There is little in this industry that's more wholesome than a mainline Nintendo release during the Switch era. Almost universally, critics and consumers alike have loved everything from the Nintendo stable in recent years: Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Arms, Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart 8, and now Super Mario Maker 2.
Much like the tide -- or Ubisoft's annual Just Dance performance at E3 -- this sequel felt inevitable. Nintendo had a winning formula with the original Mario Maker, that was unfortunately punished by virtue of being on the WiiU. Time will tell if Mario Maker 2 can attain platform appropriate success in terms of sales, but last week saw it top the UK physical charts, and the verdict is in: Super Mario Maker 2 is good. Very good, in fact.
As Alex Donaldson wrote in his review for VG24/7, "it's everything that made Mario Maker great on Nintendo's previous hardware, but on a system that you actually want to play."
In true Nintendo fashion, it's a multi-faceted game with something for everyone. One of the hallmarks of a Nintendo title is accessibility matched with hidden depth, and Mario Maker 2 appears to deliver on that front, "mashing together the joy of 2D Mario and the frightening ingenuity of a huge community of players."
"I realised that even bad Mario levels are an art and a craft and a gift that we probably do not deserve"
Christian Donlan, Eurogamer
The new installment brings a lot to the table, mainly in the form of more stuff. Critics were particularly impressed with the new story mode which, despite being little more than a loose framing device to teach the finer points of Mario level creations, does so stupendously well.
In his glowing review for Eurogamer, Christian Donlan praised how the story mode helps gradually unfold the players' understanding of how to build their own levels.
"It made me think about the possibilities inherent in the pieces of Mario without me even realising that's what I was doing," he wrote. "It gave me a prod in the right direction and I barely noticed it even as I started to move."
While the game appears to be just more Mario Maker, critics were pleased rather than disappointed with Nintendo's offering.
"I realised that even bad Mario levels are an art and a craft and a gift that we probably do not deserve... Like the first game, this is a warm bubble bath to settle into, or an afternoon on the sofa with the Sunday papers and nothing else in the diary," Donlan wrote. "Has it changed? Not too much. But it is wonderfully soothing to have it back."
Criticisms of the game were few and far between, though issues were registered around the design and building controls while the Switch is docked, and the lack of a second screen offered by the WiiU and 3DS original.
"Not being able to interact with the screen makes things incredibly complicated, and just downright weird at times, as some things that you can just long press on the touch screen suddenly becomes a counterintuitive button juggle," noted Sam Loveridge in her 4.5/5 star review for GamesRadar.
This was a sentiment echoed by Andrew Webster in his review for The Verge, who mourned the "WiiU and its wonky controller, which just so happened to be perfect for Mario Maker."
"The problem is that a more elegant solution already exists with the Wii U," he wrote. "(This might be the only time someone uses the words 'elegant' and 'Wii U' in the same sentence.) I'm really enjoying my time with Super Mario Maker 2, but I still feel like something is missing when one half of the experience is far superior in portable mode."
Nintendno's typically bizarre approach to multiplayer also featured in the criticisms. As we've grown to expect from Nintendo, multiplayer is rarely as straightforward as with other platforms, and Mario Maker 2 is no exception. While the game includes local and online multiplayer -- both of which were recognised as hugely fun and engaging experiences -- there is currently no option to play online with friends.
"Put in as simple a manner as possible, this is likely to be the last 2D Mario game you'll need"
Alex Olney, Nintendo Life
"Nintendo has confirmed that the option is coming in a future update, but it's odd that it's missing here," noted Mike Williams in his 4.5/5 star review for USGamer. "With the push toward playing together, Mario Maker 2 should have fewer barriers."
These minor issues did little to dampen the positive response however, as Mario Maker 2 received high scores and recommendations across the board, with Alex Olney from Nintendo Life even suggesting it could be the future of 2D Mario.
"Put in as simple a manner as possible, this is likely to be the last 2D Mario game you'll need," said Olney in his perfect score review. "It's Super Mario Maker but with more of everything that made the original so phenomenal... Realistically this game poses the question as to whether this is the future for 2D Mario as a whole. For any fan of Mario who owns a Switch - heck, for any Switch owner full stop - buying this game is an absolute necessity."
Mario Maker 2 then, appears to have been a genuine triumph. It's host of new bits and pieces to play with, a well-realised story mode that manages to pull double duty as an elegant tutorial, and an endless stream of community-created content means it's a game with a long, long tail.
As Seth Macy concluded in his 9.5/10 review for IGN, it improves on its predecessor in almost every way.
"Super Mario Maker 2 is the most accessible game design tool ever created, and that core is just one part of a greater whole... [It] affords so much freedom in how you play, how you make, and even how you learn, it's astonishing how incredibly well it's all held together in one cohesive package."