It’s interesting trying to sit down and review a title that’s essentially laid bare from the moment go, but what’s otherwise unique about Super Mario Maker 2 is how Nintendo have re-invented the wheel and streamlined custom Mario level design right onto your console. NES, SNES, and Wii Rom hacking has been around now for a long time, and with many experienced homebrew developers out there, designing your own Mario levels with straight-up first party Nintendo assets, is the dream. Nintendo envisioned this with the original Super Mario Maker, released back in 2015. While NES and SNES level rom hacking had been around since the early 2000’s, by this point having your own custom levels in old school formats, was well and truly over the hill by this point, and with New Super Mario Bros. Wii having it’s level design circumvented and completely reverse engineered, it was no secret that there was money to be made here by Nintendo at this point. Bringing Super Mario Maker to the dying Wii U was Nintendo’s saving grace. It was probably the Wii U’s saving grace at that stage, having piqued many fans interest into the console that was well and truly on it’s way out by that point. We were definite guinea pigs for what was to come on the Nintendo Switch. The concept of Nintendo giving out it’s own assets to anyone and everyone on their own hardware, and having fans be able to choose from a myriad of levels to play across the globe is incredible. Not taking anything away from the homebrew scene, who was existential in birthing this franchise, if anything inspiring Nintendo to do this in the end. But Super Mario Maker 2 now amplifies what we were given in the original, and doubles down on content. SLOPES people SLOPES!
From the moment you press those trigger buttons, you’re given the options to “Make” or “Play”. So before we jump into how extensive Super Mario Maker 2’s building tools really are in comparison to the original’s let’s jump into “Play”, where we’re given the returning options of Course World, and Coursebot, and the brand new “Story Mode”, where Mario and the gang have seemingly just finished building a brand new Castle for Princess Peach, and the “Undo Dog” has come along, and just demolished it infront of the entire team. Now it is up to Mario to jump into action, and retrieve as many coins as possible, from levels all designed by Nintendo’s in-house development team. There are over 100 pre-made levels for you to enjoy, and you can definitely tell that these are quality made levels designed by experienced video game developers. Some which are quite a breeze to get through, and some which they definitely do not fool around. What story mode essentially equates to here, is giving the player a choice to either play a brand new Super Mario game with the many themes available across the many Super Mario titles available, or jump into Course World and enjoy the millions upon millions of fan-made courses out there. Which we’ll get into in a second here, but back to Story mode.
Super Mario Maker 2’s story mode, is essentially it’s own Super Mario game, giving experienced fans of the 2-D style Mario platformers, a chance to experience brand new levels made by Nintendo, and a place for Nintendo to show off it’s roots here, by revisiting it’s most successful franchise. It’s incredible to sit back and play Nintendo made levels from the classics, such as Super Mario Bros. 3. A title with such rich history dating back to it’s release in 1988. To have Nintendo essentially give us brand new levels from it’s series of the past re-invigorates interest for a younger generation who don’t know what these titles are. Which in business is a smart move for Nintendo, to also be releasing the “Limited Edition” which comes with the 12-month membership that includes the NES Classics. Regardless of that, Story mode is a way for fans to have quality levels at their fingertips, and not have to worry about online connectivity here, and just enjoy the game for being a stand-alone Mario title.
Now jumping into Course Maker, you will have the option to sit through a tutorial and learn the hundreds of ways to create unique and top quality Super Mario Maker levels with the hundreds of assets and tools Nintendo have put into your hands here. Going through a range of different themes from the most popular titles in the 2-D Mario history, you can choose from 5 at the time of writing this review. These are Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3 (The best Super Mario game of all time), Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U, and introducing the unique choice of Super Mario 3D World. Now much like the original Super Mario Maker, choosing your favourite game, and designing your level is quite easy, and if you aren’t happy with the title choice, you can switch between the four original titles given to you, while your level design will remain completely intact. However, in Super Mario Maker 2, with the introduction of Super Mario 3D World, this is not the case with switching over to the 2.5D Style of choice here. Unfortunately, not all assets are available, due to the core mechanics of the previous four titles being completely different to 3D World. So be aware, when designing a level, and wanting to switch from Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario 3D World for example, your whole level design will erase, but Nintendo implemented a handy warning for you before you do switch over.
New tools in level design here include a day and night mode, which you can unlock by scrolling to enemies in the menu, and selecting the Sun, planting him on your level, and holding down on him to choose the Moon, which will then enable the option from your “Themes” menu. Talking about themes here, we are treated to same themes from the previous entry, but are also treated to some new themes that many Mario fans would already be acclimated to. Ground, Underground, Underwater, Ghost House, Airship, and Fortress/Castle make their return here with some brand new features in each, including rising lava for fortresses, and custom auto-scrolling for those who want to enrich their Airship experience, which was sorely lacking in Super Mario Maker “Wii U”. But for the new theme’s, we are now treated to Sky/Clouds, Forest, Desert, and Snow. All new themes bring their own unique mechanics to the table. With forest having a river below the level, where much like custom rising and falling lava, you can have the river tide-in and subside anytime you like during the level. It creates great puzzle-building and a fresh dynamic to each level designed by players. With the new Day/Night feature implemented, it spins each theme into a brand new universe of it’s own too. Where Underground turns into the “Upside-down” literally. Real cool for people who would like to design Super Mario Galaxy inspired levels. While Snow turns everything icy-cold, and slippery. Ghost houses at Night are Super Dark, and utterly difficult to get through, so using tools like flares and star power-ups to get you through are handy, while the forest river goes from clear fresh water, to polluted purple waste that can poison Mario.
