Dr. Mario Review – Pill Puzzler of The 90s

by | NES

Remember those times when the doctor prescribed fun instead of medicine? Well, I do! And Dr. Mario was that prescription 8-bit game I needed. In this article, I’ll take you on a journey through this iconic game and help you relive the magic of Dr. Mario, the Nintendo classic puzzle game that still captivates players even today. So let’s dive right into our Dr. Mario review, shall we?

Dr. Mario creating in his lab
Dr. Mario At Work – An RGN Imagining

Gameplay Mechanics

Basic Mechanics

Unlike the first Mario NES game, Dr. Mario’s core gameplay is centered around eliminating pesky, nasty viruses with multicolored pills, or as I like to call them, “vitamins.” The objective is to match four or more like-colored vitamins (pills and viruses) in a row, either horizontally or vertically, to clear them off the board. Simple enough, right? But don’t be fooled! The game gets more challenging as you progress through the stages.

Clearing Viruses

When you successfully match the pill colors, the virus is eliminated, and the remaining pill fragments dropdown. The game continues until you’ve cleared all the viruses or the screen fills up with piles of vitamins. Talk about a challenging day at the doctor’s office in a lab coat!

Combos and Chains

As you master the familiar gameplay, you’ll discover the joy of creating combos and chains, which result in higher scores and faster clears. Combos happen when you clear multiple groups of viruses with a single pill drop, while chains occur when a falling pill fragment clears another group of viruses. The satisfaction of executing these advanced moves is truly addictive!

Graphics and Sound


Dr. Mario’s visuals are simple yet charming, with vivid colors and cute, expressive viruses. The game’s 8-bit graphics may not be groundbreaking, but they hold a special place in the hearts of retro gaming enthusiasts.


The game’s iconic background music, featuring the catchy “Fever” and “Chill” themes, is nothing short of a masterpiece. The tunes are so contagious that you might find yourself humming them long after you’ve put the controller down. Talk about an earworm!

Game Modes

Single Player

Dr. Mario’s single-player mode offers endless hours of pill-popping fun as you progress through increasingly challenging levels, from normal stages to the hardest stages. You can even choose your starting level and speed in the game settings, allowing you to tailor the experience to your skill level.


The game’s multiplayer mode is where the real fun lies. Going head-to-head against a friend adds a competitive edge that’ll keep you coming back for more. With each player trying to outlast the other, the frantic action is sure to evoke both laughter and frustration.

Power-ups and Abilities

Dr. Mario’s Abilities

While Dr. Mario doesn’t have any special abilities per se, his ability to rotate pills and strategically place them is crucial to clearing the board. Mastering the controls is the key to becoming a pill-popping pro.

Other Characters

In some later versions of Dr. Mario, other characters like Dr. Luigi and Dr. Peach also make appearances, each with their own unique abilities. It’s always fun to see how these characters put their own spin on the classic gameplay.

Level Design and Difficulty

Level Progression

Dr. Mario’s level progression is designed to ease you into the gameplay. Early levels have fewer viruses and slower pill drops, allowing you to get a feel for the mechanics. But don’t get too comfortable—later levels ramp up the challenge with more viruses and faster-paced gameplay.

Difficulty Curve

The game’s difficulty curve is well-balanced, with each level providing a fair but challenging increase in difficulty. This keeps the gameplay engaging without becoming too frustrating. However, be prepared for some intense nail-biting moments as you reach the core stages and the most brutal stages of the game!

Nostalgia Factor

There’s no denying that Dr. Mario’s nostalgia factor is off the charts. Whether you played it on the NES, Game Boy, or any of its numerous re-releases, it’s hard not to reminisce about the good old days of pixelated pill-popping in this classic puzzle game.

Comparing to Other Puzzlers


Arguably the most famous block puzzle game of all time, Tetris is known for its addictive gameplay and iconic music. While Dr. Mario may not quite reach the same level of fame, it holds its own as a unique and captivating color-matching puzzle game.

Puyo Puyo

Puyo Puyo, with its similar color-matching gameplay, is another worthy competitor. Although it’s more focused on chaining combos, fans of Dr. Mario will likely enjoy the challenge it presents.

Panel de Pon

Panel de Pon, also known as Tetris Attack or Puzzle League, swaps pills for tiles and offers a different kind of matching challenge. While the gameplay is distinct, it shares the same addictive quality that makes Dr. Mario a classic.

Pros and Cons


– Simple yet addictive puzzle game

– Iconic background music

– Strong nostalgia factor

– Engaging multiplayer mode

– Additional modes in later versions


– Limited game modes in the original release

– Graphics may feel dated to some

Dr. Mario remains a beloved classic game that has stood the test of time. With its addictive puzzle gameplay, charming visuals, and iconic soundtrack, it’s a fun game that continues to captivate players, both old and new. If you’re a fan of puzzlers or just looking to relive some cherished memories, Dr. Mario is a prescription for fun you won’t want to miss!


What platforms is Dr. Mario available on?

Dr. Mario was originally released on the NES and Game Boy, but it has since been re-released on various Nintendo platforms such as the Virtual Console and Nintendo Switch Online.

Are there any sequels or spin-offs of Dr. Mario?

Yes, there have been several sequels and spin-offs, including Dr. Mario 64, Dr. Luigi, and Dr. Mario World.

Can I play Dr. Mario with a friend?

Absolutely! The game features a multiplayer mode that allows you to compete against a friend in a head-to-head battle.

How many levels are there in Dr. Mario?

There are 20 levels in the original Dr. Mario game, with each level increasing in difficulty as you tackle the core stages and hardest stages of the game.

Is Dr. Mario suitable for all ages?

Yes, Dr. Mario is a family-friendly game that’s suitable for players of all ages. Its simple mechanics and colorful graphics make it accessible and enjoyable for everyone, from kids to adults who fondly remember the game from their childhood.

So, there you have it, folks! If you haven’t already, it’s high time to get your hands on a copy of Dr. Mario and experience the colorful, pill-popping fun for yourself. Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or new to the world of classic games, Dr. Mario offers a delightful and addictive challenge that’s sure to keep you entertained for hours on end. Happy virus hunting!

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