Somewhere, deep within Nintendo HQ, there’s an echo chamber filled with the anguished cries of gamers like me, who, having lost untold days on any number of Super Mario courses created by the genius that is Shigeru Miyamoto, threw down their controller in a sulk of mumbled expletives and decreed it impossible.
Or maybe that’s just me?
It’s been thirty years since the release of Super Mario Bros. Thirty years! That’s more exasperated outbursts than I’ve directed at Sonny and Luca combined; which they’ll readily confirm is a lot!
But all those years of torment have been worth it, because with Super Mario Maker, the tables have been turned. With Super Mario Maker, you design the courses. With Super Mario Maker, it’s time to become the tormentor!
I’ve always fancied myself as a game designer. When I was nine, a friend and I ‘borrowed’ some articles from Crash magazine for the Spectrum and reproduced them onto a cassette, in all their cyan and magenta glory. We printed off a cover on his state of the art dot-matrix printer and placed it among the other Spectrum games in our local Co-op store to see if anyone would buy it. Then we waited …. and waited … and waited …
God only knows how many Saturday afternoons we spent lurking around the store waiting for it to sell, but alas, it never did. With hindsight, I like to think we were just too far ahead of our time. That was a precursor to the internet right there, on a C40 cassette! Or possibly we over-priced it at £2.99?
Oh, what we would have done for Super Mario Maker back in 1982, because what Super Mario Maker does, quite brilliantly, is give you the building blocks needed to begin your journey towards becoming the next Miyamoto, and in theory at least, it couldn’t be easier.
You begin with a half-built level, onto which you can drag-and-drop various elements using the stylus and the gamepad.
Initially you only have a limited palette of items to choose from and just a couple of art styles (Super Mario Bros and New Super Mario Bros U), but the longer you play, the more elements and art styles become available.
With a tap on the gamepad you can add/move/remove elements, change the background and music, test your creation by playing it in ‘live’ mode, or if you’re anything like me, clear everything and start again.
Depending on your patience levels, this drip-feeding of elements (it will take a few days of playing before everything is unlocked), could be a blessing or a curse. As an easily confused forty one year old, who can no longer do anything without reading the instructions first, and whose imagination appears to have been traded in for two children, it’s definitely the former.
But once you’ve unlocked everything, the possibilities become endless.
All the elements are there, from Mario’s most popular incarnations to some that are less well known.
With a touch of the screen you change the graphics style and the backgrounds, change the mood with various pieces of pre-recorded music, create sub-levels accessed via pipes, and litter the course with any number of enemies and power-ups.
And if that wasn’t enough, once you’ve created your masterpiece, you can upload it for anyone else to play and rate, just so long as you’ve completed the level yourself first to prove it’s not impossible.
And it’s this user-generated content that will ensure Super Mario Maker becomes a cult-classic, because if you’d rather play levels than design them, or you’re looking for inspiration for your own creations, Course World gives you just that; by the bucket load.
Within Course World you can play other peoples levels, either individually or as part of the 100 Mario Challenge, where you’re given 100 user-generated levels to complete, with 100 lives to do so. This is a lot harder than it sounds as many are fearsomely difficult, and yet because you know the creator has had to prove it’s achievable before uploading it, whether that be by skill or good fortune, you know it can be done.
If you enjoy a particular level, you can see what other levels that individual created. You can also filter them by difficulty too.
From mixing and matching elements from all manner of Mario games, to seeing what others have done with which to take inspiration, Super Mario Maker is fiendishly addictive.
And as such, it’s only right that I take back all my previous reservations about the worthiness of amiibo’s. I’m not too proud to admit I was wrong. Well, not since I’ve created a level with Link battling giant Goombas on Bowser’s ship!
And besides, what’s not to love about the special 30th anniversary pixelated Mario amiibo!?
Thirty years on from the launch of Super Mario Bros, Nintendo could have been excused for celebrating the occasion by re-releasing any one of their earlier titles. Instead they’ve pulled off what may prove to be their greatest master-stroke yet.
Super Mario Maker is Mario Bros for the Minecraft generation. And it’s all the better for it.
I was sent a copy of Super Mario Maker for the purposes of this review. All words and opinions are honest and my own.