I’m having an easier time making levels in Super Mario Maker 2 for the Nintendo Switch than I am writing a review for it. Maybe that’s because I’ve been playing the game almost nonstop for a week. It could also be a lack of sleep that’s totally unrelated to said time spent gaming. Whatever the reasons, the game is hard to put down because it’s so easy to design courses. And I don’t just mean making nigh-unbeatable levels to drive YouTubers and Twitch streamers insane: This is a game anyone can both enjoyably create Super Mario levels and play those made by others.
Mario Maker 2 has three main modes: Course Maker, Course World, and Story. Course Maker is, naturally, where players can make levels as easy or difficult, as traditional or strange, as they can imagine. Recreate the first level from Super Mario Bros. for the NES? Go at it. Make it in the graphical style of Super Mario Bros. 3 and turn all the enemies into ghosts? Have a ball. Make a course where the win condition is that you can’t jump? You’re a monster. As long as you can beat your level yourself, whatever you dream up can be put online to entertain and torture gamers around the globe.
You’ll find those levels in Course World, where you can see new and popular creations. Play through specific stages as many times as needed until you succeed or run out of controllers to smash in frustration, or pit yourself and a finite number of lives against a random selection of courses in Endless Challenge. You can also hop onto Network Play to game with and compete against up to three other players, be they friends in the room or others from across the internet.
If you want a more structured experience, there’s the new Story Mode, in which Mario is charged with playing through levels collecting coins to rebuild Princess Peach’s castle. It’s not so much a full game as a series of stages by Nintendo level designers showcasing how specific enemies, objects, and tools can be used in potential player-made courses.
Those potentials are nearly limitless: Everything from speed-based levels requiring pixel-perfect timing to brain-wracking puzzles to dogged boss fights are possible. However, anyone being able to make a level also means there’s a variety of quality, with more than a few stages being poorly designed and full of cheap deaths. The better-loved levels tend to float to the top of the popular course selections, but players will still find themselves picking the “exit course” option more than a few times.
If you think you can do better, try! Mario Maker 2’s course editor is intuitive, simple, and its own fair bit of fun. The game boasts new desert- and snow-themed levels, tools like On and Off switch blocks, a multiplayer mode, and a course theme based on Super Mario 3D World, which has a vastly different play style and toolset than the others. There is a large drawback in that the first game had the WiiU’s gamepad to design on and the TV to see your creations in action. Here you use the Switch’s touchscreen, which works fine, though designing on the TV when the Switch is docked via controller is pretty clunky.
The amount of potential gameplay contained in this one title is staggering, despite the prevalence of less-than-stellar community-produced levels. The pain of those is far outweighed by the pain of well-designed difficult ones, the throes of making them, and the torment of trying to put the game down despite telling yourself, “Just one more course.”
Nintendo Switch. Rated E.