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Super Mario Maker Review

  • First Released Sep 11, 2015
  • Reviewed Sep 2, 2015
  • WIIU
Aaron Sampson on Google+

What will you create?

I am not a good game designer, but I knew that before playing Super Mario Maker. In other games with a built-in "creator" mode, like LittleBigPlanet, I would just ignore the creation aspect and focus on playing. Mod and level design tools for most RPGs require too much dedicated study and practice to draw me in. But with Mario Maker, it's incredibly simple to design a hideous torture chamber. Or indeed any product of intentionally horrible, unfair game design. I'm still not very good at it, but I'm beginning to love creating.

Super Mario Maker is essentially two games: A design tool and a traditional 2D platformer. The tool aspect lets you crib elements from several Mario games and toss them together into a level of your own making, which you can then upload online for everyone else to play. You choose the overall graphical skin from among Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, or New Super Mario Bros. U. This affects the way everything looks and sounds, and how some items are used (for example, Mario World allows access to Cape Mario while New Super Mario Bros. U swaps that with Propellor Mario). And the background that you choose (airship, underwater, castle, etc.), determines the stage and musical themes.

The mix-and-match nature allows for exciting and anachronistic additions to familiar scenarios, like dropping a version of Bowser Jr. into an 8-bit style underwater Mario level. And some items can be combined for interesting new effects--placing a POW block in a pipe creates a pipe the distributes POW blocks, and putting a mushroom on pretty much any item, or enemy, makes it significantly larger.

It's a simple system that involves dragging and dropping different items from the menu bar into the environment. Copying, deleting, and drawing platforms is as easy as swiping and drawing across the Wii U tablet. As you place your level's obstacles and platforms, little background elements pop up adding color and variety to the scenery. And with an undo "dog" button and a restart "rocket" icon, the menu aesthetic is an obvious nod to the quirky, experimental SNES title Mario Paint. You'll even get flies swarming around your screen if you let the game idle for too long.

Building off of Mario Paint's eclectic sense of humor, you can also add pre-recorded sound and visual effects to your stage that would have never been used in a more traditional Mario game. Whether that's as simple as a friendly "ding" when you hit the correct box, or a "beating heart" sound when you want to add some tension to an ominous dungeon hallway, the effects use the same intuitive drag-and-drop system as the game's other items.

"The first time I discovered that not only could I make a giant, flame-spewing piranha plant, but I could also make it fly, I cackled with horrible glee at the possibilities."

Everything is incredibly easy to understand, implement, and experiment with, which makes creating levels, even for a complete novice, fun and effortless.

Unlike other games where the creation aspect is secondary to playing through a story or mission mode, crafting a level in Mario Maker is the focus. And also unlike with those games, creating a level is just as fun as playing one. Swapping between building and testing a stage is immediate and seamless, so it's easy to try new ideas. This lends the game a sense of discovery and adventure, even after you've been creating for hours.

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While it rarely feels like there aren't enough tools create with, the longer you spend with Mario Maker, the more you might notice things you can't do. There's no way to add a mid-stage checkpoint. The dimensional limits of the levels are set in stone, so if you want to build something focused on a long, vertical freefall, rather than a horizontal jaunt, you're out of luck. Enemy AI is fixed--you can't create Goombas or Turtles that will try to actively seek out and attack Mario (though there are Mario-seeking Bullet Bills already included). And while you're allowed to place and use the game's creations in almost any way you like, the broader details, whether that's changing the color palette of an enemy or composing your own music, are outside your control. The restrictions doubtless keep the creation aspect more focused on interesting gameplay moments, but--especially with Mario Maker's other nods to Mario Paint--it's hard not to want just a little bit more freedom to expand past the bounds of a normal Mario game.

And, as both a positive and a negative, you don't have complete access to all of the game's creation tools when you first turn it on. You start off with a very limited palette of items and themes to experiment with, and more of the game's options unlock the longer you spend creating. That unlock time isn't measured in hours, however; it's measured in days. After playing with the tools you have available for about five minutes, you'll get an on-screen message saying the next unlock is queued up for delivery...the next day. Come back the next day, play for five more minutes with your new toys, and the next set of items will queue up for another next-day delivery.

