Super Mario Maker is the latest in what we call the “WiiU Evacuation Plan,” our tabbed label for Nintendo’s initiative of getting all of the WiiU’s hits onto the Switch to not only cut their losses but make the money they were supposed to.
It turns out Super Mario Maker 2 was more than just a way to recoup the funds they missed out on–it’s truly a bonafide sequel worthy of the 2.
What Is It?
Super Mario Maker 2 is the sequel to the wildly popular Super Mario Maker, a game that allowed players to create their own Mario courses using the themes and physics of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, or Super Mario World as their creator foundation.
First unveiled on a Nintendo Direct during February of this year, the game’s announcement came right out of the gate showing off features that took the course creator to the next level including the ability to make slopes, have courses move upward or downward instead of just sideways, and even a new theme in Super Mario 3D World among other things.
Why Should I Care?
The beauty of Super Mario Maker 2 is that you don’t have to be a creator to enjoy the game. The game actually has a story mode, and as you’d expect, it’s very much on the dumb side, yet very enjoyable to play.
Princess Peach’s advisors are at the Mushroom Kingdom celebrating some construction done to the castle. For some reason or another, there’s a pretty suspicious button literally right in front of the castle that launches a rocket into it when pressed. Naturally, it gets pressed by Undodog from Super Mario Maker, making the castle burst into smithereens. So how do we get the castle back in shape? By performing a bunch of jobs for the Toads in the form of various Super Mario levels, of course!
You’re given a number of coins for each course you finish in addition to the coins collected within each course. You can use these funds to rebuild the castle and to improve things around the Kingdom. This actually gives players a better, more natural initiative to seek out coins other than the fact that they’re shiny. The greater majority of these levels are absolutely fantastic and arguably the most refreshing take on single player sidescrolling Mario games in a long time.
What sets these Nintendo-made levels apart from any other Mario game you’ll play is the fact that there’s really no underlying theme or flow to these levels; they’re just brilliantly designed courses. Aside from your typical flat, Boo House, or Airship flair, you’ll come across certain courses that have very specific rules. Examples include courses that require you to refrain from jumping, collect a certain amount of coins before completing, reaching the end while carrying an item, and many other factors that’ll influence gameplay in ways that make you think before attempting.
The variety in each course beckons the thought of how The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was developed. There are obviously dozens of Zelda games in the series, but one of the things that really made Breath of the Wild shine was its collection of brain-teasing puzzles in its shrines and dungeons that really made you think out of the box with the limits set by your own knowledge of its gameplay. It’s the same way with Super Mario Maker 2‘s Story Mode. Think you know the ins and outs of the original Mario Bros., Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and Super Mario 3D World? Then you’ll probably have your mind blown.
You’ll come across intricately designed dungeon-type levels that require you to solve various sidescrolling puzzles to collect keys and venture out of the level, and these thought-provoking courses are among the best of the Nintendo-developed nuances in the game. One such level for instance requires you to make masterful use of the new Drybones shell, which morphs Mario into a Drybones, allowing him to collapse into a pile of bones for temporary invulnerability and ground pound from higher elevation to break certain blocks–which would otherwise be unheard of in the style and physics of Super Mario Bros.
Other new items include the Koopa Car, the Spiky Shell Helmet, and the Beetle Helmet that’ll allow Mario to zip through hazardous ground, break stone blocks and thwomps, and be protected from from falling hazards respectively.
Each level has star ratings from to determine their difficulty, and there’s nothing like the satisfying feeling of beating a rough course. Then again, you’ll also die a lot, so in addition to checking YouTube or a guide, you can also enlist the help of Luigi who can play through tough parts of levels for you. I found this particularly annoying because Luigi always showed up with his mercy dialog box whenever I died twice, and I really think it would’ve been served better when getting a Game Over screen. Every way you look at it, the courses Nintendo designed each had budding creativity that’ll inspire many ideas from future makers out there, and the best part of them is that while there’s definitely a sense of challenge, each course was fair. There was never a point in the story mode where I thought I suffered a cheap death–they were always my fault.
This won’t always be the case though.
The biggest draw to Mario Maker in general is the ability to create and play levels made by other Mario Maker players. Like its predecessor on the WiiU, Super Mario Maker 2 is a fun game to watch and is very streamable simply because of all the limitless content you can make and come across. There are creators in the community that have built levels that play themselves, are aimed towards people who enjoy speed running, there’s levels reliant on your ability to be patient with puzzle solving, and there are courses that are designed by masochists for masochists.
The game shines in that regard, but it’s also where it falters in the most obvious way possible–its online features.
While the UI is pretty simple and actually looks nice, the levels aren’t exactly organized in a user-friendly way. It’s a pain sifting through the various categories to find levels, and while it’s definitely useful to go on Twitter and other online communities separately to get codes in order to download the levels you want to have, there should be easier ways to go about this without taking you away from the game. As any veteran gamer will tell you, Nintendo really has a knack for getting in their own way, and this is another huge example of that.
Another gripe I have is with the inability to use different characters aside from the multiplayer-driven maps. Super Mario Maker on the WiiU supported virtually every Amiibo, and in turn, it allowed you to use pretty much whatever character you scanned. This is no longer a feature, and it’s really unfortunate because Amiibos definitely still exist, so it makes you wonder if Nintendo plans to patch that in soon or they really decided to just forego it.
Finally, we come to the course designer. Most publications would talk about this first, but since I hardly consider myself creative (or much less a level designer), I can’t really talk about it beyond a casual scope. On my experience making the handful of levels that I’ve done, it’s been really easy, but I also missed doing them on the Wii U because of the second screen and stylus. You eventually get over this, whether it be by properly zooming in and actually swiping on the screen or deciding to buy a smartphone stylus that works with the Switch’s touch screen like a charm.
The most impressive part about Mario Maker 2‘s level designer is actually in its well done tutorial. Not only are you being taught the ins and outs of what you can do with this proven and intuitive course designer, but it also sort of guides you and makes you really think about how you’re designing your levels. Going through it and continuing to use it really makes you better, and while it’ll take more than Mario Maker to eventually get your way into game design, you really would be naive to think Nintendo wouldn’t use this as a way to constantly fill their development teams with talent. I could definitely see the Treehouse using Mario Maker 2 as a tool during job interviews for openings in level design.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
It probably won’t blow many skirts up when it comes to thinking about the best games on any platform, but make no mistake about it, Super Mario Maker 2 is going to be one of the most important entries in the Switch library. Not only does it offer literally limitless gameplay, but there’s a lot to enjoy about it if you’re a fan of any sort of platformer. Nintendo really has something with Mario Maker, and it’ll be interesting to see how it continues to grow, because it has perhaps one of the most interesting communities in all of gaming.
Long story short, you’ll get what you pay for and more. Super Mario Maker 2 probably won’t make the discussion when it comes to Game of the Year, but it definitely deserves it.