Originally Posted: 29th November 2015
Updated Version: 3rd April 2016
I really love Super Mario Maker for the Wii U and have had tremendous fun creating courses. However, I have even more fun when I am playing everyone else’s levels. As such, I have played over 1000 courses and beaten Expert and Super Expert Mode over 50 combined times, including a number of levels with incredibly low completion rates (less than 1%). There are lots of fun levels out there but on these modes, you will see the most difficult courses – either using clever ideas or just plain old poor design. Here are the top 10 things that have worked for me to hopefully help you beat this mode:
1) JUMP BEFORE THE EDGE
To avoid potential hidden blocks, try to always start your jump a space or two before the edge.
Plenty of Expert Mode courses utilize hidden blocks in frustrating ways. We have all hit an invisible block when jumping that has sent us to our death. So unless you can see that the platform you need to reach requires the largest jump necessary, adopting this technique to your playing style is the fastest general way to avoid this potential problem.
Depending on the game the level is based on, you can also stay in the air longer to make your jumping go further: in New Super Mario Bros. Wii U mode you have the Propeller Mushroom to fly and the ZR button to perform a mid-air spin; in Super Mario World you have the Cape (slash Feather) and in Super Mario Bros. 3 you have the Super Leaf. Often, you can easily glide from the middle of one platform to the middle of the next one. If a level has even one hidden block like this, be aware that there will likely be many others.
2) USE LAKITU
When you see a Lakitu, try to defeat one and steal its cloud – you can often ride it to the end of the course.
I don’t really care how I do a level, if I find a way to beat it, that’s good enough for me and if it is through me cleverly exploiting their level design, I kind of see it as the creator’s fault. To put it another way: In Star Wars, nobody ever says the Rebels cheated and blames them for the vulnerable exhaust port on the Death Star.
I feel that there are a large number of course creators who don’t actually seem to realize that Lakitu can make a difficult level into an easy one, so take advantage of it. If you see a Lakitu, it can be a wonderful opportunity for you to breeze through a level. Aside from jumping onto their heads, you can beat them using Fire Flowers, Cape and Tail spins, Yoshi’s tongue or tossed items such a Shells and POW Blocks (this is easier in Super Mario World since you can throw items upwards). You might have to get creative with finding a way to get high enough to defeat it and get into the Cloud but once you do, you can float high above all the enemies, invisible blocks and other traps right to the flag pole. Depending on the level, you might find that you won’t want to fly too high, so that you can still see what lies ahead. Never fly off the top of the screen, you will always want the Cloud to be visible so that you can see when it starts running out. This is a great trick that at the very least will enable you to skip large chunks of a level.
3) IF YOU LOSE 10 LIVES ON A LEVEL, SKIP IT
Come up with a general rule, tailored to you of how many chances you will give yourself to beat a course, so that you don’t waste too many lives on any one level.
I personally begin with 10 when I start a run on Expert Mode and this number evolves as I play through. It varies from level-to-level and changes based on how many levels out of 16 that I have beaten so far. Some levels will reward you with lots of extra lives to top you back up but sometimes you will play lots of difficult levels where you won’t gain many lives back. A good life allowance will vary from player-to-player. When you can’t do a level or could do it but Expert Mode is not the place to try, Skip the level using the – button (minus button). Don’t let pride get in your way. You can always go back and find courses on your Played Courses list afterwards if you are determined to beat them. Naturally, if you are on Course 15 out of 16 and have 60 lives left, you can risk 30 lives and still be fairly safe. Watch out for short levels that cost you lives within a few seconds, the lives stack up quickly. In Super Expert, you want to master the art of recognising whether a course is one you can be bothered with and something you can do. See how far you can get with 5 lives and then judge whether you want to move on or keep trying. The purpose of this rule is to help you put a limit on figuring out whether you can do that level or not. 10 attempts gives me a pretty good idea of what a level is like and some levels I can tell even faster that they are definitely not for me – at least in an Expert Mode or Super Expert Mode challenge.
