Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is one of those games — you know, the kind you roll your eyes at and dismiss on first glance, but once you boot it up, you can’t quite put it down again. It’s most definitely a Mario game, but includes an element of something else, something that can only be conjured by the slightly-inappropriate and hyperactive Rabbids of Ubisoft’s creation. And while a classic, Japanese-born franchise spanning countless genres and the slapstick adventures of a French publisher don’t seem like a match made in heaven on the surface, rest assured — they actually are.
You’ve never seen the Mushroom Kingdom quite like this. It looks like a Mario game and acts like a Mario game, but when was the last time you saw Mario with an honest-to-goodness laser gun? When have you ever heard Princess Peach criticize someone’s cosplay? And when was the last time you saw anyone from Mario’s world in a gut-busting, butt-blasting, turn-based tactical role-playing game? Here’s just a few reasons why we love Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.
You’ve Never Seen Mario Quite So Slapstick-y
Mario games have always featured a hefty dose of G-flavored humor, with the antics of Mario and friends eliciting at least a chuckle and perhaps a well-deserved eye roll. But Ubisoft’s Rabbids are known for being loud, proud and incredibly sassy, with a helping of giggle-worthy potty humor at times.
Because of the Rabbids propensity to literally slap each other around and bounce around the screen with seemingly limitless kinetic energy, their presence in Mario’s world makes the whole ordeal seem more slapstick-y than residents of the Mushroom Kingdom may be used to. And this isn’t a bad thing — you’ve never seen Mario have to deal with screaming, flailing creatures like the Rabbids before. The contrast between the hard-working plumber and the spastic Rabbids makes for an excellent mash-up, creating a light but still enjoyable narrative as they navigate their budding friendships and save the Mushroom Kingdom from imminent destruction.
Hidden Secrets Mini-games Follow the Familiar Mario Formula
Kingdom Battle’s bread and butter may be Mario and friends squaring off against mischievous Rabbids in turn-based combat, but like Mario games, it’s not without its share of secrets. While traveling between battles and exploring the overworld, players will stumble upon a number of hidden mini-games that will reward you with the Mushroom Kingdom’s familiar golden coins.
These mini-games are pulled directly from previous Mario titles. For example, hitting a switch and opening the entryway to a secret warp pipe will grant you access to an area hidden from the main path. Here you may find a field of coins to snatch up, a hidden treasure chest filled with goodies, or a doorway to a mini-game. Many previous Mario games include a mini-game in which you must collect a set amount of red or blue coins within a time-limit to unlock a treasure chest. Sometimes you can’t access areas until Beep-O, your robot guide, has learned a certain skill — so once he does, make sure to go back and give it a shot!
Kingdom Battle is sprinkled with these, so keep your eyes peeled and don’t worry about straying off the main path — there’s secret goods waiting for you!
Longtime Mario game players will instantly recognize the inspiration behind Kingdom Battle’s bosses. Chain Chomps and Piranha Plants abound. However, just as Rabbids has put its own spin on the enemies you encounter in the field — for example, Rabbids wearing war paint rather than Goombas or Koopa Troopas — it’s also taken some liberty with the more involved boss fights.
We won’t give away too many of the surprises, but some of the game’s memorable monstrosities include a Rabbid fused with a Piranha Plant to create an ambulatory tentacled menace, and a giant beefy Rabbid that both dresses and behaves like Donkey Kong. It’s absolutely delightful.
The Soundtrack is Amazing
You’ll hear many classic Mario jingles in Kingdom Battle. Completing a level plays the riff from the first Super Mario Bros. when you successfully complete a level, for example. And much of the music that accompanies traversing the overworld and interacting with other denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom is re-orchestrated versions of familiar Mario musical themes.
But even when the music isn’t a straight-up new version of a Mario tune, the soundtrack is beautifully orchestrated. The composer is BAFTA-nominated Grant Kirkhope, who spent over a decade with Rare working on soundtracks for games including Donkey Kong Land 2, Banjo Kazooie, and Viva Pinata before moving onto freelance projects including Civilization: Beyond Earth and Yooka-Laylee. It’s a brilliant arrangement, and sets the tone perfectly — a perfect backdrop for the Mushroom Kingdom.
It’s Super Cute
There’s something about the way Rabbid Peach flounces around and Rabbid Luigi’s buck-toothed smiled when you win a battle that is just utterly, totally charming. The Rabbids versions of the Mushroom Kingdom’s heroes and villains are hard not to love — yes, even the bad ones — because they’re just so darn cute. Every little yip and whoop, every garbled string of gibberish that floats out of the Rabbids mouths makes your toes curl, it’s so adorable. And the way Mario and friends interact with the Rabbids, like they have absolutely no idea what to do with them but put up with them anyway because they’re pretty sure they need them to fix the Mushroom Kingdom, is hilarious. It’s all just too cute.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is more than just a fun game, it’s a love letter to the Mario series from Ubisoft’s developers. It’s evident that a lot of thought and love went into this game, with every corner of the kingdom — both audio and visual — peppered with homages to the beloved Mario franchise. It’s a testimony to how well the Mario IP can bend and be part of fresh experiences when given to the right developers, and hopefully we see more of this amazing match of Mario and Rabbids in the future.