Without having even played Super Mario Maker—Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U title that (as the name suggests) allows players to design and play their own Mario levels–there’s a lot we already know about the game.
It was developed for internal use at Nintendo, but then a light bulb went off, and they realized gamers would love to utilize the tool they made. You can upload your levels online so others can play them, while you, in turn, can fill your console with stages created by other users. You can use the aesthetics and mechanics from Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U. Amiibos can be used to unlock fun stuff like new items and character skins. Level elements can be used in new ways, like stacking baddies on top of each other or sticking wings on pretty much anything.
There is no lack of press coverage of Super Mario Maker–hat tip to IGN’s Super Mario Maker Challenge video series–so it’s not important now to review how the game looks, sounds or even plays. Every gamer already knows how Mario works, and Super Mario Maker very much intentionally falls in line with those lofty expectations.
What should be reported, though, is how the game makes a player feel.
Super Mario Maker makes a player feel like they are behind the scenes at Nintendo, like they’re a developer working on one of entertainment’s most storied franchises. Looking at the repertoire of all of the elements available to use in a level, from the different types of ground textures to moving platforms to the POW block, makes a player feel like they have total control over the Mario universe. And quite frankly, you do.
Players have so much control that they can make levels in ways the series’ actual developers never thought of. They can block off access to the axe at the end of Bowser’s bridge so players have to work harder to get to it, then still have more to do after they’ve made it past the king of the koopas, overcoming even more obstacles while avoiding his pesky and lingering fire breath. They can make 10-goomba stacks that are impossible to conquer without taking damage. They can make a barren level that needs pixel-perfect use of a Super Mario World cape to access key locations. Players can also make levels in ways that were not previously possible: ghosts and Airship stages didn’t exist in Super Mario Bros. before, but they can now.
Super Mario Maker makes a player feel like an artist. Game design is often overlooked as an art form, but every level in every video game in existence has a narrative– a story that progresses as you move forward. The Mario series has always done the best job at telling engaging stories with its levels, and now Nintendo has handed off the canvas and palette to its customers. Players can make levels with repeating themes, levels designed to feel like they’re from a different game entirely, or levels where in order to survive, the player has to put down the controller and watch the madness unfold.
Speaking of the controller, if Super Mario Maker had been a Wii U launch title, the GamePad would have made a lot more sense to the world and not been perceived as lame and underutilized. Nintendo’s giant controller feels like an extension of the mind as part of this intuitive design process, which allows players to quickly jump between creating and playing the level. When giving consumers the power to undergo the potentially lengthy ordeal of designing a world, it’s important to not make the task feel like… a task, but in both the short-term and long-term, the process is rewarding.
Super Mario Maker makes a player feel like they are part of something. Nintendo includes new levels pre-loaded in the game, but the Super Mario Maker experience truly blossoms when taken online. For the first time in Nintendo’s history, they have made a game that has a strong sense of community–except for Animal Crossing, which has community but also a narrower appeal. They have tried and failed to make their players feel connected to each other with their various messaging systems and online communities since the Nintendo DS days, but Super Mario Maker is the first time that playing with others from across the globe is an integral part of a Nintendo game.
Video games can bring out the most human aspects in people, and playing Super Mario Maker online allows players to share those feelings and experiences with each other. Players can get pissed off at the jerk from across the globe who designed the impossibly difficult level that’s killing their progress in the 100 Mario Challenge, which gives players 100 lives to beat 16 levels created by other players. Players can feel appreciated when the stages they uploaded are being played, starred and commented on. Players can feel accomplished when those comments are angry, confused or complimentary because their levels have sub-10-percent clear rates, feature a new gimmick that is a lot of fun, or are defined by visually impressive level design.
Nintendo has catered to the universal desires for creative fulfillment, instant gratification and long-term satisfaction by giving players a chance to create their own fun. What Super Mario Maker makes a player feel is happy, angry, curious, excited, inquisitive, frustrated, experimental, accepted. It makes a player feel human and important, that they are as big a part a Mario as Mario is of them.
- Creating a level that looks good and plays smoothly is tremendously satisfying.
- The ability to re-imagine how classic Mario elements interact with each other makes virtually anything possible in terms of stage creation.
- The various modes of online play are the best community Nintendo has ever created.
- The Wii U’s GamePad feels like a natural and ideally utilized part of the game, a rarity (and perhaps a first) for the platform.
- Every other aspect of this game.
- Some user-created levels can be frustratingly difficult.
- The game’s live-action trailer (video above) is not properly representative of the actual experience of playing the game (we’re reaching for cons here).
Rating: 5 out of 5 burritos
Our friends over at Geek & Sundry got a chance to sit down at Nintendo and test the game out. Check out their level, “Silence of the Yoshis,” below.
Super Mario Maker will be released in North America on Sept. 11, 2015.