This year is the 30th anniversary of Nintendo’s portly plumber and to celebrate the Big 3-0, Nintendo decided that rather than just release a collection of Mario’s old games once again on disc (like they did 5 years ago with the Super Mario All-Star – Anniversary Edition) they would allow the fans to create their own Mario adventure and craft their own experiences using the assets of Mario both old and new; from Super Mario Brothers on the NES to New Super Mario Bros U on the Wii U. For what is essentially Nintendo’s big holiday game now that Star Fox Zero has been pushed back to Q1 2016, Super Mario Maker needs to have the selling power to really push the Wii U through this holiday season and get Mario on the minds of everyone once more. Truthfully, It really can live up to this expectation.
Super Mario Maker follows a brilliant concept, one I think we all wanted but never in our wildest dreams expected to happen. The Super Mario Bros. 2D side scrolling series is well known for its interesting level designs, charming graphical styles and enemies. And Super Mario Maker brings them all together and puts everything you need in the hands of the player. I’m sure I’m not the only one who played the old Super Mario World game as a youngster and thought about all the different possibilities that they could come up with for levels. We’ve now been afforded the opportunity to create the levels of our dreams, using Mario’s iconic and almost perfect cast of characters and gameplay mechanics spread across 4 distinct and unique graphical styles. Of which are not just for show. Each style has some unique features beyond the aesthetic to give the player a reason to try them all. It’s a great way to shake up the foundation of the game and personalize the levels that you create that much much more. As well as more authentically replicating the experiences that the original games delivered.
It is also represented in a very different way and that is because Super Mario Maker is essentially the game’s successor. Super Mario Maker’s layout greatly reflects Mario Paint in both design and features. The Gnat Attack minigame returns, as does the undo dog and sound frog. It is fitting and understandable, especially when it was revealed that this game started off as a sequel to Mario Paint. Many fans wanted a sequel to that game and this in my opinion was the logical step forward.
Thanks to the Wii U gamepad, creating levels becomes a thing of ease. Players can simply draw the ground in a fashion similar to the stage creation tool of Super Smash Bros for Wii U. Many elements such as blocks, ground and coins can be simply drawn on. Other elements like enemies and items must be dragged and placed individually but how far the game allows players to experiment here is astounding. Super Mario Maker gives players the option to place objects inside of other objects. For example, players can have a Lakitu that flies around the top of the stage throwing down Hammer Bros onto unsuspecting players. Or players can have Bullet Bill Blasters that fire Mushrooms out instead of Bullets.
We’ve seen quite a few “build it yourself” games in the past few years, from the likes of the Disney Infinity series and Project Spark among others. Super Mario Maker stands above the crowd for both its ease of use, and also the sense of accomplishment it grants the player upon completing their well-thought out stage. It manages to avoid many of the common tropes that suffers the competitors of the “build it yourself” genre, most notably; the feelings of aimlessness, overwhelmingness, and the difficulty of navigation. Perhaps because it knows exactly how ambitious it wants to make itself.
Unlike other level creation games such as Little Big Planet, Project Spark or the various modding and hacking tools people have been using online for years; Super Mario Maker is designed to be incredibly simple and easy to use. The interface is amazing, with every element clearly laid out as well as giving players the option to customize the last of their building blocks .
Part of what Mario Maker so special is its ability to allow what you create to feel as authentic, or inauthentic from the real product as you’d like it to. Some of the levels I’ve played feel like they could be inserted into a real game and not feel out of place or “fan made”. A contrast from the Toy Box mode in Disney Infinity which doesn’t allow you to create experiences as deep as the ones found in the developer-made playset pieces.
Everyone has a different opinion on which Mario game they feel looked and played the best. Nintendo decided to cater to fans by allowing players to change which game is being used as a basis for their levels. This does not just change things aesthetically, the entire engine changes to reflect that games properties. For example, if the player uses the New Super Mario Bros. U skin then creators can utilize the wall jump and ground pound ability. Nearly everything reappears in the various skins even if that component did not appear in the original game. Bowser Jr. is the best example of this as he has only appeared in the later Mario games. This means that the developers had to craft brand new assets for Bowser Jr in the styles of the past games. This is done so that the player is not limited if they want to chose and earlier style and it clearly shows the passion the developers had when designing this game as even the ‘newest’ assets look like they could have been a part of the original game. Not everything is universal however; power-ups are generally exclusive to certain skins like the feather in Super Mario World or the Super Leaf in Super Mario Bros. 3 which is a bit of a shame but understandable.
This also doubles over for the amiibo costumes. In Super Mario Maker, you have 100 costumes that can be unlocked by playing the 100-Mario challenge or by tapping in that character’s amiibo. These costumes come complete with new sounds and visuals although they do not change any of the gameplay and instead act like the Mushroom power-up. However, these costumes are exclusive to the original Super Mario Bros. skin. Some might consider it to be unreasonable to expect the team to add these costumes to all of the skins, especially the New Super Mario Bros. U skin, but i would be lying if I said I did not wish it was the case.
