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First Impressions: Getting Creative With Mario Maker

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

Make Mine Mario

Mario Maker may have been inadvertently revealed a little earlier than intended at E3 this year, but with the allure of what was on offer — a new Wii U title which lets budding Miyamotos create and play their own Mario levels — we’d argue that the effect was less like ruining a surprise and more like knowing you’re getting exactly what you wanted for your birthday a day early. We certainly jumped into our hands-on time with Mario Maker with high expectations, and what we saw didn’t disappoint. Even in a very early state we found it to be a fantastic concept wrapped up in a charming package as only Nintendo can, a great fit for the GamePad, and a whole lot of fun.

Right from the start, Mario Maker’s editing interface is intuitive and remarkably easy to use; starting your stage is as simple as picking an object — say breakable bricks, power-up blocks, jump springs, moving platforms, enemies, pipes, or coins — and painting them onto the side-scrolling canvas using the stylus. Once you’ve placed an element, you can move and resize it as you’d like, or group different pieces together to edit them as a single unit, and while there’s a dedicated eraser tool you can also simply double-tap an object to make it disappear.

As you may have hoped, you can make your level as crazy, intricate, silly, or tough as you’d like, and we certainly saw the whole gamut on display at the show. From walking towers of Piranha Plants to impossibly wide bottomless pits, cheeky coin skywriting to hearts made out of Koopa Troopers, and maze-like tunnels to levels without any ground to speak of, there’s a huge amount of freedom in what you create, and walking around to see what other attendees were making became a popular pastime in Nintendo’s booth.

Putting together courses feels like second-nature almost immediately, thanks largely to the GamePad’s functionality — Mario Maker is a wonderful showcase for the Wii U’s unique controller. Level editors on consoles can be truly daunting stuff, not least because of the challenge of translating what essentially amounts to sketching out levels to button-and-analogue-stick controls; the GamePad’s touchscreen lets Mario Maker sidestep that problem entirely, while still retaining the traditional button controls best suited for actually playing the levels you make. It really is an ideal setup, and one that makes it a piece of cake to dive in and start creating your masterpieces of Mario-themed masochism right away.

Playing your levels is just as easy, of course — a quick tap of the ‘Play’ button in the bottom left sends Mario into action, and you can switch back and forth between the two modes on the fly, as well as place Mario wherever you’d like with the left stick before starting. Once you’re up and running, everything feels like classic Mario, with predictably precise controls that recreate the physics of Super Mario Bros. perfectly. The graphics have gotten quite a boost, however; the high-definition take on Mario’s 8-bit aesthetic is beautifully smooth and inviting, with foreground elements casting drop-shadows onto an appealingly ‘pixelated’ sky.

Even better, a flick of a switch lets you take your creation from World 1-1 to the Acorn Plains, exchanging the graphical style of Super Mario Bros. for New Super Mario Bros. U’s shiny HD look — the physics remain unaffected, though we were told this could change before the final release. Mario Maker also gives players a peek at how those physics really work; whenever you switch back into Edit Mode after playing, you’ll be able to see ghost trails of exactly where your Mario ran, hopped, bopped, and fell, helping you fine tune your level design, or realize that it simply isn’t possible to jump over an eight-tall pyramid of Hammer Bros., no matter how hard you try.

Even if Mario Maker offered nothing more than a straightforward way to create your own little corner of the Mushroom Kingdom, it still would have had our attention. What really stood out in our time with the game, however, was the sheer number of wholly unnecessary but thoroughly charming little touches that made it into so much more. The menu up top only has green Koopa Troopers, for instance, but there was an easy and fun way to place red ones: grab a green Koopa and shake it with the stylus until it retreats into its shell, and then pops out red. Not only did that little detail put a huge smile on the face of everyone who tried it, it also inspired us to try shaking other tools, with similarly endearing (if less functional) results: shaken-up Hammer Bros. get angry and toss their tools, for instance, while Goombas burst into a dozen mini-Goombas, like tiny, toothy fireworks.

On one run-through of our level, we broke a ‘?’ block to find a taller, skinnier mushroom than we were expecting. Normally we would have been cautious, but we had to trust Mario’s years of in-field fungus identification when he ate it without question, and the results weren’t bad at all: he grew into Super Mario, but jumped higher, and seemed to slide along the ground when running. This, we were then told, was the ‘Luigi Mushroom’ - a rare power-up which turned Mario’s physics into those of his taller, high-jumping brother.

Then there were all the nods to Nintendo’s foremost classic of creativity, Mario Paint. The famous Undo Dog makes his triumphant return as the undo button here, for instance, delighting and perplexing attendees in equal measure (“How do I undo?” “Tap the dog.” “Oh, should have known.”). And in our second play-test, we happened to notice a tiny digital fly buzzing around the Edit Mode screen; chasing it with the stylus brought — along with a slew of unintended blocks — a flyswatter tribute to Mario Paint’s Gnat Attack mini-game.

