Today was another day more about playing than creating. The Super Mario World theme unlocked today, along with a handful of items, and I immediately jumped into the level editor to play with them. As sometimes happens, though, I hit a bit of a roadblock. So instead of grinding away, looking for a solution to the problem I’d created, I decided to peruse the community levels in search of some inspiration.
After more than a week with this game, one thing is becoming apparent: a lot of the best levels are those that stick to a particular theme. One of the levels I played today was called “P-Switch Challenge Run,” (ID: F98C-0000-0053-DC4B), and it involved a series of puzzles revolving around getting from one P-switch to the next before the bricks you were running on transformed back into coins and you plummeted to your profitable death. In other words, the level’s creator took a single concept – building the game world out of coins-turned-blocks – and explored it for as much puzzle variety as possible.
The temptation in designing a Super Mario level is to throw in everything but the kitchen sink, and there is a certain amount of charm to these madcap designs, especially in these early days, when there’s still a bit of novelty to sticking everything you possibly can in question blocks. But creating truly enjoyable, Nintendo-caliber levels requires a bit more thought. As does finding such levels to play.
Super Mario Maker’s onboard tools make it pretty easy to explore and find a whole bunch of levels to play, but they don’t do a great job of finding the best levels to play. Especially if you’re looking for a particular type of level. That requires a little more than ranking levels by votes received, a positive feedback loop that has plopped the same few levels atop the community rankings since the day the game came out. No, finding the best levels to play requires curation; it requires people sorting through all the chaff and compiling lists that appeal to a certain sensibility. And for that, we have the Internet.
A quick search for something like “best Mario Maker levels” will yield a bunch of results. Every gaming and gaming-adjacent outlet, it seems, has published a list of its favorite levels. YouTube is full of videos with titles like, “6 Cool Levels From Super Mario Maker.” There’s a very active Mario Maker subreddit. Even Red Bull has gotten in on the action, posting their own list of favorites (albeit without the codes you need to easily find these levels yourself).
Nintendo could do a lot of things to improve Mario Maker’s built-in community tools. It would be nice if people could tag levels – their own and/or others’ – to make it easier to sort through the millions of levels that will soon be online. It would be nice if people could become curators and produce lists to share with the community, lists that themselves could be starred, ranked, and tagged. It would be nice if I could sort the “collection” of levels I’ve played and enjoyed, so that when I reach the point where I’ve played hundreds or thousands of other people’s levels, I don’t have to scroll through my entire play history to find one in particular. It would be nice if, whenever Nintendo launches its unified cross-platform membership program, you could copy course IDs into a web app and have them pop up in a queue for you when you next turn on your Wii U, making it a lot easier to play all the levels you read about on the Internet. With luck, Nintendo will address some of these issues in the coming months with an update. Until then, the Internet, as it does, will have to step up and fill the void. So far, it’s doing a pretty good job.
Read all about What I Play When I Play.