I’ll say it loud and say it proud: Super Mario Maker is the best video game released for the Wii U home console. Not only is it a phenomenal showcase for the GamePad’s potential, but also fulfilled on the sky-high promise of infinite user created Mario stages for fans of platformers to obsess over for years to come. The course creator boasted one of the most fun and user-friendly interfaces around, providing anyone the tools and confidence to make decently designed stages with very little effort. There was just one problem: The Wii U sold like butts, meaning barely anyone played it.
That all changes this year, as Nintendo once again shifts the burden of making the next big Mario game to us, only this time on the much more popular Nintendo Switch. Needless to say it’s just as good, if not better than the original, thanks to an abundance of new features, tools, and modes — not to mention the portable convenience the Nintendo Switch so famously provides.
So secure those hard hats and tighten your tool belts as we explain why
the Wii U can finally rest in peace Super Mario Maker 2 deserves a permanent spot in your Nintendo Switch library.
Building off the foundation set by the original, Mario Maker 2 now offers an offline Story Mode with over 100 Nintendo made levels to run ‘n jump through. In his infinite curiosity, goodest boi Undodog accidentally activates the Reset Rocket, destroying Peach’s castle along with any hope of receiving any treats for the foreseeable future. In order to rebuild the princess’ pad, Chief Toadette hires Mario as the kingdom’s senior fundraising campaign manager, earning coins while completing courses (otherwise known as ‘jobs’) issued by contractor Toads.
As you can probably tell, even by Mario standards, Maker 2’s Story Mode is fairly basic. Like, Karen levels of basic. It’s mostly just a clever way to house Nintendo-made stages previously relegated to the Course Bot. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! As previously mentioned, there are a lot of great ideas tucked away in its levels, not to mention unlockable costumes for your Mii and a couple choice items for the Course Creator. Bottom line, makers new and old will definitely want to give it a playthrough, as it’s a fantastic resource for gaining inspiration and learning most of Maker 2’s robust toolbox.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of Story Mode, the meat of Maker’s bones undoubtedly lies in the Course World. As long as you’re connected to the internet you’re given access to an endless supply of community created courses. Having an infinity pool of platforming perfection to pull from truly is Mario Maker’s strongest suit, and the creative genius on display by the community never ceases to amaze. In just the first week, I’ve played levels that reenacted Undertale tunes, reimagined pong, mimicked pinball machines, and recreated the Sand Bird from Super Mario Sunshine. If you can think it, you really can make it.
Replacing the original game’s 100 Mario Challenge is a collection of Endless Mario Challenges, each pulling courses from one of the four different difficulties available. However, other than trying to best your own high scores, there’s no real reward or incentive to play this mode too much. Both Easy and Normal stages fit the ‘endless’ moniker well, since most can be completed with very little grief. Expert and Super Expert, on the other hand, end up on the opposite end of the spectrum, containing stages riddled with cheap kills, like hidden blocks over pitfalls and Thwomps slightly out of sight. As a result, endless runs tend to teeter on the edge of either complete boredom or utter frustration, with neither proving particularly fun affairs.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME
Hot take incoming: They don’t call it Mario Maker for nothing. When not spin-jumping through the mania of other people’s levels you’ll find the majority of your time spent creating them yourself. Maker 2 carries the torch of its predecessor, keeping its crown as king of creation games through constant iteration. Even if you don’t fancy yourself the creative type, Super Mario Maker 2 makes it easy to experiment with and spit out levels with very little effort.
Creating stages while the Switch is docked proves surprisingly intuitive, too. Laying out the building blocks of a level using a controller sounds clumsy in theory, but after just a few minutes becomes second nature. Weirdly, the docked controls for the Course Maker don’t carry over in handheld mode. In fact, outside the multigrab, copy, and eraser tools, players are forced into the touchscreen for selecting and placing objects or hazards. Don’t get me wrong. Touch controls are great, and still remain the most ideal method of making courses. (You may want to invest in a capacitive stylus, though.) It’s just a weird oversight that’s worth mentioning coming from someone who got real comfortable with the Pro Controller.
As for the course objects themselves, Maker 2 packs your tool belt to the brim. As far as I can tell, every single object and tool from the Wii U original is back for the sequel, save the Mystery Mushroom (because reasons). While the lack of amiibo costumes is sure to be a bummer for some, all the new elements debuting here are fantastic, adding entirely new possibilities to courses not possible before. Slopes, for example, add another layer of pacing to levels designed around speed while clever positioning of on/off blocks make for some truly dubious puzzle solving.
Other newly added course objects include Snake Blocks, Seesaws, and Swinging Claws — all which add intriguing ways to play. Scrolling stages can now be customized to speed up or slow down on a whim, and rising tides of lava or water give vertical scrolling stages a new lease on life. Most intriguing, however, is the new system of (optional) clear conditions, which dictate certain requirements be met before a course can be beaten. Maybe you want the player to gather every last coin, stomp a certain number of Goombas, or take down big ‘ol Bowser himself before sliding down that goal post. It’s a great way to spice up just running from point A to B, and hard to believe we ever lived without.
