Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS Review

FOUR GAMES OF MARIO MAKING

An awkwardly long named “Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS” is the 3DS version of the side-scrolling platformer that lets players play levels or make them with a fun and easy design tool. The game lets users design levels using four of Super Mario’s greatest games: Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. Four different art styles, four different mechanics modeled, but using the modern physics of New Super Mario Bros.

CHANGES FROM WII U VERSION

For anyone that has played the Wii U version, this is a lighter and portable version of the game. There is no Amiibo support so levels from the Wii U version with a variety of characters are gone. You cannot play levels from friends, instead you’re relegated to pre approved levels from the Wii U version. To make up for that, there are a whopping 100 levels made by Nintendo themselves.

You cannot upload your levels, but instead you can street pass levels to people you pass by. The catch is that you can only have one level at a time set to street pass. Sure you can make and save multiple levels, but only sending one level at a time feels like an issue. I went into this version thinking that it wasn’t a big deal to upload levels, but the more I made levels, the more I didn’t want to if I would be the only person playing them. Even without Amiibo support, they could have included an upload feature to post your levels, but I suppose that would have made street pass functionality useless.

3DS CONTROLS GO AWRY

Since this is the 3DS, you’ll be forced to touch the lower screen a lot. It’s understandable for the level design, but not to progress from one level to the next. Nintendo really skimped on letting the D pad do the work which would have made for a better experience.

GAMEPLAY TWEAKS

No matter what era of level you play from, you’ll play as Mario. You’ll run by holding the Y or X button and leap with the A or B button. I’m happy with this control scheme considering Virtual Console games use the B to run and A to jump and hitting that A button on my 2DS just hurts. Like all Mario games, it takes a bit of time to get running at top speed and a bit of time to slow down when shifting your momentum.

Each of these four styles has its own gameplay tweaks to add more diversity to the game. Levels in the original Super Mario Bros vein will let you stomp and kick Koopa shells, but not pick them up. You can find a high jump mushroom. Super Mario Bros 3 lets you pick up shells, carry them around and kick them when you’d like. Here you can find a raccoon tail for flight. Super Mario World lets you spin jump, carry shells and kick them upward. You can get cape feathers for a different type of flight. New Super Mario Bros gives you the most control with wall jumping, spin jumps to slow descent when falling and propeller mushrooms that will launch you into the sky.

Everything you’ve ever known about Super Mario is still here. You start little, you collect super mushrooms to grow big, you stomp enemies, collect 100 coins for an extra life. Oh and you’re still going to rescue Princess Peach. This time, instead of one Bowser defending his hostage, there can be dozens of Bowsers, but giant, with wings, that have hammer brothers riding their backs or bullet bill cannons. The sky is the limit in Super Mario Maker. Nintendo’s official levels manage to hit that level of creative craziness and still remain enjoyable and quirky.

A CREATIVE CURE FOR THE COMMON MARIO

Mario has always been enjoyable, but a bit formulaic with sparse enemies and Super Mario Maker is the cure for that. Every strange idea, terrible level, quirky terrain and awful design is here. The game’s official levels feel like a breath of fresh air that has a lot of new ideas even with old elements. You can use a buzzy beetle shell to surf on or as a helmet. Set enemies on top of enemies, have lakitu’s throwing out coins or power-ups. The ideas and the twists bring the game to a whole new level of fun, insanity and diversity.

BRILLIANT TITLE SCREEN

Under normal circumstances, talking about a title screen is a simple discussion, but Super Mario Maker’s title screen is a blank slate of a level. The theme is set, but the game is random. This level is fully playable, even if there’s very little in it. Since it’s so empty, it demands enemies be put in and coins to be added. Before you know it, you’ve been tricked into making a quick level.

On the title screen you have a choice to make or play courses. The game is broken into four major modes: Course Maker, Super Mario Challenge, Course Maker, and Coursebot. Each of these selections will be broken down.

COURSE MAKER TO MAKE LEVELS

Creating levels is easy as every even on the small screen with a stylus. You have the four games to choose from, but on top of that, each game has six themes. Even if the original Mario Bros didn’t have ghost houses and airships, they do now. Underwater levels offer some nice variety as well. You can even put land enemies into the water, which will give them new characteristics, such as goombas will dart in the player’s direction.

Up at the top is your thing menu full of items, solid objects, enemies and so on. Clicking the arrow reveals everything you’ve got to work with and there are plenty of things to unlock. Tapping on the lower screen will place an item. Some items can be shaken to easily change their properties.

There are plenty of enemies, but they’re even more dynamic as you can click a super mushroom to drag it onto an enemy to make it bigger. Adding wings to a foe will make it faster, fly or glide. The same can be done for blocks and platforms. You can add a key onto a foe to force Mario to defeat that foe to earn the key and unlock a door. To make a power-up come out of a block, just drag the item into the block. Pipes can be tilted and given enemies to spawn out. It’s a lot of fun making levels.

