This Mario Day, take the festivities beyond the Mushroom Kingdom with these Mario crossovers in other games and worlds (including our own).
As the plumber who almost single-handedly saved gaming in the mid-80s and helped solidify it as one of our cultural past-times, it’s no surprise that Mario is in demand. He’s one of the few characters to achieve (and even surpass) that Mickey Mouse level of fame and recognizability, and the bright worlds of his adventures have a universal charm.
So naturally, in his 37+ years of super celebrity, there has been no shortage of Mario crossovers, either with other Nintendo games, unofficial easter eggs and cameos, and merchandise. In honour of Mario Day, we thought we’d highlight some of the best of those moments when Nintendo’s plucky plumber broke out of the Mushroom Kingdom to have fun with our families in new dimensions.
5) Minecraft on Nintendo
Minecraft is everywhere (figuratively and literally), and as a bastion for family—or kid—oriented experiences, Nintendo makes a great home for this video game juggernaut. Since its arrival on the Wii U in 2016, Minecraft has offered a free “Super Mario Mash-Up Pack” to players on Nintendo consoles, including the current Switch version. This includes a host of skins to turn your characters into pretty much any Mario character you could want, many reskins for creatures and NPCs, and massive areas based on Mushroom Kingdom locales like Peach and Bowser’s Castles and Delfino Square.
With all the benefits of the Minecraft engine and loving recreations of elements from its source material, this Mario crossover is no mere cash-in—it’s distinctly cool to explore your way through these worlds from a first-person perspective for a change.
4) Mario Kart Hot Wheels
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is to the Switch what Tetris was to the Game Boy: an evergreen killer app that almost every console owner has in their library and an insurmountable sales record that few games could hope to challenge. The kart racing series is almost as much of an institution as the Super Mario games themselves. It ties in very naturally with one of the best Mario crossovers I’ve ever seen, the Hot Wheels series of Mario Kart toys.
Since 2019, Mattel has brought designs from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe into the real world with a series of high-quality toys featuring both a character from the game and a kart that suits them—a step above the usual crossovers the toy line produces. At this point, the majority of the game’s sizable roster has made at least one appearance through 20 waves of toys, and there’s a handful of exciting track sets like the epic Rainbow Road above to add a real sense of speed. For parents, this Mario crossover is a great way for kids to engage with the loveable video game mascot without racking up screen time.
3) Crossovers with Sonic and Rabbids
In the early 90s, if you had told kids of my generation that one day Mario and Sonic would not only cross paths in the same game, but they would do so without having a battle to the death, we wouldn’t have believed you. Surely those two titans of the gaming industry could never lay down their arms in The Console Wars and have a civil competition!
And yet, that’s what they’ve been doing regularly since the Wii’s heyday in a series of Mario crossovers/Olympic tie-ins: the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series. Each Olympic event since the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, with few exceptions, has been marked with a new installment in this subfranchise, which pits the heroes and villains of each series against each other in minigame recreations of real-world sports.
The latest foray is 2019’s Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Switch, which offers a decent alternative to the wackier Mario Party games.
2) Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood
What do you get for the mascot that already has everything, including arguably more global recognition than Mickey Mouse himself? Why, his very own theme park!
Universal Studios’ newest attraction sees Mario crossover with us. Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood opened in Los Angeles last month, following in the footsteps of its predecessor at Universal Studios Japan, which opened in February 2021. Visitors can have meet-ups with Mario, Luigi, and Peach, engage with AR-enabled attractions while travelling across the park, or brave the Mario Kart ride, “Bowser’s Challenge.” And, of course, there’s a cafe and gift shop laden with Mario-themed goodies.
A similar attraction will open on the east coast in 2025 at Universal Studios Orlando, and in time the layers of Mario crossover branding will thicken—a Donkey Kong expansion is in the works, and Legend of Zelda has long been rumoured for inclusion as well.
1) LEGO Mario
If you can’t make it to California now, you can still bring a real-world Mario experience home with LEGO’s Super Mario line.
It’s a product union made in licensing heaven: LEGO blocks and Mario “Jumpman” Mario. They go hand-in-hand, given the block-centric levels of the earliest Super Mario Bros games. Again, in the early 90s, my younger self would have died to get his hands on official Mario-themed sets—especially ones that can be programmed to make sounds and look like an actual level.
The LEGO/Mario crossover goes hand-in-hand with Nintendo’s recent philosophy of putting the tools for game design in players’ hands. Super Mario Maker 2 is an awesome tool for getting kids thinking creatively, but there’s something special about the extra tactile layer of using physical elements to the same end. Like the game, kids can design their own courses and then play them, using the Bluetooth tech within—or just enjoy LEGO the old-fashioned way and imagine the adventure using their blocky creations.
It can be a bit of an investment, but the LEGO Super Mario line—like the Princess Peach’s Castle set, 71408, pictured above—gets our stamp of approval as the best Mario crossover you can get to celebrate this Mario Day. The applications are huge, the designs are obviously chock-full of love and respect for the series, and fans of all ages can find something to enjoy.
Certainly, we’ll continue to see Mario crossover into countless other avenues we would never have expected over the coming years, especially with his first feature film about to drop next month. But for now, there you have it—the best non-traditional ways to adventure with everyone’s favourite plumber. As he might say, let’s a-go… enjoy Mario Day.