Super Mario Maker 2 (2019)

Difficult doesn’t equal good level design

The original Super Mario Maker was a glorified level editor. Sure it was fun downloading others levels or creating your own, but there were several reasons why I never returned to it after the first week of release. The major issue was there really wasn’t any real way to get your levels played unless you were streaming it online and had a decent amount of people following you. The course level numbers and genericness of the way online worked made it hard to sift through the bad levels to find the small number of good ones.

The level editor and downloadable course parts feel extremely similar and will offer hundreds of hours of play for anyone willing to give it a shot, and once I spend some time with it, I hope to upload a few levels of my own. But for now, I’ll just focus on the story mode.

With this new game, Mario Maker finally adds a decent single player mode to the game. With just as much story as any other mainline Mario game, Princess Toadstool’s castle was blown up by the dog and you have to fund the rebuilding of it. With nothing really of a hub world, you are confined to a few steps in either direction and able to talk to a couple toads and a dog. The main Chief Toad will tell you what you can spend your money on to rebuild, and the other toad will give you a list of jobs you can complete for funds. It’s simple but honestly more than I expected from this game.

The list of pre-made Mario levels created by Nintendo themselves ramp up in complexity and offer a fair challenge on some of the courses. Mixing the different Mario styles up every level and also throwing in tons of new ideas into the mix as well really does give you some jumping off points on how to start building courses of your own. I really enjoyed the single player mode which made me realize I wasn’t as bad at Mario as I thought and also gave me an appreciation for the game that I really didn’t have before. It is fun playing through new 2D Mario levels and I had a blast listening to all the music from the original games I haven’t heard in quite a while.

There were several levels in the around 100 pre-made levels that I had difficulty with, most of them were the 3D World/New Super Mario style levels. Where the physics seem off and the mechanics are different than that of the original NES and SNES games. With wall jumps, running boosts and overly slippery controls, I had a much more difficult time with some of these levels. The other ones that gave me a fair amount of challenge were the auto-scrolling levels. Pushing you in a direction and making you rush through the level. These are nothing new and even in the NES and SNES games, but I was just never a fan of them, as I usually freak out and run head on into a spiked wall or off a cliff.

There are some spectacular level designs here in the story mode and one of the best was the final level. Where you face off against Bowser (Spoiler Alert, I know, you fight Bowser in a Mario game!). This level has a sense of urgency with a car race that is reminiscent of the final Halo level and a climactic battle at the end to top it all off. It really is awesome and worth playing through the story mode just for that level. It’s really good.

I’ve written before about how with the last dozen or so Mario games, I’ve felt like I’ve outgrown Mario. Everyone of them feel like they are made for children, with so much polish yet no depth at all. Sure you can add challenge by purple coins, but it’s just hidden coins. The silliness of Mario has worn out it’s welcome for me back on the N64, over two decades ago and with these Maker games, they really come back to what makes a Mario game fun for me… Level Design. It’s a testament to the platformer genre that you can take a game made in 2019 that has 1985 graphics and still have millions of people play these games and become amature level designers. Understanding what makes something fun vs not fun.

I will probably never put in the amount of time that most will put forth in this game. I’m not the type of person that will spend hours trying to complete a single level, but I will play the levels I see some of the people I follow online and also make my own courses with the help of my lovely wife and just enjoy the game for what it is, which is a small 2D Mario platforming game with an emphasis on level creation.