Given Nintendo’s penchant over the last few years for bringing Wii U games over to the Switch, a game like Super Mario Maker 2 is bound to have a few people scratching their head over how it’s actually different from the original. The game on Wii U was already so well polished, making great use of that console’s Gamepad touch screen to allow for intuitive creation, there was a wealth of incredibly creative levels being shared, and Nintendo added a great deal to it through feature updates and little bonus character skins. So how is Super Mario Maker 2 improving on all of that on Nintendo Switch?
It’s that last point in particular that could blur the lines between remaster and sequel, but personally I feel that the differences are clear. Just looking at the creation side of the game, you have a familiar looking interface with level design and structure options on the left side of the screen, a selection of building blocks along the top, and then tools down the right. It’s been smartened up a bit, made to look a tad more modern, and the layout revised roughly in line with the 3DS version, dig a little deeper and you start to find more meaningful changes to the create tools. There’s radial menus for selecting items, and these have definitely been created with docked play in mind, helping to bridge some of the gap without being able to stab at the screen with your fingers and thumbs.
You’ll also find a brand new theme, based off Super Mario 3D World. It looks weird. For one thing, there’s the logical leap the designers had to make to take a version of the Mario platformer first designed for the 3DS’ stereoscopic 3D, and then adapted into a fantastic co-op platformer, to be rendered in a side-scrolling form. It adds a lot of great elements into the mix, from the Cat Mario costume’s dive attack and ability to clamber up walls, to the transparent pipes, spike blocks, on-off switches, extension blocks and so much more.
It still looks really odd the first time you switch from create mode to play, where the game’s camera angle adjusts to reveal the depth of what Mario is running on. You simply don’t get that in the other Mario side-scrollers, where even the 3D rendering of New Super Mario Bros. is given a purely 2D look.
It’s because of all of these changes that the Super Mario 3D World theme stands apart from the others in the game. You can switch between those themes on the fly, with many game elements having been reproduced between the eras of Mario, but Nintendo decided that there’s just too much that’s different with 3D World. If you switch themes from the old crop to 3D World, it will wipe everything that you’ve created and force you to start from scratch.
For the creators, there’s more than enough new toys to get to grips with, but for people that just want to pick up an off-kilter Mario game and play, there’s reams and reams of new content. For one thing you have the new single player mode, which once again does a great job of demonstrating some of the possibilities with the creation tools, being built around the Sun that hounds you through the level or a quirky haunted house level. There’s over 100 levels here, which Mario takes on as contracts to earn enough coins to rebuild Peach’s castle, and they’re added to the job listing in groups, meaning you can pick ones that sound fun, or dip in and out if you find something a bit tricky.
Where things will get really wild is with Creation World, where you can sample all manner of weird and wonderful, or plain and ordinary Mario levels from the community – there’s tons of filters to help you find what you want. Personally I think it’s a real disappointment that sharing levels is now locked behind having a Switch Online subscription, when it’s free in games like LittleBigPlanet 3 and Dreams. Frankly, it sucks and it’s a real shame that Nintendo are pushing it so hard like this, especially when there are other parts of Super Mario Maker 2 that are more easily justified to live behind the pay wall.
Multiplayer was missing from the first Super Mario Maker, but it’s here in full force and brings online multiplayer to the series for the first time. It is absolute madness, embracing the chaotic nature of multiplayer New Super Mario Bros. and splicing it together with the nonsense of so many of these levels.
You can tackle things co-operatively, and this was a cheating path to the end of some particularly challenging levels, as a single surviving player can revive the others as they float back into the level in bubbles and combine to skirt past some of the brutally difficult creations. Alternatively you can play competitively, and it’s here that having multiplayer across multiple consoles works really well. Instead of being locked to the same screen, you can play ad hoc or over the internet – thankfully for ad hoc play, only one of you needs a Switch Online sub to access online levels – and this gives you all your own view of the frantic action as you all race to get to the finish flag first. If you die, you’re reset back to the beginning of the level, but depending on the level there can be a tense mix of needing to battle together to get past obstacles and be the first to finish, and I managed to sneak the win on a few occasions as we played.
From what we’ve played, Super Mario Maker 2 more than justifies its status as a full sequel. It doesn’t just bring the magic of the original game to the Switch, but adds so much more content and more ways to play in the process. Whether you’re into creating and sharing levels, want an endless supply of Mario platforming or barmy experiments to sample, or it’s multiplayer Mario madness you’re after, Super Mario Maker 2 has it all.