Going from the shortest to the longest with this week’s part. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing this series is that there are not only a lot of puzzle games in the Mario series, but that Nintendo REALLY loves Dr. Mario. Games in part three will have players dropping pills on viruses, using logic to uncover images, blowing up woodland creatures, and more. Hope you have some spare time since their are fourteen games to cover.
- Mario & Wario– 1993: Super Famicom (Japan only)
Other than Mario Paint, how many other SNES games can you name that supported the SNES mouse accessory? Without looking at a list. Chances are you couldn’t think of all that many, if any. Understandable since the accessory didn’t seem to get much love even though compared to things like the Super Scope, it’s much smaller and less of a pain to use. Anyway, Mario & Wario is one of these games that uses the SNES mouse, exclusively in fact, no normal controller support here. This game was developed by Game Freak who, two years prior, also developed another puzzle game for Nintendo’s NES and Game Boy called Yoshi. The game was planned for a release in North America with a preview showing up in the September 1993 issue of Nintendo Power magazine and in an ad for a Kelloggs contest in Canada, but for some strange reason Mario & Wario stayed Japan exclusive. All of the text is even in English.
The goal is to guide either Mario, Peach, or Yoshi through a level (each character has their own movement speed) by controlling a fairy named Wanda since they can’t see due to having a bucket (or other objects like a pot) stuck on their head. What dastardly villain could be behind this treachery? None other than Wario. As Wanda, you can alter the stage environments to guide one of the three characters to Luigi so he can take whatever object is blocking their view off. Stages have time limits, so you can’t dilly-dally and the player will have to plan out safe paths since stage hazards get more common as the player progresses through the game. Mario & Wario has eight worlds with ten levels in each along with several extra worlds for players who’ve completed the initial ones from the selection screen. I should mention that the game has no save feature, be it battery back-up or password. While this can be disappointing, the game can be completed in roughly 2 hours.
Would this game be worth playing? Yes. All of the text is in English and the game is inexpensive. The only difficult thing could be to track down the mouse controller. This won’t be the only game I’ll be talking about that uses the SNES’s mouse accessory.
One last thing: in Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow, if you interact with the television/SNES in the copycat’s house in Saffron City, it references Mario & Wario since both games were developed by the same company.
- Yoshi no Cookie: Kuruppon Oven de Cookie– 1994: Super Famicom (Japan only)
This version of Bullet-Proof Software’s Yoshi’s Cookie was made to promote National’s Kuruppon Oven in a contest. Due to this only 500 copies were ever made, making this one of the rarest games in the Super Famicom library. The game is basically the exact same as the SNES version of Yoshi’s Cookie but with an adventure mode added by National Home Electronics, that teaches players how to bake real-life versions of the cookies that appear in the game. The goal of the puzzle part of the game is to clear the stage of cookies that appear on the top and right of the screen. Cookies are cleared by moving cookies of a similar type into either a horizontal or vertical row.
Would this game be worth playing? While I really enjoy Yoshi’s Cookie and baking, I can’t recommend this game due to its rarity. I recommend just getting a copy of Yoshi’s Cookie and looking up recipes to make your own Yoshi’s Cookie cookies like I did two Christmases ago.
- Wario’s Woods– 1994: NES/SNES
This puzzle game is similar to Tetris and Dr. Mario, but with a fun twist. You’re not controlling where the objects fall, instead you pick up the objects and move them around to clear the screen of cute woodland monsters. You play as Toad who needs to stop Wario from taking over the Mushroom Kingdom woods (maybe the same woods that were in Mario & Wario since Wanda returns in this game). The game offers various game modes like Round Game, Time Race, and Versus. Round Game is the story mode where you fight bosses and confront Wario to kick him out of the woods. This game certainly isn’t one you can beat in one sitting, with the story mode having 100+ rounds. Compared to the NES version, the SNES version has voice samples and an extra game mode: Vs. COM. Some additional tidbits about the game is that the NES version was the last official NES game released in North America, being released just before the end of 1994. By this time, the ESRB rating system was being used, making this the only NES game that has an ESRB rating. Also the PAL version of the game has different music; it sounds very Kirby’s Adventure-ish which is good.
