Almost everyone has played a Mario Bros. game in the last 30 years, on one of the numerous Nintendo consoles that supported the protagonist plumber. With more than 40 million Mario titles sold, there are favourite games, eras and characters with each new player. If you’re not the oldest child in your family, then you also never got to play any release as Mario, but instead came to love the patron saint of younger siblings everywhere: Luigi. Innovations and fresh faces kept the mushroom kingdom kidnapping fiascos entertaining and challenging while essentially being the same game over several years. I mean, realistically, how many times can side scrolling overalls rescue a princess without it getting outdated? That was rhetorical because I don’t have an answer; if Nintendo keeps cleverly pushing the envelope with releases like Super Mario Maker then probably another 30 years.
This paragraph is where I praise or throw rocks at the subject’s narrative, but as MM has no story, I’m going to tell you one instead. Master 10 created a very special level just for me and entitled it “Goodbye.” As a mother, you must always appreciate gifts from your children, especially when they are handmade. This level consisted of a straight line to the finish with an unbroken row of springs in the way. On top of the springs were a scattering of goombas and spikes and assorted death. Thrown over the already precarious level were roughly 20 more springs – all facing different directions. The level starts, and he didn’t provide me with a mushroom, making me a one-hit wonder, so there is nothing for it but to attempt a dash. My son’s level was a cruel and unusual punishment with springs abounding minus any patterns, enemies being deflected randomly and little option but to throw the small Italian and hope he ends up at the flag. Much to my son’s delight, I didn’t make it for eight lives straight.
The mechanics are important in a build-it-yourself game; it can’t be too childish, but if it required genuine level design knowledge then a huge audience would miss out. SMM gave the players/creators exactly what we needed: a system that’s easy to grasp with an integrated learning curve that also ensures the player avoids becoming overwhelmed with too many options from the beginning. It’s almost like a digital sticker book that rewards your obvious competence by opening the toy boy up to more choices and mechanics. It could not be easier to create levels: simple, devious or feats of timed perfection are all possible by a player of any caliber, so long as they have the imagination. Whether sharing, saving, testing, editing or removing a level, it is an easy system to navigate even for the youngest audience.
Back in the day when Mario was just a collection of blandly coloured squares, he was still awesome and the worlds he chased his princess over were new and exciting. Over the years, technology gave us a more defined hero and brought the mushroom kingdom to life through better graphics and eventually 3D games. Super Mario Maker couldn’t improve much on the look and sound of all its predecessors, but it didn’t need to either. Instead, it boasts infinite content, and new way to play locally and offers challenges you need. But SMM did improve by letting us slip seamlessly between the different Mario eras while we create worlds, flicking through several games’ art styles to suit the current level. The music, sound effects and overall feel of each Mario generation can be called up with just one tap. The inclusion of ridiculous sound effects and random actions that are programmable to any block or enemy is just another part of Super Mario Maker taking a new step from their usually predictable presentation.
Users all over the world are collectively reliving the brilliance of our pasts or doing things with levels that I’d never even considered. I’ve read one site that suggested Nintendo took an easy out by making the players do all the work; therefore, it wasn’t a ‘game’ release at all. Well, I guess that’s a concept that would never work, not even for crafty miners for example. The pipe-travel enthusiasts hadn’t quite lost their charm for me, but I have had little interest in releases over the last five or so years. New ways to play and franchise deviations weren’t enough for me to buy the games on release day before this one. Super Mario Maker has given me a new appreciation for the processes and creativity behind what I used to consider “basic” levels and renewed my love for the Mario Bros. with all its new possibilities. Whether it’s random challenges, pretending to be Miyamoto or sending your most flamboyant abominations out into the Miiverse, Super Mario Maker has become the best Mario Bros. game in years.