It’s time for a hot take.
I know, I know, hot takes are often used in journalism to increase engagement by making people upset and writing angry comments. However, that’s not how we do things here at CGR, and at the time I’m writing this, we don’t have a comments feature, soo…
SUPER MARIO MAKER 2 IS ONE OF THE BEST GAMES ON THE NINTENDO SWITCH.
There. I said it. And if you don’t think that was much of a hot take, I’m talking like top 5 games here. That means it’s competing with gems like Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a bold statement considering it’s “only” the 17th best-selling Switch game, at least from the current numbers we have. Do note that I am not saying this is one of the most beautiful or breathtaking games on the Switch, rather just one of the best games. What do I mean by that? Well, first allow me to explain what I think makes Super Mario Maker 2 great in the first place.
As is quite obvious from the title, Super Mario Maker 2 is a tool that lets YOU create your own Mario games right in your own hands (or on the TV). And yes, I mean games, not levels, as a 2020 update to the game would add the ability to create “Super Worlds” with up to 40 of your own courses in 8 different worlds. While many people will probably stick to just uploading a couple of stand-alone levels, the mere existence of this feature illustrates the potential this game offers to the player.
If the prospect of creating even one half-decent course sounds intimidating to you, be assured that such fear is misplaced. The course-creation experience is simplified and refined to the utmost degree, while still offering impressively deep and complex levels to those who have mastered the game’s mechanics, which has resulted in a countless number of contraptions created by the community including a functional calculator and even turn-based combat. Either with touch controls in handheld mode or button controls for every mode, level construction is fun and speedy compared to any other game creation tool I’m familiar with. I will admit that the UI suffers a tiny bit as it struggles to decide between two-player creation (which is also a thing, by the way) and the single player experience. With many scroll wheels and simple drag-and-drop placement however, building levels had seldom felt tedious to me at least.
There are dozens of different items and course elements to choose from, many of which interact with each other in special ways and occasionally differ between the 5 different game styles: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U and Super Mario 3D World. For example, Yoshi is unable to flutter jump in the Super Mario World style but can grab items through walls, reflecting his properties in the original game. Do take note that the 3D World style is a bit of an outlier since it lacks many of the course parts available in all other 4 styles, albeit introducing many exclusive items of its own. Between all of these options, I can guarantee that you will never run out of potential for new ideas, the only limiting factor being your own creativity.
But what are you going to do with all these levels you’ve lovingly crafted, anyway? Well, as long as you’ve got a Nintendo Switch Online membership, you can post them to the course world where they can be played and viewed by many. In fact…
I recently got the itch to make some levels again so I took this chance to release one alongside this review! If you’d like to try it out, simply search for the level code 4NQ-31T-YNF. There’s even a little CGR secret hidden somewhere for those who are extra savvy.
If you’re more into playing good levels though, Super Mario Maker 2 offers a plethora of different options. To start, there’s an entire story mode with over 100 developer-created levels complete with unique tasks and tie-ins to a simple but charming narrative. All of these can be played offline and without an NSO membership, of course.
When it comes to online courses, you essentially have unlimited options and a variety of different ways to find what you want to play. Each level is able to be assigned two separate tags, such as “speedrun” or “traditional” to help describe what sort of gameplay it offers. You can of course sort by these along with the type of game style, difficulty (based off of the clear rate) and more. The previous challenge modes from Super Mario Maker return this time in the form of endless modes which task the player to complete as many levels as possible in certain difficulties without running out of lives.
For more casual players I’d recommend the Normal mode for a balanced challenge, but for seasoned gamers Expert is definitely the way to go. Super Expert is little more than a treasure trove of awfully designed levels and I guess Easy is useful if you have a young kid who is even worse than you at video games.
An even bigger addition Super Mario Maker 2 adds over its Wii U predecessor is the ability to play ANY level in multiplayer. You can either tackle levels individually with a friend or online with 4 random players in co-op mode or the infamous multiplayer versus, in which you race other players in what is usually a laggy mess to be the first to complete a level with a ranking system that keeps things interesting. While I find this mode to be a ton of fun, I do have to admit that more casual gamers will likely find the latency issues quite annoying and the potential levels to be broken since they weren’t all designed with 4 players in mind is a problem as well. Fortunately, there is a multiplayer versus tag that can be assigned to levels and the matchmaker usually selects from such a pool so you will often find yourself playing levels that were designed for 4 players. Fortunately this is about the extent of classic Nintendo online annoyances™, as the level surfing process is quite smooth and load times are much shorter compared to the original Mario Maker.
This finally brings me to what I think makes Super Mario Maker 2 one of the best games on the Switch, and it’s quite similar to why I think Minecraft is the best game ever made, even if it’s not the most beautiful or the most impressive. It’s the community, potential for creativity, malleability and replayability. Yes, the story is less deep than most children’s books, the music is pleasant but for the most part not something you’d expect to make it into most playlists, and the graphics are simple. But, take a moment to ask yourself – for what reasons do you play video games?
I imagine most people would have at least a couple reasons why – and I’m almost sure that at least one of them has something to do with having fun.
It seems like a simple enough concept, but in this day and age especially, there can be many other reasons why people play games. Sometimes it’s to socialize (think playing with friends or joining with some strangers in a Pokémon GO raid), for others it can even be a career (professional content creators or esports players) and yet still for some it can unfortunately be for worldly fame and glory (like people who cheat in online games).
I feel, and in fact would argue, that the more beautiful games place an emphasis on story and really try to communicate deep emotions and complex conceptions. When paired with satisfying and fulfilling gameplay, they truly do appear more “complete” to me which is one of the qualities St. Thomas Aquinas attributes to beauty. I think the general gaming community understands this, and you will seldom find story-shallow games like Call of Duty winning game of the year, even if they are greatly enjoyed by many.
But again, we also have to remember why we play games. For similar reasons we don’t always eat the absolute most healthiest, rich food or read only Shakespeare all the time, it’s because we have different needs. Sometimes, when you get back from a long day of work, you aren’t looking to delve into an hours-long experience that will force you to think several steps ahead and connect with characters of different types. No, you just want to refine your mechanical skills for a bit, have some simple fun and perhaps interact with friends. Super Mario Maker 2 satisfies this need in a nearly perfect way, offering endless hours of fun that can be somewhat deep but remains shallow enough that it’s easily digestible and consistently engaging. I honestly do not know of another title on the Switch which trumps MM2 in this regard, and that is why I think it is a top 5 game on the Nintendo Switch. It really may not seem like it, but sometimes simple recreation is what we need and I see this game as a great way to get your creative jucies flowing. It’s even helped my mental health – especially when it first launched in the summer of 2019 while I was struggling.
Gameplay: 4/5 (-1 for online multiplayer lagginess)
Graphics: 5/5 (Very clean UI, resolution is high and frame rate stable)
Replayability: 5/5 (Duh)
Being a primarily online experience, you are at risk of encountering the occasional bad player or level title/theme and inappropriate comments (although you can turn comments off).
When it comes to violence, just the classic Mario slapstick stuff.
Magikoopas and some of the bosses possess magic wands. There are ghosts and a few undead enemies, like dry bones. Dry bones for Smash.
Did anyone even get that reference?
There are unlockable Mii outfits for completing certain achievements and this includes gender-specific clothing like dresses – but there’s no restriction on which ones male and female Miis can wear. Therefore, crossdressing is possible and you’ll occasionally see people who do such with their Miis.