Two versions of Wario’s Woods exist for the Satallaview called: Wario’s Woods Burst of Laughter Version and Wario’s Woods Again. Starting with Burst of Laughter, the difference is that many of the characters were replaced with caricatures of Japanese celebrities. Woods Again removed the changed visuals of the other Satallaview version along with the single player mode.
Would this game be worth playing? If you enjoyed Tetris and Dr. Mario, I recommend this game. What version though, is up to you. Personally though, I prefer the NES version which is also the version that is on the eShop.
- Mario’s Super Picross– 1995/2007: Super Famicom/Virtual Console (Japan, Europe, and Australia only)
Mario’s Super Picross is the first sequel to Mario’s Picross and second Picross game Jupiter created; the company continues to make Picross games to this day with their most recent games being their line of Picross e games on the 3DS. The goal of Picross (aka Nonograms) is to uncover an image hidden in a grid by using the numbers on the top and left side of the grid to chisel squares, creating the hidden image. The game has two modes: Mario’s Picross which has a time limit to solve puzzles and corrects the player if they chiseled an incorrect square resulting in time lost. The other mode, Wario’s Picross removes both the time limit and the player isn’t informed of any mistakes. This game also supports the SNES mouse, but it’s not required like in Mario Paint and Mario & Wario.
Unfortunately due to Mario’s Picross’s low sales outside of Japan, future games stayed Japan exclusive until 2007’s Picross DS. Super Picross was eventually released in Europe in 2007 and 2013 on the Wii and Wii U’s Virtual Console respectively. However, this game has yet to see a release in North America and likely won’t.
Would this game be worth playing? Yes. Picross is my favorite type of puzzle game and as of typing this; I’ve fully completed all 300 of the game’s puzzles. Like with Mario & Wario, this game is inexpensive, but it isn’t all in English (not that the menus are terribly difficult to navigate).
- Undake30 Same Game– 1995: Super Famicom and Satellaview (Japan only)
This puzzle game, developed by Hudson Soft, also supports the SNES mouse along with the standard controller. The game plays like Monte Carlo solitaire with the goal of the game being to clear the screen of various Mario themed icons by clicking on matching ones that are touching; moves can be undone. The Super Famicom version was released for display purposes and to winners of game tournaments. The Satallaview release is the standard version with a radio show accompanying it staring the voice of Bomberman, Sugiyama Kazuko. You may recognize this game’s concept since it was reused in a mini-game in Super Mario 64DS called Pair-a-Gone.
Would this game be worth playing? No. Playing either Monte Carlo or Pair-a-Gone would be easier. Also the game is very lacking in content.
- Picross 2– 1996: Game Boy (Japan only)
Improving upon what the previous two Mario Picross games did, Picross 2 adds themed Picross levels, larger Picross puzzles, and adds new rules for each character’s Picross modes as you get farther. Also a new game mode called Quick Picross was added where players need to solve multiple 8×8 puzzles with about sixty seconds to solve each puzzle. This game also stayed in Japan, but unlike Super Picross, this game has not seen a re-release on the 3DS Virtual Console anywhere outside of Japan.
Would this game be worth playing? If you’re a fan of Picross or Nonograms, then yes. If you’re interested in getting into the series, then I’d recommend either Mario’s Picross or one of the many Picross games on the 3DS eShop. While their aren’t as many puzzles in this game compared to Mario’s Super Picross, it still has plenty of puzzles to keep players busy for many hours. If you play the game on a Game Boy, it’s not difficult to see what’s going on, but I’d still play the game using a Super Game Boy on the SNES or using the Game Boy Player on the Gamecube.
- BS Dr. Mario– 1997: Satellaview (Japan only)
This incarnation of Dr. Mario is the exact same as the one that was included in the Tetris and Dr. Mario compilation cart released three years prior on the SNES, creatively called: Tetris & Dr. Mario. All that was changed was that the Tetris half was locked out. The reason why this version was created is because that compilation game never saw a release in Japan. This game was available from 1997 to 2000.
