My Super Mario Maker Stages
I was planning on using this space to post my review of Super Mario Maker, Nintendo's latest release for the Wii U, which furnishes players with a palette of platforms, obstacles, and enemies culled from classic Super Mario Bros. titles, and then sets them loose to design and share their own side-scrolling stages in reverent emulation of the renowned Shigeru Miyamoto. Trust me: the game is awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I'd much rather be playing it than writing a review to convince other people to play it. But since my infrequent updates to this website have been gradually gnawing at my conscience, I figured I'd do what my perennially guilt-ridden but incorrigibly indolent writerly type does best: half-ass it, by posting brief descriptions and ID tags of the courses I have been creating. That way, maybe I can sort of give some vague insight into my experience with the game that might, if you squint just so under very specific lighting conditions, sort of kind of bear a passing resemblance to somebody's very lenient definition of what constitutes a "review."
Also, while I was spending my time trying to think of a good excuse to avoid spending my time productively pursuing my craft, I thought, "Why should I be the only one to derive enjoyment from the practice of opining on stuff? If there's one thing of which this world is experiencing a dire paucity, it's opinions about stuff. Shouldn't I defer some of this glorious review-writing business to my readers? I know! I can let them review the stages I created using the product of which I ought to have been composing my own review... so long as they make sure to confine their critical estimations of my work to the boundaries of their own introspection--I sure as hell don't want to listen to that noise!" Basically, I am selfishly advertising to you, but passing it off as the altruistic deigning of some kind of privilege. How clever of me--I should write commercials or something! And how perceptive of you, dear reader, to have noticed my ulterior motives--you should definitely play my Super Mario Maker levels, for only someone as perceptive as you would be able to appreciate thoroughly all their clever nuance!
Without further ado, then, here is the list of mini platforming masterpieces I have created thus far. (Okay, maybe with a slight bit further ado... I plan on continually updating this list as I add more stages or replace/revise existing ones. But then again, plans are nebulous, and I am nothing if not true to the "fickle" component of my false moniker, so I might as readily abandon all of my Mario-making ambitions entirely just as soon as the next diverting thing comes along. I make no promises. I owe you nothing. I love you. Play my levels.)
All of my currently uploaded levels are now also viewable on the new Super Mario Maker Bookmark website. There you can visit my profile and automatically add any levels you are interested in trying to your bookmarks.
My crack at an underwater level. Basically, a labyrinth of spike traps that the player must navigate while eluding the dogged pursuit of Bloopers. It features my first and (so far) only use of the new Mystery Mushroom power-up, which transforms Mario into one of a hundred different sprites derived from Nintendo's expansive pantheon of intellectual properties. Mechanically, it's basically the equivalent of a Super Mushroom, allowing Mario to take one hit without dying, but with the added benefit of keeping his hitbox small, so that he can more easily navigate a series of sadistically narrow, spike-hemmed corridors. Each potential metamorphosis possible via the Mystery Mushroom can be unlocked in one of two ways: manually, by scanning in the specific amiibo figurine that corresponds with the sprite you wish to unlock; or randomly, as a reward for completing a session of the 100-Mario Challenge, which tasks the player with reaching the flagpole in 8-16 randomly selected user-created levels. Ideally, this being an underwater stage, I would have had the Mystery Mushroom transmute players into something more aquatic in nature--perhaps one of the Inklings from Splatoon. But since I'm not a rabid amiibo collector, and my egotistical nature inclines me to spend more time with my head lodged firmly up my own creative pursuits than appreciating the artistry of others, I have been slow to unlock these transformations, and so the Goomba sprite that was accessible by default will have to suffice.
Update 1: Some modifications to enemy and obstacle placement to reduce difficulty. More importantly, the Goomba outfit has been replaced with the more thematically appropriate Frog-Suit Mario!
