Super Mario Maker 2 Review

Nintendo’s Wii U console gets a lot of flack. Some of its criticisms are just (it was a commercial failure for the big N, a fact that was magnified by its status as a bridge between two golden ages for Nintendo), but the Wii U played an important role in Nintendo’s big picture. An argument could be made that the Switch – and the success that has come with it – is a combination of the refinement of the ideas the Wii U got right (surely the Wii U Gamepad opened the door for the Switch’s handheld capabilities), and the results of learning from the Wii U’s mistakes.

The Wii U’s lack of third-party support was among its biggest missteps, but one of the system’s highlights was that it featured some of Nintendo’s best first-party output. It really isn’t a shock that much of the Wii U’s legacy in first-party titles has been given a second chance at life on the Nintendo Switch, whether through enhanced ports (such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze), or sequels that build on the ideas of the Wii U originals (such as Splatoon 2). The latest entry in the latter category is Super Mario Maker 2, the sequel to one of the Wii U’s few undeniable success stories.

In 2015, Super Mario Maker gave players of all experiences and skill levels the opportunity to try their hand at game design. Though it had a few unfortunate limitations, and certainly wasn’t the first game-creation game, Super Mario Maker was a new highlight for the genre. By making the level creation process as accessible and deep as the gameplay the Super Mario series is known for (and featuring said gameplay to boot), Super Mario Maker was fun and addictive in a way that no other game-making title had been before.

Super Mario Maker 2 takes that same accessibility and depth of the original, while making a few appreciated adjustments and bringing in some meaningful new additions. As such, Super Mario Maker 2 is not only an improvement over its predecessor, but a treasure trove of Super Mario levels that’s ever-expanding. One that should both entice players to test their own creativity in level design, and jump at the chance to see the creativity of other players from around the world.

Though it must be said that there are still a few lingering limitations to certain features of the game. So while Super Mario Maker 2 may be unlimited Mario fun on one hand, these limitations do prevent this sequel from reaching its full potential, and can make certain aspects feel more like the content of an expansion pack than a grand follow-up.

Still, even with limitations, Super Mario Maker remains one of Nintendo’s best ideas. The Mario series has an uncanny ability to make concepts more fun just with its presence, and that’s true even of game-creation tools. Take LittleBigPlanet, for example. While that series has also allowed players to create their own levels and express wild levels of creativity, it loses a great deal of its appeal once you try to play said levels. Gravity works against Sackboy, rendering the platforming awkward and clunky. Mario, however, has long-since mastered gravity for the betterment of gameplay. So while Super Mario Maker 2 may still have room to expand its creation tools, the tried-and-true gameplay and physics of the Mario series guarantee that Super Mario Maker 2 still boasts near-infinite replay value.

“3D World finally gives me reason to make levels outside of the Super Mario World style.”

Like its predecessor, Super Mario Maker 2 allows you to create your own Mario stages in the styles of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U. The most obvious addition to Mario Maker 2 is that it includes a new game style with which to build your stages: Super Mario 3D World.

While Super Mario 3D World was played with a 3D perspective, it did feel like the proper continuation of the legacy of Mario’s 2D adventures (certainly more so than the New Super Mario Bros. games ever did). In Mario Maker 2, the 3D World style is presented as a 2D side scroller, like the other present styles, which in a way makes it tantamount to the first new type of Mario side-scroller since the original NSMB game hit the Nintendo DS back in 2006.

As in the first Super Mario Maker, each different game style not only alters the aesthetics of your stage, but also come with the appropriate physics and mechanics of their respective games, with small changes here and there (each style boasts one power-up unique to their original game, Super Mario World and NSMBU feature Yoshis, while the NES styles have Kuribo’s Shoe in his place, etc.). While the four returning styles can be swapped in and out while editing a level to see which style it plays best in, 3D World is listed under its own, separate category. This is due to 3D World having “enough differences” in its features that the other styles can’t replicate. On one hand there are some notable differences in 3D World, so I can kind of understand this. At the same time, it is kind of a bummer that certain features don’t carry over to the 3D World style.

Once again, all your created levels utilize different course ‘themes,’ based on the world themes of Mario games past. The six themes from the first Mario Maker return: Ground, Underground, Water, Ghost House, Airship and Castle. Super Mario Maker 2 adds four new course themes to the proceedings: Desert, Snow, Forest and Sky.

“Why are Super Mario World aesthetics still so beautiful and eye-catching?”

These new themes add variety to the aesthetics of the game (with new compositions by none other than the original Mario maestro, Koji Kondo, for level themes that are new to particular game styles), but an even bigger addition to these course themes brings even greater variety to the experience: Night themes.

All ten of the course themes now feature an alternate ‘Nighttime’ mode, effectively doubling the total course themes. The Nighttime versions bring out new gameplay mechanics and shifts to their respective level themes. Playing a night-themed ground level, for example, will see Super Mushrooms turn into deadly Poison Mushrooms, which will give chase to the player. Nighttime ghost houses will see the majority of the screen covered in black, with a spotlight shining on Mario and select objects and enemies, giving an appropriately claustrophobic atmosphere to the ghost stages. Castle stages will mysteriously gain water-like attributes, with Mario and enemies swimming through the air as if they were submerged in a water level. Perhaps most interestingly, the underground stages will flip upside down when exposed to nighttime, flipping Mario’s controls around as well.

The night versions of the course themes are among Super Mario Maker 2’s best new features. Along with the major – often bizarre – tweaks they bring to the gameplay, they also make smaller changes to enemies and objects as well, enticing players to try out everything they can in each night theme to see how they work.

