When Nintendo released Super Mario Maker on the Wii U in 2015, they handed the keys to the Mushroom Kingdom to creators, letting them create Super Mario levels to their heart’s content. People are still using Super Mario Maker to create incredible, often genius levels with the software, years later. More often than not, those levels eschew the traditional mechanics you’d expect from a 2D Mario game, using the framework to deliver interesting and unique experiences. With Super Mario Maker 2 on the horizon, Switch owners can be guaranteed that they’ll not only be able to make their own courses, but they’ll have a near infinite supply of easily sorted levels from creators around the world.
Some people – like me – need a more structured experience though – and Super Mario Maker 2 finally delivers that in a full single-player (or co-op!) campaign. And, as with the courses you’ll find, it turns the traditional Mario campaign on its head. Instead of the usual trope of Bowser kidnapping the princess and Mario heading off to save the perpetual damsel in distress, here, Mario (in his builder guise) is helping to maintain Princess Peach’s castle, with the help of an array of coloured Toads. As work completes, a mishap occurs and the castle is completely eradicated. It’s up to Mario and the Toads to rebuild, but to do that they’ll need to come up with the cash to fund the repairs.
To earn that cash, Mario gets jobs from the Taskmaster – and those jobs are, effectively, just Mario courses of varying difficulty. The more difficult the course, the more cash you’ll get for completing them. You’ll also get to keep the coins you collect through each course. They’re courses as you’d get made through the game’s creation tools, so they have different themes, borrowing their aesthetics from older Mario games; Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros U and the newly added Super Mario 3d World. While the last one takes its aesthetic cues from a 3D game, they’re transformed into a 2D plane. Each theme takes on the mechanics of it host game, so Mario 3 levels have transformative leaves, changing Mario (or his toady pals) into Raccoons, Super Mario World ones have capes, and Super Mario 3D world ones give you the bells that give players catsuits.
What makes the dozens and dozens of bespoke levels you’ll play through as you earn enough coin so damned good though, is that Nintendo’s levels designers get to take the shackles off. Because levels have no overarching worlds, level designers need not stick to any sort of template. You might play a level that’s a clever little puzzle that looks like it’s yanked from Super Mario Bros 3, and in the very next it’ll look like it’s a horizontal shoot-em-up made from assets pulled from 1980s Super Mario Bros games. There are countless times while playing through the game where I had to stop, put the Switch down, and remark, out loud to nobody in particular that “that was damned clever.”
So far, I’ve had a great time in Super Mario Maker 2 – and that’s before making my own levels, or playing other people’s created ones.
Super Mario Maker 2 is out on the Switch on June 28. We’ll have a review soon.
Last Updated: June 19, 2019