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Super Mario Maker 2’s surprise best new feature: chaotic multiplayer

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DIY Mario is better with friends (or enemies)

8-bit Mario, Luigi, Toad and Toadette fly around in clouds in a screenshot from Super Mario Maker 2. Nintendo

Super Mario Maker 2 is, in almost every imaginable way, a massive improvement on the original do-it-yourself Mario game released for Wii U in 2015. The Nintendo Switch sequel will add new themes, new gameplay elements inspired by Super Mario 3D World, the terrifying Angry Sun from Super Mario Bros. 3, and much more.

Nintendo recently outlined the sundry changes coming in Super Mario Maker 2 in a 17-minute Nintendo Direct video presentation. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s easily the best way to get caught up on the long list of improvements, additions, and brand-new features coming in the new Mario Maker on June 28.

One element of Super Mario Maker 2 that deserves extra attention is the game’s new four-player cooperative and competitive multiplayer options. While the original Super Mario Maker was a solitary, single-player-only game, it did foster its own sense of community. Players could share handmade courses with each other, challenging friends, family, and strangers with devilishly designed levels. That competition will be more direct in the sequel; players can team up or battle with friends, both locally and over the internet.

Nintendo

I recently played a demo of Super Mario Maker 2 in New York City, sampling the course-editing mode (it’s familiar, but smartly refined), story mode (it’s full of clever Nintendo-designed levels and features a charming Toad construction boss in charge of rebuilding Peach’s castle), and Course World (that’s where players will spend time playing other players’ creations). I jumped into Course World with three other players, where the experience changed from methodical in Course Maker and amusing in story mode, to downright chaotic and thrilling as Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Toadette jockeyed for position and fought for power-ups.

Past mainline Mario games, like New Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario 3D World, have featured four-player cooperative play. It can range from fun to frustrating, as players collide and bounce off of each other, oftentimes resulting in players being thrown off platforms or having desperately needed power-ups stolen from them. In Super Mario Maker 2, where players can gorge on endless courses, that competitive/cooperative play is more enjoyable. The stakes feels lower; fail or complete a course, and you’re on to the next one. Player-created levels often feel experimental in multiplayer. Flaws — and foul play — are quickly forgiven.

Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Toadette battle Bowser in a screenshot from Super Mario Maker 2 Nintendo

Four-player multiplayer is an option on all courses in Course World, though not every course is suited for it. (Course World will let you search for levels tagged for “multiplayer,” but it’s sometimes better to dive into a level not knowing what’s in store for your squad). That’s likely why multiplayer appears tucked off to the side of the Course World menus, where you and some friends can enjoy some untested, unproven, and unbalanced multiplayer competition. It’s where Super Mario Maker 2 courses may shine brightest and find a longer shelf life after players have completed them in single-player mode.

Certain courses work better in multiplayer than others. Super Mario Maker 2 courses designed as puzzles or auto-playing levels fare worse than levels that require racing to the flagpole or completing a course objective, like collecting 99 coins. Those new course objectives can also include defeating a boss character like Bowser, giving one player bragging rights among friends.

So while building your own courses in Super Mario Maker 2, or downloading other players’ levels, don’t forget to test them for how they’ll fare in multiplayer. You might just find some unexpected fun.