Like in the first Mario Maker, you can actually implement two course themes in a stage, one for the ‘main’ portion of the stage (which houses the start and goal), and a ‘sub’ portion of the stage that Mario can access via warp pipe. You can make a stage that consists of a daytime ground level in one portion, and a nighttime castle in the other, again adding to the game’s staggering variety. As an added bonus, the sub-areas of stages can now be made into ‘vertical’ courses, which opens up all the more possibilities, including vertical scrolling sections (though it is both strange and unfortunate that only sub-areas can receive the vertical treatment).

While most of the 3D World style’s differences from the other represented games are justified, one of the disappointing drawbacks to the new game style is that the nighttime features don’t transfer over to 3D World. Even if 3D World couldn’t share all the features of the returning game styles, you can’t help but feel that the night themes – given the twists they bring to gameplay – should have found a way to be carried over.

As always, players can delve into countless stages made by players around the world at any time. Super Mario Maker 2 features a much more refined search engine than the first game, making it much easier to find the types of stages you’re looking for. It’s still not quite perfect (you can still only search for levels and players by codes, as opposed to names), but it’s an inarguable improvement over its predecessor’s search methods.

The 100 Mario Challenge mode from the first Super Mario Maker has been replaced with the Endless Mario Challenge. While the first game’s equivalent had Mario complete a set number of levels under specific difficulties (with a maximum of 100 lives to do so, no matter the difficulty setting), the sequel’s new mode will literally keep the player-created levels coming until the player gets a game over. For the ‘easy’ and ‘normal’ settings, you may find yourself picking up enough extra lives that you can keep going with seemingly no end in sight (you are still limited to 100 lives, and can only obtain three extra lives per stage like in the 100 Mario Challenge from the first game, but in the easy and normal settings you’ll find yourself blazing through a number of levels before dying once, so you often get extra lives faster than you lose them). The ‘expert’ and ‘super expert’ difficulties, however, will really put you to the test. The latter setting, in particular, will probably cost a great deal of your lives just to complete the first stage, whatever it may be.

“No matter how many levels I conquered, I could never rank any higher than the 60s on the leaderboards…”

I prefer this new Endless Mario mode to the 100 Mario mode of the first game. Though on the downside, your only rewards for completing many stages are costume pieces for your Mii avatar. You can also find yourself placing on worldwide leaderboards (different boards for each difficulty setting), though the downside to leaderboards in any game is that there are always those crazy players who can put an ungodly amount of time into the game, meaning that more reasonable players can only get so far, with the leaderboards having a much lower ceiling for them.

I only bring this up because the first game had the delightful rewards of character costumes for the Super Mario Bros. game style, which not only disguised Mario as the sprite of various other characters (from fellow Nintendo icons like Link and Pikachu to third-party characters like Mega Man and Sonic to even non-game characters like Shaun the Sheep) but each disguise brought their own sound effects and music cues to the proceedings.

The character costumes are not present in Super Mario Maker 2. The reasoning for this is that Super Mario Maker 2 doesn’t feature Amiibo support in any capacity, and since Amiibo could be used to instantly unlock coinciding character costumes in the first game, the feature has been dropped.

It does admittedly feel like a weak reason. After all, you could unlock all the Amiibo costumes (plus the additional ones) by completing the 100 Mario Challenge repeatedly, so it’s not like the costumes were only available to rabid Amiibo collectors. Even if the Amiibo support were getting dropped, it seems weird that the character costumes had to be removed entirely as well.

Still, I suppose simply playing through an endless supply of Mario levels is reward enough in its own right. Not every stage you come across will be a winner, of course (many stages are only categorized as ‘easy’ because their creators left them empty, and many are considered ‘super expert’ simply because their creators filled them with clutter or troll the player with unfair traps that only said creator would be aware of). But when you come across a stage in which its creator’s creativity shines through, it makes it all worth it.

Another very welcome gameplay addition comes in the form of Clear Conditions which, as their name implies, are objectives you can set for your stages which must be completed in order to finish a stage. You can make goals like collecting every coin (or simply a set number of them) in a stage, defeating all of a specific enemy, or reaching the goal while in one of Mario’s many forms (Fire Mario, Cape Mario, Cat Mario, etc.). You can even set goals such as reaching the end of a stage without taking any damage, or not touching the ground after jumping in the air (this particular goal requires some crafty level design in order to implement it).

The Clear Conditions can really help in making less linear stages, and certainly help with making features like boss sections and bonus stages. But there are a few unfortunate caveats to the Clear Conditions. Players are unable to place checkpoints in stages with Clear Conditions, and while you may be able to specify certain objectives (like defeating X-amount of Dry Bones), you can’t make more broad objectives (like defeating every last foe on the stage). Another questionable design choice is that, no matter the Clear Condition, the end goal will remain inaccessible until that condition is met. That’s fine for levels where the objective can have the player backtrack to meet said requirements (“oops, I missed x-enemy, better go back”), but in stages where you can fail the objective outright (“I landed on the ground after taking to the air”) you have to manually restart the stage, as the goal will be impossible to reach. It may be a nitpick, but it would be nice if levels such as those would simply register as Mario losing a life and starting over once the objective is failed. Similarly, it would be nice to have an option for a stage to end as soon as a boss is defeated, instead of felling said boss simply resulting in the goal becoming available.

“This must be the George Lucas Special Edition…”

Super Mario Maker 2 also introduces a proper story mode into the mix. Through the Odyssey-esque hub in story mode, players select different stages in the form of “jobs” in order to earn coins to repair Princess Peach’s castle. Unlike the Endless Mario Challenge, the stages in story mode are made by Nintendo themselves, making Super Mario Maker 2’s story mode the closest thing we’ve had to a  new Mario side scroller since New Super Mario Bros. U launched alongside the Wii U in 2012. Even after you’ve finished the ‘story’ aspect of story mode, there are still additional jobs to be done, and even a few unlockables (like the brand new “Builder Mario” power-up for the 3D World style, and Super Mario Land’s ‘super ball’ power-up in the Super Mario Bros. style).

