4 Video Game Mashups Too Awesome to Exist
The human mind is a tool of limitless potential, and yet I spend a lot of my time using mine to think about how awesome a Mario Paint/Guitar Hero mashup would be. Seriously, hear me out: Remember Mario Paint's composer mode, where you could make your own songs using Mario items as notes? Combine it with Guitar Hero gameplay, and the result is a game where you can create your own songs and then play them on instruments (with the items/notes working as actual items), or simply make insanely difficult songs to try to stump your friends.
While others are thinking of ways to make this world a better place for their fellow human beings, this is the crap that keeps me up at night. I come up with ways to combine existing video games into different ones that don't exist, and probably never will. Why? Because they're simply too goddamn cool. Such is my burden. Please allow me to unload some of it on you.
Super Mario Kart Meets Grand Theft Auto
(Full disclosure: I was searching my browsing history to make sure I didn't steal this idea from someone else, and amid all the YouTube videos of Japanese people playing piano covers of Mario songs, I found this Reddit thread by cm097. It's not exactly the same concept, but I don't like websites that just take articles from other websites without crediting them, so consider yourself credited, cm097.)
When you saw the words "Mario Kart meets GTA," many of you instantly pictured Mario murdering pedestrians by jumping on them or running over mushroom people with a coupe, but that's not what I mean. The best aspect of the GTA series for me isn't the part where you can blow up stuff with a bazooka, but the fact that you have a massive city to explore at your leisure while occasionally running into insane Easter eggs.
"Whoa. That's crazy. Let's blow it up with a bazooka."
Meanwhile, one of my favorite things about the Mario Kart series is that the stages are secretly linked -- as GameXplain points out, if you take your eyes off the road in Mario Kart: Double Dash, you can actually see landmarks from other tracks as background details, suggesting that the entire game is set in a vast interconnected world. For instance, Peach's Castle can be seen from Mushroom Bridge:
"Stop-a here and hand me the binoculars, she's-a getting into the shower. Mamma mia!"
If you throw these two ideas into a blender (a special blender for ideas -- do not try this with a regular one), what you get is a game where Mario can finally drive outside the boundaries of the same old tracks and explore a huge open-world setting. And, yes, this setting can be a city, since Mario Kart stages like this one have established that those exist in the Mario universe, despite Bowser's best efforts to enforce a feudal system. Mario can even (*gasp!*) step off his vehicle to enter buildings and carry out crazy side missions, like maybe doing some damn plumbing for a change. For once, Mario's fiscal reserves wouldn't reset back to 0 once he collects 100 coins, and he'd actually be able to save money in order to buy upgrades for his kart that would allow him to reach new areas and discover secrets.
And then, every once in a while, everything I've said so far goes out the window as the gameplay devolves into chaotic races in the proudest Mario Kart tradition, with the caveat that all those buildings and stuff you're mindlessly crashing into now mean something, since you've actually been in them. You could also race online with other players -- or, better yet, make the whole damn game an online multiplayer. Imagine being about to finish a side mission inside a building when BOOM! A blue shell comes out of nowhere and blows you to shit.
Everyone loves the blue shell, right?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Meets Skylanders
I realize that the title of this entry probably means nothing to a big chunk of Cracked's readership, since everyone over 30 will be saying "What the hell is Skylanders?" and everyone under 20 is like "WTH's TMNT [confused emoji your computer can't render]?" Well, Skylanders is a popular video game franchise where kids can buy collectible figures that interact with the games through a special reader, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are teenagers who are mutants who are ninjas who are turtles.
Look, it's pretty self-explanatory.
What do these two franchises have in common, besides the ability to bankrupt parents? They both have an extremely large and extremely weird cast of characters, as the literally hundreds of TMNT action figures that have come out proved. A good bunch of them were just wacky variants of the four Renaissance-named turtles, but you also had dozens of wonderfully bizarre characters like Ace Duck (a mutant duck who dresses like one of the Village People) and Metalhead (a robot who is a mutant who is a ninja who is a turtle).
Or this ... whatever this is.
So, when I read that Activision, the company behind Skylanders, had bought the license to make TMNT games, I thought that made perfect sense. Imagine a game that combines Skylanders technology (toys that interact with your console) with the adult nerd's constant search for an excuse to buy action figures again (I'm sorry, anime fans, "model kits"). The gameplay would be the same as every TMNT game so far: four co-op players go around various stages kicking ass. You start with the four main turtles and can play through the entire game with them, but if you're willing to shell out a few more bucks, you get to play as Napoleon Bonafrog, or Sergeant Bananas, or Slam Dunkin' Don, or 200 other guys. The game would be the same, but the different abilities, weapons, and character combinations would keep it interesting. And hey, if you're left with a new version of your favorite childhood TMNT figure adorning your shelf, so be it.
Of course, that's not what Activision did with the license -- instead, they went and announced a game featuring the ugliest-looking version of the turtles this side of Michael Bay.
Mikey was never the same after the stroke.
