Nintendo's Mario games have always taken players through a mixture of creative levels packed with elements and mechanics to master, but all these attempts pale in comparison to Super Mario Maker 2. That's because the Mario-building sequel feels like a culmination of everything before it, where both the players and Nintendo are unleashed upon a universe of possibilities where every world is different from the ones to come and what came before.
If you played Super Mario Maker when the original game came out for the Wii U, or even on the 3DS, you'll already have a solid understanding of how this sequel works. You either take on levels built by other players or Nintendo itself that range from simplistic to grueling (though always creative), or you're doing the building yourself and putting together your own Mario fantasy. Players can also rebuild Princess Peach's destroyed castle through the game's Story Mode, a feature which wasn't present in the original.
Each of these modes deserves a fair shake, but one of the best parts of Mario Maker 2 is how intertwined yet completely separate they are. You'll unlock powerups and parts and other various bobs and bits by completing the challenges different Toads issue you as you rebuild Peach's castle, which is how gameplay in other modes is most directly impacted, but inspiration is the unseen thread between the three modes. By playing in the Story Mode, you'll see that Nintendo has created something interesting and you want to see if you can provide your own entertaining take on it. Head into the Course Builder mode and give your creation a shot, and should you get stumped there, go try out some other player-made worlds to get the creative juices flowing. It's a cycle that keeps you busy, and with every other mode available at a press of the start button, applying your inspiration is just a few clicks away.
This cycle will continue for the first few hours or so, but if you're like me and many others, your rotation of game modes may become whittled down to just two, or perhaps even one. Even though making Mario worlds is the entire point of the game, that specific aspect is just not something I'm particularly interested in. It's an area I'd rather leave to the pros at Nintendo or to the people who make levels comparable with those of professional quality. After piddling around and indecisively placing some blocks here and there through a half dozen unfinished worlds, it became clear that that part of the game wouldn't be the focal point for me. During these journeys into the Course Maker mode though, everything worked quite well. Controls were smooth regardless of how a course was built, and it's easy to see how it'd become an addictive process once you ship a world, see people playing it, and want to do it all over again.
Props to the other players who get the most out of this part of the game though because they're the ones who provide such enjoyment for the rest of us. Nintendo's levels are diverse and challenging in their own right, with the mixture of Story Mode levels varying in difficulty – win conditions like "no jumping" are particularly rewarding – but the avalanche of possibilities comes from Course World where you'll encounter other players' creations. This was the best part of Super Mario Maker, and it retains that top spot in the sequel. You'll find levels that reward, amuse, challenge, and frustrate you to no end, but that's part of the beauty of the mode. If you grow tired of one type of experience, you can easily shift over to someone else's creation that will likely be completely different from what you just played. Perhaps you'll even think that you could've executed an idea better than someone else did, and then you're right back in the cycle once again.
Super Mario Maker 2 overall is entirely worth your time if you enjoyed the first game or if you've ever had a favorite Mario game that stood out to you, especially since the game encompasses worlds that come from the original Super Mario Bros. experience to more modern versions. Other games in the past have attempted and failed to make enjoyable experiences out of player-driven content while placing the onus on the community, Super Mario Maker 2 is a prime example of what that strategy looks like when it works. Considering the thriving community the Nintendo Switch boasts, this feels like a game that's in no risk of running out of content for the foreseeable future.
Rating: 4 out of 5