All these ideas and assets are just the tip of the ice-berg, while boss battle’s were something poorly executed in the original Super Mario Maker at launch, before having the chance to inject each enemy with keys to unlock doors, Nintendo have now implemented “Clear Conditions” for designers our there who really want to up the ante. Having the choice of “Reaching the goal without taking damage” or even “Reaching the goal without landing after leaving the ground” sets a precipice for get puzzle making, and quality level design. My personal favourite is once placing a Bowser, or Boom-Boom into the level, and setting the Action to defeat said boss to unlock the “Clear Stage” is perfection. It was the one thing that bugged me about Super Mario Maker, that you could totally dodge bosses to clear a stage. And yes, slopes are here, finally. The one thing that was the be all, end all of custom level designers in the original. We finally have slopes, making for greater level design in each situation. Designers can now sit back, and remake all their favourite classic levels from the past without having to replace those slopes with steps.
“Coursebot” allows level designers to save their semi-completed, or completed levels and come back to them at anytime. It also allows players who absolutely love some of the community designed levels, to download them and check out their intricacies, and how diverse the design of some levels really are. “Course World” is the big one, where you can jump right into fan-made courses, check out Leaderboards, where players and designers are awarded Maker Points based on their levels designed, and Medals for levels made and played. Your versus rating and points are based on the Online Multiplayer Versus, while Endless Challenge runs you through the ringer, an edurance test to see how many random fan-made levels you can complete in on sitting without losing. From here you can also customise your own avatar/Mii, and of course enter in the 9 digit custom level ID for anyone designing levels and sharing them across multiple platforms online.
Now, I do want to talk about online here. It’s certainly early days for Super Mario Maker 2, and while the Nintendo Switch’s online experience has not totally been smooth sailing for many of it’s titles, there is no doubt the Super Mario Maker 2 has probably been the roughest to boot. Granted, I did win my first even Online Multiplayer versus, totally by fluke, and that’s due to it’s laggy nature. The online features for Super Mario Maker 2 are in definite need of some TLC. It is terribly slow, undesirably unplayable, and still missing a “Private Match” selection to play with friends. While Nearby play is great for a younger audience, older audiences who play many of their titles online are still waiting to play with friends across the globe. There was no reason for this option to be left out here, but this is not completely out of the ordinary for Nintendo. We have seen this trait in the past from the “Big N”, but with Switch we had hoped that Nintendo had turned the corner into a new phase moving past this ideology. None-the-less, we were given a status update at this year’s E3 into how Nintendo were going to rectify this at a later date, but no news as of yet on this matter. The short of it, is don’t bother with online until we get an update from Nintendo on the matter.
Jumping into the courses feature is nicely streamlined once again, with a choice of Hot Courses, where there are currently many active players live on those courses, Popular Courses, which have a high rating, New Courses, and Detailed Search which allows you to players to customise their search options, from Gamestyle, Course theme, Difficulty, and choose from popular tags that are attached to those levels. These include; Standard, Puzzle-solving, Speedrun, Autoscroll, Auto-Mario, Short and sweet, Multiplayer Versus (for those who are looking for the perfect level to play with their friends offline), Themed, and Music. I was so glad to see Nintendo include these tags, and totally embrace some of the uncommon themes of course design in the Mario level making sphere.
Super Mario Maker 2 opens the next chapter for the Nintendo Switch, and it’s ongoing success. While you’re not going to get a five-star designed level everytime from fans, you’re definitely in for verbose variety of uniquity. Super Mario Maker brings many fans from around the world together, including developers from many different outlets across social media, to share their love from the franchise that not only saved us from the video game crash of 1983, but rebuilt this industry as we know it. Super Mario and it’s core mechanics are everywhere. In every single franchise imaginable. It’s inspired gamer’s and developers for generations, and Super Mario Maker 2 will inspire many young gamers for many years to come. The tools given here to a younger generation of gamers will only inspire a new pool of developers in the coming years. Think, Design, and show it to the world. Super Mario Maker 2, shows the industry how groundbreaking the Mario franchise is, and forever will be.
Super Mario Maker 2 – Nintendo
Super Mario Maker 2 is a side-scrolling platform game and game creation system developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch home video game console. It is the sequel to Super Mario Maker, and it was released worldwide on June 28, 2019.