Mario Maker is one of those concepts were you’re surprised we haven’t seen it sooner. At it’s core, Mario Maker is essentially a level editor for Super Mario Bros. that allows users to create and edit their own Mario courses. It’s a relatively simple concept, but it’s success as a game really comes down to how well Nintendo can nail the details and make it a user-friendly experience.
I was fortunate enough to play Mario Maker earlier this year at E3 and I definitely walked away impressed. The two most important aspects for a tool such as this are flexibility, giving the player plenty of tools and options to create whatever they can dream up, and ease of use, since what use is a powerful editor if its impossible to actually use? Luckily, Mario Maker delivers on both fronts – it allows you to place any standard Mario block or enemy and add basic modifiers (such as giving any enemy wings or hiding powerups within blocks) and its wrapped in a very intuitive interface. The Gamepad’s touchscreen is the heart of the editor, and placing blocks or enemies is as simple as selecting the piece from a menu along the top of the screen and tapping or dragging anywhere on the level to place it. Running these levels is similarly simple – with the press of a button you’ll be placed at the beginning of the level and able to play through it. Additionally, its possible to immediately switch graphical styles between the original, pixelated Super Mario Bros. style or the 3D models of the New Super Mario Bros. series simply by tapping a button on the gamepad’s screen.
I didn’t have all day to sit and build the ultimate course of my dreams so it was helpful that Nintendo included 3 demo stages to experiment with. These 3 courses seemed to be heavily inspired the Kaizo Mario World series of ROM hacks and featured incredibly difficult layouts that required a mix of quick reflexes and meticulous planning. They showed what the editor was capable of by having giant pyramids of Goombas moving in unison and complex mazes of blocks and Koopas that required a well-aimed shell to navigate. It is possible to create levels just like these if given enough time, but it was also possible to edit any stage as you saw fit. Finally, Mario Maker included a neat feature where after completing a level you can see a trail of your progress and see the path you took.
Despite Mario Maker‘s impressive showing, its worth noting that it is still very much a work in progress. In the E3 demo there was no option create more than one stage or change supplementary assets such as background graphics or music. This demo was really more of a proof of concept to show off the editor and the general concept of the tool.
Ideally, Mario Maker would be the ultimate evolution of Mario Paint; an all in one tool set to create your own Mario games. Adding in the ability to chain levels together and create worlds, as well as changing graphical styles per level (so you’re not always stuck with the style of World 1-1) would be very welcome additions. Luckily, series producer Takashi Tezuka stated during E3 that there will be more graphical styles included and that they are seriously looking at the possibility of including a music editor. Something not announced (but that I would like to see included) is the ability to change the physics along with graphical styles so that you could, for example, create levels don’t just look like they belong Super Mario Bros. 3, but actually feel like it, too.
However, the main feature needed for Mario Maker is the ability to share your creations with others. Making levels purely for your own playthrough can be a fun distraction for a little while but is ultimately not something worth being excited about. Sharing your levels with others, though, has a lot of potential. Much like LittleBigPlanet on the PS3 managed to show off players’ creativity and create an almost endlessly replayable game, Mario Maker could become the ultimate tool for platformer fans and create it’s own thriving community.
Wanna see hands-on preview for more of next year’s Wii U games? Check our previews of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Yoshi’s Wooly World, and Splatoon. Or, take a look at our Roundtable where you can see me profess my undying love for the Mario series.