Fleet of Hammers
I feel this is where my potential as a budding level designer really began to take off, just like this sentence is the first time I have truly evinced my talent for figurative descriptions, which are completely pertinent to the subject they are attempting to illustrate and do not in any way mix, say, a botanical theme with a completely inconsistent aviation trope. It's an auto-scrolling airship stage done in the Super Mario Bros. 3 graphical style, complete with the kinds of secrets that demand a keen eye and quick reaction time to access before the auto-scroll locks you out. I'm particularly proud of the pseudo boss fight near the end, featuring a pair of beefed-up Hammer Bros. and a wall that must be gradually dismantled using Bob-ombs in order to progress.
In designing this course, I wanted to test my ability to make effective use of the limited vertical space provided by the level editor's canvas. Essentially, I created a series of short ascents and descents, each one involving a different and slightly more challenging mechanic than the one preceding. It is the first time I really began to notice some of the unrealized potential lingering on the outskirts of the game's otherwise rather robust toolset. Two elements in particular--the ability to create vertically scrolling stages, and the option to have players respawn at a checkpoint--have been featured in nearly every previous Super Mario Bros. title that this game references, and so it seems like their functionality could have been implemented here with relative ease. Originally, I was unable to suppress my sadistic compulsion to include one particularly challenging climb near the end of the level, wherein the player was tasked with chaining four or five consecutive Bullet Bill stomps together to reach the summit; it might have been nice to have a checkpoint positioned just prior to this demanding section, so that when the player should inevitably perish from a mistimed bounce, she wouldn't have to start all over again from the beginning. I actually think most players would have relished the challenge presented by my Bullet Bill "ladder." In my personal experience, frustration usually arises not from recurrent failures at the trial I am presently attempting to master, but from the consequent need to repeat every previous part of the stage at which I have already proven my proficiency. In the meantime that I wait--fingers crossed--for checkpoints to be introduced in some theoretical future DLC pack (which shall also include a Super Mario Bros. 2 graphical theme, complete with Shy Guys and Pokeys and Birdo and locked doors and that phantom-mask-thingie that chases you whenever you pick up a key), I have chosen to replace the Bullet Bill climb with something equally tricky, but less potentially fatal.
Update 1: I completely forgot about Super Mario World's spin-attack maneuver, which allows the super form of Mario to destroy bricks positioned beneath him. This allowed players to completely bypass an entire section of my course (ironically, the section that had originally constituted my Bullet Bill "ladder," to whose notoriously insurmountable difficulty I practically devoted an entire ode in my original course description). Since I'm a fascist who cannot abide anyone doing anything differently than I had intended, I have fixed this oversight.
Update 2: Oh happy day! Nintendo has finally made the single most necessary addition to Mario Maker's palette of course elements: checkpoints! Now, I'm still awaiting the reification of the parenthetical portion of my prophecy, regarding the Super Mario Bros. 2-themed DLC. (And yes, you pedantic poopieheads! I know Super Mario Bros. 2 is not commonly regarded as an official entry in the Super Mario Bros. series, since it was originally released as Doki Doki Panic in Japan, and was only later retrofitted with characters from the Mario universe for its release in the U.S.; but the game still introduced many elements that have become staples of nearly all future Mario games--including the Bob-ombs whose presence in Mario Maker no one seems to question--so I still consider it a proper member of the Mario family, even if it's role relative to the rest of its siblings is as the slightly awkward stepchild.) But while I wait for dreams that will never be realized, I will not spitefully neglect taking advantage of those sparse few that have. Starting with this level, I will gradually be introducing checkpoints into some of my more complex designs to ease the burden of their difficulty... or in this particular case, to justify increasing it, for I simply cannot resist this opportunity to reimplement the more invigorating challenge of my Bullet Bill ladder.
Update 3: Removed spikes from the descent immediately following the checkpoint to ease up on the difficulty a bit.
Let's Throw Yoshi Under a Train!
