I played Super Mario Maker nearly every day for more than a year, and while I experienced many things during that time—joy, sadness, anger, frustration, despair—boredom was rare. The community was electric, and Nintendo was regularly adding new content, keeping things fresh. (Did you know the game didn’t originally have checkpoints?!) But nearly four months after the release of Super Mario Maker 2, months in which I’ve been checking in on the game almost every day, I can feel the b word bubbling to the surface. I’m getting bored.
“Bored” is not to suggest the community is at fault. As with the first game, Mario Maker 2’s community has been nothing short of incredible, whether it’s the invention of reverse trolls, levels that trick the player into seeing a first-person perspective, 20-second speedruns, and so much more. It’s a good game! But Nintendo crafting a good game was never the question, and wasn’t at the heart of my review from back in June. What I worried about, and what seems to be playing out, is how Nintendo could potentially mishandle the community.
Almost four months in, Mario Maker 2 has not seen a significant update, and there is zero indication of a roadmap from Nintendo about the game’s future. There was a patch earlier this month, but it added barebone features like online co-op and local multiplayer with friends, stuff that should have been there from day one. You can also now play “official” courses Nintendo makes, such as their promotional tie-in with Southwest Airlines. Hooray?
The lack of new course pieces or themes is a bummer, and those will come in due time, I’m sure. Still, it would be very useful if, at the very least, Nintendo released a schedule of what’s coming, even with the details left in the air. If we knew additional course pieces were coming in “early 2020” or a new theme in “December,” it’d go a long way in maintaining interest, and recognizing Mario Maker 2 as a living document, a community to be nourished over time.
Right now, all we have is a tweet saying we can “look forward to additional game updates, including new course parts in the future.” I mean, of course? But it’s 2019, there are a million video games to play. Games like Mario Maker 2 require a vibrant community to stay successful, and communities require attention. It’s not like the company can’t pull this off, either. Smash Bros. designer Masahiro Sakurai is an open book, and Nintendo was always talking with its Splatoon 2 community, a game receiving regular updates, both big and small.
Who’s that person for Mario Maker, and where’s that openness? Mario Maker 2 would greatly benefit from some kind of community lead, a person who became the point person.
More frustrating is how Mario Maker 2 still hasn’t caught up with the original game in crucial ways. With Mario Maker, it was possible to share levels online through the excellent “bookmark” website. It would have made a lot of sense for Nintendo to simply carry that website over into Mario Maker 2, but they didn’t. It would have made a lot of sense for Nintendo to let people share levels through their official app, ala Super Smash Bros. Ultimate custom stages, but you can’t. This leaves people to share levels via level code alone, and sifting through Nintendo’s algorithm (which admittedly is pretty decent, all told).
When one of the best ways to find a cool level is to put the game on “random” by playing Mario Maker 2’s endless mode and hoping for the best, that’s not a good sign. The game should be bending over backwards to find ways to connect you with the best it has to offer. Heck, if all Nintendo did was add playlists, it’d go a long way towards solving these issues. Players would do it for them.
It's the little things, too. Mario Maker 2 ditched the “costume” feature from the original game, which let you run around levels as anyone from Mewtwo to the frickin’ Wii Balance Board from Wii Fit, in favor of a slate of characters from the Mario series. I remember having so much fun booting up Mario Maker and seeing what weirdness Nintendo had recently added. It was less about jumping around as Tom Nook insomuch as giving you a reason to poke around Mario Maker, and provided a tangible sense Nintendo was always paying attention.
It doesn’t feel that way in Mario Maker 2 right now. There’s time for it to change, obviously, but anecdotally, a lot of friends who were deeply invested in Mario Maker have already moved on. Hopefully they come back when Nintendo does, but when is that gonna be?