Nintendo is celebrating Mario’s 30th anniversary this year, which is an unparalleled franchise success-story in the video-game world. While Mario and his friends (and enemies) have been on countless adventures over that 30 year timespan, they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. In fact, the latest game “Super Mario Maker” allows creative gamers across the globe to challenge each other like never before and create enough levels to keep you and Mario busy for a lifetime.

“Super Mario Maker” went on sale this week for the Wii U and the game certainly stands as a testament to just how far Mario has come over the years. Back in 1984 when the first ‘Super Mario Bros.’ game was released here in North America, only a handful of people could have created the game and the knowledge and effort needed to code the title was incredible. Now 30 years later, you can make Super Mario levels on a handheld device in just minutes and they even look better and have better effects than the original did.

Mario reached pop-culture superstardom in the 1980s. The little plumber had his own television shows, toys, feature films and even breakfast cereals. Playing a Super Mario game connected people together, which is why “Super Mario Maker” is the perfect game for Nintendo to release on this special occasion and it was designed perfectly.

While a major draw to the new game is level-crafting, it’s not a necessity to play. You can still enjoy Nintendo-brand created levels just like before, with all of the same ‘run-jump-stomp mechanics’ that made Mario a household name in the past. If you’re a Ninten-pro you’ll probably breeze through the 60 levels, but that’s only part of the fun.

As the name implies, “Super Mario Maker” is about making your own Mario levels. You’re given everything you need including blocks, green-tubes, power-ups, set pieces and even enemies. If you’ve played other level-create games like “Little Big Planet” in the past, you’ll notice this setup is far simpler but I felt it was more rewarding and far more enjoyable.

I love crafting new levels in both games but in larger titles like “Little Big Planet” I found myself getting bogged down by the customizations and mechanics and I didn’t finish a lot of what I started. That wasn’t the case in “Super Mario Maker”, if I was playing crafted levels or designing my own, the experience was light and fun but still challenging and rewarding.

Super Mario Maker news 2015

Depending on your age, you probably have a ‘first’ Mario and a ‘favorite’ Mario setting that you will want to start creating in. You can’t mix-and-match Mario worlds in the creative process. Each game had its own design, mechanics and physics when they were created. Even though many of the games shared a lot of the same elements, they need to be separated, so you’re given assets to that specific “universe” when crafting a level in the world of your choosing.

While this helps create a definitive ‘era’ for each game, it also helps the person playing the level. You have more abilities in Mario 3 than Mario 1, so when you are creating a level in the Mario 3 world you are given the proper tools to create a level that utilizes those skills and abilities and vice-versa.

Keeping the assets together was crucial for Nintendo and for the players exploring the player-created levels. Nintendo did a fantastic job keeping me in the mindset of each era by only supplying me with the level building gear for that specific game-design.

Creating a level is fantastically easy to do but you can make each level as detailed as you like. You are given a blank level to start with. The start and end points are predetermined and you just fill in the blanks. Set pieces are just drag-and drop, the enemies that you plop down on the screen work on their own, and placing objects is a complete breeze to do. You even have a fullproof way to make sure a player can make the jumps you design within your level and it’s just a press of a button. It’s level creation at it’s finest; easy to do and infinitely enjoyable.

Nintendo uses a real-world time mechanic to keep you playing and to keep you from being overwhelmed with options. The system doles out new assets over time, so you can experiment with what you have and add more pieces to your arsenal as you play.

You can search through other people’s levels to earn more assets as well, but you can also play your friends’ levels. Of course you can share your levels with your friends to showoff your level-building skills as well. The new assets were a terrific reward-system for playing other people’s levels and it was a great way to get inspired for crafting my own Mario test courses.

Sometimes the best way to be creative is to put limits on creativity itself. While necessity may be the mother of invention, you need a box to think outside of one. That’s probably what I loved most while playing “Super Mario Maker,” it’s restrictive in a creative sense but not in possibilities. It was amazing to see just how many different levels people could come up with considering we were all using the same assets and the same creation tools.

If you really want a blast from the past, Nintendo created this celebratory 30th Anniversary video to highlight the game, and its creators.

“Super Mario Maker” seems like it was made by people that loved the series, from start to finish. Almost all of the Mario eras are accounted for and the creation tools are easy enough for everyone to just pick-up and play. The game itself offers seemingly endless hours of creativity and game-challenges, while the online aspect ensures that the game can only grow in the future.

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