As fun as the story mode is, one aspect that left me greatly disappointed in it is that numerous Clear Conditions that appear in story mode are unavailable for your created levels. I took my time to beat the story mode before I delved into making my own stages, and had an abundance of ideas inspired by what I was playing in story mode.

Notably, I had all kinds of ideas built around the escort mission concept where you rescue Toads and guide them to the end of the level. The condition of clearing a stage while holding a large rock also got my creative juices flowing (unlike other objects Mario can carry, said rock weighed the plumber down, leading the player to get creative as to how to get the rock to the goal while also performing Mario’s platforming acrobatics).

Unfortunately, once I started making my own levels, I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to implement these Clear Conditions, only to find out that they weren’t even an option. It was a bummer, to say the least. Perhaps Nintendo can implement the story mode Clear Conditions into the level editor through an update or DLC down the road. But even if we do get them later (and hopefully we do), it still stings to be teased with these features before having the ability to use them in our own created levels.

While Super Mario Maker 2 introduces numerous additions to single player modes, it also introduces multiplayer into the Mario Maker fold. Two players can work together on a single Switch console in the level editor in what is ultimately a well-meaning but overly chaotic addition. But more notably is that Super Mario Maker 2 includes competitive and co-operative multiplayer modes, where up to four players from around the world can help/hinder each other in player-created levels.

In the multiplayer modes, players take control of Mario, Luigi, Toad and Toadette (why Princess Peach is absent is beyond me). Unlike many Mario games featuring different playable characters, all four heroes play identically in Super Mario Maker 2. That makes sense, seeing as many levels could effectively be ‘broken’ if their creators forgot to consider Luigi’s high jumps and such. The identical play styles of the characters are excusable, but I do kind of hope Nintendo adds a few more character options down the road (again, why isn’t Peach a playable character? And let’s throw Rosalina in there for good measure).

Unfortunately, you may encounter lag issues more often than you’d like during online play, which can really be a detriment in a fast-paced platforming stage. Some people will balk at the very notion of a Nintendo game with smooth online capabilities, but I have to point out that Nintendo has accomplished it in the past with the Mario Kart series (to this day, I have yet to experience any notable lag issues with Mario Kart 8 on either the Wii U or Switch). The fact that Nintendo has accomplished consistently smooth online elsewhere does kind of make it more aggravating when they release an otherwise promising and fun online experience hampered by frequent slowdowns.

Along with big changes such as Super Mario 3D World, the new level and nighttime themes, story mode and multiplayer, Super Mario Maker 2 houses a seemingly countless number of smaller additions. Classic Mario features make their way to the Mario Maker experience for the first time (such as snake blocks, rising and falling water/lava, the Angry Sun, and the long-requested slopes).

There are also new mechanics introduced in Super Mario Maker 2 which haven’t been seen elsewhere in the series before: swinging claws can fling Mario or grab and drop enemies like a crane game. Red and blue on/off switches that coincide with similarly colored blocks make for unique platforming and puzzles. ‘Twisters’- balls of wind (with eyes, of course) – produce mini-tornadoes that can launch Mario and enemies upward. There are so many features both new and returning in Super Mario Maker 2, that the game is like the ultimate toolkit for learning video game level design for players of all ages.

If there’s one feature I wish could be polished up a bit though, it would be boss fights. Bowser and Boom Boom appear in all game styles (though Bowser takes on his ‘Meowser’ form in 3D World), with Bowser Jr. being available in the returning game styles, and Pom Pom also appearing in 3D World. It’s not exactly a wide range of boss options, and while each boss behaves differently in each game style they’re present in, it would be nice if each style had different sets of behaviors you had the option to select from when placing them in your levels.

I’ve noticed many levels that have gotten creative with their takes on boss fights, and while that’s great to see, I do wish Nintendo could give players easier access to creating more unique bosses. Players shouldn’t have to jump through so many hoops just to make a boss that isn’t Boom Boom. Maybe Nintendo could implement the ability to ‘bossify’ enemies? Make any enemy bigger, change their color, select how many hit points they have, things like that.

Again, you can use Clear Conditions to make a boss fight in theory, but even that has limitations. You may be able to add a single Magikoopa to a stage, for example, give him a Super Mushroom to make him supersized, and make his defeat required in order to finish the stage. But you can still take out said giant Magikoopa with a single fireball. So it’s not much of a boss fight, really.

Still, no matter how many limitations may hold back certain areas of Super Mario Maker 2, there is no doubt that – on the whole – Super Mario Maker 2 is the new benchmark for game-creation games. The returning features, along with the armies-worth of new ones, make Super Mario Maker 2 a bottomless toy box that opens the floodgates for endless Mario fun.

There may still be some work to be done to the editing tools if we want to see the perfect Mario creation game, but the fact that Super Mario Maker 2 provides a refinement and expansion of what its predecessor started – allowing players from all over the world to exercise their creativity through its level editor – means the game boasts perhaps an unmatched level of playability.

 

8

One Year of Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker

It’s hard to believe that Super Mario Maker is already a year old. Nintendo’s take on the game-creation genre is not only one of the best titles on the Wii U, but one of the best games Nintendo has ever made.

Players have uploaded millions of stages to Super Mario Maker’s servers, meaning that Super Mario Maker has essentially become an endless source of Mario goodness (and frustration). A new, 3DS version will be released before year’s end, with a few tweaks to the formula (including a greater emphasis on local sharing of stages, as opposed to worldwide sharing, which has drawn some criticisms). But it’s the original Wii U version that has really captured that Nintendo magic.

Let’s celebrate one year of creativity. One year of sharing levels. One year of agonizing, Mario-based frustration. Why not celebrate by making another Mario Maker level?

Five Nintendo Franchise I Want to see Receive the Mario Maker Treatment

Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker is undoubtedly one of the best modern Nintendo games. In recent weeks I’ve found myself playing it as extensively as I did when it was first released. That’s the kind of longevity and replayability most games couldn’t hope for.

