After two weeks with Super Mario Maker – the time I needed to get through the game’s nine-day content rollout and also deal with the few extra days of waiting the game threw at me, maybe to punish me for playing past my bedtime – I finally have access to the complete game. And if the previous eight posts don’t make it clear, I love this game. On the creation side, Nintendo has made the act of designing a level feel like a game. The tools allow you to be really creative while keeping the interface intuitive and simple, with pop-in pop-out playtesting. And every step of building a level is a lot of fun: throwing a bunch of random elements into a stage and then playing through it, just to see what happens; testing, tweaking, and refining your creations until they function the way you want them to; dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s, and getting to where your level finally feels complete. All of this is fun.
On the play side, the game offers you, in effect, infinite Mario. And because levels can be built in one of four themes, complete with their own mechanics and some unique items, it actually offers you quadruple infinite Mario, infinity times four. The pool of community-created levels is a mixed bag, but abandoning one level and jumping into another is pretty quick and simple, and the pool is so deep that you’re bound to find some great stuff if you spend a little time looking. The Internet is also stepping in to fill the curation void, with a lot of “The Ten Most [adjective] Levels in Super Mario Maker” lists out there. In the first week of the game’s release, more than a million levels were uploaded, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that the game limits users to ten uploads until they accumulate some stars from the community. And the levels already range from brutally hard to auto-playing to musical to Kafka-esque exploration of Waluigi’s existential dread. So obviously this community’s potential is huge.
And that’s one of the things that most excites me about this game: its potential. With most games, good or bad, two weeks of playing for several hours a day is usually enough time to give you a pretty good impression of what the next ten or hundred or thousand hours of play will be like. Games can always surprise you with plot twists, new settings, upgrades, and changes to the mechanics. But few games can surprise you the way Super Mario Maker seems all but guaranteed to. The community is already doing things I didn’t anticipate. For almost all of us, it’s just been two weeks. The level pool right now represents just what people have come up with off the top of their heads. What will people come up with when they’ve had time to really digest the game and internalize its mechanics? I can’t wait to find out.