Star Fraud: The Problem with ‘Star for Star’


As the name implies, Super Mario Maker is a game where you make your own Super Mario Bros. levels for others to play.  In the game, players are given the opportunity to ‘Star’ levels that they liked.  The Star concept is meant to reward players that create great courses.  The more Stars, the better the courses that creator is uploading, right?  Not so fast!

When first starting out, you are able to upload a maximum of only 10 courses.  Once receiving your first Star, you are awarded a Medal.  After that, it can be a steep road.  If you’d like to upload more courses, you must earn more Medals.  Medals are earned (keep that word in mind) by receiving Stars.  The next Medal is awarded after receiving 50 Stars!  Next is 150, then 300, then 500 and so on… see what I’m saying?  Sadly, having Stars and Medals does not always mean that you have earned them.


On GameFAQs and other online forums, there is a popular trend known as “Star for Star”.  It’s exactly what it sounds like:  You Star my course and I will Star yours.  This begs the question:  why?  In my personal opinion, if your course is good enough to receive a Star… it will.  You shouldn’t have to beg, barter and plead for Stars if you’ve designed a fun, interesting and unique course.  If your course isn’t getting many Stars on its own, you may have to step back and re-examine the situation.

The purpose for the course upload limit is not to stifle course creators, but rather to maintain the quality of courses being uploaded.  If someone is uploading garbage courses that no one likes, they won’t receive enough Stars/Medals to upload more garbage courses.  Everyone wins!  This forces creators to either make better levels or enjoy the game in other ways.  However, this is often the point where many creators turn to “Star for Star.”  Instead of being forced to learn from their mistakes and adopting better design habits, they offer to Star courses in exchange for more Stars.  Thus, the cycle of mistakes and poor courses will continue.  Shameful and disconcerting to the entire Mario Maker community.

star3But what if you actually create nice levels and still don’t receive the Stars you rightfully deserve?  Is “Star for Star” bad in that case?  In my opinion, yes, it is.  Personally, I’ve never had to beg for Stars or got caught up in the “Star for Star” craze.  If someone offers it, I inform them that I will play their course and Star only if I enjoy it and feel it’s deserving of a Star.  I then ask that they show me the same courtesy.  I realize that my courses will not be to everyone’s liking and I’m perfectly content with that.  I’d rather have earned every single Star that I’ve received than look at all the Stars and know they’re meaningless.

So how can you, an up-and-coming Mario Maker, earn (yes, EARN!) your Stars without begging?  It’s actually quite simple…

First, create a good course.  That might be more difficult than it sounds, but with time, effort and a little know-how, your courses will be enjoyable.  If your courses aren’t winning people over, go back and try to find out what’s wrong.  Have a friend or family member play them and give some feedback.  If you start to notice a trend, learn from your mistakes and remedy the situation.  Feedback from people playing your levels for the first time is a great way to understand what works and what doesn’t.  Another method of receiving immediate feedback is to visit Twitch and submit your courses to the Mario Maker players.  Most streamers (and their viewers) are happy to give you live feedback as your course is being played.  It’s best to get as much feedback as possible, especially when your courses aren’t getting many Stars.

Aside from the feedback Twitch streamers will provide, having your course played live on stream is a fantastic way to make it more visible to potential players.  If the streamer enjoys your course, chances are their viewers will want to check it out.  If the viewers check it out, there’s always a chance they’ll pass it along to a friend.  Now the ball is rolling!  Simply uploading your course on Mario Maker won’t necessarily get it played.  You’ll have to post it online through various social channels to gain exposure.  There are many websites, including Nintendo’s own BOOKMARK page, that allow you to showcase your level so others can easily search and find it.  Yeah, this all takes a little effort, but it’s worth it!

