It’s time for all the backseat game designers out there to put their money where their mouth is. Thanks to Nintendo’s “Super Mario Maker,” literally anyone who can work a touch screen can make awesome Mario levels and share them with the world. It’s a fun, extraordinarily easy-to-use piece of software that makes the best case in favor of the Wii U’s unique gamepad controller yet.
“Super Mario Maker”
Wii U Exclusive
The meat of this package, the level creator, is sharply designed and intuitive. It expertly uses the Mario series’ familiarity to teach basic game design — the crash course tutorial involves filling in the missing pieces of a faux world 1-1, the utterly iconic introduction to the original “Super Mario Bros.” If you’re at all familiar with how Mario works — and I’m guessing you are — this will be the perfect transition from playing to creating.
Players can create stages based on four 2D Mario games (“Super Mario Bros.,” “Super Mario Bros. 3,” “Super Mario World” and “New Super Mario Bros. U.”), each stage retaining the look and physics of each classic title. A superb feature is the ability to create a layout for any particular level and instantly switch the theme from game to game.
If you’re finding that you lack inspiration, Nintendo’s got you covered. The game comes packed with tons of house-designed mini-levels accessible through its “10-Mario Challenge” mode that are meant to act as a flint and steel for creative level design. These are great, and somehow even more interestingly designed than the recent (rather lame) standalone 2D Mario games.
And of course, being 2015 and all, the game features a hefty, if a tad lacking online component. Creators can upload stages to the public, presenting them to be played and liked by the masses. There’s quite a bit of interesting information the game collects based on player’s performance, and it’s really fun and educational to see where people died the most in your level, what percentage of people completed it, and what comments they left.
Nintendo has sewn into “SMM” a number of fun, if somewhat limited, methods of experiencing courses other players have uploaded. The game can generate a 12-digit code that players can use to download your level, making for easy sharing on social media. Also, a basic gallery mode lets you play popular levels and search for popular creators, while the game’s unique “100-Mario Challenge” mode selects several online levels of varying difficulties and offers a reward for completion. Don't worry, levels must be completeable to get cleared for uploading, so don't worry about running into anything broken or impossible.
While the creative aspects of “Super Mario Maker” are indeed the program’s backbone, the best part about it is that it functions as an extraordinary product for both creators and consumers simultaneously. Theoretically, one could get just as much enjoyment out of solely playing others’ levels as they could making them.
One unexpected thing about the game is that it’s thoroughly dedicated to having cool secrets and unlockables— a trend that seems to have all but died since the advent of paid downloadable content. It's refreshing to have a game packed with free goodies rather than full of content holes obviously meant to be filled by microtransactions or DLC.
However, the product is not completely without fault. The tilesets are somewhat limited, the “Super Mario World” assets feeling especially lacking. The online mode could definitely use some better filtering and searching options. The creator also lacks a way to use slopes and hills, limiting levels to rectangular geographical features and depriving players of the satisfying butt-slide move “Mario 3” fans will wont for.
Despite this, “Mario Maker” is the very best level editing software that has ever been released, blowing contemporaries like PlayStation’s LittleBigPlanet series out of the water. Its superiority is grounded in its dedication to the classic Mario games’ physics and rules, and amplified by its solid online features. This is a product that will keep both players and creators busy for weeks, if not months or years to come.
"Super Mario Maker" was reviewed using a post-release digital copy provided by Nintendo.