For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with video games. They have captured my imagination, sparked my creativity, and provided countless hours of entertainment for me. At the center of my gaming life is, like many people, a little series called Super Mario Bros.
Ever since I was a little kid, it was games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World that made me want to make video games of my own one day. My younger self particularly wanted to created his own Mario games when he grew up. The rise of indy games and the generally broader appreciation for the medium that we see today means that creating video games myself no longer seems like an impossible goal. But creating my own games within Nintendo’s most iconic IP is a much-less realistic scenario.
That’s why Super Mario Maker is a dream come true for me. It’s basically Nintendo sending me (and countless others) an invitation to create their own piece of the Mario series. So far, the game looks promising in both its accessibility and potential for what it allows players to create with its tools. The only downside is the news that it takes nine days to uncover all of said tools.
Now, there have been game-creation games for many years, and I’ve had some good whirls with the likes of Neverwinter Nights and LittleBigPlanet. But for all those games’ merits, creating levels or games within them could often feel like a chore, and try my patience (I still get frustrated thinking of the enemy AI programming in LittleBigPlanet 2). Nintendo has always been known for making accessible but deep gaming experiences, and it looks like they’re bringing this trait to Super Mario Maker in the best way.
But what Super Mario Maker can really boast over all its fellow game-creators that no one else can replicate is simply this: It’s Mario.
Yes, Mario has appeared in countless games over the years, but one of the traits that speaks the loudest towards the series’ appeal is that, even with several games starring the red-capped plumber being released every year, it’s never effected how special the series can be with its most notable releases. The Mario series sits at the heart of gaming because of how consistently it delivers these “special” experiences.
If you boot up LittleBigPlanet and search for player made stages, there’s a good chance you’ll run into more than a few recreations of Mario’s signature moments. It doesn’t matter that it’s an unrelated game on an unrelated console, the Mario series has impacted gaming so deeply that LittleBigPlanet is just one way that gamers show their appreciation for it. It also speaks volumes that the series’ “less special” releases still tend to make more mundane concepts into something fantastic (playing a video game version of tennis doesn’t sound too enticing. But toss it into the Mushroom Kingdom and throw in Yoshi and Princess Peach and suddenly it’s roaring fun).
Today, you may hear some Nintendo fans comment on why Nintendo’s other franchises don’t get the same attention. The reason for this, I think, is simply that Mario is gaming in its purest form. Everything about it is built from the ground up with game design in mind. Zelda has its lore and Metroid has its atmosphere, but Mario is pure, unadulterated gaming. This gives Mario a versatility and universal appeal that’s second to none. Whereas other series might risk overexposure, Super Mario is something of a canvas for Nintendo to continuously invent and reinvent.
This has, of course, lead many gamers (myself very much included) to try their own hand at inventing and reinventing Mario. Some use romhacks to get their fix, but that simply isn’t for everyone, especially with the baggage it entails for those who wish to play them. Super Mario Maker is special because it grants the ability to create Mario stages to anyone. And while not everyone will prove to be a great game designer, a great game designer can come from anywhere (I totally just watched Ratatouille again). While many players will simply make the hardest levels imaginable or form blocks into inappropriate shapes, Super Mario Maker will grant those exceptionally creative Mario fans a template to showcase their imaginations and abilities.
My childhood self – who was blissfully unaware of the legalities that would prevent him from making his own Mario games – can finally be made proud. Time will tell if my own Mario stages will be any good, but the fact that I will be able to make them at all is, simply put, a dream come true.