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It's a simple albeit tedious system to bypass: backing out of the game and changing your system's clock lets you hack your way to quicker access. But even though that week-long process of unlocking all the game's available items is a bit too long, it does serve a purpose: it makes sure you get out of the creator and play more levels.

Experimenting with the creation tools and playing around with the maker aspect is fun on its own, but the way you really learn to use those tools is through trying other peoples' creations. Just like reading makes you a better writer and listening to music makes you a better musician, playing through stages, both good and bad, lets you experience first-hand what works and doesn't work in a level. Mario Maker comes with a suite of pre-built stages, so there's something to try out even if you never go online and try user-created content.

But the user-created levels are where the real sparks of both genius and maddening difficulty come in. With a mix of hundreds of stages from around the world, I survived gauntlets of impossible-looking spinning fire traps; crossed massive gaps that required precise, last-second jumps; and solved levels that were more about using shells and other items in creative ways rather than reflexes and timing. In one particularly devious stage, I was forced to avoid mushrooms entirely, normally a highly sought-after power-up, in order to squeeze through tiny gaps at certain points in the level. The catch: the level was filled with hundreds of mushrooms.

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The game makes it easy to find and sort user-created levels by popularity, difficulty, and creator. And the force that keeps driving you through these player-created levels, no matter how crazy, is knowing that someone had to beat them to upload them. They might seem hard. They might be put together with unbelievable unfairness. And maybe its creator only got through using luck and sheer force of will. But someone beat that level at least once, and that means you can too.

Super Mario Maker is a game of joyous creation and fun surprises. And that's without mentioning things like the music, a highlight in every Mario game. From the familiar and joyous themes of the main worlds to the altered riffs you get when tinkering around in Make mode, the soundtrack captures that same essence of wonder and surprise as the rest of the game. Even the in-game instruction manual is incredibly useful and entertaining; it's graphically animated, written with a great sense of humor, and, for no particular reason, throws in some thoughts about brussel sprouts.

The first time I discovered that not only could I make a giant, flame-spewing piranha plant, but I could also make it fly, I cackled with horrible glee at the possibilities. And for the first time in a creation-focused experience, I look forward to returning again and again for more than just the amazing levels I know other people will create. I want to keep making my own levels better. The game won't necessarily turn you into the next Shigeru Miyamoto, but you can almost feel a little bit of that magic rubbing off every time you upload a new creation.

Justin Haywald on Google+
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The Good
An array of joyous, challenging stages
Nostalgic melding of 8-bit art with more recent enemies and items
Catchy remixes of classic Mario tunes
Wonderful surprises and Easter Eggs to discover
The Bad
Unlocking all the design elements is a little too slow
Customization tools don't allow you to deviate from the Mario formula much (no music creator, character palette customization, etc.)
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

The version of the game Nintendo provided for review exists on a separate server that will be cleared out once the game's actual servers go live. However, you can find examples of the stages we created, and some gameplay highlights, in our PAX Prime 2015 Mario Maker challenge video.
429 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for sadpolar7

Great game on a terrible console. Lots of enjoyment on this one.

Avatar image for ye_olde_gamer2

Looking for classic-style Super Mario Brother levels? Secret areas, hard/fair difficulty, and at least 2 hidden 1-ups in each level!

Classic dungeon level: 5395-0000-009D-4527

Classic underground level: 35AD-0000-00C6-BAFA

Classic Bullet-Bill level: FFA8-0000-00B3-E43D

2 hard classic Lakitu levels: 517E-0000-00C3-5D99, D291-0000-00A0-92AE

Avatar image for obsidian_born

We need a Mario 3D Maker next!!

Avatar image for retromanhd

I'm seriously thinking of just buying a Wii U for this game. This level editor really appeals to me, it sounds a lot of fun.

Avatar image for swedensior

902D-0000-0041-F383 Fun and fair level got som hard ones in store also. Stars will be returned!

