Super Mario Maker for 3DS is Already Mediocre At Best

The announcement of Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS during Thursday’s Nintendo Direct was exciting, but the game is already very mediocre.

Roughly 28 percent of all Wii U owners have Super Mario Maker. More specifically, consumers worldwide have purchased a total of 3.65 million units (digital and retail) of the game, according to Nintendo’s most recent sales data report, dated June 30, 2016. Furthermore, Super Mario Maker is currently the 7th best-selling Wii U game, sandwiched between Splatoon (4.42 million units) and New Super Luigi U (2.64 million units). Super Mario Maker launched worldwide less than one year ago.

It’s safe to say Super Mario Maker has turned out to be an overwhelming success for Nintendo. But what will the upcoming portable version of the game offer over its bigger and much better-looking sibling? How will Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS appeal to consumers enough to make them want to buy it? Will consumers pay $40 and receive $40 worth of first-party content?

“This new game is all about playing courses — anytime, anywhere,” said Samantha Robertson, a localization producer for Nintendo of America, during the Thursday Nintendo Direct presentation. “It gives you 100 built-in courses designed by Nintendo to play right out of the box.”

Playing Super Mario Maker on the go is an excellent idea, and I’m happy to see Nintendo offer that as an additional option for Nintendo 3DS owners. It’s appealing, and it’s not something the Wii U version is capable of providing. In addition, the 3DS version will feature Medal Challenges; players can challenge themselves by collecting all coins or defeating all enemies for a single course to earn its respective shiny medal — something else the Wii U version does not offer. While these additional goodies may spark appeal, Nintendo made noteworthy sacrifices to the portable version of the create-and-share-your-own-levels hit. And those sacrifices may end up lowering once-raised brows.

Quite simply, Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS lacks hallmark features and creative content found in the Wii U version of the game — features and content that helped shape, mold, and catapult the HD hit far and wide over all other video games shortly after its release. For example, Super Mario Maker walked away with seven industry-recognized awards in 2015. Earlier this year it won three awards. But what’s missing in the 3DS version?

Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS will let you go online to play courses made only with Wii U version, and even that’s very limited. Namely, you won’t be able to search by Course ID, but you can play 100 Mario Challenge and any course available in the Recommended Courses listing. But there’s more.

“While not every course created in the Wii U version will be compatible with Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS, we’re confident there will be no shortage of great content for you to play,” Robertson explained further. “You’ll also be able to pick courses directly from your local friends.”

The 3DS version will include every tool and course element that’s available in the Wii U version. However, the vastly popular Mystery Mushroom item and its abundant variety of lively character-themed Mario costumes are exclusive only to the Wii U version of the game. (Courses designed specifically for earning Mystery Mushroom Costumes are likely not playable in the Nintendo 3DS version, as previously hinted at above.)

Here’s Nintendo’s excuse for all the cut content: “We’re focused on bringing players together with their local friends to build communities that are more closely knit. So instead of uploading courses online, courses you make will [only] be sharable via local wireless and StreetPass.” In addition, the 3DS version will let players share incomplete courses via local wireless so other players can pitch in to help finish them. How can something like that even be fun? It’s already frustrating, tedious, and time-consuming enough to create courses solo in the Wii U version.

My response? Big deal. Playing with friends via wireless on Nintendo 3DS is past its prime. Sure, there are people who still enjoy that, but it’s not an activity a majority of Nintendo 3DS owners routinely participate in. And StreetPass is, for the lack of better words, a joke in North America where the population density is far less than that of Japan — although the new StreetPass Mii Plaza games will help to rekindle an interim interest.

Why make a Nintendo 3DS version of Super Mario Maker when so many people already have it on Wii U. More importantly, why would consumers want a watered down portable version over the superior and robust Wii U version? Surely it’s not because Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS is rich with fresh content, unique features, and the restricted limitations of sharing their creations only via wireless or StreetPass.

It’s like Nintendo already wants its fans to abandon Super Mario Maker on Wii U for the 3DS version. Or perhaps their goal is to slowly divert consumers away from Wii U. As a consumer, I appreciate having a variety of purchase options at my disposal. However, I would much rather see Nintendo evolve the Wii U version into something better over time with steady software updates. After all, it’s not even one year old. Why haven’t they added the course elements for the Super Mario Bros. 3 slopes yet? Is that a more difficult development task than creating a portable version of Super Mario Maker? Better yet, Nintendo should have challenged themselves to make that “Zelda Maker” they shied away from in June 2015. But maybe they already are.

Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS launches on December 2. It will sell decently because it will ride on the success and hype that Super Mario Maker continues to maintain for Wii U. With that in mind, the lack of renown features found only in the Wii U version won’t have people talking much about it and, as a result, will score mediocre at best among industry critics. Graphics and power aside, those unaware of what the Wii U version offers — specifically the lack of online course sharing — likely won’t blink twice and will quickly appreciate and embrace what Nintendo has brought to the Nintendo 3DS family of systems. However, I will be truly surprised if Nintendo manages to find their intended audience with Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS.