Today is the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros.

I didn’t get a NES until 1987. I got the Deluxe Set with Gyromite and Duck Hunt, and also Super Mario Bros. and Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins. Of course, each following Mario had a “story” behind it: I got Super Mario Bros. 2 for Christmas of 1988 from our local Movieland. Super Mario Bros. 3 was from a Dallas trip, and so on and so on. And certainly, I’ve liked Mario when he made the jump to 3D (and yet, I’ve never been terribly impressed by the New Super Mario Bros. series, but loved 3D Land/World). Some have blasted Mario for being “too kiddie” in light of brown and grey FPS space marine titles, but the level design has always been solid.

And now it’s time to make our own Mario.

The user interface is flat-out based off of Mario Paint (another title I could tell endless stories about), and unlike most “world builder” games, this feels like creating art. Using the stylus and gamepad, players can draw, shake, and tap their way into all sorts of levels in all sorts of environments from all sorts of Marios (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U). The loss of Super Mario Bros. 2/Doki Doki Panic was a real shame, but even then, there’s a nod or two in-game.

And yet, Super Mario Maker excels in so many areas. No longer holding onto the straight-laced, coddlingly hand holding feel that Nintendo had during the Wii era, Nintendo has just cut loose with this editor throwing in crazy special effects, sounds, enemy placements…. Nothing makes sense anymore. The whole Mario world has been turned on its side, and it couldn’t be any more refreshing. Having dancing girls surround Mario, or lights, or underground parties, or giant winged Piranha Plants…. The game just throws its hands up and says “Do whatever. We’re here if you need us, though.” The instruction manual, with hostess Mary O., is amusing and silly at times, but also very helpful.

Even Amiibo has a significant part in game. All of those little figurines that you might have translate into playable characters. Yes, even Pac-Man, Mega Man, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Yes, Sonic is in a real licensed Mario game just bouncing around. And even if you don’t have all of those near-impossible find figures, there’s no worry. Doing the “100 Mario Challenge” nets you all the Amiibo out (HA) in retail, and a few odd choices that really just rounds out all the Nintendo bases. There are… some pleasant surprises, and hands down, the best usage of Amiibo to date.

The real joy, however, is in the levels. There is a newly growing community of user created levels that increases every second. Play levels, find your favorites, make friends, provide feedback. Share. Discuss. Create. It’s actually somewhat beautiful. Two days in, I’ve met some very nice people, played some absurdly creative levels, and even played a few that were designed by a sadist (my nephew is closing in on “diabolical villain status” with some of his challenges). People help each other in-level with comments (which unfortunately can visually obscure some crucial action points), but outside of that, there’s zero hand holding. It gets about as old-school as it can be. I played one level where I had to invoke some Metroid and Double Dragon level “game breaking” techniques to get through a particularly nasty round. But I did it. And I loved it.

Speaking of “two days”, that’s how long Nintendo wanted me to wait between each set of parts. I’ve heard reports of everything between 15 minutes to one day, but my game wanted me to wait two days a pop for set pieces, and I wasn’t having it. So I “time traveled” via system settings. I get the whole “not having everything at once” idea, but the two day time limit was far too excessive for my tastes. The first set of items was nice enough, but didn’t really round out the full experience.

Honestly, Super Mario Maker is a “must have” if you love Nintendo, Mario games, or platformers in general. There is something so amazingly pure about the game, and while the early Mario games have been released 100 times over as the years have gone by, this game hit a primal set of feelings in me about why I have loved this series for the past three decades. It reopened that sense of wonder and excitement that I had as a kid, never knowing what was past that next jump, or that immense feeling of satisfaction after beating a really difficult level (by the way, users cannot post a level that they cannot actually beat themselves, so not flat-out trolling can be involved). And the Mario Paint nods are just cake frosting. While Wii U may be known as the “troubled” system, it has been knocking it out of the park in terms of amazing gaming content regardless. This is a “must-get” game that deserves its spot in your gaming library. It’s worth buying a Wii U for. I can only hope for a 2D Zelda Maker.

The offerings for Super Mario’s 25th anniversary were mediocre at best. Nintendo brought everything to the table for this one.

Happy birthday, Super Mario Bros.

(Here is my Miiverse profile if you want to find my levels)

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