It’s these kind of touches that make Mario Maker stand out as more than just the level editor Mario fans have been dreaming of since 1985, and which have us looking forward to it as a game in and of itself. We had just as much fun designing our level as we did trying to play through it, and that’s saying something — between the retro Nintendo references, silly easter eggs, and intuitive controls, Edit Mode felt like a platformer playground we’d have been very happy to spend hours messing around in before even placing Mario’s pixelated shoes down.

We still haven’t heard exactly how you’ll be able to share your creations, whether through QR-codes, a dedicated Miiverse community or in-game channel, or another implementation entirely, but the Nintendo reps we spoke with assured us that this was simply because the game is still early in development, and details are still being decided. In fact, of all the marquee games we played at Nintendo’s booth this year, Mario Maker was the one that seemed most in prototype stage. It was lots of fun, of course, and we would have been more than happy to walk out the door with a copy, but Nintendo stressed that this was an early implementation of the concept — we can expect plenty of new features and functionality before it eventually releases, as well as some parts of this E3 demo not making the final cut.

As proof of Mario Maker’s potential, then, the demo on the show floor worked wonderfully. We had a great time with what sounds like just the tip of the iceberg, and we can’t wait to see what other features and surprises make their way in before the game’s 2015 release. Nintendo’s hit on a brilliant idea here — it’s quirky, creative, and fun — and it's implemented it with a level of polish and charm few other studios can manage. With the right content and sharing features in the full version, Mario Maker could easily become a Wii U winner.

Be sure to check out our other hands on features from E3:

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User Comments (73)



Savino said:

Reminds me a lot the editor in Little Big Planet!! Seems cool to make some nice challenges, but I guess this will bore me to the death pretty quickly since I am not the kind of person who likes to beat scores time after time or taking challengers just for the sake of it!

I would be a lot more happy with a Mario Kart track editor... But I know this will never come!



Dpishere said:

Looks pretty cool and easy to use! Hopefully downloading other peoples creations is a smooth and hassle-free process.



Jared1984 said:

This will really burn the 2D Mario market for Nintendo. An unlimited number of fan created HD levels for download.



Shambo said:

If there's a good classification system, hopefully you'll be able to 'ask' for 10 random levels, medium to hard, with for example high ratings for fun and not too long a time to reach the finish. Complete that and get a new tile, enemy, style,... as a reward. Create a level with those, upload,... And repeat with different settings!



Jeyl said:

A great looking start. Hopefully not the last. While making original mario levels sounds great, I would LOVE the opportunity to create levels for other Mario games like Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and even Super Mario Bros. 2 (Super Mario USA). I don't care if I have to get it via DLC.

I hope there's an option to make your levels look genuine without the blocky background. That sort of thing just takes away from the feeling that I've created a level for the original Mario game. And if they want to go the extra mile, give us the chance to make it look standard def, 4x3 and look like it's coming from a TV Tube. Sonic 3D on the 3DS gave us that option.



Kaze_Memaryu said:

Do you hear that? It's the sound of countless ROMhackers crying in agony!

Jokes aside, this is going to be one hell of a community foundation! People all over the world will compete in making the most creative, handbreaking, or funny levels possible - and share them with everyone.
But there are two things that bother me right now:

  • Will we be able to implement pipes to go into?
  • Are the levels always as short as depicted in this demo version?


Octane said:

@Jared1984 I don't think so. Whilst they confirmed that they'll add more in the final version, I still expect it to be a limited editor. I doubt you will be able to recreate any level from the main games, as they usually revolve around a level specific mechanic. Just take the rotating grass wheels in the first level of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, I doubt they give you the option to make those.



sinalefa said:

Not sure about this one, not because it looks bad, but because I have never been into level designing. And I hope they add something like voting popular levels, else we won't be able to find the great levels among the sea of mediocrity.



0utburst said:

I'm sure Super Mario doesn't let you jump high when you stomp at enemies. Mario Maker does let you jump higher when you stomp/step on enemies. So SMB:TLL (SMB2 Famicom) physics?

I'm glad this is a Wii U title. It will truly utilize the gamepad.



Yoshi said:

This would be awesome if it was amiibo-compatible. Would it be possible to store an entire level inside one? Then you can go over to a friend's house and easily show it off.



Varoennauraa said:

I think, that they shouldn't fear the cannibalization of the New Super Mario series, and in fact, I think it would be the best for the series to fully embrace this Maker stuff. New Super Mario could use something refreshing, and this would be VERY refreshing, and GamePad could make fit very naturally too.

