Sometimes more is better. I was convinced at first of hearing about the original Super Mario Maker it was unnecessary, but after spending dozens of hours poking at it, it felt like a physical necessity. And I had the same reaction to Super Mario Maker 2. We already had the first one, what could a second one do? Oh, what a fool I was (also am and will continue to be).
The biggest doubt that you have to hurdle yourself over is why you would play a game that simply enables amateurs to try to do with professionals can barely accomplish. Do you really want to waste your time playing through a level the guy across the street made over the course of one afternoon when you could just dive back into the Mario archives and play stages crafted by experts in their field? Or even one made by your own dumb hands? Shockingly, yes, if you’ll let yourself.
In fact, this sequel has a Story Mode specially made to attack that sort of hesitation. Saying it has a story is a bit of a stretch, but there are eight hours’ worth of levels made by Nintendo with the same tools that will be available to anyone else playing the game. And they are terrific. Because they have little reason to bend a knee to a theme or narrative beat, they can be as weird and inventive as they want.
Some try to turn single items into fully fleshed-out concepts while others take a mechanic to its absolute extreme. (My favorite is one entirely built around wall-sliding.) Others show that you can push the limits of what the design tools were made to do, incepting your brain with a flood of creativity that you hadn’t ever counted on having. After all, if you can make a faux shmup, what can’t you make?
Once you plow through the superb story levels, you are led naturally into exploring all those what-ifs you tucked away. The creator smartly allows you to start with a form of a Nintendo-made level, removing the dreaded empty page blinking cursor paralysis. But this also means that you can toy with every single notion you ever had. Maybe get rid of this block and add a Goomba tower. Or fill the entire thing with water. Or this or that or whatever!
Granted, a lot of the novelty of the first game has faded. The hilarious incongruity of putting a small Mario inside a giant Kuribo’s shoe is still funny, but not riotously so as before. But that also means that a lot of what gets made is less about shock and awe and more about refining an idea into something that edges closer and closer to, well, playable. Masterful, even.
Thankfully the creator tools are still just as easy to use as before, and given that it’s a second pass after four years of user behavior observation, there have been a pleasant number of improvements to make life just better. It’s the sort of relief that makes it so confounding that they would make the multiplayer so thoroughly busted. The online is unplayable, but the local is prohibitively unpleasant to set up that it’s almost not worth attempting.
There’s also the problem of Nintendo’s history with fan creations. They added a “Boo!” reaction to staged alongside the existing “I like it!” reaction, which seems befuddling considering it’s just a fact that once you allow negative feedback, that invites trolling. They’ll delete levels for various, opaque reasons (even if that reason is *shoulder shrug*). They’ll do any number of troublesome things they’ve done in the past because Nintendo has no idea how to foster an online presence.
If you haven’t seen based on Twitter videos of levels ranging from brilliant to maniacal, this is already a popular game. And that’s well-deserved. It improves on just about everything from the unexpectedly successful original and even packs a couple of surprises. It’s just on Nintendo now to now neuter their own product with their penchant for being internet dullards.
Final score: 9 out of 10