Be honest… Who saw this coming? Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is actually an excellent game. It’s also the crossover that no-one knew they needed until it was in our hands, and on our Switch’s. Credit to Nintendo for allowing their prized mascot and his friends to be used in Ubisoft’s turn-based strategy mash-up. It’s clear that the two companies worked together to develop to the game, and the usual high-quality Nintendo gloss is evident in the wonderful attention to detail.
From being scoffed at when the first reveal of the game was leaked, Kingdom Battle has surprised and delighted much of the gaming industry. A gun-wielding, non-jumping Mario in a combat based strategy game? Now that we’ve played it, it doesn’t seem like such a strange concept anymore. It’s hard to remember a game that has performed such a U-turn in public perception. But should we really be that surprised?
Afterall, Nintendo has been shoehorning Mario & Co. into a variety of game-genres ever since his first appearance in Donkey Kong, 1981. Mario Golf, Mario Party, Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix, Super Mario Strikers, and Mario’s Time Machine are just a few of the titles that have featured Mario in wildly differently scenarios. I, myself, remember playing educational games like Mario is Missing way back in the early 90’s, and not thinking anything strange of the fact that a platforming plumber was attempting to teach me things.
So, considering the critical and commercial success of Kingdom Battle (the game only narrowly missed out on the No.1 spot in the UK sales charts), what next for Mario? Below are 6 unconventional video-game genres that could be adapted for the world’s most famous gaming icon.
Mario + …Overwatch?
Colourful cartoonish characters like Mario and Luigi combined with the Mushroom Kingdom’s bright and vibrant art style would lend itself nicely to a first-person hero shooter in the same vein as Overwatch. Small team matches in enclosed levels, based in the Mario-verse would be frantic and fun, and building a roster of characters would not be so hard for Nintendo.
They could even include many of the characters usually found in the Super Smash Bros. series. Each character would be unique, and designed to be accessible for casual gamers, but with layers of complexity underneath for the more hardcore. I’m already picturing the ultimates for each character- Mario’s Fireball, Bowser’s stomp, Luigi’s… death stare? I’m sure Nintendo would do a brilliant job if this were to become a reality.
Mario + …Sim City?
I’m surprised this has not happened already. I have a soft spot for City Builders, and would love the chance to design the Mushroom Kingdom, in the style of a Sim City game. The variety of buildings could take inspiration from the Mario series as a whole; Toad Houses, Bower’s Castle, Princess Peach’s Palace, Luigi Mansions… I’ve never gotten into the Animal Crossing series, primarily because I have no attachment to the characters. A City Builder sim that I can carry round on my Switch would no doubt be addictive if done correctly.
Mario + …Command & Conquer?
Now we have proof that a turn-based-strategy game can work perfectly well with a cast of Mario and pals, why not take the next step up to a real-time-strategy game? The Mushroom Kingdom could act as the location of large scale battles between the forces of good and evil. Think tactical battles on the scale of Red Alert, where you would control base units of Toads on one side, and Goombas on the other. Of course, Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, and the Koopas would be Hero units, to be called upon to turn the tide of the battle with unique abilities.
Mario + …Rogue Legacy?
Although platforming can not be described as a new genre for the Mario series, a rogue-like game for the character who regularly invades castles and those flying pirate ships seems like a great fit. This would return to the 2D platforming that Nintendo does better than anyone else, but instead of formulaic designed levels, the dungeons would be randomly generated, like in Rogue Legacy. Each time Mario dies, you are thrown back to the beginning of the game, and have to learn from your mistakes, plus level up your character with coins collected to progress. Also, power-ups would be in scarce supply, leaving you to carefully manage your resources to get to that next save point. Running out of lives in the Mario Bros. series has rarely been an issue, so this new take on the genre would add up to some high-stakes, precision-platforming fun.
Mario + …Dungeon Keeper?
Bullfrog’s strategy builder Dungeon Keeper is one of my all time favourite games… It was just so refreshing at the time to be playing the bad guys in a video-game, especially back in 1997. So I can’t help but imagine if Nintendo were to make their own version. Of course, you would be playing as Bowser, designing fiendish castle-dungeons, raising an army of Dry Bones, Bob-ombs, and Chain Chomps, and setting traps of Thwomps and Pirhana Plants to lie in wait for Mario and his friends to encounter… The charm and quality polish Nintendo could put on a game like this would make it very worthwhile. (Sadly, I think they may not like the idea of slapping Goombas around though).
Mario + …Hearthstone?
The fact that Nintendo have such a rich back-catalogue of gaming characters is something that I think needs to be taken advantage of more often. Smash Bros. is really the only time we see this incredible roster interact with each other. Why not develop a Hearthstone-esque collectible card game to showcase this history, which is full of gaming icons? It could breathe life into series that younger generations are not familiar with, and gauge interest in bringing some of these franchises and characters back. Just like with Plants vs Zombies: Heroes, the game could lean in on the cartoonish, fun nature of card-battling, and try to replicate the addictive nature of opening new packs in Hearthstone. I can imagine an amiibo tie-in that gains the player new packs too. Add this to the portability of the Switch, and I could really see this being successful.
One of the great things about Nintendo is that they are unafraid to take risks; this is especially true with the evolution of their console hardware. After the disappointment of Wii U, the company appears to have a hit in the Switch, and this hopefully means they will be able to concentrate on making great games. While I wouldn’t expect any of the above suggestions to be taken too seriously, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is a fantastic glimpse of what kind of experimental games, and 3rd party collaborations we can hope for in the future!