A level is defined by its first Super Mushroom. In Super Mario Maker, the placement is even more important, because the player will not enter the level with whichever power-up they completed the prior level using.
In Super Mario Bros., World 1-1 places the Super Mushroom in a location specifically designed to teach the player that a Goomba mushroom is bad, and a Super Mushroom is good. This level of detail is unnecessary in Super Mario Maker levels, but there are worthwhile design decisions which do apply.
The ?-block containing the Super Mushroom appears right after the start of the level. There is a single enemy in the path, and if the player misses the sliding Super Mushroom, the pipe sends it back to the player.
The next level, 1-2, increases the difficulty slightly by adding a second Goomba, but there is still an obstacle, a block, to send the Super Mushroom back to the player.
After two easy first Super Mushrooms, World 1-3 takes the kid gloves off. The power-up block doesn’t appear until the player has made it through one-third of the level. This makes sense considering the player in Super Mario Bros. may still have a power-up from 1-2.
If the player already had a power-up from 1-2, managed to traverse the jumps, and pass the earlier single red Koopa Troopa and two Goombas unharmed, they are rewarded with a Fire Flower sitting on the hit ?-block.
For players approaching without a power-up, this is the game’s first placement of a Super Mushroom that can get away from the player. If the player is slow, the Super Mushroom will drop beyond reach.
Taking the Super Mushroom away from an unaware player may seem mean, but World 1-3 is more about platforming than it is about enemies. The level does not have a second power-up block, but is also shorter than 1-1 and 1-2 were.
If the Super Mushroom’s placement in 1-3 is mean, the Super Mushroom’s placement in World 1-4 is downright cruel. Not only are you trying to avoid a fire bar, but the Super Mushroom will quickly slide into the lava. This placement feels more like a reward for the player who gets here with a power-up from 1-3, giving them a stationary Fire Flower.
The other side of the coin is that any player who completed 1-3 may have jumping down well enough that they can leap across the lava pit, grab the Super Mushroom, and land safely on the other side.
Because 1-4 is even shorter than 1-3, it also has only a single power-up block. When designing a level only five or six screens long, it is worth considering giving the player a Fire Flower instead.
Other Super Mario Bros. first power-up notables:
- Underwater levels and bridge levels never contained a power-up.
- 2-1 placed the first Super Mushroom in a brick block, rather than a ?-block.
- 3-2 placed a gauntlet of walking enemies across the first few screens before presenting a power-up. 3-4 did similar with a few fire bars and Lava Bubbles, as well as 6-2 with its Piranha Plant pipes, and 8-2.
- 4-1 not only would drop the Super Mushroom into a hole, but included Lakitu to throw Spinies around the player as a distraction.
- 4-4, 5-1 didn’t even bother giving a power-up at all. 8-1 and 8-4 did the same.
- 6-1 placed the power-up’s ?-block above a moving platform with little room to maneuver.
- 8-3 gave its first power-up as a reward for defeating a pair of Hammer Bros.