I am not good at 2D Mario games. I did not grow up with a NES or a SNES so the only one I am halfway decent with is Super Mario Land 2 on the Game Boy. I have played most of the classic Mario games at this point but the only one I’ve played all the way through is the original Super Mario Bros. So you would think I would not be the prime target for a game where you both create and play Mario levels but you would be wrong to think that. I think Super Mario Maker 2 and its original are the best 2D Mario games ever made. I also think they are Satan spawn that needs to be EXORCISED AND SENT BACK TO WHENCE IT CAME. This is a game that is perfect for all ages, all skill levels but let’s be real – the true audience for this game are the evil bastards who want to inflict nothing but misery and hatred to their friends and the unsuspecting players. This might just be the Game of the Year and also the reason I go bald by 2020.

The idea is simple yet fantastic – give people the tools to make their own Mario levels. There are enough tools to use that people with imaginations can make some incredibly wonderful levels that can either put your platforming skills to the test or just make an experimental level where you can just sit back and let the level do the work for you. There are levels that require you to be good at a certain mechanic, or levels where you have to solve a puzzle. The possibilities are literally endless and less than a week into its launch, Super Mario Maker 2 has some mind-blowing levels already.

mind-blowing levels like this Boss Rush made by…uhh, me!

The real entertainment though is watching someone play a level you’ve created, dying repeatedly as they slowly lose their grip to sanity. Each death jingle is met with a satisfaction from the creator that they know that noise will haunt their very nightmares as they toss and turn dreaming of the hundred deaths they suffered and fearing that a hundred more will follow as they scream out in anguish “WHY? WHY CAN’T I BEAT THIS LEVEL?”. Then go back to the game, boot up your level and start again, tears in their eyes. And you laugh. You laugh at this poor creature stuck in a prison of your creation. You laugh harder when you remember that the solution is in their face but they are too frustrated to see it. You laugh. YOU LAUGH. YOU LAAAAAUGH.

This is how I imagine most people who create levels for SMM2 must feel when they make their torture levels. Being evil is just as rewarding in this game as being a pure beacon of light. Sure, you can get satisfaction in spending hours crafting a level that truly tests a players skills with precisely placed platforms and a couple of well placed enemies. Or you can create a hallway with a dozen spinning firebars, five Hammer Bros and a giant Boo for good measure.

This is from Super Expert. The X’s mark where people have died. (Level Code: HNF-J9G-S2G)

I, personally, want to make levels that are fun for everyone to play, not too hard but not too easy. I am not super creative and I’m not good at thinking up inventive puzzles but I’m trying to get better. My skills in the game are wildly inconsistent – the Easy Endless Run is far too easy for me but the Normal one constantly stops me before I can leave double digits. I don’t even mess with Expert or Super Expert. However, I feel like you do not need to be good at Super Mario games in order to enjoy the game. Even watching people play the game can be just as entertaining – ESPECIALLY if they are playing a difficult level. When watching Super Mario Maker streams, the more suffering the better the viewing experience becomes.

The toolset is still super easy to use, you just press what you want to place and then place it wherever you want on the screen. I have been using a stylus which makes the process more efficient – I tried to use the controller to make a level and gave up almost immediately because the stylus just makes it so much easier. If you are interested in the game at all definitely try and get a stylus but make sure it has a soft tip to protect your screen.

Surfing on a Dry Bones shell in lava. Badass.

When you are done making a level, you have to be able to beat it yourself before you can upload them – this prevents unwinnable levels being uploaded and forced upon people. You can also see the clear rate of a level when you select it. My most played level so far is Lava’ing a Good Time which has been played by 43 people, cleared 29 times in 207 attempts for a clear rate 14%. It is almost addicting to see the numbers go up every time I log in. However, Blake has created a level that has a 0.00% clear rate out of 53 attempts (at time of writing) and that might as well be the Holy Grail.

If people are just too evil for your tastes, or you just want some neat ideas for levels, there is a Story Mode where you play through 100 levels created by Nintendo that show off a wide variety of things you can make with the tools they give you. It is a good introduction for players to get to grips with what they can expect from other people in terms of mechanics, traps and how to use certain power ups, but also it gives people a chance to see how things work before trying to use them in their own levels. There is also a good tutorial that I ended up skipping but for newcomers it might be worth going through that as well. Honestly, the best way to learn how to make levels is just by making and playing as much as you can.

This is from a story level teaching you how twisters work.

Another good thing about Story Mode is the way it shows off how different the five game styles are. Before you start making a level you need to choose whether it will be in the style of Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros U or the newcomer, Super Mario 3D World. Things that feature in 3D World like wall jumping or the butt stomp will not be available in SMB for example. This not only adds to the variety of levels but makes you think about what style will work best for what you have planned. Plus some features are only available in certain styles – the cat power up in 3D World being a good example. Being able to play the different styles of Mario will definitely help and luckily the Story mode does a good job in giving new Mario players a chance to experience how each style plays.

The other single player game mode is the Endless Challenge. You start with five lives and have to beat as many levels as you can before you run out of lives. You can earn more lives either by kind players giving you a 1up Mushroom or by collecting 100 coins. There are four difficulties – Easy, Normal, Expert and Super Expert. Do not expect to have a joyous time getting through the harder difficulties.

This one is from an Easy level. It’s a nice chilled water level with Yoshi! (Room Code: P16-2WD-GRF)

For multiplayer fans there is also the Versus mode where you and up to three people go through a level trying to be the first to beat it. You can also play Co-op like in modern 2D Mario games. I can imagine it being a good laugh but I have not had too much experience with it – this is definitely something I would want to play with real people I know rather than strangers on the internet.

Super Mario Maker 2 is a game that just about anybody can enjoy. I joke about people who create levels being evil but there are some ingenious levels out there, and there are a lot that are just good and pure Mario levels. Heck, even the evil levels can just leave me in a state of awe. I think I even applauded an evil level I saw someone play which is an odd thing to do when you are alone in your flat. The tools are simple enough to use that even young children could probably make a good level and if you have a child that is interested in designing something this might be a good game for them to try.

This is easily going to be one of the best games of the year much like how the original was probably my favourite game on the Wii U. There is still room for expansion should they choose, there are a few different styles of Mario games they can throw in. For now though this is easily my favourite way to experience 2D Mario games and with the Switch being a much more successful console than the Wii U I reckon Super Mario Maker 2 will be churning out new exciting ways to stress me out for years to come.

Final score:

PLAY OUR LEVELS:

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