Super Mario Maker may well have been the crowning achievement of the underwhelming Wii U. It was a completely original and creative concept that was executed perfectly and capitalized on gamers’ undying love of Mario without merely giving them the same old thing. Well, to clarify, the game very much did deliver the same old thing, just with a level of interactivity unlike any previous game to bear the Mario moniker. It was a mini-masterpiece from the folks at Nintendo and now it’s come home to the palm of your hands. Super Mario Maker 3DS essentially offers absolutely everything that you loved about the previous game, only now available on the go and at any time. It’s a damn delight and a nice way for those who didn’t bother to invest in a Wii U to find out what all the fuss was about.
So once again, this is an ingenious game that allows players to design their own side scrolling Mario levels using all of the iconic elements that we love so dearly. When in the course creator, you’ll have the bottom touch screen as your playground. Everything is very simply and sweetly designed. The level is broken into squares to fill with items, enemies, and obstacles with the touch of a stylus. It’s all laid out in a very intuitive manner, but there are playful tutorials to help get started (although anyone who has played the Wii U version can skip these, since the games are essentially the same). With the touch of the button you can change entire courses between original NES Mario to Mario 3, Super Mario World, or New Super Mario Bros. graphics in a spit second. You can also change level layouts to various templates for classic worlds like the ghost houses, Bowser castles, the airships, or underwater with ease.
It’s amazing how easy it is to pick up the basics and design of Super Mario Maker 3DS right away. Everything is so familiar and iconic to longtime Nintendo nerds that there is barely a learning curve. You know these templates like the back of your hand. The trick is to now load them up with insanity. There are 60 level elements to play with, half of which are available immediately. Players can stack a few supersized Bowsers with wings on top of each other if they so choose (and they should). It’s all ridiculously easy and creative and levels can be tested in the middle of construction with the touch of a button. It’s pretty impressive that the game transferred from console to handheld with such fluidity. Even on my ancient launch model 3DS there was virtually no lag (well, following some long initial load screens anyways). I was off to the races pretty much immediately.
Beyond the level building, there is also a challenge mode featuring 100 new Mario levels designed specifically for Super Mario Maker 3DS. You’ll play through them like the Wii U version. They vary in intensity, difficulty, and insanity from exact replicas of old Mario levels to insane odysseys designed by Nintendo lunatics. They all feature two additional challenge coins should you choose and players can unlock the remaining course design items by playing through this mode. It’s fun. It’s Mario. Frankly, it would be an acceptable game on its own without the amazing level design features. Everything looks pretty and plays like a dream. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no 3D functionality. That shouldn’t bother most people since A) all the levels are 2D side-scrollers anyways and B) most folks weren’t as wow-ed by glasses-free 3D as I was. I also found that the game took a little longer to load and close than most 3DS titles, but this could just be a result of using my launch system and it may play smoother on a new system.
Now we come to the differences with this addition. They mostly come down to the online Super Mario Maker world. It does exist. Players have access to a variety of recommended levels created from Wii U Mario Maker players as well as well as the 100 Mario challenge mode that tosses you into a barrage of user created levels with 100 lives at your disposal. Not every user level is available though, likely due to the fact it doesn’t seem as though every single element and costume from the previous edition is available in Super Mario Maker 3DS. User levels cannot be searched in the same detail either. Thankfully, any level that can be accessed plays instantly and like a dream (plus players can download them to their 3DS and edit the levels to their heart’s content). Levels can be shared with other 3DS-owning buddies and players can even download levels from strangers automatically via Streetpass (which I haven’t tried given that I didn’t walk past other reviewers with the game in this pre-release review window).
So, Nintendo has at least made it possible to share Mario Maker levels via the 3DS in ways that makes it a unique experience to this system. It’s a shame they can’t be shared in an online database like the Wii U edition, but hey…you can’t have everything right? While this might not quite be an identical port, it is a damn impressive one and even features 100 new playable levels for those who polished off the Wii U edition. Other than that, it’s hard to find absolutely anything negative to say about Super Mario Maker 3DS. This is one of the most creative titles that Nintendo has delivered in quite sometime and having a portable edition is a dream. If you own a 3DS, you should own this game. Especially if you don’t have a Wii U. Nintendo created something really special with Super Mario Maker. Hopefully it’s a franchise that will continue and a style of game the company will only expand upon from here (designing Metroid or Donkey Kong levels sounds preeeeetttty sweet, no?).
Well played Nintendo. You done good (again).