Beyond that there’s a frog icon to add extra effects whether its spotlights, disco parties, punching sounds or so on. This felt a little cheesy for me, but you can really make a level your own and use these things to distract the player. Especially the animal paw swipes.

There are plenty of tools such as an undo function, an eraser to erase, a rocket to destroy the level and start from nothing. Each level has a time limit that you can tweak and a lot of the tougher levels tweak the time down to a few seconds. You’ll even find methods to copy, paste and clone. Mario Maker does a good job with its lessons, but there’s a manual if you forget anything.

Play testing is a snap, because you can drop Mario wherever you want to start from while editing. For anyone playing the level, they’ll have to start from the beginning like any typical level.

IT’S NOT MARIO WITHOUT PIPES

Levels have a limited length, but you can double the size by making pipes and doors to other sections of the level. The two sections of each level can have a different theme, so if you want to make a ghost house with a swimming portion you can. If you feel a need to have an overworld that leads to an airship and back, that’s your choice. Trying to make a single screen room never works that easily since the screen scrolls and there’s no way for the game to recognize that it’s supposed to be a single screen.

Take note that pipes will always work both ways. The first level of the game demonstrates that to make a pipe one way, you’ll need to use the one way platforms that prevent Mario from moving the direction they’re facing

SUPER MARIO CHALLENGE

Now we’ll get to the play functions of Super Mario Maker. Super Mario Challenge is the 100 level gambit and the bulk of where I spent my time playing the game. These levels start out easy enough and it feels like a tour of the memorable levels throughout all four games, but with a twist. By the end, they’re brutal, but you’re granted a lot of mercy, because there are so many levels geared toward giving you hundreds of coins that lead to extra lives. If you die on a single level enough times, you can take a pass and move onto the next level. You can always come back to it with the stage select. Nintendo wants everyone to complete this game.

UNLOCKING ELEMENTS

Completing each world will unlock two or so new elements that you can use to create your own levels. Upon unlocking these new things, you’ll be given a lesson from the game’s two instructors Yamamura the pigeon who is also a veteran Mario level designer and Mary O. These worlds consist of four to eight levels each and they have a loose theme.

CHALLENGE MEDALS

Each of the levels in Super Mario Challenge has two medals. These medals are obtained by completing challenges. The first challenge of each level is always displayed. The challenges are all different such as: complete the level withing 60 seconds, defeat all enemies, find the party room and many more. Achieving the first medal will reveal the second one. Collecting medals will unlock harder levels.

100 MARIO CHALLENGE

Course World is where you’ll take on either the 100 Mario Challenge or the Recommended Courses. Instead of the Super Mario Challenge that starts you with 10 lives and has you plow through 100 levels, the 100 Mario Challenge gives you 100 lives and has you plow through user made levels. You get to choose from four difficulties and the easier they are, the more levels you’ll have to go through to the end.

Easy difficulty feels relegated to musical levels, auto scrollers where you literally do nothing but ride a platform or bounce around and last is usually someone’s first level that’s far too simple to be enjoyable. I recommend anyone skip the easy difficulty. The normal difficulty is the sweet spot of sane levels that are a bit too easy at the start. Expert and Super Expert feel stupidly absurd, even in the early going. As someone that’s played Mario games for thirty years and even the more challenging fan games, these felt needlessly painful.

To prevent random levels from giving you hundreds of lives, you’re only allowed to collect three and you’ll get them once you’ve completed the level. You have the ability to skip any of the terrible levels you’ll come across. Both these implementations enhance the game to what could have been an endless death fest.

RECOMMENDED COURSES

The recommended courses will fetch you a batch of random levels to play. You can use a filter to sort out the difficulties and you’ll see a level before you play it. So it’s easy to gauge what looks fun. Picking levels in this mode just doesn’t feel as enjoyable as just going through the 100 Mario Challenges.

SEND YOUR LEVEL AND RECEIVE OTHERS

Last in Course World is the ability to select your level to send to others and view the levels you’ve received. Since I live in an unpopulated area, it will be impossible to find someone that has a 3DS randomly in their pocket as the system will be phased out soon. I wish I could have more than one course to send in the street pass outbox. It would make someone’s day just to have 5 or 20 extra courses from someone you didn’t even have a 3DS on them.

COURSEBOT

Coursebot lets you view your own levels and challenge courses. By challenge courses I mean the Super Mario Challenge as you’ll be shown a screen shot of each level along with how many medals you’ve earned.

A FANTASTIC SINGLE PLAYER GAME

Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is fantastic. There’s so much diversity, fun, and quirky gameplay dynamics that make this game stand out from other Mario games. With the Super Mario Challenge, this version of the game could have easily made the Wii U version obsolete. To the dismay of many people out there, both versions are still viable, one for its single player experience and the other from a creative standpoint.

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