No one quite knew whether Super Mario Maker was gonna be any good or not last year. Clearly Nintendo has proved itself more than capable of one stellar outing after another for the world’s most famous plumber, but could its fans do the same?
Long story short: Ninty made fools of us again - it was a superb game.
As a result, there are no such fears around its 3DS incarnation. We already know it's a fantastic game full of weird and wonderful twists on a classic formula. The only question is whether anyone needs to buy it a second time round...
More tutorials = more fun. No really
If I had one criticism of Super Mario Maker for Wii U, it’s that it didn’t do tutorials. Almost from the off, you were handed the keys to Nintendo’s crown jewels and had to figure out what to do with them. That was kind of intimidating for some people, including yours truly.
I’ve eaten a lot of pizzas in my life, but stick some dough, cheese and tomato sauce in front of me and you’ll get a hot mess in return. The same goes for Mario games. Too often, my levels were overly difficult and confusing because I’d never spent much time thinking about why stomping on Goombas was fun. It just was.
Thankfully, Mario Maker for 3DS comes with 20 guided lessons that clearly explain how to whip up a level that someone else might enjoy. They’re taught by - and I swear to god I’m not making this up - a pigeon called Yamamura and a call centre worker called Mashika, both of whom you might recognise from the Wii U game. If not or you’d just forgotten about them, then brace yourself for a hefty dose of WTF. Whatever the case, my creations are miles better than they were a year ago.
Super Mario Challenge: players vs pros
The other major change to Mario Maker for 3DS is online functionality. How so? Well, you can’t access the 100 Mario Challenge or Recommended Courses on a whim when you're away from a Wi-Fi signal. Instead, you have to download and create your own collection of levels to play on the go.
That makes some sense, because unless you fancy carrying around a hotspot with you, it would be nigh on impossible for want this game to be connected to the internet all the time.
Fortunately, you'll soon forgive Nintendo for any online awkwardness once you fire up the all new Super Mario Challenge, a selection of 100 courses you can complete to unlock new elements to build with.
Not only does this offline game mode get rid of the off-puttingly arbitrary way elements were unlocked over time in the original Mario Maker, the courses featured are absolutely brilliant.
Where player-made content can be hit and miss in the extreme, these levels are all killer, no filler and do a fantastic job of showing you how to bend the rules of a Mario game. From slaying three giant Bowsers at once via a Super Star to stacking a ridiculous amount of trampolines on top of one another, they’re a completely new and bonkers way to play a Mario game and pretty much worth the price of admission alone.
And when you can go online? All the best Wii U creations are waiting there for you to enjoy.
A year's worth of updates included
Alright, time for a confession… I didn’t really like Super Mario Maker to start off with and that may well be your fault. Yes, YOU. It's not that the first tranche of course were too tough - though plenty were - but more that too many were overly gimmicky.
The first time you hear the Pokémon theme tune recreated from Note Blocks? Amazing. The fifth time you’ve seen that trick? It’s a bit bloody tedious.
While plenty of those courses are still kicking around, they’ve been balanced out by a discerning player base with plenty of more flavoursome alternatives. Plus, all the items that have gradually been added into the Wii U version - such as Checkpoint flags and keys - are there for you to use from the off. You don’t get that same feeling of ‘If only I had…’ that you did this time last year.
And even though the 3DS’ touchscreen is almost half the size of the Wii U GamePad’s, creating your courses isn’t particularly more pernickety. The same tools and elements apply, you just have a reduced canvas size to apply them on. That means you’ll probably make a few more stylus miss-swipes here than you did before, but that’ll soon be ironed out.
Better still, you’ll probably think a lot more carefully before littering the place up with a load of unnecessary Thowmps or Warp Pipes. I know I did.
Super Mario Maker 3DS Verdict
Despite my initial reservations last year, Super Mario Maker was a genius idea to begin with. All this 3DS version does it refines the few bits about it that didn’t quite work or needed more thought.
Granted, it holds your hand more as a player - but given the lofty heights to which I aspire when creating my own Mario levels, I’ll take all the help I can get. And who knows, maybe one day I'll create something about 10% as good as any 'proper' Mario game. And then I'll die happy.
On 3DS, those lofty goals are a little bit easier to achieve, making this version Mario Maker’s best incarnation. If you've already played it on Wii U, just stick with the 3DS game from now on.
And if you've never played it before at all? Well then you've some seriously fun times ahead of you.