If there is one constant in recent Super Mario game reviews, it’s that fans and critics like to lament that Nintendo is afraid to try anything new, and that 2D, side-scrolling Mario games have run their course. To counter this, Nintendo has now given players the power to make their own Super Mario levels, and the gaming world has taken the task and ran with it, breathing new life into the Super Mario series and creating one of the best Mario experiences ever.
In Super Mario Maker, the tools are there, taken from Super Mario Bros. (1985), Super Mario Bros. 3 (1989), Super Mario World (1991), the most recent New Super Mario Bros. U. Players can dictate the length of each level, the enemies and their placements, and even the mode in which Mario is to get from the starting point to the flagpole. Running, jumping, floating, flying, riding, you name it, it’s there.
Nintendo has even thrown in sound effects — including the option to record your own using the Wii U’s gamepad (which can be a very dangerous option in the wrong hands). Super Mario Maker also utilizes amiibos in new and unique ways. Each amiibo unlocks a playable version of that character to be placed in any original Super Mario Bros. level. At first, playing SMB as Link was cool, but then I did it as Ganondorf as that raised the coolness factor much higher. All 50-plus amiibos can be used in-game.
While making Super Mario levels is simple, fun, and incredibly addictive, the real star of Super Mario Maker comes when creators share their levels to the rest of the world. Yes, there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of brand new Super Mario levels out in the world right now, and in the time it took you to read that sentence, four more were just added. To be able to publish a level, you have to be able to beat it yourself, so that keeps most sadists from publishing punishingly impossible levels (but not my wife, she makes them difficult and publishes them with an evil glee).
I’ve played some incredibly stellar levels in Super Mario Maker. We’re talking recreations of Zelda levels (using Link, of course), and Metroid, Kid Icarus, and even other games, like Pac-Man and Sonic (each game fully utilizing the corresponding amiibo unlock). I’ve played levels that were designed by mathematical geniuses, and levels where I didn’t even have to do anything, and the whole level is a Rube Goldberg-like machination of watching Mario get bounced, pushed, nudged and skipped over enemies and obstacles all the way to the end. These are neat to watch, but after awhile, they get boring. I want to play a Mario level, not watch.
Luckily, there are enough levels and content available that aren’t automated by some genius. Nintendo uses a star rating feature that helps the best levels rise to the top, but you can also participate in 10 and 100 Mario Challenge course modes, which randomly selects eight and 16 levels — ending with a castle level, of course, that can be played and defeated to unlock one of 100 special additional items (including the amiibo characters, if you don’t have them all, or have them all in their pristine packages hung up on your wall). In fact, the drive to find and unlock all 100 items is a game in and of itself.
Even after all the Super Mario Maker tools are unlocked, there are still open spots for additional tools, possibly to come as DLC. Personally, I really want the tools to make levels from the North American Super Mario Bros. 2, which is my favorite Super Mario game (seriously). Who doesn’t want Birdo and Shyguys to play with when building? And as the recent Mario Kart 8 added non-Mario assets, could we see future games including sanctioned Metroid Maker and Zelda Makers? Seeing as how Nintendo really nailed Super Mario Maker, my brain boggles of what could be coming — as a standalone or as DLC.
Super Mario Maker has put the power to create new and exciting Mario levels in the hands of its players, and in so doing, has changed how fans and players perceive the little heroic plumber. This is a game for the creatives of every level of skill, and for players who like to be challenged or amazed by unique, artistically designed levels that spark the imagination and excite solely based on getting to the end and celebrating beating what may have been a tough, nearly-impossible level. There are some very, very creative people out there in the world, and thanks to Super Mario Maker, we can now see and play their work.
Super Mario Maker may be one of the best things to ever happen to Mario — and to Nintendo itself — and the game has only been in stores for a week or so. I feel the best is still yet to come, and that the best levels are being created right now as I write this, and as you read it. If you have some cool levels you want to share, leave your share code in the comments below and we will give them a run. I’ll even comment a review to you in-game. Show us what you got, Mario fans. We’re ready for the best!
Super Mario Maker is exclusive to the Nintendo Wii U and is available now. This review is based off a copy of the game purchased at retail.
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