With the release of Super Mario Maker 2, Nintendo Switch owners finally get to walk around in Shigeru Miyamoto’s shoes (metaphorically, of course), living out the game design fantasies of their childhood and feeling like the video game guru that they are. With its incredibly robust design features, online additions, and added story mode, Super Mario Maker 2 promises literally thousands of hours of exciting and varied gameplay for fans of the 2D platformer and absolutely delivers, making it one of the best values and safest buys on the Nintendo Switch.
The Super Mario Maker franchise is built with a simple goal in mind: to guide players through Mario design school and have them unleash their creativity, churn out awesomely thoughtful levels, and share these constructions with their friends. By using a gridded map and a variety of Mario staples, players are tasked with bringing their ultimate Mario fantasy world to life and sharing it on the web, challenging friends and Switch owners around the world for both fun and glory. By working their way through game development courses and playing other levels, Nintendo allows fans to truly appreciate all the possibilities that Mario has to offer, giving them a greater understanding of the series and a new way to look at the Super Mario titles of the past.
Advancing the Franchise
Initially, there were fears that Super Mario Maker 2 would suffer from the same “soft reboot” status that plagued other Wii U franchises when they were brought to the Switch, similarly to Splatoon 2. While these titles are all fantastic games, they merely felt like ports of previous titles that simply offered a few updated features and did not take any true risks that advanced the series in any meaningful way. Although it is always a safe bet for Nintendo and a great way to introduce players to the franchise on a much better-received console, these “soft reboot” games tended to lack replayability and gave a “been there, done that” for players of the first game, ultimately failing to meet expectations.
That being said, Super Mario Mario Maker 2 does not feel at all like a “soft reboot” of its Wii U predecessor, instead, taking great leaps forward to offer a fun-yet-challenging campaign, awesome new level themes, and an incredibly robust level creation system. So far, it plays like a definitive edition of the franchise, and it is honestly hard to tell if there are any improvements to be made nor where the Maker universe even could go from here. In fact, Super Mario Maker 2 makes Super Mario Maker for the Wii U play like a glorified tech demo, exposing it to be a barebones designer that lacked the support and replayability of its Switch successor.
Arguably the most exciting new part of the Super Mario Maker 2 is its new story mode, essentially a grab bag of staff-built Mario levels designed to showcase the possibilities of a majority of the game’s design components. By beating these levels, Mario earns coins and slowly rebuilds Peach’s castle, ultimately moving on to progressively harder worlds. Along the way, Mario meets new Maker characters and unlocks different parts of the castle, earning interesting extras and revealing clever bonus levels.
By itself, Super Mario Maker 2’s story mode honestly has enough content to feel like an awesome standalone title, and it is nowhere near the tacked on filler content that some feared it would be. It has a perfect balance of challenge and intrigue, and even the easiest world offers some meaningful insight into a game mechanic. While some levels can be difficult and frustrating, players even don’t need to 100 percent all of them to complete story mode, letting fun and experimentation shine regardless of skill level.
In a way, these story mode challenges feel spiritually related to the worlds of the NES remix franchise, turning old Mario conventions on their heads to continuously surprise and delight players. Although each world ends in the familiar flag of their respective title, the level design always feels lighthearted, goofy, and interesting, leading to many Ah-ha moments when players figure out to use the mechanic to their advantage. Some levels even do the opposite, stripping Mario down to his core by taking away his jumping abilities and encouraging players to “figure things out.”
So far, a highlight of these levels has been the new Super Mario 3D World theme, as its feel, art-style, and music offer a familiar nostalgia of the crisp Wii U game. Although the original title never took place on 2d plane, the game feels at home in this type of gameplay, and its physics feel faithful without the floaty gravity of New Super Mario Bros. Hopefully this theme becomes a favorite of player-developers and they help it to become a staple of the online community.
All in all, Super Mario Maker 2 is worth the purchase just for its story mode, as the level design and experimental gameplay are both inspiring and delightful. Making it through these worlds with the minor goal of rebuilding the castle is an absolute joy, and these clever challenges provide an amazing perspective on the power of the Mario mechanics. In a coming review, we will look at how these aspects culminate to create one of the best online experiences on the Switch to date.
More to come…