[Unlocking all of Super Mario Maker’s content requires playing the game for nine days, so I am keeping a diary of my first nine days with the game. Day one’s entry can be found here.]
The second day of Super Mario Maker is behind me, and I still love this game. A brief survey of what I did in the game today illuminates just how many ways there are to enjoy it. To begin, I played my level again, and the novelty of enjoying your own creation is still there. It’s like a battle of the wits between two versions of yourself. “Take that, Yesterday Dan!” “Curse you, Yesterday Dan! How could you do that to me?”
Then I showed my level to my wife, herself a huge Mario fan, and experienced what will probably be the most enduring joy Super Mario Maker has to offer: the joy of sharing. Sure, you can upload your levels and accumulate stars and comments from strangers. But handing someone a controller and sitting next to them while they play something you created is a pretty special experience. And Mario Maker makes this experience incredibly easy, both in terms of the intuitive, accessible level-creation tools and the fact that Mario games are so relatable. Just about everyone has played a Mario game at some point. And if you’re handing the controller to someone who somehow hasn’t ever played a Mario game, you can try to invent a level they’d enjoy. You can put yourself in Shigeru Miyamoto’s shoes circa 1985 and grapple with the challenge of introducing these game mechanics to an unfamiliar audience. The Mario – or Nintendo, or videogame – proselytizer now has tools to try to convert friends and family.
After watching my wife’s glee at discovering the mushroom that turned her Mario into Toon Link, I jumped into the level editor to tweak my creation a bit. Between watching my wife play the level, my own playthroughs, and stats from online plays, I decided I needed to slightly nerf a tricky jump in the middle of the level. Plus, it being day two, I had a handful of new items I could drop into my creations. This might not be a universal experience, but for me, going back into a level I previously considered finished and tweaking it, obsessing over every little change, hemming and hawing over the placement of a fire flower, is a lot of fun. It feels, somehow, like leveling and upgrading your RPG character.
I spent a little while working on a new level after that, but ran into a roadblock. Instead of getting frustrated, though, I just popped out to the main menu and hit “Play.” As fun as it is to create your own levels, there’s another side to this coin, an entirely different game; call it “Infinite Mario.” I spent the bulk of my Mario Maker time today just playing different levels. Though it’s early days, it’s hard to imagine there will ever be a limit to the community’s aggregate creativity. There are always more levels to play, more wacky ideas on display. There are auto-playing levels, there are punishingly difficult levels, there are puzzle levels, there are gimmicky gag levels, and, of course, there are at least 68 Nintendo-made levels packed on the disc.
I bought this game knowing that even if the level-creation aspect didn’t resonate with me, I’d still have a functionally infinite pool of user-created levels to play. After just two days, I can already tell that this is going to be an inexhaustible source of fun. The sheer variety is astonishing. Already, people are discovering countless new ways to approach level design, things Nintendo hasn’t tried in any of their previous games. And even Nintendo is getting in on the action, offering some really inventive, enjoyable bite-size levels in the “Ten Mario Challenge” mode.
I’ve spilled a lot of imaginary ink on this blog criticizing Nintendo and lamenting their missteps. But this game might just be one of the smartest things Nintendo has ever done. If the last ten years or so have taught us anything, it’s that the Internet’s collective imagination is boundless. Nintendo has tapped into that resource in a way that verges on genius. Two days down, seven to go. Will Super Mario Maker continue to impress me, or will the glow fade? I can’t wait to find out tomorrow.
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