The Best Family Fun Video Console Game For Christmas 2015 Is…

My brother got the hand-held Game & Watch game Fire for Christmas in 1981. He had just turned 12yo and I was 7yo, and probably too young to get one of the first release Game & Watch games myself according to my parents. But I remember playing it. I don’t know whether, in the early days of him having the game it was with his permission or not, but I remember playing it and loving it. Over the next few years to come, either for a birthday, for other Christmases, or when pocket money was saved up and a purchase like this was allowed, between my brother and I, we collected a few.

I remember sitting in the back of my dad’s car heading on family holidays. We’d always go on a two week vacation up north, maybe as far a Queensland’s Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast, but maybe only as far as the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. We’d take our collection of Game & Watches with us and between the two us we’d have enough to keep ourselves occupied and never bored. Even though there was the almost five year difference in age (4 years, 8 months to be exact), when it came to video games or other things we could compete against each other with, my brother always challenged me and I stepped up to meet the challenge, often with ease.

We weren’t the closest of brothers, but now, in my adult life, especially as a father of two boys myself, I can see that the age gap was often the barrier. It’s the same with my own boys who are 2 years, 8 months apart. Sometimes the younger one can step up and play with the bigger one, but there are times when he most certainly can not do this, and doesn’t that annoy the crap out of his older brother.

Nintendo's Game & Watch - Fire Photo credit: Nintendo Wikia
Nintendo’s Game & Watch – Fire Photo credit: Nintendo Wikia

Last Christmas, the main thing that our first born wanted was a Nintendo DS. Although he really wanted the Nintendo 3DS, after research carried out by my wife and I about the 3D technology not being best for kids under 7yo, we bought the 2DS. The other reason why I thought that one would be best is because it didn’t fold over, being a solid one piece unit, and knowing that the (then) 3yo would get his dirty hands on it, it was the best decision. And of course, for my regular readers, this is the unit that our son ranted about when his mother borrowed it, and left the charger in her handbag. I’ll link that story at the end because if you missed, you are missing one funny story.

Over the years, besides the Game & Watches and now the 2DS, I have owned a few of the Nintendo gaming consoles, with the Nintedo Wii being the last console I bought when our first born was, well, first born. As I’m not a massive gamer myself in my adult life (I love to play when I can, but it’s not my priority), we’ve held off buying a console until the boys were older. We’ve done this for a few reasons, but mostly because our youngest son moonlights as Captain Destructo™, a superhero villian that can destroy anything, just by looking at it.

But that might change now…

Recently I got my hands on a game that is exclusive to the Nintendo Wii U which is Nintendo’s latest home gaming console. I was sent this game to check out and review, but unfortunately I didn’t have the console to play it on. But Nintendo Australia stepped up and sent me a Wii U console to borrow. How cool is that? (Answer: very cool).

The game I was sent is Super Mario Maker. Super Mario Maker is based on the much loved Super Mario series. September 2015 saw the 30th Anniversary of the much loved Mario Bros. having been released all the way back in September 1983. And even though games have progressed further than the 8-bit games of the early 1980s, kids still love the Super Mario series platform games because they are the best for entry level into the world of gaming. And us older kids still love them too, because, games.

Nintendo Australia's Super Mario Maker display at a recent gaming exhibition in Sydney
Nintendo Australia’s Super Mario Maker display at a recent gaming exhibition in Sydney. Apologies for the bad lighting but this was the night before the exhibition had opened while it was still being set up.

The difference with Super Mario Maker is, this game allows you to build your own levels and play them yourself, or load them up to the Internet and have random people play your level. Alternatively, and what was done in our household, you can create a level and then hand the control over to your son (in my case) or your brother (in the case of my sons) and have them attempt it. Of course, because of this feature, the games available are endless.

Check out this trailer for the game and then read my review afterwards.

The thing that I love about Super Mario Maker is that it can bring kids together. Although there’s still an element of competing against each other by building levels for your siblings, cousins or friends, in the case of my own boys, it brought them together to watch what each other created. And while watching them create the levels, you could see their little brains working in a different way to how they react to simply playing the game.

The game is preloaded with levels that you can play from the get go, but it’s the creative side of it that impressed me. It reminds me of a game I fell in love with back in the early 1990s which was the 4D race simulator, Stunts. For me, creating my own tracks and then seeing how good I was on that track I built was better than playing other driving simulators because after a while you’re just going round and around, and you are limited by the tracks available.

Super Mario Maker’s “maker” element is great. And both my kids enjoyed that part of the game.

The stylus tool on the Wii U's handheld console makes it easy to create the levels. CLick here to watch a video of my kid doing just that.
The stylus tool on the Wii U’s handheld console makes it easy to create the levels. Click here to watch a video of my kid doing just that.

When I quizzed the boys, both of whom who had never played any of the Mario Bros. games before about their favourite thing besides the creation tool, the eldest told me that the mushrooms that make you grow big are the best part. And all the old characters are there to be used when creating the game. Not only that, but you can change the look of the game from the 8-bit look of the original Super Mario game to the look of the more advanced graphics of New Super Mario Bros. U

For the 4yo, the playing of the game was harder than the creating of the new levels, but seeing that he was able to use this part of the game to create levels for his brother, that meant that he was able to join in the fun. And after his brother went to school this morning I set him up to play the game, and he did for a few minutes, but then asked me to play the game so he could watch me play, just as he loves to watch his older brother play. For our little one, although he can be a terror sometimes, he acknowledges his inability to play certain things at his age, and appreciates that his brother can do all the hard bits for him, and he gets to join in by cheering his brother on. (Or yelling at him when he died so easily this afternoon. It’s all very cute).

Overall, I would recommend this game for kids of all ages, but would suggest that kids closer to 7yo might be the youngest that will truly appreciate the game, and also have the ability to save each level they create. I would also recommend that the child should be much older to get online and upload or download levels from the Internet. So if you’re looking for a video game to get the young ones, or one for the whole family to enjoy, I would recommend Super Mario Maker. And if you don’t have a Nintendo Wii U, you can currently purchase a bundle which includes a black Wii U Premium console, a physical copy of Super Mario Maker, a Hardcover Artbook and a Classic Colours Mario amiibo from the Mario 30th Anniversary Collection.

Please note, while Nintendo Australia leant me this Super Mario Maker game and console to trial, this is not a paid sponsored post and the words, ideas and opinions are all my own. You can find out more about the Super Mario Maker game as well as the Limited Edition 30th Anniversary Packs by clicking this link.

This is me in the Super Mario Maker pipes on the Nintendo stand at a recent gaming exhibition.
This is me in the Super Mario Maker pipes on the Nintendo stand at a recent gaming exhibition.


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