When Nintendo released Super Mario Maker in September of last year, it was pretty much everything I wanted it to be. All the tools I needed to design and build official Mario levels, right at my fingertips. Not content with stopping there, I could even share them online so that other people could play my creations! And the ability to download other people’s Mario Maker levels too? Nintendo, when did you learn how to internet?!
Yet along with each great level, there are still a ton of ‘My First Level’ or ‘Don’t Touch Anything!” levels that feel like too much filler. I’ll be the first to admit that some days it’s hard to get to levels that feel like genuine Mario experiences. There’s just too many! And I press that skip button a lot on the 100 Mario Challenge.
If you feel the same way I do about searching for worthy levels, you’re in luck. Each week, I collect the 10 best Mario Maker courses I’ve discovered and discuss why I think they’re worth playing for yourself. Let’s-A-Go!
- House of the Lost Mushroom – C7C2-0000-01D1-268A (Clear Rate 20.75%)
I’m starting off the list this week with one of the most unique levels I’ve ever encountered. Unlike most traditional Mario courses, this one focuses on mastering an entirely new mechanic. In House of the Lost Mushroom, Mario must help a red mushroom travel through the course, bumping up blocks to make it jump over obstacles or hazards. Getting the mushroom to a certain point is required to finish the course, as Mario won’t be able to progress without letting the mushroom trigger an event in each part of the level. I’m not going to lie. This level is super frustrating and tough. But the clever ways in which the level designer has turned something that was only ever intended as a power-up into something new and interesting is astounding. The level even somehow includes a legitimate boss battle that feels huge in scope.
- Control the Mole 2 – 0024-0000-015F-DE95 (Clear Rate 14.62%)
Again, a course that takes the core mechanics of Mario and throws them out the window. Abusing the AI in mole enemies that tells them to follow Mario, Control the Mole 2 creates a simple yet completely original game. You stand above the level, controlling Mario in an attempt to guide a Giant Mole onto a series of moving platforms, up and over a wall to hit a P-Switch on the other side in each room that lets Mario progress down a pipe. The puzzles are relatively simple, but pulling them off is tricky. It’ll take you a little while to get used to guiding the mole with Mario, and you need to be precise, but it’s a cute trick that put a pretty big smile on my face when I figured it out.
- Armada – 39C1-0000-0071-5E18 (Clear Rate 10.21%)
I’ll admit it: I love ship courses. Probably about 70% of the levels I make myself are ship courses, and Armada makes amazing use of warp pipes to turn this level into one of the coolest examples of a ship course I’ve played in my life. An intricate level with tons of secret areas to explore, I spent way too much time on this one even after beating it the first time. Try out as many pipes as you can to search the hidden areas of the ship for fire flowers to take out tricky enemies along the ship’s deck. This is certainly one of the most traditional Mario levels on this list, but also one I had the most fun with. There’s a reason Nintendo makes levels the way they do. It’s possible to beat it without going into discrete areas, of course. You’ll certainly shave a couple minutes off your time if you do. Yet this level is a testament to the degree of complexity you can have without making it a bloated, troll-fuelled mess.
- 8-1 Crumble Castle – A34D-0000-0199-0C22 (Clear Rate 13.09%)
Another level that feels traditional without being bland. In fact, I actually had to look up whether 8-1 Crumble Castle was a copy of an official Nintendo level before adding it to this list. It’s just that good. This is a castle level and feels appropriately boss-like with frequent hazards and danger everywhere. Like the name implies, floors will crumble underneath Mario and there a few points which require careful demolition on your part to pass through safely. Although the clear rate is low, I actually beat this one with only a moderately-large handful of lives lost. And I had so much fun doing it! It looks intimidating, but it’s fair and there are several checkpoints throughout the level which will make your time easier.
- The Bomb – F0C5-0000-00B3-F23E (Clear Rate 6.58%)
Admittedly, I discovered this level after watching it featured on a PB & Jeff Episode rather than on my own 100 Mario Challenge. So technically it doesn’t fit my criteria for discovery. But The Bomb is just too good not to recommend. The level itself isn’t complicated. It’s a straight bridge. Yet, like the name implies, it’s teeming with wave after wave of red ticking time bob-ombs. The bob-ombs will blow up the bridge as well as Mario if you’re not careful. Timing is everything here, as the bridge slowly gets thinner and thinner, giving you less room to let bombs explode in front of your path without creating further platforming challenges. Later in the level, P-Switches are also added to the mix, floating by on heavenly angel wings. DO NOT TOUCH THEM. I touched them. I regretted it. I died a lot. Consider yourself warned.
