Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Super Mario Bros., one of the most influential and classic video games of all time. In celebration this past weekend, Nintendo released what is likely to be the final big release of the Wii U, Super Mario Maker. I picked it up on Friday and, if this is any indicator of quality, have been unable to put it down since.
The basic premise is that Super Mario Maker allows you to use the unique Wii U game pad, complete with buttons, a D-pad, and a touch screen, to design your own Super Mario levels. It is infinitely customizable and has tons of familiar components to choose from. When you first load the game you start with the basics: skins / visual style from either Super Mario Bros (1985) or New Super Mario Bros. U (2012), and you can build either an above ground or underground level. A lot of familiar objects are available too; Goombas, Koopas, blocks in a number of varieties, coins, mushrooms, 1-ups, etc.
Using the touch screen and the stylus, you can drag and drop all of these elements onto a grid (like the one pictured above) to create your own Super Mario level. Even cooler, you can instantly test anything configuration you’ve put together by hitting the ‘Play’ button in the bottom left hand corner, using the controller to run Mario through whatever contraption you’ve created.
The more and more you use the builder to make levels, the more options will be added. At first, I imagined being frustrated that I couldn’t immediately build everything. After playing for three solid days though, the organic way that Maker introduces new elements–including visuals from Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988) and Super Mario World (1990) and every item you’ve ever seen in a Mario level–works so well. It allows you a learning curve that really highlights the ease of the interface and the uniqueness of each level style.
Once you’ve finished building your level you can play through it, editing anything that doesn’t work while you play. You can map Mario’s movements and jumps so that you can move platforms just barely into range. You can adjust the clock or the scroll rate. It’s tons of fun making levels just on the edge of infuriating impossibility. Once you’ve made all of the adjustments, it’s time to upload the level online.
The other half of Mario Maker, the part you play, are the other levels that people around the world have put together. You can publish your own levels, follow other “makers” and play every level they come up with, or play in one of the 10- or 100- Mario challenges (where you get 10 or 100 lives, respectively, to beat a set number of levels). There are ratings for each level online, the ability to leave comments, and rankings of the most popular levels from all over the globe.
Some of the posted levels (and it’s still early) are… interesting. Most of the early leaders are basically Rube-Goldberg levels. You hit play and stand there while different wingdings propel you to the finish. While I admire the amount of time it likely took to put these levels together, they’re pretty boring. Better than playing the top rated levels is to play one of the Challenges, which makes you play through 8-16 levels at a time. Those are better and let you actually play, for the most part.
While there’s no overarching plot (although, aside from Super Mario Bros. 2 where you’re freeing the dreamworld from the evil frog Wart, they all involve a princess being kidnapped by Bowser or an underling) the variability of the game makes it an enjoyable play. This is especially true if you have family or friends who also have the game. All weekend my family and I have been trading levels, each more diabolical than the last, trying to one up each other. That’s where Mario Maker really shines. Wii U sales might have lagged behind the XBOX and PS4 in this latest generation of consoles, but this game really makes me feel as though buying it was worth it.
If you like Mario, if you like modular design, or if you’ve ever dreamed about “1-upping” your friends and family with your maniacal design skills, you’ll absolutely love Mario Maker. If you’re reading this and you’ve already gotten it, feel free to give my levels a try too. Here are the 5, with their respective IDs, that I’ve published since Friday (the first one is terrible):
“My First Evil Lair” – (F099-0000-001B-2CBA)
“Squid Row” – (FF03-0000-0021-0D32)
“Fireball Walk with Me” – (3533-0000-0021-C0B8)
“The Red Shells are Coming” – (4AB9-0000-0025-F217)
“Ouch My (Fire)balls” – (8031-0000-0027-58C5)