Crossover games — and how they unite gaming

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, a game from the iconic fighting game crossover series Super Smash Bros, brought me deep into the world of legendary gaming IPs. From revelling in Mega Man’s epic reveal trailer, watching Sakurai explain Punch-Out’s Little Mac’s moveset in Nintendo Directs, to even binge-reading Street Fighter due to listening to an epic remix of Sudoku Castle in Smash 3DS/Wii U, that game — and by extension the whole Smash Bros. series — conveys the great power of crossovers in bringing people to cherish all parts of video gaming.

Most of the attraction towards Smash and other crossovers is experiencing individual elements of your favourite video game series, like characters, game mechanics, music yet again; in fact, those aspects outside in-game situations may be one of the factors in bringing one to the game franchise itself. I mean, checking out and listening to Encounter from Metal Gear Solid on YouTube may have led you to watch and even play through the Metal Gear games. Or admiring Mai Shiranui’s famously large breasts in some promotional artwork on some random part of the Web started a lifelong interest in Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters. All these elements, parts of a gaming franchise witnessed outside a world within it can attract people to the whole, the franchise itself with all these character-based, game design, musical, etc components within it. Remember this parts-to-whole principle, I’ll come back to it later in the article.

These elements of game series are shared by all of them, but there are many, many other aspects — platform exclusivity, age rating, genres, etc, that cause division between different franchises, sometimes even within them. And sometimes these splits lead to misunderstandings and flame wars between people who know and play these games; for example, the console wars of the 90s between Nintendo and Sega causing Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog to constantly deny each other’s worth (remember ‘Sega does what Nintendon’t’). All these examples can discourage people from exploring unknown and different series in gamingdom.

However, there are ways of preventing or at least reducing such destructive splits within gamers and encourage openness — with crossovers, which use the parts-to-whole principle I mentioned earlier. For an example, take Super Smash Bros. This crossover fighting game franchise brings parts of other game series, from original and even arranged music tracks, arenas from characters’ universes, to the playable characters themselves. All these can bring people to be interested and even try in other gaming IPs they may not know or like — someone who doesn’t want to play RPGs may play as Shulk in Smash 4 and love his moves and wants to know the origins of them, which may lead them to playing Xenoblade Chronicles, an RPG where Shulk first appeared, to find answers, which may open them up to fun RPG mechanics.

Parts of an IP in a crossover can lead others to the whole of it. This allows gamers, and even non-gamers to go outside their comfort zone and experience more diverse sides of video gaming they may have never known.