Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS – Review

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Before we start this review I would just like to thank Nintendo UK for sending us a copy of this title for review. I hope it does them well this holiday season.

One of Nintendo’s biggest Wii U titles, and arguably their Holiday blockbuster of 2015, is Super Mario Maker. After 30 years of Super Mario, Nintendo allowed the community to finally create their own adventures with the super plumber and it was ultimately a big success. We even reviewed it last year so check that out if you want to know more about the Wii U version of this game as that is not what today’s article is about. That privilege goes to the recently released Nintendo 3DS port of Super Mario Maker which attempts to take creating on the go. No longer will you have to scribble down ideas on your arm when you suddenly come up with the ultimate course on that long bus journey from school or work. Unfortunately, with this portability and the change to a weaker piece of hardware, we end up with some drawbacks. Is the payoff worth it? Well, let’s find out.

Gameplay

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Just like the Nintendo Wii U counterpart, the focus is on the creating and so there is no story for Mario and his friends to follow. That is fine because, really, the plot is not what is important in Mario games, especially 2D ones. The main focus is creating your own courses from scratch and the 3DS manages to do this nearly as well as its Wii U older brother. You use the Nintendo 3DS touch screen to place your objects and make your stages. The amount of space you have to do this is more limited than on the Wii U although the top screen gives you a more open look, previewing what the stage will look like (as the actual courses are played up there).

Nearly everything makes the transition over from the Wii U but one of the biggest missing features are the Mystery Mushroom costumes. Strange Mario makes a comeback but all of the other 150 costumes do not and I have no idea why. There are no amiibo costumes to get and no unlockable costumes from the 100 Mario challenge. This also means you can’t play any Wii U stages that had these mystery mushrooms placed in them so say goodbye to any Zelda or Metroid-themed levels you may have seen videos of.

Apart from that most of everything else that has to do with creating from the Wii U version is back,which is good. However, there is one massive issue that Super Mario Maker for 3DS has that is an absolute deal-breaker in my eyes and that is its watered-down online system. For what was the lifeblood of the Wii U version, making stages and posting them online for the world to play, it is a shame to see it so watered down to the point where you can’t even upload your courses online. You read that right. No uploading; the only way you can let others play your stages is via local play or randomly via StreetPass. This absolutely killed any motivation I had to make stages as only I could play them, and this is not the only issue caused by the weak online feature.

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Nintendo released various updates for the Wii U’s online mode in its first year to make navigating it and finding your favorite stages much easier. All of this has been thrown out the window for this game with your only choices being levels Nintendo recommends or random levels on the 100 Mario Challenge. It is abysmal and you can’t even rate these stages, make comments or see what others thought of it. They brought the bare minimum for online play here, probably because as a portable device, you won’t always be connected to the Internet so all of these features will be locked off for you anyway. This runs counter-intuitive to the whole point of Super Mario Maker and it ruins this game.

Now it is not all bad when we take a look at what single-player content there is. We still actually get the best part of the game: Super Mario Challenge. In this mode, you get to play over 100 levels made by Nintendo and they are really well-done. Not only are they made with that Nintendo seal of quality, but as they were limited to what Super Mario Maker could do, there are some really clever levels included here.

Not all of the levels are new, mind you. There are levels taken from all four Super Mario Bros. games represented here (1, 3, World and U); however Nintendo did a special trick to make them feel refreshing. These are the two challenges that come with every stage. One is visible from the start but you can do both in one playthrough if you can figure out what the other one is. These challenges range from defeating all enemies, collecting all coins or beating the level with specific criteria. And these challenges are so much fun. It almost makes me want to say that Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is the best 2D Mario game out there.

And to add one more plus is what you get for doing the challenge mode. The Wii U game had an infamously awful way of unlocking new creation content with either a waiting period or a playtime threshold, along with bugs that sometimes caused objects to not appear. This time you unlock them via the Super Mario Challenge and you are even given hints and tips to make the best use out of them. Whole worlds get based around these new mechanics you unlock in order to give the player ideas on how to use them and overall it all goes towards making the creation process much easier for new players.

Too bad there is no real reason to create levels.

Presentation

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The jump from Wii U to Nintendo 3DS obviously means that we are no longer dealing with an HD game but really that doesn’t affect things too much. The graphics are all clear and the only change being that the NSMB style now looks similar to NSMB2 rather than NSMBU. The music also comes over fairly unscathed.

I mentioned that the touch screen is a bit harder to work with than the Wii U gamepad; however you can toggle the sidebars on and off in order to have more room to work with, which is nice. The only real addition to the presentation is the new lessons players can receive from the game’s two hosts, Mashiko and Yamamura. This is always available for those who tend to suffer from a creative blockage or for those who are just new to the game and it is entirely optional so they don’t really get in the way.

That about does it for the presentation. It is pretty solid still and manages to replicate its older brother quite well.

Verdict

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When Nintendo first unveiled Super Mario Maker for 3DS I had my concerns. I did not think that this game would work on the handheld and the signs we were getting regarding cut-content were worrying. Now that the game has come out, I can see that my fears were realized. Super Mario Maker for 3DS is a good game but not one that I feel I can recommend. Although the bare minimum is in place here from the creation tools to the online mode, all the cuts made in the transition (especially in the online department) really damper the experience for me. The Wii U version is by far the superior version and if you are debating between the two then I will always recommend it on the Wii U. With all that said, the Super Mario Challenge mode is really good and this is still a Mario platformer with near-infinite levels in it, even if the majority is community-based. If you see this game at a low discount then maybe I would recommend it just for the challenge mode alone but as it stands now the game is just average to me.

2-5

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Joshua 'NantenJex' Goldie
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Joshua 'NantenJex' Goldie

Video Content Lead at Source Gaming
If video game historian was a career that would be my goal in life. I have spent a lot of my life studying various histories and so I am super familiar with sourcing, which is pretty essential for this site and just a good thing to do in general so you do not spread lies. I have a huge fascination with the old days and ips with Nintendo. There is so much potential for old franchises like Balloon Fight, Marvelous, Nazo no Murusame Jo and more to come back in the modern age. At least Smash celebrates those games! My focus for source gaming are the Dream articles and working on Project Omega. I hope you enjoy reading my work.
Joshua 'NantenJex' Goldie
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One comment

  1. While I definitely get why the lack of online would be a deal breaker for a lot of people, that doesn’t seem to affect me as much. I used to play a game called ChuChu Rocket on the GBA, a fantastic puzzle game that I will mention until Sega gives me another one. What was more fun than just the regular puzzles to solve or the battle mode (both of which were great) was the level editor. Obviously, being a GBA game, there was no ‘online’ to share stages with, so by modern standards, it’d feel pointless. But back then, my brother and I used to make sets of 25 stages and give the game to each other to see if we could beat each other’s courses. It was one of the best memories I remember having with the GBA, and I could see myself having the same amount of fun with this game. Obviously, it’d be even better if it *did* have online, but for what I want, it serves that purpose well.

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