Have you ever wanted to make a video game? Or even just a level from one? Super Mario Maker is a robust suite of tools that lets you create and share levels straight outta Super Mario Bros. It’s startlingly simple, but easily just as feature rich as Mario Paint was in its day. The only real caveat is the system for parsing through the user generated levels could have been a bit more fleshed out.

At first I only really wanted to be given the ability to construct levels the way the wizards at Nintendo went about crafting the marvelous levels from Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, New Super Mario Bros. U, and my personal favourite and game of the year, every year, Super Mario World. Simple stuff like scrolling to the right, with leftward scrolling only being allowed when it was game appropriate. But the way Nintendo has let off the reigns a bit to afford a greater level of freedom totally works and leaves things open to crazy experimentation. Nintendo arguably packed this thing with even more options than they would have had themselves originally, like if you wanted to make a Lakitu lob Boos, you certainly could. If you want to recreate flappy bird and have a Giant winged Bowser Jr. in a Koopa Clown Car as an end level boss, heck yeah, man, you can make that. None of this is meant to imply Super Mario Maker is boundless because it certainly has rules, but there’s a level of freedom, a flexibility that encourages experimentation and fun.

There’s a slow ramp up to get access to all the tools though. When you first pop the disc in and try to make a level the topmost bracket of stuff is available, with only one background, and only two game styles. This is ample for whipping together a simple, functional level in the original Super Mario Bros. style. After five or so minutes of making a notification is served to the player that more cool tools will be delivered tomorrow. While I wish there was some sort of button code that allowed those who felt ready to just dive in with the full suite, I appreciate the approach they took. The editor is dense for what it is, jam packed to the brim with things to play and a multitude of ways those things can affect each other. I could see many simply being intimidated when confronted with the sheer wealth of options. I ended up rolling my Wii U’s internal clock forward and unlocked everything as quickly as it would let me.

I made a functional train through a haunted house

I made a functional train through a haunted house

However, the ease with which the editor lets you manipulate stuff means it won’t be long before you get the hang of things. Placing items and things on a grid almost like the graph paper the original levels were designed on is super intuitive and the option to play your creation is always close at hand by tapping the clapperboard. Jumping in and out allows for voracious incremental iteration, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, tweaking just the way you like as you go. Once they’re unlocked it’s super easy to swap between the various level backgrounds like the haunted mansion or airship near instantaneously as is switching between the different games. Each version has its own items and abilities unique to it. New Super Mario Bros. U is the only one with things like wall jumps and ground pounds, while Super Mario World has the cape, Super Mario Bros. 3 has weird stuff like the run meter and the end of level sections that looks all separate from the rest of the level. And the one that started it all, Super Mario Bros.? It has one of my favourite items, Kuribo’s Shoe and probably more importantly the Amiibo support.

It’s never really felt like Amiibo’s had a compelling reason to exist, a home, if you will. Where other toys-in-your-games IPs like Skylanders and Disney Infinity build entire games around the idea, Nintendo’s Amiibo implementation has felt half baked, under-utilized and sporadic. Super Mario Maker finally makes good on Amiibo. They aren’t critical or crucial, but instead just a well thought out way to put those numerous Amiibo to work. Their power ups are only costumes, but act like a Super Mushroom, allowing a mulligan on an impact which will ditch the costume. From K.K. Slider to Wario, Pikachu to Captain Falcon and Olimar, they’re all here and ready to rock as cute little NES-like sprites. Most even have their own accompanying action and sound effects when up is pressed on the directional pad, as well as failure and level completion jingles. The game even goes so far as to have Toad, reprehensible non-person and stalwart bearer of bad news deliver slightly different dialogue per the costume after a castle has been toppled. It’s a small touch, but it’s incredibly charming and always made me smile. If Nintendo went the distance and patches Super Mario Maker to be the defacto home for all Amiibos as they rolled out new ones that’d be fine by me. The icing on the cake is that if you aren’t looking to shell out money for a new Amiibo habit, plenty of costumes can be unlocked each time you complete the 100 Mario Challenge mode.

And it’s in the 100 Mario Challenge mode where most players will experience the levels of others. After selecting either easy, normal or expert it’s just 100 lives and a handful of levels sometimes meticulously created by people you don’t know. I’m not sure how things are sorted, but difficult seems to be worked out based on the number of times a level has been played contrasted with completions. Sufficed to say, some of the expert level courses fall just on the south side of evil. To remedy those instances, Nintendo smartly implemented a skip that doesn’t penalize you, but also doesn’t move you forward and simply presents another level. The game also comes with a 10 Mario Challenge built around levels constructed by Nintendo themselves. These are some of the levels that were showcased at the Nintendo World Championship. These are a great showcase for what’s possible with the tools and exemplify the sort of quality levels that can be built with them.