Another auto-scrolling stage, centered around the idea of turning Yoshi's frantic post-injury dash into an essential gameplay mechanic. Forced jumps onto grinder-covered platforms separate Mario from Yoshi, causing the latter to scurry along the railroad track at the bottom of the screen, while the former must advance through the train's interior, clearing obstacles from his saurian steed's path so that they can meet up again at the farther end. This is another stage that I think would benefit from the inclusion of checkpoints, as the obstacles must be cleared at a fairly efficient rate in order to keep up with Yoshi's accelerated pace, and the player may be forced to retry several times before he gets the timing right. I have a suspicion, also, that there may be a few lingering exploits, allowing players to complete it in ways contradictory to my original intent. I may be straining the malleability of the game's intended functionality somewhat to accommodate my unrealistic ambitions, but I'm enamored of the concept, and so it remains as a testament to my impractical intractability.
Update 1: A checkpoint has been added to give the player a much needed respite between the two sets of trains.
Bunch o' Munchers
Since the levels I create tend to lean toward the higher end of the difficulty spectrum, my inspiration for this one was to make a more traditionally simplistic Mario Bros. stage--my version of a World 1-1, if you will. In actuality, it's probably still a little more complicated than your usual early-game Mario level, featuring enemies like the Bob-ombs and Buzzy Beetles, which wouldn't dare show their faces until the player had adequate time to become acquainted with the more docile fauna of the Mushroom Kingdom--your garden-variety Goombas and Koopa Troopas. It also features certain power-ups whose mechanics would probably overwhelm a Mario newbie, and there is one particular jump near the end that cannot be traversed without the assistance of said power-ups. But I provided multiple ways of reaching the goal, and it's fairly manageable compared to some of my other stages. From start to finish, its design was completed in only a few hours one lazy Saturday afternoon, which, when compared to the week-long effort entailed by some of my other creations, probably represents my art's most productive yield in proportion to the labor expended.
I'm actually quite proud of this one. It takes some pretty blatant inspiration from the Castlevania and Metroid games, with a dash of the design of Zelda II's side-scrolling temples, and a sprinkling of the end-of-world labyrinths from old-school Kid Icarus. It's essentially a gear-gated puzzler, in which each new item and power-up acquired affords the player means to access the next area of the palace, where she will acquire the power-up needed to access the next area, and so forth. Unfortunately, Super Mario Maker enforces a maximum 500-second time limit for every course created, which I do not think is ideal for a puzzle-based stage like this one, in which the primary challenge is meant to be of a more cerebral nature. Preferably, the player should be allowed to take as long as she needs to mull over the potential solutions to each scenario, without the added unnerving pressure of a ticking time-bomb in the upper-right corner of the screen. An extensive amount of playtesting and re-editing went into crafting this stage, and eventually I managed to bring the challenge down to the point where an experienced player, knowing all the solutions to every puzzle, can finish it with upwards of 100 seconds remaining on the clock. Still, I expect players will likely time out on their first few playthroughs, as they explore the palace's many perplexing rooms and stumble into areas gated by abilities they have yet to acquire. Hopefully, the allure of a less traditional puzzle-based level will suffice to compensate for any frustration, and I do believe I have done my best to mitigate various potential sources of grief, even including clever shortcuts to reclaim each of the power-ups (which double as tacit tutorials on their effective use) once initial access to them has been achieved.
Update 1: I have added checkpoints at a couple key locations. Hopefully, this will alleviate some of the unnecessary stress imposed by the 500-second time limit, as restarting at a checkpoint also resets the game clock. I have also made a few subtle alterations to some of the puzzles, as it came to my attention that a player could skip a few of my "gear gates," finishing the level without ever touching a Raccoon Leaf or Fire Flower. Obviously, I had not intended this, and preserving the integrity of my authorial intent is more important than facilitating the player's freedom to weasel his own way past all the painstakingly crafted expressions of my incalculable cleverness.
