When rumors of a Mario and Rabbids crossover emerged in the early months of the Nintendo Switch, there was a palpable collective groan. Why? Why fuse one of the most iconic faces of gaming with silly, juvenile Rabbids?
Then came the leaks, then the trailers, then a full-on unveiling. Gamers were floored, and a bit confused. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle actually looked, well, decent. More than decent, some might even say. Fast forward to now: Critics are beginning to publish their reviews for what's perhaps the best Mario spinoff game in years.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: What The Critics Are Saying
Kotaku says, "Mario + Rabbids is way better than it has any right to be." The game is like a fusion of XCOM and strategy elements. It has Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom gang in it plus oddball Rabbids. How can that chaotic concept work? As it turns out, there is beauty in chaos.
"Mario + Rabbids combines humor with hardcore strategy," which makes the game different than other turn-based tactic titles the likes of Advance Wars and Fire Emblem, according to Kotaku. IGN says the same thing, calling out its fusion of charm and surprising difficulty:
"[I]ts absurdist charm works against the odds and it's far more difficult and meatier than you probably think."
Pocket Gamer thinks whether it's figuring out tactics, watching choreographed moves, or exploring the Mushroom Kingdom, "everything is an absolute joy here."
Perhaps like many whose brows furrowed at the thought of a Mario and Rabbids crossover and were later surprised about it being actually good, Pocket Gamer is glad this game exists.
"None of us could possibly have anticipated how successful a marriage between Mario and the Rabbids could have been, but I'm genuinely glad it's a thing."
The common theme that arose from the complaints about the game when it was first teased was the addition of Rabbids. Some players were agitated that these silly bunnies were to rub elbows and shoulders — and paws? — with gaming's most beloved crew. Turns out, it's not really that bad.
"Mario + Rabbids is genuinely fun and the Rabbids are not nearly as annoying as I thought they'd be. They actually provide some welcome comic relief and they blend together nicely with the Mario universe," says The Next Web.
"The very idea of allowing the banal, annoying humor that defined Ubisoft's screaming mascots into the Mushroom Kingdom just felt wrong to me," says Engadget in reference to initially learning about the idea of a crossover. "When I resigned myself to my fate and actually played the game, however, almost everything I'd grown to dislike about the Rabbids simply wasn't there — or rather, what was there had been tempered by the Mushroom Kingdom in a way that brought Ubisoft's sense of humor in balance with the world of Nintendo."
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Verdict
Overall, critics are overwhelmingly pleased that the game didn't turn out to be a failed attempt to bring two franchises together. But even if one subtracts the element of "does combining Mario and Rabbids in the same universe suck?" from the equation, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle remains a great game in itself. It's full of charm, style, humor, and meticulous attention to detail.
"Mario + Rabbids is tremendously fun, and a triumph for Ubisoft," says Wired. "Its easy accessibility and familiar characters make it perfect for younger players ready to move onto more challenging gaming experiences, but its consistent difficulty curve means it keeps the attention of more seasoned players."
"It's hard to believe that throwing two disparate, popular franchises into a completely new genre works as well as it does," says Ars Technica. "Believe it, though: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a fun and engaging introduction to the tactical RPG genre that can please neophytes and veterans alike."
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a Nintendo Switch exclusive, out Aug. 29.