With the arrival of Super Mario Maker 2 and its pretty spectacular level-making component, there also comes the opportunity for us fans to wear our Shigeru Miyamoto hats in order to try our hands at some level-design – an activity that ends up revealing itself to be not only rewarding, but also quite hard. So, like I did the last time around, I decided to gather the stages I have constructed so far in a post to share them with those who visit this space as well as to talk a little bit about what went into their creation.
As usual, feedback is appreciated. And if you do give them a try, I hope you have some fun.
This stage is better summed up as a haunted house with a whole lot of vines and Piranha Plants. Something about how the colors of those assets contrasted with the black background of the Ghost House theme in Super Mario Bros. 3 really caught my eyes, and it all started from there. As far as levels of the sort go, this is a pretty straightforward and generally linear journey, but I tried to throw some surprises along the way, including rooms that are completely infested with the creatures and something akin to a boss encounter.
Here is yet another case where the first component of the stage in which I settled was the theme. I was casually browsing through all of the options the game offers when I stumbled upon the snow template of Super Mario World, which – as far as my memory goes – did not appear in the game itself, a fact that made it very refreshing to me. To try to put it to good use, I placed Mario in these alps that have been taken over by Chomps. As it happens in many mountain regions of the world, players will encounter lifts (moving platforms) and caves with icicles, which work alongside the titular enemy as the main obstacles that have to be surpassed.
The Flooded Jungle
Differently from the previous two stages, The Flooded Jungle started with an idea related to gameplay. I thought it would be cool if Mario constantly found his path forward blocked by walls only to have to go to another environment to flip the switch that would get rid of them. It was only afterwards that I came to the conclusion the main route would be a forest, and the switches would all be underwater in the river, a location reached by pipes. And that is what The Flooded Jungle is: broken up into six sections with progressive difficulty, Mario has to get to the pipe, go into the water, hit the switch, and then move to the next segment.
Traveling through the desert, our hero finds some abandoned ruins. Looking around, he realizes the only way to reach the other end of the area is by going through them, and to make matters worse, the massive underground building is none other than the tomb of the legendary pharaoh Bootankhamun, who is very much looking forward to having some extra company during his eternal slumber. The place is filled with spikes, ghosts, moving platforms, and all sorts of deadly traps; and before he succeeds in getting out, Mario will frequently run into Bootankhamun and his royal guards, who will keep cornering him until he has no choice but to acquire the sacred artifact that will allow him to defeat the pharaoh and escape.
One of the biggest new features of Super Mario Maker 2 is the ability to create a vertical level, and from the moment I heard about that welcome addition I thought that putting together some sort of mountain-climbing stage would be interesting. Since the snow theme fit like a glove in that context, my mind immediately turned to the NES game Ice Climber, where the starring duo of Nana and Popo – of Super Smash Bros. fame – had to ascend peaks that were nothing but a sequence of vertical platforms sprinkled with enemies here and there. And that is pretty much what Ice Climbing is; using a combination of semi-solid bridges and ice cubes, I assembled a series of levels that get progressively harder to clear the closer Mario gets to the summit.
Legend of the Five Red Coins
In Legend of the Five Red Coins, I take a shot at making a Super Mario World level whose structure tries to somewhat emulate the open-ended nature of the worlds of titles like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Odyssey. To do that, I used what the game calls Pink Coins. When collected in their totality, they gift Mario with a key that – in the case of this course – opens a door that leads to the goal. In order to acquire them all, though, the plumber will need to explore a wide open area with mountains, caves, giant mushrooms, and a whole lot of enemies. Each coin lies behind one tricky platforming challenge, and as the arrows by the pipe that leads to the heart of the course indicate, it is up to players to decide where to go and what to do first.
The name of the course should be familiar to anyone who went through Hallownest, the bug kingdom that serves as the setting for Hollow Knight. The Deepnest is one of that game’s toughest and most notable locations due to its ominous darkness, its confined spaces, and the bugs that crawl through its halls. My take on it is not too different; using the underground theme of Super Mario Bros., which can get quite creepy, I created a series of tight caves filled with Spike Tops, and since the critters’ defenses make killing them without a Koopa shell, a Super Star, or a POW Block (which are not available here) impossible, the hero has no choice but to carefully navigate the tunnels of the place.
As the stage’s name ought to make it clear, my main focus here was to join water and fire to create an underwater volcanic region. In giving life to that concept, I alternated open chambers with a lot of Cheep Cheep with tighter caves where fire blocks the way and a combination of timing and patience is required to advance. Every once in a while, though, fish and fire will come together in the same segment to elevate the challenge.
At first, the setting of the inside of a glacier was meant to be the second part of the Ice Climbing level, as Mario would move up the mountain only to then go into its icy entrails; however, when I concluded the construction of the ascent of that stage, I figured its length was already sufficient, and that any addition – especially a whole other area – would potentially make it too big. As such, the Fiery Glacier was born as a standalone course. Truth be told, I had already tried my hand at a level of the sort in the original Super Mario Maker, but this time around (to go along with the slippery floors) I chose to sprinkle some fire-related obstacles into the formula to make it stand out.
Hammer Bros. Castle Shootout
Much like the Fiery Glacier, Hammer Bros. Castle Shootout is a level where I revisit a concept with which I had toyed in the first Super Mario Maker; in this case, having Mario go through a course in which he must board a fire-shooting Koopa Clown Car to avoid hazards and blast foes away. However, while in that occasion my setting of choice was a series of clouds infested with Piranha Plants, this time around, the location is Bowser’s Castle and the foes that serve as the main antagonists are the Hammer Bros. Frequently, I arranged them in ways that force Mario to shoot them down before advancing, and in some places I paired them up with all sorts of fire hazards. I think it is a stage that packs a good punch; so much, in fact, that the last time I checked, it had yet to be cleared, which surprised to some degree, as it is a hard level, but not that difficult.
In Wiggler Mountain I experiment with yet another new feature of Super Mario Maker 2: the clearing conditions. To make the goal appear, players need to go through the course and get rid of the five Wigglers that inhabit the mountain. Since the creatures are not exactly easy to kill, Mario will have to dispose of them by finding a pipe that spits out Koopa Troopas, acquiring a shell, and taking it to the place where the caterpillar is hanging out. As such, I divided the stage into five segments each separated by a vine and a pipe, as the former serves as a way to stop gamers from getting a shell from one area and taking it to another. There is some backtracking at play here, because sometimes the Wiggler is at the beginning of the section and the Koopa Troopas as well as the exit to the next portion lie at its end, but I tried my best not too make those retreads too frustrating.