Unless you’ve been hiding inside a warp pipe, you’ve probably noticed that clips of Super Mario Maker 2 are taking over the internet. It seems like every day, there’s a handful of new videos or screenshots showcasing platforming shenanigans in Nintendo’s latest Mario game.
Just this week, there was that footage of a player miraculously avoiding dozens upon dozens of hammers, which has been watched nearly 1.6 million times.
Or perhaps you’ve seen that clip of the Mario Maker 2 player who gets owned by the game?
You’ve definitely seen that hellish remake of 1-1 that’s got the whole world feeling anxious, right?
Meanwhile, on YouTube, nearly every prominent gaming personality you can name, from Jacksepticeye to the Game Grumps, are all playing Mario Maker 2 right now. Here, too, our favorite red plumber is racking up millions upon millions of views. On Twitch, Mario Maker 2 is also making strides, largely thanks to speedrunners who have been championing user-made levels way before Nintendo even made an official tool. Viewers love to watch expert players ram their heads against the most extreme Mario levels available. Mario Maker, in short, is having its moment — to wit, it was named the bestselling game of June 2019.
Why would Mario Maker 2 pop off like this? The most obvious reason is that the first game was only available on the Wii U, which didn’t do very well in the last generation of console wars. (The original Super Mario Maker was also ported to 3DS, but without a critical feature: the ability to upload and share courses online.) The original game was still a favorite among YouTubers and Twitch streamers, but it never quite took over the internet in the same way. A crucial part of Mario Maker 2’s popularity is availability — not just because more people own Nintendo Switches, which have a built-in share tool, but also because that console saturation allows for ample interplay between personalities and viewers.
One of the most common phenomenons in the Mario Maker world is that average players will make courses for big personalities to play. These courses can be challenging, amusing, or straight-up trolls — but whatever the case, it sets up a living, breathing community that perpetually creates new content that is guaranteed a wider audience. When your level may be showcased by someone with millions of viewers who can also try your course, there’s plenty of incentive to jump into the fray. You can see the result of this whenever you pop into a big course — left and right, players will leave comments mentioning the YouTuber who told them about the level. Through the use of Twitch donations, some fans will even pay for the privilege of having their favorite streamer try out their level.
This back-and-forth sets up another important part of the Mario Maker ecosystem: rivalries. We saw this a bit back with the original game, when gaming personality Dan Ryckert gained infamy after spawning devilish levels for gaming reporter Patrick Klepek (who I am friendly with), but that dynamic can be seen all over the community. Twitch streamer Levi “Mario Lab” Miller, for instance, has been developing levels specifically for Trihex, a well-known Twitch star. The plan is to make a series of courses that can make up a world, and so far two out of nine levels are complete.
“It’s the ultimate form of flattery,” Trihex told Polygon. “I’ve gotten quite the backlog of level requests due to many wanting to hear my opinion on it,” he continued. Trihex will give these players feedback, and they’ll improve their creations — and then make more levels. The most well-publicized of the lot has to be Trihex’s playthrough of Cat Trick EX2, a course developed by a fan. It took Trihex eight hours to beat this single level, and when he finally did, that clip blew up. Over 200,000 people have tuned in to see the moment when Trihex finally bests his oppressor.
This back and forth, where a mad scientist type tries to vex our poor heroes through the creation of seemingly impossible levels, makes for fantastic viewing. Fans get invested in the storylines, and Mario Maker 2 feels like a more human experience for it. By giving you someone to root for, Mario Maker makes you care about something other than Goombas and Shell Jumps, and that’s a huge boon for the game.
But the key to Mario Maker’s sudden prevalence can also be boiled down to one simple truth: Everyone understands Mario. You don’t need to play Mario Maker 2 to get why the it’s so funny that this guy got screwed out of finishing a course, or why this recreation of an iconic Star Wars scene is hilarious. You don’t have to brave the competitive waters of multiplayer Mario Maker 2 to laugh at the amazing clips of players making each other’s lives a living hell. You can probably show a viral clip of Mario Maker 2 to your parents and she’ll know exactly what’s going on. Mario goes left; he jumps; he has to avoid enemies. That’s it. Even at the highest, most diehard levels, even with the most complicated flourishes available, Mario Maker 2 is one of the most watchable games on the internet. You don’t really need to learn anything to understand what’s going on in a Mario video. This readability is making a huge difference for Mario Maker 2’s social media dominance.
Over the years, Nintendo has gained a reputation for being a particularly unfriendly and aggressive company when it comes to Let’s Plays and Twitch streamers. But Mario is so universal that even these regressive attitudes aren’t enough to kill Mario Maker 2’s momentum. Right now, players are only starting to understand how to make the best use of Mario Maker 2’s tools. We aren’t even close to seeing the limits of what Mario Maker 2 is capable of producing, especially when future updates to the game seem likely. I wouldn’t be surprised if months from now, Mario Maker 2 is still tearing up social media. It’s Mario — and everyone loves Mario.
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