Second Opinion: Super Mario Maker Review

Super Mario Maker Revew

Nintendo has a long history of making level editors reaching as far back as the Famicom era, but these efforts over the years have been surprisingly middling. Either the editors fell short in providing players with enough tools to fuel their imaginations (*cough* Smash Bros. stage editor *cough*) or, in WarioWare D.I.Y.’s case, the MicroGame editor is so jam-packed with tools that the learning curve is ostensibly insurmountable for the layman gamer. But then there’s Super Mario Maker which isn’t so much a Mario game with a tacked-on level editor as it is a dedicated level editor that incentivizes making a Mario game with its intuitive design and limitless options.

Super Mario Maker boils down every facet of level editing down to simple drag and drop. To place an object, select it and just tap where you want via GamePad and for object variations like a red Koopa, just shake the green Koopa until it turns red. You can even combine objects to hybridize ol’ Mario standards by dragging one object on top of the other. Invincible Buzzy Beetles? Sure. Coin-spitting cannons? You bet. Giant flying Hammer Bros.? Go for it. There’s tons of props to tinker with and discover, and instead of scrolling through endless menus, they’re just a shake away. It’s all amazingly simple, so simple that you’ll be poking around around the editor just to see what’s possible, which is a much better teaching method than insistent tutorials that no one reads anyways. More to that point, the game even adds a little visual flair without any extra work on your part. By just piecing ground blocks together while making an airship stage, I was able to create a ship complete with propellers, windows and the like in mere seconds. I could even adjust these little details on the fly by moving them around until they looked just right.

Upon release, Super Mario Maker had a 9 day period where certain toolsets would be locked until their respective day, but that has since been reduced to the point where everything can be unlocked in a day. You still have to play around with each set for about 15 minutes a piece, but 15 minutes is about the right amount of time to get acquainted with the available options. Having said this, there are some entirely absent stage elements such as slopes, checkpoints, or the ability to make a vertical scrolling level, which is pretty disappointing.

One of the biggest draws of Super Mario Maker stems from the ability to design levels for your favorite of 2D Mario. Every 2D Mario dating back to the NES (well, almost — sorry, SMB2) comes fully equipped with its signature mechanics and gameplay quirks, so the Super Mario World set includes spin jumps while NSMB maintains wall jumping, and so on. Each game setting authentically recreates the feel of their corresponding game, but these properties are non-transferable to the other settings, ergo don’t expect to triple jump in Super Mario Bros. 3 or anything like that. While you can definitely use some items or level themes in games where they wouldn’t normally belong, like using Ghost Houses in a Super Mario Bros. 1 level, it’s still going to handle like a game of Super Mario Bros. 1 — just with spooky music, boos, and the like.

Since the bulk of Mario Maker consists of the level editor and sharing stages through the game’s Course World, there isn’t a whole lot in terms of offline single-player outside of the ’10-Mario challenge’ mode. In 10-Mario challenge, you attempt a random set of stages using — unsurprisingly — only 10 lives. This mode is no substitute to a full-fledged Mario game (most levels can be cleared in mere seconds), though these levels demonstrate some neat ideas that can then be applied towards your own creations. You’re going to have the most fun taking on Course World’s user-generated levels, though players’ mileage will definitely vary depending what the game extracts from the Internet. Some levels are great, some are good, others are bad, and then there’s the ones where calling them “a level” is generous.

While the quality of levels accumulated in Course World obviously depends on the players making them, Super Mario Maker makes it easy to find enjoyable single stages. Right off the bat courses are sorted by most popular, with the ability to filter out all but more recently submitted stages, or by factors such as the stage’s difficulty (though I have no idea how this is determined). When clearing a stage, you’re also recommended stages you might also like, allowing you to keep drinking from the crisp, pure reservoir of high quality Mario levels as long as you’d like. If you really like a particular stage you can not only grant the stage a star, but also follow the stage’s creator to keep an eye out whenever they make a new level. If you’re not feeling so keen about a certain part of a level, you can pause at any time and leave a constructive comment at the problem area as well.

Suppose the best of the best isn’t enough. If you really want to trudge through as many levels as possible, disregarding quality, then the 100-Mario challenge is for you. This mode, much like the offline 10-Mario challenge, has you play through a set of randomly-chosen courses with a seemingly large count of 100 lives. While this is the only real way to play user-submitted stages in a format resembling the worlds in previous Mario games, its untamed wilderness isn’t quite as enjoyable. While there are still some diamonds in the rough, picking from all uploaded stages means that a fairly large number of less-than-enjoyable levels turn up. Even in the press version of the game I ran into numerous levels with pixel-perfect jumps, unmarked doors that lead directly to my death, and other such frustrating encounters. While you can swipe the screen to skip a stage that’s simply not fun, this often means you have to spend a lot of time skipping before you find a stage worth playing. While I appreciate the mode’s ability to let any up-and-coming stage designer get noticed, the mode lacks any cohesion from one level to the next; it presents disjointed ideas placed alongside one another with no rhyme or reason. This is especially frustrating since clearing the challenge multiple times is required to earn a large portion of the game’s unlockable Costume Mario characters. If there were a way to experience curated sets of user-made levels this mode would be infinitely more entertaining, but as it stands it’s hard to call 100-Mario Challenge anything but a collection of playable ideas.

Much like creating courses in the editor, submitting your creations to Course World is a snap. After the (possibly) simple process of clearing your level once, you may share it with the world, giving you not only the satisfaction of having published your creation, but something much more valuable to a level designer–feedback! If you’d like, you can receive notifications any time someone plays, favorites, or comments on one of your submitted stages. This sort of immediate feedback is a really nice way of figuring out how to improve your stage-making skills, and while I’m still not the biggest fan of the 100-Mario challenge, I do appreciate its ability to immediately give your stage the large audience it may very well deserve. The only aspect of receiving feedback that I feel is missing is the ability to view player deaths. Upon dying on a stage online, you’re quickly given a view of where every other player’s failed attempts ended. While this would be incredibly helpful information for stage-making, there’s no way to view this data outside of playing your own level and dying at various points. If this was easier to view, it would be a great way to figure out which parts of your stage might be too challenging or unintuitive, but as is it’s mostly a kind of neat visual when missing a jump for the fifteenth time.

Having said all this, the question of whether or not to get Super Mario Maker can be answered pretty easily: Do you want to make Mario levels, or at least play them? If yes, then you’ll probably find what you’re looking for here. Between the simple yet deep course editor and Course World, the extensive resource for creators and those that just want to play new stages, there’s a potentially limitless supply of fun to be had here.

Second Opinion: Super Mario Maker Review
Gameplay8.5
Presentation9.5
Lasting Appeal10
Pros
  • Ridiculously intuitive editor
  • Stage sharing handled very well
Cons
  • Missing stage elements (slopes, etc.)
  • No way to play a set of stages outside of 100-Mario Challenge
9Overall Score
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About The Author

News Reporter/Game Reviewer

Jacob Rifenbery is a content writer for Always Nintendo. While first and foremost a fan of strange rhythm games, he enjoys playing and writing about a wide variety of titles.