When Nintendo released Super Mario Maker in September of last year, it was pretty much everything I wanted it to be. All the tools needed to design and build official Mario levels, right at my fingertips. Yet along with each great level that gets made, there are still a ton of what I call ‘troll levels’ that take up too much of of a new player’s time. I’ll be the first to admit it’s hard to get to levels that feel like genuine Mario experiences.
That’s why each week, I collect the 10 best Mario Maker courses I’ve discovered and discuss why I think they’re worth playing. I deal with the trolls so you don’t have to. Let’s-A-Go!
Monty Max: Fury Rainbow Road
Did you love Mad Max: Fury Road? I certainly did, and a huge reason for my love for the film was its gorgeous imagery and visual design. I’ve never been a “car guy” in real life, but watching that movie made me want to soup up my own apocalyptic gas-guzzler so bad I had to be reminded I lived in a city with ample transit. As you can probably imagine from that preamble, Monty Max: Fury Rainbow Road apes much of the design that made Fury Road spectacular. The deathly construction of each car in this level harkens directly back to the movie, and SMB3 is the perfect style for this experience. Sawmill wheels, jets of flame spurting from exhaust pipes, and boxes laid out in the shape of cars is brilliant to look at. The use of moles and dry bones to recreate the aggressive War Boys is an inspired touch, and seeing specific images like the War Rig and Bowser as a Flame-Guitar wielding Doof Warrior makes this level highly recommendable for both visual and aural experience alone.
Another expertly themed level, this challenging platformer uses skeletal shapes and death-inspired imagery to make you feel like you’re clamboring through an elephant graveyard of gigantic skeletal beasts. It’s specialist use of the elements provided that really makes you feel like the creator is pushing themselves creatively, and that leads to some incredible results. A highlight of the level for me was having to bounce-jump my way across a series of track-attached Dry Bones. It’s using the expected in unexpected ways. That defines a great Mario Maker level for me. Something unique that could only be created in this game.
Whether you liked Run For Your Life! from my first Levels of the Week post or couldn’t stand it, know that クッパからにげろ! is that level updated and reborn. Run from yet another series of Bowsers and get around obstacles in a rare NSMB level choice from me, which means a fair amount of wall-jumping exists in this level as well. Expect lots of fireballs. And I mean LOTS of fireballs. At its worst, I think I counted about fifteen on the screen all together, and the struggle to avoid getting hit by any of them is real. Filling the stage with unbreakable block ‘houses’ was a great idea that works both to give Bowser’s fireballs something to crash into and provide an opportunity for creative wall jumps. These jumps may not be the most challenging, but when you’re being chased down by a fire-breathing lizard who’s destroying the walls further with every breath, your adrenaline will pump right up.
Super Boss Rush
One complaint I’ve heard from many creators about Mario Maker is that it’s difficult to make boss battles in the game. Nintendo recently addressed some of those concerns by making Keys obtainable only upon defeat of certain enemies, and that goes a long way, but it’s still nothing compared to the catharsis we all remember from defeating the Koopa Kids in Super Mario World back in the day. Super Boss Rush shows that a little creativity can go a long way, and divides its level up into different rooms to get the real Boss Battle experience players have been craving over and over again. There’s a checkpoint in this level, but if you ask me, it’s not far in enough, leading to some serious frustration getting to the end. DO your best, and let Baby Bowser take out a couple enemies for you in the beginning of each room he appears. The enemy of your enemy is your friend.
Golden Mole Temple
Simply put, Golden Mole Temple is an incredibly aesthetically pleasing level. The screen is filled with overwhelming gold coloured bricks, blocks, and coins, complemented by deep greys, reds, and blacks that makes everything feel way more cohesive than it ought to considering the creator’s used the same tools as everyone else on this list to create their world. The use of mole enemies exclusively in this level adds to the experience, providing you with a native population blending seamlessly in with the world. Are moles just my favourite? Very possibly, which is something I didn’t realize until I had to review 10 levels every week! Lots of alternate paths and 5 golden coins that need to be found throughout the level make it a challenge, but the visual design of it will make it so you don’t mind replaying (and dying in) this level over and over again.
The one with the tracks. It took a bit for this level to really click with me, and its possible you’ll have that experience too, but when you find the right way to progress through this ever-moving mechanical nightmare, it’s satisfying on a fundamental level. You need to be on the right part of it in order not to be hit by the spinning saws. An underground path will take you there as well, but it’s just as tricky, so don’t go down thinking there’s an easy way around this level. You’ll find yourself at the wrong end of a pirahna plant’s pipe.
World Airship (Airship Escape)
You didn’t think I could actually go a week without mentioning an airship course, did you? This one comes with a clever catch. Requiring you to use SMB3’s boots to make excessively long jumps, you’ll be given some challenge here without a doubt. I enjoyed the way this creator laid out the airships flying in armada-style, and honestly, I just like the boot. Mario can really rock a pair of black stilettos.
This level both intrigued and frustrated me. What starts out as an airship becomes a frantic ghost house as Mario has to traverse unavoidable music note blocks that spit out Boos. I enjoyed that part of the level immensely, as I had to time myself pretty well and make sure I was always looking back as I moved up and down the level to keep the group of Boos at bay. My real complaint is that after this segment, there needs to be checkpoint, and there isn’t. You emerge from a pipe and are given a cloud, but from there no real direction to go. I’ll chalk that up to it possibly being made before checkpoints came into play, but it’s still a frustrating design flaw that meant I didn’t have as much fun completing this level as I should have.
You have to run to the right. With unrelenting red cannonballs chasing you, Cannonball Run doesn’t let you make a single mistake in this intense, action-packed run for your life. You have to get each jump right on the first try in this daunting level that tests both your reflexes and your memory. Learn the course, see how far you can go, and keep Mario moving!
You’ll need to be a better and more patient player than I am to beat this level. From the outset, five pipes lead you to different challenges that are necessary to the completion of this creator’s near troll-worthy game. I’m serious. It comes close to being skippable, but for the more experienced players, this may well be your jam. This is definitely more Takeshi’s Castle than Mario, as each pipe offers you an impossible task to accomplish in order to win a single pink coin that will let you out through the end before making you go back the way you came. The very first pipe leads you through some excruciating jumps. Some of the others… I don’t even want to mention. This does mark the first time I’ve ever KILLED Bowser with a fire flower before, so that’s something. But overall it’s not one I could beat. Not by a longshot. Not with the deadline to get these levels out to you today, at least. Submit YOUR completion of this level, and you’ll definitely earn my respect.
Liked this list? Hated it and want me to do better? Send me Mario Maker codes for the coolest levels you’ve either made or discovered to help me out! Each week I’ll be playing through the 100 Mario Challenge repeatedly looking for something cool, but I’ll try out any Super Mario Maker level I’m sent if you think it’s worth my time