Super Mario Maker 2 Review: Everything Promised and More
How much do you have to play a game before you say it's one of your favorite games?
Sometime during my past "85 hours or more" of Super Mario Maker 2, it's made its way into my favorite titles of all time. Which isn't a surprise; it just replaced the original Super Mario Maker in my heart.
Super Mario Maker 2 takes almost all of the best features from the original Wii U title and brings them to the Nintendo Switch along with a host of new creator tools and features. If the first game was your cup of tea, the second is going to be a whole pitcher.
Along with the host of new creator tools such as new enemies, Snake Blocks, the Super Mario 3D World style, new themes, and slopes (!!), comes the ability to browse and play fellow player-made courses (levels), and a fancy new story mode to play through. Anyone who even remotely enjoys the Mario games can find something enticing here to sink their teeth into.
Not keen on creating courses? You can simply spend your time with the game playing through its story mode, which features 100 courses showcasing much of what's possible in Super Mario Maker 2 (and a few things that aren't); or stick to the endless player-created courses available.
There's more than enough gameplay to be found in the game even if you don't want to get all creative with it and start making your own courses, but the creator toolset is itself a joy to play with. For some, like myself, the allure of creating courses is more powerful than the pull to play them. It's fluid, it's fun, and best of all it's easy to bring your ideas to life using the game's course maker.
In Super Mario Maker 2, you build your courses using a sprawling grid-based layout that allows for hundreds of elements on a single area or sub-area. You can extend the course as long as you like, and you can create a sub-area (which can be the same size as the primary area) that is vertical instead of horizontal.
There are five distinct game styles to choose from, specifically Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U, and the brand new Super Mario 3D World styles.
With each style comes more than just a change in scenery and music. Some styles have different tools available, and the gameplay mechanics differ between them.
For instance, in the Super Mario Bros. style, the player is unable to slide down slopes and koopa shells can't be picked up. In exchange, it has the Big Mushroom item, which turns Mario gigantic and makes him able to break through certain types of blocks.
Another example lies in the Super Mario Bros. 3 style, which has its signature Super Leaf item and Shoe Goomba enemy, but the player is not able to do spin jumps as they're able to do in the latter three styles.
Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U, and Super Mario 3D World are all more complex gameplay-wise than the previously mentioned styles. Spin jumping is featured throughout all three, but wall-jumping is only available in NSMBU and SM3DW — and this is really only scratching the surface.
The hefty differences between each style allow course creators a constantly-surprising level of freedom when working up their next idea, but the Super Mario 3D World style is the least fleshed out of the three.
While SM3DW is technically the fastest of the five available styles, it's missing a number of tools available in others. It has its own unique set of tools to work with, but it's the most restrictive of the set and it is not possible to swap a course between SM3DW and any of the other styles.
The sheer variety of themes available in Super Mario Maker 2 was my biggest source of excitement before it came out (aside from slopes), and I am very happy to say they exceeded my expectations in every regard.
Course themes don't just set the stage here, some of them outright grant different gameplay experiences.
You've got Ground, you've got Underground, you've got Sky and Airship and Castle and Ghost House and Underwater — all from the original game — but you've also got the new Desert, Forest, and Snow themes. That's 10 themes!
Two of the new themes, Forest and Snow, are most notable because they bring new gimmicks without having to switch the course to nighttime.
The Forest theme has adjustable water akin to the lava in Castle theme courses — and, of course, the water doesn't outright kill you. This makes for some real weird courses, let me tell you.
The Snow theme does what you think: it makes the ground slippery. The bane of all those who call themselves gamers, but some course creators have found some creative ways to make use of this mechanic without it feeling like torture.
Amidst all this is the new ability to switch a course area or sub-area between day and nighttime. Daytime functions as normal, but nighttime brings out a whole new slew of gimmicks to work with.
A Ground night course? No more 1-Ups for you, those suckers are now Rotten Mushrooms that will chase you and deal damage.
A Forest night course? The water's now poison and insta-kills you just like lava.
