Super Mario Maker 2 improves on the original in almost every way, but it has issues with its shoddy online mode and some unnecessary limitations.
Super Mario Maker 2 allows the player to create their own stages based on the styles from five different Mario games (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U, and the new addition of Super Mario 3D World), which they can then share online in order for other people to enjoy. The player can also download stages designed by other players in the Course World mode, in order to enjoy an almost infinite different variety of levels.
The Course Maker mode is the main feature of Super Mario Maker 2 and it's where the players will spend most of their time. The game has added a lot of new features, including vertical stages, new stage themes, new enemies, new power-ups, new types of terrain, the ability to create slopes, the ability to add stage conditions (such as not being able to jump) in order to be able to finish the level, the ability to ride in cars, and numerous others improvements over the original game. The addition of the Super Mario 3D World stages has also added a lot of new content in terms of enemies and power-ups, with the addition of the Cat Mario suit allowing the player to climb walls and strike enemies with their claws.
One prominent omission from the original game is the Costume Mario powerup that allowed the player to take on the appearance of different characters, like Link from The Legend of Zelda, the Duck Hunt Dog, or every member of Babymetal. The costumes allowed for an even greater variety of stage themes in the original Super Mario Maker and their absence from the sequel is a notable loss. One other major issue with the game is that the player can only upload thirty-two stages, a significant drop from the one hundred that could be uploaded in the original Super Mario Maker.
The players who experienced the original Super Mario Maker will find the interface familiar and should be able to jump right back in. Those people who are new to the series can visit Yamamura's Dojo in order to watch numerous tutorial videos about the various features in the game. The tutorial videos can be painfully slow and the player might be better off just diving in and learning how to build stages at their own pace, or at least checking out an online guide.
The player no longer has access to the Wii U GamePad, which means that levels can either be designed using controllers on the big screen while docked or using the touchscreen while in handheld mode. It's also possible for two players to create a stage at once using the Joy-Cons. Players who are most in Super Mario Maker 2 for its stage-building modes should never even bother to try while the Nintendo Switch is docked, as the touchscreen option is a lot faster. The docked version of the game allows the player to quickly access specific features using the buttons, but it's still much slower than just being able to touch the pieces that the player wants and directly putting it where it's supposed to be. It's also advisable for a player to use a capacitive stylus while creating stages Super Mario Maker 2, as it will be more accurate and will leave fewer marks on the screen.
Super Mario Maker 2 has single-player content in the form of the Story Mode, where Princess Peach's castle is destroyed and it's up to Mario and a team of Toads to create a new one. The Story Mode allows Mario to take on missions to earn coins needed to rebuild the castle. The Story Mode isn't very long and it's possible for players to give themselves additional power-ups after dying a few times in order to make things easier, but it does offer a lot of well-designed levels with unique gimmicks. It feels as if the Story Mode was created so that the developers of Super Mario Maker 2 could show off their skills and stages as highlights of what the game can do.
There is also the Endless Challenge mode, which gives the player five lives as they try to complete randomly downloaded stages. The Endless Challenge mode offers a fun way to try out new custom levels without needing to search for them manually. In this mode players can save their position at any time and return at a later date to continue their run.
Super Mario Maker 2 also features online modes where a player can work with other players to complete levels, or take them on in order to be the first to reach the finishing line. It's also possible to play with other people locally and a future update will allow people to play with their friends online.
The online modes are the most frustrating aspect of Super Mario Maker 2, as there are seeds of greatness buried within the poor design decisions and terrible service. As of the time of release, the average online game of Super Mario Maker 2 is plagued with slowdown, to the point where most matches are unplayable. The average match turns into a slideshow, as the Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Online service struggle to run games where four people run around 2D Mario levels. Nintendo has always had a spotty history when it comes to its online outings, but the fact that fans now need to pay for the online functionality in games means that the current quality of Super Mario Maker 2's online modes is unacceptable.
There are also issues involving stage selection. If the player selects the Versus online mode, then they are thrown into a random stage with no choice of level selection. If the player selects the Co-op mode, then they will be given a choice between four difficulty selections, but that's all. There is currently no way for players to choose a level in the online mode, which means that they could be stuck in a poor-quality stage that is a slog to get through.
What makes the issues with the online modes in Super Mario Maker 2 so frustrating is that it has the potential to be the best part of the game. If the player manages to find a room without slowdown and is given a good level, then they are in for one of the best online experiences on the Nintendo Switch. Those who have played the multiplayer modes in games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii will know what to expect here, as struggling to reach the end of the stage can lead to heated conflicts between players as they try and grief each other in amusing ways. There is also a great satisfaction to be found when working together in order to overcome challenges and solve puzzles in order to finish a stage.
Super Mario Maker 2 offers an incredible amount of content and is one of the highlights of the Nintendo Switch's 2019 lineup. The omissions from the first game and the poor quality of the online modes are the only things holding it back from greatness. We can only hope that Nintendo is able to fix these issues with future updates in order to allow Super Mario Maker 2 to truly surpass its predecessor.
Super Mario Maker 2 is available now for Nintendo Switch. A digital copy was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.