Dr. Mario World

8 Overall Score

Stages are (mostly) not timed | Multiplayer always free | Can earn freemium currency in both modes

Long play sessions impossible without spending money | Diamonds are not sold in the specific increments for play requirements | Half hour wait time for hearts/lives to replenish (for continued free play)

We’re going to start this review with a brief caveat: If you don’t like Dr. Mario games—at all, across the board, if you’re not a fan of match-color puzzle games even if they aren’t Mario-skinned—then you’re not going to like Dr. Mario World. Nothing we say will change your mind, and in fact, we’d recommend that you don’t even bother downloading the game at all. It’s not your thing, it’s not for you. We’re going into this review with a positive view toward Dr. Mario as a whole, which means that we’re coming to the mobile offering as fans of the series and will review it with that angle.

That said, we move on.

Dr. Mario games had their beginnings in 1990 on the NES, as Nintendo looked to capitalize on the popularity of Tetris and other similar games, but their own spin. The plumber-turned-health practitioner saw a number of titles between that original offering and the immensely popular Dr. Mario & Germ Buster (ie. Dr. Mario Online Dx), which revitalized the concept and brought new fans aboard.

But since then, there’s been little interest in the subsequent games. We saw 3DS and Wii U titles, but they had minimal support—and weren’t great games—and didn’t have much of an audience. Playing online matches was more or less impossible, since there never seemed to be anyone online to play against.

With Dr. Mario World, Nintendo tries to see how its not-as-good-as-Tetris puzzle title stacks up in the mobile market, and let’s face it, the game is perfectly suited for the mobile gaming platform, at least conceptually. We’d argue the execution is just that, as well—the solo-player mode looks, feels, and behaves just like a mobile game. No surprises there. If you’re a Candy Crush enthusiast, you’ll fall right into place here: Get through 200 stages by completing the aim in each (usually eliminating all the viruses by making 3-color matches), collect items and bonuses along the way (coins or other power-ups). The freemium currency can be spent on additional characters and items. And of course, you can pay your way to a better experience. A lot.  


The Gameplay (Solo)

Gameplay for Dr. Mario World is same but different. It’s very similar to the Virus Buster modes in recent Dr. Mario games, but the pacing is intentionally slow here. You’re not timed (except in special stages) and the pills aren’t tossed at you—they’re shown at the bottom of the screen, ala Tetris, and you have all the time you need to deliberate its placement. Much to our surprise, the game also allows you to drag pills past obstacles like walls or blocks or other viruses. As long as there’s no space above the pill for it to float, you can put it there. And when a match is made with half the pill, the other half starts to float up… but can be grabbed and manipulated to a new space. You can end up clearing multiple sections on either side of the board with just one pill, for example.

It’s simple enough and theoretically low stress, though there are some variations added in here and there. You might need to collect all the coins in a level, there are levels with invisible viruses, and sometimes the limited number of capsules you have to clear a stage can leave you frantic and confused, backing yourself into a corner with the colors you have remaining.

You’ll also be playing as Dr. Mario to start but by the end of the first ten levels or so, you’ll have the option to change between Mario, Dr. Bowser, or Dr. Peach. Each character has a special move that can be triggered once you’ve filled their bonus gauge—we went with Dr. Bowser, who clears two random rows. Dr. Peach, on the other hand, can clear one random column. Coins can also be spent in a “staffing” area where you’ll randomly unlock a character who serves as an “assistant” and offers up bonuses during or after gameplay. You can use two during your play session, and swap them out in between levels. Since the selection of assistants is random, it may feel like a lootbox element at first—but according to Nintendo, you won’t receive duplicate characters, and once you’ve earned them all, the option to spend coins in this way will disappear—at least until they add new characters, we assume.

The Money

The microtransactions. We have to talk about them. Nobody likes that Nintendo is doing this, nobody likes microtransactions in general, but we keep playing these games and paying real coins, so until such a time as every single person refuses to do so, it’s a part of mobile gaming culture. That’s just the way it is. So of course Nintendo is going to take part as they foray into this marketplace. It’s also important to remember that Nintendo already made a valiant effort at being GG about it—they offered a $9.99
“get everything” package for Super Mario Run and it didn’t work. Remember that.

