The urban legends and campfire stories of the internet have a name: "creepypasta." These stories, usually anonymously written and passed around on forums and social media, have led to the creation of modern horror icons like Slender Man. Creepypastas cover a broad range of subjects, and video games are one of the most popular subgenres. Google search for a well-known game name with "creepypasta" and you will no doubt find pages of haphazardly written fiction attempting to convince you that haunted game programs, possessed cartridges, and scary hidden levels bursting with hyper-realistic 8-bit blood exist.
In other words, the overwhelming majority of written gaming creepypasta is awful, but with the advent of Super Mario Maker, where players can make their own levels, a handful of talented designers have actually made some creepypasta stages, implying that the normally happy Mario universe is filled with cruelty, suffering, and murderous fits of madness. Unlike the long-winded Mario-related creepypasta yarns that proliferate online, they are fantastic.
I first became aware of some of the creepy creations people were devising in Mario Maker after watching a friend play through a stage made by Vinny of popular streaming and Youtube channel Vinesauce. The stage, called Memories of Sponge, is a reference to a non-canonical forgotten Mario brother made up as a joke for his channel. Sponge, as a character, is filled with sadness and grief, and it's made manifest in his themed level—though it works pretty spectacularly even if you're not in on the joke. You can play it by entering the ID 0D56-0000-0039-1CC5.
"The level was inspired by a Waluigi level I saw at the time that was more or less an endless loop of pain for Waluigi," Vinny told me in an email. "I figured Sponge would be a good candidate for a similar level and tried my hand at a story-based map. The level I suppose represents Sponge's guilt over seemingly killing his friends. As Sponge you watch their souls forever haunt the hallways of whatever void it is you're playing on. You also watch some of Bowser's friends get sent to slaughter. Dark stuff."
Despite some of the limitations imposed by the software—like not being able to include things like custom sound effects in uploaded levels—people like Vinny have done an amazing job at making some very creepy levels. Here are a few more samples.
WALUIGI'S UNBEARABLE EXISTENCE
This is the level that inspired Vinny's creation. Waluigi is one of Nintendo's more bizarre characters, an "evil" version of Luigi that was hated upon his introduction, went on to become beloved ironically, and then somehow became genuinely beloved. He rarely appears in the Mario series proper, and if he does, it's usually in completely throwaway roles. What sort of sad existence does this man lead? Can he ever break the cycle of pain? Play and find out!
YOUTUBEGOOMBA'S HOUSE OF CULTURE
Goombas are a popular theme for eerie Mario Maker levels—after all, you squish them by the hundreds in every Mario game without a second thought. This maze stage gives us a look at what might be a horrifying mass-production facility for Goombas, complete with a cacophony of wailing, agonized screams as these sad little things are (unwillingly?) spawned to life.
THE GOOMBA: A SAD TALE OF MADNESS
And just what lies in wait for the Goombas that survive? Apparently, an existence of pure hell, if this level is anything to go by. One of the Mystery Mushrooms gives Mario a Goomba skin, and this stage puts it to incredibly disturbing use, giving us an inside look at the brief, horrific life of this common foe.
WILL YOU SAVE YOUR SON?
If you're looking for a different kind of psychological horror, here's the story of a father willing to go to extreme lengths to save the life of his son… presented in Mario Maker format. Only, as you find out, the story is not as straightforward as it seems. There's also a YouTube playthrough with stirring narration by Geofferu Heromoto, the level's designer.