They could include a New Super Mario adventure into it, and perhaps make it so, that the platformer players on the TV would need the help from the "Maker" on the GamePad and vice versa.

And I hope, that they don't leave the opportunity to highlight the benefits of the touchscreen in the GamePad unused. A tile and sprite editor with stylus and sharing on the Miiverse would automatically hit the viral nerve and sell over 5 billion consoles. It would eat the NSMB series, but it is somewhat fatigued already and would need something of this caliber to be able to release another one for one console anyway.



Gridatttack said:

Idk. I will try to create smooth levels. I was never a fan of those kaizo hard levels.

@Savino If one comes, then a SMK editor will work. The currently unoffical editor is pretty simple to use. Its just drawing a 2d track. Im sure nintendo can make one that is as easy as that one.

@Kaze_Memaryu The fun part? We know that mario maker wont be as complete as editing the original game :>
Plus, level editing will become more comon and we will be able to share levels with more people, so in any case we would be happy :>



absuplendous said:

I would love to see, in one form or another, tutorials from Miyamoto and other great platformer directors that share insight on what makes for good level design. I'm sure it won't stop the inevitable slew of "impossible deathrap lol epic" designs, but it might inspire more players to take the engine seriously, or even consider picking it up when they otherwise might not have. If nothing else, it'd be great insight into the world of game development.



Mqblank said:

@Jared1984 Yeah, I'm sure when they first started planning this they said "Let's make a game that will stop people buying our 2D Mario range. We don't need that money anymore!"



faint said:

I feel like this should be 14.99 digital 19.99 retail tho they will probably charge 29.99 retail. If it's more than that I won't buy it.



NintyMan said:

It's nice to have a legitimate Mario editor without having to resort to the internet. The Mario Paint-inspired theme makes me want a new Gnat Attack minigame. I'm looking forward to hopefully a Super Mario Bros. 3 editor.



jariw said:

This is the 3rd level creator for Wii U that has been announced within the past 2 week. "Pushmo World" arrives next week. "Mario Maker" and "Mario vs. Donkey Kong" arrives in 2015.



SchamMan89 said:

That Nintendo is doing this hopefully means they're planning on evolving the 2d Mario format...



WanderingPB said:

I agree the concept is awesome but if im not into designing levels how will keep me interested? Unless the constant challenge testing my platforming skills but i have DKCTF for that…

I need to know more details of what this game will offer before i consider if its something i would want to purchase at full price.



JaxonH said:


My guess would be to play the levels others create. I mean, you could buy the game and never create a single block, just peruse the levels with the highest ratings and play them.

Me, I've never been a huge user-created content kind of guy, but, I think this game would have to be the exception to the rule. This I could do.



unrandomsam said:

@XFsWorld I don't think it will. All it will mean is the next one they have to put in as much effort as they did with say 3D World (Which I think will be a good thing).

(Or they might make it very annoying like Warioware DIY to transfer levels about but I hope they don't do that.)



Inkling said:

@Jared1984 Yeah, if that happens then

But, I will buy this. My other guess is if this kills 2D Mario, then maybe Nintendo will make their Mario 2D platformers for 3DS, and the 3D ones for Wii U. Or, they could become e-shop games.

I'm looking too deep into this, aren't I?



BestBuck15 said:

I will defiantly be buying this game. LBP is a great game an all, but it doesn't have Mario.



Chouzetsu said:

Suspiciously similar to LBP... But then again, there have been level editors before it.



DerpSandwich said:

My only worry was that in all the Treehouse footage the levels were extremely short, no more than a few screens long. I'm really hoping this isn't the case, as that would make these more like little challenges than actual levels. But I guess we'll have to wait and see.



Phantom_R said:

This is awesome. I just don't see how this thing could take more than 6 months to finish. It looks pretty far along and it's not a very complex game.



LetsGoRetro said:

Everyone who is saying everything is coming in 2015, that's not really true. While a ton of the best stuff is, check this out--->
2014: Smash, Xenoblade, Bayonetta, Captain Toad, Hyrule Warriors, Dragon Quest X ( I THINK I heard this is coming to US, am I wrong?)..
whereas 2015: Zelda, Mario Maker, Starfox, Yoshi, Kirby, Mario Party 10, MK vs DK, Splatoon.
... That's 6 games to 8. Pretty even....



WanderingPB said:

@JaxonH you make some good points that's probably how Nintendo is hoping to get the non-designing gamers like us onboard…or maybe after playing enough levels actually be inspired to create one ourselves.

Still maybe Nintendo has made my standards too high with their quality games that i can only imagine that there's more to this game then designing levels or maybe more tools to truly create the mario levels that we've all imagined…not just difficulty like Lost Levels but insanity like Champions Road…

Either way im very interested to learn what else they have up their sleeves for this game and hope they allow or find an awesome 2 player co-op mode but regardless my wallet is crying in 2015



JaxonH said:


Wallets CRYING. We'll just have to beat our wallets into submission, cause I'm not missing one, single game on the way to Wii U and 3DS. Day one for each and every single one of them.