Would this game be worth playing? Not this version specifically, but certainly Tetris & Dr. Mario. By the way, I hope you enjoy Dr. Mario because it’s going to be appearing a lot.
- Wrecking Crew ’98– 1998: Super Famicom Nintendo Power/Super Famicom (Japan only)
Initially released for the Nintendo Power download service, the game was given a physical release four months later in May 1998. Not to be confused with the North American magazine of the same name, Nintendo Power was a service where consumers could purchase a blank Super Famicom or Game Boy memory cartridge and then download games on them via Loppi machines which were typically found in Lawson stores (a popular chain of convenience stores in Japan). The game is a sequel to the original Wrecking Crew from 1985. Where that game was a platformer with puzzle elements, Wrecking Crew ’98 is the other way around. The goal is to clear your panels by either destroying them with a hammer or arranging three or more colored panels vertically or horizontally. To arrange panels, the player uses handles found in the corner. If more than three blocks are cleared, then an obstacle will be sent to the opponent’s side with the obstacles getting worse if more blocks/rows are cleared in a combo. Also included in this game is a direct port of Wrecking Crew. Being released so late in the system’s life, this game did not see a release outside of Japan and has never been re-released on any Virtual Console.
Would this game be worth playing? I’ve never played the original but Wrecking Crew ’98 sounds like a fun game to play with a friend, mixing elements from other puzzles games like Yoshi’s Cookie and Puyo-Puyo into Wrecking Crew. A copy of the game goes for around $40+.
- Picross NP Volume 2, 6, 7, & 8– 1999-2000: Super Famicom Nintendo Power (Japan only)
The Picross NP volumes were a series of Picross/Nonogram games released exclusively for the Super Famicom Nintendo Power service (which has been discontinued since February 28, 2007) and was only available in Japan. Downloading games from this service was cheaper than getting a physical copy and certain games only came out on this service. For example, besides the Picross NP games, this was the only way for Japanese gamers to play Super Punch-Out!! legitimately until the Virtual Console release in 2009.
Of the eight Picross NP games released from April 1999 to June 2000, four of them featured characters from the Mario universe. Volume 2 was Yoshi’s Story, volume 6 was Super Mario 64, volume 7 was Wario Land II, and volume 8 was Donkey Kong Country. The other volume’s themes were Pokémon, Kirby, Star Fox 64, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Would any of these games be worth playing? Yes for Picross fans, maybe for puzzle fans. These games have not seen a release anywhere else, so playing them on an emulator would be the only way to play them, unless you manage to find a Nintendo Power cartridge on eBay or wherever that actually has one or more of these games on it.
- Dr. Mario 64– 2001/2003: Nintendo 64/iQue Player (North America and China only)
Like with previous versions, Dr. Mario tosses Mega Vitamins into a jar full of viruses, but now there are six different game modes: Classic, Story, Vs COM, Flash, Marathon, and Score Attack. In story mode, the player can choose from either Dr. Mario or Wario with each of their stories differing. Many of the opponents faced in this game are from Wario Land 3, which was released the year prior, and the game’s visual style reminds me of Yoshi’s Story. While simplistic looking, the game’s shining point is its multiplayer (up to 4 people) where an additional mode is opened that has the four players play on two teams.
This game was initially only released in North America, but was given a release in 2003 in China as one of the games included in Nintendo’s iQue Player system and as one of the three puzzle games in the Japan exclusive Gamecube game: Nintendo Puzzle Collection. This game has not seen a release in Europe or on any region’s Virtual Console.
Would this be worth playing? Yes! This is probably the best version of Dr. Mario with all of the content included and it doesn’t go for all that much.