Why is it so addictive? It’s like I’ve said in the past, it turns the process of level editing into something that’s not only accessible, but fun in its own right. And playing the levels of other players provides countless surprises (some pleasant, others not so much).

While there were some limitations when the game first launched (and there still are a few that could be addressed), Super Mario Maker’s updates through the months have smoothened things out all the more, and added some great new features (the Fire Koopa Clown Car allows for more accurate shooter levels, for example).

Playing Super Mario Maker again has made me think about what other Nintendo franchises I’d like to see receive similar treatment. So here are five other such Nintendo series that I would like to see get a “Maker” of their own. They may not all be realistic options for one reason or another. But I want them anyway. Continue reading “Five Nintendo Franchise I Want to see Receive the Mario Maker Treatment”

Top 5 Games of 2015 (Game of the Year)

2015 was a tremendous year in video games. We had AAA blockbusters, indie darlings, and games from all genres and categories reach great heights in quality.

Exceptionalist that I am, some games were undoubtedly better than others. Of all of 2015’s great games, these five stood out the most to me.

These five games, for one reason or another, proved to be the cream of the crop. They may not quite be the same games you’ll see dominate other people’s lists, but they are the games that had the most impact on me.

Without further ado, my top five favorite video games of 2015. Continue reading “Top 5 Games of 2015 (Game of the Year)”

Video Game Awards 2016: Best Gameplay

There is no greater attribute to a great game than gameplay itself. After all, even the most profound video game narrative would be pointless if the game itself were a stinker. Similarly, a game entirely void of narrative can be made into a masterpiece through gameplay alone. Gameplay is the heart and soul of game design. The glue that holds a great game together. I admit, 2015’s Best Gameplay was a tough call, but in the end, there had to be one.

 

Winner: Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker

This award was really a coin toss between Super Mario Maker and Undertale. But while Undertale may be one of the most fun RPGs I’ve played, I have to give the edge to Super Mario Maker due to the fact that it made level editing itself fun.

Let’s be honest, as awesome as the idea of making your own video game is, most games that allow you to create your own piece of the experience tend to be pretty demanding and tedious, to the point that it can take away from the fun of making your own levels.

That’s not the case with Super Mario Maker, which implements simple drawing and drag-and-drop mechanics to make the process of creating levels as fun as playing them.

Not to mention that Mario Maker features gameplay from some of the best platformers of all time. So there’s that.

Still, I have to give Undertale a special mention for giving a sense of interactivity to turn-based battles that’s usually reserved for the Mario RPGs, and for making every encounter a unique experience.

Runner-up: Undertale

Video Game Awards 2016: Best Content

Whether it’s all crammed in the box from the get-go, added through DLC, or the product of player creation, video game developers are always trying to find ways to provide bang for your buck these days. Some times, these efforts can just feel like bloated padding. Other times, they succeed in giving a game a great sense of longevity. As far as 2015 goes, it’s no question which game will have me coming back for years to come.

 

Winner: Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker

Do I really need to give an explanation here? Can’t I just say “lol infinite Mario levels” and basically say it all? Alright, I guess I’ll say a little more.

Nintendo really pulled out the stops with Super Mario Maker, delivering an accessible level editing tool that still retains a strong sense of depth. You can spend less than an hour or several days making a single level, and still produce a masterpiece.

Though not every level is bound to be good (there are way too many troll levels out there), Super Mario Maker’s star system encourages players to make levels that others will want to play by rewarding them with the ability to make more levels. So there’s always reason to delve deeper into those creation tools and get your creative juices pumping.

If, for some reason, the idea of making Mario levels doesn’t entice you (in which case you’re a terrible, terrible person), you can always just play endless amounts of levels made by players from all over the world. There’s never a shortage of things to do.

In short. It’s endless Mario. What’s not to love?

Runner-up: Splatoon

Top 10 Wii U Games (So Far)

Wii U

The Wii U is a devastatingly underrated system. It’s ousted the GameCube as Nintendo’s least-selling home console of all time. Because of that, gamers all over the internet, true to their  cynical nature, see that as a reflection of the quality of the system itself (of course, they also dismissed the original Wii because it sold well, so go figure). But despite being the butt of jokes on the internet and its less-than desirable sales figures, the Wii U actually boasts a really impressive library of games.

Sure, Nintendo really needed to emphasize the console over the controller in its early marketing strategies, the Gamepad needed to be used more effectively in more games, and one can’t help but think that simply naming the console “Wii 2” could have helped boost sales by itself (because seriously, what does the “U” mean?). Despite this questionable decision-making and marketing, the Wii U has ultimately proven to be a terrific console where it counts, and that’s the games.

Yes, the Wii U had a slow first few months, but once it started picking up steam around mid-2013 it’s released some of the best games in recent years. Arguably the best part is that you can’t play them anywhere else. Though console exclusives are becoming rarer on competing hardware, they often prove to be the more definitive titles of their generations, and it’s an area in which Nintendo always excels.

Though the Wii U still has some big games on the horizon (including a new Star Fox and The Legend of Zelda), I think it’s safe to say that rumblings of Nintendo’s next console, codenamed “NX,” means that its days as a priority for Nintendo are slowing down. Sure, Nintendo has stated that they’ll still support the Wii U even after NX launches, but I think the Wii U’s underwhelming sales will make it a short-term continued support (Wii U might have a good few months and a couple of big games after NX, but I can’t imagine it would go much farther). I feel now is a good time to reflect on the many great games the Wii U has provided over the past three years, even if I may have to make a revised edition after the last waves of big games hit the console in the year ahead.

Despite Nintendo being backed into a wall in regards to the Wii U, or perhaps because of it, Nintendo has ended up creating some of the greatest lineups of games in their history for the console. It’s given us the most balanced Mario Kart, the most intricate Smash Bros. and the best version of the best 3D Zelda yet made. But which Wii U games are the best?