Beyond new tools of the trade, Super Mario Maker 2 also introduces new themes to fawn over. Joining your typical airships and ghost houses from the original are four new backdrops — Snow, Desert, Sky, and Forest. Themes themselves are more than just a slick coat of paint, too. These beautiful backdrops can toggle between day and night cycles, adding unique gameplay elements to your creations depending which one’s chosen. Some reduce gravity, making Mario jump slower, yet much higher. Others have Mario crawling on the ceiling exorcist-style. My personal favorite? Having all 1-Ups turned into super stalkery mushrooms, deadly to the touch.
Most exciting, however, is the addition of a brand new style inspired by Super Mario 3D World. Many of its tools are exclusive to this palette — from clear pipes and climbable trees to enemies like Piranha Creepers, Bullies and background-popping Banzai Bills — meaning you won’t be able to swap styles on a dime without first destroying everything built. (So be careful!) It’s also home to the all new Koopa Troopa Car, which is pretty much a speedrunner’s dream, as well as the fan furrr-vorite power-up, the Super Bell, which outfits Mario and company in cat costumes.
Ultimately, the creative combinations afforded by the 3D World Style offer a fresh spin on the usual Mario Maker formula. In fact, it only takes a quick peek into the Course World to see the community’s obsession with it. Best of all, an empty space in the course creator’s interface suggests even more styles could be on the way. While Super Mario Bros. 2 seems like a no-brainer, I’m personally holding out for the low-poly pixels of Super Mario 64. Hey, stranger things have happened!
If at any point you hit a creative slump, Yamamura’s Dojo proves a nifty resource for learning the ins and outs of becoming a master maker. It houses everything from basic tutorials for learning canvas navigation to helpful hints for creating fair and well-designed stages. Also, the banter between newcomer Nina and her punny pigeon pal, Yamamura, is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face. Though why Mary O got the shaft here is beyond me. Maybe she’s busy working on Zelda Maker? A man can dream.
SHARING THE LOVE
Once you’re content with your creation it’s time to upload that bad boy online for all the world to see. Just like in the original, players first need to prove their course is beatable before going live — a clever rule that keeps the trolls at bay and assures no obstacle is truly insurmountable. The more people play and ‘Like’ your stage, the more Maker Points you receive, which is just a fancy way of displaying your prestige as a course creator to the broader community. New to the series, players can also ‘Boo’ stages to keep the riffraff at bay. This doesn’t show up as a visible number, but earn too many of them and your level could presumably show up less in search results or even be completely pulled from the servers. Remember to keep your stages fair, folks.
Outside uploading and praying courses gain traction on their own, each one is given a unique identification number for sharing with friends and family. The Switch’s capture button also makes sharing these codes on social media a snap, which is a godsend for helping your levels reach broader audiences. Searching for courses is also much less cumbersome than it was on Wii U. Sure, general tabs for Hot, Popular, and New courses still run the gamut, essentially making both the most played and least played courses a cinch to find. But what about everything in between?
Thankfully Maker 2 greatly expands on its filter options, letting players search stages by not only tags, difficulty, and region, but also game styles and themes! Want to play the most popular puzzle based Boo House’s set to the style of Super Mario World? Now that dream is a much more accessible reality!
Unfortunately, the game currently lacks the bookmark feature of the original that made searching for and saving levels to your game via browsers and other devices a breeze. It’s not that big a deal given the Switch’s portability, and how Mario Maker 2 implements most of the bookmark’s star features, like better filtering options, right out of the box. Still, it’s a shame for streamers who rely on third party extensions like Warp World to easily add viewer levels to a queue. For most players, though, it probably won’t be missed.
BETTER WITH FRIENDS (THWOMP THWOMP)
Mario Maker 2 features a few multiplayer modes that range from fun to frustrating, depending on whether you’re playing locally or online. Gameplay-wise, both co-op and versus modes are a blast, proving chaotic thrill rides from start to finish as up to four players either carefully work together or competitively race through stages to see who can reach the goal post first. Believe it or not, but couch co-op in Maker 2 is some of the most fun I’ve had with my Switch, especially when playing a level specifically designed for multiplayer mayhem.
It’s just a shame that same enthusiasm can’t be shared with regards to online play. Currently, there’s no way to play courses online with friends, nor is there any way to have the game search stages tagged as multiplayer-centric. What this means is, more often than not, you’ll be at the mercy of some randos spotty internet connection while playing stages typically designed for solo play. I’ll admit it’s occasionally fun to find creative ways to hop ‘n bop four people through a stage meant for one, though there’s no comprehensible reason I can think of as to why it isn’t made the exception rather than the rule. It makes online multiplayer feel more like an afterthought than a fully fleshed out feature, and I hope it gets tweaked soon in future updates.
Super Mario Maker 2 is an endless supply of joy that beautifully builds off the foundation of its Wii U counterpart. Even those without a creative (dry)bone in their body will find its innovative course creator and endless supply of community created stages worth Nintendo’s contracting fee.
Like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey before it, Maker 2 is a must-have title that’s bound to keep you dreaming up courses long after your last upload.
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System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: June 28th, 2019
Categories: Action, Platformer