The design of this course was a very organic evolution. Basically, I wanted to show off the costume I unlocked with my shiny, new, super-cute Chibi-Robo amiibo, so my mind immediately went toward a mechanically themed stage, with conveyor belts and buzzsaw tracks and enemies rhythmically advancing like pieces on a factory assembly line. I started by simply experimenting with various isolated platforming vignettes--a long conveyor belt sequence punctuated by Thwomps, or a steady march of Spinies fired from Bullet Bill launchers--until I found a few that seemed to flow nicely; then, I strung them all together. The "bullet-hell" flight sequence through an armada of alien spacecraft was originally just another one of these scattered vignettes, but I found the concept to be thematically strong, and the free maneuverability of the Lakitu Cloud was an exhilarating change of pace. So, it dawned on me: this could become the central conceit that cohesively encapsulates the rest of my isolated challenges, framing each of them as the mechanical innards of a different ship, which Mario must periodically disembark from his cumulus-shaped vessel to infiltrate and explore.
Update 1: Oh, man! I'm such a dufus! I left gaps in the clusters of spaceships that are supposed to cordon off areas of the stage and force Mario's progression through the warp pipes, effectively allowing players to bypass the entire level. Admittedly, this could be viewed as somewhat of a happy accident, since these unintentional shortcuts were not entirely obvious at first glance, and they made for a fun secret in and of themselves. But taken altogether, they completely invalidated some of the other shortcuts I made a purposeful effort to include, and so I have edited them out (well, most of them anyway). Additionally, I have made a few adjustments to mitigate the level's overly harsh difficulty.
Update 2: Added checkpoints.
Elementary Mario: Koopa Chasms
Elementary Mario: Piranha Sewers
Elementary Mario: Bullet Mesas
Elementary Mario: Firewheel Fort
As the name would suggest, these stages are my effort at a basic, no-frills Mario. There are no overwrought puzzles or gimmicks or aesthetic themes--just a simple (and hopefully enjoyable) progression of relatively standard platforms and hazards, on which the player can hone his hopping-and-bopping proficiency. Reaching the flagpole shouldn't entail too much effort, though I have sprinkled in a few optional challenges for those that want to hunt down bonus coins and 1-ups. Basically, I want to create a few levels that wouldn't have felt out of place as content in the original Super Mario Bros.... something that perhaps more than 10% of the Mario Maker community will actually finish... maybe even something that could show up in the Normal (or even Easy) 100 Mario Challenge! Yea, I know. I kinda thought I already did this with Bunch o' Munchers, which nevertheless stands at a paltry 2% completion rate, so I'm not sure that I have it in me... But wish me luck.
Update 1: In Firewheel Fort, I dropped the height of the lifts to prevent Mario from smacking his head against the ceiling when jumping between them. I also modified some of the obstacles surrounding the second set of lifts, as I was not satisfied with the platforming experience provided by the original arrangement.
"P" is for Patience
This stage's name is a reference to the classic P-Switch item, which features prominently as the sole unifying factor in what is otherwise a random succession of short, single-room survival challenges. In each room, the switch slowly descends from an inaccessible height along a series of tracks, basically serving as a timer that dictates how long the player must endure the current wave of enemies and obstacles before advancing. The idea is to survive until the switch falls within reach, smash it, and gain access to the warp pipe that leads to the next challenge. In general, I have attempted to arrange the trials so that they naturally increase in difficulty as the level progresses, though depending on the player's proficiency at certain tasks, I suspect a few of them might be regarded as welcome reprieves between more grueling gauntlets. And for those who flunked spelling and think that "P" should stand for impatience instead, I have included a few secret shortcuts that allow some of the rooms to be skipped.
