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Since a handful of Gameologerinos and I are out there making Super Mario Maker magic, and with our Super Mario Bros. 30th anniversary celebration coming to a close, I thought it prudent to highlight some of my favorite levels designed by Gameological readers. Many of these come straight from the Gameological Steam group’s Mario Maker level exchange, so if you’re looking for more courses or a place to share your own creations, be sure to hop in that thread.
I also went ahead and recorded video of each level. Keep in mind, this is footage of the courses from start to finish, so if you’d rather experience any of the surprises and puzzle solutions for yourself, think twice before clicking play.
Commenter TwoPointBro, who goes by Ihab on Miiverse, has designed a bunch of very clever puzzle levels. It’s a close call, but Olimar’s Gardening Breakthrough! has to be my favorite. It’s built around those vine-like piranha-plant stalks and has you jumping between them, clinging to their scrawny stems for dear life. There’s a single extended puzzle, but the solution, and the puzzle itself, isn’t immediately obvious—as long as you’ve got those horrible, spoiler-filled Miiverse comments turned off. It’s going to take some exploration and careful observation to piece it together, but the breakthrough is worth it. Bonus points for the inspired use of the Olimar costume.
Red Vs Green is Drinking With Skeleton’s take on the harrowing airship levels of Super Mario Bros. 3. If, like me, you’re hard-headed and choose to skip the door right at the start, it opens with a tough climb up the side of a ship’s jet engines. Beyond that point, it turns into a hellacious warzone, like any airship level worth its salt. It’s a tough but fair course in a traditional Mario style, something that’s laudable and surprisingly rare in Mario Maker.
In this course, Steam user BryanClarkAnderson experimented with thwomps to create a series of increasingly complex obstacles. It’s an example of the satisfying level design that can be accomplished when you pick a theme, stick to it, and riff on it—easing players in and challenging them to push your teachings in new directions. I especially love the closing stretch, which lets you turn the tables on the thwomps in a way that I’ve also employed in one of my levels.
Normally, when I run into a ludicrously difficult Mario Maker level, I’ll give up after several tries and move on. Exy’s Tubular Trip, however, had me banging my head against its despicable spiny walls until I was able to reach that flagpole. Inspired by Balloon Fight and Super Mario World’s infamous Tubular stage, it has you piloting a lakitu cloud through a maze of spikes and killer squid—with the fiendishly clever addition of flying trampolines that serve no purpose but to bounce you into said spikes. After a few dozen attempts, I worked out my route and made it through. The key difference between a level like this and one that I’d have abandoned is fairness and length. It’s well paced, and there’s a clear path through the course; the hard part is working it out and mastering it. And the deaths don’t feel so bad when they only cost you less than a minute of play. In the spirit of Tubular Trip, though, I chose to use one of my more heartbreaking runs for the video.
This is another relatively traditional Mario level—a run through Bowser’s fire-filled castle ending with the great koopa king’s demise. But through the careful placement of stray blocks and platforms, Naked Snake builds in just enough breadcrumbs to pique the player’s curiosity during their first, relatively uneventful run through the stage. As the title alludes, you can’t help but feel there are some secrets tucked away just out of sight.
This is the most complex level I’ve come across so far. In a stunning display of Mario Maker prowess and critical thinking, BRICK 101 has recreated the earliest segment of the original Legend Of Zelda—a bit of the open overworld and the entire first dungeon—and translated that game’s structure and trappings into its closest Mario approximation. That includes a method of creating chains of discrete puzzle rooms and clever replacements for locked doors and even a boss fight. There are tons of alternate routes and puzzle solutions in this sprawling epic. At nearly five-minutes long, the video of my playthrough only scratches the surface. Find this course immediately.