4) KEEP THE FOCUS ON FUN
The whole reason you are playing the game is to have fun, don’t forget that!
If a level is boring but you are succeeding at it, then just beat it to get it out of the way so that you are one step closer to success. But if you keep dying or are having a particularly frustrating time, then Skip that level or Save & Quit your challenge, walk away and resume it another time. I have passed on a number of levels that I know I could do with lots of lives but they are so tedious that I wouldn’t actually enjoy playing them. A great example is if I see an underwater spike maze – I could perhaps swim through a maze that is only 1-space wide where even a nanosecond lapse of concentration results in death, but why would I want to?
5) CARRY ITEMS WITH YOU
If you can pick it up and throw it, it’s worth taking with you.
Before you ever use an item, make sure you have a purpose for using it. Don’t just jump on a P-Switch “because it was there”. If you find an item that you don’t immediately need: Springs, POW Blocks, P-Switches and more, don’t just ignore it or leave it behind, take it with you! A Spring can help you reach a helpful area or place where you skip large parts of a level (often by stacking it on top of another Spring). An extra P-Switch can make a race against time easier. Don’t forget you can carry some enemies with you for a short while and in Super Mario World mode, separate a Koopa Troopa from its shell, with the empty shell becoming a powerful weapon that you can carry with you for as long as you like. A Koopa Shell can act as a shield for a sudden enemy appearing in front of you or get tossed upwards to hit enemies above you. I highly recommend if playing a Super Mario World level, to get a Koopa Shell if you can, they are incredibly useful! Don’t forget as well that Yoshi can hold many items in his tongue, can eat any form of fire to turn it into a Fireball, spit back Bones to destroy enemies and can even grab a Yoshi egg if it hasn’t hatched yet – effectively giving you a spare Yoshi.
6) THE AREA YOU START IN IS THE AREA YOU FINISH IN
Try to stay in the area of the level you started in for as long as possible, as that is where the flag is.
Anyone who has created courses on Super Mario Maker knows that each level has a maximum of two areas. The area you start in is also the one that contains the flag pole, on the far right side. If you start in an above ground area but a pipe takes you to an underground area, you know that the goal will appear in the above ground area, so you will want to get back there eventually. Ideally you want to stay in the first area and always go as far right as possible, as that’s where the flag is.
On some levels where the areas use the same theme and have lots of pipes, it can be complicated keeping track of which area you are in. However, when you can keep track of the areas, unless you absolutely have to go down a pipe, stay in the first area and move right, going upwards is quite helpful as well (see tip 9). If you do use a pipe, always look for a way back. Additionally, don’t go through a door unless you really must. Doors placed randomly in the middle of a course can often lead you to your death. If you can keep moving right in the first area, just keep doing that. If you need to use the door, you can always go back to it.
7) FIND THE RHYTHM
With lots of levels you will find a pattern to survival and a rhythm to success – find this rhythm.
When you start needing a few attempts to beat a level, you will discover its traps and pitfalls and the tricks you will need to succeed. As you play it, you will get used to certain timings, where hidden blocks are located and doing certain parts in certain ways – overall you will find a rhythm for success. Each level has one and hopefully some of the tips so far will help you find this rhythm in each level. Part of a rhythm may involve avoiding a spring at the beginning that immediately pushes you off the edge; avoiding a Thwomp placed immediately above your head or traversing a series of pipes where enemies come out of them. STAY ALERT at all times! It can be as elaborate as: Jump, Jump, Run, Spin, Jump, Duck... or can even be as simple as: Wall Jump onto the Lakitu at the beginning and ride its Cloud to the end.
8) AVOID BLOCKS IF YOU KEEP FINDING ENEMIES IN THEM
If you are playing a course where you are frequently finding enemies in the blocks, just don’t hit the blocks.
