Super Mario Maker (Wii U) Review

By Adam Riley 03.09.2015

Review for Super Mario Maker on Wii U

"Let's Super Mario!" It's-a, time-a, for-a Super Mario Maker on Nintendo's Wii U. Woo-hoo! Cheesy fake-Italian accents aside, it is indeed the birthday of Mario - the 30th birthday, to be precise. Wow, has it seriously been five years since the Super Mario 25th Anniversary compilation package came out on Wii? Time does indeed fly, but rather than churn out another melee of dusty classics, Nintendo has decided to take a different slant and whack the old school Mario template onto a disc and put it firmly in the hands of gamers the world over to enjoy and tinker with. Super Mario Maker gives a starter-for-ten, but then leaves everything up to the end-user to get the most value out of this intriguing Wii U release. Does it prove too much work for not enough gain, or is the freedom a true breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale marketplace?

How many times over the years have people either thought a level in a particular Mario game was too tough and wanted to tweak things slightly to make it a bit more 'fair' or even mulled over how a new stage did not quite meet up to the standards set in older entries of the Nintendo mascot's universe, wanting to make the necessary amendments yet obviously having no choice but to soldier on regardless? Well, now that has all changed. That Nintendo Power is being firmly placed in the hands of the gaming public. Quite a daunting prospect, right? In fact, it actually is, and when starting up Super Mario Maker for the first time and wanting to delve straight into the depths of the creation tools, a massive blank may well be drawn. Where to start?

Everyone thinks they are the best designer, but when it comes to the crunch, building a smart level with enemies in key locations, moving platforms perched in such a manner as to warrant accurate jumping skills but nothing too unfair, power-ups both hidden or otherwise, and numerous other caveats to formulate a level like no other, is arduous, to say the least.

This is where Super Mario Maker immediately wins over some of its naysayers because right off the bat there are a wealth of pre-prepared stages across the Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U skin choices - 100 levels in total, albeit bite-sized affairs aimed at introducing people to the concept of stage design, more than anything. There are even random levels where it is total hands-off, watching as things go from start to finish, although whilst novel at first, these become a pointless addition very quickly, since who wants to merely sit back and watch? This is meant to be a hands-on sort of experience!

Screenshot for Super Mario Maker on Wii U

Dilemma time. Play the small tasters, fiddle around with the 'maker' aspect long enough to unlock newer pieces to do some trial-and-error work with (nine days to unlock all tools and graphical tiles is excessive, though, and may warrant some internal clock adjustments to bypass, á la Brain Trainin), watch the pre-recorded runs, or just wait until smarty-pants users from across all corners of the world have done all the hard work and enjoy their creations?

There is no doubt it will be enjoyable to mess with the mechanics - especially the parts where regular enemies and objects can be twisted and turned into never-before-seen forms - but there is limited scope to what can actually be done overall in the 2D Mario universe, without the proper knowhow. Whereas Nintendo's boffins spend years mastering the art of manipulating the world to offer up engaging arenas that leave the mind boggled and get the adrenaline pumping, no matter how intuitive the stylus-based controls are for level management (it seems Mario Paint-esque in many places), it will not take long before frustration kicks in and placing the odd block here and there, only to find they are in fact out of reach when doing a test run, will become irksome fast. Nintendo has attempted to alleviate concerns on this front by bringing in 'shadows' to highlight how far Mario can jump in differing circumstances, and 'quick fill' options to place blocks and erase them swiftly, so there has been a concerted effort to minimise the annoyance factor as much as possible, but obviously removing it completely is an impossibility because most will truck along without using them. With any luck, though, moments of magic like augmenting the soundtrack with pre-loaded sound effects and musical ditties, or even some snippets recorded via the GamePad, will work as enough of a distraction to 'charm' players sufficiently to wipe away the potential frustrating moments, or at least the memory of them. For the record, sound effects done via the GamePad's microphone are not included in online versions of courses, so the fun that could be had from sharing all sort of amusing or inappropriate utterances globally has been ruled out...

Screenshot for Super Mario Maker on Wii U

Super Mario Maker will become an expert's game, and everyone else will find it loses its muster over time...unless Nintendo whips out a whole batch of intriguing DLC and new stages, which is highly likely given its recent tactics to keep Splatoon and Mario Kart 8 alive and kicking. There is already amiibo interaction implemented (over 50 at current count), whereby 8-bit versions of other Nintendo characters can be brought into play, so there is scope for future expansions on that side. Also, could the 'personalisation' sections included have their restrictions removed with an update, allowing for more than one sound to be recorded using the GamePad and added to levels, or new graphical amendments permitted? For now, there are plenty of barriers in place and too many unknowns for the future. Buying a product with the hope that it fulfils its true potential further down the line is a bit too risky, but, fortunately, there is sufficient content currently to keep things ticking over for those that make the leap, leaving a pleasant taste on the palette when it comes to the value side of matters.

Online courses, it should be noted, have to be ones that creators can complete before being uploaded, making life easier as there was an initial fear of some horrendous dross being shoved onto the servers. Sure, there is no way to prevent boring content being upped, but there is the opportunity to better someone else's design, giving the chance to be all boastful when re-uploading, and the proof is in the pudding when checking out the ratings system - really helping to weasel out the really bad eggs, and allowing for the following of favoured content creators.

Screenshot for Super Mario Maker on Wii U

There is no real hand-holding, nor are there any in-depth tutorials, which might grate, especially for those unsure of where to start. Nintendo's approach is to drip-feed features instead, in the hope that between playing through the pre-installed stages, checking out others' creations, and then gaining access to new elements along the way, the process of learning will be a gradual and simple one. In reality, it does not quite work like that, and there is a chance that some will grow increasingly frustrated with the whole affair and either switch off entirely, or park it for a long while until other users have created sufficient content to make it worthwhile jumping back in. Nintendo being Nintendo, and normally loving the concept of painstakingly walking people through even the tiniest of details, has surprisingly changed its tact here, and possibly not for the better. After all, who buys the majority of Nintendo's games? The younger crowd. What does that group normally lack? Any shred of patience, especially for trial and error gameplay. Therein lies a major problem, but many will overlook this, and the price-point, because of the endless possibilities to be had, and simply because this is Mario, and most people's dreams have just come true.

Screenshot for Super Mario Maker on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

For all its drawbacks in terms of relying on the gamer to actually put in the effort to enjoy the experience, Super Mario Maker is a fresh approach to the old 'RPG Maker' mould, taking the key elements that any 'build-a-game' title requires and then making sure that there are sufficient in-built goodies to give those less inclined to while away the hours making new content a sense of value for money. Additionally, the online element for stage sharing, as well as potential for new extras to be unlocked via DLC, ensure that Nintendo's anniversary project will certainly not be resigned to a fate of 'dust collector' or 'drinks coaster' anytime soon.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (3 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


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