Bill and Monty's Taxi Service
While playing the courses created by some of my fellow Mario Makers, I stumbled upon what struck me as quite a clever implementation of a few of the standard Mario course elements, so I decided to take inspiration from (read: plagiarize) this idea to serve as the central mechanic for my own stage (I see no harm in this, since the other instances of this concept were probably similarly "inspired" by the famous "Poochy Ain't Stupid" level from Yoshi's Island). The idea of note revolves around the unique behavior of Monty Moles, which basically adheres to the simple directive of "home in on Mario's location." Stack another enemy or obstacle on top of Monty--in this case, a Bullet Bill Launcher, though a cannon or Parabeetle would work just as well (I've even seen some people use a Thwomp, though this requires the player to be riding Yoshi / wearing a Kuribo's Shoe / executing a spin attack to avoid taking damage)--and you got yourself a vehicular platform that moves in the direction of Mario relative to Monty's position. The player can control Monty's movement while riding on top of him by positioning Mario slightly to the right or left edge of the "vehicle." I originally considered implementing this concept in one part of my Perplexing Palace stage, but I thought the task of maneuvering Monty and dealing with his momentum constituted more of a dexterity-based challenge, which didn't seem to be consonant with that level's focus on feats of mental prowess. So, I evolved the concept and designed a stage exclusively devoted to its realization.
Update 1: Checkpoints, checkpoints, checkpoints.
A Mole, A Muncher, A Mario
A further exploration of the symbiotic relationship between Monty Mole and the player, this stage takes a more puzzle-based approach than my earlier Taxi Service. Several items are scattered around a relatively confined space in locations inaccessible to Mario... but not to Monty Mole! The player must guide her insectivorous sidekick through a small maze of obstacles to retrieve each item, then apply them toward reaching the doorway that leads to the stage exit. Somewhere along the way, you may uncover a bonus area that I have punningly dubbed "Stack-a-Mole."
Please to enjoy another puzzle level! The emphasis this time is on using Pow Blocks to construct makeshift platforms, and ferrying crucial objects to their destinations on the backs of Buzzy Beetles and Boos.
Update 1: Removed the slightly tedious beanstalk-spike maze at the start of the level to facilitate readier access to the meatier puzzles. (Don't worry: it's a puzzle stage--there will be plenty of other tedious challenges to compensate for the loss of one.) I also modified one of the mid-stage puzzles to negate a potential exploit.
The inspiration for this course (aside from wanting to add yet another alliterative title to my oeuvre) actually came from expanding upon a design flaw that I was attempting to circumvent in my previous course. In one of the puzzly bits of Flummoxing Fleet, I wanted to force the player to use a Parabeetle to transport the shell of a Buzzy Beetle to a certain out of reach platform. The player was then supposed to access said platform via a vine, pick up the shell deposited by the Parabeetle, and use it to bash his way through a wall of bricks. However, the controls for all Super Mario World stages allow the player to toss the items he is carrying directly upward, and I found that one could stand at the base of the vine, throw the Buzzy Beetle shell up, begin scaling the vine while the shell is in mid-air, temporarily jump off the vine to reclaim the shell, toss it back into the air, and then grab hold of the vine again to continue his ascent. By repeating this process, the player could effectively carry the shell to the top of the vine without relying upon the auxiliary means of conveyance I had thought my puzzle had so cleverly provided. While I eventually found a way to eliminate this "flaw" in my design, I could not deny that there was a satisfying rhythm to the act of rapidly juggling between climbing and carrying an item. I figured it was a strong enough theme to justify devoting an entire stage to its implementation, and so that is precisely what I did.
After my recent streak of puzzle and "gimmick"-based course designs, I figured it was high time for a return to some good, old-fashioned run-and-jump platforming. Be prepared for a challenge, as you attempt to time your jumps perfectly through a whirling haze of buzzsaws. I tried my best to make each jump flow smoothly into the next, so once the player has become familiar with the stage's obstacles, she should be able to progress through them at a satisfying clip... and, more importantly, look darn cool while doing so.
The Green Dragon
O Yoshi the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities! Your armor is like tenfold shields, your teeth are swords, your claws spears, the shock of your tail a thunderbolt, your wings a hurricane, and your breath death!
