Before I say anything else, let’s just make one thing abundantly clear: Mario Maker 2 is an absolute masterpiece. It is a feat of game design that will command respect for years to come. It has already resulted in ingenious acts of creation that I’d never have thought possible from a Mario game, and I have no doubt there’s a whole lot more to come. It’s incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s Nintendo at its finest.

And yet, for all the stuff that Mario Maker 2 does have, it’s still missing an incredibly important component of the Mario formula. I’m not talking about multi-colored pound switches, or the different Yoshi varieties of Super Mario World. I’m not talking about the Koopalings, or those climbable fences with the flipping gates.

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No, what Mario Maker 2 really needs is a world map. As I play through the countless levels, this, I realize, is the one truly important ingredient that would be utterly game-changing if it were implemented.

What do You Mean, a World Map?

new super mario bros u world map
World Maps have been a staple of Mario games since SMB3, and there are plenty of styles that are well-suited for custom creation tools.

While I say world map, what I really have in mind is a world map editor. Every Mario game has its own overworld, and as the games progressed, they became increasingly more complex. Despite that, none of them are as iconic as Super Mario World’s, which was chock-full of secrets and hidden pathways.

In my ideal vision of a perfect Mario Maker game, I would love to see a world map creator that allows you to make the same kind of overworld that we saw in Super Mario World. I would love to be able to draw valleys and lakes, plant little trees, make cliffs, and scatter my Mario levels all around. I would love to be able to create alternate pathways that can only be unlocked by finding secret entrances in the levels. I would love to be able to make separate “worlds” which all end with a challenging castle. There are so many possibilities here that I can’t even begin to list them all.

There is so much potential to be had with a world map maker, and I think it’s just the thing that Mario Maker 2 needs to truly stand apart from its predecessor. Here are a few reasons why:

A World Map Would Encourage More “Real” Mario Levels

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We love all the creative “gimmick” levels on Mario Maker, but it can be surprisingly difficult to find good traditional Mario levels.

The biggest beef I have with Mario Maker is that, despite its incredible potential, the most popular levels are essentially just tech demos of what the creation tools can do. There are amazing, mind-blowing creations where I can’t even begin to imagine how they were made. People have made calculators on Mario Maker. Calculators! It feels insane just typing that.

But therein lies the problem — Mario Maker has the potential for people to create some of the most fun and engaging Mario levels of all time, but it’s pretty hard to find quality levels that aren’t based on some gimmick. Most of the popular courses always end up being one of the following:

  • Don’t Move Levels
  • Only Run Forward Levels
  • Puzzle Levels
  • Music Levels
  • Stupidly, Impossibly Hard Levels
  • Glorified Tech Demos

By having a world map, someone could create a sequence of levels which are connected via an overworld. They could build secret exits from said levels which could open up alternative pathways. By being able to create a progression of levels, it would help creators to get in the right headspace of creating genuine, old-fashioned Mario levels.

And don’t get me wrong — I love all the gimmick levels and I’d never want to see them go. But when I play so many, it does make me wish that there were more classic Mario experiences out there.

A World Map Could Add a Sense of Progression That’s Currently Missing

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A world map would allow creators to make entire Mario campaigns. Imagine going through this map and having each level themed off areas of the real world! [Art credit: Ian Gibson]
“Normal” Mario levels aren’t impossible to find, and there’s an abundance of them if you dip into the story mode, which has a quality selection of traditional, yet relentlessly unique platforming levels. But even playing these, they’re missing that special something that you get in a full-fledged Mario game — progression.

Let’s look at powerups, for example. There’s a special feeling about getting a great powerup in the original games; you know that, if you can make it last, it can carry you through several levels. There’s an extra motivation to not get hit, knowing that you’ll keep your powerups if you survive. The same goes for Yoshi; it’s really fun having Yoshi on levels where you can’t normally find him. You feel rewarded for playing well.

There’s no such thing in Mario Maker 2 right now. For levels to be satisfying, they either have to be an incredible showcase of the game’s creation mechanics, or they have to be so ridiculously hard that the average joe could only hope to see their ending by watching a Youtube video. Having a map with tangible progression would add a little bit of meaning to the more “boring” levels, and allow them to be part of something that builds up to something bigger.

A World Map Could Make Secrets More Meaningful

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One of the best parts of Mario World was the rewarding feelings of finding secrets and carrying over progress — like sneaking this Blue Yoshi into other levels.

It’s really fun padding Mario levels with clever little secrets and hidden crannies. Unfortunately, as it stands, they don’t really mean much aside from a feeling of “I did it!”

But when your level is part of a bigger world, it creates the opportunity for the secrets in each level to mean something. Secret nooks and crannies could have hidden 1ups (which would be at least slightly more useful in the bigger picture) or overpowered powerups that would be valuable for future levels. Or, they could contain keys that lead to secret exits that open up new pathways in the overworld.

There are a lot of possibilities, but the point is that you’re able to build more things into your levels that have lasting benefits, which could be a boon to Mario Maker as a whole.

A World Map Gives Creators a Logical Blueprint to Work With

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A world map gives creators a starting point and an ending point — this makes it easier to plan a logical progression of levels, and it prevents the temptation to dump all your ideas into one single creation.

In the core Mario games, levels aren’t just created at random and thrown onto a world map like a handful of dice; there’s always a logical progression and a cohesive theme holding them together.

You know the drill — there’s the desert area, the forest area, the aquatic area, and so on. Having a world map would help players to create distinct regions which could give them a long-term blueprint for multiple levels. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you have a million tools at your disposal, but when you have multiple levels you can tie together, it’s easier to create a plan and lay things out.

Imagine a forest world where each level has you progressing up a massive tree. The first level could be its root system, the second one its trunk, the third its branches — you get the idea. These sorts of ideas can create a fun continuity, and they’re easier to plan out when there’s an overworld tying things together.

The Future of Mario Maker 2

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With Nintendo’s unpredictable DLC strategy, it’s anyone’s guess whether or not we’ll see an addition such as a world map. Here’s hoping!

Is a world map in the future for Mario Maker? Maybe, maybe not. On one hand, chances look good, given Nintendo’s track record to embrace DLC in the Switch generation. This would be a logical choice for DLC, and one that would help keep the game alive.

On the other hand, Nintendo also has a weird tendency to go all-in with some games and totally abandon others. Smash Bros. Ultimate has been blessed with an ongoing DLC plan, while games like Super Mario Party have seemingly been left to die. Even Mario Odyssey, a runaway hit, has only gotten relatively minor updates, with no big DLC plans in sight.

Even if I never get to see the world map feature that I dream of in Mario Maker 2, it’s still impossible to deny that it’s an incredible creation system, and the game has a bright future ahead of it, DLC or not. Even if I don’t have the bandwidth to create functioning calculators in this game, I sure as heck enjoy watching other people do it, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

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