Dr. Mario (NES)

Cover Taken From TheCoverProject.net


Ok, let’s get this out of the way right now. 2020 was a messed-up year and everyone knows it. I was lucky enough not to lose my job during the pandemic, and more importantly, never got sick. However, my work schedule has changed a bit, and I just haven’t figured out where this site really works into my typical day. I never forgot about it though, and I want to make an effort to get back into writing these articles. So, with that in mind, I thought a quick 30-Minute Review would get the creative juices flowing and remind how to put these things together.

Considering what’s going on, I thought it would only be appropriate to play Dr. Mario for the NES. I’m sure most people will be at least familiar with the name, even if they may have never actually played it themselves. It’s the game where everyone’s favorite plumber steals a lab coat and tries to pass himself off as a doctor. Of course, he is not qualified to be a doctor, and his solution to everything is to just pump the patient full of pills until either they’re cured or die of an overdose. So, let’s jump in and see if we can help Mario delay his inevitable jail time for impersonating a doctor.


Before we begin, we’re given a small number of options to enhance the experience. We can choose which level of the game we start on, the speed of the gameplay, and the music that plays. But really, who’s touching any of that. Maybe on later playthroughs we might start on a later level since we’ve already beaten the early ones. Not that we’d ever be good enough to beat the later levels. So let’s just accept the default settings, throw on that lab coat, and start throwing pills at patients.

Even if you’ve never played Dr Mario before, it should be quickly apparent what type of game it is. It’s basically a variant of Tetris. Unlike Tetris, however, the screen comes pre-populated with a handful of viruses which make up the main puzzle of the game. Our job is to move and rotate the multi-colored pills Mario throws until we can stack up a 4-section long chain of matching pills and viruses, at which point they all disappear. So really, it’s closer to Puyo Puyo than it is to Tetris. Now that I think about it, when did Puyo Puyo first come out? One second while I look that up… Google is telling me Puyo Puyo came out roughly 15 months after Dr Mario. So, I take that back. In reality, Puyo Puyo is like Dr. Mario.

Getting back on topic. Unlike Tetris, which is played until failure, each stage of Dr Mario has a clear end goal of removing all the viruses present on the screen. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter if there are extra pill pieces left on screen to accomplish this, just get rid of the viruses to win. After this, we move onto the next stage, which comes pre-populated with even more viruses, and we start the process all over again.

Obviously, as the number of viruses in each level increases, the levels become much more difficult. However, nothing can make the game more challenging than simply being stupid and dropping pills in just horrible positions. Honestly, current me wants to invent a time machine just so I can go back in time and strangle past me for whatever the heck this mess is that past me has created. Thankfully, Dr Mario has a very useful mechanic that makes it possible to get out of even this mess. That would be the fact that the pill pieces are affected by gravity. Once the viruses and whole pills holding the stacks up disappear, all the remaining pill pieces fall to the bottom rather than floating there like they typically would in Tetris.

To my surprise, after stage 5 there was actually a little scene where the viruses are sitting out on top of a tree just looking at clouds. Then for some reason a book flies through the air, flapping its covers like wings. NES cutscenes were weird.

Sadly, that will be the only cutscene we’ll be seeing today. By some miracle, we managed to make it all the way to level 9. But the power of my stupidity and frantic flailing eventually overcame any hope of completing the level as the pills eventually stacked up to the top of the screen. Mario better start running before the police show up.


Price – $8.99

Even though a lot of retro games have skyrocketed in price over the last year, Dr. Mario stayed fairly stable. It was never a particularly rare or valuable game, so it’s to be expected.

Play Again? – Occasionally

Dr. Mario is easily one of those games you can enjoy coming back to on occasion and playing a game or two to unwind.

Total Deaths – 1 Dead Patient

I managed to keep the patient alive through 9 rounds, which for me ended up taking 40 minutes through a combination of stalling and bad problem solving. But one dead patient is still one too many when you’re pretending to be a doctor.

Fun Rating – 7 / 10

Tetris is fun, always has been. Likewise, most of the Tetris variants are fun. That’s why they’re still being made. Dr Mario even has a mobile game now that has pretty good reviews. So obviously, this was a fun, well received game that holds up to the test of time. It falls into a lot of the same pitfalls that old arcade style games fall into. Namely that it’s generally repetitive and becomes boring rather quickly. But it manages to be a game that you would be happy to come back to for the occasional challenge. Final thoughts, it’s cheap, it’s easy to find, and it’s a classic of the system. If you don’t already own a copy, pick it up now. It belongs in everyone’s NES library, even if it only gets played on rare occasion.

Don’t worry Mario. I’m sure Princess Peach can pull some strings so you avoid jail time.

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