Super Mario Maker

9.8 Overall Score
Content: 9/10
Gameplay: 10/10
Controls: 10/10

Near-unending gameplay | Everyone can enjoy it | Well-built level creator

Popularity-based content control | Not all tools available from the start

Game Info

GAME NAME: Super Mario Maker

DEVELOPER(S): Nintendo

PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo

PLATFORM(S): Wii U

GENRE(S): Platforming, Game Creation

RELEASE DATE(S): September 11, 2015

 

The Super Mario series has been a staple of video gaming since 1985. Ask just about anyone who has access to a television, and they’ll tell you they know who Mario is. The series has been one of the most successful video game franchises of all time – in fact, most of you will probably skip this entire first paragraph because you already know all about the history of the Super Mario games. And it is precisely because of that legacy, that instant name recognition, that it is so surprising we are only seeing an official build-your-own-Mario game 30 years later. Needless to say, those thirty years have spawned legions of fans who are all too eager to share their ideas of what makes a perfect (or often times insanely atypical) fan-made Mario Bros stage. Luckily, with Super Mario Maker, those ideas can finally become a reality.

At its core, Super Mario Maker is a creative tool that allows you to create 2D platforming levels in the style of the Super Mario Bros series. While you would think this type of tool would come with obvious limitations, it is surprisingly allowing and altogether packed with features. The creator is controlled with a simple drag and drop mechanic, wherein objects snap onto a grid upon being dropped. Want to create a Paratroopa? Place a Koopa Troopa on the stage and then drop a pair of wings on him. Want to make a larger-than-average Goomba? Just drag a Mushroom over him and watch that paisano expand. The creator tool is, amazingly enough, simultaneously simple enough for young players to master while being functional enough for the masters to create a wide array of custom content. Unlike level creators in other software (take for example Super Smash Bros 4’s stage creator), I never found myself becoming frustrated while creating stages. It all feels very natural, and encourages exploration and creativity.

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Visually, the game is a masterpiece, allowing you to choose between one of four styles: classic Super Mario Bros, Mario 3, Super Mario World or New Super Mario Bros. And while each of these four styles come with a few unique elements, and each style controls like their respective title, you can freely switch between these styles with a simple button press. That means you can start designing a stage as a New Super Mario Bros level, only to decide it really feels more like a Mario 3 level, and with the press of a button, the change is implemented. Another incredibly minor, yet still altogether necessary feature is that every level needs to be completed by the tester before it can be uploaded to the internet. This self-contained style of quality control ensures that impossible levels will never make their way online; while playing, you’ll always have the comfort of knowing that someone else has already beaten the stage.

Before I go on, let me just say: There are some truly devious creators out there. Upon delving into other people’s stages, you’ll quickly learn that these custom levels run the gamut from amazingly easy to slam-the-gamepad-down-and-walk-away hard. There are literally endless levels to play, each one feeling unique and special upon playing them. It’s amazing when you step back and realize that, for the first time, we have a Mario game that will always present us with new levels to play. It actually makes every other 2D Mario Bros game feel obsolete, if not for the nostalgia you might find in playing an older title.

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That being said, there are certainly some course designs that will pop up more frequently than you might prefer. Simple, flat courses with hundreds of stars and giant Bowsers to kill will become common-place. So will “Automatic Mario” levels, also known as “Don’t Touch Anything” stages, in which creators make stages that, through the use of springs and moving platforms, play themselves. These types of stages are interesting at first, but they quickly become monotonous. Fortunately, the game is built in such a way that you can largely avoid stages you’d rather not play. If you choose to play the “100 Mario Challenge”, you’ll be given 100 lives and tasked to complete a set number of player-made stages. Depending on the difficulty you choose, you’ll either see collections of easy levels like the ones mentioned above, or more challenging, creative stages. And of course, you can always choose to skip levels that are either not worth your time or simply too difficult.

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Super Mario Maker is an interesting title in that it doesn’t present you with all of the tools at once. Much like Splatoon, the content comes slowly. Every day you play, a new set of tools is unlocked for you to use. In the meantime, the game encourages you to “master creation with the tools available”. While I never minded this technique of easing you into the software, I know there are others who will find this slow leak of content tedious, if not downright aggravating. Fortunately, there is another means of unlocking content. Simply spending time creating stages will cause the tools to “arrive sooner than expected”. Assuming you spend a decent amount of time creating stages, you’ll probably have every creation tool unlocked within a day or two.

However, these creation tools aren’t the only unlockable content in the game. As was advertised during Nintendo’s 2015 E3 presentation, Super Mario Maker allows you to dress Mario up, so to speak, as other characters from the Nintendo universe. These costumes are usable in the form of a special super mushroom, and provide the same in-game benefit as having grabbed one; Mario will be able to take one hit from enemies without dying, but his costume will disappear and you’ll be left with little Mario. These costumes can only be used in the classic Super Mario Bros style, and are considered Mario’s “special” power-up for that generation, taking the place of the Racoon Suit, Feather Cape and Propeller Suit found in later titles. Amazingly, there are 100 costumes found within the game – if you’re an Amiibo aficionado, you can scan your little plastic trophies into the game to collect the costumes. If you find yourself Amiibo-less, you can unlock the costumes by completing a 100 Mario Challenge.

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For the creators out there, Super Mario Maker provides a wonderful environment to publish your stages. Once uploaded, anyone can play your level online. Those who enjoy the stage will give it a “star”, which is essentially a “like” for the stage. Commenting on a stage automatically “stars” it, which I can only assume was implemented to lessen any potentially harsh words you might receive. This guy didn’t like my stage? The joke’s on him, he just gave me a star! If a player decides their comment is so important they can’t wait until they finish the stage, you’ll be able to see the comment of screen while you’re playing the level. Of course, you can always turn these comments off if you find them distracting, but it’s a nice social element that reminds me of the original mission statement of the WiiU, back when it was known as Project Cafe: to be a gaming machine that encourages new social interactions.

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By collecting enough stars, you’ll earn the ability to publish additional stages online. Everyone begins with a default ten uploads. After earning your 5oth star, you’ll be able to upload 20 total stages, and so on. This is yet another method of quality control that encourages serious creators to publish their best works. And if you later decide you need the space for new levels, you can always unpublish a stage and keep the stars. Admittedly,  being unable to publish as much content as the more popular uploaders is a really unappealing gameplay element. I understand the reasoning behind it, and honestly, I think it’s a great way to give more creative space to the creators with much-loved content, but it still feels a little cruel.

Super Mario Maker is truly an amazing game. Its status as spiritual successor to Mario Paint is well earned, and it may just be the greatest creative tool Nintendo has ever released. You don’t need to be a master game designer to love using the creator portion of the game, and you don’t need to be a Mario veteran to enjoy the never-ending collection of levels to explore. It really is a title that appeals to everyone, across every skill level and age group. It is simultaneously a game that feels unlike anything you’ve ever played before, truly unique in its execution. Super Mario Maker is a game that will only become unappealing when you become sick of playing Super Mario Bros games, and will only run out of content if the human race somehow runs out of creativity. Yes, it’s really that good.

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Summary

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Author: Lukas Termini View all posts by
An amateur game designer and lover of all things Nintendo, Lukas studied digital arts and 3d animation at the University of Tampa before graduating in 2013. If he isn't playing a video game, you can bet he's probably thinking about it.
  • Aeroweth

    When you think about how much of a God-send the GamePad is for this game, it’s not too surprising Nintendo has taken so long to release a level creation tool. Imagine point controls instead. *shivers*