Top 100 NES Review: #31 – Dr. Mario (1990)

The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis.

The rise of drug-resistant staph and pneumonia has its roots in this Mario-themed, puzzle game.

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Dr. Mario after completing his residency at Mushroom Kingdom Health Systems.

Sydlexia’s Ranking: #31/100
Developer:  Nintendo
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

There is a healthcare crisis in this country right now. As we look at ways to manage costs, it is important to be self-reflective and address instances of abuse and waste.

Look no further than Dr. Mario. His clinical practice guidelines consist of the over prescription of antibiotics. Not only does this not make sense (after all, the diagnosis is a viral infection that won’t respond to this type of treatment), he runs the risk of creating new strains of diseases that will be resistant to the very antibiotics he continues to dispense.

While the ethics of Dr. Mario’s decisions come into question, his puzzle adventure game does test the mind and makes one believe that, they too, can practice medicine.


As if Tetris wasn’t good enough, Nintendo decides that two things are required to make it better:

  1. Add Mario superficially for marketing (kids — this has been going on for over thirty years now!)
  2. Add a few more twists.

While Tetris is just trying to make a solid row of blocks, Dr. Mario requires you to stack pills on top of their color-matched virus. When you get four colors in a row, the entire section disappears, and the other medicinal blocks drop below. This allows for a cascade of potential, positive-therapeutic outcomes to destroy the infection.

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Primum, non nocere. Second, play to win.

There is also a two-player mode where two doctors can try and see who can cure their patient first. Nothing like a friendly competition between medical professionals to try and boost outcomes — Medicare should try and integrate this into their merit-based improvement payment scale.

While the focus of the game is not on the patient’s perspective, there are a couple options available for you to gain insight into what you are dealing with. The music comes in either “fever” or “chills,” allowing you to decide the current state of your febril patient.


I still find the best games are the simplest one. Who needs Metal Gear Solid V where you have to manage a base, complete missions, manage inventory, work on finances, conduct research, and recruit talent when you can just throw two-colored blocks on a screen and stack them. Just forget you contribution to healthcare mismanagement and you can have guilt-free entertainment.

Other People’s Take:

  • Games That I Play: Dr. Mario is a game for thinkers that’s easy enough at the beginning, but as you wipe out line after line, the pills begin to fall faster.”
  • Double Jump: “This is a fun game and it reminds me of a mixture of Tetris and Bejeweled.”
  • I Heart Old Games: “The only question now is: if Mario has a PhD why works as a plumber???

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