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I’m starting to suspect that being a doctor in the Mushroom Kingdom requires no training

The arrival of Dr. Goomba Tower has shattered my faith in Mario science

Dr. Mario holds up a red and blue pill Image: Nintendo
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

I’ve had my suspicions about the legitimacy of Mario’s medical license for a while now, but a new addition to the character lineup of Dr. Mario World — Nintendo’s puzzle game for phones — has finally confirmed a long-held theory of mine: Being a “doctor” in the Mario universe is an absolutely meaningless distinction!

I am of course referring to news of Dr. Mario World’s Dr. Goomba Tower, a stack of three Goombas that has somehow acquired a lab coat and a head mirror. (Those two items appeared to be the minimum requirements for earning the salutation of doctor in the Mushroom Kingdom, not years of schooling and medical training.)

Three Goombas wearing a lab coat and head mirror in artwork from Dr. Mario World Image: Line/NHN/Nintendo

The existence of Dr. Mario I can understand. The hero of the Mushroom Kingdom is a renaissance man, having started his career in construction and plumbing, but later finding professional success in the fields of martial arts, racing, baseball, basketball, and soccer. Even with a busy schedule and Mario’s young age — officially in his mid-20s — I can see an ambitious fellow like Mario going to medical school and earning his degree in between adventures. The economy of the Mushroom Kingdom is baffling, but I assume college is free and that Mario would not be saddled with student loans.

I’ll even grant that Luigi, always following in his big brother’s footsteps, would also become a medical doctor. I can also reasonably suspend the disbelief that Dr. Peach, Dr. Toad, and Dr. Bowser have all also made the commitment to pursue medical degrees, either out of rivalry with or in support of the Dr. Mario Bros. But I’m increasingly suspicious that Dr. Baby Mario, Dr. Nabbit, and Dr. Donkey Kong — and Bowser’s re-animated skeleton!!! — all playable characters in Dr. Mario World, would have both the necessary training and the motor reflexes to become actual doctors.

Dr. Goomba Tower, however, is simply too much. I would be terrified to seek medical care in the Mario universe given their credentials.

That said, even Dr. Mario’s ability to work in the medical field feels dubious. According to the manual for the original Dr. Mario for NES, Dr. Mario suspiciously glosses over how he reached doctor status.

“Hi everybody!” Dr. Mario says in the manual. “I’m Mario. How’s it going? Over the last few years, I’ve been involved in some pretty wild adventures. Now, believe it or not, I work in the virus research lab at the Mushroom Kingdom Hospital.”

I choose not to believe it, sir.

The manual (and a probably-non-canonical Nintendo Comics System comic book) then goes on to explain that a viral outbreak at the hospital forced Mario into scientific action. Mario has “developed a new vitamin” that can “take care of it.” A vitamin. This is quack science and reminiscent of highly dubious treatments in the current news cycle.

Thankfully, Dr. Mario’s practice appears limited to throwing said “vitamins” into a bottle to eliminate viruses. Despite wearing a stethoscope and carrying a thermometer, it appears that Dr. Mario and his colleagues do not work with actual patients, thank goodness.

In researching Dr. Mario’s medical background, I came across perhaps the most damning evidence of the Mushroom Kingdom’s medical licensing requirements on the Dr. Mario World website itself, which says “Dr. Mario and friends have put on lab coats and grabbed capsules! Now they’re ready to eliminate those unruly viruses.” So that’s it: The only real requirement is a lab coat. Absolutely terrifying and unethical, but a very good explanation for why every major character in the Mario universe is now a “doctor.”

Dr. Goomba Tower is coming to Dr. Mario World on April 26. The medical board needs to investigate its credentials.

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