Dr. Mario vs. Puyo Puyo

Dr. Mario vs. Puyo Puyo

Pop pills with classic puzzlers

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Versus on

There's something about dropping 2-tile puzzle pieces only to set up and trigger a cascade of combos that's super-satisfying so let's take a look at these 2 classic puzzler franchises and figure out which one is superior.

Photo of a bunch of Dr. Mario and Puyo Puyo games
Dr. Mario and Puyo Puyo have been around a long time!

Solo

I usually enjoy playing puzzle games competitively but let's start with the single player aspect of these games. First, Dr. Mario primarily involves ridding the playfield of viruses by dropping coloured pills and matching 4 of the same colour in a row or column. There's something rather euphoric about slowly drilling down to the bottom of a virus-filled jar and I love doing it every time. Meanwhile, playing Puyo Puyo solo isn't quite as enjoyable as the single player modes mainly consist of a basic endless mode and some games in the series have missions which are pretty fun to complete as you play. As a result, I much prefer Dr. Mario as a single player experience so let's take a look at these games' multiplayer modes and see if Puyo Puyo can overtake the plumber-turned-physician.

Multiplayer

Puzzle games compose my most treasured gaming moments with friends and I have fond memories of both of these puzzlers. Dr. Mario essentially has you race against a pal to see who can clear their viruses first and the fact that garbage pieces can fall adds an enjoyable push-and-pull dynamic to each match. However, Puyo Puyo takes things to a whole new level. Efficiently setting your Puyo pieces in place then matching 4 connecting ones only to cause a massive chain reaction and watch your opponent drown in clear garbage Puyo is such a thrilling moment. That being said, playing it online is a challenge fit for a puzzle game wizard because, generally speaking, the folks who play Puyo Puyo online are insanely good at it. Anyway, it goes without saying at this point but I definitely prefer playing Puyo Puyo as a multiplayer game. That isn't to say that Dr. Mario isn't fun as it totally is; just not nearly as enjoyable as Puyo Puyo.

Dr. Luigi screenshot
Dr. Mario is fun even when his brother's filling the prescription

Graphics

With gameplay out of the way, let's discuss the more superficial aspects of these games. Dr. Mario's visuals have always been simple since its 1990 debut but one thing that's remained fun is watching the little viruses in the magnifying glass taunting you as you play only to see them perish one by one after you clear out all of their colour. With that being said, Puyo Puyo features an ever-growing cast of delightful anime-style chums and its colourful backgrounds, wiggly animations, and goofy-looking Puyo pieces that actually have their own personalities depending on their colour really make its visuals pop so it easily wins when it comes to graphics.

Sound

Finally, let's explore the sound in these retro puzzle series. Believe it or not, the original Dr. Mario only included 2 pieces of music (Fever and Chill) but they're a couple of the catchiest tunes in video game history. Plus, the sound effects of rotating pills, making matches, and having pill pieces fall is oh so satisfying. On the other hand, Puyo Puyo usually features upbeat arcade-style tunes which is great and its most rewarding aspect is hearing the cast of characters excitedly cast spells whenever you trigger chains. However, it's hard to beat the awesome Dr. Mario music so that wins here. Thanks for all the years of having your songs stuck in my head, Hirokazu Tanaka!

Puyo Puyo Champions screenshot
Is anything more intense than a 4 player Puyo Puyo match?

I must say; revisiting these puzzle series was great fun but I have to pick an overall winner and it's going to be...

Winner Puyo Puyo

Dr. Mario may offer the more enjoyable single player core gameplay and its music is simply phenomenal but Puyo Puyo's incredible multiplayer dynamic makes it stand tall as one of the best puzzle game franchises ever conceived. Also, its adorable cast of characters and silly sense of humour really make it shine as a unique and fun-filled experience.

That's just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Vote now!

Gameplay video playlist for Dr. Mario vs. Puyo Puyo 31:37
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