Mario Maker 2 and other great level editors

Level editors are an amazing feature, especially on console. When paired with proper online support or matchmaking, they can give players unlimited content to sift through at their leisure. Some of it might not be up to the standards of the franchise, but that’s part of the fun. Whether you’re looking for novel ideas or remakes of maps from other games, this is the realm for you. Nowadays, games like Super Mario Maker 2 push creation to the forefront, but that wasn’t always the way. What games are the best at including creation alongside a fully fledged product? What amazing creations can you make without the aid of modding? Try your hand at any of these titles and find out.

Great Level Editors Like Mario Maker 2 | Excitebike‘s Track Editor

Excitebike

One of the earliest and more fondly remembered iterations of custom maps on a console was on the NES. Nintendo’s Excitebike let you use rudimentary tools to create admittedly rudimentary courses. The entire game is pretty basic, depicting circuit races in the same pure 2D perspective that Track and Field used for sprints. Even if you managed to create something amazing, you couldn’t preserve it. Since Excitebike saved course data using a Japan-exclusive cassette recorder, U.S. players only retained the information for as long as the NES had power.

However, the track editor stuck in people’s minds despite all these restrictions, solely because it was the first stab many had at game design. The act of whipping something together and then instantly trying it out is a powerful feeling. Nintendo would continue to offer similar track editors in its racing games, often similarly tied to doomed peripherals. As for Excitebike, players were finally able to save their creations permanently in the Wii Virtual Console release of the game.

Great Level Editors Like Mario Maker 2 | Timesplitters‘ Mapmaker

Timesplitters

When it comes to console first-person shooters, one series leads the way in this category. Going back all the way to the PlayStation 2’s launch, Timesplitters has had a map editor. It was an amazing feat at the time and a logical evolution from Free Radical’s previous shooter work as a part of Rare. Throughout the series’ three iterations, console players could place prefab rooms together to create both multiplayer maps and later story missions.

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Unfortunately, due to the primitive nature of online infrastructure at the time, custom maps didn’t integrate all that well into the whole experience. Sure, you could play them to your heart’s content at your local LAN center, but only Future Perfect had online support. There wasn’t any matchmaking either, as this was just as Halo 2 would set up what people expected from an online game. You just had to go looking through a server browser to find something new or hope you building your own unique match will attract a crowd. A sequel to Future Perfect probably would have gotten all this right, but that was never to be, leaving Timesplitters a trendsetter but not a million seller.

Great Level Editors Like Mario Maker 2 Halo‘s Forge

Halo - The Master Chief Collection - Multiplayer

Bungie picked up the pieces from what games like Timesplitters were doing, making Halo 3‘s Forge mode the Gears of War to Free Radical’s kill.switch. An amazing tool even in its first appearance, Forge only got better as the series progressed. Rather than prefab rooms, Forge offers prefab objects, lighting effects, and other tools to let players craft exactly the map they’re dreaming of. Changes ranging from simply editing weapon spawns to building complex works of art are possible, all using standard first-person controls.

Even so many years later, it’s an impressive aspect of the entire Halo package, essentially making future games “backward compatible” was past multiplayer suites. Fan remakes of old levels are now so good that 343 Industries doesn’t hesitate to make them official. The studio regularly offers throwback playlists in matchmaking featuring tweaked gametypes and Forged maps from older titles. With Halo 5‘s inclusion of pixel perfect throwback weapons in tow, it’s truly been a recent renaissance for connoisseurs of Halo multiplayer.

Great Level Editors Like Mario Maker 2 | Far Cry 5‘s Arcade

Far Cry 5 Arcade Mode Preview

Finally, we come to the present with a game that shows the huge untapped potential of console map editors. Even pure creation-based experiences like Mario Maker and LittleBigPlanet tend to stick to a common theme. You don’t expect to see a Dodongo in a Mario level, so Nintendo keeps is mostly safe in Mario Maker. The best you get is crossover costumes and some unique music cues. That’s nice and definitely exciting, but it’s still pretty low-key.

Ubisoft is entirely the opposite with the ill-defined barries of its  Far Cry franchise. Recent series entry Far Cry 5 expanded that franchise’s regular map editor into a full-blown Arcade mode. Over the course of the release year, Ubisoft injected elements from every other Far Cry game into the mode, including far-flung spin-offs like Blood Dragon and Primal. Even better, elements from other Ubisoft franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs also trickled in. When you’re making a bunch of games at this scale on the same engine, you can really have some fun with what you offer creators. As we continue to move forward, map editors should strive to be more like full-on mods, expanding the boundaries of what we think when we load up our favorite games. Or they could just have Shovel Dodgers in them and call it a day.