And then the jingle that plays when you win:

Here’s the main title theme song:

Here’s the theme song for the first field area outside of the first town:

This is the theme song for the desert town:

As you can hear, the music is great and would fit in perfectly in a mainline Paper Mario game.


Hunter's Den

Graphics/Art Direction

The graphics here are nothing amazing. The 3D environments are pretty simple but have a good art style.

The 2D character sprites and their animations are where the game really shines. You have all sorts of awesome bug characters from a fat bee baker to warrior ants to termite scientists. There’s a lot of creativity here and the artwork is very well done.

I played on PC and at 4k resolution and most of the time the game ran at 60fps no problem which isn’t surprising since the graphics aren’t super complicated.

There were however a few random places where the frame rate just dropped for a few seconds and I couldn’t figure out why. Even if I dropped the resolution way down those frame rate drops still happened in those same places so I don’t know what was up with that. But ultimately this isn’t the sort of game you need a perfect 60fps for anyways.


Golden Settlement


I absolutely loved my time with Bug Fables. I’ve been wanting to play a proper Paper Mario game for years and this perfectly scratched that itch.

I finished the game at about 35 hours and that included doing pretty much all the quests and side content up to the end of the game and then a little bit of the post game content. I enjoyed every moment of it and the game doesn’t over stay it’s welcome at all.

Bug Fables is available for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. Graphics don’t matter so much here so go out and get the game no matter what platform you have.

I really hope the developers are working on a sequel to this game. I do still think I personally like Paper Mario 64 a little bit better than Bug Fables but if the developers take everything they’ve learned from making this game and make a proper sequel I have no doubt that it would be the best Paper Mario game ever made.

Screenshots and images from the Bug Fables Steam page and Bug Fables Wiki used under Fair Use