Even with the game's existence being leaked out weeks in advance, I'd say that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is still one of E3's biggest surprises. From Mr. Miyamoto coming out to the Ubisoft stage with a hand cannon to the reveal of the game's turn-based strategy gameplay, Kingdom Battle seemingly made believers out of everyone solely based on presentation. Having been afforded some time in the Ubisoft booth during the show, I can back that up with my own experience, because Mario's latest adventure looks to be another solid title for the Switch's launch year.
Despite taking place in a magically weirded out Mushroom Kingdom, Mario + Rabbids features a surprising number of the hallmarks that you expect from a Mario game. There are timed Red Coin challenges during the exploration bits, and the game's E3 trailer shows evil Rabbids taking over familiar enemies. At any given moment, you might be fighting a crazy Piranha Plant-Rabbid hybrid that will have extra armor because of its pot or a horde of Goombas that have been force fed an unknown substance. It's all very creative and off the wall, but that fits with Mario's branding as of late.
Playing the game displayed a surprisingly complex system, especially considering the early levels I was sampling. Combining characters together to position them with jumps and timing out abilities to maximize damage were stretching the parts of my brain that really don't come with the Mario territory, but it all flows really well once you get over that. On top of the mechanics that you'll deal with from fight to fight, there are also special stage hazards that can pop up and add yet another level of complexity. All of these were also familiar Mario tropes, so you might be happy at first to recognize a Chain Chomp's familiar bark, you'll be terrified when it starts attacking whatever is closest to it on the field at the end of every turn.
During the exploration bits (which serve mostly as a vehicle to let you watch Rabbids get into funny situations off the beaten path), you control a small Rabbid robot named Beep-O. The poor developer who I was stationed with didn't really have a lore-based answer when I asked about this robot's origins in earnest, and I've been thinking about that off and on since I had the demo. Did one of the Rabbids invent a robot? Is the robot an interdimensional traveler? Did Beep-O cause the rift between the Ubisoft and Nintendo multiverses?! For the sake of the Super Mario Wiki, I can only hope that these questions are answered in great detail in the final game.
You can pick up Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle on Nintendo Switch when it comes out in August. Even a small dose of the game left me utterly charmed and hungry for more, which is why it was awarded one of our Best of E3 awards on the show floor. Needless to say, I'll be embracing the madness as soon as Ubisoft will let me.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was sampled on the E3 show floor. It will be available on Nintendo Switch on August 29th.