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Did Nintendo Build the Super Mario Maker Series to Last?

We Check the Infrastructure

Don’t worry, it’s not a history lesson—but real quick—E3 2014 was the year Nintendo revealed Super Mario Maker for the WiiU. It may not have been the biggest thing they announced that year, but for a guy like me, who grew up in the ’80s dreaming of making my own video games someday, it was a big deal.

This is the part where another writer might say they had to dust off their WiiU to play this game, but I don’t hide my love of the WiiU. It was a good console, and it had really great games. I know this because they’re all on the Nintendo Switch now. They have ported, or modestly enhanced, almost their entire AAA catalog from the WiiU to the Switch.

Port of Call: Nintendo Switch

Mario Kart 8 on WiiU was a beautiful thing, but the Battle Mode was a joke. So they released it again on Switch, only now with all the DLC content, and an improved Battle Mode. They ported Captain Toad (adding some Mario Odyssey levels), Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze (adding an extra character), along with New Super Mario Bros. U, Hyrule Warriors, Pokken Tournament, and  heck, even Tokyo Mirage Session.

It got me to thinking that Nintendo may have used the dying WiiU to their advantage when the console was flailing and showing no signs of recovery. When Super Mario Maker debuted, I honestly thought it would be a console seller. I thought it could save the WiiU. It didn’t, but it served as something I liken to beta testing. And it was the best beta testing Nintendo could ask for. They could release this game, Super Mario Maker, because a large base of user they did have were going to buy it. Then, they could see what users did with the product, listen to their wants (slopes!) and needs (Angry Sun!), and adjust the game accordingly when they inevitably released it again on the Switch, a system they were already working on at the time.

Despite my cynical theory (which is nothing more than a theory), Nintendo actually did support the WiiU version quite admirably. I mention the WiiU so often because, despite the multitude of additions in SMM2, I strongly preferred the WiiU version over the Switch sequel in many ways.

WiiU vs. Switch

The controls for Super Mario Maker are perfection. The touch pad and stylus are the only way to go when making levels. The Copy and Paste functions, along with the Multi Grab tool, made shifting and moving things a breeze.

In the Switch sequel, the tutorial section is interminably long, tedious, and often inessential. Plus, as a previous player, I sat through dozens of videos pertaining to things I already knew. Then, when something I didn’t know how to do came up (raising and lowered water/lava levels), I often found myself not following—or comprehending—the directions. I’ll just assume it’s my own comprehension issues.

From the “Maker” stand point, the original WiiU game is vastly superior. Not only are the controls and button mapping more intuitive, the menus are all less obtrusive than they are on the Switch. I kept trying to make them go away but they kept cropping back up. You could push the screen back to see a wider area, but then things get too small.

Wow. Listening to myself, I may just be transitioning to an old man. Either the Super Mario Maker sequel is not as user friendly as the original, or I’m just an old person who can’t follow directions, and can’t see so good, what with all the thing-a-ma-bobs on the screen.

From a Player aspect though, Super Mario Maker 2 is the superior game. The sheer number of enhancements in the sequel make it the undeniable choice. We’re talking more game modes (Super Mario 3D World), level styles, day and night versions, added game elements, and enemies than ever before.

Items from other games such as The Legend of Zelda make an appearance, meaning you can design a whole level where Link explores, not only with his Master Sword (it was the White Sword back then but whatever), but his shield, bombs, bow and arrow.

A light shines down on 8 bit Link in a Super Mario 1 castle.

The mushroom from Super Mario Bros. 2 is here, turning you into plucky Mario, lifting and tossing enemies. The creepy stalker Phanto is back, following you doggedly whenever you grab the Cursed Key, also from SMB2.

There is even a Story Mode in Mario Maker 2, and I have to say that it is by far the best aspect of the game, because it shows dozens of examples of how you can make a level that is more than “Run to the right.” Many have puzzle-elements to them, and I found that clever and inspiring.

Sadly, after trying over two consoles, I’ve conceded that I’m not a great level designer. I made one awesome Bubble Bobble-themed one back on the WiiU version and that was it. I am strictly a player in the Mario Maker universe. Maybe…

World Building

As I mentioned in my recent article, Nintendo dropped (and I mean just dropped) it’s final major update. It came complete with a ton of new perks including the aforementioned Super Mario 2 content. The big reveal was that the game would finally get the one thing everyone has been asking for: Game Mode.

World Map made by a Super Mario Maker content creator.
The World Map in Super Sayuno World, a Mario game created by user Sayuno.

Players have wanted to create a Mario game experience since the game came out. I’ve wanted it too. And now it’s here. You can design your own World Map. Upload and have people play through your entire game. I’m currently playing through a few right now. It’s amazing, quite frankly. I love playing a level and then leaving a nice comment when someone does (in my opinion) a good job.

I’m just puzzled that Nintendo didn’t send out smaller updates piecemeal, keeping the interest going over a longer sustained period. The WiiU often had updates, but they were usually related to unlocking new Amiibo characters, or adding a level created by some famous game designer. The Switch version had three updates of note.

I suspect Nintendo is still not the best when it comes to online support for their games, and didn’t want to multitask this game now that Animal Crossing is out and keeping everyone’s blood pressure down. Still, I’m a little disappointed they weren’t more inclined to support the games on a long term basis.

In the end, I’m always down for more Mario content, and despite the fact you run into a lot of trash, and an overabundance of troll levels, you can find certain content creators that you will go back to over time. There is no lacking of creativity in this community, and as long as the users are there, the series will continue to thrive, with or without Nintendo’s involvement.

USELESS 1 UP MUSHROOMS

  • I actually invented a game called “Rex Rebuilding the U.S.A.” when I was a kid. It was sort of based on my love of the old NES game Wrecking Crew. I thought, “What if there was a game about someone fixing the places back up?” I drew all the characters and items too. Basically, it was an action platformer where you fought anthropomorphic boss characters. Long story short, Rex wore a yellow construction hat and was basically a mustache-less Mario. So I suppose I’ve got some retooling to do.
  • If Nintendo is planning to expand the Maker series, where should they expand it to? Zelda? Yes, of course.
  • Being that the 3DS is a footnote at this point, Super Mario Maker also came out on the 3DS too.
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Written by Johnny Malloy

Johnny Malloy is the Managing Editor of Gaming at 25YL, and is a crafty arranger of words.
A gamer since childhood, he enjoys indie games and considers The Binding of Isaac to be a subversive masterpiece. He has also written an extensive series of articles about the Castlevania, Super Mario Bros. and Final Fantasy series.
He enjoys writing fiction, be it screenplays, scripts, or novels. His favorite TV shows are Twin Peaks, The Leftovers, It's Always Sunny in Flipadelphia, Community, and Workaholics.
He has one of those faces. Sorry about my face. It can't be helped.
He's @mistercecil on the Twitter. Follow him if you like wild tangents and non sequiturs.

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