A Desert night course? Well... it really depends on the course style! It gets real windy on the desert at night, apparently, and the direction and duration of wind gusts varies per style.
The sheer magnitude of uses that these new styles, themes, and related gimmicks have in conjunction with the size of the overall creator toolset cannot be understated.
Some may have claimed that your imagination was the limit in the original Super Mario Maker, but that is something you really feel here with the sequel.
With Yamamura's Dojo present to give players creation tips and tutorials, anyone can get into creating courses with minimal set up and knowledge. Players can also do local co-op and create courses in docked mode, which is both fun and relatively easy to work with as long as both creators are communicating.
There's more new here than just the shiny new story mode. Story mode is great in its own right, but the bulk of the game consists of trying your hand at player-made courses, which can be done solo, in online multiplayer, or with other players locally on other Nintendo Switches.
Super Mario Maker 2's online multiplayer modes, co-op and versus, are the big new kahunas to its gameplay variety. In co-op, players work together to finish courses; in versus, they go against each other with the first to reach the goal.
In theory, these modes should be great. I know a lot of people like them even now, but to me, these are currently the biggest blemishes on Super Mario Maker 2's otherwise blemish-free existence.
Both online cooperative and versus are plagued with lag, lag so bad I'm curious how anyone can fully enjoy these modes as they stand because that just seems like lunacy.
Every single co-op and versus match I've gotten into, I've chugged around at a uncomfortably variable speeds, sometimes feeling like I'm moving one pixel per second and sometimes a whopping 20 pixels per second. Sometimes I move at totally normal speed for a few seconds straight — amazing! ... Not.
I would love nothing more than to enjoy these modes for what they are, perhaps even with local multiplayer (which isn't available outside of the Course Maker, so you have to download a course to do it), but I hate feeling like I'm moving through molasses, and it's hard to understand the people who do enjoy the game's online multiplayer as it stands.
Outside of these two modes that will hopefully be fixed are Endless Challenge, the game's replacement for the original's 100-Mario Challenge, and, of course, just sifting through trending, popular, or new courses for a good time.
Thanks to the new Boo! option, which functions as a foil to Liking something, Endless Challenge is more bearable than much of what a player would run into in the first game's 100-Mario Challenge.
There are still plenty of sub-par courses you'll run into, but courses that receive enough Boo!s don't get put into the Endless Challenge pool very often. It's curation at its most simple, but it's made playing the mode more enjoyable than its predecessor.
There's not much else to say about playing courses but "It's Mario." Because it is, in fact, Mario, and if you're familiar with the series at all, this is an easy title to jump right into without having to worry about the more in-depth mechanics put on display in Expert and Super Expert difficulties.
There is more than enough content in Easy and Normal for players of any skill level to take on without having to stress about pixel-perfect jumps, kaizo blocks, and all that jazz.
Super Mario Maker 2 is exactly the sequel players of the original Wii U title were looking for, at least for this fan.
I put hundreds of hours into the original Super Mario Maker; I bought a Wii U for that game, but after my dog's well-placed paw put my Wii U out of commission a couple of years ago, I'd been high and dry. All I've really wanted was more SMM.
Aside from the janky online multiplayer, Super Mario Maker 2 is basically the perfect sequel, and like its predecessor, the series once again has opened creative doors I never even knew were there.
- Easy to understand and use course editor
- Literally limitless courses to play
- Co-op course making is surprisingly fun, provided you communicate
- All the new maker tools aren't just comprehensive, they're perpetually surprising
- Online multiplayer, both co-op and versus, is a laggy mess
If online co-op worked worth a heck, Super Mario Maker 2 would be an easy 10 out of 10 GOTY hoedown throwdown; it'll still probably be my game of the year.
I have a serious weakness for this game. However, even with the (totally optional) less-than-optimal online multiplayer, it's still a fantastic time for both casual and hardcore gamers with a soft spot for Nintendo's mascot.
[Note: A copy of Super Mario Maker 2 was provided by Nintendo for the purpose of this review.]