by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I played some of the original Super Mario Maker, but only when I had a Nintendo DS; it was simply not worth buying a Wii U to play Mario Maker. I’m not sorry, but I thought it was a rubbish console, and nothing more than a beta test for the Switch. But I loved the idea of Mario Maker, despite being getting bogged down in the minutiae of actual world-building in a platformer. The fun for me was simply playing through stages, but it didn’t have any real “plot”. You made stages, and you played stages, and that was it.
Super Mario Maker 2 is a step up in every way, including a tutorial that is actually useful, and a story mode! There are, of course, things that I feel it lacks, but it is certainly going forward from the first game. In case my wonderful readers aren’t familiar, let me introduce you to the term “Kaizo”. It originates from “Kaizo Mario”, which was a ridiculously difficult Super Mario World hack. When you hear about a Kaizo-difficult stage, it’s going to require you to know very specific, difficult tricks in Mario. A prime example of this is Shell Jumping.
Whether you played a ton of Mario Maker, or make your own Kaizo-levels, you should at least take a peek at Super Mario Maker 2’s “Yamamura’s Dojo”. This helpful pigeon teaches you pretty much everything you need to do concerning the basics of stage building in Super Mario Maker 2. I found a personal critique when I decided that my first stage would be a Super Mario World underwater level – Torpedo Ted is not available! I can place Banzai Bills and Bullet Bill towers, but Torpedo Ted appears to be missing, which was one of the best parts of Super Mario World in terms of making other people angry. To get started in Super Mario Maker 2, you want to pick a world archetype. Available game styles are Super Mario Bros 1, 3, World, and New Super Mario Bros. U, plus an “extra” game style, Super Mario 3D World. There are a ton of blocks, foes, and powerups you can unlock, but there are plenty of additional powerups that can only be unlocked via Story Mode.
Story mode unlockables include The Super Hammer, Cat Mario, The SMB3 Shoe, and perhaps most importantly, the Superball Fire Flower from Super Mario Land on the Gameboy. Because of this, I recommend playing this mode before you deep-dive into stage-building. I also found in that in the Settings, you can change the playable characters of these created stages to Mario, Luigi, and two Toads! After you’ve picked a world and stage type, you can start placing ground, blocks, coins, and enemies. Super Mario Maker 2 has two features you should make liberal use of: Testing and Saving. The game does not auto-save your progress on stages, so please save often. Simply pressing “-” will allow you to try to the stage as it is presently, to see how the jumps and enemy placements work. One thing I sort of wish you could do in Super Mario Maker 2 though, is set a ground level and ceiling for stages, so you do not accidentally place stuff higher than you’d like. It’s not a serious disappointment, but many times, I would accidentally drag stuff too high and had to delete it for the sake of my sanity. Another thing I would like to see either in a future update, or in Super Mario Maker 3 (should it ever happen), is a feature to place these stages onto a World Map. This would be a fantastic addition to the game, where players could create their own virtual fan-games to upload for people to play. But that’s just a wishlist thing for me.
Actual stage building is fairly easy if you want to make a nice easy stage. The more complicated your stage, the more experience and practice you (and players trying your stage) will need. I personally spent far far (far) too much time trying to put together a stage that I was happy with. Spoiler Warning: I was never happy with any of them, and boy did I try. I absolutely love the amount of stuff you can do in this. Do you want to make auto-scroller/auto-Mario stages that play themselves and show off how skilled you are? You sure can. Do you want to make a soul-crushing Kaizo stage? That’s on the menu too! Puzzle stages with lots of keys and tricky problem-solving? No problem! No matter what you want to do, it’s practically possible. This is the biggest, most fascinating part of the game, the stuff you can do with a stage. From underwater to an angry sun, they have you covered.
The next major part of this game is Story Mode! As I said previously, there are unlockables for Builder Mode here, and all you have to do to get them is play particular stages. The story is pretty simple to get into. Undodog, the 2D dog of the Mario Maker series, accidentally “undoes” the Mushroom Kingdom’s castle, and so the Toads are beginning construction! However, these Toads can be lazy and will have tasks for you to do to help fund this project. Your job is to complete stages for Coin rewards and make decisions on which parts of the castle are built when. Each part of the castle has a cost and a timer. This timer is not what you think – it will have a series of hammers beside it, and completing a stage fills one of the hammer slots. You complete stages, build the castle, and then go to the next floor of the castle, et cetera. Occasionally, these Toads will have side-jobs for you to do too because they can’t be bothered to go do something themselves. Jerks. These stages have a 1-4 star difficulty rating, with 1 being overwhelmingly easy, and 4 being close to controller-breaking difficulty. The game will tell you the goal of the stage, because it’s not always just “get to the goal”! Sometimes you have to get to the end after hand-standing on trees, not taking damage, getting all of the keys, or taking a Toad to the end. The Toad one was the most interesting, because if you take a hit, the Toad floats off in a bubble, like in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island.
