Top 10 Crossovers and Cameos in Gaming

As satisfying as the best video game of all time can be, that still doesn’t stop the endless playground daydreaming of “Mario Vs. Sonic” games and titles where your favorite heroes or villains cross paths to make that super game just a little more fantastic. While the bulk of this is just hopeful fanboyism, there has been a very real trend in servicing up this sort of thing, with the amount of crossovers and cameos between games growing in recent years. Here are some of our favorite instances of crazy people showing up in games where you just wouldn’t expect them to.

10. Goombas, Chain Chomps, and Pirahna Plants appearing in Link’s Awakening

I had a dream, and you were there, and you were there...
I had a dream, and you were there, and you were there…

It might seem like a dream come true to imagine Mario villains appearing in a Zelda game, and it weirdly enough happened on a GameBoy title all the way back in the early ‘90s, right under most people’s noses. Link’s Awakening is a fantastical, different feeling Zelda game, so the inclusion of these weird foes, even including Wart from Super Mario Bros. 2, kind of makes sense (there’s even a Yoshi doll that makes an appearance). This made even more true by the fact that the game turns out to all just be a dream of Link’s in the end (spoiler alert). Perhaps the green-clad hero was just up all night playing Super Mario Bros. 3

9. Samus Aran and Link appearing in Super Mario RPG

It’s called sleep, Mario, why don’t you try it some time?

It might be a bit of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of cameo, but if you’re mucking around in a SquareSoft RPG, there’s kind of the expectation that you’re exploring every nook and scouring every cranny, so shame on you if you missed this nugget. It might not amount to much, but if you stop by the castle in the Mushroom Kingdom or the Rose Town Inn, you’ll also encounter some other very popular heroes looking to recharge their batteries. That’s about all there is to this appearance, other than an all-too familiar Zelda tune playing when you prompt link, but in a very pre-Super Smash Bros. world, seeing all of these heavyweights together was kind of a big deal.

8. Final Fantasy characters appearing in Mario Hoops 3-on-3

Hey! No elixir use on the court!

This might not exactly be the most exciting cameo on paper, and not even the sort of thing that you ever thought you wanted, but with that being said, the first time I unlocked the familiar faces of a black mage, moogle, and more, I got pretty darn excited and surprised, which has to amount to something. This sort of crossover is allowed to take place due to Mario Hoops being developed by Square Enix, and while it’s a superfluous little addition to the game, it surprisingly goes along way. While asking to see Mario and co. intermingle with integral Final Fantasy characters in a basketball game might be asking too much, throwing in these random, more everyday characters into the fray is a welcome mix.

7. Mortal Kombat characters appearing in NBA Tournament Edition


And speaking of weird additions to basketball games, would you believe that some of the deadliest, scariest fighters from Outer Realm ended up keeping time on the court under some very weird circumstances. Somehow Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Reptile, and Raiden became playable characters on your roster in NBA Tournament Edition for both the Sega Saturn as well as the Arcade. There was even a surprisingly gruesome Mortal Kombat court that was meant to be included in the game before ultimately being pulled. It’s a lot of fun to have these atypical fighters on your team though, even if they’re not allowed to do fatalities during penalties.

6. Mario and friends in NBA Street V3

And this is why you don’t take performance enhancing drugs, kids.

What is it about basketball games having the most inspired crossovers? Whatever it is, here’s another very solid example of why you should probably be checking these games out if you haven’t already. Even though Mario and the gang have previous basketball experience, this still feels the strangest out of all the sports related cameos, even if it is one of the cooler ones. Here, Mario and his cartoonish pals are inserted into the ultra realistic basketball title with the crossover feeling very foreign and awkward. Certainly points for trying here, but this version of Mario and friends makes them seem more like monsters or deranged mascots, not athletes.

5. Little Mac appearing in Fight Night Round 2

He’s certainly no King Hippo or Soda Popinski…

It’s a little surprising that Punch-Out!!’s Little Mac has only seemed to have recently found the love and adoration that he was seeking for decades off of the scene. While he might be integrated well into the Smash Bros. universe at this point, he had another lesser known, but equally justified appearance in the boxing series, Fight Night. It’s a very tiny bit of fan service, but for Nintendo to inject their most popular boxer into another boxing game makes a lot of sense and it’s nice that it could happen.

4. Freddy Kreuger, Jason Voorhees, Kratos, and Predator appearing in the Mortal Kombat series

And yet strangely, a kitchen sink is also not a playable character…

Mortal Kombat has always been known for mixing it up, and in its more recent years as it’s lost some steam, last ditch efforts to rejuvenate the series and reclaim fans can be seen in some of these desperate-feeling cameos. Kreuger and the popular God of War’s Kratos were added in Mortal Kombat, and Predator and Voorhees will be joining the madness in the upcoming Mortal Kombat X. It makes you think where the franchise will go in the coming years, and if someone like Snake Plissken or the T-1000 are beyond competing in the tournament. I wonder how they all are on the basketball court…

3. Link in Mario Kart 8

Finally all of you masochists who have always wanted to flank Link with a Blue Shell can now live your dreams…

It might have seemed inevitable, but Link joining the roster in the latest Mario Kart title really opened up a lot of doors for the franchise. There was a weird barrier that had yet to be crossed due to the “Mario” in Mario Kart, but thankfully, imaginary baggage could be gotten past and these worlds could finally be bridged. Offering up Link as downloadable content rather than an included character right from the jump is also a fair compromise and makes a lot of sense, ushering in the beginning of a generous new era of DLC from Nintendo. Hopefully this wave will continue and Link won’t be the last outsider to join the kart series.

2. Link in Soul Calibur II and Spawn, Darth Vader, and Yoda in Soul Calibur IV

Because an Ocarina is a natural fighting tool.

Even before Mortal Kombat was mining the depths of pop culture for new fighters, Soul Calibur was already dredging the depths. The franchise is a fighting series where every character has a different sort of sword, with swords being integral to the gameplay. In this sense, Soul Calibur has wisely chosen various sword-wielding guests to stars in their games, whether it be the light sabers of Darth Vader and Yoda, or the infamous Master Sword of Link (kind of closing the deal that he’s really the character that people seem to want most in their franchise). With such a strong voice behind the series, these cameos weirdly seem to compliment the universe rather than take away from it.

1. Pac-Man, Mega Man, Solid Snake, and Sonic appearing in Super Smash Bros.

Look how far we’ve come, everyone…

It might be the obvious choice here, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the fact that the Smash Bros. series has really done an incredible job at bringing worlds together and indulging in gleeful cameos. In what started out as strictly a Nintendo all-stars fighter, outside faces slowly began to appear, and with the latest version of the game having characters like Mega Man and Pac-Man joining the fight, who knows what’s possible in the future of the franchise.

    It seems like developers and producers alike are getting just as into this cross-pollination between titles as gamers themselves. DLC has been an active means lately to service up this sort of thing, and it definitely feels like this trend is only going to get stronger in the coming years. Who knows, maybe every character will be sharing a franchise soon enough.

    Daniel Kurland

    Daniel Kurland is a freelance writer and comedian, who recently completed work on his noir anthology graphic novel, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Noir: A Rag of Bizarre Noir and Hard Boiled Tales and is the creator of the surrealist podcast, “Bic Zukko’s Forever Almanac”. His sketch troupe, Business Computer also performs a monthly show in Manhattan.

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