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Perhaps due to the limited userbase and sales potential on the Wii U, Nintendo is bringing a couple of its notable home console releases of recent times to the 3DS, no doubt necessitating some technical wizardry in the process. The first of these is Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS, which delivers a portable version of the level creation tool that so charmed (and occasionally irritated) online communities of Mario fans; it's due out on 2nd December.

It's not a straight port, though, so ahead of our review we thought we'd outline the key differences between the games in a chatty FAQs format (which is all the rage, apparently). That also means we can check your comments for additional questions to add later on.

So, what are the key differences between the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game?

The Wii U version's fully featured Course World

Can I upload my levels online in the 3DS version?

This is the most important one - no. Any levels you create in the 3DS game can only be shared locally with someone else that has a copy, or it's possible to swap levels through StreetPass. You cannot create a stage and then upload it for others to access online.

What about playing levels on 3DS that others have created and uploaded on Wii U?

You can play levels made by Wii U owners, but with some limitations. 'Course World' - with '100 Mario Challenge' and 'Recommended Courses' - makes the transition to 3DS, but the latter of its two modes is a scaled back alternative from the Wii U version. We explain the differences below.

So, what's the deal with 'Recommended Courses' on 3DS?

In the Wii U version of the game 'Course World' is integral, allowing you to search and filter levels on difficulty, rankings, new releases and even specific course IDs. The 'Bookmark' website also automatically connects to the game when setup with a Nintendo Network ID, allowing you to find levels online (or get linked to them through online communities) and synchronise them into your game. You can also look at levels created by official or highly ranked 'makers', and when you play any level you can opt to give it a star, save it to your copy to play at any time, or comment on it in Miiverse.

The function could be better on Wii U, but it's nevertheless quite well put together.

In the 3DS version this is heavily stripped back. Course World includes 'Recommended Courses', which allows you to filter by difficulty and 'refresh' the results randomly populated from the game's online server, and that's it. You can't do any additional custom searches, access bookmarks or find specific courses, and when you play a course you can only save it - you can't give a star or post about it on Miiverse with a tap of the button. It's heavily scaled back, designed to give you a near endless supply of levels, but with no real control (beyond difficulty) over what you're given.

Why has Nintendo done this? WHY?!

The 3DS has always had its limits in terms of online functionality. There's also the factor that not all Wii U courses are supported in the 3DS version, primarily because of the lack of amiibo support (we'll get to this later) meaning that any courses with 'Mystery Mushroom' outfits and so on aren't included. To be honest, it probably made for a far simpler development process to just create a simple server service that drops viable courses into a mode at random.

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But 100 Mario Challenge is included on 3DS, right?

Yep, just like on Wii U you can pick a difficulty setting (Easy, Normal, Expert, Super Expert) and rattle through a bunch of levels with a 100 life limit. In fact, in the Wii U game you need to unlock difficulty settings, whereas on 3DS they're all available from the start. There's no '10 Mario Challenge', however, with Nintendo-created levels structured differently via 'Super Mario Challenge', which we'll cover below.

You mentioned amiibo support, so that's not included in the 3DS game?

Nope, despite a brief (evidently accidental) listing on an official Nintendo website, this game does not support amiibo. That means no franchise-blending crossover pixels, sadly. Levels featuring them don't seem to make an appearance on 3DS through the online courses, either.

No Event Courses then?


Ok, so what about the actual creation tools, is anything different there?

In the 3DS version two features are absent as far as we can tell - the aforementioned amiibo support and the accompanying Mystery Mushrooms, and the ability to record sound. Apart from that the tools works in pretty much the same way.

There's a big difference in how the games unlock items though. On the Wii U it's based on a combination of time passing and completion of level designs using items; Nintendo eased it off a little in updates after some complained about how long it took to unlock features. In the 3DS version, however, you start with a lot more items right off the bat. For comparison of minute one access, see below:

  • Wii U - starts with 2 templates (Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. U), two environments, and 12 course items.
  • 3DS - starts with all 4 templates, all six environments, 32 course elements and 14 sounds.

Nice! What's the catch?

In the 3DS version time passed and usage of items in level design is irrelevant - you unlock items in the new 'Super Mario Challenge' mode, which isn't included on Wii U. So it's all about player that 'campaign' to unlock more items, with the game providing snippets of advice as you progress.

Once cleared in Super Mario Challenge, levels can be replayed in order to try and earn both challenge medals

Is Super Mario Challenge any good?

Well, at the time of publication some comments are embargoed, but in our preview we were clear in saying that it's rather enjoyable. Consider it an expansion of the '10 Mario Challenge' in the Wii U entry, but with more structure and a cumulative lives system.

Plenty of Nintendo-designed levels split into set worlds, along with two Challenge Medals per stage, make it a fun mode that can take a good amount of time to clear. That said, we'd suggest that rattling through this mode (with assist items an option if you struggle in a level) is a much quicker way to unlock creative items than the time-based approach of the Wii U entry.

Anything else that's different on 3DS?

The creation mode has ten 'lessons' with Mashiko and Yamamura, a customer services rep and talking pigeon; each consists of a Basic and Advanced part, in which you go hands on with items and then get shown a careful deconstruction that teaches you important lessons in creating enjoyable, well structured levels.

What about graphics and presentation, is there much of a difference?

To be blunt, yes. The Wii U version looks fantastic, with all four templates and the user interface being clear, colourful and pleasing on the eyes. That's the joy of HD and the fact that the game's engine and visuals evidently don't strain the hardware too much.

There are plenty of compromises in the 3DS version, simply due to the gulf in hardware. Based on playing it on a New 3DS, the results are still reasonable - we've encountered next to no slowdown, and the retro templates are all fine, looking charming on small screens. That said, the New Super Mario Bros. U engine isn't perfectly suited to the hardware (due to being zoomed out and the low resolution of the system's top screen), but it functions well enough.

There's also no support for stereoscopic 3D, at all. Nevertheless the dual screen user interface in the creation tool is particularly well-suited to the 3DS, so that's a benefit worth highlighting.

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What's your summary then, which one is best?

The Wii U game is the ideal solution if you love creating, sharing, finding and playing user-generated content online; its Course World is fully featured and - combined with the Bookmark website - offers a lot of awesome opportunities to enjoy these community levels. As an online experience for exploring imaginative levels (ranging from amazing creations to outright bad efforts) it's the way to go, and is still a huge amount of fun.

The 3DS version is lacking in this; the only online user-created levels are picked and distributed by Nintendo, with limited ability to filter them (you can only do so in difficulty level). That said, the course creation tools are unlocked far quicker and with more available from the start, while the included 'lessons' are excellent. Super Mario Challenge is also a highlight, meaning that the 3DS version is a sizeable collection of quirky, entertaining 2D Mario levels that are playable on the go.

Both titles, despite having the same foundations, therefore suit very different requirements and preferences. Depending on what you want from Super Mario Maker, each version has merits.

Hit us up in the comments with more questions and we'll endeavour to answer them during the 3DS version's launch week.