Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS Review — Working Within the Limits

on November 30, 2016 8:55 AM

Nintendo’s Super Mario Maker made waves across Nintendo fans last year when it originally launched on Wii U. Offering wannabe game designers a more-than-competent toolset to create amazing Super Mario courses, the title was an overnight success for the home console. Trying to capitalize on the success, Nintendo announced a 3DS port — aptly titled Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS — allowing for the same creativity on the go. However, does the game offer enough to surpass the Wii U version?

The simple answer is no — the Wii U version is better nearly across the board in everything that makes Super Mario Maker great. However, that shouldn’t disparage Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS — the port is more than competent, and an easy recommendation for those that don’t own the base game.

Starting with the good, Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS has by far the better method of unlocking the palette tools — the objects needed to create your own levels. Super Mario Maker on Wii U operated on a timed-unlock period; after five minutes of tinkering around in level creation, players would get a “shipment” of new tools that would continually unlock until all the tools were available.

Conversely, Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS features an exclusive campaign mode dubbed “Super Mario Challenge” mode. The mode is a collection of 100 handcrafted Super Mario courses from Nintendo themselves, put together in a collection of worlds and castles. After defeating the castle in each world, players unlock a small shipment of creation tools.

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Overall, this revamped delivery system is superb — not only is it great to have a steady supply of Nintendo-crafted levels (which are all superb in their own right), but it acts as a great introduction into the items and mechanics of each Mario setting. Players who may be unfamiliar with objects like Shell Helmets and Goomba’s Shoe will get experience trying it out well before they are able to put it in their own levels.

Also worth noting is the difficulty is fairly easy until the last world or two. Out of the 18 worlds, I wouldn’t die more than once or twice per level until the last two or three worlds. However, that is only for completing the level — each stage in Super Mario Challenge has two medal challenges that will significantly ramp up difficulty for more hardcore players and completionists. Example tasks that may be asked of you is to go through the level with only killing one type of enemy, or continuing on the screen without releasing the button to go right. The extra tasks add significant replayability and some much appreciated challenge to what would otherwise be a cakewalk of a campaign mode.

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However, after Super Mario Challenge, nearly everything in Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is a mild-to-significant downgrade from the Wii U counterpart. Most notable among the problems, 3DS level creators are not able to share their stages online like they would be able to on the Wii U version. Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS instead offers local support and StreetPass support, but it seems hard to motivate yourself to create levels if few people are able to experience the fruit of your labor.

Although Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is able to play and download courses uploaded by the Wii U creators, there are occasional drawbacks. 100 Mario Challenge mode remains unscathed in the transition, allowing players to choose a difficulty level (Easy, Normal, Expert, or Super Expert) and play a collection of levels with 100 lives. The mode is great for those looking for a quick challenge at modifiable difficulty levels, and runs smoothly.

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However, the other aspect of Course World has been noticeably stripped of all the features that made it great for the original Super Mario Maker. On the Wii U version, players were able to search and filter through user-created levels based on difficulty, stars (a virtual thumbs-up on the course), creation date, Course IDs, and more. Out of the game, players were able to navigate Super Mario Maker‘s Bookmark website that allows users to search through the archive, bookmark stages, and easily access the levels later.

In contrast, Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is just a more bare-bones take on 100 Mario Challenge. Players are able to filter solely by difficulty and the list will auto-populate with a random collection of levels with no rhyme or reason. Without custom searches or the ability to filter further, I was stuck playing a fair amount of garbage levels — something I never needed to worry about on the Wii U version.

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Of course, this is likely one of the many technical drawbacks from moving from the Wii U to the under-powered Nintendo 3DS. Thankfully, most impacts are highlighted in the changed design of the game — scaling back features. Technically, the game plays as well as it does on the Wii U (at least playing with the New Nintendo 3DS). With my 15 hours with the game, I didn’t notice any substantial slowdown or framerate issue. And while it may be obvious to most, it is worth noting that the HD display for the original version trounces the tiny displays available for Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS.

Speaking of modes, Level Creator is as dynamic and simple on Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS as it was on the original version. A nice touch added to this version is some tutorials from pigeon Yamamura and customer service representative Mary O. that help take you through both basic and advanced tips. As I mentioned above though, it is hard to get excited about making levels when your ability to share them is severely limited.

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Last but not least, there are a few missing features between versions — event courses, mystery mushrooms, and amiibo support are nowhere to be seen.

With all that said, Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is still a great holiday buy for gamers that only own a Nintendo 3DS. The game acts like a quick Super Mario campaign with an accompanying endless collection of levels — and endless Super Mario levels is never a bad thing. Despite a fantastic new delivery system found in Super Mario Challenge, too may of the downgrades strip the components of Super Mario Maker that made it a breakaway success on Wii U.

 /  Editor-in-Chief
Lou Contaldi is the Editor-in-Chief at DualShockers, specializing in both reviews and the business behind gaming. He began writing about tech and video games while getting his Juris Doctor at Hofstra University School of Law. He is maybe the only gaming journo based in Nashville, TN.