Constructive Anarchy: Super Mario Maker Review

Game Name: Super Mario Maker
Platform(s): WiiU

Publisher(s): Nintendo
Developer(s): Nintendo
Release Date: 9/11/15
Price: $59.99

The Mario Paint for the new age?

When Super Mario Maker had its first trailer back at E3 2014, I honestly had no idea how to feel about it; here was this bare-bones level editor with a strange blocky background only the most basic level pieces available. I remember thinking this would be something of a budget downloadable title or even a free toy to add longevity to the WiiU’s lifespan. Fast forward a year, and suddenly when Super Mario Maker resurfaces, it’s completely fresh and overhauled; there were all sorts of hazards from the Mario universe, levels could be made in the style of castles and Super Mario Bros. 3 airships, and most importantly, levels could be shared online. All these features allowed Mario Maker to become the biggest creative hub on a Nintendo console since Splatoon. 

Super Mario Maker controls exactly as one would expect; tight, momentum-based controls for feel-good platforming. Mechanically speaking, there is nothing new, but there is a stipulation in that certain actions can only be performed in their respective style. To elaborate: when creating a level, the creator can choose from the styles of Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros U; all beaming in the full glory of their respective art styles. Though the running and jumping physics are identical across them all, mechanics introduced in later styles cannot be used in the earlier styles; for example, Mario cannot spin jump in any style that came before Super Mario World, and he can only wall jump in the New Super Mario Bros. U style.

The timeline rule is not entirely consistent when it comes to items however. All themes (Such as castle, haunted house, underwater, ETC) and items can be used across all styles except for one (or two depending on how you view it); goomba shoes and yoshi eggs are exclusive to the first two and last two styles respectively. There is not much information behind this dichotomy, but since spin jumps (which allow Mario to land on pointed objects or enemies without being hurt) are not available in the earlier styles, it stands to reason that the goomba shoe would be present to offer an equivalent option for hazard traversal. However, the goomba shoe is still an interesting item and it would have been neat to see it in Super Mario World or New Super Mario Bros. U  format. Likewise, it would have been interesting to see Yoshi in the older styles.
In general, the items are varied and offer a lot of variation between them  due to the ability to freely break the mold in how they are used. For example, enemies can be placed in blocks and Bullet Bill cannons, and items can be given wings to change their movement properties.   Enemies can be placed in strange formations or even stacked on top of one another to pose greater challenge. Simply put, the options are only limited by the creator’s imagination (oh, and items that create other items [like Lakitus, Bullet Bill cannons, etc] cannot be placed inside of one another).


Far too many levels end up looking like this

The game comes with a built-in 56 levels that can be played through the 10 Mario challenge, a game mode in which the player is given ten lives to clear eight random levels which can then be played at any time and even used in the creator for a more fleshed-out base. The 10 Mario challenge is a strong option for getting a feel for the game as a whole before you dive into Course World: the hub for levels made across the world; from there the player can access loads of courses manually, or they could opt to play the 100 Mario challenge, which picks a random handful based on the difficulty that was chosen. It was here that the game’s most glaring issue came to surface.

Super Mario Maker does not discriminate. For all we know, a chimpanzee could be out creating levels and nobody can stop them. On one hand, it is an agreeable enough concept; someone paid money for this game, and as such, probably would not appreciate having their work rejected because it did not meet professional standards. On the other, since absolutely anyone can upload levels, there will always be a large number of levels that are in some way lacking, and not in any small vein. This is most evident in 100 Mario challenge because the different difficulties filter themselves by percentage of people who beat it when they played it. As a result of this, levels in the easy difficulty  are a cakewalk, and not even in the vein of classic level 1-1; in fact, I have seen a handful of these levels that were just a line of coins leading to the goal. Worse still than levels with no challenge are levels with false challenge. Expert difficulty is plagued by a level of a different sort; one that does not rely on testing the player’s skill, but rather rely on leaps of faith or hiding items necessary for progression in invisible blocks to make the level nigh unbeatable for anyone but the level’s creator. However; normal difficulty, though not without overly simple levels, is generally a varied and enjoyable experience. 

Otherwise, Mario Maker is everything it promised to be: a simple and uninhibited platform for level design, be it for any purpose. The graphics are pleasing at all levels; be it for retro charm or clean, stylistic goodness. The sound is as soothing as ever, though there is not a large selection of tracks in the game to begin with.
What does the future have in store for Super Mario Maker? We cannot know; but as it stands, Super Mario Maker is a must-have for the creatively inclined as well as any fan of Mario.  


If you build it, they will come

Final thoughts

Though the game has a great deal of (potential) content, and has endless possibilities, players will not receive the cohesive feel of a standard Mario title. The game is excellent for what it is, but if you’re not sold on the game at first glance, you may want to evaluate your interest in both creating and playing levels for $60


  • The same Mario we all know and love
  • Limitless possibilities in level creation
  • The creator UI is easy to work with


  • Only allowing levels that have been beaten by the creator has proven not enough to prevent unfair levels
  • The fact that anyone can make and publish levels means a great deal of levels will be of poor quality
  • Unlocking the more fun level components requires playing to some extent with all available tools
  • 9/10
    Graphics - 9/10
  • 10/10
    Gameplay - 10/10
  • 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
  • 10/10
    Replay Value - 10/10
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About The Author

Adriel Rangel

Adriel has been an avid lover of games and anime for near all his life. Hailing from Chicago where he is currently pursuing a degree in game design, he greatly prides himself on using both his gained knowledge from his schooling as well as his life-long experience as a gamer to analyze and express his love for games. As far as Anime goes, he likes all sorts, but loves dramatic action; his favorites being Fist of The North Star and JoJo's Bizarre adventure. Fun Fact: Adriel's favorite genres of games are Fighting games and Shooters, but his love for his reckless playstyle keep him from achieving greatness.