In the current age of gaming, publishers are more willing than ever to share their beloved characters with one another. Street Fighter X Tekken, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, and Project X Zone are just a few examples of major companies lending out their intellectual properties, and even the traditionally cloistered Nintendo has been getting into the giving spirit. For the past decade Nintendo has given third parties a substantial amount of access to its library of characters, as well. This openness has led to off-the-wall guest appearances by Mario, Link, and more in franchises that no one would have foreseen during the N64 era.
Still, Nintendo remains cautious of whom it shares its characters with, and has some strict rules about using its properties when it does lend them out. That’s why, when a game is lucky enough to be lent a Nintendo guest star, the results can be a little bizarre, as you’ll soon see.
Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2
The original Bayonetta missed Nintendo’s hardware in 2010, but the sassy witch became very close with the company for the sequel. Not only did Nintendo publish Bayonetta 2 and bundle it with a Wii U port of the first game, the console maker gave the bullet-blasting angel hunter access to some very famous characters. In a fitting move, what with Nintendo's recent history of lending out virtual uniforms, the Wii U releases are home to some of the most risque tribute costumes ever.
Over the course of both campaigns, you unlock scandalous alternate costumes inspired by Princess Peach, Samus, and Link, all of which have appropriate sound effects and accessories--though I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Peach’s skirt that short. All the costumes are ridiculously fun nods to Nintendo continuity, but the Star Fox suit takes the award for craziest reference. Not only because it’s such a straightforward and unsexy flightsuit, but because it also ties into an awesome spoileryEaster egg.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
It may not have the biggest name recognition in the rest of the world, but Monster Hunter has been a huge boon to the 3DS in Japan. Monster Hunter 3 and 4 are system-selling exclusives overseas, and Nintendo thanks Capcom with an increasingly bizarre number of cameo characters in 2015’s Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. It began with Legend of Zelda-inspired clothes and got crazier from there.
The first salvo of Nintendo unlockables is a Link costume, which goes well with a game about slashing giant monsters. The Metroid armor make some degree of sense, though Zero Suit Samus is a bit out of her element in MH4U’s fantasy setting. But then there's the Animal Crossing set, with costumes that change your catlike companions into Isabelle and the cranky mole, Mr. Resetti. It’s no surprise that goofball Mega Man and Sonic costumes accompany the AC uniforms. Once you bring Animal Crossing to the world of cooperative monster slaying, everything else seems normal.
Mario Kart 8
It’s not entirely fair to include a normal Nintendo series on this list, but hear me out. For more than 20 years, Mario Kart has been one of the company’s best-selling series, but the creators long resisted adding Nintendo characters to the game that are outside the Mario family. Mario Kart 8 not only moves the series into new territory via substantial DLC additions, but the bonus content finally includes competition that’s normally reserved for Smash Bros.
The super-deformed Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing join the fray, and their cutesy looks are in keeping with Mario’s stable of car combatants. That’s less true for Link. Fans of the elfen boy’s fantastical adventures will no doubt want to drive him around Toad’s Turnpike, but doesn’t that all seem a bit too silly for The Legend of Zelda’s protagonist? Plus, he comes from a world where combustion engines don’t exist. How can he even wrap his head around a car, let alone how to steer and throw a turtle shell at the same time? This make about as much sense as those Triforce rumors.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition
Years after Soulcalibur II, Nintendo was ready to lend Namco some help with another fighting game, this time the recent Wii U port of Tekken Tag Tournament 2. However, while Nintendo was more giving overall, it held back on sharing its actual characters. In fact, no Nintendo character is playable in the game, but tributes to them are all over the place in the form of some purposefully ridiculous costumes.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is one of the more comical games in that particular franchise, so seeing Heihachi dressed as Mario, Kazuya as Link, or Ganryu as Bowser amped up the comedy. The bulbous noses and shoes on the Mario costumes look ludicrous outside of their normally cartoony world, while the characters dressed as Star Fox wear the costume with far more dignity than we would. The costumes were the kind of goofy, self-deprecating fun that we’d like to see more of from Nintendo.
