In the classic Nintendo game, Super Mario Bros., players had to dodge countless fireballs, leap over bottomless pits, and murder a few Bowser imposters, only to be told by various Toads that “our princess is in another castle” seven times, across seven different castles. The game is an exercise in endurance and patience, and as an impatient kid when I first played the game, I had none of these traits. Having decided that Pokémon was a better use of my time, I never did find Princess Peach in the end.
Decades later, I’m playing No Mario’s Sky, a mash-up of Super Mario Bros. and No Man’s Sky, where I once again meet Toad—albeit a very muscular one—at the end of the first level. He told me that the princess was nowhere to be found, and that she was on an unspecified planet elsewhere. The catch is that instead of just seven castles, I had to prowl through an infinite number of planets. As I’m quite familiar with No Man’s Sky, my expectations of this game are rather different from my Pokémon-obsessed days of yore; I understood that finding the princess wasn’t supposed to be the point. And so I fired up my spaceship and blasted off to the nearest planet in search of adventure.
In many ways, No Mario’s Sky actually has more in common with No Man’s Sky than Super Mario Bros.; like the former, No Mario’s Sky doesn’t offer a whole lot of direction. Planets are also procedurally generated, and aren’t that dissimilar from one another, aside than a few tweaks to the terrain, Goombas and music. For those who have been busying themselves with No Man’s Sky, you may recognize that these are all par for the course for the game as well. While naysayers thought that this made No Man’s Sky repetitive and boring, fans basked in the monotonous joy of space exploration instead, and experienced the immense weight of their cosmic insignificance.
Similarly, the appeal of No Mario’s Sky lies in the aimless discovery of new planets and the self…for about ten minutes. I did find myself creeping back to the game a few times after my first playthrough just to see what the other planets look like, but there isn’t much to do after that. It’s not that No Mario’s Sky wasn’t good—for a game that is made under 72 hours for a game jam, Ludum Dare 36, it really is quite splendid—but it was definitely not developed with longevity in mind. Rather, it is a snapshot of the No Man’s Sky experience, encapsulating both the best and the worst of the title.
Nintendo has since taken down No Man’s Sky, but its creators have replaced it with another game, cheekily titled, “DMCA’s Sky”. It features Moombas, an infinite universe, an astronaut called Finn, and Princess Mango. You can download it here. Meanwhile, Pokémon Go’s a-calling, and I simply must respond to the call of Bulbasaur.