Help Mario worm his way through the bowels of numerous terrifying spike-scaled leviathans! Master all the techniques necessary to navigate the fearsome wyrms' barb-lined intestines, like timing your jumps on the back of a moving Buzzy Beetle shell, or sacrificing your super power to claim a crucial yet fleeting moment of invulnerability. Do not question the fact that the same digestive tract appears to be shared by multiple seemingly disconnected dragon heads, because then you might as well ask why none of the dragons seem to evince the least capacity for independent movement, almost as if they were nothing but a series of static tiles cobbled together to invoke the vague likeness of dragons, and then this whole beautiful pretense that we have so painstakingly constructed to afford ourselves a momentary distraction from our mundane, loveless existence begins to crumble. Why do you always have to ruin everything? Is happiness truly such an offensive concept to you, that you must constantly seek to obliterate every faintest trace of newly budding joy that threatens to thrive in the cracks of your scorched earth? I would pity you, but I just don't have the energy anymore. Perhaps at one time, I'd have followed you into the abyss in the hopes of dredging you back up, but I have plumbed the darkness with you one too many times, and I do not possess the fortitude to survive another journey. If the void beckons again and you cannot repel the urge to answer it, then you shall answer it alone. Good luck, my friend. And goodbye.
The 3 Little Bowsers
The wait is over at long last! The sequel no one asked for to the Super Mario Maker course nobody knew existed is finally here! After his masterful raid of the Koopa King's sky fortress in The Green Dragon, Yoshi's savage thirst for destruction remains unsated, and now he descends upon Bowser Jr.'s neighborhood to continue his violent rampage. The heir apparent to King Bowser's throne and his two identical clones are just happy little home owners minding their own business, so naturally it is up to Mario and his trusty steed to unnecessarily antagonize them and destroy their stuff! Huff and puff and blow their houses in... or up, as the case may be.
Update 1: Modified the final boss so that the player can only receive a finite number of replacement Yoshis (seeing as how no one had even gotten past the second Bowser Jr.'s house prior to the boss fight, I put 2 and 2 together, somehow got pi to the 4th power, and figured that I was being far too generous with that one infinite-Yoshi-generating pipe that nobody had yet encountered).
The following are stages that I had originally uploaded, but have since taken down to make room for newer creations. Once I achieve enough stars to raise my maximum upload limit, I will most likely upload them again.
Ride the Paratroopas
This is my first creation, designed before I had unlocked most of the course features available in the full toolset. Ergo, it is a short and simple stage skinned in the original Super Mario Bros. sprite palette. There are lots of Piranha Plants, and of course the eponymous flock of red-shelled, winged turtles, on whose satisfyingly squishy backs Mario can string together an invigorating succession of multiple-1-up-rewarding jumps. I will probably be replacing this stage with something slightly more inventive once I reach my simultaneous upload limit of 10 stages... unless, of course, more people play my levels and reward my creative efforts with stars, thereby freeing me of the shackles with which my tyrannical Nintendo overlords have arbitrarily chosen to confine my full artistic expression. Cheers to you, Internet--fostering a culture of attention-scrounging, "like"-begging, fake friend-farming phonies for the last two-and-a-half decades!
Bring a spring!
Another early design of mine, this time done in the New Super Mario Bros. graphical theme. As the title suggests, it contains a spring, which the player can bring to various spots to provide him access to some out-of-reach secret areas. There's really only one spring, and it isn't an essential element for completing the stage proper, so the theme isn't really all that strong here. But again, it's an early design, which I will likely swap out for something a little more refined once the inspiration strikes.
A ghost manor, complete with all the secret alternate pathways and sneaky illusions that traditionally characterize such courses. The primary gimmick is that the sub-level, accessed through various warp pipes, is an exact replica of the main stage, only flipped upside down. Dare I say I may have overdone it on some of the secrets in this one, but I enjoyed experimenting to find various new "puzzly" implementations for standard Mario course elements (I am particularly fond of the clever use I extracted from a Bob-omb-toting Boo). Reaching the end-stage flagpole on this one should not prove particularly difficult. As per most Mario ghost stages, the real challenge lies in thoroughly exploring all the secrets hidden along the way.