When Nintendo first unveiled Mario Maker (now officially called Super Mario Maker), it sounded like the game longtime players have always wanted — but perhaps never known they wanted. Rather than dash through levels designed by Nintendo itself, Mario Maker hands the keys over to the players. Go forth, mushroom apprentices, and build.
The game's premise suggests that Nintendo wants you to believe that Super Mario Maker is all about creativity. By my experiences, this is patently false. The key to Super Mario Maker is to actually be a master troll.
Super Mario Maker sees you mapping out every inch of a level in the style of several Mario games, from the very first Super Mario Bros. released in the mid-'80s to New Super Mario Bros. U in 2012. This means that you can change the general aesthetic of any level, or even twist Mario time and space itself by dropping enemies or items that previously didn't exist in that era. There are options to change the theme of the level — think airship, water, or underground, for example — or even adjust the length of the level itself. And, in true Frankenstein fashion, you can even enlarge, tweak or outright combine foes to create monsters that are double the challenge.
Imagine, if you will, beating a level where every enemy has sprouted a pair of wings and an extra head in the form of a piranha plant.
Super Mario Maker sometimes feels more like Super Meat Boy
Super Mario Maker will allow you to be even more devious than that. When I went hands-on during a recent demo, I found myself lost in tangles of errant pipes sticking out in every direction; smashed by Thwomps that lay hidden and waiting; and shuffled into secret rooms that seemed to exist only for the purpose of causing my untimely demise. Changing the theme of a level, too, can drastically alter its difficulty. A water level that I breezed through became an absolute nightmare when clicked over to the airship theme. If you think official Mario levels could be challenging, you've obviously never seen the darkest design depths of your friends' minds.
But while Super Mario Maker sometimes feels more like Super Meat Boy — and even though my demo was scored by my screams of "oh God no what is THIS," — there's hope that your experiences may be kinder than mine. The game's online section allows you to dig through new levels at your discretion; a recommendation system is split into several categories that include featured, ranked or "up and coming" levels.
In the featured section, players will find levels selected by Nintendo itself. The ranked section highlights the top-rated levels, while up and coming pushes lesser played levels in an effort to encourage new players. If you find creators you're fond of, you can check out their personal preferences or subscribe to get updates on new work. Levels are also sorted by their difficulty, a merit which is determined by what percentage of players have successfully cleared a level.
But take heart, Super Mario Maker players — for even if you die, die, die again, as I did, you're not alone. With every death came a flash of X's across my screen denoting the final resting spot of past players. Brothers and sisters, you haven't been forgotten.