The following is my list of the top 10 greatest Wii U games. The ten Wii U titles that are the most fun. The 10 most definitive. The 10 games that all those people who still refuse to get a Wii U are missing out on the most. Seriously people, stop using the whole “waiting for Zelda” excuse as a crutch. Nintendo consoles are more than just a Zelda title.

One final note, I have decided not to include The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD in this countdown. Despite being one of my favorite video games, it would feel kind of cheap to list a remake here with all the original Wii U titles, even if Wind Waker HD has some of the best uses of the Gamepad.

So without further ado, the top 10 Wii U games! But first, some runners-up! Continue reading “Top 10 Wii U Games (So Far)”

More on my Mario Maker Levels (with IDs)

Super Mario Maker

 

I already wrote a quick bit on my first batch of Mario Maker levels, but I’d thought I’d write a little more about them, plus the additional stages I’ve made since then.

 

1: Great Scarier Reef (F27B-0000-001C-C0D7)

Great Scarier Reef was my first Mario Maker level, and is one of those “swim through a cage of spikes” type of levels. I created this level on the day of the game’s release, so I was unaware that this type of stage would become such a frequent sub-genre of level, otherwise I might not have made it.

Mine differs slightly from most such levels I’ve ended up playing though, since I wanted it all to take place on a single screen. It uses the original Super Mario Bros. theme, and you’re supposed to play as Mega Man (though it’s easy to lose the single costume provided). The idea behind the level was taking those segments from the old Mega Man titles where the Blue Bomber would fall through a series of spikes, and avoiding them on the way down, and reversing it. So instead you have to go upward (by swimming), and eventually working your way down to the flagpole.

It also uses the heartbeat sound effect throughout its entirety, which I like to think adds to its overall tension.

 

2: Mega Man on a Mission (2C78-0000-0031-45D4)

Another Mega Man themed level using the Super Mario Bros. theme. This one is simply based on the Mega Man segments where you had to jump on one tiny platform after another, though I threw in some cramped corners and enemies for a little variety. I admit I probably could have done this one better, but it’s still a simple but tough little platforming stage.

 

3: Showdown in the Clouds (5A4E-0000-0033-B42F)

My first stage using the Super Mario Bros. 3 theme. This level is just a gauntlet of boss fights. I tried my best to make them mandatory (since Mario Maker’s lack of forced boss fights is one of its few drawbacks), but the level ended up being frustratingly difficult to the point of not being fun. I had to go back and edit it a few times, and unfortunately some of the boss fights can only be fought halfway and then skipped. This is a concept I might go back to, but if you enjoy boss fights you may want to give it a shot.

 

4: Bowser Jr’s Wild Ride (E32C-0000-0034-1DF4)

This is a really simple “keep running” style of platformer, where you simply have to keep your momentum as you make some jumps and avoid some obstacles. It uses the Super Mario Bros. theme, and you play as Bowser Jr. It’s a stage that I like to go back to and play myself, though it is really simple.

 

5: The Tingle Zone (C190-0000-0035-E891)

Here I took the simple “keep running” style from Bowser Jrs’ Wild Ride, but made it more extravagant and a whole lot wackier. It still uses the Super Mario Bros. theme (it’s the only one with the character costumes), but this time you play as Tingle.

Though it uses a similar setup as the Bowser Jr. stage, I added in a lot more challenging platforming and obstacles, not too mention a purposefully excessive amount of the game’s sound/visual effects to add a dose of surrealism to it.

It’s simple, and maybe not a great level to a lot of people, but it’s one where I felt I did everything I wanted to do with it.

 

6: Weighted Companion P-Switch (63AE-0000-003A-1ED5)

For some reason, it wasn’t until my sixth level that I finally used the Super Mario World theme. As it’s title suggests, it’s somewhat of a spoof on the Weighted Companion Cube of the Portal series.

I actually feel this is something of a spoiler, given the nature of the level, so if you want to play it and just experience it don’t read any more of this paragraph. One of the ideas behind this level was rewarding patience and hard work over taking the easy way out. The level only provides you with one P-Switch (with the word “friend” written above it in coins), and you need to carry it through the entire level. Along the way, there are some puzzles that can either be solved or skipped over if you simply hit the P-Switch. But taking the easy way out ultimately makes the level umbeatable, since the end goal is surrounded by blocks that you can’t go through unless you hit the switch at the end, turning them into coins.

I admit I could have done a better job with some of the puzzles, but I think for the most part I got the level’s point across.

 

7: Banjo-Kazooie Inspiration (7C63-0000-0040-89A7)

Probably the easiest level I’ve made. As it’s name suggests, “Banjo-Kazooie Inspiration” is simply a tribute to Banjo-Kazooie. It once again uses the Super Mario Bros. theme, and you play as Duck Hunt, seeing as the duo is the closest thing to Banjo and Kazooie that the game provides. I recreated Spiral Mountain, Banjo’s house, the entrance to Gruntilda’s lair, and some of the early portions of Mumbo’s Mountain. You can even visit Mumbo (a Dry Bones) to transform into a “termite” (Pikmin).

There’s also a secret room hidden somewhere in the level that pays tribute to Rareware and the ending of Banjo-Kazooie. See if you can find it!

 

8: Slippy’s Maniacal Test Run (803B-0000-0051-76E1)

For this level, I went back, once again, to the “keep running” platforming style. Only this time, it’s less wacky and more difficult.

Yet again it uses the Super Mario Bros. style (I really wish at least some of the costumes were available elsewhere). In the game’s opening you play as Slippy Toad from Star Fox, with the opening representing his “workshop.” Almost immediately, you “jump into” an Arwing, which you play as for the rest of the level, which is a dangerous obstacle course.