WanderingPB said:

@JaxonH there's no need for such violence towards our wallets my friend if Luigi has taught us anything this year is that the "death stare" will more than suffice



8BitSamurai said:

So now that Nintendo has released their development tools, is it safe to assume they won't release anymore NSMB games?



Kaze_Memaryu said:

@Gridatttack Yeah, that's true. But who knows, they might add in many things until release - and eventually, only the Talkhaus will have custom levels with custom graphics as an argument, since that would be the one line Nintendo won't cross.



CM30 said:

It's okay, but... it'll never quite beat out Lunar Magic or Super Mario Bros X. The lack of custom graphics, music and programming in this editor is responsible for that.



TobiasAmaranth said:

I'm sorry but this thing's flexibility pales when you have had your hands on something like "Reggie" (The thing that helped make Newer Super Mario Bros Wii) — Fact is, they just plain don't have enough options. I want to make any level from NSMBW, not any level from SMB-classic. Eww-gag.



jariw said:

@CM30 Tezuka want to add a music composition tool (and other Mario Paint-inspired things) to Mario Maker, if that was your question.



Th3PlaidHatter said:

@Jared1984 it hasn't hurt LittleBigPlanet, and there are millions of levels available for that.

Playing amateur levels made with a limited toolset is a very, very different thing than playing a full Nintendo game.



odd69 said:

I'll be buying this as soon as its released, i cant wait to make my own levels



TeeJay said:

@Nintonic Are you kidding me? This is essentially a continuous stream of any Mario level you could ever want for years to come. This is basically hundreds of Mario games in one, which will be chock-full of levels more creative and challenging than Nintendo itself would ever produce, and you wouldn't even want to pay $20 for it?! Gawd I wish I had a Wii U so I could appreciate this.



Mr-X9000 said:

i hope u can make underground underwater and castle levels, and make ur own powerups



palatinus said:

After this we need a Legend of Zelda level maker. One that used the first NES game and then switched to the Link to the Past style would be nice.



AshFoxX said:

I imagine it wont take long after release to have essentially every 2D mario game remade in Mario Maker. I hope it has 4 player local play, alternates not just from 8-bit Mario to NSMBWU Mario, but also 16-bit SMW Mario. It would be really unexpected but awesome if they added a 16 bit Super Mario Kart track editor that switched perspective to Mario Kart 8. Obviously you would not have all the Mario Kart 8 features, but just think Donut Plains 3 style tracks that can be played. That is the only MK track editor I would accept.

This title has a lot of promise, and if they include the music maker (which was mentioned in the comments) it could be the perfect creators tool. I also mentioned jokingly that they should also let you build Metroid levels but that could be it's ow game at this point. Looking forward to the return of Mario Creator, as NoA and NoE missed out on the N64 iteration, which in itself was a sequel to Mario Paint.

Looking very forward to the Mario



ICHIkatakuri said:

I'm hoping by the end of development you can change the length of the stages and hopefully have underground and bowser castle levels complete with negative feedback loop repeated pathways. Even if these things don't make it I think its looking like great and would buy day one.



Link506 said:

Now only if they let you share levels online then the fun would REALLY begin.



Lobster said:

Mario Paint was one of my favorite games in preschool and kindergarten... Really can't wait, I'm already designing levels!



3DS_excel said:

This should be the game that Nintendo supports with a proper app for iOS, android etc. it would allow people to create levels on the train or whatever and play them when they get home. Since they've got club Nintendo accounts linked now I'm sure they could do so with an app. I'm not a level editor kinda guy but this thought popped into my head out of the blue



Gridatttack said:


True, yes, but I only see this happening with SMB1.
SMB3, SMW1 NSMBDS/WII have many different things that cant be possible with mario maker. Overworld editing, the greater selection of sprites. Multiplayer in the case of NSMBWII. Im pretty sure they wont add all the sprites from NSMBU.

In the end, the more content will be by hacking the original games. Level design will vary too. This app is geared toward challenge levels, while in the hacks of the names mentioned above, you see smooth level design.

But we wont know until this thing is released



Kaze_Memaryu said:

@Gridatttack I know, and I won't doubt that for even a second.
I played through some SMBX levels (though I haven't played any MAGLX levels, I think), and those are borderline insane in terms of creativity - that would require some really advanced tools to work in Mario Maker, and it still wouldn't work out.



grumblegrumble said:

Looks fun.. but if the price is too high, I just might say no. Seems like the novelty would wear off really easily, don't you think?

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