- Nintendo Puzzle Collection– 2003: Gamecube (Japan only)
This three-in-one compilation game contains three Nintendo puzzle game classics: Dr. Mario, Yoshi’s Cookie, and Panel de Pon or as it was called outside of Japan, Tetris Attack. Players may also recognize Panel de Pon as Pokémon Puzzle League for the Nintendo 64 since it plays the same way. While the versions of Panel de Pon and Yoshi’s Cookie are new, Dr. Mario is just the N64 version, not that that’s a bad thing mind. Panel de Pon and Yoshi’s Cookie were revamped and in Pon’s case, was given new characters, in Yoshi’s Cookie’s case, a story mode with 99 rounds rather than 10 like in the original. The original versions of these three puzzle games can still be played by connecting a GBA to the GameCube via GCN to GBA cable. Nintendo Puzzle Collection was going to see a release outside of Japan with a demo even being available at E3 2003 but it was unfortunately cancelled.
Would this game be worth playing? Yes, but due to region locking, it may be easier to get Dr. Mario 64, Yoshi’s Cookie, and Tetris Attack/Pokemon Puzzle League separately.
- Dr. Mario & Puzzle League– 2005: Game Boy Advance
Yet another incarnation of Dr. Mario and compilation game, this version of the game uses the visual style of Dr. Mario 64. Due to the screen resolution, the pill bottle is a little shorter; same with Puzzle League’s game area. This can however be fixed by unlocking vertical mode, letting the player be able to enjoy the games with a higher resolution playing field while holding the GBA system at a 90° angle. The only other game’s I’ve seen do something similar to this is Rockman & Forte: Challenger from the Future for the WonderSwan and Bomb Monkey for the 3DS. Puzzle League is yet another localized version of Panel de Pon except its presentation isn’t as nice as it was in the puzzle collection on the GameCube, resembling the SNES Tetris Attack more. A two player game is possible with multiple copies of Dr. Mario & Puzzle League and a link cable, but basic versions each game can be played on another GBA with one copy of the game.
Would this game be worth playing? Yes. Of all the Dr. Mario incarnations for handheld systems, this may be the best version, plus you get an extra game to boot. If you don’t own a GBA or DS, then Dr. Mario Miracle Cure on 3DS is another great handheld version of this classic Nintendo puzzle game.
- Yakuman DS– 2005: Nintendo DS (Japan only)
This DS puzzle game is based on the Chinese game of Mahjong with Mario characters mixed in. Two versions of this game exist, the initial release and a later release that included wi-fi support; neither of these versions were released outside of Japan however. Players fight various opponents who vary in difficulty, play style, and stats.
Since I’ll likely never be talking about the game of Mahjong in the future and this section is rather short, I’m gonna toss in a bonus fact about Mahjong that relates to Nintendo: Back in 1983 Nintendo released a NES version of Mahjong exclusively for Hong Kong, China. Also this game is one of the rarest NES games in existence with only around eight copies currently known to exist and apparently this adaptation of Mahjong wasn’t discovered until 2006.
Would this game be worth playing? If you enjoy Mahjong and Mario, then go for it. The Nintendo DS is region free so importing a copy shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. The Nintendo wi-fi service has been discontinued for a few years now though.
- Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge– 2016: Nintendo 3DS/Wii U
This is a download only game for the Wii U and 3DS and is currently the newest entry in the Mario vs Donkey Kong series. It’s also a free to start game. All amiibos are compatible with the game but only the Mario ones allow players to play as Mario figures and use character specific abilities; non-Mario character amiibos become a generic cube figure that has no special ability. You don’t need a specific Mario amiibo to play as a Mario character. For example, to play as Mini Mario, you can use any Mario amiibo, including Dr. Mario and the thirtieth anniversary Mario amiibo figures. Players control the figures, trying to reach the end of the stage. Certain stages have doors that can only be opened by a specific character.
Would this game be worth playing? If you have any amiibo, sure. If not, you can skip this game even though it’s free.
Whew. Who knew their existed so many puzzle games within the Mario series. I could’ve extended this section by including games like Yoshi and Pictobits, but I don’t want to keep you here forever. With that long section out of the way, in part four we’ll be looking at games that scratch that creative itch many of us tend to get from time to time.