Yoshi Puzzle 1: Shell Boosting

Course ID: 3E9E-0000-0309-789E

A possibly rare technique involving Yoshi and a Koopa shell.

Concept and theme:
This is a basic puzzle level where you are given the tools immediately (Yoshi and koopa), and your job is to figure out what combination of tricks is required to progress.

The very first technique (used to get the key) was the inspiration for the level (and possible Yoshi Puzzle series). I hadn’t seen this trick used in any other level prior to making this course. I’m not even sure how useful it really is anywhere else, which is probably why nobody ever implements it in their courses.

I am hoping to release other Yoshi Puzzles later. I just need to think of other rare or unique tricks that are hardly useful and require some out-of-the-box thinking.

Puzzle levels are a different animal. When I think of a regular platforming level, the basic goal is to travel through the area and learn as you go. You get used to the spots where you die or barely escape death, and you keep trying with the knowledge and skills that you’ve gained along the way until you get to the end.

For most puzzles, on the other hand, you need to pause and think about how to tackle each obstacle. It’s a lot more problem solving than brute force. I think the best Mario puzzles out there make players really have to think hard to progress, but the solutions are actually really simple or logical once you actually get it. (did that make sense?)

Be on the lookout for more Yoshi Puzzles!

100% Run, From A Non-Speedrunner

This is more of a “fun” rendition of Bowser’s Army Base. A lot of the inspiration for this actually came from watching hundreds of CarlSagan42 and GrandPooBear videos during my lunch breaks. This obviously isn’t kaizo, but it is a decent enough platformer with relatively intense goals (100 coins, three 1-ups, kill Bowser).

I got the idea to make these rules up because it seemed excessively challenging. From the beginning, I never really expected anyone to actually want to do this 100% run because it seems like too much, but that motivated me more to finish the course design. Now, I have a lot of fun playing the course, despite how long it actually took me to record a perfect run. (btw it is incredibly satisfying to hear the 1-up tune on the 100th coin at 6:29).

I, myself, am not much of a speedrunner, nor am I involved in the speed running community. However, as a spectator, I really appreciate speedrunners a lot because of the good influence and professionalism that these pro gamers bring. Before YouTube and Twitch, we would only hear about recent discoveries, new records, or famous gamers from magazines or websites (via text and pictures only). Now, when there is a new glitch or trick, it’s plastered everywhere in online videos for everyone to view, try, and verify (sort of scientific). Or, for general entertainment or charities, people compete for world records on a week by week basis across different countries – even for games that are over 20-30 years old.

How crazy is it that we have come this far in the video game world? Now, you can play games for a living, help a local cause, or entertain thousands to millions of people at a time.

Bowser’s Army Base

Course ID: 0EDA-0000-0309-788B

Bust through Bowser’s headquarters, full of enemies and obstructions.

Concept and theme:
I wanted to make a difficult (but not kaizo) platformer course themed after SMB1’s castle levels. This one was really fun to create because I wanted to make it a really big level but keep it linear and only one floor. Designing it this way makes everything visible and allows each progressing challenge to have an obvious solution. The only difficult part is the execution.

Continuing with the Bowser theme series, this course is meant to feel like Mario has infiltrated the enemy base, and all of Bowser’s minions are trying to stop Mario from going deeper. After reaching 6 floors down, Mario gets to kill Bowser and destroy the base.

This is one of those levels where I don’t believe seeing the solution ruins the experience because the challenge itself is getting through the whole level. To me, it is a well-balanced mix of fun and difficulty, and I myself still enjoy playing the course from time to time.

Soft-lock: The worst design flaw?

“Soft Lock: Mario is stuck so player must either let time expire or reset level.”

Soft locks might be the most annoying experience in Mario Maker. Whether it is an accident in a well-designed course or intentional deception from a troll level, soft locks cause one of the most frustrating feelings to most players, unless you have absolutely nothing to do and don’t mind waiting roughly 450 or so in-game seconds to time-out. Sure, it might make sense for some puzzle levels to trap players for making mistakes, but generally, I believe all platformers should be quality checked extensively to avoid soft locks at all costs, especially kaizo levels.

One of the more overlooked causes of soft locks I’ve seen actually comes from using Bowser Jr. First of all, most people, understandably, use Bowser Jr. for forced boss fights (key doors) because he is the most versatile enemy in the game with so many capabilities:

• Classic 3-bounce kill
• Damages Mario via rolling
• Breaks blocks via rolling
• Spits fireballs
• Throws hammers
• Throws shells
• Stuns Mario via stomp
• Jumps through the floor or roof

Such an amazing move-set. However, too many times, I’ve seen courses where level designers place Bowser Jr. in multiple floor settings and seem to not account for his ability to jump through surfaces. Generally, if Mario does not actively fight Bowser Jr. and they are in one of these multiple floor settings, one of two things can happen that are actually *not* RNG:

(1) if Mario is above or on the same ground level as Bowser Jr., Bowser Jr. will jump high up and stomp the ground, attempting to get to or remain on the same plane as Mario


(2) if Bowser Jr. is on higher ground than Mario and there is valid surface under, he will drop down through the floor to the next bottom level.

The latter is a problem if the lower level is inaccessible for Mario and not intended to be part of the boss fight. If Bowser Jr. goes through the floor and is no longer reachable, Mario is soft locked.

