What If the Third Nintendo-Exclusive Sonic Title is Actually Mario Kart Wii U?

So far, two of the three big Sonic Nintendo exclusives that are part of Sega’s three-game Wii U deal have been revealed: Sonic Lost World and Mario & Sonic at the 2014 Olympic Games. But what’s the third game?

A mysterious Tweet from one of the developers of Sumo Digital’s Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed seems to hint that a new game will put the issue of who among two rival mascots would win a kart race to bed. Could it be that the next Mario Kart game for Wii U is the third piece of the puzzle? To be honest, we don’t know – and won’t know until E3. However, in the meantime, the idea sounds like it could give the franchise a nice kick forward into the next generation.

If you hadn’t run into the story before, here are the original Tweets from Sumo Digital’s Steve Lycett:

Sounds an awful lot like the “bigger rival” is Mario, doesn’t it?

A fresh burst of content

Previously, Mario Kart games have had to rely on one of two strategies for their course content: elements from the history of the Mario franchise or completely made-up locales designed around course ideas. Examples of courses from the nostalgia category include Piranha Plant Slide, Airship Fortress, and basically every Bowser’s Castle level ever; all-new ideas include Daisy Cruiser, Neo Bowser City, and the now-recurring Rainbow Road.

mario-kart-bowsers-castleIt’s been a fun 20 years of Mario Kart racing, but the recent games have somewhat worn thin in the content department. Don’t get me wrong – I loved Mario Kart 7, but as an on-the-go Mario Kart experience, not for its tired “updates” to Mario Circuit, Bowser’s Castle, and DK Jungle and its two Wii Sports Resort themed levels. And while it’s fun to play updated versions of legacy tracks, it’s clear those added courses are just padding to bank further on nostalgia, not truly ground-breaking additions.

The series needs to find a way to radically expand, to go where no Mario Kart has gone before. Adding Sonic and friends into the mix could introduce a whole slew of new Mario Kart content in the form of Sonic-themed courses and even additional “crossover” levels.

I’m sensing some of you might be a bit skeptical that this would be an adequate means to “break new ground” because we’ve already seen two kart racers venture into Sonic’s world within the last couple of years: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing and its sequel, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. However, if you’ve followed those games, it turns out that they don’t really explore that much of the Sonic universe to begin with.

sonic-all-stars-death-eggThere are nine Sonic-themed courses in the first game – Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing – but they are all based on three areas from Sonic Heroes: Seaside Hill, Casino Park, and Final Fortress. That’s not much in the way of content diversity. The sequel saw some improvement in this area, embracing content from Sonic Colors, the Sky Sanctuary from Sonic & Knuckles, and the Death Egg from Sonic 2, but that’s about it. No Chemical Plant, no Angel Island – we haven’t even seen Green Hill yet.

Sure, the Sonic Drift series featured more trips to more obscure corners of the Sonic universe, but that series hasn’t seen the light of day since Sega Game Gear (though it’s about to see re-release on 3DS Virtual Console!). But even then, there’s still plenty of ground to cover in future kart racing games before the world of Sonic is even close to exhausted. And given that the Sonic & All-Stars Racing games have historically performed best on Nintendo platforms, it just makes sense that the future of Sonic kart racing would involve a close partnership with Nintendo.

New items that don’t feel forced

Originally, the items in Mario Kart brought the most exciting and memorable pieces of Mario’s universe as tools for racers to cause havoc on the racetrack, but as the years went on, the items became less and less imaginative and fun and more and more obnoxious and game-breaking. To use a particularly recent example, Mario Kart 7 had an item that was literally a 7. Come on, now, Nintendo.

Bringing the Sonic universe on board could open the door to some inventive new item ideas. For example, we haven’t seen a “jump” item since the Cape Feather back in Super Mario Kart on Super NES. And honestly, it’s a shame – the Cape made way for some really fun shortcuts since if leveraged well it allowed players to skip entire sections of track. The Springboard could easily invoke a similar function with a Sonic twist. I imagine it’d be toned down to prevent over-abuse, but it’d still be really fun to use.

sonic-thunder-shieldThe barrier shields from Sonic 3 & Knuckles also come to mind. The Magnet Shield could draw in nearby players (and coins!) and zap them down to shrunken size, similarly to the existing Thunderbolt and perhaps as a replacement to the Thunder Cloud. The Fire Shield could set any foes the player touches ablaze. The Bubble Shield could cause anything that touches it to bounce off, from approaching Shells and fireballs to fellow players. As long as it’s active, the user could even bounce off walls, making for some interesting strategies for getting around tight corners. Each of the shields could be active for a limited time or until they absorb a hit from an item.

And, of course, the Chaos Emeralds would have to play some kind of role… but I’ll leave it up to Nintendo and Sega to figure that one out!

Fortunately, just as was the case for tracks, Sonic Racing hasn’t really used many of the potentially good ideas yet. Most of its items have absolutely nothing to do with Sonic!

Refining the cast of characters

I’ll be honest, once characters like Diddy Kong, Queen Bee, and Wiggler started showing up in Mario Kart, I realized anyone significant enough to become a mainstay had already been picked! To freshen up the roster, I think Nintendo could do well to clean house: get rid of the unnecessary characters and add in Sonic faces in their stead.

All the obvious suspects should appear: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Shadow, Silver, Blaze, Rouge, Dr. Eggman, Metal Sonic, and a couple of the Chaotix – anyone who’s been playable in one of the major games or who has been incredibly popular should get a shot. Even out the roster by balancing each Sonic character with a Mario character, and you’ll have enough characters to keep everyone happy without spreading the lineup too thin.

What would you think about the next Mario Kart being a cooperative development project with Sega and the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise? Would it be a good way to test out the Mario-Sonic partnership in games that don’t have to do with the Olympics? More importantly, do you think it would help boost the Mario Kart franchise on Wii U? Let us know what you think of this idea in the comments!