Super Mario Maker is one of the best games to come out on the Wii U and could be considered a must-have for a lot of Wii U owners. The ability to create your own stages using one of four different Super Mario game styles, flood them with enemies and items to your hearts content, then upload them and share them with the world is a dream come true for a lot of Mario and Nintendo fans. Then Nintendo announced that one of the best games on the Wii U was going portable and we now have Super Mario Maker on the 3DS. Will it be as good as its console counterpart? Let’s find out.
A few of the game modes from the Wii U version are found in the 3DS version, including Course Maker, Recommended Courses, and the 100 Mario Challenge as well as a new mode called the Super Mario Challenge. Super Mario Challenge is essentially like playing a brand new Super Mario Bros. game but on a larger scale. You get to play about one hundred brand new stages that, in my opinion, feel very well done. Don’t get me wrong, the stages you’ll find that people make on the Wii U version can be pretty good as well, but often times you’ll get stages either so easy that you just have to stand there and do nothing, or so hair-rippingly difficult that even the most seasoned Kaizo Mario expert will have difficulty getting through it. The stages in the Super Mario Challenge feel like they could be in a new Mario game by themselves.
Each stage has two goals to achieve to earn medals, one that’s available from the start and the other will be revealed either when you finish the first goal and complete the stage, or actually obtain the second goal without even knowing it. The goals range from things like collecting every coin in the stage to taking out Bowser Jr. with only a raccoon tail to using the Buzzy Beatle helmet to deflect a bunch of Chain Chomps. The goals are entirely optional, but you’ll also find that you can’t back track to previous stages and often times you can’t complete both goals at the same time, meaning you’ll have to play some of the stages at least twice. This isn’t really a problem since every stage you complete will be automatically downloaded to CourseBot and you can replay them there any time to earn the medals you missed the first time around. The Super Mario Challenge is also how you unlock new features to build stages. After each world you’ll unlock two or three new objects you can place in stages, as opposed to the Wii U version where you just fiddle around for a bit in Course Maker to unlock everything. If you don’t want to do every stage all at once you can save and quit at any point, but losing all of your lives will force you to restart at the beginning of the world you were in.
Next is the 100 Mario Challenge which is pretty much the same as it is in the Wii U version. You can choose from four difficulties (Easy, Normal, Expert, and Super Expert) and play through a series of six to sixteen courses depending on which difficulty you choose. If you come across a level that you find too difficult you can always skip it at the cost of a life (if you haven’t already lost one or are in the process of losing one). You can save and quit the challenge at any time and can have a game on more than one difficulty in progress at a time. However, the 100 Mario Challenge is where we see one of the minor omissions from the game: the Mystery Mushrooms. In the Wii U game these would transform you into another character, most of them accessible for stage creation via either amiibos or finishing the 100 Mario Challenge, but here they have been completely removed (the Weird Mushroom has remained however).
This also means that there’s really no rewards for finishing the 100 Mario Challenge (at least on Easy and Normal, I kept getting stuck on Expert and I’m terrible at Super Expert). I’m not sure why they took them out but what’s even more interesting is that the stages found in the 100 Mario Challenge are actually stages created by players of the Wii U version. Keep that in mind for a later point I’ll make, but I’m honestly not certain if any stages with Mystery Mushrooms were removed or just had them replaced with standard mushrooms.
The Recommended Courses option again pulls random levels from the Wii U version. However, the search function is pretty lacking. You can cycle through the stages available and can pull a new batch of stages if you want more of a selection, but you can only filter them by difficulty; you can’t even filter them by which game style you want so if you want to play a Super Mario Bros. 3 style stage, it might take some time if you keep getting batches with a lot of the other styles. You can also download the stages to CourseBot and play them later if you find any particularly fun and wish to play them again, or run them through the editor and make your own tweaks.
Finally, there’s the heart of the game for a lot of people: the Course Maker. This is where you’ll create Super Mario stages to your heart’s content in one of four styles: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. You’ll start off with a limited number of items you can use in your stage and, as stated earlier, you’ll unlock more as you complete worlds in the Super Mario Challenge. The functionality of Course Maker is pretty much the same as on the Wii U version, just a bit smaller as a 3DS touch screen is roughly about one-third to one-half the size of a Wii U’s touch pad screen. It does seem a little cramped at times but still works rather well. Once you’ve made some progress on your stage you can save it to one of one-hundred twenty save slots separated out by world so you can later play them as you would an actual four-stage world in Super Mario Bros. (the Challenge stages are kept separate than the custom stages). However, there is one function that’s not present in the 3DS version that’s actually the biggest drawback to the game: you can’t upload your stages and share them with the world.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason Nintendo left out the option to upload your stages to the servers and share them with other players…mostly. You are able to share stages with other people; it just has to be done either locally or via StreetPass. When you walk by another person with Super Mario Maker who’s using StreetPass, one of your stages will be randomly downloaded to their 3DS and vice-versa. That being said since you can’t upload your stages to the servers, that means you also can’t star other people’s stages since no info is being sent over the net, nor can you see any other stats such as completion rate and fastest time. This is incredibly perplexing as the game already downloads the Wii U stages for the Recommended Courses and 100 Mario Challenge. Why they’d leave out this functionality is beyond me but is a serious misstep.
Super Mario Maker for the 3DS is very fun and entertaining, but I just can’t rate it as high as I would the Wii U version due to its shortcomings. Granted I’m not much of a level creator. I’m about as good at creating levels as Mario is at keeping Princess Peach rescued for more than one game. That being said I’m mostly okay with what the 3DS version offers as I can still play some random courses, the 100 Mario Challenge is still there in all of its “holy crap this stage is driving my batty” glory, and the Super Mario Challenge is pretty much like playing one long Super Mario game. That being said though, the lack of being able to upload courses online for the world to play as well as the lackluster search function of the Recommended Courses are pretty big detriments, the latter especially to a lot of people. I also get the occasional connection issues for the 100 Mario Challenge and Recommended Courses when the game tries to download the courses themselves. For players who like to create courses, going through the Super Mario Challenge to unlock most of the course objects can get pretty tedious as that’s around one hundred levels just to unlock everything.
In the end, Super Mario Maker for the 3DS is still a really good game but hard to recommend to some people, especially if you already own the Wii U version and/or like to create and share your own stages. If you’re looking for some Mario Maker on the go just to take on some well-made Super Mario courses and don’t mind not being able to find and play specific stages, Super Mario Maker is worth picking up but not necessarily at $40. If your main focus is to create and upload stages, this is a really hard game to recommend. Otherwise, you might want to wait a bit for a sale.
Super Mario Maker for the 3DS is enjoyable but it has its drawbacks. While the 100 Mario Challenge and Super Mario Challenge are both fun to play through, the lackluster search function of the Recommended Courses, having to go through the Super Mario Challenge to unlock most of the stuff for stage creation, and the quizzical lack of ability to upload courses and share them with the world outside of locally and via StreetPass make this a hard game to recommend at $40 for a lot of people.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.