In addition to creating levels, Super Mario Maker offers you the opportunity to download or play levels that other players around the world have created. A logical choice, it allows customers who lack either the time or the desire to build their own levels a reason to pick up and enjoy the game. Even offering up modes that pit you in a random succession of fan-made levels. With unlockable incentives to compliment the modes for those who do enjoy the creation aspect of the game.
If you are not the creative type and feel Super Mario Maker may not fit your play style, then worry no more. Super Mario Maker’s second mode is the play mode which allows players to connect to the Super Mario Maker servers and play any of the 68-pre made levels in the game, or alternatively, play any level created by anyone online. This allows for infinite amount of level possibilities. As with all user-created games, Super Mario Maker has its mixed-bag of levels, from auto-Mario levels; to recreations of previous levels or games; to really easy levels that someone made in 10 minutes; to kaizo inspired levels. Some might be fun and some might be boring but Super Mario Maker makes it easy to try out new levels. The levels can be listed by most popular player, some levels can be featured on the main page and the best way of trying new levels is in the previously mentioned 100-Mario challenge. Ranging from 3 difficulties, 100-Mario challenge gives you 100 lives to complete 8-16 levels chosen at random from the servers and is a great way to try out many levels.
It isn’t quite all gravy though, I think perhaps the biggest fault with this game comes from an extremely essential item that is missing: the checkpoint flag. This is a bit troubling, as part of the fun comes from the ability to share the levels you create online (and making them as challenging as you can), as well as playing the levels that your friends, and strangers create and share online. I think the reason so many stages have such a low completion rate is because the difficulty with some levels is too much to overcome when you have start over from the original starting point every time you fail. Allowing creators to add in 1, or even 2 checkpoint flags would improve playability and enjoyment significantly.
My main problem with Super Mario Maker is the star system. I actually think it is ingenious in its purpose. Nintendo expected a massive flux of poorly made levels taking up the servers and so to counter this, made it so players can only upload 10 levels at first. To upload more levels you need stars and to get these stars people need to vote for your level. The problem is that the star count is way too high. The first milestone to upload additional levels is 50 stars. That is a lot and unless you advertise your levels online or have a fan-base which will vote for your level. Because of this, players may find it very hard to get through the ranks regardless of how well-designed your levels are. One problem with the starring system is that it is not very obvious how to star a level unless you beat that level which leads me into my next complaint.
Super Mario Maker does not have assets for everything in every Mario game ever. There are some notable missing assets such as slopes or Charging Chucks. However, the most painful aspect missing is the checkpoint feature. Every Mario game has had checkpoints, but they are missing in this game and this creates massive problems with some levels online. Many well-designed levels can be very long in length, making the best of what is given to the creator. However, as a player there is nothing worse than getting far in a level and then dying only to have to start from the very beginning again. That makes playing through some levels a slog and it becomes completely understandable that long levels may end up getting skipped. f a level gets skipped then it is very unlikely to get a star and so you see the dilemma. Nintendo could easily rectify this problem in a DLC update down the line, Super Mario Maker is a game primed for DLC and recent signs of the Angry Sun and extra amiibo costumes being found in the games data hint towards this. I just hope it comes soon so that I can make my challenging levels more easily beatable for the wider audience.
As you would expect from a game in this genre there are clearly limitations on the availability of items, but you don’t feel constricted when designing levels. While some iconic Mario items and enemies are conspicuously missing, they have balanced their feeling of absence by giving the player luxuries that Nintendo haven’t used in any of their 2D platforming Mario games. There are some aesthetic additions that I would have enjoyed seeing added, such as coloured pipes and Yoshis, although their absence doesn’t hamper the quality or enjoyment factors of the game. Many of these things scream “DLC” or at the very least, sequel.
Despite my main issue with the game, Super Mario Maker is a very well designed and is a fantastic game. It is the perfect game to release for Mario’s 30th anniversary and I would recommend it to anyone to pick it up. It is one of the best titles on the Wii U and hopefully it will inspire Nintendo to change up the Mario formula in future 2D Mario games.
This is Nintendo’s love letter to the legions Mario fans. It’s grants such a compelling experience that I would suggest that it’s enough to convince anyone still indecisive about purchasing a Wii U to take the plunge. It without a doubt stands shoulder to shoulder with the very best that the Wii U has to offer. Nintendo has released one game that embodies all that the 2D Mario Bros. games are. Only this time, it offers a unique perspective of enjoyment for all that Mario really is.
Overall Scores (out of 5 Stars):
If you want to try out our levels. You can find anything we’ve uploaded by searching for one of our levels and scanning through our profile for the others!