- Goomba Factory – 7AD9-0000-00B2-4D4F (Clear Rate 1.70%)
Yes, you read that Clear Rate correctly. This is the second level from the same creator I’m including on this list, even if it is moustache-curlingly evil in its difficulty. A far more complicated build, Goomba Factory has you running against treadmills and avoiding downward-facing pipes spouting Goomas. Be warned: you have to time some of these jumps perfectly. Sometimes all it takes is one missed jump and Mario is either dead or sent flying back to the start. I could not beat this level. I probably never will be able to beat it. But I enjoy playing themed areas and this one definitely speaks to me on that level. I’ll keep trying until it finally frustrates me so much I’ll remove it from my collection.
- Sunken Ship – EF03-0000-01EF-1671 (Clear Rate 15.38%)
I… like an underwater level? Apparently! This wet adventure is a pink coin level that takes full advantage of a ton of Mario Maker’s features. The use of Warp Pipes and P-Switches to both open up and block off hidden areas within the level makes Sunken Ship a totally fun experience. It’s very puzzly, more like a Legend of Zelda dungeon than a Mario level. Your worst enemy in this course will be figuring out the trick to each room. Once you’ve done the mental work you should be able to do beat it again while only losing a handful of lives. Checkpoints will help you out a lot in this one as well.
- Run From Bowser! – AA92-0000-0072-C18C (Clear Rate 26.15%)
Run to the right and use bombs to unblock your path before one of the Bowsers gets you! I usually don’t usually like levels that throw Bowsers at you like candy. It screams new designer to me and usually it’s a sign that the level won’t be very well thought out. Luckily, Run From Bowser! treats Bowser as a legitimate threat. You want to keep him off-screen, and avoid his fireballs as you use bombs to open up new paths in heavily bricked up areas. It would be so much more frustrating as a side-scroller. Since it’s not, even with the threat of Bowsers on your tail, you’ll have a bit of time to think things out. Don’t worry about dying. It should only take a couple tries before you’re able to beat the whole thing in one go.
- Super Manga Bros. – 81C6-0000-00FB-F1B1 (Clear Rate 11.88%)
Costume levels are especially fun when themed appropriately. Setting my heart a flutter in this regard, Super Manga Bros. puts Mario into his Super Mario-Kun costume and breaks the course up into panels to mimic the layout of a manga comic. A little like Warioware, each panel has a small task to accomplish. It might be stomping on three Goombas. It might be using a POW block to take out a row of Hammer Bros. Whatever it is, quickly figuring out which single task you need to do is the name of the game in this level, as some of the panels are set up so that taking your time to think equals death. Although it’s not a level you’ll likely be raving about afterwards, it’s well thought out and accomplished a lot for what it is. I might try doing something similar in a level I go on to create later.
- Bright Blue Sky – DFE5-0000-0193-3CAE (Clear Rate 40.90%)
A simple, uncomplicated level to end the list today somehow just feels right. Bright Blue Sky showcases verticality as it’s all about up and over in this short little bit of fun. You’re hopping on clouds and taking trips on moving platforms to get your character over tall walls. It might be a little easy for your tastes after seeing what some truly in-depth levels can do, but I know after the last nine levels, I needed this level’s clear skies and breathing space and to wash away all the stress I’d built up. No matter how you did on the other levels this week, you can beat this level. And sometimes you just need that to build up your confidence. So show this little diamond in the rough a little love and give yourself a break after the trials I just put you through.
BONUS BILLY LEVEL:
The Five Mushroom Coins – 7EEE-0000-01F3-8931 (Clear Rate 27.27%)
Now that you’ve played 10 of my favourite levels that I’ve discovered, why not try a Mario Maker level that I actually made? The Five Mushroom Coins is an easy little course I came up with after the recent addition of Pink Coins into the game. Make it to the end of the level and back with all five pink coins to unlock the door to the end! Easy enough, right? There’s no checkpoint, but it’s short enough and I left plenty of power-ups around to help you out. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Liked this list? Send me Mario Maker codes for the coolest levels YOU’VE made or discovered to help me out! Each week I’ll be playing through 100 Mario Challenge 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.