Avatar image for devjmoore

Poor Super Mario Bros. 2. It kind of reminds me of DB GT.

Avatar image for Furwings

Awesome! Good stuff! I played Super Mario Maker all weekend and I'm addicted! For an old-school gamer like me, it's almost as if Nintendo has just breathed new life into Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U and made all 4 games infinitely re-playable thanks to user-created levels!

Avatar image for kangaroosly911

Ready to try a Donkey Kong Country Level?


Avatar image for kangaroosly911

I'll be playing Mario Maker today, Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, in 10 years. This game is GOTY, can't stop playing. ( oh yeah, Bloodborne is also GOTY, what can I do :)

Avatar image for Master_Of_Fools

While 9 is a spot on score, I would like to know what specifically made Gamespot dock it 1 point...He said nothing bad or annoying or anything about the game lol. Least IGN said "No checkpoints" lol.

Avatar image for amanda475

For me it’s all about playing levels I’m not into making them. I don’t care much for the auto levels I like playing them. I found this level it was really good. The ID is 5E32-0000-0018-7994. I think it’s this guy’s first level so I followed him to see what else he's going to come up with. I was unaware of staring levels though I’ll have to start doing that.

Avatar image for bizuit

Why is Gamespots video player so crappy? I have no other issues with other websites video players....but Gamespots video player is always choppy no matter what video i watch on it.

Avatar image for me3639

I am killing it in fantasy game reviews. Got double bonus for reviewer using nostalgic, but dam went with 'smile on my face' instead of joyous. O well theres always that other mod later this year ill get it back.

Avatar image for BigPrimeNumbers

Hopefully the shortcomings being reported will be fixed/updated in the future with patches/DLC: slopes, vertical stages, semi-submerged stages, moving between background and foreground (a la SMW), checkpoints, removing the timer, spoiling a stage's layout with its thumbnail, etc.

Avatar image for halo1399

SO happy I bought a Wii U

Avatar image for Furwings

@halo1399: Me too! There are 3 types of Nintendo fans. Old school fans like me that grew up in the NES / SNES era who are OK with (or have come to terms with) the fact that the Wii U is a great secondary console JUST for the Nintendo exclusives. Then there are old school fans that simply can't get over the fact Nintendo isn't #1 anymore and have next to no 3rd party support. It's like for them Nintendo is either all or nothing, so because they're not "all that" anymore, they just refuse to buy the Wii U - even though they're tempted to.

Then there are Pokemon fans...

Avatar image for Master_Of_Fools

@Furwings: Uh, I'm a Nintendo fan, been one since the NES, and Wii U is my PRIMARY 8th gen console. Got like 17 retail games. My PS4 is a hunk of junk that just sits there and I use it for Party Chat with friends while we play Wii U games lol. Sure it's got Infamous and Bloodborne but thats it. Unless you like buying shitty multiplats....and I don't nor will I ever have the Xbox One.

Avatar image for Badfish_

@Furwings: I just want a colorful, comfortable controller like the nintendo 64 and the gamecube instead of this unnecessary motion tablet crap. The nintendo 64 and the gamecube did so well, and now nintendo is losing to the other companies who have regular controllers. It's so obvious, I don't understand what they are thinking. Unless this is a plan to bring back nintendo with a crazy new console with classic controllers.

Avatar image for Furwings

@Badfish_: Well I wouldn't say the N64 and GameCube did "so well" as they are the 2 worst selling Nintendo consoles (well other than the Wii U which is on pace to finish below them), but I get where you're coming from with the controller point. I think with the unbelievable success of the Wii and the motion controller, Nintendo thought they could catch lighting in a bottle twice, trying to capitalize on the popularity of the iPad with the Wii U Game Pad.

Avatar image for mirage_so3

Almost seems to me they were like "We know you like Mario, here go make your own game."

Avatar image for Mraou

Little Big Planet is officially dead.

Avatar image for Furwings

@Mraou: Not necessarily. My kid is 10. He grew up with Little Big Planet and loves it. He's too young to really appreciate the old school Mario side scrollers. He's played them but he doesn't have the same attachment that my generation does to them. There's room for both as it's more of a generational thing I think.

