Rumors swirl that Mario is about to enter his most bizarre partnership yet: a Nintendo Switch role-playing game starring both Nintendo’s most recognizable character and Ubisoft’s less appealing Rabbids characters.
Over the past few months, Kotaku, Let’s Play Video Games’ Laura Kate Dale and others have dropped surprising reports about the possible game. Supposedly called Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, the Ubisoft and Nintendo collaboration is said to arrive sometime this fall. If these outlets’ unnamed source is correct, Kingdom Battle will feature Mario characters both teaming up with and impersonating the bug-eyed, perpetually shouting Rabbids.
This is the perfect example of a rumor that makes us do a double-take. Mario? Our Mario? Starring alongside characters both so unlike him and so much less revered? It’s hard to rationalize why Nintendo and Ubisoft would bring these two disparate universes together. Yet it’s important to remember that Mario has shared billing with other surprising series time and time again.
For whatever reason, most of Mario’s previous questionable crossovers have been in sports games. Perhaps that’s because the court, ring, diamond, slope — what have you — is the great equalizer, a place based purely on skill, not any series specifics.
Or maybe it’s because sports are just silly fun, and so are cameos from ... uh, Final Fantasy monsters.
In Mario Sports Mix and Mario Hoops 3-on-3, developer Square Enix (!) threw in a Cactuar and Moogle as playable characters. There are also mages and a ninja to round out that Final Fantasy team, and Sports Mix includes the limbless Slime from Dragon Quest.
Seeing these guys go up against Mario in a dunk contest is strange, but consider that Toad is a sentient mushroom that plays basketball. At that point, it’s a little less weird, if only a little.
Mario’s union with Dragon Quest continued in Fortune Street. The Mario Party-esque virtual board game traditionally features Square Enix mascots, but Mario and his pals dropped by for an even bigger party. This one’s odd for a couple of reasons: It came West, despite featuring a cast heavy on the obscure Dragon Quest heroes; it’s really similar to the much more internationally successful Mario Party franchise, so it’s as if Mario appeared as a favor to Square Enix.
Maybe that’s what happened, but it’s still a little odd playing party games against the stoic RPG fighters of Dragon Quest as the happy-go-lucky Mushroom Kingdom crew.
Stranger still are Mario’s cameos in two Western-produced sports games. Nintendo struck up a deal with EA Sports during the GameCube era to let its properties sync up. Mario, Peach and Luigi are playable in both NBA Street V3 and SSX on Tour, playing basketball and snowboarding alongside some more accurately proportioned human beings:
Here comes the crowning jewel of oddball crossovers, although it’s only really strange in context. Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog have competed against each other in Olympic events for several years now, but when the first Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games was announced in 2007, it was scandalous.
Mario and Sonic were sworn enemies in the 1990s. For them to share top-billing was unthinkable. For it to be under the peaceable roof of sports was almost an insult to fans of both parties.
Several iterations later, the pairing worked out. Of course it did — two beloved mascots and stars of some of the greatest games ever in a passable, fluffy sports game is actually an easy sell. We wouldn’t have said that in 2007, when we couldn’t fathom what it must look like to see Mario trying to outrun Sonic in a race.
We’re not sure if this makes us feel more or less comfortable with a possible Mario and Rabbids crossover ... but it does make one way less shocking.