Dr. Mario (NES)

Game Review

Dr. Mario Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

One play a day...

It feels as if Dr. Mario has been a near constant presence — in some form — over recent years, but the oddity is that the Wii U Virtual Console release of the NES version is the début for that iteration over the most recent system generations. We've had fresh DSiWare and WiiWare releases, with the latter perhaps halting a Virtual Console release. No such issues this time (at least in Europe at the time of writing) with Nintendo happy to re-publish this 8-bit entry alongside the far flashier Dr. Luigi on the Wii U.

If any comparison with a fellow 'Dr.' game is to be made, it's with the 3DS Virtual Console release of the Game Boy Dr. Mario. In Japan the two games were released on the same day, and offer near-identical experiences; the NES iteration will have no doubt had marketing to reflect its superior visuals and immediately accessible multiplayer. That would have made the 8-bit title a handsome upgrade in 1990, though to modern eyes these advanced features naturally mean much less.

The basic gameplay of Dr. Mario meets the falling block puzzle expectations of the era, though it does have an approach to distinguish it from its many contemporaries. Rather than all control of combinations being in the hands of the player — aside from pre-determined blocks coming down from on high — there are fixed targets in this title. Viruses are placed around the screen in three distinct colours, with your task being to use the assigned pill combinations to match up a minimum of four co-ordinated blocks, therefore clearing the virus. Early on the offending virus blocks will be relatively spaced out and the going will be easy, but within minutes placings will be awkward; more viruses in tighter spaces make for a challenging experience.

This setup, as opposed to the clearing system in something like Tetris, adds to the degree of punishment for a mistake. If you block a virus accidentally with the wrong colour pills, you may have severely limited real estate to produce a combo and clear that error; with a more crowded screen options are limited, and it adds a satisfying sense of strategy.

Like some other titles of the 8-bit era and its Game Boy partner, however, game options are very few, leaving your enjoyment solely down to your ability to become enraptured by the basic premise. The one player game allows you to choose a starting level and speed of falling pills, but aside from that there's little variety. That's the norm for the period, but is worth bearing in mind in modern times when we often expect more bang for our buck.

Multiplayer is also included, which was unfortunately lacking in the 3DS Virtual Console release of the portable version. That naturally gives this an advantage, with a GamePad player joined by another with any controller they feel like using — the D-Pad and one button for rotating pills is all that's needed. It's a standard splitscreen, with the goal to clear all viruses before the other player — the first to win three matches triumphs, while it's possible to give each player different difficulty settings to tilt the balance in any potential mismatch. This will add some valuable extra life to the experience for those that have a friend nearby.

As for the presentation, this has a basic look that stands up well under the modern eye due to its simplicity. The colours could still do with a little more vibrancy, while the choice of two music tracks are passable if not particularly outstanding 8-bit efforts; you can turn music off if the busy blips and bleep wear on your patience.


The arrival of Dr. Mario on the Wii U Virtual Console is a little odd due to its proximity to Dr. Luigi; the latest effort is the far superior effort, as it includes multiple modes and online multiplayer to enjoy. It's not fair to compare the two, but they are both available side-by-side, so at its standard price this NES effort is passable but not exceptional value. The gameplay, while enjoyable, lacks the compulsive impact of a classic like Tetris, leaving this pill a little tougher to swallow — the modern effort from Luigi goes down a little easier.

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User Comments (16)



Goginho said:

Yeah, pretty odd, considering Dr. Luigi just came out. They could have warmed players up to Dr. Luigi with this one, then maybe it could have adopted a more valued image at the moment. But there are just too many iterations of this game, it seems hard to go back to the classics, since the newer ones seem to refine basically everything (most of the time) and become definitve versions for that matter. Oh well.



Liquid_ice said:

Fair enough, the Game Boy version got five stars out of ten as well. I think Dr. Mario is a brilliant game that is also quite addicting, but I understand that Dr. Luigi is a better deal in the end.



Einherjar said:

I could never get into the Dr, Mario / Luigi games. I once played a non stop, 6 hours marathon of tetris (one single game mind you, no losses) but Dr. Mario only lasts for very short bursts.
Maybe its the slower pace.



Rafie said:

My parents got this game for me for Christmas back in '91 for NES. Do you know they played this game more than I did. They both use to grab their drinks and play til morning. It was crazy watching how great they were at it. Especially my mom. I'm getting it for nostalgia purposes and hum all the tunes. (Yes I know them all by heart.)



ItalianBaptist said:

Sad that they will prob never rerelease the n64 version again. That was the definitive one in my opinion. Y nintendo no like 4 player dr. Mario no more?



Dorkvader said:

My mom still plays it to this day on the GBA. I have almost all the DR Mario games. The only one I'm missing is the one for the N64



Obito_Sigma said:

The only game along with Solomon's Key and Fire and Ice in which I actually still ply when I get bored.



FJOJR said:

Tough sell with Dr. Luigi and even Online Rx (even without WFC) on the Wii Shop having superiority over this original.



LoveSugoi said:


Basically same story here... only my parents also did this with SMB3, Legend of Kage, Mortal Kombat, Sonic 1, REmake, Resident Evil 2... and probably more that I'm forgetting lol. Much of my childhood was spent either watching my parents go for long play sessions on whatever game they addicted to at the time or playing Sonic 2 or fighting games with my brother.

Maybe I'll get the DSiware version just for the nostalgia.



sillygostly said:

I bought Dr. Luigi on impulse (due to the bonus Dr. Mario download) and I loved it. I didn't understand the mechanics of the game at first, but they grew on me rather quickly. I am peeved, however, that the gamepad is the default controller in single-player mode (I'd much rather use the pro controller), and the fact that the game doesn't accommodate up to 5 players is a lost opportunity (which is a worrying practice with the Wii U).



Marioman64 said:

if comparing this to dr. luigi caused it's rating to go down, you're reviewing incorrectly. You don't rate games based on "well this is obviously less full of features and graphics than something that came out 24 years later," you rate them on their own merit, gameplay, replayability, and difficulty. the only reason this should get a lower score is because the lesser high score system stunts replayability

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