Super Mario Maker 3DS Review: Meet Your (Mobile) Maker

Nintendo /

Super Mario Maker is now available on the go. Our review tackles the needed changes, for better and for worse, to make a console game work on handhelds.

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Release Date: December 2, 2016

Nintendo certainly knows how to get the best out of the hand they’ve dealt themselves. With the Wii U GamePad, a title like Super Mario Maker showed equal parts common sense and courage; they let the fans tinker with their toolbox through a platform that was ripe for creative level design innovation. For Super Mario Maker 3DS, it now means that players can use that same spirit and take their designs on the road.

The inherent differences between Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 3DS, besides obvious portability, are subtle. You’re still using a stylus to drag items from a toolbox onto a field, you still have a basic set of items at first (with the rest needing to be unlocked), and you’re still able to play maps created from other users, especially on the journey to save Princess Peach. What has changed, however, is the implementation and means of enjoying what Nintendo has to offer.

Super Mario Maker 3DS review screenshot
Nintendo /

Not only is the duo hilariously cute in their exchanges, but they are incredibly informative.

Wii U version tutorial helpers, Yamamura and Mary O., are back to help guide you in your drive to make the best Super Mario Maker 3DS courses, taking an advanced role in your progression. Players who were once frustrated that they could never learn to make as good a level as they played online in the original should utilize the new “Lessons” feature, which feeds both subtle and overt level design tips using the tools available.

Not only is the duo hilariously cute in their exchanges, but they are incredibly informative. Yamamura, as the course creation sensei, explains in a clever way the mindset behind why including (or removing) certain items and objects in a certain manner affects the course player’s enjoyment. Also, the advanced lessons involve completing a course, with Yamamura explaining why major course decisions were made from a creative’s perspective.

This carries on through a gameplay mode new to Super Mario Maker 3DS: Super Mario Challenge. Nintendo has created 100 courses over roughly a dozen and a half different “Worlds,” handing you just ten lives to start. After each world is conquered, you unlock a few more tools for your level-creating toolbox, while Yamamura and Mary O. explain how these new items can be implemented in your next creation.

Super Mario Maker 3DS review screenshot
Nintendo /

I am of two minds about this. On the positive side, the natural progression of the Super Mario Challenge is immensely enjoyable. Were it not for enemies and items being mixed from multiple games, these 100 levels would create an enjoyable standalone Super Mario game on its own. The design of these levels feel traditional but mixes in contemporary design elements afforded by the open toolbox concept, creating a set of challenges that don’t feel like homework.

More from 3DS

Furthermore, each of these 100 Super Mario Challenge levels offers a stated medal, provided to the player if they meet the stated level objectives. A second unlocks once the first is obtained. The medal challenges are difficult enough to feed that reward loop for overcoming a tough gameplay obstacle, expanding their replayability in the quest for 100% completion. Who knows, there may even be something else lying in wait for those who are skilled enough to earn a high number of medals…

The huge downside of this gameplay mode is not in its creation, nor in its ability to teach players the tenets of great level design. The problem is that you have to beat all these levels in order to unlock the full Super Mario Maker 3DS toolbox. As much as I, personally, enjoy the game for playing the creations of others, there’s a not-insignificant number of people out there who enjoy the design aspects only; who derive joy from the feedback of others.

Super Mario Maker 3DS review screenshot
Nintendo /

Playing through levels in the triple digits just to have everything available to the Super Mario Maker 3DS creator is a poor compromise from both Wii U plans of attack. The original, pre-release idea was to hide a certain number of tools behind a once-a-day unlock. At launch, the process was simplified to using your new tools and waiting roughly 15 minutes for the new download. Both of these are immeasurably fairer to the player than completing the “Play” half of the game.

At the very least, playing those levels provides a baseline for the Super Mario Maker 3DS to explore ideas and tinker with the “Edit” mode. Virtually none of the actual Edit possibilities have changed (that I’ve noticed), making the core of the Super Mario Maker play identically on both platforms.

However, the biggest difference is how these creations are shared, and it’s also the biggest downfall of Super Mario Maker 3DS. First off, without a doubt, the inability to share your maps through WiFi data (or to download others’ maps outside of local online) is an asinine decision. You even need to have two copies of Super Mario Maker 3DS to share your creations with a friend, making the only option to enjoy the online play by yourself is to download the 100 Mario Challenge maps through the Wii U version’s uploads.

Super Mario Maker 3DS review screenshot
Nintendo /

There are tons of stipulations behind online sharing of Super Mario Maker 3DS content that almost not make it worthwhile at all. You cannot rate courses played through Course World, including the 100 Mario Challenge. If you edit even one aspect of a map shared to you through local play, you can’t send it to others. After 100 courses are received through StreetPass, it will automatically overwrite existing courses, starting with the oldest, as long as the mode is on. Finally, you can’t play Super Mario Maker 3DS on your friend’s console without deleting the game’s save data on the game cart.

The stopgap content in Super Mario Challenge is the most superb circle you could ever see try to fit itself into a square.

Honestly, the fact that you can’t share Super Mario Maker 3DS created courses through a connected non-local Course World is almost enough of a disqualifier alone. The game offers the same level of excellent gameplay possibilities as its console counterpart while, at the same time, being cordoned off to its own virtual tourist island. You can look, you can even play, but you can’t have a lasting impact on the greater 3DS-playing community at large.

That’s what makes my feelings on this game so conflicted; what works is excellent, while what doesn’t work just seems like one head-shakingly boneheaded move after another from a company that, after more than a hundred years of existence, still doesn’t quite know what their fans truly want. The stopgap content in Super Mario Challenge is the most superb circle you could ever see try to fit itself into a square. Alas, it’s in the execution that doesn’t make it a proper fit.

More app trigger: 50 Best Nintendo Games Right Now

At least we have more Yamamura and Mary O. This world needs more of their delightful banter.

7.5. Sometimes the best intentions just aren’t good enough to bring an excellent experience on one platform to another. Such is the case with Super Mario Maker 3DS, which makes level creation and gameplay just as exciting (even more so) than on the original version, but takes two steps back with unfortunate implementation decisions. Not being connected to that online bank of players means a muted multiplayer interaction experience, especially when few others can enjoy your potential masterpieces. Those who haven’t played the Wii U version should definitely check this out, but it’s certainly not worth to double dip on what may be one of the 3DS’ final titles of its own.. Nintendo. . Super Mario Maker 3DS

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.