Release Date: June 28, 2019Platforms: SwitchDeveloper: NintendoPublisher: NintendoGenre: Platformer/Level editor
At first glance, Super Mario Maker 2 doesn’t look too different from its predecessor, but just a few minutes with it reveals a deeper sequel with even more customization option and deeper gameplay. This sequel is everything that was great about the first game but given new life on a much more popular platform.
The premise of Super Mario Maker is so simple that it’s a wonder Nintendo didn’t come up with it years ago. Take all the assets from Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U and give gamers free rein to make the levels they always wanted and share them online for other players to complete. And if the first game’s toy box wasn’t big enough, this sequel adds the option to make levels based on the criminally underrated Super Mario 3D World, though these levels are still stuck on a 2D plane.
On top of all that, newly added sound effects from Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, a koopa car you can add to levels, and a very special surprise from the oft-forgotten Game Boy classic Super Mario Land, make this sequel the biggest celebration of Mario’s long platforming history yet. Super Mario Maker 2 also adds co-op levels and level creation and the Builder Mario power-up, which smashes stone blocks with a hammer and creates new ones out of thin air.
While the emphasis remains on creating and sharing levels, Super Mario Maker 2 includes a sizable single-player campaign of more than 100 levels where the goal is to collect coins and rebuild Princess Peach’s castle after a mishap with Undo Dog. Most of these levels are fantastic, showing off the full range of the creation suite across all five of the games. Some of them include some really creative new uses of switches and power-ups that I’ve never seen in a Mario game before, and a few have some uniquely challenging puzzles, unlike the typical Mario level.
Many of the single-player levels emphasize the new ability to add goals to stages. No longer do levels just have to be about reaching the finale. Now, you can require players with picking up a certain number of coins or reach the goal with a certain power-up or object in tow. A few of the more creative (and difficult) levels require that you never touch the ground while others want you to not jump at all.
This is the freshest a Super Mario platformer has felt in years. Even if you’re mostly on the go or have a limited online connection, Super Mario Maker 2 is well worth picking up to play solo. And finishing Story Mode is required to access the final two power-ups in the creator mode.
Speaking of creator mode, Nintendo deserves a lot of credit for coming up with one of the best design toolset ever featured in a game. It’s rare to find a user interface capable of deeply complex customization that’s also easy to use after just a few minutes of playing around with it. I was able to make a basic, yet fully playable Super Mario Bros. 3 level full of pits, coins, and goombas in about 15 minutes.
If you’re willing to put the time into learning its many tools, there aren’t many limits to what you can do in the level editor, with some very and creative levels already up for download just a few days after release. My favorite was an inspired Mario take on the Cthulhu mythos, complete with plenty of bloopers.
There are a couple of tiny cracks in Super Mario Maker 2, however. Since the first game was first released on the Wii U and 3DS, these creation tools were clearly originally designed for touch controls. While editing levels is a breeze in handheld mode, it’s kind of a hassle with the pro controller.
It still also isn’t very easy to find levels, as Nintendo only sorts them into general categories and tags, and only making the Course ID or Maker ID searchable. I wish I could search by actual terms, but that’s just how Nintendo does online gaming. Ultimately, this is a minor complaint. There’s still a ridiculous number of quality levels available, even if you can’t always find what you’re looking for.
Super Mario Maker 2 is a fantastic sequel that rounds out the few rough edges of the first game. It’s a must-have for Switch owners whether you’re looking to create near-infinite new Mario levels or just play through them.
Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.