I tried to slide it a very simple scenario, with Slippy testing out a new Arwing in a “maniacal” test course of his design. Hopefully I did a decent job at it.

 

9: Nothing Can Stop King Dedede (0561-0000-0062-5F77)

I realize now that this level probably needed a different name. Originally, the idea for the level would be something that would make the player feel invincible (it would have been a really easy but bombastic course filled with Starmen and the like). But somehow it actually ended up being one of my harder levels. Go figure.

Anyway, you play as King Dedede (again meaning it uses the Super Mario Bros. theme). The first half also falls under that “keep running” category. But to prevent my levels from becoming too repetitious, the second half requires you to stop and take time before jumping ahead.

Perhaps sometime I’ll make a different “invincible King Dedede” level, but for now, this one provides a nice challenge.

 

10: Banjo-Tooie Inspiration (E749-0000-006A-31C0)

After making my Banjo-Kazooie level, I felt the need to make a Banjo-Tooie one as well. Not just out of obligation for the two games, but also because it gave a fun opportunity to take a preexisting level, and change it into something different, much like the Banjo games themselves.

Once again it’s Super Mario Bros. and you play as Duck Hunt. I originally copied the Banjo-Kazooie level, but then spent a good while in the editor to change it into something else.

I do admit, the references are a bit vaguer and less direct here, and I feel I could have done a better job with some aspects, but hopefully those with a keen eye will spot the references.

Spiral Mountain and a now dilapidated Gruntilda’s Lair return. I tried to recreate some of the boss fights with Klungo through a giant Bowser Jr. Jamjars shows up as a Rocky Wrench. Bottles’ ghost is a Monty Mole with a Boo on his head. Humba Wumba (a Magikoopa, because nothing else fit) can change you into a baby T-Rex (Yarn Yoshi), or an adult T-Rex (Mega Yarn Yoshi). Jinjo Village shows up as a few little boxes with Koopas inside them (the houses and Jinjos…I work with what I have). The only killable Koopa represents a Minjo. You can temporarily control Mumbo (here represented by a Shy Guy). And you even stop by Jiggywiggy’s temple (he appears as a Giant Blooper on top of a Goomba, because he simply can’t be recreated in this game).

Again, I don’t think I did as good of a job here as I did with the Banjo-Kazooie stage. But if you play the Banjo-Kazooie stage first and then this one, maybe at least you can appreciate it for how they echo each other.

Also, this one contains even more secrets! It even includes secret rooms to become DK and Diddy (because Rare references), and an entire hidden segment based on the Hailfire Peaks stage from Banjo-Tooie.

 

11: Thwomp the Yard!! (E936-0000-0089-48AB)

 

This was my attempt to make an incredibly difficult, but fair, level. I don’t think it’s for the feint of heart, as it took me over 200 tries to finally beat it in order to upload it (or maybe I just suck).

It uses the Super Mario World theme, and most of its platforming and puzzles, as the title suggests, involve Thwomps (though Boos, spikes and Yoshis also show up).

The level is completely fair, with no invisible blocks, blind jumps (I use arrows) or any other troll mechanics present. It’s simply a level I made to require very accurate precision. I was originally going to make it even longer, but I felt it was difficult enough and didn’t want to simply frustrate people.

If you’re up for the challenge, go for it.

 

12: Love is a Powerful Thing (87A2-0000-0092-50CF)

This level, which uses the Super Mario Bros. 3 theme, is simply a punchline. It’s a joke level. One where players will probably die the first time, but realize it’s actually pretty easy with the second go. My intention wasn’t to troll, just to give a simple joke that hopefully some people will find funny. I won’t give the joke away here though.

 

 

Those are all of my Super Mario Maker courses so far. If you want, why not try them out? Feel free to give any feedback on them. Tell me if you liked them, or how I can improve them. And be sure to give me stars so I can keep uploading more!

Five Annoying Mario Maker Trends That Need to Stop!

Super MariTroll Maker

Super Mario Maker is a wonderful game. A level editor that allows fans to create their own Mario levels in a way that’s both accessible and deep. It has allowed for many people to showcase some amazing creative potential, and could have a strong impact on Mario’s future (I imagine the next time we see a 2D sidescrolling Mario title, that Mario Maker’s influence will have Nintendo rethink how to approach the 2D Mario formula).

But with the good comes the bad. And when you hand gamers the ability to make (or break) Mario’s rules, sometimes that leads to the really, really bad.

Of course not every Mario Maker level was destined for greatness, but if someone makes a basic, forgettable level, that’s no unforgivable sin. But then there are levels that are just sloppy, broken, and trollish.

The following five things fall into this category, and are annoying trends I’ve seen in far too many Mario Maker levels already. Simply put, if you want your Mario Maker levels to be any kind of decent, avoid these terrible tropes at all costs!

 

5: Trampolines as far as the eye can see!

Okay, so there are actually a number of good levels that exist floating around the Mario Maker servers that utilize trampolines and springs as their motif. Even some that place these springs by the dozens to slow Mario down and get in his way can still be decent. It is possible to take the concept of “a lot of springs” and make a good level out of it.

But that’s when people actually have some kind of method to the madness. More often, you’re likely to see a level that just randomly threw springs and trampolines every which way, placed even more of them on top of one another, stacking more still on top of those, and perhaps placing a small army of enemies bouncing around just to make things more frustrating.

This seems to be one of the go-to level creation methods for troll Mario Maker players. It’s easy, lazy, and frustrates players to no end, without providing any real fun.

 

4: Blind Jumps

Blind jumps. Enough said, really.

Not being able to see where Mario is about to jump, and not providing an arrow, coin, or any other indication that I’m not just about to jump into an abyss is a huge no-no. The player should always have some sense of knowledge of what is a bottomless pit and what isn’t in a platformer. If they don’t, you just turn things into a random guessing game. That doesn’t make your level difficult, it makes it terrible.

