This week I played as Dr. Mario, a character considered by many to be one of the worst in the game, who ended up surprising me by being one of my best characters so far.
Preconceptions on Dr. Mario
It hasn’t always been the case that Dr. Mario was considered inferior to the original plumber. In Super Smash Bros Melee the Doctor is actually ranked slightly above Mario. This is in large part due to being just as fast as Mario but packing a much stronger punch. Upon his return in Smash 4 they decided to amp up the power behind his moves even more but at the cost of his speed. Speed is one of the most important attributes to have in a fighting game and Dr. Mario could no longer keep up with the competition.
In the official Super Smash Bros Ultimate tierlist that was created earlier this year Dr. Mario is ranked as the 4th worst character in the game. His slow speed combined with a very fragile recovery makes it easy for opponents to take advantage of his weaknesses. But despite his ranking on the tierlist it would be foolish to underestimate a Dr. Mario in bracket. Smash Bros Ultimate is the most balanced Smash game we have ever seen and the gap between top tiers and low tiers is closer than it’s ever been. While Dr. Mario may have some obvious weaknesses his strengths are still exceptional.
Unlike other slow characters I’ve played in this series Dr. Mario was gifted with one of the best projectiles in the game in pill. This extremely spammable projectile is also one of the scariest things to get hit by because of how dangerous Dr. Mario’s combos are out of it. He also has an out of shield game so powerful it rivals Mr. Game and Watch for being one of the best in the game. By trading safety for raw kill power Dr. Mario can brutally punish opponents who make mistakes. Dr. Mario is still a bad character who can lose his stocks extremely easily, but in the right hands he can demolish players who aren’t ready for their checkup.
Dr. Mario Training Mode
Playing as Dr. Mario you will learn his weaknesses very quickly. It’s easy to blame the character for their shortcomings but as I’ve learned from playing this series you have to work with what you’ve got. Working around these flaws is true of any character and understanding how they are limiting allows you to push the character even further. To that end I’m going to discuss Dr. Mario’s two main weaknesses and offer some tips on how you can work around them.
Starting off with his recovery if you hit him once off stage he will most likely die. His terrible air speed, short jumps, and small Up-B makes it hard for him to make it back to the stage. But with the addition of directional air dodges Dr. Mario has a recovery that I think is just barely good enough. The secret to recovering as Dr. Mario is to use as many mixups as possible. There are many different ways you can make it to the ledge, and various things you can do to make it safer for yourself. One thing I learned while playing as Mii Brawler was how they used Shotput to force the opponent to shield lettting them come down safely. Dr. Mario can do the same thing with his pill by recovering high and using it to protect himself. If your opponent guesses correctly and hits you once you’ll probably die. But there’s a lot you can do to make that as hard as possible for your opponent.
The other weakness which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me was his abysmal speed. Now, I’ve already played the slowest character in the game so I know what it’s like for people to run circles around me. It’s counterintuitive but being so slow actually helped me as a player because it forced me to be patient. Making mistakes would usually mean I’d be sent off stage where I could easily die. This led to me creating a very simple gameplan that revolved around throwing pills, punishing people for hitting my shield while avoiding my lose condition as much as possible. And as long as I stayed on the stage I could usually send my opponents to the ER. Here’s a combo video showcasing the best stuff I landed while maining Dr. Mario.
Dr. Mario Combo Video
Dr. Mario Tournament Report
Doc is a character that just worked for me as soon as I started playing him. He’s simple and easy to pick up, and was also a character I played a decent amount back in Smash 4. For one of my streams I kept track of my wins and losses against my viewers in best of 3 matches and I ended the day with an insane 19-3 win-loss record. Despite my apparent skill with Doc, I kept my expectations in check when I went to the tournament. I understood that I was still playing a bad character and that all it would take is one mistake for me to lose my stock. Recently I’ve been getting frustrated with my performance in tournaments and that has been getting in the way of my play. So when I showed up to the local this week I was just there to have a good time and do my best with one of the worst characters in the game.
Round 1 Winners – Yodu
Starting off my bracket run I got to fight Yodu a Sonic main. Now there’s something to be said about how Ultimate is the most balanced Smash game in the entire series and how the gap between low tiers and top tiers isn’t that bad but yeah I got 3 stocked in game 1. I got the music counterpick for game 2 which was enough of a powerup to prevent another 3 stock, but Yodu still cleaned me up pretty quick.
Round 2 Losers – Miolez
It’s easy to let a bad game demoralize you and spiral your bracket run as a result. But I was actually pretty happy with how I played in that second game even though I lost. Keeping a positive mentality I then fought Miolez (pronounced “Miles”) who was playing Cloud. Another top tier vs the humble Doc but this time I was able to take game 1 convincingly. Miolez switches to Mr. Game and Watch and I open things up with a near 0-Death. I keep up the momentum and finish it out with a 3 stock of my own!
Round 3 Losers – BakedFanta
Going from getting 3 stocked to 3 stocking someone else just goes to show how volatile Dr. Mario can be but it was still a great morale boost for the rest of my bracket run. BakedFanta is a Sephiroth main and game 1 is incredibly back and forth but I read a roll-in with an Up-Smash to take it. Game 2 is similarly close but a surprise tornado followed up by a pill is too much for BakedFanta to recover from.
Round 4 Losers – GERUDONAVI
GERODONAVI is a Bayonetta player who is potentially the person I have fought the most in tournament. I even fought him back when I mained Kazuya which didn’t go all too well for me. Going into this we had played 10 times in bracket before with Gerudo winning 7 of those sets. It wasn’t looking good for the Doc. I nearly choke game 1 but barely manage to clutch it out. I’m playing well in game 2 until I start panicking during a combo and get 0-Deathed causing me to lose that game. By the final game we are both playing to win. I’m losing by over 100% but by using pills to force Gerudo to approach me I’m slowly claw back a lead. By the end I misjudge one of his moves and miss but he whiffs on the Up-Smash giving me the chance to kill him and take the set.
Round 5 Losers – Baldr
Riding high off my victory against my bracket demon I then had to go up against Baldr a Joker main. Still feeling that momentum I’m able to land a nasty 0-Death which leads to me taking the first game. In the next game he notices that I keep recovering high to avoid getting hit by gun giving him some crucial edgeguards against me. I have the lead going into the final stock on game 3 but I lose my jump without realizing it and go for a low recovery only to fall to my death instead. Had I made it back to the stage I think I had a good shot at beating Baldr and progressing even further.
Dr. Mario is the worst character I have played in this series so far. He is slow, easy to edgeguard, and can be quite predictable at times. But despite that I really clicked with Dr. Mario. He forced me to play patiently which is a skill I’ve been trying to develop for a long time. His gameplan of using pill to trick people into hitting his shield made a lot of sense and I felt like I was in control of the match even though I was playing the worse character.
However, the most important thing I learned while playing as Dr. Mario had very little to do with the character. As I play more of the cast it’s becoming very apparent to me that character choice doesn’t matter as much as your mentality does. Every time I put pressure on myself to do well in tournament I usually end up underperforming. With Dr. Mario I knew that I was playing a bad character so I wasn’t going to hold it against myself if I lost with him. Playing without this added stress meant that I was able to play at my best and take sets off of players who have beaten me many times before.
Managing my mentality is going to be an important part of my growth as a player and while I could keep playing as Dr. Mario I feel like there might be a stronger character out there who could be my next main. If you want to be a part of choosing my next character you can join my Patreon linked below and get access to my private discord, bonus content, and screen backgrounds of every character I’ve played as so far. This journey of choosing my next main has been difficult and I think I might need a Hero to save me from my Character Crisis. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you on Tuesday!