Avatar image for Mraou

@Furwings: The point is, as a product for creating and sharing 2D platform game levels, SMM is critically the better product. Also, people enjoy 2D Mario not just for nostalgia, but because of the tightness of the gameplay - 2D Mario is still considered the gold standard for the 2D platform genre for the last 30 years.

Little Big Planet was a novel idea, but was ruined by its lack of tight controls and its floaty physics; the series has become mediocre and forgettable with each release as well. Yes, you can do some other things outside of the core platforming with LBP (races, shooter mode, etc), but the core of its gameplay is still platforming, and the platforming is not as good as Mario's.

I don't necessarily think it's strictly a generational thing, either, because SMM includes the New Mario style as well, which came out in 2006 (alongside the DS Lite) and LBP came out in 2008, so it's not a huge time difference there. New was marketed to a younger and new audience that hadn't played Mario before as well. Your kid could make levels in the New Mario style, which has wall jumps and a more modern look that he might prefer over the retro style.

I think when your kid is older, he'll understand the objective and critical differences between the two. When he's an adult (and if he continues to be a gamer), he'll come to appreciate the importance of the Mario franchises contributions to gaming's history. And in the grand scheme of gaming history, LBP won't be remembered as much as Mario in the next 30 years time. Hell, long after the last LBP game has been made, I guarantee there will still be Mario games.

Avatar image for Furwings

@Mraou: I couldn't agree with this more. and yeah I forgot how long ago the first modern Mario side-scroller with polygon graphics was released. We bought Mario Maker last Friday and played it as often as we could ALL weekend and he loves it! He even said it may just be his new favorite game so that's pretty cool!

Avatar image for Mraou

@Furwings: That is awesome to hear :D And that's what I call great parenting! :P When he's older, he'll definitely appreciate that he got to play Mario as a kid, and really enjoyed it too!

Avatar image for jpcc86

This game has a ton of positive reviews. Having 88 in Metacritic is not an easy feat and I read nothing but compliments about how well done and complete it is.

Yet, however, I'm still unsure about buying it, it just seems like a great game for kids but not much content for experienced old school gamers.

Avatar image for cantor2537

@jpcc86: As an old school gamer I couldn't disagree more. I would rather play old Mega man games and games like this where the user created levels are actually difficult. COD, GTA, Halo, Gears are al, the same. Shoot, kill, rinse, repeat, and full, of little kids too.

Avatar image for Badfish_

@cantor2537: Except Call of Duty 4. that was a masterpiece

Avatar image for franzito

As Nintendo's Mario titles are more than deja vu these days, why not letting fans make their own? Even when Big N takes a cash cow like Mario and turns into a DIY game of sorts, they shine big. Kudos to them.

Avatar image for 4mnesiac


I never thought I'd say this,

But maybe I should get a wii u.

Avatar image for Furwings

@fiercegauge82: ^^ THIS! Like!

Avatar image for darkelf83

@fiercegauge82: The above is why I bought my Wii U day one even though things looked slow. I was confident that Nintendo would come through, and they have.

Avatar image for stevo302

@fiercegauge82: I don't like to trash Nintendo. There was a time when they created the best gaming experiences ever, but that time has gone. There have been a few landmark gaming experiences in the past few years, none of which were even on the Wii U, nevermind originated on there.

The Wii U's use in my eyes is just for pure nostalgia and ease of use when it comes to the Virtual Console , the catalog to which still leaves a lot to be desired.

If you are a G A M E R, you probably have every console anyway, but I can't imagine why it would be necessary to own a Wii U if you have Steam and a PS4/XBONE. I consider myself quite varied in game types, and all my Wii U does now is gather dust in my closet, as I've no desire to play passable platforming games, and RPG for which there a many superior alternatives and that overrated button bash simulator known as Bayonetta. Perhaps it will yet again make its way onto my TV cabinet when the new Zelda arrives, but after the travesty that was Skyward Sword, I'll not get too excited.

