Now right off the bat I want to state that I’m not against the idea of Nintendo developing a game-creating experience, and it’s very possible my opinion will not be shared by most, if any, of the rest of the staff here, but after months of watching videos, E3 Treehouse play sessions, and the crazy-awesome finale to the Nintendo World Championships, I can honestly say that as the release for Super Mario Maker nears, my interest level has gone down to, well, about zero. I’m a Mario player, not a Mario maker.
I count gaming’s number one mascot as among my very favorites of all time, and the countless hours I’ve put into his adventures have been some of my most cherished and memorable, but frankly, I don’t have the patience or creativity to construct anything that I myself would want to play. My mind isn’t capable of spinning platforming gold; pixelated coprolite at best. There’s a reason why Mario games are so popular, and that’s because Nintendo is full of design geniuses that aren’t me, people whose imaginations and credentials have gotten them through the notoriously difficult application process at one of the most elite game companies in the world. There they meticulously plot out, play-test, and fine tune their brilliant creations so that they can charge 60 bucks to guys like me who go gaga and marvel over their prowess. It’s their job, and they’re damn good at it. They make intricate origami; I can barely produce a working paper airplane. Even as a longtime Mario mega-fan, this new level of involvement is not an aspect that appeals to me in the slightest.
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Now, I have no doubt that there will be a ton of people out there making hilarious, challenging, possibly inventive stuff, so of course a valid argument would be that there will be plenty to play, even if I never touch the easy-to-use gamepad tools. Sure, that seems like it will absolutely be true, but after the initial novelty of clever Mario humor wears off, I wonder how much trial and error to find the really worthwhile ones it will take. While I know there are a lot of creative gamers out there, I also know that there are even just as many who think they’re creative, but really, well, aren’t. How many levels will be designed simply to frustrate, or trials by fire? There are many amazing players who showcase their incredible talents on speedruns, but while I consider myself fairly decent, I’m not someone looking to die a thousand times trying to beat something that progresses me through nothing. My pride doesn’t extend to that kind of stuff. I know a lot of people are excited by the possibilities for challenge, but while I had a blast watching John Numbers Jedi his way through those four inhuman stages, not once did I think, “man, I can’t wait to give hell a try!” Nintendo has always been good at pacing their games, but how organized will difficulty levels be online? Sorry, guys, but I gotta tell you, I’m not sure I want to spend my evening seeking out side-scrolling diamonds in the rough. I spend my hard-earned money on Mario games for instant gratification.
And even if Nintendo’s rating system works like it’s supposed to and points users in the right direction, and the pre-loaded 100 stages designed by EAD themselves provide some cleverness within the boundaries, I’ll still just be playing what feels like old Mario stages. Crazier, different, sure, but old. Since it’s based around titles I’ve already played (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros U), there won’t be any gameplay surprises, and gameplay surprises are why I play Mario. Transformation is a major motif in Mario’s world, and it’s embedded in the philosophies behind games as well. One of the biggest reasons I look forward to each new major release in the franchise is for what sort of innovation Nintendo brings to the game. Innovation, as in new. A giant Blooper doesn’t quite do the trick that Tanooki suits or climbing trees for the first time managed. From Yoshi and capes, to FLUDD and gravity, I’ve become accustomed to the pleasant process of learning familiarity all over again, retraining my reflexes to adapt to whatever dexterity the latest mechanics require. This is what makes Super Mario Galaxy so mind-blowing (and conversely, its sequel so unsatisfying); I actually had to think differently to play a 3D Mario, something I thought I had long since nailed. 3D Land‘s isometric view forces you to turn up the portable’s slider and consider a more fleshed-out perspective, while with its HD brother 3D World, there’s no way to tell what sort of idea the next stage will throw at you; whether it’s riding a Loch Ness monster down cascading waterfalls or a world of shadows playing tricks with cardboard, no concept is allowed to stick around long, no idea can grow stale. There are no limits with Mario, but there are with Super Mario Maker. Its boundaries are strict, relegated to that which we’ve already done.
Again, while this all sounds totally negative, I’m not trying to trash the game or say it won’t be any good. From what it sounds like this game absolutely accomplishes everything it sets out to do. Unfortunately, what it does are the reasons I and possibly some others aren’t as personally excited for Nintendo’s latest offering as maybe we usually would be. I wouldn’t be surprised if activity online tapers off rather quickly outside of the hardcore. I don’t want to work for my Mario; that’s why I pay for it. To me, Super Mario Maker is a creation tool, not a game. For those looking to finally get your chance to show off your bursting imaginations and design skills, go nuts; I may watch some of the more amusing YouTube results, but watching isn’t why I buy video games. I’m a Mario player, not a Mario maker.