5/5, Wii U, £39.99

To mark Mario’s 30th anniversary, Nintendo have let their iconic mascot loose in an ever-changing set of worlds, as Super Mario Maker allows players to assemble their very own levels and share these creations with other players across the globe.

Obliquely inspired by cult SNES favourite Mario Paint, everything about the game feels like a celebration of Nintendo history, with a plethora of unlockable costumes that allow you to control over a hundred Nintendo-related sprites. These can be unlocked via Amiibos or by finishing the slyly knowing ‘100 Mario Challenge’ mode, which sends players on a Sisyphean quest to rescue a Daisy that always stays one castle out of reach.

By devolving creative power to the end users, Super Mario Maker represents a sea change in Nintendo's previously rather insular attitude. PC gamers may be used to modding games, but this is the first time a gaming giant like Nintendo has invited players to take full control of their most famous assets - the very building blocks of their gaming heritage – and every bumbling Goomba, question mark and pipe-dream is available to arrange as you see fit.

There are very few limits to design - you can make the sky rain 1-ups, stack the Hammer Brothers ten high, set giant fire-breathing Piranha plants snapping in mid-air, and drop as many Thwomps as you can pencil into the ample grid. Designers can choose the looks and moves from the four featured titles - Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Brothers Wii U - at the touch of the Gamepad, although you can’t mix and match elements between the styles.

The editing tools make great use of the Gamepad, and the touchscreen interface is straightforward and clear, although probably best used with a stylus for precision. Players select which piece they wish to position, and either click it into place, or drag-and-drop in the case of modifiers and power-ups such as putting wings on a Koopa, or hiding a star inside a brick. Pipes and platforms can be stretched to fit, and you can be as generous with the fireflowers as you wish.

Features are unlockled in increments over the course of nine days from starting the game, and although there has been a slight ripple of discontent in the online community regarding this delayed gratification, it honestly doesn't feel an inconvenience, as from day one there is more than enough available to occupy even the most avid platforming fan. With a rapidly ballooning selection of home-brewed courses to work through, it's almost an infinite Mario game.

Already the community has provided some innovative designs. There are popular 'ride' levels where simply pressing forward will lead you through an 8-bit rollercoaster where each move is perfectly choreographed for you. Another favourite level of mine required Mario to remain small to fit through a tiny gap to reach the goal – except the course was overrun with mushrooms, neatly inverting a central trope of the series so that the power-up becomes a hindrance rather than help. Already variations on other games have popped up, with designers mimicking titles like Donkey Kong Country, Flappy Bird and Super Metroid.




Fittingly for such a landmark release, Koji Kondo composed the game's soundtrack, the first time he has been the sole composer of a game since Ocarina of Time in 1998, and the resulting music is excellent, full of spirit and invention. The ability for players to add their own sound effects can threaten to overwhelm the music however, as levels become a cacophony of squawking parrots, honking horns and cymbal crashes.

Visually, it's a chance to examine the passage of time, as Mario and his Mushroom Kingdom brethren evolve through each of the featured incarnations. Each has a unique charm, but personally I find the aesthetics of Super Mario World hard to beat and having the opportunity to take it apart brick by brick is almost endlessly fascinating.

It would be the icing on an already rather large cake if Nintendo were to keep up the recent high quality of their downloadable content and add further titles to the roster in the future, as many would-be creators would welcome the chance to use elements from Yoshi’s Island or Super Mario Bros. 2. Perhaps the only slight complaint is that you can't create your own world map, so although you can build levels and play them in order, you can't truly create a Mario World of your own - this could perhaps be remedied in future updates.

As a child of the eighties, many rainy afternoons were spent sat in mobile classrooms, doodling my own designs for Mario stages during history lessons. Super Mario Maker never disappoints as it belatedly brings those daydreamed pencil creations into glorious technicolour reality.