The reason why I wanted to give Super Mario Maker 2 a go is because of Super Mario Maker. Seems obvious, but I actually never played that first game. I can’t even really say I’m that much of a Mario guy, I’ve missed most core iterations of the franchise. I liked Super Mario Maker without ever playing it, because it was just so damn fun to watch. Before I started watching Mario Maker content on YouTube, I really wasn’t into watching gaming videos at all, but the creativity that the game sparked in it’s user base, and the discontent the cruelty of some creators could incite in players, especially players who were recording their efforts…it was just too juicy not to watch.
Yet, like I said, I never played it, and I knew that I never would.
Because it was on Wii U, and the Wii U was stupid.
The Nintendo Switch is not stupid.
I got in with Super Mario Maker 2 from the off, and it has not disappointed. For starters the release of the game unsurprisingly coincides with a lot more Mario Maker content online to watch, and boy oh boy is it great to watch people just get absolutely trashed by some of the nastier level designs out there. It’s also easy enough to get involved with those levels yourself if you think they look good enough to try. Each has a unique nine-digit/letter code, or you can follow individual creators if you like their designs enough.
Nintendo has been slow on the uptake when it comes to really making the most of this new age of gaming that we exist in, the streaming age, the sharing age, the watching age, whatever you want to call it, we’re in it, but this second instalment in the Maker series is such a natural fit for the new way of playing and sharing content it is guaranteed to remain a mainstay on Twitch and YouTube for months, maybe even years to come. The simple fact that it is on the Switch, and not the vastly ignored Wii U means that more people are playing, more people are making, more people are watching. This equals out to a much longer life cycle compared to the first game and, like I said, I was watching and enjoying Mario Maker (2015) content way beyond the release window.
But what’s it like as a game?
I may not be much of a Mario expert, but the answer is still “It’s Mario, duh.”
Nintendo has high standards, and Maker absolutely reaches these standards. The story mode is simple stuff. Peach’s castle needs rebuilding. To rebuild it completely, you need coins. To get coins, you need to complete levels. The levels are designed to the precise degree of excellence that you would expect from Nintendo, and particularly Mario. They are peak platforming fun. The structure of the story missions means there is no particular order that you need to complete missions in, and there is no overworld to progress through here. Missions have a star rating to measure their difficulty, meaning you can pick and choose your way to the end of the story, completely ignoring levels which you find too frustrating if you wish. Once the main story is over these missions are free for you to return to but you can easily gain enough coins doing other levels, or even replaying your favourites which you have already ran through, and if you don’t wish to return, well there’s a whole load of other content to try.
Endless mode comes in four varieties. Easy, Normal, Expert, and Super Expert. Fairly self-explanatory stuff I think, user-generated level after user-generated level until you run out of lives. It can be frustrating to come across a level in your streak which just isn’t up to scratch or is simply unfair instead of challenging in its design, but you can skip the trashier stuff if you want, instead of throwing all your lives at them. The same goes in the story mode, although you don’t have to complete every level to reach your goal if you want to complete a level but can’t guess what? It’s Luigi time. He rolls in and clears the level and you get your reward. Nintendo has put a lot of thought into making this game as accessible and wide-reaching as possible, and rightly so.
It’s for everyone.
And then we have what is, I suppose, the real meat of the matter. The Maker. The Mario Maker. The Making of the Mario’s. First things first, it’s supposed to be done in handheld mode, that much is extremely obvious. It feels way less precise using the Joy Cons, so I definitely advise getting up close and using the Switch touchscreen to tap and draw your level into life. Creating a basic level is…well, it’s basic. It’s easy. And with those basic tools you can do quite a lot, layering them up to develop something more complex, and if you want to get a bit more complicated in your designs you can head into the dojo for some goofily presented tutorials which’ll help you wrap your head around everything which you can do. It’s not all super intuitive, but like I said, on a basic level things are easy enough so if you just want to jump in and put together something fun, or experiment with the game’s mechanics, you can do just that.
As time progresses and creators get wilder and more inventive in their designs I imagine that there will be creations and mechanics which emerge from the systems in place which Nintendo maybe didn’t even intend or envision, and that’s why Mario Maker 2 is so good. There is a core, excellent Mario game here, but there is also an emergent, exciting piece of software here from which more excellence will emerge as time goes on, and I think it may well go on for a long, long, long time.