Home Tech ‘I wasn’t sure it was even possible’: the race to finish 80,000 levels of Super Mario Maker

‘I wasn’t sure it was even possible’: the race to finish 80,000 levels of Super Mario Maker

by Elijah
0 comment
‘I wasn’t sure it was even possible’: the race to finish 80,000 levels of Super Mario Maker

OOn March 14, Team 0% was close to completing its seven-year mission to complete every unsolved level in the 2015 Nintendo game Super Mario Maker – all 80,000 of them. Two hellish cards stood in their way: Trimming the Herbs and The Last Dance. And time was ticking. Nintendo had announced that it would be shutting down the game’s servers on April 8, and if the levels were not completed by then, they would remain unfinished forever. Team 0% would fail during the final stretch of their marathon.

When Nintendo released Super Mario Maker for its Wii U console, it was packed with platform levels created by the design team. But the game’s enduring appeal came from the tools it gave players to create their own levels that they could share online. The only barrier to uploading was that the creator must have completed the level at least once, proving it was possible.

What they didn’t know was that one of the remaining levels was fraud.

Since the game’s release, players have found ways to use Super Mario Maker’s tools to create extremely punishing levels and new creations, such as a functioning robot. A website, Super Mario Maker Bookmark, was launched alongside the game, which kept track of all uploaded levels and provided statistics on how many times each had been attempted and whether they had been completed. In 2017, a Reddit user named the0dark0one listed every uncleared level. They couldn’t have known what it would inspire.

“I’m a bit of a perfectionist and can become really obsessed with something if I put my mind to it,” says Jeffie, founder of Team 0%. “When I saw the list, I got back into that obsessive mentality.”

Anyone can create a level in Super Mario Maker, using the Wii U’s touchscreen and stylus to place obstacles and enemies. Photo: Nintendo

On Christmas Eve 2017, Jeffie started a Discord server and invited a few friends to try to narrow down the0dark0one’s list. One of the first problems they faced was simply opening the thing; there was so much data that their browsers would crash. They broke it down by year, focusing first on the levels that remained unclear as of 2015; even then there were more than 13,000. “At first I wasn’t sure if it was even possible, but it sounded like a fun challenge,” says Black60dragon, one of the founders.

The small, dedicated group worked quickly and completed the first list in just eight months. But there were two problems: Super Mario Maker players were uploading new levels daily, so the pile of unused levels kept growing; and the maker community was constantly learning new tricks.

“With traditional Mario, there are only so many ways you can jump over an edge or crush a Goomba,” says Black60dragon, “but (in Super Mario Maker) your imagination is your limit.” Players created levels where you had to throw grenades at walls and then bounce off them in the air to reach distant ledges, all of which required pixel-perfect precision and timing.

As Team 0% grew and encountered more of these tricks, they created training levels in Super Mario Maker that taught new players the special techniques they needed to beat challenging levels. “We practice these individual tricks for hours until they become second nature,” says Black60dragon.

At the time Nintendo announced the server closure, Team 0% had reduced the stack to less than 5,000. But even if we worked at full capacity, it would be difficult to complete them all before April 8. “Now that that deadline was in sight, we really started getting serious about making this possible,” says Black60dragon.

In recent months, Team 0% had to complete nearly 100 levels a day to reach their goal, and the levels that remained only got harder. Not only were they full of the tricks their creators had learned over the years, but they were also literal mazes of traps and enemies, often requiring completion in a short time.

One player, Fritzef, had the agility to tackle the most fiendish levels but struggled to route through them, so other players recorded clips of how to navigate each section and compiled them into a map for him . Even then it was hard work. “I sacrificed a lot of sleep on the last stretch,” says Fritzef, “but I don’t regret it.”

On March 14, with only 25 days to go until the deadline, Team 0% had only two levels left to beat. One was real. The other turned out to be a cheat.

The aptly named The Last Dance was a maze of spikes, ghosts and spinning blades, punishing every misstep. It also requires endurance and requires impeccable play lasting more than two minutes. “It probably wasn’t on anyone’s radar before the last 10 levels,” Fritzef says.

Meanwhile, Trimming the Herbs was uploaded in 2017 and despite over 200,000 attempts, it had never been defeated. It only takes 17 seconds to complete, but to do so a player must perform a series of frame-perfect jumps. It has to be possible; the creator even shared a video on how to do it.

Then, on March 15, a player named Kazeihinn managed to unlock The Last Dance, leaving only Trimming the Herbs. Everyone on Team 0% was busy completing the last level.

With only a few weeks to go before the server was shut down and Team 0%’s best players rushed to Trimming the Herbs, the community began to grow suspicious. Some suggested that it might be impossible, and that it might have been made using something called a TAS (tool-assisted speedrun). A TAS would require the Wii U to be hacked somehow to allow frame-by-frame input, slowing down the game to allow for flawlessly accurate jumps and ducks. But there was no way to know for sure – until its creator came forward to admit it.

“Trimming the herbs has been made unreasonably difficult and causing an uproar,” Ahoyo, the level’s creator, said in a statement, which revealed that they had used a TAS and now admitted it because they “didn’t want to deny Team 0% their victory”. And that was it: over 80,000 levels cleared. All of Super Mario Maker’s legitimate challenges had been overcome.

Ayoho’s reveal dampened the celebrations somewhat, as it meant that when the final legitimate level, The Last Dance, was completed, it wasn’t recognized as the victory that it was. “For all of us, the ending was bittersweet because we know we deserved it, but it’s such a disappointment,” said moderator Louis_XIX. “We’ve been too busy containing the outrage (…) to really celebrate.”

There are still players trying to complete the herb trimming before April 8th. But even if it doesn’t, it won’t detract from the phenomenal achievement of thousands of players coming together to complete a game that was never meant to be completed. If you’ve ever created a level in Super Mario Maker, you can now rest assured that someone has taken the time to play it at least once.

In their seven-year quest, Team 0% not only completed every level in Mario Maker: they also made sure that no single player creation was left behind.

You may also like