Super Mario Maker (1)

Genre: Platformer
Year: 2015
Developed by: Nintendo EAD
Published by: Nintendo
Platforms: Wii U, 3DS
Feeling Like: Super Mario Faker

You seen Hoosiers?

You should. On a roster of endless sports movies, it’s near the top. Like all of the best ones, it’s not really about sports at all. It’s about redemption, hard work, loyalty and heart. There’s one quote that still resonates with me.

“Maybe they were right about us? Maybe we don’t belong up here!”

They do, of course. But when I was a few hours into Super Mario Maker I thought of Gene Hackman as Norman Dale.

Maybe I’m just not that creative.  Maybe I don’t belong up here.

The concept that is Super Mario Maker is genius, a proper evolution of Mario Paint mixed with the user created content machine that is Minecraft.  Since the aforementioned sold a trillion copies, it seems obvious now. Using the Wii U gamepad, players can make their own Mario levels, complete with enemies, obstacles, starts, finishes, power ups, pits, hills, pipes and more. That in itself would have been impressive, but they went and made it so you could instantly switch them in the style of not only Super Mario Bros, but also Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U. It would have been completely unsatisfactory to make the sprites “sort of” look like those games. They ARE those games, to the most finite detail. Not only does Super Mario Maker capitalize on nostalgia, it emphasizes how well those images have aged. Don’t even think about putting them to pasture.

It’s one of the few games that took full advantage of the Wii U’s hardware. You would’ve thought Nintendo had a thousand ideas like Super Mario Maker when the system was conceived; perhaps they did, but only one came to fruition. It may be difficult to emulate on future consoles, but the effort must be made, for this is one of the best titles available on the system.

But it’s not for me.

Super Mario Maker (2)

Critics rightly lauded it. It was GiantBomb’s game of the year in 2015. It has infinite replay value – the tools given to you, (albeit after a silly, artificially placed time limit) are as open as a paintbrush and a canvas. Better yet, you can share your newly made levels with friends and an online community. Nice touch.

Most of the levels I found were one tricky ponies, and the trick was old fast. Anytime I tried to search for the best user created stages, all I got were levels that could only be beaten if I stayed absolutely still. My character would ping pong around like an unwelcome tennis ball in a Rube Goldberg machine. Thousands of mushrooms, goombas and piranha plants would miss Mario’s head by mere pixels, only to inexplicably land past the chaos at the end of the level automatically. It could be that I simply lacked the intelligence to wade my way through Nintendo’s archaic online platform properly, or it could be that it’s just not intuitive.

I understand the energy, time and dedication it takes to create any kind of playable product is impressive. I’m embarrassed at how long I needed to make the most basic of stages. But it wasn’t all that fun, if I’m being honest. I’d rather just more levels from the masters. For all the frustrations fans of Nintendo endure, it’s worth it every few years when they release another “best game of all time”. I’m reminded of Arthur Schopenhauer’s quote – “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

Players of Super Mario Maker are talented. Nintendo is genius. No matter how many times I would play the highly rated levels, or convince myself I had made something good, I knew it was about half of half-assed. The most satisfaction I got out of the game was watching the legendary duel between Dan Ryckert vs. Patrick Klepek. The personalities and struggles behind it were far more interesting than anything I did myself.

And despite all that, Super Mario Maker is such a fascinating idea that I still think it had more impact on me than the previous 78 games listed on the 500. I was in a lobby, peeking in on an incredible party. Looks fun, but not for me. I don’t belong up here, but Super Mario Maker sure does.

Previous 422 Cool Spot                                             Next Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey ’98