After seeing all the crossover work on this site, I decided to do one with two of me favorite Nintendo characters of all time: Mario and Link. I thought it would be interesting to see these two heroes play off of each other in a gameplay setting, considering the critical differences between their two games, with one being a puzzle-solving adventure franchise and the other being a fast-paced platformer.
I do know that they have been in the same situation, mainly in Super Smash Bros., but they have never had a formal, story-driven encounter before. I also wanted to see what it would be like to see this dynamic duo battle against metaphysical forces, struggling to restore order to their own universes.
Plot and Story
I'm sure you're wondering how Mario and Link could possibly end up in an adventure together, and so did I. I knew it would have to be through some force beyond imagination, because no other idea makes poetic sense. So here's what I have so far:
Mario is relaxing on Cookie Mountain (from Super Mario World), after a long year of stopping treachery by the villains of the land. However, he soon find himself out of relaxation because he hears a loud grunt of frustration from Bowser, who doesn't know the Mario is on the mountain. Mario peeks out from behind a nearby rock to see what Bowser is doing, and spies him struggling with a stone keypad in a secluded part of a side wall of his castle, which activates what is apparently a secret entrance. In his hand is a strange black crystal with golden-yellow mist effects in the center, even though it appears quite solid.
Just a moment after Mario notices the strange crystal, Bowser succeeds with the keypad and in a grunt of triumph, goes inside, with the door blending right into the wall behind him. Mario decides he might as well investigate, because nothing good has ever come from Bowser, and upon knocking the place where he saw the entrance, the same apparatus appeared in front of him. Mario did not clearly see the password Bowser entered, but he knew it was four digits. First, he tries 1-2-3-4, but that doesn't work. Next, he tries 0-1-2-3, but that fails too. Then, he tries 5-6-7-8, and the door opens.
Mario quietly enters and sees Bowser walking out of the room, with the crystal on a pedestal on the end of his throne room opposite the actual throne. He decides to investigate, and upon touching the crystal, he feels an odd, depressing sensation, almost like being in the underworld. Just then, Bowser re-enters, and when he sees Mario with the crystal, he immediately attacks. Unprepared, Mario holds the crystal horizontally in front of his face. Bowser inadvertently slashes the crystal in two, and Mario has disappeared.
The scene then flashes to the Faron woods, where Link is relaxing in his farm-boy clothes playing a plain ocarina (not the time one, mind you, although it is a reference). Link hears an odd blowing sound and looks to his right, to see that a part of the sky has turned black, with orange squares flowing through it. He recognizes it as part of the Twilight Realm, a place he had imagined to be dormant. He quickly dons his Hero's Clothes and grabs up an ordinary sword, but the Hylian Shield. He sees a portal in the right side of Hyrule Field and, sword in hand, sprints towards it.
The scene then returns to Mario, who was transported into the Realm after holding the broken crystal, and he has a terrified look on his face. He decides to start walking, but soon sees Shadow Beasts running toward him, with the entire Realm being awakened by the disturbance of an outsider. Mario runs toward what looks like an exit, and bursts into Hyrule Field just as Link reaches it. He bumps hard into Link, and Link immediately readies to fight, but realizes that Mario is not the threat when the area turns gray and the Shadow Beasts burst in. The two team up and defeat the beasts, after which Mario shows Link the crystal shards. Then, a ghost-like figure emerges, with a guard of beasts which are known to dwell in the Realm. Mario is terrified and hides behind Link, and then the man acknowledges Mario as the one who he sensed as "the one I've been waiting for." He then goes on to say that when the Dark Mirror was destroyed, the Realm was sealed away, only able to return as a result of significant dark power. He then reveals that he had been preparing crystals powerful enough to restore the dominance of the Twilight Realm, but that the last one was on some distant planet, which happened to be Mario's. After finishing his speech, the man commands Mario to return the crystal shard, as they are just as powerful broken. Link looks at Mario, and shakes his head slightly, quietly telling him not to comply. Mario sides with Link and puts the shards into the pocket of his overalls.