There are other franchises with large enough casts to make a good Skylanders-type game, like the X-Men (you can play with the core team, or buy the figure and fight Magneto as Disco Dazzler) and Super Smash Bros. (after all, the plot of the game involves someone playing with Nintendo toys). Disney already put out their own Skylanders ripoff featuring a potpourri of characters from their various properties. However, I believe that none of these would appeal to the "late 20s/early 30s geek with spending money" demographic as well as the Ninja Turtles. Come on, Activision: If you don't act fast, all that money is gonna go to He-Man-themed LEGO sets, and no one wants that.
Final Fight Meets Final Fantasy
The beat-'em-up genre is a bit of a lost art: I'm talking about those old school games like Double Dragon and Final Fight where all you did was walk down the street punching people until you reached the boss, then did it all over again. You never had to ponder which way to go or what item to use. Whenever the game put something new in front of you, you always knew what to do: punch it until it dies.
Metro City's mayor has a low tolerance for double parkers.
On the other hand, role-playing games like World of Warcraft and Fallout remain popular to this day, but the entire genre faces a major, devastating crisis: I don't like 'em. I haven't tried to get into RPGs since that one time as a kid when I rented one of the early Final Fantasy games for Super Nintendo, but got bored during the intro sequence and decided to go watch my dog eat stuff, then poop it, then eat it again (it was a dumb dog). The complex stories and mythologies look intriguing to me, but the whole "constantly stopping the game to craft gems/pick attacks/look at numbers" thing always loses what little attention I have. Come to think of it, the dog may not have been the dumbest one in the house.
Whoa, whoa, slow down there! Who do you think I am, Stephen Hawking?
Luckily, I have a way of fixing both genres, the one too simple for most modern gamers and the one too complex for me: merge them. Give me an elaborate meta-narrative presented in the form of a 2D beat-'em-up game. You're walking down the street, but instead of instantly resorting to violence, you can have meaningful interactions with the characters you come across, and the decisions you make will affect the outcome of the game. Or you can just punch them, and that too will affect the outcome of the game: You'll probably end up in jail, but then you can punch your way out and spend the rest of the story on the run from the law.
You can befriend other characters and form a party, like in Final Fantasy, but there's no tedious RPG-style combat: there's just punching, and hitting people with stuff you pick up from the floor. The bigger your party, the more your boss fights will resemble drunken brawls. There's a map, like in Final Fight, with the difference that you can actually choose where to go or return to places you've been before, even if you've pissed off everyone there (which will increase the difficulty).
We all fantasized about reaching the secret "Atlantic Ocean" stage and punching all the fish, right?
The closest thing we have right now to an RPG/beat-'em-up mashup is Capcom's awesome Dungeons & Dragons arcade games, but they didn't go far enough. Those are still mostly regular beat-'em-ups where you can occasionally choose which way to go. The ball is in your court, game makers: You can either continue making shitloads of money by leaving RPGs as they are, or you can change them to please one dumb guy on the Internet. I think we all know what the correct answer there is.
Zelda: A Link to the Past Meets Maniac Mansion
(Another full disclosure: I came up with this idea with my frequent Cracked co-conspirator Ashe "T-Pain" Cantrell, so be aware that if you're a game developer and you contact us about making this game, we will be forced to fight each other to the death so that only one gets the money.)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of the imagination-expanding games that I'm glad I played as a kid, because it conditions your brain to think that the world is full of amazing secrets and that there's always something interesting just outside your reach. Maniac Mansion, on the other hand, is a point-and-click adventure game that I'm glad I played when I was older, because most of the humor would have flown right over my head, and also I'm pretty sure I would have felt bad and cried after making Syd microwave that hamster.
Or I would have grown into a serial killer. It's a 50/50 chance.
The coolest part of Link to the Past was the light world/dark world dynamic, where you could jump back and forth between two separate dimensions. I still remember stumbling into the other dimension for the first time and being completely blown away -- the game's world already seemed inconceivably massive to me, and now they were telling me there were two of them? It was largely the same shit with a different color palette, but still.
A crucial difference was that one of the worlds had a way poorer sewage system.
But, as great as that concept may be for action-oriented games like the Zelda ones, I feel like it would work even better in a point-and-click adventure. In games like Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, you spend most of the time clicking at things so that your character will say something witty like "That is a lamp" or "I can't use this orange juicer on that telephone." Eventually, however, you get tired of staring at the same places over and over when you can't figure out a puzzle, and you turn off your computer and then turn on your other computer to play another game (or play both on the same computer, I guess, if you're some sort of weirdo who doesn't have one for each game).
So, here's the idea: a point-and-click game where the other game you go play when you get bored of point-and-click games is the same game that you're already playing! In other, less confusing words, you can explore the game's world in two different dimensions: the regular reality of a Maniac Mansion-style house where you can take your time to examine different objects and figure out puzzles, and a Zelda-ish dark world with the same spatial configurations, but filled with monsters and evil shit trying to kill you. Some puzzles would require jumping back and forth between the two dimensions, but in general, the dark world will be designed to give your brain a break by providing a more active method of exploration (plus, bitchin' boss fights).
"I can use this orange juicer on that pig demon, and it just took his fucking eyeball off!"
What type of crazy-ass story could possibly justify using this game mechanic? Unfortunately, Ashe won't let me share the plot we came up with unless someone hires us to make this game. What a greedy fucking bastard.