You may crave power ups but generally it’s just not worth it on levels like this. Often you will find that the difficulty of the level is actually reliant upon you hitting the blocks and when you cut them out, the difficulty goes way down. Obviously if you have discovered a block that contains an item, then you will want to get it! A general theme of this whole guide, which this tip re-emphasizes, is once you find the course creator to be untrustworthy: don’t trust them at all.
9) USE BIG JUMPS
Take large leaps of faith. Run at full speed and jump.
This works great with tip 2, if you find yourself at the top of the screen floating along and your cloud is about to run out: take a large jump to the right and see what happens. You will often find yourself high up in a course and when you are, take a run and a jump across the stage even if you can’t see what is there. I find generally that I am quite safe doing this (or recovery isn’t too difficult, in NSMBU you can wall jump) and will skip large sections of courses, sometimes even reaching the end. Not every level is suitable for this technique, you'll get a feel and sometimes it will be obvious. Use the advice from tip 1 to keep yourself in the air as long as possible: aerial spins and gliding with flying items. Sometimes you might have a rough landing but be able to power through to the end whilst you are briefly invincible.
I haven’t mentioned flying with Capes in Super Mario World levels yet so I briefly will. I haven’t included it as a tip since it only applies to one of the 4 game modes; plus I don’t get to beat many levels this way, as creators are quite aware of it. If you can get a Cape and can fly with it along the top of the screen, then flying with a Cape is a really great way to shortcut a level. However, lots of levels take place in confined spaces, don’t give big run ups for capes, are crammed with enemies (Boos and flying don’t mix) and/or don’t allow you to get high enough to fly over everything.
10) REMEMBER: SOMEBODY HAD TO BEAT THE LEVEL TO UPLOAD IT
Every level is beatable. There is a way to win. Sometimes you have to find the trick.
Firstly, this really helps give you hope. Somebody has beaten this level before and thus you can too. More importantly, it means that there IS a way to win and maybe the key to finding the rhythm of the level is to find a shortcut or loophole. There may be something they know about, which you don’t, that allows them to beat the level easily. Once you discover this, you can beat the level easily as well. One level I played featured a Giant Bowser forcing me to move below a set of pipes above that rained down giant Cheep Cheeps on top of me. I thought if I could survive for a few seconds, the first wave of Cheep Cheeps need not be on top of me. I wall jumped between the pipes and the wall and actually found a path ABOVE the pipes (the light bulb noise sounded off at this point) that led me to the end. The Bowser and the Cheep Cheeps… they were all just a deliberate distraction. Another course seemed to be a 10 second dash to the flag pole, yet I kept running out of time just before I could reach it. Instead, I found a hidden block to the left, then another hidden block above it and kept going up until I found a pipe that took me to an underground area. I had to then ground pound to go straight down into the next pipe, which took me back above ground, where I came out of a pipe right on top of the flag pole. Courses with a lot of chaos tend to have a hidden block, path or trick somewhere. I have done other levels where high above the start point was a door that warped me to the end and so on. Sometimes there is misdirection; sometimes there is a skill you need to master and other times there is just one thing you need to make a level doable, like finding the hidden Star.
Some extra tips to remember to help you find this are: spin jump onto the heads of Thwomps to see what lies above them; you can walk through the side of (vertical) Springs, so if Springs are bouncing you up to your doom, see if you can jump onto the edge of a block a Spring is sitting on, then walk through it; you can jump off a P-Switch after you press it; items that come from blocks will not regenerate when you go through doors and pipes but ones lying about will; and check the edges of stages and sections for Hidden Blocks – on the left at the start of a stage you can sometimes find an invisible block on particularly tough stages.
Though it doesn’t help on Expert Mode or Super Expert Mode, you can use the preview picture of a course to see if there are any shortcuts and extra items to make a plan of how you will attack the level.
I hope this helps. Tweet me at @BeauVO with your stories and screenshots of success. I wish you the best of luck!