A leaked piece of art showing Mario and friends hobnobbing with Ubisoft's Rabbids of Rayman fame has all but confirmed Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, the Nintendo/Ubisoft crossover you never knew you wanted because you never wanted it and would never ask for it in a billion million years. Neither Nintendo nor Ubisoft has confirmed the game, rumored to be a turn-based RPG, and probably won't until E3. But I can't stop thinking about it, which bugs me because it means whatever black magic was woven into that ridiculous artwork is working.
The prospect of Mario teaming up with the Rabbids is, in a word, bewildering. Some crossovers write themselves. Mario and Sonic were rivals for years, then Sega bowed out of the hardware business and the two mascots set aside their differences to compete in Olympic events and beat the stuffing out of each other in Smash Bros. A trio of Ninja Gaiden characters threw their hats into Dead or Alive's 3D ring because they're all ninjas under Namco's umbrella, so why not?
To be fair, some crossovers seemed outlandish only to produce some of the most memorable games of all time. Who would have thought that Square Enix's cadre of JRPG heroes would form unbreakable bonds with Donald Duck and Goofy? Mario and the Rabbids, though, seems way out of left field. Super Mario is a bonafide superstar, whereas the Rabbids are has-beens who had their 15 seconds of fame in minigame collections on the Wii. Crossovers work when the characters involved share a few traits in common but clash in other ways. Mario and his friends have worn lots of hats in the decades since Miyamoto spun them into existence, but the Rabbids were and still are unremarkable. They look like rabbits and run around screaming. That's pretty much it.
Nintendo is the Disney of video games. Their characters and worlds appeal to tens of millions of people. Those characters and worlds have collided and will continue to collide with other properties, and some what-if scenarios would work in ways that Mario and the Rabbids just don't. In that spirit, I've been thinking about Nintendo mashups I'd like to see, and moreover, ones on the same wavelength.
Mega Man X + Metroid
Capcom's Blue Bomber has been an honorary member of the Nintendo family since the 1980s, when his paper-rock-scissors platformers could only be played on the NES. With Mega Man X, Capcom stepped up its already rock-solid level design by crafting larger stages and stashing weapon and armor upgrades in cubbyholes. To uncover them, you had to stray far off the beaten path by climbing walls and making long jumps to areas you didn't know existed, and probably would have never found if not for Nintendo Power.
Nintendo offers just such a medley of action and exploration in its Metroid series. It's been dormant for too long, as has Mega Man. A Metroid/Mega Man crossover built on a foundation of 2D platforming and level design, with dozens of secrets and upgrades, could breathe new life into both franchises.
F-Zero + Burnout
The first time I played Burnout, I thought, "This is like F-Zero, but in a modern setting!" Then I thought, "Wreaking cars and watching them explode and flip end over end in slow motion is pretty awesome." Like Mega Man and Metroid, F-Zero and Backburner have been spinning their tires for years. A crossover game could feature tracks that play to the designs of both games and vehicles. You could trick out Burnout vehicles with F-Zero parts, and create balletic wipeouts with F-Zero's futuristic cars in Crash mode.
Super Mario + Chrono Trigger
Your first reaction to this idea might be as strident as my reaction to Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. The appeal here lies in Chrono Trigger's time travel mechanic. Super Mario RPG proved that Square Enix could take the Mushroom Kingdom and its inhabitants and deftly put them at the heart of an absorbing story and intricate battle system. Let the JRPG developer do the same here—only let players recruit iterations of Mario and his friends and foes from different Super Mario games, complete with authentic art styles for each character and items from their games.
How cool would it be to team up with Mario circa Super Mario World and add his Cape Feather to your arsenal before jumping ahead a couple of generations and pairing Chrono with Super Mario Galaxy's leading man to run up, down, and all around planets? Jumpman and his hammer could even make a cameo. The possibilities are staggering, and Square Enix can be trusted to tell a fun tale.
Super Mario + Rayman
I don't dislike Ubisoft or the Rayman property. I simply see no merit in the Rabbid characters. A Mario and Rayman team-up, however, writes itself. Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends redefined level design and raised the bar for artwork in 2D platformers. I'd go so far as to say that between New Super Mario Bros. U and Rayman Legends, both premiere platformers on Nintendo's Wii U, Rayman ate Mario's lunch.
Yet no platforming connoisseur can deny that for all its blandness, New Super Mario Bros. U was solid. A cross between the two properties standing on the shoulders of Nintendo's penchant for solid platforming and Ubisoft's knack for coming up with endlessly creative level gimmicks and flows could very well produce the perfect platformer.
The Legend of Zelda + Assassin's Creed
Sneer at Hyrule Warriors if you must. The rest of us will be having fun. Hyrule Warriors took a staple of classic Zelda games, Link's items, and let you spam them Dynasty Warriors-style without fear of running low at a pivotal moment during boss fights. The game worked because Link is ultimately a soldier. In more recent games such as Breath of the Wild and Skyward Sword, Princess Zelda worked behind the scenes to get the really important work done while Link hit things with his sword.
Enter Assassin's Creed, a series predicated on creeping around in the shadows to do the dirty work that the people in the spotlight either don't want to touch or have no idea is even happening. This mash-up would cast you not as Zelda, but as her alter ego, Sheik. The princess-turned-hitwoman could find herself in a future where she, along with one Creed's protagonists (or a new character), slips into virtual worlds to solve some mystery or learn some important fact.
Nearly every 3D Zelda game has dabbled with stealth sections, such as the Forsaken Fortress in Wind Waker or the Yiga Clan's hideout in Breath of the Wild. Those sections also put a cartoonish spin on violence that would make a Zelda/Assassin's Creed crossover more palatable for Nintendo's family-first focus.