Super Mario Maker: Remaking ‘Nintendo Hard’

It’s no secret that this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the original Super Mario Bros. Nostalgia is abound, which is why I’ll be continuing with my memories of the SNES. The first game I played for the console was Super Mario All-Stars. I played through each of the original remakes and Super Mario World. The only game I hardly touched was The Lost Levels. It was hard, very hard. It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I hooked the console back up and took another stab at it. Then I had the patience to uncover hidden blocks, properly time my jumps and figure out the correct paths to advance through the game.

Of course, now I know the whole story. The Lost Levels was, in fact, the original sequel to Super Mario Bros. The Super Mario Bros. 2 released in the states was a retrofit of the Japanese game Doki Doki Panic. The verdict at the time was that the Japanese sequel was too hard for Western players.

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That’s saying a lot, considering the eighties was also the time when the phrase “Nintendo hard” meant something. Nintendo was infamous for its challenging titles that took numerous attempts to master. While some difficulties were due to the technological limitations of the time, other factors such as increasing total gameplay time were also involved. For most of us, the first time experiencing the Japanese sequel was on Super Mario All-Stars.

Naturally there have been some awfully tough levels since The Lost Levels. From “Rainbow Ride” in Super Mario 64 to “The Perfect Run” in Super Mario Galaxy 2, the final levels of these games are extremely difficult to master. Yet these games have something in common: the most challenging levels come near the end. While this makes sense, The Lost Levels was different in that it offered a consistent challenge. Some of the most difficult levels, such as the infamous C-3, are in the middle of the game.

So the question becomes this: will we ever see a “Nintendo hard” type Mario game again?

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Next month Super Mario Maker will be released for the Wii U. We witnessed the unveiling of the game during the Nintendo World Championships – the first since 1990 – in June. The idea of letting players create their own levels was, for me, exhilarating; the equivalent to a bucket of Legos to build my dream city. My favorite feature is the ability to switch your level templates between different generations. 16-bit goombas approaching you in a Super Mario World level can turn three-dimensional like in New Super Mario Bros. U.

It’s no surprise that gamers will take the chance to create impossible levels with hoards of enemies and obstacles. Indeed, we’ve seen such feats as Bowser and an overwhelming number of enemies block the path to the first flag. Once I have Super Mario Maker in my hands, will I go out of my way to create courses that are this difficult? Of course, because that’s part of the fun.

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It’s inevitable, however, that those who appreciate the nuance that goes into level design will create the best courses. After all, The Lost Levels, though frustrating, was also incredibly rewarding. Back in the days of “Nintendo hard,” there was no reward apart from bragging rights. In today’s world of social media, YouTube and Twitch, bragging rights are coupled with video views and subscribers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the levels with clever, sophisticated designs will be ones shared the most; their creators, the most followed. While levels are created one at a time, the ability to share courses can result in a consistent, challenging experience. With the release of Super Mario Maker, we’ll have the ability to crowdsource our experience.

And what better way to celebrate the franchise than to give the reigns over to its several generations of fans? From the “Nintendo hard” era to today, we’ve overcome every level that’s been thrown at us. Now it’s our turn to create, recreate and pass along the flag at the top of the pole.