Dr Mario is an anomalous release by Nintendo. On the surface, everything has the Nintendo feel to it. If you look slightly below the surface though and you see something more going on here. For one, we seem to have jumped forward in Mario’s life as he is now a doctor. Gone is the Mushroom Kingdom, along with it Goombas and the like. In their place we have a Tetris style puzzle game eliminating various virus monstrosities. Cure the required minimum and move to the next level. Simple, but not nearly as addicting as Tetris was.

Mario financed his way through medical school

It seems that Nintendo games were deeper than we thought. Well, the Super Mario Bros games anyhow. Mario seemingly financed his own way through medical school. No longer having to be a, rather bad, plumber Mario is free to practice medicine.

There is a surprising lack of sequels in the Dr Mario line. This must mean Mario was not a successful doctor. Later games starring Mario would see the Brooklyn plumber return to manually unclogging pipes.

Dr Mario could not get out of the Tetris shadow

Tetris was one of those games that was in the right place at the right time. It was impossible to predict just how popular this game would become. With that kind of success comes an exceptionally long shadow. A shadow that is almost impossible to get out from under.

Dr Mario tries but fails in getting beyond that shadow. That does not mean it is a bad game.

Both Dr Mario and Tetris feature falling objects. Nintendo’s new take on the falling block genre adds enemies to the well. Later versions of Tetris would have a similar objective with pieces littering the well at the start of gameplay.

The difference with Dr Mario though is a connection to another puzzle game in this genre. Columns by Sega. In Tetris, pieces do not fall to fill holes below them. Columns by Sega was another falling black game whose gameplay mechanic was slightly different. In Columns, pieces did fall to fill any spaces below them. This caused players to be able to set up massive combos for uber point winnings.

Here pieces fall once the bottom most virus is removed. This can cause pieces to create combos as they settle in the well.

Dr Mario really needs color

The Nintendo Game Boy version suffers from the same problem most ports did. The lack of color hurts your ability to make quick decisions. While not as bad as earlier Game Boy games, it is still rough early on. Things get easier once you acclimate yourself to how Nintendo got around the lack of color.

For a puzzle game on the go, Dr Mario was a nice change of pace. This is even in light of the Game Boy being over run with puzzle games, especially the falling item type.

Want to grab a copy of Mario’s outing as a doctor? Check out eBay and snag a deal.

This article was originally published on Retro Gaming Magazine.