Sadly, this is an offense which I committed recently. My original Bowser’s War Tanks level actually had this issue (depicted in the above image). In the boss fight, Mario ends up in this room, which sits above a tank (valid surface). The following video describes my original level design flaw.

Very briefly, it is possible for Bowser Jr. to drop down and never come back up. Since Mario is trapped in the upper room until the fight is over, there is no way to exit unless either time runs out or he catches a fireball and dies. To fix this, I changed the room to contain a row of trampolines underneath that pushes Bowser Jr. back up if he ever tries to jump down.

Hopefully, more level creators are aware of this and other causes of soft-lock. Remember to always do a thorough quality check before uploading levels!

First Time Building A Mario Level

Bowser’s War Tanks

What was it like for you when you were learning to build on Mario Maker?

Bowser’s War Tanks is one of the first levels I made on MM and is still a favorite in my local circle of friends. If you played World 8 in SMB3, you will quickly see where I drew inspiration. You have no idea how excited I was to make the Complete Run video with the cannon hopping in the beginning.

I started playing Mario Maker probably in the middle of 2016, so I was only just discovering the nuances in the game. The most fascinating thing to me at the time was being able to make enemies giant (like in SMB3 World 4), so I pretty much flooded the underground areas with large enemies randomly.

Another thing I learned was the game’s limitations, particularly with doors and pipes (which I’m sure is something everyone else runs into also). If you played through this level, you’ll know you have different pathways to choose from, which end up going to the same central tank towards the end. I originally built the course to allow you to choose from two completely different paths – super gigantic level. I finished the entire design and saved the pipes for last.

I needed 13 pipes; the game only allows 10.

So I spent the next two days figuring out how to work around the problem, mapping the whole level on a spreadsheet and trying to salvage my work. Luckily, after breaking down walls and combining certain sections, we have the level as it is now.

I am pretty proud of this course overall, especially the boss fight. I personally love the boss room itself, since it has that surprise factor with Bowser Jr.’s behavior.

What was your level-building experience like early on? How did you deal with the game restrictions such as asset and space limits? I would be glad to hear about it.

Bowser’s War Tanks

Course ID: 6FBA-0000-030C-ACFC

Maneuver across and through Bowser’s army of tanks, full of obstacles and traps. As you progress further, more enemies try to stop you.

Concept and theme:
This level was inspired mostly by the traditional platforming style of SMB3, particularly the tanks designs, with the added flair of going inside certain tanks to progress through the level. The various choices are also intended to give the effect of choosing alternate routes throughout the platoon’s “architecture.”

This was one of my earliest stages, and I remember sitting down with the SMB3 blank slate, wondering what I should make. I drew the first tank, and it looked awesome to me. So I started progressing the level with gradually bigger vehicles and more weapons. That looked too similar to SMB3 and felt a little overdone, so I decided to make an underground, which represented going inside the tanks. That seemed kind of cool, and because there were a lot of tanks in the environment, I designed the underground to have mini choices for Mario to decide how to maneuver through Bowser’s army.

Just a slight tidbit: I wanted the very first room to feel as if you were already inside a chamber. Since nothing really happens there, my hope is the player is led to feel like the level doesn’t really start until Mario exits the pipe, which isn’t very typical because, by game-design, that means the outdoor tanks area is actually the “sub-world.”

Overall, this is a typical, fun platformer that is only moderately difficult and is generally pretty simple to figure out. My hope is that it has good replay value, especially with the many combinations of pathways to choose from.

What makes a good level?

I wanted to share my opinion on what makes a good Mario level. I believe that good course design incorporates a balance of fun gameplay with challenging effort – whether achieved through puzzles, obstacles, or quick thinking. I also believe that relatively good levels have some form of the following three major characteristics:

  1. Theme (aesthetics, showcasing a mechanic, focusing on an enemy set, using a particular gameplay style, etc.)
  2. Replay Value (fun to play again or keep trying, alternative experience/route, new challenges, skill development, etc.)
  3. Presentation (look-and-feel that is clever or appealing, layout or pathway that isn’t confusing, appropriate cues for the player, etc.)

These are just my opinions on what constitutes a “good” level, but they stem from my personal experience with and affection for the original Mario games (SMB, SMB3, SMW, and NSMB). Like most players, my passion for Super Mario Maker comes from creating levels that replicate a similar joy that I got from any one of the four official Mario games over the past three decades. My hope is to create levels that hold true to these three core values and offer a fun experience for anyone that plays my courses.

What do you believe makes a good level?

Welcome to my Mario Maker blog!

The purpose of this website is to showcase solutions to my Super Mario Maker levels and supplement my YouTube channel with further discussion and analyses. Various tricks, design elements, nuances, discussion topics, and trivia will be featured and detailed here. I welcome your thoughts and questions, either via comments or email.

I believe that showing solutions to my courses is a positive thing. I remember when I was a kid, I would get frustrated whenever I couldn’t figure out how to beat certain games, and the only option back then was to buy strategy guides for $30 each (money that children usually don’t have). My hope is to offer insight to my levels and encourage players to play through each challenge, but also inspire others with design ideas and fun content.

So, whether you want to see updates or just discuss some details about my levels, I hope you enjoy my blog and YouTube channel, and most of all, have fun playing my levels.