So, it makes sense that subsequent offerings would dive into the typical mobile structure instead. And there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen in other games: Diamonds are the premium currency, they can be purchased for hearts (which are what you need to keep playing) and power-ups, as well as coins that’ll get you new characters.

The necessity of paying real money honestly depends on your play style. If you’re the kind of person to play a level here or there while waiting in line or on the toilet (don’t groan, we know you do it), you’ll almost never run into a situation where you’d need to pay to play. If you’re the kind of person who plays mobile games while watching TV, or waiting for your kid’s soccer practice to end, well… an hour-long play session is going to run you no end of frustration, and cash.

When you start the game, you have five hearts—which we didn’t even notice at first. Your five hearts are basically five lives, and every time you beat a stage for the first time, you’ll get another heart. As long as you’re progressing, you can keep playing—but it started getting challenging just after level 30, which meant we burned through those lives pretty quickly… and when the box popped up saying we didn’t have enough energy to continue, admittedly it was a surprise (not that we didn’t figure a barrier to play would show up eventually). If you don’t want to pay, the hearts take a half hour to replenish. No problem if you’re playing casually here and there! But if you’re in for a long session, you can use 30 Diamonds to play with infinite hearts for an hour. Except that you can’t buy just 30 Diamonds… you can buy 20, or 50, or other variations. Is anyone surprised? They shouldn’t be.

If you’re a long-stint player, we can see how you’d quickly get frustrated by what seems to be a persistent nickel-and-diming of players. But we also want to remind you again that this is a mobile game, and mobile games have microtransactions. This probably isn’t the only mobile game you’re playing, either, so when you run out of hearts… swap to a different game for a half hour while you wait for those hearts to replenish. OR!!! Just go play online matches, which are always free! Then come back. There’s honestly no need to spend real money here. That would be very silly. But… it’s your cash. We can’t tell you what to do. We’re not your real dad.


The Gameplay (Online Multiplayer)

Yes, that’s right—this mode is free, always, no money required. We waited until after talking about the money to bring this up to remind you that Nintendo isn’t just out to get your cash. One of the company’s primary aims is to bring people together having fun, and while it’s natural to get miffed about a game demanding real cash to keep playing, the fact is that Nintendo has added online matches in such a way that you can keep playing without paying. It’s the perfect way to run down the clock while you wait for the hearts to replenish in solo mode. We’re repeating ourselves, we know, but we’ve also seen a lot of flack given to this game online without due consideration for the fact that there is clear option here to play for free, always.

And the multiplayer is fun! It’s nothing particularly different or unique, especially if you’ve played Tetris in online matches before. The idea is for you both to clear as many viruses as possible, and the faster and more accurately you do so, the more additional viruses you’ll force onto your opponent’s screen. Sound familiar? It’s simple, but it’s effective. There’s a reason why Tetris online has stood the test of time—simple is fun, it’s quick, and in this case, it’s also a way to continue to earn coins for unlocking characters without spending any real cash.


At the end of the day, we were left with a drained phone battery… and a smile. It was fun! And the online matches are a little addictive. Yes, single-player is enjoyable, but it’s definitely not the kind of game that’s meant for you to sit and grind through for hours at a time. We’re argue it’s nearly impossible to do so without spending money.

But right now, the multiplayer is full of folks to play against, and finding an opponent only takes a matter of seconds.

The controls are easy (you may have a bit of an issue seeing what you’re doing if your fingers are larger, though), and the lack of a timer on most stages makes this more relaxing than previous Dr. Mario entries. Ultimately, the format isn’t pure Dr. Mario, if that’s what you’re looking for, but this version works for mobile and will be accessible for a wide variety of ages and skill levels.

It’s not perfect, no. But it is fun, and that’s why we’re looking forward to playing again.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Digg
Author: Faith View all posts by
Faith likes games and books and cake and writing and Lara Croft, not necessarily in that order. She also thinks a Skylanders cartoon show is a really, REALLY good idea...

Leave A Response