Sonic Lost World
The early 1990s saw Sega spend big money to make Sonic a viable exclusive to counter Nintendo. The early 2010s saw Nintendo spend big money to make Sonic a viable exclusive to counter Sony and Microsoft. As strange as it may seem, Sonic Lost World is part of a trio of games Nintendo co-published with Sega, but perhaps it was felt the Blue Blur wasn’t charming enough to Nintendo’s most diehard fans.
Post-release, and with little warning, Sonic Lost World got a new, Yoshi-inspired stage, bringing the incongruous sight of the blue hedgehog walking around with a half dozen Yoshi eggs trailing behind him. Then things got even weirder with the Skyward Sword stage. Players dress up Sonic as the hero of Hyrule and run around the impressively authentic Legend of Zelda Zone. If I read that last sentence to myself in fourth grade, I would never have believed it.
Guest characters have come to define Soulcalibur, and over the years its roster has made room for the likes of Kratos, Ezio, and Darth Vader. The trend began with the second Soulcalibur because--as the first multiplatform entry--Namco decided to give each of the three platforms someone distinct. PS2 gamers got Tekken’s Heihachi, Xbox owners got edgy comic book hero Spawn, and Nintendo fans got Legend of Zelda’s Link. Guess which version sold the most copies? (Hint: It’s the one on the GameCube.)
On the surface, Link’s sword-based combat makes him a fitting addition, but he was hampered with some weird mannerisms. Aside from his uncommon ability (for Soulcalibur) to use projectiles, unlike virtually every other person in the game, Link doesn’t talk. Since Nintendo--as a rule--never wants Link to speak, he instead is limited to constantly shouting in a manner similar to Ocarina of Time, a sound most Zelda fans are very familiar with. It makes him appear very antisocial.
After the EA games of the mid-2000s, Nintendo was pretty stingy with sharing its characters with any company outside of Japan. It wasn’t until 2012’s Wii U launch that the hardware maker teamed with any new American partners, and this time the lucky collaborators were Warner Bros. and 5th Cell, and the game was the charming Scribblenauts Unlimited.
In Scribblenauts Unlimited, the franchise--constructed around the ability to conjure anything--expanded its vocabulary with proper names like Link, Yoshi, and Epona. The most well-known characters from the Mario and Zelda series are all in the game, as are items like the Triforce, Fire Flowers, and the Master Sword. And even though you couldn’t transform the Nintendo characters with adjectives, it was quite something to have these classic characters interact in Scribblenauts’ sandbox.
Just Dance 3
Scoff at it all you want, but Just Dance is a worldwide mega-hit on just about every console. For some reason people can’t get enough of the Euro-centric grooves Ubisoft pumps out, and while it has since gone multiplatform, Just Dance became a sensation on the Wii. That should be all the explanation you need for Mario shaking his groove thang in Just Dance 3 DLC.
For just a couple bucks you could bring Mario into your copy of Just Dance 3, two-stepping along to the iconic Super Mario Bros. theme music. Seeing Mario dance isn’t particularly strange for anyone that owned DDR: Mario Mix, but this DLC gets a special mention for being so cheap looking. Why bother making a CG model of Mario dancing when you can just film a guy with an oversized, plastic head? Finally DLC that allowed you to virtually experience gyrating next to an above average cosplayer.
Fortune Street/Itadaki Street
A respected series in Japan that’s more than 20 years old, Itadaki Street was one of the first successful recreations of a board game on a home console. A bit like Monopoly meets the stock market, the series was created by Yuji Horii, the same person behind Dragon Quest, and the two franchises have always shared a connection. DQ monsters and heroes have appeared in multiple entries, and when Itadaki returned to Nintendo consoles in 2007, Mario joined in the fun.
The weirdest thing about Mario getting involved in Itadaki Street, or Fortune Street as it was renamed for the US Wii release, was how redundant it was. Mario and his friends already had Mario Party, but here they were invading a game whose only real difference was property ownership. As cool as it was to see Donkey Kong hopping around with a Slime, it seemed pretty unneeded to players raised on Mario Party.
When the Wii U first launched, Ubisoft and Nintendo were the best of friends, with the company making Rayman Legends exclusively for the machine. The limbless platformer eventually went to other consoles, but the Wii U game at least has some unlockable costumes that are exclusive. Yes, before heading to the PS3 and 360, Rayman raided Mario’s laundry for some additional outfits.
