The original “Super Mario Maker” was praised as one of the best games on Nintendo’s previous console, the late Wii U. The game was so interesting, it almost made me want to buy a Wii U myself, but like most people who play games, I didn’t. At last, more than two years later, “Super Mario Maker 2″ is here, and the tens of millions of us who skipped the Wii U (the Switch has already more than doubled its predecessor’s lifetime sales) have our chance to make our own “Mario” levels. It’s great!
It’s also a lot! Creating your own levels and sharing them with your friends (and the world) is the core appeal for “Mario Maker 2,” which expands on the first game’s many features. If you’re the kind of player who wants to spend from 10 minutes to 10 or more hours crafting a bespoke platformer experience, there’s no better game out there. The game’s solid tutorials will guide players of all ages and expertise through the many tools and settings. It’s easy and intuitive once you get the basics down, and the depth rewards continued exploration for months, maybe years to come.
For those without the time or inclination to wrestle with the game’s admittedly intimidating number of options, “Mario Maker 2” offers plenty for player-only gamers. There’s Story Mode, which has a pretty thin story but puts players through a series of clever, smaller levels that highlight all of the different things the level editor is capable of. It’s a showcase of ideas for builders and a deep set of challenges for players. Then, of course, there is a seemingly infinite number of player-created levels you can download online. You can search through the most popular or recent uploads or filter your search by a certain broad level type (which is not a perfect process, but helps).
When you upload a level of your own, it has a code you can share with others for them to play it, at least as long as it’s up there. Last game, Nintendo would regularly delete levels that weren’t getting played “enough” based on their own secret standards. You can always re-post a level saved on your Switch, but the code will be different, which is a frustrating policy that I think Nintendo should probably change.
To download other players’ levels or to upload your own and share them with friends, you’ll have to subscribe to Nintendo’s online service. This gives you access to some ports of original Nintendo games and, more crucially, is required to play with other people online in all the system’s games. Although I can imagine getting some pleasure out of “Mario Maker 2” without the online subscription (you can make levels and others can play them on your Switch), offline players aren’t going to experience so, so much of the game’s potential that I’m not sure it’s worth the money. The online service is usually $3.99 a month or $19.99 for 12 months.
Nintendo currently sells the digital download version of the game bundled with a year’s subscription for $10 more ($69.99 total), which is almost certainly the best option for this great game if you’re not already a subscriber.