Back when the Wii U was first released, one of the features that had fans really hyped was the concept of asymmetric multiplayer.
The idea was that the Wii U’s gamepad could be used to create a completely separate experience from what was being displayed on the TV. The pack-in game Nintendoland had a collection of minigames that played with this concept, and some of them are actually really fun. If you have a Wii U and haven’t fully explored Nintendoland, especially with a friend, I’d give it another shot.
In the co-op side of things, the failed (and I believe tragically misunderstood) Star Fox Zero worked out asymmetric co-op play beautifully.
But one title that really was able to take the ideas behind asymmetric multiplayer and pull it away from the gamepad and therefor the couch was Super Mario Maker.
Power to the Player
I’ve been playing Super Mario Maker 2 all this weekend and watching everyone one else play it via Twitter comments and clips and even a few Twitch streams.
What amazes me is that you’ve got some that focus on building, others that focus on playing their friends courses. Some people like to play random courses and others are focusing on story mode or VS multiplayer or co-op multiplayer.
And with the player made courses there is everything from Kaizo to auto-Mario, music courses, themed courses, shoot ’em ups and a mass of crazy, unexpected things.
Multiplayer on your terms
One of the aspects that I really appreciate, is that Mario Maker is a game where I’m always playing with others, but I don’t have to be playing with them right at the same time.
I have dogs and a cat and a wife that’s not a gamer, so sometimes it’s difficult to actually carve out a block of time where I can avoid interruptions.
But with Mario Maker, that’s not an issue. I’m always playing with others, but they’re not having to wait on me to run the dogs out or to feed the cat.
A digital handshake
When I’m building a course, I’m having to think about all the people who will be playing it. They’ll be experiencing my creativity in a way that’s so gratifying to me.
And of course, when I play a level, I’m thinking the entire time about the person who made it. What are they like? What were they thinking right here?
When it’s a friend, I feel like I get to know them better playing the levels they made. It’s a little window into their creativity that is so amazing to get to see. No other game quite hits on this level. The closest might be Minecraft, but I don’t feel like I’m thinking about the experience of other players when I’m building in Minecraft the way I do about levels in Mario Maker, and so I don’t read into other people’s buildings in the same way.
I believe in asymmetry
None of this, really, would be possible without the asymmetric nature of Mario Maker’s gameplay. I hope Nintendo continues to think of ways players can interact with each other in uneven and asymmetric ways because it creates these amazing new experiences.
And now, a lagniappe
Since we’re talking about Mario Maker, I thought I’d share some YouTube videos that really dig into 2D platformer game design that I like. They may help you become a better Mario Maker maker!
Next week, if moving isn’t dominating all my time, I really do hope to finish up my posts on Tokyo Mirage Sessions!
Like you pointed out, Mario Maker really benefits not just from being asymmetrical, but asynchronous. It’s great how much back-and-forth conversation that invites when one or both players aren’t even actively playing!