These are stages made by the Mario Maker 2 devs, as far as I’m aware, and are a great way to see what’s possible in the game. I’m not saying “steal these stages and make them for people to play online”, but if you want to see ideal placements for blocks, enemies and more, it’s a great way to get a feel for what this engine’s limitations are. Each stage has a reward in Coins, and any Coins you pick up also go to your total, so it pays to do your best. However, some of these stages might feel soul-crushingly difficult, where, after 25, 30, 35 tries, you still just can’t seem to get it right. Each new stage brings you 5 lives, and if you get a Game Over, you can try again, or. . . you can ask Luigi to help. He’ll complete the stage for you, but I wish you could watch, to figure out what you did wrong. You can also add power-ups and blocks to a stage, to help you get past obstacles. I love this because not everyone is amazing at Mario, but still want to play the game. You still get the rewards, even if you cheat. If you’re at a stumbling block, don’t fret – you can always come back to it later if you want. The story for Super Mario Maker 2 is a fun, easy-to-understand adventure, where you play through an incredibly varied set of worlds, offering a little bit of everything. Want to know what you can do in Super Mario Maker 2? Play the Story Mode.
Course World & Course Bot:
The last part of the game is centered around an endless amount of stages to play. Course World has a few options: Courses, Leaderboards, Network Play, and Endless Challenge. That’s right, you can have global multiplayer co-op or versus! There’s also local co-op, which is terrific.
Leaderboards and Network play pretty much explain themselves – look to the internet for people to play with, challenge your friends, and see how good you are at Mario. The Courses section has “Hot Courses”, “Popular Courses”, “New Courses”, and “Detailed Search”. Detailed Search lets you search specific game style, course themes, difficulty, region, and Clear Rate/Popularity. If you think for a minute that you will run out of stages to play, you won’t. Trust me. You can also input specific Course IDs/Maker IDs if you want to play certain players stages like, for example, GrandPoohBear.
This is a fun way to just pick a stage or two and challenge yourself. But what if you want the Mario Experience, and to just go through random stages back to back? Endless Challenge is what you’re after. Endless Challenge starts you with a number of lives and a set of difficulties. You can hit New Game anytime you’d like, if you aren’t happy, and can also skip stages if it’s too much for you. You have Easy, Normal, Expert, and Super Expert. The stage difficulty seems to be sorted on a much better level this time around. It didn’t feel like they were sorted well at all in Super Mario Maker 1. In addition, you can swap between difficulties, each having their own endless track to go through. This is probably my favorite part of the game, but I’d really like to do this mode with online co-op/local co-op. Commenting on players stages, liking them, and playing through these stages will also unlock customizable clothes for your Mii, which you have to make for these modes.
CourseBot is simple enough: This is where your stages are located that you’ve made, and any stages you’ve downloaded to play. You can upload 32 courses, but there doesn’t seem to be a limit on how many you can download. For me personally, Course World is where it is at. Every time I play, it’s a new, challenging experience (except on Easy. Easy is Super Damn Easy).
It’s-a Me! Wario! Wait. . . 4/5 (Great)
Super Mario Maker 2 is essentially a legit Super Mario Randomizer, which is all I really wanted. Each time I play it’s new, and it’s almost always challenging. Anyone who reads my work by now knows I love randomizers, and this is a Nintendo-sanctioned one. I wish it were a bit more clear on how you unlock stuff in the game, but that’s just a part of the old-school Nintendo experience; can’t be mad about that. Since this was developed/published by Nintendo, it has the Mario sounds, music, and looks that you expect, down to Superball Fire Flower turning on Super Mario Land music and sound effects. The possibilities for creation in Super Mario Maker 2 are damn near endless, but of course, there are still things that can be added. More world choices, for example (SMB2 US, Yoshi’s Island, SML2/3), or the ability to make actual worlds to traverse, as I discussed earlier.
But the actual gameplay? Top-notch. The creation suite is easy to use and has some truly fantastic elements in it. By now, I’m sure you’ve seen that even major fast-food chains are getting in on the act, to promote their business by creating stages. There’s really something for everyone in Super Mario Maker 2, down to casual, easy stages with friends, all the way up to bone-shattering Kaizo stages that increase your blood pressure and diminish the lifetime of your Pro Controllers/Joycons. For me, Super Mario Maker 2 is a game I can put in and play a few stages, then go do something else, but I absolutely love what’s on offer here. Ghost Houses, Airships, Underwater, weird powers, weirder enemies, it’s all here! I do hope they add more content to the game, as far as more enemies and worlds go, but Super Mario Maker 2 is far more than just making stages – it’s a whole Super Mario Bros. experience.