Super Mario Maker provides more than enough tools to give players a sign or a hint of what lies ahead. Use them. Otherwise, your level is destined to be skipped over and never given a star.

 

3: Instant death right out the gate

Here’s something you’re bound to come across way too often when playing the 100 Mario Challenge on expert difficulty. Levels where the player is immediately killed by a Goomba placed just over Mario’s head at the start of a level, or a trampoline instantly falls and pushes Mario off a cliff as soon as the level begins. If you move quick enough as soon as the level loads you can avoid these hazards (though you’ll most likely hit an invisible block and be killed by an enemy or fall off a cliff nonetheless), but why would you? When a level loads up, you’re just waiting for it to load, and expect to start moving afterwards. How on Earth is the player just supposed to predict that a level will unfairly kill them right after the loading screen?

I’m sure the trolls who make these levels think themselves mighty clever (despite the fact that they all do it, meaning none of them are even creative about it). But if you run into one of these levels in the 100 Mario Challenge, skip it immediately. If you happen to select one of these levels through other means, quit it and never look back. They’re awful.

 

2: A prison of invisible blocks

Here is an excruciating annoyance for any respectable Mario Maker player. I have played a depressing amount of stages where Mario will fall into a little pit that shouldn’t be difficult to jump out of. But jump once and, uh oh! There’s an invisible block. Jump again, and another invisible block. This of course continues until there’s simply no escape, and players are forced to either quit/skip the level (the wise option), or retry the level and avoid falling in that spot. Though I don’t know why anyone would want to retry such a stage, considering it takes the concept of trial-and-error, and turns it, once again, into something random and poorly-designed.

Worst of all is that the trolls who make these levels, without fail, put that laughing sound effect into every block, effectively making fun of you for falling for their trap. But how could you not? Were you just supposed to magically know you were falling into an inescapable, level-breaking prison? There is literally no way you could predict that.

Hopefully Nintendo can somehow patch this up and prevent invisible blocks from completely boxing players in. Then maybe the real level designers playing Mario Maker can have a good laugh.

 

1: ENEMIES EVERYWHERE!

I fully understand the enthusiasm people have to pit Mario against a literal army of Goombas and Koopa Troopas in a way that he never could before. The problem is that it seems to a lot of people, the idea of an “army” means throwing enemies into every inch of the screen without any finesse or planning, and giving players zero breathing room. Worst of all are the people who spam Lakitus and place them high enough to be out of view (which, once again, makes things random). It’s such a pain playing a level that’s cramped with Hammer Bros. and flying Cheep Cheeps, and just when you think you have an opening, a flying, giant circle of Boos falls from the sky and kills you. And don’t even get me started on Blooper spamming in underwater levels.

 

There are other annoying reoccurrence I’ve noticed in Mario Maker, but these are probably the worst. Even if you aren’t the best level designer out there, you’d be wise not to follow suit with these terrible tropes, lest your level becomes utter crap.

Super Mario Maker Review

Super Mario Maker

Thirty years ago, Mario and Luigi stepped into the Mushroom Kingdom in the NES classic Super Mario Bros. This kickstarted the Super Mario series, which has gone on to create a peerless resume of sequels, prequels and spinoffs that have created legions of Nintendo fans over the last three decades. Nintendo found the perfect way to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Super Mario Bros. in the form of Super Mario Maker, which gives those fans the ability to create their own little piece of Mario’s history.

Super Mario Maker started production as a sequel to the SNES title Mario Paint, though somewhere along the line Nintendo’s vision for the title turned into something greater. The end result is a level builder that, although not unlike LittleBigPlanet and its ilk, outshines its contemporaries with far more accessible creation tools, and superior gameplay that’s pulled directly from some of Mario’s finest adventures.

For those who have questioned or bemoaned the Wii U’s Gamepad controller, Super Mario Maker is its ultimate justification. Creating levels is built entirely around the gamepad, and it really is as simple as dragging and dropping objects on the touchscreen, and drawing the layout of your level like you would with a pencil and paper.

Super Mario MakerSome objects can be shaken to change their properties (shaking a green Koopa Troopa will change him to a red one, with its functions changing accordingly). Many enemies and objects can be altered in ways that go against their normal functions in the Mario series: Bill Blasters can now launch coins and power-ups, while question blocks can be turned into deadly traps containing Hammer Bros. You can stack enemies into totem poles, make them super-sized with Super Mushrooms, and give them wings, Lakitu clouds, or Koopa Clown Cars to transform even a lowly Goomba into something menacing.

But it’s not just enemies and objects, but the things you’re able to create with a few swipes of the Gamepad are staggering.The simple drawing approach easily makes Super Mario Maker the most welcoming and fluid creation game I’ve played. In the case of LittleBigPlanet, I often felt that the kid-friendly aesthetics were misleading to a deep but alienating creation tool. Super Mario Maker retains a similar depth, but it streamlines game creation by basing it on drawing and drag-and-drop mechanics. It simply couldn’t work this well with a traditional controller.

Your levels can take on one of four styles: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U. The four styles not only affect the visuals, but the gameplay as well. The physics change according to each game, with Mario 3, World and New Super Mario Bros. all maintaining their respective sense of control and momentum, as well as Mario’s moves from each game (if you want wall jumps, go with New Super Mario Bros., for example). The original Super Mario Bros. has seen some tweaks, however, with Mario being able to jump higher when bouncing off enemies, which was an ability he didn’t gain until the sequels, and getting hit as Fire Mario only reduces him back to Super Mario, as opposed to going directly to his miniature version like in the original game.

Super Mario MakerAdditionally, some enemies and objects that only appeared in later (or earlier) games now find their way into each play style. You can now see Boos in the original Super Mario Bros. (which somehow look cuter than ever) and Wigglers can appear in Super Mario Bros. 3.