This package is so tight and densely packed with stuff that the areas where Super Mario Maker falls short actually become glaringly obvious. A more fleshed out way to sort levels would have been lovely. Following creators and starring levels works well enough, but it totally limits what people can find. You want to find all the recreations of old levels, but if enough people haven’t played it then good luck. Being able to search via even a limited text selection would have done wonders. Tagging levels could have been a sufficient way to parse them, allowing all the auto scrolling or “don’t touch anything” levels to be filtered in or out at will. An option to only have levels made with specific stuff would have also been great. I’m not the biggest fan of New Super Mario Bros. and would honestly like to search just within the confines of Super Mario World and the original Super Mario Bros. While there is a 16 digit code that can be freely posted and allows others to find your level, more options would better facilitate getting the content you want in front.

Super Mario Maker also draws the line at singular levels rather than a whole world a la Super Mario World. It might seem like a tiny gripe, but I’d have lost my head in short order if the individual levels could have been linked up properly with an overworld. It would have added some gravitas to coins and power ups. Since each level stands on its own as an island, things like power ups don’t carry over between them. Every level starts you with a normalized small Mario. I understand why lives were capped at three per stage, it would be too easy to game the system and get back nearly all 100 lives in some levels. It makes sense to preserve the difficulty by limiting the ability to break the 10 and 100 Mario Challenges, but it also cheapens some things generally at the core of an enjoyable Super Mario experience.

"Don't Touch Anything" automatic levels are rad.

“Don’t Touch Anything” automatic levels are rad.

Plenty of other rules from the previous games have been sidelined as well in an effort to allow creators to have finer control over their vision. The way that power ups will no longer alter themselves makes certain that players only get what the creator intended. A few other minor things are also different, like being able to hatch multiple Yoshi where before only one could exist. Yoshi himself has been neutered slightly, unable to swallow blue and red shells to spit them out anymore. These little things don’t alter the fun of the game at all, they’re mostly just things that someone familiar with the old games will probably take note of. It really does go a long way to ensure levels aren’t easily broken.

If nascent creators couldn’t be sure their creations were being played the way they intended, they might not bother altogether. But sometimes they suck the way they were intended. It’s the bane of any game that allows or in this case very much relies on user created content the way Super Mario Maker or Little Big Planet do. Trudging through the Expert 100 Mario Challenge and being faced with way too many enemies on the screen in a cramped space, doors that lead to instant death traps and levels based entirely around springs can be and is thoroughly horrendous. The skip function is the best, and I can only put faith in the community to do a good job of self regulation by doling out the stars accordingly. Just a public service announcement, if you didn’t enjoy a course don’t comment with smack talk: this automatically gives a star to the course in question, inadvertently fueling the fire of our ruin.

Altogether the problems I have with Super Mario Maker are few and far between. How this bonkers ROM hack of a game even exists confounds me, but also makes me smile. It’s a game that lets you create and build almost anything you dream up in the styles of timeless classics and New Super Mario Bros. U. You could make an ascending staircase of Bull’s-Eye Bills underwater or tons of giant flying Bloopers piled high in the sky, Super Mario Maker enables those ideas, good and bad, indiscriminately. Nintendo have found a way to make it simple and fun to play and create, which I think might be the greatest strength of the package. In the maelstrom of user created levels there’s something for everyone and a nearly limitless palette for those with the fire to make. I’m over the moon for Super Mario Maker and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.

Super Mario Maker Review
Nintendo really went above and beyond with Super Mario Maker. It's easy to use and leverages some of the most timeless video games ever. Games that even after 30 years are still insanely playable by modern standards. Barring those who created in pursuit of what could be done instead of what should, the community is full of insanely talented designers and some legitimately well designed levels. Do you hate fun? No? Get Super Mario Maker.
Super Mario
  • Robust suite of tools
  • Enables creativity
  • So gosh darn fun
Three Bowsers Stacked On Top of Each Other
  • Search functionality could be better
9.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author

Evan T
Editorial/Reviews Writer

Evan is a super serious, real life production assistant, video editor, and current review and editorial writer for Gamer Assault Weekly. A failed knife salesman and former member of a prestigious World of Warcraft guild, renowned for his voice and childlike enthusiasm for video games. Has never broken a bone. Hates possums. Mumble-sings.