Super Mario Maker 2 gives players a chance to flex their creative muscles and craft their own levels. These can be difficult, trap-laden hell worlds, oddball narratives, or classic platforming romps. As I’ve started playing, I’ve realised that I’m never making a Mario. And while that means missing out on a large part of the game, it comes hand in hand with enjoying everyone else’s fantastic creations.
It feels strange to mostly ignore Mario Maker’s defining gimmick. I’ve made content in other games before, from LittleBigPlanet to the recent quest maker in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Before I worked at Kotaku, I helped work on indie games and AA titles ranging from an Earthbound-inspired western RPG to a Prohibition-set poker game. I’ve logged countless hours in other creative tools, be they prefab applications like RPG Maker or proprietary animation software. It’s not as if I’ve no interest in making games or contributing to their creation. Mario Maker 2 offers me a clear means to do just that, but I’m content to stew and simmer in the vast, expanding ocean of player levels that already exists.
There’s no particularly good reason for this. I’m sure that making my own Mario level would do nothing except help me appreciate the genius of Mario and help me improve as a player. Breaking down Mario into craftable chunks might give me a chance to admire the series’ artistry, the way it uses a very small collection of verbs to create some of the best levels in video game history.
For now, however, I’m fine wandering from experiment to experiment. I have no overwhelming need to prove my own ingenuity when I can simply enjoy other players’ creativity. I imagine many players will engage with Mario Maker 2 in the same way, checking out the latest meme level or looking at what their favourite game developers share on their Twitter feeds. Arguably, that misses some of the point, but that’s fine. Mario Maker 2 isn’t just an easel that you can paint on; it’s a public museum with works to enjoy. Just tell me when there’s a Sonic Maker or Zelda Maker, and then I might get to work.