There are two constants in the world of Nintendo fandom that I can say with absolutely certainty. The first, and most obvious, is that Mario is their most famous IP. The second is that Nintendo fans can be really critical, often to a fault, of Nintendo’s games. Franchises like Zelda, Metroid, and even Mario have been heavily scrutinized for veering off course with expectations, and sometimes even when they meet expectations anyway. It only makes sense, therefore, that after decades of both positive and negative feedback, Nintendo would throw their hands up in their air and give the keys for developing to the fans themselves with Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 2.
“The power’s in your hands!”
The premise of Super Mario Maker is straightforward: It’s Super Mario, but you get to build the levels yourself! Don’t like how a level in a canon game is so simple and short? You can expand it. Want to make a level objective-based? You can. Want to face off against a giant Bowser with another Bowser on his head? In the words of the meme itself, “You make it then, if you’re so smart!”
And give Nintendo credit; they were actually onto something here! The sheer number of creative courses from the four-template game (five in the sequel) is beyond mindblowing. Whether it’s Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, or New Super Mario Bros., the volume of ideas, good or bad, to come from this concept can’t be properly put into words. Even later updates, which included the ability to turn into Squirtle or other non-Mario characters, made this really simple idea worth coming back to over and over.
The world wide web
Uploading courses online to share with friends and the world is the best part. It allows for an interaction with strangers not previously seen in a Nintendo game, giving you the ability to play, comment on, and even share feedback with people from around the globe. Online play is even encouraged by Super Mario Maker, with bonuses and unlockables for the (rather modest) solo campaign being accessible only from doing so.
Super Mario Maker 2 had the unusual challenge of expanding on an already expansive game. But that’s what it did. While I thoroughly enjoyed the first game, I always found that its tablet controls felt a little stiff at times. I also didn’t like that connecting online took a while, or that I couldn’t take the game on the go. And I felt that its solo features were lacking. Super Mario Maker 2 fixes all of that: The controls are far more natural, the online is integrated better (after stability updates), and the game, thanks to the Switch’s portability, can be taken anywhere I want. It even has a proper campaign mode involving fixing Princess Peach’s castle.
Is that a challenge?
The inclusion of both offline and online multiplayer makes it easier to challenge people to see who gets to the finish line first. And if you simply want to spectate, you can do that too! Sadly, I’ve yet to use multiplayer, but at least having it is a start!
These games ultimately leave a legacy of a tight-knit competitive community, especially of players making excruciatingly difficult levels for each other that are then streamed or sent to YouTube to inspire awe among players everywhere.
Bringing it all home…
Super Mario Maker pushes your ability to create to the max, showing how hard it is to really make games, but it also helps expand the logical and creative sides of your brain, too! It’s the ultimate gaming toolbox, and I wouldn’t be surprised if future game developers took inspiration from it. If that’s not worthy of a “best of the decade,” I don’t know what is.
By the way, feel free to check out our other entries in this series while you’re at it: