There’s a certain sense of joy that comes from playing Super Mario levels. The rules are so embedded in our minds that anyone can know what will and won’t work. Success isn’t always about skill, but rather creativity. There’s a reason someone can remember to hold down on the white semi-solid platform in level 1-3 of Super Mario 3. These are games that endure, and Super Mario Maker will be their king.
It’s a game that oozes charm. Super Mario Maker offers pretty much every piece a person could need to make their perfect level. Want enemies? You have ones from Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. Want to pepper your level with secrets? Put down some doors and pipes to take people to new rooms or sub areas. You can challenge visitors with chimera combinations like a Koopa with a Piranha Plant on it’s head riding atop a Winged Bowser. It’s a game where if you imagine it, you can most likely do it.
But not all at once. It seems like Nintendo knows how eager people would be to start doing things in Super Mario Maker and has included a rather ingenious unlocking method to ensure people crawl and walk before they run. Rather than offering people access to all game designs, components, areas, and sound effects immediately, the company requires people to play for nine days in a row, actively working within the creator for at least five minutes, to ensure deliveries of new gameplay elements.
This may seem daunting, especially if someone is impatiently waiting to create something they have on their mind, but it’s really rather ingenious. You can’t just leave the creator open for five minutes and expect a delivery to be made. You have to actually be working. It gets you thinking about what is possible with your initially limited resources. What can you do that might impress people enough to not only play your level, but reward you with a star for your efforts.
Surprisingly, there’s a lot of inspiration to draw from in Super Mario Maker. If you play through the offline 10 Mario Challenge, you’ll go through included levels created by Nintendo. Their titles offer clues for success, and each one can be used as a template for an idea of your own after you’ve unlocked it. It’s almost like the offline levels are their own courses designed to teach you a few things, to prepare for what you’ll find online.
Not that they can ever really prepare you. Brace yourselves when you hop into Super Mario Maker’s Course World for the first time, because you are going to be floored. Initially, it’s going to seem like everyone out there is smarter, more ingenious, more devious, and more insightful than you. You will see levels that you wouldn’t even think possible within the confines of a Super Mario game, like musical compositions, shoot’em ups, near-endless runners, puzzles, educational trials, Metroidvanias, and more. It’s astonishing. To be honest, I was more impressed with the offerings from Super Mario Maker creators than what LittleBigPlanet players came up with. It almost seemed as though people within LittleBigPlanet were attempting to recreate aspects or elements of games they loved, while the first round of Super Mario Maker offerings were people testing the bounds of the game with original content.
It’s why I believe 100 Mario Challenge will be remembered fondly as the best part of Super Mario Maker. Like the offline 10 Mario Challenge, 100 Mario Challenge sends a player through eight user created levels with 100 lives. Success means getting a new Costume Mario design, as well as the opportunity to see levels you might not have come across otherwise. It’s a great way to expose people to new things, and the ability to skip a particularly daunting level and replace it randomly with another by holding down the plus button is an additional boon.
But there are other things about Super Mario Maker that are wonderful. It’s callbacks to Mario Paint is a joy. Getting to play Fly Swatter again is quite a surprise. Also, I can’t wait to see more people use the game to create musical levels. It’s just a shame that the custom sounds can’t be shared online, instead replaced with parakeet cheeps.
The daily welcome screen change guarantees a smile too. Every day of the week has a new way to say, “Hello!” My favorite is Sunday, as that’s when a Luigi with a Fire Flower comes up and blasts Builder Mario off of the screen before Peach floats down on a cloud with a sign that says, “Happy Sunday!” It sets the tone for each session. “Welcome back! Feel like making something today? Great! Want to see what other people have done? That’s wonderful too! Let’s have some fun!”
It’s funny, because for a game that is primarily a solo experience, Super Mario Maker does find a way of also connecting you to the other people playing. Whenever you log into the game, notifications will pop up to tell you what’s happened with your level. These people have played it while you were gone! Some people thought this level was good enough to give you a star. Does that mean you have enough stars now to upload more than the initial 10 level limit? Let’s go take a look. Oh, but while you’re looking to see specific details, a new bulletin is coming in. Somebody named “Mandy” is playing your level right now!
I’ve never felt so valued playing a game. I’m not some star creator. Not like people like Dalagonash or Kokobé who have already (rightfully) earned substantial internet for their creations. But it’s reached a point where whenever I log in, I see between 10 and 20 people have played my levels, maybe more, and they’re actually giving me stars for them. It’s encouraging, as though there’s a sense of community even though we’re only offering up stars and occasional comments on each other’s levels. There’s a support system in place, and it’s almost entirely positive.
Super Mario Maker is both an incredible tool and wonderful game. Everyone with a Wii U is going to appreciate what it has to offer. It has a way of pulling you in and inviting you to engage with the creation tools, even if you only wanted it to see what other people have made. It’s no spectator sport. With Super Mario Maker, you are going to be producing and playing, and will eventually put together a level that will make you and other players proud.