If you told me a few months ago that one of the best Switch games of the year would be a tactical crossover between Nintendo's Mario mascots and Ubisoft's ridiculous Rabbids, I'd have thrown a Joy-Con at you. But now that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is finally in my hands, I can't seem to put it down.
This unlikely mashup sees Ubisoft's mischievous mammals accidentally fuse their world with the Mushroom Kingdom, creating a colorful mess that Mario and his new Rabbid friends have to clean up. This sets the stage for a joyfully unexpected turn-based strategy game, one that's both a breath of fresh air for Mario fans and surprisingly satisfying for the tactically-inclined.
If you're not already sold at "strategy action with a gun-toting Mario," here are 5 reasons Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle deserves a spot in your Switch library.
It's deceptively deep
Don't let the cutesy sheen fool you -- Mario + Rabbids is a legitimate turn-based strategy game through and through. The concept is simple: move Mario and his friends strategically along a map, sliding through pipes, stomping on heads and firing cool arm-guns at your evil Rabbid enemies in the process. But the game’s hidden depth quickly reveals itself, especially as you unlock more characters and gain access to its boatload of weapons and powers that can be mixed together in near-endless ways.
Combining each hero’s movement and combat abilities leads to incredibly satisfying sequences, whether you’re zipping all over the map and doing a ton of damage in a single turn or setting the perfect defensive trap for your enemies. And as accessible as Mario + Rabbids is, you'll need to make smart use of cover, environmental objects, and your various traversal options in order to survive its later, more challenging encounters.
A beautifully weird world
Mario + Rabbids is absolutely gorgeous, channeling the bright colors and inventive worlds of Nintendo's own vibrant Mario games while deviating from them in delightful ways. Ubisoft did an excellent job merging the Mushroom Kingdom with the zany Rabbids universe -- traditional Mario pipes now have rabbit ears and teeth, and Princess Peach's typically pristine castle is surrounded by giant toilets, washing machines and all kinds of funky-looking foliage.
The game's boss fights exemplify just how wonderfully jarring this crossover can get, whether you're fighting a goofy (but deadly) Pirabbid Plant or a big furry Rabbid Kong. The actual fighting animations are fluid and occasionally cinematic -- I couldn't help but get giddy every time the camera zoomed in on Mario or Luigi as they landed a critical shot in slow motion.
It's a joy to explore
If there's any part of Mario + Rabbids that feels like a traditional Mario game, it's the exploration you get to do in between battles. Ubisoft's twisted take on the Mushroom Kingdom is packed with hidden items, puzzles and bonus stages, which constantly made me feel rewarded for venturing off the beaten path. If you're obsessed with collectibles, you'll be busy for a while.
Multiplayer is pretty neat
Progressing through the game's campaign unlocks a series of bite-sized two-player challenges, which add a fun extra wrinkle to the game's tactical action by forcing you to coordinate with a friend as you each command a two-hero team. It plays great on the go (even with the tiny Joy-Cons), as I learned when I plopped down my Switch in our labs and instantly got a co-op game going with a coworker.
I only wish that you could play the main campaign in co-op, and that there was some sort of competitive multiplayer mode that'd let me prove my superior Rabbid-commanding skills to my friends. But being able to enjoy a slice of the game with someone else is still pretty neat.
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It's genuinely hilarious
Ubisoft's Rabbids bring their crude, slapstick sense of humor to the Mushroom Kingdom, which I found to be a nice change of pace from Nintendo's squeaky-clean Mario games. The game regularly had me laughing out loud, whether it was from a Rabbid rubbing a banana on his butt or a corny joke about email attachments from my robot companion Beep-O. And I'd be remiss not to mention Rabbid Peach, who spends pretty much the whole game taking selfies.
Mario + Rabbids is still perfectly appropriate for kids, but it's nice to play a Mario game that's a bit goofier (and dare I say, edgier) than what we're used to.
I have plenty of small gripes with Mario + Rabbids -- the fact that Mario always has to be in your party, the limited sense of movement while exploring -- but none of those detracted from the hours of fun I had setting up ridiculous sniper shots with Luigi or strategically stomping enemies as Mario.
Kingdom Battle stays true to both franchises it mashes together (Mario's colorful worlds, the Rabbids' potty humor), all while creating a refreshingly fun strategy experience that has something to offer for both casual fans and tactics veterans.
In a year already filled with great reasons to own a Nintendo Switch, Mario + Rabbids manages to stand out as one of the biggest ones.
Image Credit: Ubisoft