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Review: Super Mario Maker continues the franchise with endlessly inventive replay value.



What do we mean when we call a game “timeless”? The video game industry has spent its life in a state of constant technological innovation. A game produced 10 years ago feels more dated in 2015 than a film or an album created at the same time. But, the best franchises are those whose core mechanics are so strong that they can be loved even outside their time. No series is more timeless than Super Mario. Super Mario Maker offers proof of that fact.

Super Mario Maker is a level creation tool for Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U.

Nintendo has made the act of building Mario just as fun as playing it. Using the WiiU’s touchscreen, you place blocks, enemies and obstacles on a grid structure. You’re given a toolbox filled with items, enemies and obstacles from each game, and you can flip between the four titles in a snap. Then with a quick tap, you can go from creating a level to playing it.

Mario Maker shines on the back of the original games. The physics of Super Mario Bros. are acutely different from those in Super Mario Bros. 3. These games were made years ago, yet the music and art design still appeal to the eye. The creation tool doesn’t cover every nuance of the originals (no Hammer suit or Star Coins, just to name a few), but I was satisfied with my options.

However, I would’ve appreciated mid-course checkpoints. Their absence can make playing through some of the community’s hardest levels frustrating.

Plenty of games encourage users to create their own levels, but most run into a roadblock with the creation tool itself. Super Mario Maker bypasses this. If you’ve ever played a Mario game before, you understand the flow. You know how a Goomba can be defeated and where it’d best be placed in a level. Mario Maker lets you subvert that nostalgia, using Spiny shells as helmets, putting giant Piranha Plants on moving conveyors and even importing new Nintendo characters into the world of Super Mario Bros. It’s a beautiful piece of fan service, one that leverages the fans themselves to survive.

Once a level is made, and proven to be finish-able, you can upload it to the greater Mario Maker community for the world to play. The game features a search tool to curate the best new content, as judged by the players. You can also hop into the 100 Mario Challenge, which throws 16 randomly picked levels between you and the Princess.

Mario Maker has only been out for a little more than a week, and the game is already bursting with inventive new content. Even if you never build a single level, Mario Maker will be worth the price of admission just to see what people can dream up with its tools.

Follow Chris Berg on Twitter @Mushroomer25


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Christopher Berg

Christopher Berg