'Super Mario Maker' Lets Players Into The House That Mario Built

September 8, 2015

Super Mario Bros. changed the face of home gaming when it appeared as part of the Nintendo Entertainment System's launch in 1986. The game itself revolutionized what could be done within a game world, advancing the experience beyond a single screen, and turning it into a multi-screen, multi-level, multi-world adventure. The versatility in environments that the game provided, from underground and even underwater, to high in the clouds collecting floating coins, lit sparks in the hearts of countless gamers that are still burning bright three decades later. To celebrate Super Mario's 30th birthday, Nintendo are giving players the tools to realize those sparks of imagination on their own in Super Mario Maker. This toolkit is being released exclusively on the Wii U, and it gives players the chance to build levels in the styles of some of their favorite Mario games, which they can then share for the world to play.

Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 4
Publisher: Nintendo

Nintendo isn't about to open up their most important franchise to the public without putting one of their best teams on the project first. Nintendo EAD Group 4 has worked on some of Nintendo's recent, high-profile franchises like Big Brain Academy and Pikmin (including the Wii's New Play Control! releases, and Pikmin 3), but they likely got the call for Super Mario Maker because of Takashi Tezuka, and their work on the New Super Mario Bros. series. Takashi Tezuka is one of Nintendo's most dedicated developers, with credits that go as far back the original Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda. He has personally worked on the original release of every Super Mario Bros. game included in Super Mario Maker, making him, and his team, just the group for the job.

Super Mario Maker breaks out into two parts, Make and Play. On the Make side of things, players can pick up their stylus to start creating and customizing their own Super Mario Bros. style levels moments after turning the game on. Super Mario Maker includes just about every imaginable option, from level skins (underground, castle, airship, etc.) to enemies (just about everyone's here), to characters (almost everyone in the Nintendo Universe can be unlocked, and swapped in via a special mushroom). It also allows creators the option to decide which game their levels are styled after; Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros are all available. The actual level creation is as simple as point and click, or drag and drop, via the GamePad's touch screen, placing each item you want to build in a designated square on the screen. The only caveat to building, is that not all items are available from the very beginning of the game. Instead, groups of items are unlocked over a series of days, as players use and reuse the game, and get more comfortable with its mechanics.

The Play mode allows you to play all of these creations, and many more. You can jump in and out of your own levels, or take on the handiwork of other creators around the world - there's even a few from Nintendo proper. The game has devised a handful of ways for players to experience this wealth of content, whether they want to just see and play the most popular levels, or let the game build out a custom playlist that they can take on with a hundred lives in the 100-Mario Challenge. Alternatively, the 10-Mario Challenge lets players dabble in the levels that the team at Nintendo have created using Super Mario Maker, whether its to see if they can beat them, or look to them for inspiration (all of them are editable after they are completed). All in all, this is the Mario game that will never end - there will be new and more creative levels created for months and years after release, therein creating a virtually infinite amount of Mario.

Super Mario Maker wouldn't be the experience that it is without the use of the Wii U's GamePad. The touchscreen's controls make it ideal for drawing walls, and dropping in enemies. As an added bonus for the more dedicated Nintendo fans out there, if you have any of the more than 50 currently released amiibo on hand, you can touch them to the GamePad and unlock new characters to build into your levels.

Super Mario Bros. changed lives for kids (and adults) in the 1980s, and subsequent Super Mario games have had the same effect on everyone that's picked them up over the last 30 years, and now it's finally your chance to put your mark on that world. In recent years, many other games have included level creation tools as part of their overall package, but, like many other things that Nintendo has done, Super Mario Maker is the easiest and most entertaining to use, bar none. Since the "game" is so heavily reliant on level design and creation, Mario Maker balances tutorial with play, giving users the tools that they need, and then guiding them through making their first level. After that, for the imaginative creator, the game is only as good as you make it, and for players, it's only as good as everyone else makes it. In the time that it takes some other creation-focused games to get through just the first part of their tutorials, players can be up and running with two to three of their own levels in Super Mario Maker, and they can be ready to be shared with the world. In short, Super Mario Maker is easy, simple, and fun - pretty much exactly what you would expect from a Nintendo game of this magnitude. Oh, and if some of the early levels are any indicator, strap in folks, because it's only going to get more insane (in a good way).