Nintendo has been slowly bringing many of the Wii U's biggest exclusives to the Nintendo Switch, but instead of just porting the original Super Mario Maker to the platform, it decided to push ahead with a full-fledged sequel. While it seems like it would be difficult to expand on the Super Mario Maker concept, Super Mario Maker 2 has enough new ideas to keep the game feeling fresh, with even more content than was in the original game.
Super Mario Maker 2 features most of the creation tools that were present in the original game, but adds a ton more, opening the door for even more creative level designs. Things like hills, snake blocks, and claws can all significantly change the way Super Mario Maker 2 players not only play the game, but design their levels. We found using the on/off switches especially fun, as they add a great dynamic that can be used to make platforming more challenging or to create puzzles. One common example we've seen are timing puzzles that require players to switch conveyor belt directions with the on/off switch in order to get an item, and getting these down can be just as thrilling as the platforming stages.
The most notable additions to Super Mario Maker 2 will be the influences it takes from 3D Mario games like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World. The new game lets players use a distinctly Super Mario Galaxy aesthetic, complete with altered gravity and the like. Super Mario 3D World has an entire theme of its own, which includes a visual upgrade, the return of the cat suit, and new enemies and obstacles that originated from that game.
Super Mario 3D World was also known for its use of four-player co-op, and so it's fitting that multiplayer has been added in Super Mario Maker 2 as well. Players can play downloaded courses with up to four players locally, or they can jump into random online courses with strangers. It's even possible to create stages in co-op, but the multiplayer implementation in Super Mario Maker 2 ends up being one of its more disappointing aspects.
Super Mario Maker 2's local multiplayer is lacking, as players can only play it on downloaded courses, and most of the levels we have played are simply not optimized well for multiple people. On the other hand, the online multiplayer is laggy, and while it's still good for some laughs, it's hard to see anyone playing it seriously. The inability to play with specific friends online at launch is a letdown as well, but that feature is supposedly coming at some point in the future.
Not being able to play co-op with friends online is unfortunate, but the lack of co-op in story mode is also puzzling. Most modern 2D Super Mario games have offered co-op for up to 4 players, and so it's strange that Nintendo decided to leave it out here, especially since it even bothered adding co-op to the level creation mode.
Even so, the fact that Super Mario Maker 2 has a story mode at all is a step in the right direction, and it certainly gives the game more immediate value than if players had to rely entirely on user-created content. There are a little over 100 Nintendo-made levels to play through, with the goal being to earn coins to rebuild Princess Peach's castle. Most of the levels are bite-sized stages that are perhaps a little too short, but they're all fairly unique for Super Mario stages, with some that stand out as especially fun. One of our favorite stages was a level where players can use a Mario Kart-like car to plow through enemies and pull off some tricky platforming under a stressful time limit.
Sadly, the story mode in Super Mario Maker 2 is over far too quickly, with it only taking a few hours to complete every level and completely rebuild Princess Peach's castle. Anyone hoping for story mode to deliver a full-blown Super Mario experience will be disappointed, but it is a lot of fun while it lasts, with well-balanced challenge and smart use of the new tools that could very well inspire creators.
The level creation tools in Super Mario Maker 2 are even more impressive than before, and are still some of the easiest level creation tools out there. The Wii U GamePad did make it more convenient, as players could easily edit with the touchscreen while playing through creations on the TV, but the Switch gets the job done. Some creators may be turned off by the 32 course upload limit, but it's actually helping to keep the flood of bad levels to a minimum, and won't impact most players.
When it comes to playing user-created levels, Super Mario Maker 2 makes things easier than ever. Players can search for specific courses, browse through the top courses, or play random ones in the Endless Mode, separated by difficulty level. There are some truly great user-created levels to play already, and if the first Super Mario Maker is any indication, the Super Mario Maker 2 community will still be active for years to come.
Super Mario Maker 2 has a bright future ahead of it, but it's still a fully-featured game at launch. The new tools make for exciting additions to the game, and users have already created spectacularly fun levels that can be downloaded right now. The multiplayer implementation in Super Mario Maker 2 definitely has room for improvement, but otherwise players should have a ton of fun with the game.
Super Mario Maker 2 is out now, exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.