REVIEW: Super Mario Maker (2015)

R.G. tries to become the next Shigeru Miyamoto in one of the best Mario games ever made.

There’s probably no-one in the gaming world that doesn’t know who Super Mario is. The character himself and his multi-billion dollar franchise – particularly his platforming series – earns its title as Nintendo’s most iconic product, as well as the best-selling video-game series ever. It revolutionised the platforming genre and single-handedly saved the medium in a time when people completely lost interest in games. There’s a huge chance that a title or two from this hugely influential property has been a staple of your video-gaming memories. Thirty years has passed since the original Super Mario Bros. was released and the series is still going strong, so much so that Nintendo has decided to let the player go behind-the-scenes to create their own dream Mario level with Super Mario Maker. A very fitting title to celebrate thirty years of jumping on Goombas and Koopas, this is one of the best games to ever bear the name, currently the best game on the Wii U, and a definite Game of the Year contender.

Super Mario Maker is, at heart, a level-editing tool allowing you to create any type of 2D Mario level you can imagine within the given parameters. You can share your created level with people online, as well as being able to play other user-created levels. It has four main formats to choose from – the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U. Each keep their respective music and mechanics, e.g. the latter with its wall-jump or World with its feather cape. From then on, you have absolute freedom to create whatever level you want at your heart’s desire.

The most enjoyable thing about this game is that the editing tools and interface are incredibly straightforward and accessible. Putting in a block or an enemy is as simple as pouring water into a glass, and the way it introduces new tools in portions rather than simultaneously gives it a very steady learning curve. It also lets you bend rules in terms of how an actual Mario platformer would turn out, and there is a sense of great satisfaction in thinking to yourself, “Wow, I didn’t know you could do that.” It was incredibly joyous when I was able to enlarge a cannon and, instead of firing the usual Bullet Bill, it would fire squids instead. I was also laughing at the fact that I can create an army of Lakitus and make them throw a barrage of spikes at you. Though, it is quite disappointing that there isn’t a checkpoint item, especially if a level is long and difficult. It’s the sense of discovery and freedom in creativity that really makes this title special, and it’s always satisfying to see a level you create come to life and be played by you, your friends or others.

In the beginning, you will start off with only a few things to use for creation and you will gradually receive more the further you play. At first launch, it had a strange progression in terms of unlocking all the tools, which took nine days. Since it was patched, you can get them in one day, as long as you dedicate yourself to creating levels and using all the available tools at your disposal. Having four different formats further expands the vast amount of possibilities in how you can create levels, as not only are they different aesthetically but they’re also distinct in terms of gameplay. If you want to create something with a huge emphasis on wall-jumping, NSMBU is the format for you, and if you want old school, traditional platforming, the original SMB is the most suitable. Each format also has its own unique items, further expanding level-designing possibilities. You can only get the cape in World and other particular items are exclusive to one look.

Super Mario Maker is also a game that is pretty much on par with Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. in terms of social interaction. It is the type of title where you and your friends sit on a couch and play together, having a lot of laughs playing through levels you’ve created; usually unfair and near-impossible to complete. A small but very appreciated detail with creating and sharing is that you have to complete it yourself before it can be uploaded online, which filters any intentionally nefarious or impossible-to-complete creations. Speaking of the online aspect, you can play levels from other players worldwide, as well as being able to download a course that you enjoyed. While you will come across on-the-fly mediocrities or ones for the sake of sadism, there are a lot of levels that are just incredibly designed and match up with what Nintendo usually makes. You can also follow creators who have consistently brilliant levels, bringing more and more content into this seemingly endless game.

Being a very open and socially-driven title, there are some single-player aspects in it that are, for the most part, easy to ignore and forget. The most notable one is the “100 Mario Challenge” where you can play through a series of randomised user-created levels. This will let you unlock mystery mushrooms where you can play pixelate versions of Nintendo characters. Of course, if you have an Amiibo collection, you can pretty much get them all. Unlike other Amiibo-hungry titles (looking at you, Splatoon), you can unlock these skins without even owning a single figure. For myself, I only have a Lucina Amiibo, so that is the only one I have unlocked so far. 

There was no game more fitting for a thirty-year anniversary than Super Mario Maker. It gives us an answer to why the Super Mario series is timeless, and is proof that 2D platforming will never lose its charm. It embodies the greatness of the 2D Mario so much that I fear any future 2D entries might become obsolete, because why would you get a new title when you can just create your own Italian plumber experience? Even if it does need a couple more features, including checkpoints and an unlocked progression, there is too much awesome in this game to even dwell on the flaws. Its editing tool is easy and incredibly fun to use, the gameplay and controls are as tight and enjoyable as any titles before it, and it has near endless possibilities. Couple that with a socially-focused agenda and this gives the game an everlasting value of replay. Basically, you can play Super Mario Maker pretty much forever. If you have a Wii U, definitely get this game now and experience one of the greatest Mario games ever made.

R.G. Villanueva

Contributing game and film writer for SquabbleBox. Occasional DJ and instrumentalist, amateur programmer, all-around lazy guy.

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