Super Mario Maker is a new game from Nintendo that lets you build your own Super Mario levels or play levels created by other users. It’s a pretty simple concept, but in action it proves to be incredibly fruitful.

If you have ever played a 2D Super Mario game, then you can pretty easily figure out how much you’ll enjoy Super Mario Maker. In my opinion, this game is the best possible incarnation of 2D Super Mario. However, if you don’t like Super Mario, it probably won’t change your mind.

I have to let you know upfront: I have never been a huge fan of the 2D Super Mario games. They’re okay, but for my personal taste, they force the player to rely too much on memorization and not enough on logic. I love that Super Mario Maker’s wacky levels force players to stop relying on memorization and start trying new tactics. However, this game is never going to be in my top 10. And that’s okay.

If your kid has never tried one of the 2D Mario games, this might be a great one to get them started. Not only does Super Mario Maker offer a fantastic way to learn about level design, it’s also much sillier than any of the originals

Delivery Truck

A “delivery truck” arrives every day with new features, to help you gradually get used to the ones you have.

Super Mario Maker has three main gameplay modes: Course Maker, Course World, and 10 Mario Challenge.

Course Maker

This is arguably the biggest draw of Super Mario Maker. The game’s level editor is incredible. It’s intuitive and satisfying, even for gamers who have no experience in level design. Not sure if the obstacle you just built is too hard? Want to watch your experiment play out in real time? Just tap Play and try it out, then pop back into the editor and adjust to your heart’s content.

I don’t usually enjoy level builders very much, but the Course Maker was actually so easy that I wanted to get in there and experiment. The barrier between what I can imagine and what I can create is now paper thin, and I love that. Even toddlers have been able to use the interface, which is fantastic.

The Course Maker welcomes wacky ideas. Want to build something that you’d never see in any other Super Mario game? Do it! Fantastic! Have fun! The weirder, the better.

The Course Maker relies on the Wii U’s second screen and stylus. You could play the entire game on just the GamePad, but I found that I really liked having the TV on, mostly so I could play levels on the big screen and share my creations with the other people in the room. I definitely get annoyed when Wii U games don’t take advantage of the console’s second screen, or overuse the small screen, making the TV irrelevant. Super Mario Maker did a great job with this balance.

course world

The Course World lets you access levels created by other players.

Course World

If you want to spend some time actually playing levels, well, Course World has you covered. There are so many courses. So many. Like, a lot. Some of them are kinda boring; others are amazing. If you play a course and like it, you can give it a star, so you get a rough estimate of how good some courses are.

If you have amiibos, you can add special mushrooms to your levels that allow Mario to transform into the character of their amiibo. This means players are creating entire levels based on characters like Link and even Sonic. What does a Sonic level look like in the Super Mario universe? Go find out. I’m sure someone’s built one.

Makers have to prove that their courses are winnable before they upload them to the game community, so you’ll never be trapped in an un-winnable level.

Since there are so many freaking levels out there, I do wish that there were some better curation tools in place for sorting through them all. However, there are some ways to sort through the pile. If nothing else, you can look up a course by its serial number, so if someone you follow on Twitter posts the code to their level, you can access it pretty easily. Polygon just started a video series in which they invite game designers to create levels in Super Mario Maker. Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario, has announced that he will be uploading levels, too. It will be fun to see whether other gaming celebrities get on the train.

10 mario challenge

Once again, it’s time to save the princess. Sigh.

10 Mario Challenge

The 10 Mario Challenge is a great way to casually play some Super Mario levels without worrying about digging through the Course World. The levels in 10 Mario Challenge are created by Nintendo staff, but they are just as silly as the stuff you’ll find in Course World (if a bit more polished). You get 10 lives to get through 8 levels.

I really enjoyed this gameplay mode. It seemed like exactly the right amount of time to play the game—long enough to get into the rhythm but not so long that I got bored partway through. Plus I didn’t have to worry about sorting through the user-made levels.

If you want, you can head to Course World and try out the 100 Mario Challenge. In that, you get 100 lives to try 8 or 16 (depending on your difficulty level) player-created courses. Since players can create some pretty tough levels, the life-to-course ratio actually works out pretty well.

The Takeaway

Do you like 2D side-scrolling platformers? Do you enjoy creativity and silliness? Are you a fan of Mario? You will probably love this game. Super Mario Maker offers a polished, snappy, accessible gaming experience to players at all levels. It is going to continue to grow for months and maybe years to come as its community grows and reshapes, and you will never, ever, run out of courses to try. Have fun.

This article was written by

Courtney is Pixelkin's Associate Managing Editor. While working with the Girl Scouts of Northern California, she mentored young girls in teamwork, leadership, personal responsibility, and safety. Today, she spends her time studying adolescent development and using literary analysis techniques to examine video games.