When Nintendo first announced Super Mario Maker, I was incredibly skeptical. It seemed like just another gimmick from the Big N. The last few side-scrolling Mario games, namely anything that falls under the “New Super Mario Bros.” category, have just underwhelmed and disappointed me. I was expecting more of the same from Maker. I could not have been more wrong. This is the most fun I’ve had playing a 2D-Mario game since I got Super Mario World all the way back in 1994, and it has completely reinvigorated a franchise which I thought I’d already gotten everything out of that I possibly could.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. What is Super Mario Maker? Simply put, it’s a way for anyone to design their own Mario courses using the visual style from the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, or New Super Mario Bros. U. A very short tutorial on first boot of the game will have you re-create a slightly modified version of the classic 1-1 stage we’ve all come to know over the years, and then you get the chance to dive into the game yourself. The controls couldn’t be easier thanks to the Wii U’s touchscreen — just tap what you want to build and then tap where you want to build it, and a convenient grid makes lining things up incredibly simple. There are tons of cool and unique combinations too. Want coins to shoot out of pipes instead of piranha plants? Just drag a coin into a pipe. Need a giant goomba to appear from a question block instead of a mushroom? Put the goomba anywhere on the stage, drag a mushroom on top of him, and then drag the larger-than-life enemy into the question block. Once your stage is done, it’s easy to upload for everyone in the world to see. All you have to do is press upload and complete the stage yourself (one of the smartest things Nintendo did in the entire stage-creation process), and voila, it’s online!
My one and only complaint I have with the creation process (and frankly, the game itself) is the way Nintendo is introducing additional elements to the creator for building. You start with the ability to create pipes, mushrooms, coins, trampolines, Goombas, Koopa Troopas, piranha plants, wing attachments for any of the aforementioned villains, and a variety of blocks. That’s it. As you use the creator each day, more and more things will unlock, but there’s no way to speed that process up. There are 5 rows of items and up to 12 items per row, so it will take nearly a week and a half to have all the creative tools at your fingertips. Some of the items are purely flavor, like soundbites happening when you hit a block or fireworks going off when you walk past a certain location, and those are some of the funniest moments I’ve had playing Maker so far. I appreciate Nintendo not wanting to overload a new creator with too many tools all at once, but at the same time there should be an alternate route to unlock these things, maybe by using a certain number of items or building a few courses; something to that extent. Either way, it’s a minor gripe.
UPDATE: With Super Mario Maker’s 1.0.1 launch day patch, this complaint has been addressed. After placing a certain number of blocks in the editor mode, your next day’s “shipment” of new tiles will be unlocked early, and then every 5 minutes thereafter. You’ll still have to invest a bit of time, but far less than the 9 days initially planned.
There’s also support for everyone’s favorite plastic figurines — amiibo! SMM has the largest amiibo support of any game so far, supporting over 99 different amiibo (although only on the classic SMB tileset). Scanning one in will create a special costume mushroom that transforms Mario into the amiibo you’ve scanned, such as Captain Falcon in the screenshot above. You can hide those mushrooms in question blocks just like any regular mushroom.
What if you don’t care about building your own Mario stages? It’s certainly not mandatory. In fact, it’s completely optional. You can choose to browse through some of the most popular or up-and-coming stages, try some of Nintendo’s own creations in the 10-Mario challenge, or take on the 100-Mario challenge, a feat which has quickly risen to my favorite thing to do in the game. The 100-Mario challenge comes in three flavors of progressing difficulty: easy, normal, and expert. In each of the difficulties you get 100 lives to complete eight (on easy) or 16 (on normal and expert) random courses that people from around the globe have created. Easy and normal modes are fun in and of themselves, but expert really does take the cake. Never in my 20-some odd years of playing Mario games have I ever felt so challenged. The most difficult expert course I have played so far ate up 75 of my 100 lives, and it was only the 3rd stage in the 16-stage gauntlet. Needless to say, that was an unsuccessful run. When I first heard of this 100-life challenge I thought, “no way will I ever need 100 lives to beat 16 levels in Mario“. I could not have been more wrong. There are incredibly creative people out there, and I can’t wait to keep seeing what monstrous challenges the world can come up with next.
Super Mario Maker brings Mario back to its roots while at the same time evolving the series in a way unlike any game has done for the plumber in the past. The level creation is quick, simple, and most importantly not daunting to rookie designers like myself. Having access to millions of levels is a feeling I’ve never had in a Mario game, and knowing that you’ll rarely — if ever — play the same level twice adds a feeling of satisfaction when you can finally beat it and move on to the next challenge. The amiibo support is vast, and there’s something immensely satisfying about watching an 8-bit pikachu running around through the underground Mario domain. This is a game that will be easy to sink hundreds of hours into, if not thousands, and will be the de facto side-scrolling Mario game for years to come.