The E3 2015 expo currently happening in Los Angeles might well be the gaming expo with the biggest media impact in the whole world. One of the upcoming releases that Nintendo is promoting in the event is Mario Maker, an extension to create and share your own levels on Super Mario Bros. It’s far from a pioneer in its field, though: Super Mario Bros X is a free fangame for Windows that includes an in-depth scene generator, with the benefit of being able to add your own visual and audio resources.
The game already contained an enormous adventure made of more than 60 levels with elements from Super Mario Bros 1, 2, 3 and World, and lets you play Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, or Link as an invited character. But that’s the least of it, as its user community has released a huge array of “worlds” to make Nintendo’s own recent retro-feel productions blush. The levels included in SMBX are, for practical purposes, a technical demo of the tool’s potential.
There’s nothing mysterious about the editor and the menu system, and its drag-and-drop interface is accessible and can be learned in a few minutes. It’s also highly scalable as it lets you use your own graphics, music, and sounds. In fact, the editor itself includes tilesets and sprites from other games such as Metroid and The Legend of Zelda, both with the look of their Super Nintendo versions.
SMBX is not the only representative of its species, as there is also Mario Builder, a small, rather less ambitious environment developed with Game Maker that also lets you create levels, although its stability on Windows 8.1 leaves much to be desired. As an bonus, it’s worth mentioning that there’s a similar tool out there focused on creating games based on the 2D titles of The Legend of Zelda: the so-called Zelda Classic that also has a good handful of fan-created works that could easily pass for commercial titles.
It’s worth pointing out that in all cases these are free tools with no commercial intent. Fangames skirt the edges and dips their toes into the world of illegality by using copyrighted elements, but given that you can use the engine for your own projects, the software itself is completely legal. So there you go.