Another excellent way to earn Stars is to be creative and unique with your design!  Anyone can re-create a retro game or copy a concept that’s already been done to death.  Of course, those courses often receive many Stars, but it’s hard to say whether they were truly earned.  Essentially, they’re just profiting off another person’s idea.  Other examples include a music course that plays the title theme from a popular game or an art course that resembles pixel art from a classic franchise.  Please don’t misunderstand, making a music or art level certainly takes talent.  I don’t want to minimize the effort those creators have put into their courses.  That said, what they’re mostly doing is copying something that’s already out there.  It’s akin to painting your own rendition of the Mona Lisa or covering a Beatles song.  Sure, that requires some skill, but you’re just replicating what someone else has already created.

The same goes for concepts.  Try to think outside the box.  Just because you saw or played something you liked doesn’t mean you should mimic it in your next course.  At the very least, try to expand upon the idea or do it in a vastly different way.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Munchers used to cover a pipe or block a path, needing a POW Block to clear them.  Yawn.  Ultimately, you don’t always have to go with the obvious function of an item.  Try taking a common item and utilizing it in an unconventional way.  How often have you seen POW Blocks that were grabbed in mid-air, while piloting a Koopa Clown Car, and then tossed upward to defeat enemies above you?  Probably not at all prior to The Impervious Fortress.  Hey, a little self promotion never hurts!

star4You should also keep in mind that when you leave a comment on a course in-game, you automatically Star it as well.  Nintendo most likely implemented this feature to deter players from simply leaving mean comments.  Unfortunately, this also rewards troll courses because players often have the desire to leave a comment expressing their anger or gloating if they manage to complete it.  When this happens, they inadvertently Star the course.  Most people don’t realize that you can actually comment on a course without Starring it.  If you simply must leave a comment, but don’t wish to also leave a Star, head over to the BOOKMARK page of the course you were playing, click on Comments, log-in to Miiverse and comment to your heart’s content!  Your best bet, though, is to walk away from a troll course rather than acknowledge it (which, if we’re being honest, is exactly what the creator wants).

The final and most important thing to keep in mind is, if you design a level that you enjoy playing, other players will probably enjoy it as well.  And if someone enjoys your level, they will probably deem it worthy of a Star.  I kid you not, it’s that easy!  Making it so very few people can complete your course won’t garner you much praise.  Trolling and intentionally misleading people will have the same affect.  If you deceive the player or otherwise make a level insanely difficult, there’s a good chance people won’t want to play (or Star) any of your courses.  That’s not to say a challenge isn’t fun.  I absolutely love a good challenge, but a fair and rewarding one.  I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to play a decent level only to find that good ol’ troll block placed right before the goal.  Congratulations, you just lost a Star!  Sometimes that one mistake is all it takes to go from receiving a Star to losing one or more.

star2If it wasn’t clear in the article, I am 100% against “Star for Star”.  The fact is, it’s just not necessary.  Good courses will earn stars.  It won’t happen overnight, and it shouldn’t.  The course upload limit is in place for a reason and players should respect that.  Those who recklessly bypass it are part of what’s wrong with gamers today.  Just because you can take a shortcut doesn’t always mean you should.  I take pride in knowing that all of my Stars were legitimately earned.  I’ve even asked players not to Star a course when it was clear they didn’t really enjoy it.  Crazy, I know!

So I must ask the question:  what’s a Star worth in Mario Maker?  Does it have any actual meaning or value?  For those that skirt the system and essentially input a cheat code, did they actually achieve anything?  Please share with me your thoughts on “Star for Star.”  Does it help the game, hurt it or make no difference at all?  Are you a fan, do you despise it or could you care less?

As with every article on, and especially those with a strong opinion or point of view, we encourage you to get involved and let us how you feel.  I know there are many people that truly support “Star for Star” and I’d like to hear from you.  This is a discussion, not a one-sided rant, so please voice your feelings below.  If there’s enough support in favor of “Star for Star,” I might even post a follow up article on this subject.

Remember, always Star responsibly!

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Co-Founder, Webmaster & Social Ambassador at
Virus is an old school gamer. He knows there's two (or more) sides to every story. Whether you agree with him or not, never be afraid to share your thoughts.


Virus is an old school gamer. He knows there's two (or more) sides to every story. Whether you agree with him or not, never be afraid to share your thoughts.

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