The man sends his minions against the two, but together they manage to force all of them back into the Twilight, after which Link whips out his ocarina and plays a sealing song to act as a temporary obstacle for the dark forces. As the man is forced back through the barrier, he consents that the heroes has won the first round, but that Xandros would soon be king of the universe. Mario seems happy about the victory, but Link looks solemn, and motions Mario in his direction.
Link brings Mario to Zelda and explains the situation. She says that although their predicament is indeed dire, there was a way to restore order. She explains that there is an ancient, unified magical power that would allow her to cast all the crystals into four corners of the universe, but that she would need the sacred gems from the mountain, forest, and water realms, as well as the rest of the crystals from the Twilight Realm. Link already knows where the Forest gem is, and is more than willing to get the rest himself, but Mario is indebted to Link for helping him. The two team up, and with a good luck message from Zelda, set out to get the gems.
After obtaining the gems and bringing back the crystals from a boss battle with Xandros, Mario and Link ward off a variety of creatures from Hyrule Castle to give Zelda enough time to scatter the crystals. When enough time has elapsed, a cutscene engages where Mario and Link are shoved aside by two of the creatures, but Zelda has already succeeded. Blinded by the light from the castle that results, Mario and Link finish all of them off and go into the castle.
Zelda congratulates the heroes for their perseverance and success, but reveals to Mario that his job is not yet finished. Zelda shows him a small trans-galactic mirror and explains that in his absence, Bowser has taken the opportunity to re-capture Peach and take over the Mushroom Kingdom. She gives him a crystal of her own with which he can return to the Mushroom Kingdom and defeat Bowser once again, and he is ready to go back immediately. However, after all they've been through, Link won't let Mario fight this battle alone, and they agree to go together. Link goes into the hallowed resting place of the Master Sword and exchanges his normal sword for his most powerful weapon, and then the two both grab on to the crystal and return to the Mushroom Kingdom.
It is exactly as Zelda said it was: asteroids were raining from the sky in fire and Bowser's minions were slowly expanding their power. Bowser's castle was in the distance, and it looked more evil and proud than ever in its success. Mario and Link charge, casting aside Koopas, Goombas, and other minions along the way until they reach the castle. Link makes a move for the front door, but Mario pulls him aside to the secret entrance and after making the same two mistakes as before, Mario manages to open the door. They storm the throne room and take Bowser by complete surprise, and after defeating him, they go to Bowser's new keep, where there is a steel "?" button that will call off Bowser's forces. Mario tries to jump on it, but it's too hard, so Link draws the Master Sword and plunges it into the button, activating it.
Order is restored to the Mushroom Kingdom once again, and Link is saying goodbye to Mario and the now resuced Peach. Zelda also appears in the crystal and says farewell to them. The game ends with Mario and Link shaking hands, Link returning with the crystal, and Peach finding a small gold replicate of the Triforce on the floor in front of her throne.
The gameplay would be similar to that of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and of games like Super Mario Sunshine. A single player would be capable of switching back and forth between Mario and Link in order to use each of their abilities to handle a situation, while two players would be able to control one character each and work together.
Mario and Link would have their own unique playstyles as well. Link would logically have more combat options, and he would gradually obtain more equipment to deal with complex puzzles, but he wouldn't be a very strong platformer, and he wouldn't be able to move as quickly as Mario. Meanwhile, Mario would be faster and excellent at platforming, making it easy for him to reach places that Link would have a hard time getting to. As a result, the player(s) would have to learn to balance each hero's strength with the other's weaknesses to complete challenges.
In terms of progression, this game would play much like a Zelda game, with transition between different worlds and the necessity to fight any wandering enemies or leaks from the Twilight Realm. However, Hyrule Castle temporarily acts as a hub similar to those in the Super Mario Galaxy games.
The rooms and dungeons in this game would also cross the gameplay of the two franchises. They would be larger than usual Zelda dungeons, and would introduce some of the platforming rigor from some of the worlds in the original Super Mario 64. They would have to be carefully designed to achieve a balance between exploration, combat, and platforming challenges.