Super Mario Maker is a game creation and publishing tool and video game, which allows players to create their own levels from the Super Mario series using the Wii U GamePad, and then publish those levels to the Internet. Players can base their levels on the gameplay and visual style of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U, with their corresponding styles of physics, gameplay mechanics, and enemy behavior.
Super Mario Maker is another opportunity for Nintendo to delve into the nostalgic archives and shifts Mario into the new world of level creation. It’s a savvy move that capitalise on the popularity born from Kaizo Mario, a Super Mario World hack filled with intensely difficult levels that the Let’s Play community delved into in droves. Now you can make your own maddening courses though Super Mario Maker thankfully balances a healthy amount of level design education to ensure its players are guided towards experimentation rather than simple chaos with what they create.
First off, the game wants to make having fun as easy as possible, with Mario controllable at the title screen before you even choose whether to ‘Play’ or ‘Create’. ‘Create’ means using the limited tools available from the start to craft your own levels, with new tools available after some experimentation. A day one patch removes a former nine day system that drip-fed assets to you at a glacial pace, and the update keeps you from being overloaded with choices while the frequency of new arrivals is steady.
Facilitating the craftsmanship of the game is fantastic art book, available with all copies of the game. Littered with concept artwork from Mario’s history, many images come with codes that, when entered into the game’s ‘manual’ screen, will produce a handy video that explains how to use tools effectively. Soon you’ll be shying away from showering your levels with coins, and instead using them to suggest routes for players.
‘Play’ takes you to the Course World, where you can search and select uploaded courses from users around the world to play, and the 10 Mario Challenge, where you can play through pre-created levels that show you all of the tools on offer. You can also move on to 100 Mario challenges that task you with completing 16 user created levels. Expert mode really pulls no punches, and you’ll be using up a lot of lives if you stay away from skipping them at the cost of a life though it’s a little unfortunate that 100 Mario Challenge doesn’t test you to clear as many levels as possible.
Some of tools also don’t require being held out as long as they are. The choice to test out your course and view Mario’s path is a useful tool to carefully plot your platforms, making the choice to make it an unlockable tool after numerous other assets is questionable. Time restrictions and auto-scrolling are other basic features that should be available from the off, and the total lack of being able to place checkpoints is baffling. With so many levels in Course World pushing you to your platforming limits, checkpoints would discourage level skipping and provide a little reward for making it so far through Super Mario Maker’s premier levels.
The deeper your love of Mario, the more intuitive the tools are and the smoother you’ll be cranking out levels loaded with your favourite enemies. With a childhood raised on goomba stomping and tanooki tail twirling, being able to flip between four classic Mario styles (original Mario Bros., Mario Bros. 3, Mario World and Mario Bros U) was an absolute joy for me. These will also inform your level design choices, with special items and Mario’s jumping ability specific to the skin you choose, such as the feather and when using Super Mario World.
Amiibos are a welcome addition with them creating special mushrooms that transform Mario into retro stylised version of the respective character used. Incorporating this into your created levels doubles the fun and Course World is already flush with Pokémon, Sonic and Metroid themed tracks. Those getting the oversized, and gorgeously made, Mario amiibo with the game get to insert a giant mushroom, meaning Mario can smash clean through blocks and produce a vintage, CRT theme over your screen.
The game is a very interesting concept greatly realised. Giving players a massive library of Mario tools to make their own levels fittingly combats the belief that many of Nintendo’s recent Mario titles showcase creativity much more than difficulty. Perhaps in the future users will be able toupload whole worlds of levels and the Mario landscape will turn into an entirely user-created one. In the meantime, Nintendo can enjoy a game made genuinely for the community, with the longevity of the game only limited by your imagination.
This review was written for publication on the GCE by James Story
+ Constant new content
+ Intuitive design controls
+ Wealth of educational content
- Lack of progress checkpoints