The Super Mario Maker community faces its final boss

AI SaaS

"Trimming the Herbs," mapped above, is all that stands between  "Team 0%" and its ultimate goal of clearing every <em>Super Mario Maker</em> level.
Enlarge / “Trimming the Herbs,” mapped above, is all that stands between “Team 0%” and its ultimate goal of clearing every Super Mario Maker level.

As of late 2017, there were almost 85,000 “uncleared” levels in the original Wii U Super Mario Maker (SMM)—levels that had never been beaten by anyone except for their original uploaders. As of this writing, a group of persistent players gathered under the banner of “Team 0%” has spent years narrowing the list of uncleared levels to a single entry—a devious, Super Mario World-styled Bob-omb bounce-and-throw gauntlet named “Trimming the Herbs” (the second-to-last uncleared level went down on Thursday, March 14, as noted on the excellent “Is SMM Beaten Yet?” tracker).

Given enough time, Team 0% would undoubtedly be able to bring down SMM‘s “final boss,” as it were. But the collective effort to finally and completely “beat” SMM has an external deadline: April 8, the day Nintendo has announced that it plans to finally shut down the aging Wii U’s gameplay servers.

The next three weeks will determine whether Team 0% can live up to its moniker or if this one final level will leave the team just short of its ultimate achievement. “I’d never think we would be this close to actually achieving this goal,” Team 0% founder Jeffie told Ars Technica recently. “How often does a community of gamers do something like this?”

“An incredibly stupid idea”

Super Mario Maker‘s dramatic final race against the clock started in September 2017 when player The0dark0one scraped Nintendo server data to create a definitive list of then-uncleared levels. A few months later, around Christmas time, Jeffie stumbled on that Reddit-posted list and “had an incredibly stupid idea,” as he recently put it to Ars Technica. “What if we clear everything?”

Attention from popular streamers helped Team 0% attract new recruits to the cause.

After pitching the idea on a general Super Mario Maker server, Jeffie gathered a few other players willing to join the effort on a fresh Discord server. Rather than just picking through the tens of thousands of uncleared levels randomly, the newly assembled team at first aimed for a more manageable target: the ~13,000 uncleared levels that had been uploaded in 2015, the game’s first calendar year.

“At the time, it seemed like a challenging yet realistic goal,” Team 0% administrator (and early participant) Black60Dragon told Ars.

Those 2015 level uploads “were pretty interesting because it was right at the start of the game,” he added. “There weren’t many difficult [gameplay] techniques invented yet, there weren’t established ‘level building rules.'” The early levels “had a lot of awkward setups, trolls, etc, from people just experimenting. There were also a lot more glitch levels back then before Nintendo patched a lot of them out.”

Amazingly, the new Team 0% was able to blast through all 13,000 uncleared 2015 levels in just eight months. But by that point, the team had to contend with thousands of newer uncleared levels that had been uploaded while they were clearing the backlog. At the time, the task resembled the cleaning of the Augean stables, but with a team of horses continually pooping faster than any mortal could shovel.

“Some people thought it was a dumb idea for a long time and didn’t join until much later.”

Team 0% founder Jeffie

That began to change in March 2021 when Nintendo cut off new uploads of original Mario Maker levels (while still allowing play of existing levels). That’s when ‘”things really got serious,” Black60Dragon said, as the large-but-no-longer-growing heap of levels made the idea of fully “beating” Super Mario Maker a static and achievable goal.

“At first it was just a small handful of people, but the closer we got to the goal and the more realistic it looked, the more people started wanting to [join] in,” Black60Dragon said. Over time, attention from popular streamers would also help attract more attention to the Team 0% effort.

“Some people thought it was a dumb idea for a long time and didn’t join until much later,” Jeffie added.

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