Admittedly it’d be even cooler to see Mario and Luigi themselves crossover with Rayman, but given Nintendo’s stingy nature with sharing characters, fans should be happy that pants were lent in the first place. Perhaps the move was meant as sign of respect to Ubi for being able to create a platformer that rivals Mario's in quality. However, now that Ubi has pulled away from the Wii U, I doubt the Italian plumbers will be so ready to lend anything to Rayman in the future.
NBA Street V3
As popular as the GameCube was with Nintendo devotees, for most people buying multiplatform titles like the ones EA puts out, Nintendo’s purple box was usually the last console they bought a copy for. Likely in an attempt to boost its GC sales, EA Sports and Nintendo entered into a partnership that would result in some of the strangest moments in Mario’s career.
The third NBA Street title was the first EA game to get visitors from the Mushroom Kingdom. Even in the looser atmosphere of the Street games, Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach looked expectedly absurd playing side-by-side with current and classic NBA stars. Then again, in a game that also featured playable cameos from rappers the Beastie Boys, it could be argued Mario and company weren’t even the oddest people on the roster.
SSX On Tour
The second GameCube version of an EA Sports game to get some Nintendo love was the extreme snowboarding series SSX. The fourth entry in the franchise, SSX On Tour, was blessed with the same trio of characters as NBA Street V3, as Mario, Luigi, and Peach grabbed snowboards and skis to hit the slopes.
Seeing the three of them lost some of its impact the second time around, though EA further enhanced the oddness of the GameCube version by adding the Nintendo Village course. The track was covered in Nintendo imagery, which made the perfect setting to see Mario grinding his board across snow covered logs while knocking over other snowboarders on his way to the finish line.
Fight Night Round 2
After the SSX and NBA Street games, you’d expect EA Sports to use the same trio of Mario characters in the third and final title with its partnership with Nintendo. Instead, the publisher picked a more fitting Nintendo character for Fight Night Round 2, though the choice likely ended up looking much goofier than Mario would have in the boxing ring.
Years before the Punch-Out!! series was reborn on the Wii, the franchise got dusted off by EA when star Little Mac was included in Fight Night Round 2. And while his boxing skills were sufficient for the game, the cartoonish features of his Super Punch-Out!! incarnation look alien when stood next to faithful recreations of Muhammad Ali and Roy Jones Jr. Despite the developers’ intentions, this ended up being the most bizarre cameo of the partnership.
On this list of oddball character appearances, Pac-Man Vs. is likely the most atypical game, from its concept to its creation, and on down to its cameo. An early attempt at the gameplay that now defines the Wii U, Pac-Man Vs. gives one player a Game Boy Advance to play a normal game of Pac-Man, while three players control the ghosts chasing Pac-Man via the GameCube. And that unorthodox gameplay was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s gaming mastermind who normally isn’t in the practice of making games for Nintendo’s competitors.
With Miyamoto, the father of Mario, involved in the game, it makes sense that his mustachioed plumber would appear in Pac-Man Vs. somewhere, but the overall weirdness of the game extends to his cameo too. Mario is merely the unseen announcer of the game, throwing out “You can do it” and “Pac-Man ate the fruit” to confused players. It’s a pretty unneeded touch, perhaps included to ease Nintendo fans into this experimental title.
Dead or Alive Dimensions
Nintendo and Tecmo have become surprisingly close business partners over the last few years. For example, Nintendo took over publishing duties for several Tecmo games, including Ninja Gaiden 3 for Wii U and a couple Fatal Frame titles. Metroid: Other M remains their closest partnership to date, and even though the Wii release was divisive to many fans of Samus, Tecmo still gave special tribute to its game in last year’s Dead or Alive release for the 3DS.
Though many predicted Samus would be a playable character just like Link was in Soulcalibur II, her cameo is more discreet. DoAD has a Metroid: Other M stage, complete with a screaming Ridley, but Samus is seemingly absent. If you want her to appear, you have to make some noise into the 3DS mic and she’ll jump out in her spherical bomb form, explode, and then quickly disappear again. With such a fleeting visibility, you’d almost think she’s embarrassed to be seen with the scantily clad roster.
Any other Nintendo characters in non-Nintendo games worth remembering for their weirdness? Let us know in the comments!
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