If you’re looking for a new video game to play with your kids, look no further than the recently-released Nintendo Switch title Super Mario Maker 2. For those unfamiliar, the game lets you build your own 2D Super Mario levels from scratch, in a variety of different styles inspired by everything from the original blocky Super Mario Bros. to more modern games like New Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario 3D World.
If that sounds complicated, don’t be scared. Creating these video game levels is easy. The interface is actually a snap, an designed specifically for pretty much anybody to build Mario levels for their kids.
But how do you go about making stuff they’ll actually like? Particularly if they’re just getting started with gaming? Most Mario Maker creators focus on building challenging levels with clever concepts, but that isn’t necessarily what a four-year-old is going to respond to. So that’s where we come in.
It could be argued that a strong relationship with Mario and Nintendo is the key to good parenting. So, here are a few ways to get your kids engaged with Super Mario Maker 2.
Here are eight ways to build great levels, complete with detailed how-to-instructions.
Note: Each entry on this list includes a code for a level you can play in Super Mario Maker 2. Enter the 9-digit code in the “ID” section of the Course World menu and the level should pop right up. Most of these stages were designed by yours truly (my Mario Maker code is DQQ-BL5-HKF) except in cases where others made things better than I could have ever dreamed of.
No Platforming Required
The most frustrating part of any platformer game like Mario is, well, the platforming. So why not do away with all that? You can’t really get rid of jumping altogether, but you can remove those nasty instant-death bottomless pits. Let your kid get used to Mario’s jumping mechanics with low-stress activities like stomping Goombas, bouncing on springs, and busting blocks.
Only Easy Platforming Required
Okay, so your kid has to get used to actual platforming eventually, but you can ease them into it slowly. Make sure the platforms are wide and comfy and the gaps between them aren’t too intimidating. Early in the level, fill in the chasms with bouncy Note Blocks or falling Donut Blocks. Include a couple legit bottomless pits, but save them for the end of the course.
I Love Coooooins!
This level courtesy of Super Mario Maker 2 creator CorysWorld (3YV-79B-80H)
Note: This level is harder than most on this list, but I love the skydiving for coins concept. You can help your kid through the beginning and end of the course (which are the only parts that are difficult) or you can create your own riff on the idea!
It doesn’t matter how much of a prudent socialist you’re raising your child to be, everyone loves that wonderful noise of Mario coins in the pocket. Make your kids a beautiful ode to unchecked capitalism — tellingly, Nintendo restricts the number of most objects you can put in a level, but there doesn’t seem to be a limit on coins. Fill a level with hundreds! Thousands!
What do kids like more than money? Wanton violence, of course! Or, uh, let’s try a more positive spin here — this is about empowering your kids. Yeah! Enemies can be a little scary, but they’ll learn who’s boss soon enough if you provide them with a big pile of powerups and let them run hog wild. And hey, none of those turtles and Buzzy Beetles really die in Mario games. I mean, if they did, Mario would be an absolute monster! Hmmmm.
A Classic Made Easier
Creating custom challenges for your children in Super Mario Maker 2 is great, but what if you want to introduce them to the classic levels you grew up on? One problem — old Mario could be downright sadistic. Well, you can fix that! There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube that will teach you how to make classic levels from the original Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario World and beyond. Once you’ve recreated your favorite old-school stage, start making some of the changes I suggest in the “Easy Platforming” entry above — reduce “dead air,” fill in some pits with extra blocks, replace moving platforms with stationary ones, add more powerups. I made an easier take on Super Mario Bros. World 1-3, which is the game’s first real difficulty spike.
This level courtesy of Super Mario Maker 2 creator Aelias19 (XJM-X2R-1XG)
Are your little pizanos still having trouble with the ideas above? Well, how about a level that plays itself? There’s a whole genre of Mario Maker levels that are essentially elaborate Rube Goldberg machines — just run to the right and you’ll automatically be bounced and tossed through a ridiculous array of crazy hazards. The downside of auto levels is they’re hard to make, requiring a deep understanding of the Mario engine’s physics, but again, they’re popular, so a ton have already been uploaded. I’ve included a particularly intense one above.
And hey, if all else fails, you can always appeal to your kids with cute kitties. For those who haven’t played a new Mario game in a while, yes, the plumber now has a cat powerup, and it’s goddamn adorable. It’s also a lot of fun to use, allowing Mario to scamper up walls and divebomb enemies. Really, it’s the perfect powerup for beginners, so build them a level full of opportunities for feline fun!
Kids can do more than just play Super Mario Maker 2 levels — they can create them, too! The course creation tool might be a little complex for younger children, but you can collaborate. Ask them what enemies to include, let them place all the coins once you’ve got the basic skeleton of the level planned out, ect. Who knows? Maybe you have a budding Shigeru Miyamoto on your hands.
Of course, there’s no wrong answers when it comes to creating Mario levels for your kids. Come up with whatever you want! That said, maybe keep these basic tips in mind…
- Don’t make them too long – We all know what little kid attention spans are like, so best to keep your levels short and sweet.
- Don’t forget those checkpoint flags – Even short levels should still have a checkpoint or two.
- Don’t skimp on the powerups – Always give your kid a mushroom right from the get go and more powerups following pretty much any remotely challenging area.
- Limit “dead air” – No wide chasms or series of platforms floating precariously in space. Let your kid feel secure with lots of solid ground.
- Appeal to their ego – Spell their name out in coins, or write “DAD” in bricks and let them smash the powers that be.
- Use arrows to mark the way – Is there any part of your course where your kid might get lost? Super Mario Maker 2 includes handy arrows so you can point them exactly where to go!
- Avoid those terrifying Chain Chomps and Angry Suns – Those jerks were the bane of my existence as a youngster, and I don’t want your kids to suffer the same fate.
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