You might well know by now about my mixed feelings on crossovers, how I love the idea but think they bring their own headaches, particularly when it comes to continuity. What’s kind of strange is that crossovers in the Mario franchise are often in sports games. Link and Samus Aran do make cameo appearances in Super Mario RPG, but they’re not relevant to the story.
Fox McCloud, Link, Captain Olimar, and Samus were all originally supposed to appear in Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, but they weren’t in the final version. For the most part, though, while there are certainly references to other series, particularly Nintendo ones, the characters don’t really mix. When Link does reappear in a Mario game (although it’s probably not the same Link), it’s not to team up to stop a threat to both worlds, but to race go-karts in Mario Kart 8.
And we do know that the kart races, as well as other sports games, are considered canonical by the main Mario series.
Characters from Animal Crossing and Splatoon also appear in versions of MK8 as downloadable racers. In the episode of Toys That Made Us about Hello Kitty, there was an official statement that most of the Sanrio characters don’t know each other (with obvious exceptions for the ones created to be related in some way), but will sometimes attend parties together.
I guess it’s much the same way with Mario, although not in the actual Mario Party games. I’d already been rather incredulous at baby versions of the characters showing up to race.
I mean, we know time travel exists in the Mario world due to Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, but why risk breaking the space-time continuum for a game of tennis?
The inter-series crossover elements add another complication. Or maybe not, if there are accessible warp zones between different video game worlds. I guess I’m still somewhat stuck on the Captain N universe, even though that show doesn’t make sense in a lot of ways.
Then again, Wario gets to Bomberman’s world through an interdimensional portal.
I don’t know much at all about Splatoon, but from what I’ve read, it takes place on Earth about 12,000 years after humans have died out from rising sea levels, and cephalopods have evolved into humanoid forms. So the Inklings aren’t just from a different world, but from the future? And Animal Crossing references both places from various video game series and real-world locations, making where it actually takes place rather vague.
The Mario Kart Arcade games, developed by Namco, include Pac-Man characters and locations.
I guess I just wonder why, if these crossovers characters show up from time to time, why don’t they ever do any actual adventuring together? I would suspect part of why crossovers tend to happen in games with lower stakes is that someone can just show up without having to get into their back story or how their worlds fit together.
A different kind of crossover is between fantastic worlds like Mario’s and our own Earth. I guess we don’t know for sure when the Mario games take place, and how they interact with the so-called Real World. Well, media not officially made by Nintendo, including the cartoons, comics, and educational games, depict Mario and Luigi as residents of Brooklyn in the late twentieth century. Still, the franchise seems to be getting away from that, or at least not referencing it. But then, there’s also Punch-Out!! containing real-world places, and more recently Mario Kart Tour holding kart races in actual cities (so far, New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, and Vancouver).
NES Open Tournament Golf has Mario characters playing golf in real countries. The Japan-only Mobile Golf for the Game Boy Color came up not long ago on the Marioverse Discord server, and it has characters from real countries traveling to the Mushroom Kingdom to take on Mario, who’s apparently known as the world’s greatest golfer. I have to say it kind of stretches my suspension of disbelief. It’s one thing to have characters transport from one world to another, but different when this makes a major impact on our world. You know, like Bowser trying to destroy Venice, or kidnapping the President of the United States.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is even more complicated. They get these two former rivals together, and it’s not in either of their worlds, except in the Dream Events? What countries are they even representing?
And of course there’s Super Smash Bros., which isn’t totally consistent with any of the represented game series, but does present some interactions between the characters. I believe the series’ catch-all excuse is that its characters are all toys.
Mario Hoops 3-on-3 and Mario Sports Mix are games developed by Square Enix in which they thought Mario characters would work, so they ended up being crossovers between Mario and Final Fantasy. There were already some FF references in SMRPG, including Culex having four elemental crystals and a name likely based on that of Golbez from FF4, but they were more direct in the sports games.
That said, they didn’t use individual characters, but rather character types: a ninja, black and white mages, a Cactuar, and a Moogle.
Malboros, a sort of killer plant with tentacles, also show up in Hoops.
They have breath that causes various harmful status effects, so their name is likely a reference to Marlboro cigarettes, although it could also come from Japanese onomatopoeia for an upset stomach.
They first appeared in FF2, but they are somewhat similar to the Ochus in the first games, which are based on otyughs from Dungeons & Dragons.
Mix adds Dragon Quest Slimes as playable characters, and Behemoths as bosses.
I wonder if they’re from the same world as Culex. Fortune Street, which I actually own but haven’t yet had a chance to play, is a Monopoly-like game that includes both Mario and Dragon Quest characters competing over property.
Other games in the series also include FF characters. Both the FF and DQ series take place on a few different but seemingly related worlds, so these crossovers might be even more complicated than just two worlds interacting. It’s probably not possible to combine all of these fictional universes into something coherent, but it’s interesting to think about.