Nintendo recently revealed what it called the final major update for Super Mario Maker 2. It’s a pretty huge update to be fair, adding the ability for players to create entire Mario “worlds” instead of just levels. That’s a pretty big adjustment to the Mario Maker structure, and thematically speaking even a pretty good final update. But the problem isn’t the final update or its content; the problem is everything leading up to this point. Despite how popular it is, how great the concept is, and how hard Nintendo pushed it at times, it still feels like Nintendo dropped the ball this time.
Super Mario Maker 2 was practically necessary. The first time around was a huge success, but only relatively speaking. The Wii U was a doomed platform for a variety of reasons, and there was no single game that was able to change that course. Everyone who touched Super Mario Maker 2 loved it, but the audience just wasn’t big enough for it (or any other Wii U game really). So when the Nintendo Switch came out and was an instant hit, a follow-up was practically a requirement.
But the thing about the first Mario Maker was that Nintendo kept supporting it. There was a steady clip of new content that kept people coming back to the game. More importantly, it kept streamers and other content creators coming back. Even personalities like Waypoint’s Patrick Klepek were able to sustain interest outside of those spheres via streaming and sharing Mario Maker levels. Not every update was huge, but a steady flow of content means a steady flow of engagement.
At first it seemed like Super Mario Maker 2 would be a huge deal. As the game was announced and on the way, Nintendo really pushed it. It had its own Nintendo Direct stream, and tons of attention was drawn to all the new features. But after it came out… the floodgates immediately slammed shut. Mario Maker 2 was frontloaded with plenty of new content, sure, but this is the kind of game that suffers from a fire and forget approach. It took months for any updates of note, and content creators (such as Klepek, who is often the journalism world’s Mario Maker evangelist) got bored.
The next big Super Mario Maker 2 update made Link a playable character, and the fanbase immediately jumped back to the game. This was a step further than the first game’s costumes, and fans were able to create brand new kinds of levels. But then it was back to quiet. Perhaps before and after this there were smaller updates, but nobody really talked about them. Then the most recent update was announced, and the reaction was more surprise that something new was coming, rather than excitement over the update itself. And it was compounded by Nintendo’s announcement straight-up drawing attention to the “final” part.
Super Mario Maker 2 is a great game, but it could have been a lot more. This is more of a case of missed potential, rather than a disappointing or bad game overall. But with all the great stuff included in Super Mario Maker 2 at launch, the people playing it are going to burn through it all no matter what. And with the additional “styles” section only ending up with one additional style, it’s no wonder that people were expecting more. It’s a shame because Mario Maker could be a real platform, but a need for sequels or a lack of resources available for post-launch support mean it hasn’t gotten there just yet.