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Super Mario Maker 2 is a really good game. I love playing it. I’ve gone back to it again and again since it debuted over the summer. But I’m still baffled by Nintendo’s struggle to get parts of it right.

The publisher just launched the second major update for the make-your-own-Mario platformer this week. And it’s a pretty beefy patch. It features new tools for building stages and even the ability to turn into Link from The Legend of Zelda. All of that is fun and brings more life to the community-driven tools — even if I wish Link was an actual alternative to Mario and not just a powerup.

But what really has me frustrated is the new Ninji Speedruns mode. This is an in-game event that resets weekly where you run through a pre-set course to get your best possible time. Along the way, you race against the “ghosts” of other people who have done speedrun.

At first glance, this mode is great. It has a lot of smart ideas. You only start racing against ghosts once you beat the stage the first time. This means you can relax and not worry about the stress of racing against the world.


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On all you subsequent runs, Nintendo puts you up against the ghost Ninjis of dozens of other players. But it doesn’t just throw you into the deep end. You’re mostly up against other people who have a similar time to you. So you never feel like other players are always smoking you.

I really like that.

The problem with Ninji Speedruns in Super Mario Maker 2

So if I’m enjoying many of the elements of Ninji Speedruns, what’s the issue? Well, it comes down to motivation. I played through the first event until I was able to easily beat all the Ninji ghosts that I was playing against. My run wasn’t perfect. i had room for optimizaitons, but it was still pretty good.

My time put me on the third tier of the bull curve chart that Nintendo uses to present your ranking. And this is exactly the problem.

I know I can do better. I can cut off two seconds from my time at least. But to what end? To see that I’m in a slightly higher tier on a bell-curve graph?

No thanks. Where are the leaderboards? More importantly, where is the friends-only leaderboard so that I can compete against people I know.

I’m not going to a world-class time. I’m a dad with two kids and a job, I don’t have time to play like a speedrunner. And even when I didn’t have kids and graying hair, I still never had speedrunning skills.

But you know who I can beat? Other scrubs like the people on my Switch friends list. But that’s just not in the game. Ninji Speedruns doesn’t have anything like that.

It’s just a vague, anonymous — and ultimately useless — graph, and that’s it. And that’s not enough incentive to keep me hooked on what is otherwise a fine new mode.

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