At the early age of three, I had my first ever gaming experience with Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and it was magical! This moment would forever change my life. I was so influenced by Mario as a child, that I dressed up as him, and pretended I was him, hopping around the living room with a fake mustache taped to my face. I was a creative kid, and what I loved to do most of all was create my own Mario stages by drawing them on paper. But there was one thing I couldn’t do, and that was bring my stages to life. Now with the power of Super Mario Maker, my greatest childhood wishes have come to life!
Super Mario Maker is an easy to use erector set of endless fun that any age can pick up and enjoy, but it’s more than just a stage builder. It’s a 30th anniversary celebration of one of the most recognizable icons in gaming history, and the game conveys that message quite well. Not only did Nintendo include a large chunk of items, enemies, and platforms from Mario’s history, but the game also allows you to swap between four different historical styles from Mario’s past on the fly. Whether you want to create a stage in the original Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, or New Super Mario Bros U, they are all accessible to use. Another great feature is that almost all the enemies and platforms carry over when you swap styles, or themes. Even enemies and items that that never appeared in some of the older games can be carried over, because they have been recreated and re-imagined to fit all four styles. What is even more impressive is that all newer enemies and items fit so well into the older games, that you would swear they always existed there to begin with.
Every item in your tool belt is meaningful, but give them a quick shake on the touch screen, and you will find that most items are even more special than they first appeared, as many of them have a second and possibly third form. You can also combine and stack some items and enemies, and get some pretty ridiculous, yet marvelous results. Have you ever wanted to put a Bullet Bill cannon that shoots Chain Chomps on the back of a giant flying Koopa? Well, now you can, and no one is stopping you. Some tools even trigger secrets, like the Fly Swatter game, which makes its return from Mario Paint as a hidden mini game. Speaking of Mario Paint, you can find a lot of traces from that game spread all round Mario Maker, from the music and sounds, to the undo dog, and even the title screen where all the letters in the title cause something silly to happen.
While all these tools and retro inspirations are great additions to the game, there is one major problem. It takes you 9 days to unlock it all, and that’s where my biggest gripe with Super Mario Maker stands. The package feels like more of a program than it does a game in the same way Mario Paint does, so having to wait nine days to get all the tools in your arsenal is a pain. Could you imagine if you bought Photoshop, and a pop up message from Adobe said, “sorry, you can’t use the paint bucket until you’ve shown us you know how to use the paintbrush?” Luckily, just like in Animal crossing, you can speed up time by changing the date on your Wii U’s Calendar in the settings, but you will still need to spend some time with the last tool set you unlocked each day to prove you are worthy enough to unlock the next set the following day, which is a huge bummer. Another issue I have is not being able to create slides and slopes. You are only allowed to create straight platforms, meaning remaking most Super Mario Bros. 3 stages is out of the question. There are also some fan favorite enemies that don’t appear in Super Mario Maker, such as Charging Chucks, Sumo Bros. and the nipper plants. Hopefully, Nintendo will be able to add some of these missed options and enemies in with a future update or DLC.
Even though there are a few takeaways, there are also a couple neat features added in that make the game worthwhile, such as the 10 Mario Challenge where you are given 10 lives to play through 8 courses in a row. A lot of these courses are brand new, never before seen levels, but there are also a few remixed courses tossed into the mix, which are re-imagined versions of classic courses. There are 68 stages built into the game in all, and the main purpose of them is to inspire you and get your creative juices flowing to help you create your own masterpieces. The game even comes with an art book with some secret codes hidden inside. Type them into your virtual manual, and you get even more tips and tricks.
The real meat of Mario Maker is online, where you can upload and share your own creations, as well as play an endless supply of user created levels. The game has only been out for a few days, but I’m blown away by how many amazing stages the online community has already created. While Nintendo features some of the best user created levels, there are still a lot of hidden gems out there in the wild. One of the best ways to find those stages is through the 100 Mario challenge. You play through 8 stages, just like the 10 Mario challenge, but this time you are playing through user created stages, and have 100 lives to spare. While 100 lives may sound like a lot, think again. In the 100 Mario challenge, you now have the option to choose easy, Medium, or Hard courses, and play through 8 or 16 courses depending on the difficulty. The game determines a level’s challenge based on how many people were able to complete them, and some of harder user created levels that you randomly come across will steal many of your lives, if not all of them. Every time you complete one of these challenges, you will earn one of 100 different costumes at random. Wearing these costumes turns you into other famous Nintendo character such as Link or Donkey Kong, but some of them even put you in vehicles, like a go-kart from Mario Kart. Most of these costumes can also be unlocked by scanning Amiibo, which come with the costume that that character represents.
It’s a lot of fun to play other peoples’ stages, but sometimes it’s also fun to see what your friends have created. I thought it would be a natural feature to be able to search for your friends’ stages, but that option is just not there. Instead, you will be going the classic old fashion Nintendo route of typing in codes to find your friends’ stages. Once you find a friend’s stage, you can follow them, and you won’t have to enter a code to see their new levels ever again, but as usual, it feels like you have to jump through an extra unnecessary pipe to get to the flagpole.
Even though Super Mario Maker may have some shortcomings when it comes to unlocking all of its tools, or finding friends stages early on, it’s honestly the most fun I’ve had all year. It’s a 30th Anniversary celebration that I won’t soon forget, and it will only get better with time the more people get their hands on it. The fact that it has made my childhood dream of bringing my stages to life and sharing them with the world has overwhelmed me with joy, and brought me back to my earliest childhood memories of growing up with Mario and my first ever gaming experiences brings warmth to my gaming heart. Super Mario Maker is simply a must own game for all Mario fanatics and Wii U owners.
+Swapping between 30 years of history on the fly
+Creating and uploading your own creations
+Always new levels to come back to
-Missing some assets
-Finding friends’ stages
Super Mario Maker is fun for all ages and the clever user created levels will give you something to constantly come back to and enjoy.
Jason Betthauser is the Senior Producer at The Game Bolt. He enjoys playing through classic games on cold, snowy, Minnesota days, especially if that game is Super Metroid. Follow him on Twitter.