During what was an otherwise pretty slow E3, one game piqued my interest more than anything else. That game was Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, the new game from Nintendo and Ubisoft. The game not only caught my interest, but managed to overcome a great deal of cynicism as well. What was once thought of as a bad joke is now suddenly a very eagerly anticipated Nintendo Switch offering.

When Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle leaked a few months back, it almost seemed like a bad joke. The Rabbid’s haven’t been relevant in gaming for the longest time. After splitting from Rayman, the franchise seemingly disappeared amid greater apathy – who can blame gamers for not caring? The games they featured in were largely mini-game compilations, low quality efforts that didn’t really deliver anything. Frankly I was glad to see them go.

Yet here we are at E3 2017, and Rabbids arguably featured in the most surprising announcement of the convention. The mere idea of putting Rabbids and Mario together in one game is enough to make all gamers eyes roll. Yet after the entertaining unveil, and the obvious seriousness both Nintendo (Who wheeled Miyamoto out for the unveil) and Ubisoft are taking it; suddenly it’s a different story.

The announcement is exciting for more than just this game though. It shows Nintendo is willing to try different things. Normally, the only thing more controlling about their IPs than Disney is Nintendo, and they don’t share their IPs, especially their important crown jewels like Mario or Zelda with anyone. But by teaming up with another developer and having a non-Nintendo property join a Mario game, it shows that they are willing to experiment.

Suddenly this joke of a concept is a fleshed out, unique idea. It shows that Nintendo is winning 3rd party developers. If the Switch wasn’t exciting 3rd party developers lbefore this E3, then a game like Mario + Rabbids will only serve to change minds. If Nintendo is willing to let Ubisoft develop and lead the charge on such a game; other developers can only be licking their lips at the prospects on the table.

I’m also happy to see that it’s not another platformer. Mario, unless he’s being a go-kart racer or sports player is platforming (unless you count those side games where he is everything from a Dr to a hotel clerk), is a platformer. Since the original Super Mario Bros. all the way to New Mario 3D World (and recently announced Mario Odyssey) are platformers. But Mario + Rabbids isn’t, which is super exciting because it mixes up the gameplay in a fresh new way that isn’t just Tetris like good old Dr. Mario.

Ubisoft have pushed for a Mario that might do something entirely new for the series. If we’d asked what game Nintendo fans expected to see Mario in, an XCOM-lite title probably wouldn’t have featured highly. Mario as a franchise has been stagnant for the longest time, relying heavily on predictability. The series hasn’t moved out its comfort zone because it didn’t need to. But with Odyssey and Rabbids landing in 2017, suddenly anything seems possible for Mario.

 

Obviously we need to wait and see just how good this incarnation of Mario turns out to be. But in terms of excitement, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle has really come out of nowhere to steal the crown for me at E3. It’s a breath of fresh air to two franchises that desperately needed the new directions. It also gives Nintendo Switch another killer title for fans to look forward too.

The future is bright for Nintendo, with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle giving fans a lot to be excited for.