Come to think of it, the only game that got any considerable use was MH3U. A game series that came to the conclusion the sequel would be better off sticking to the 3DS because time had passed, and most people are just using the Wii U as a door-wedge.

Avatar image for Derpalon

@stevo302: "If you are a G A M E R, you probably have every console anyway, but I can't imagine why it would be necessary to own a Wii U if you have Steam and a PS4/XBONE."

I'm not really following your logic. Shouldn't it be if you are a gamer I can't imagine why it would be necessary to own a PS4/XBONE if you already have Steam? I mean speaking primarily as a PC gamer myself, the only current gen console I own is a Wii U precisely because it's the only console offering a plethora of exclusive experiences that I can't get anywhere else. Why should I buy inferior versions of the same games that are all vastly multi-plats for the PS4/XB1?

Avatar image for Chico86_basic

@stevo302: Most games you get on S.T.E.A.M. are also on PS4/XBONE, not to mention both have similar libraries except for exclusives which are fewer than WiiU's. The better option if you would ask me is S.T.E.A.M. and WiiU. I say this because I'm a gamer too, like all of us, but I don't have the money or time to spend on every single console. You seem like the typical person who criticizes Nintendo for having only Zelda, yet you fail to see what else they have going. Bayonetta is a slasher, and a very good one, so I honestly don't know what you were expecting. WiiU is not exactly breaking new ground, but you would be wrong not to think that each franchise is better this time around. That includes Smash Bros, the main Mario series like 3D World, Pikmin, etc. Try new games instead of old ones, that's my best advice. If you like MH so much you should get a 3DS instead. I've been loving MH4U and Pokémon! Those two games alone take years to play I tell you, even regularly.

Avatar image for Defender1978

Mario Maker this month. Halo next month. Tomb Raider in November. Fallout 4 (for me) in December. The backlog never ends. It's good to be a gamer.

Avatar image for Keaze_


Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide

The playstation port. Greatness strikes again.

Avatar image for dadlm

Game look fun, but I dont think it's worth the price same with splatoon...

Avatar image for Mraou

@dadlm: There's a lot of content and unique fun to be had in Splatoon and SMM. If you enjoy playing them, chances are you'll come back to them time and time again - and end up sinking way more time than the typical big budget 3rd party release.

Avatar image for dadlm

@Mraou: Well I have Splatoon, played the game for one week, hit cap level and lost all interest about the game. So yeah for what it offer "me" it wasnt worth the money. I'm sure I would still be playing the game if I bought it recently or if they actually offer all the contents from the start and for some reasons I don't feel like getting back into the game. (main reason I bought it was to play with my friends and support new IP) as for SMM, I'm gonna wait for the release and see.

Avatar image for Sound_Demon

@dadlm: In idea it seems limited but there's surprisingly lots of content.

Avatar image for mgs4gop

GS, give the previous video player BACK, please! It was PERFECT! Why do you change it with worse one?

Avatar image for Vojtass

@mgs4gop: It was far from perfect, but current player is simply awful.

Avatar image for StonerDemon

Oh, so Super Mario Maker got a video review... seems Mario has the bigger connections.

Avatar image for jcharp

I saw someone mention this elsewhere, but it was such a good idea, I just had to repeat it:

If they would just give Zelda or Metroid the same treatment, I would lose my everlovin' mind.

Avatar image for Sound_Demon

@jcharp: This is so true. All they do with metroid and zelda is release half assed 3ds games like the dungeon shit and the coop metroid game. Those look so bad tbh where as the upcoming wii u one looks promising. Very promising. Its been the longest they've worked on a zelda game so far.

Super Mario Maker More Info

  • First Released Sep 11, 2015
    • 3DS
    • Wii U
    Play a near-limitless number of intensely creative Super Mario levels from players around the world. Its easy enough to create your own levels with the Wii U GamePad controller that it may feel like youre simply sketching out your ideas on paper, but you can now bring enemies and objects into a playable course in ways you could only dream of before.
    Average Rating80 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Published by:
    Platformer, Action, 2D
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Comic Mischief