Super Mario Maker 2 is everything you expect it to be: It’s Super Mario Maker with more content and on a console that people actually own. The variety of levels that could be created in the original was vast, to say the least, and the sequel more than doubles the possibilities. Basically, if you love 2D Mario, then you love this game by default.
The same, but better
Unlike in the first game, Super Mario Maker 2 provides the player with almost all of its content creation options from the very beginning. You can select among making levels in the style of Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros., and a sidescrolling version of Super Mario 3D World. With the exception of 3D World, you can change your whole level to a different game style with the press of a button. The process is still as slick as ever, and beautiful music accompanies most of the building and playing.
Various new mechanics, items, and even win conditions enter the mix to major effect. The simple addition of slopes makes a huge difference in gameplay. Water and lava that rise and subside open up whole new experiences. And new items like the Cat Suit in 3D World practically beg to have whole levels built around them. In the hands of the right creator, every new addition to Super Mario Maker 2 is a big one.
The best new additions
But the most impactful new mechanic in the game is the “nighttime” option. Setting a level to nighttime invokes a unique effect for each different environment, such as blowing hard wind in the desert or flipping the entire level upside down in a cave. Creators are going to exploit these options hard.
And if all that isn’t enough, creators can now add special “clear conditions” to their levels. Instead of just reaching the level’s end, you might also have to collect a certain number of coins. Or maybe you need to reach the end without ever touching the ground, or without ever jumping. The mind reels at how many trillions of different levels you can create with the features in Super Mario Maker 2.
Fifteen optional tutorials help players of all skill levels to craft better levels, and the banter used in the tutorials is usually pretty funny. In general, the game is full of really funny NPCs, like the hilarious Mr. Eraser, who talks like a hitman.
Story Mode is a delight
Speaking of NPCs, my favorite new thing about Super Mario Maker 2 is Story Mode. The premise is that Peach’s new castle has been accidentally destroyed. Now Mario and the Toads have to build a new castle. You do this by completing premade levels, earning coins, and buying castle augmentations. Along the way, you’ll also find little things adjacent to the castle to explore and new people to talk to. There are over a hundred levels to play, though you can finish the story without completing everything.
All in all, Story Mode is simple yet undeniably charming. It gives you an actual reason to be bold in levels and chase after coins in scary places. And the characters are, again, a delight to talk to. It’s quintessential Nintendo magic, taking a basic idea and squeezing out as much fun as humanly possible.
And if a level gets too difficult for you, Luigi will show up to offer help. You can use him to actually edit the level and make it easier, or you can have Luigi just do the level for you. However, I could not find any option to stop Luigi from offering to help. The greatest annoyance in the game was having to tell Luigi to shut up and go away time and again.
Build together, play together, maybe
When building levels, the most natural method is to use touch controls in handheld mode. A stylus certainly helps but isn’t required. If you choose to build levels docked, you will be dealing with the same cumbersome button controls in Super Mario Maker 2 that the original thrust upon us. It’s manageable but really isn’t great. On the bright side, there is now the option to build with a partner. Now families and friends can have fun even during this aspect of the game.
Speaking of which, Super Mario Maker 2 offers local and online multiplayer, for both co-op and competitive play. I haven’t had the opportunity to play locally, but the online experience is a mixed bag. It’s very rare for a level to run silky smooth from start to finish. Little hiccups of lag are common, and in the worst cases, the lag is absolutely crippling. It felt like I was at the mercy of whoever had the worst connection.
However, when the connection is stable, it’s a frenetic scramble. In co-op, you quickly learn to take turns with jumps or else you’re doomed. In competitive, you just try to screw the other players as hard as possible. It’s funny and ruthless, again in a uniquely Nintendo way. Players can also rank up in competitive play, somewhat similar to how they can climb the general world rankings as a single player or content creator.
Super Mario Maker 2 is another Nintendo hit
Ultimately, the replay value of Super Mario Maker 2 is an infinity symbol. There is just an insane number of variables that ensure inventive new levels will be created for years to come. Likewise, player rankings and unlockable costumes incentivize players to keep going. And when you start to get fatigued, you can always hop back into Story Mode to relax and recharge. Annoyances like imperfect building controls and laggy online play put a slight damper on things, but they’re not deal-breakers. Super Mario Maker 2 is a mandatory Mario experience.
A review code was provided by the publisher.