Some objects are limited to certain play styles, however, with Raccoon Mario, the Super Cape, and Propeller Mario being unique to Mario 3, World, and NSMBU, respectively. Meanwhile, the original Super Mario Bros. gains the new “Mystery Mushroom,” which contains costumes that give Mario the visual appearance of other video game characters, from Nintendo’s own Link, Samus, and Donkey Kong to characters like Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Players can unlock the different costumes through Amiibo connectivity, or by the slower method of beating the “100 Mario Challenge” repeatedly (with each conquest of the mode awarding a single costume). Though it’s probably one of the best uses of Amiibo so far, it’s somewhat of a shame the costumes only appear in the Super Mario Bros. setting, since playing as Mega Man in Super Mario World would be indescribably amazing.

Then there are semi-exclusive objects, with Kuribo’s Shoe appearing in the two represented NES styles, while Yoshi can only be found in World and New Super Mario Bros. U.

Each level you make can only be confined to one play style, so you’ll find you want to create more and more levels so you can delve deeper into each game’s engine.

As exquisite as the creation tools are though, there are a couple of disappointing limitations. Namely, you can’t place checkpoints in levels. This can be a huge pain given players’ penchants for making ridiculously challenging stages. You also can’t place slopes, so no sliding downhill into enemies like in the good old days. Levels can take on six different themes (normal, underground, underwater, airship, ghost house and castle), with some obvious options (snow, desert and fire) being left out of the loop. Chargin’ Chucks, Big Berthas, and other notable Mario enemies are also no-shows.

Mario’s power-ups also feel sadly restrained. While Super Mario Bros. 3 gets the Raccoon Suit, the Tanooki Suit, Hammer Suit and Frog Suits are nowhere to be found. Even the majority of New Super Mario Bros. U’s power-ups, though less desirable, are questionably absent. But perhaps the biggest bummer is the limited potential for boss encounters.

Bowser and Bowser Jr. are the only true boss characters at your disposal, and you have to jump through some hoops to make them mandatory boss fights. Unless you get creative with their presence in your stage, you can often simply run past Bowser and Bowser Jr., avoiding the boss fight altogether. Hopefully some DLC can add boss rooms or some method of required fights against boss characters. Adding the Koopalings, Reznor, Boom Boom and the Big Boo wouldn’t hurt, either.

Despite these limitations, the combination of accessibility and depth that Super Mario Maker provides is a captivating gaming experience that will hopefully encourage gamers to get really creative. Naturally, not everyone will make great levels, but Super Mario Maker provides all the right tools for the great ones to reach their potential.

Players can upload their created levels for others to play, which can be found by searching through lists of creators or the stages themselves. Or for those who want a more complete experience, you can tackle the aforementioned 100 Mario Challenge.

Super Mario MakerThe 100 Mario Challenge can be played on easy, medium, and expert difficulties, and sees Mario tackling 8 (easy) or 16 (medium and expert) randomly selected stages with 100 lives. Though players can place as many 1-Up Mushrooms as they’d like in a given stage, only a maximum of three lives can be earned on any given level, as to maintain a balance.

The difficulty of each stage is determined by the number of players who have completed a course compared to the overall number who have played them. It’s not a perfect system (you may notice some levels are harder or easier than the current mode suggests, and are only present in that mode because relatively few people have played them), but for the most part it works. Playing on easy should be a cakewalk, with its best levels relying on creativity and gimmicks over steeper challenge, while making it through expert difficulty even once will feel like a hard-fought victory through gauntlets of punishing obstacle courses. At their worst, expect lazy stages in the easier modes and troll levels in expert. But those levels can be skipped in favor of better ones if need be.

Once again, experiencing other players’ levels and sharing your own is a real treat, but it too comes with some unfortunate limitations.

For starters, you can only upload ten levels from the get-go, and only earn the ability to upload more by receiving enough “stars” on your levels from other players. I actually like this idea of rewarding players with more stages, as it gives them incentive to make levels people will like to play. On the downside, the number of stars required to upload more levels increases drastically over time, and most players probably shouldn’t hope to be able to upload the maximum number of stages (100), and may find themselves deleting their levels from servers and uploading new ones in their place instead. So the system is a bit of a double-edged sword.

Secondly, searching for specific levels won’t be so easy. You can search through lists of creators and even favorite certain level builders to find their stages more easily. But you can’t instantly search for people on your Wii U friends list, nor can you search for a level by its title or filter your searches for specific play styles or objects (let’s face it, we all want more Mario World and less New Super Mario Bros.). In order to find specific levels, you need to input 16-digit codes that are listed with each stage. Yes, despite the fact that Nintendo has abandoned these codes in favor of more streamlined methods elsewhere, they decided that Super Mario Maker of all games should bring them back. Hopefully this is another area Nintendo can touch up in updates and DLC.

Super Mario MakerI hope none of these criticisms sound too harsh, because truth be told they are ultimately very small complaints when the overall package is, in a lot of ways, a dream come true. What Nintendo fan hasn’t wanted to create their own Mario games at one point or another? Not everyone has the technical know-how for romhacks, nor do such things tend to present themselves as particularly welcoming. Super Mario Maker takes the ambition of players to create their own Mario levels, and wraps it up in a convenient package.

Super Mario Maker is the best showcase of the Wii U Gamepad to date, as it provides an experience that couldn’t work so well without it. Super Mario Maker gives you clean, easy-to-use creation tools to make the Mario levels of your dreams (or nightmares). You can make stages more akin to Mario’s traditional adventures, or create something quite different out of those same assets.

Simply put, Super Mario Maker is as good as a game-creation game gets in terms of its interface and gameplay (Sackboy’s sense of control never compared to Mario’s). And although it’s bound to be a different experience every time you pick up the Gamepad, it could be argued that Super Mario Maker is the Wii U’s definitive title.

Is Super Mario Maker one of the best Mario games ever? That’s entirely up to you, me and everyone else to decide.

 

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