I just put the finishing touches on a brand new stage for Mario to conquer with friends and strangers at the helm. There are enemies galore in my aptly named stage "Enemies Galore!," with Goombas and Koopa Troopas lining also almost every square of the arena provided for my customization. With a few quick taps my stage is uploaded to the world, and I can either choose to keep building or try some courses of my own.

This is the beauty of Super Mario Maker, the coolest idea to come from the minds of Nintendo in quite some time. This game gives me the power to do something I never could before: take the Super Mario formula for building challenging stages and create my own Mario opus, then upload that stage for the world to get their hands on. It's charming, it's addicting, and the best game Nintendo has put out this year.

There are two facets to the Super Mario Maker experience: course building and course playing. Playing courses is simple, just click through a few menus and get cracking. After playing a stage, I can comment on it via Miiverse or give it a star rating to let the creator know what I thought of it before moving on to the next one. If I want more of a challenge I can try 10 or 100 Mario Mode, a gauntlet of courses where I only have so many lives to complete a set number of stages one after another. The 10 Mario Mode uses sample courses with the game, but the 100 Mario playlist comes from the rest of the world. As some of those random stages can be downright nasty, the extra 90 lives are very much appreciated.


The meat of this game clearly lies in the stage creation suite, which includes just about everything you can imagine from the Super Mario universe. Platforms, power-ups, blocks, you name it from Mushroom Kingdoms past and it's in here ready to be tinkered with. I can adjust the size of the stage from left to right, I can designate if I want my stage to take place in the sky or close to the ground, and I can add as many elements in as many crazy combinations as my imagination will allow. If I want to put up a bridge swarming with Goombas sporting Spiny hats, I can do it. If I want the clear flag to be right next to the start point with one measly challenge, I can do that too. The Mario world is my oyster, and there's nothing that can hold me back.

The sheer amount of nods and Easter eggs to Mario games past is even more impressive. Costumes can be unlocked featuring other Nintendo characters, and the game will change certain elements to fit whichever character costume is being worn. For example, finishing a stage while dressed as Ness results in the Earthbound battle victory tune being played. The Little Mac costume changes the jumping noise to the jumping punch sound from Punch-Out!!. The Sonic costume turns Mario into his greatest nemesis and inserts him into a Super Mario Bros. level, creating quite the paradox for longtime console war fanatics.


The only hangup with my experience so far is how long it takes to get the entire creation suite unlocked. Much was made before the game's launch about how it would take nine days for all of the parts to become available, and I absolutely had to wait nine days before I could play with everything. After the nine days this isn't a big issue, but a lot of creativity can be stifled by not yet having the part I think I need. One of my biggest goals in the game was to create levels based on Super Mario Bros. 3, yet the parts didn't come for five days. That's an issue for the impatient players among us, of which I bet there's a few.

The strange unlock system does not dissuade me, however, from proclaiming Super Mario Maker to be a bonafide classic for the Wii U. On the surface this is not a gigantic game -- the digital download is less than a gigabyte of data, after all -- but this little software that could allows for more imagination than anything else I've played this year. Everyone from the classic Mario Bros. era to the current wave of video games will feel right at home with Super Mario Maker, and I would encourage everyone to don the yellow hard hat and get cracking.

This review was completed using a digital copy of Super Mario Maker provided by the publisher for Nintendo Wii U.