Mario’s Picross is the sometimes-forgotten introduction to Nintendo’s Picross series, a puzzle game consisting of grid-based puzzles called nonograms. It wouldn’t get a sequel in the US until Picross DS, twelve years later.
The idea of Picross is to fill in pixels in a grid, which in Mario’s Picross ranges in size from 5×5 to 15×15 pixels in size. Each row and column has a series of numbers which indicate the size and number of separate consecutive sequences of filled-in pixels in that row or column. Using these hints as well as filling in boxes either as definitely filled or definitely empty, the user works through the puzzle until it is solved.
Mario’s Picross offers three sets of 64 puzzles, ordered by generally increasing difficulty. You have 30 minutes to complete each puzzle, though a cumulative two minute penalty (2 minutes for the first, then 4, then 6, etc.) is applied to the timer each time you incorrectly fill in a pixel. This can actually be useful, giving you definite confirmation of whether a guess is correct. There is no such penalty or warning for incorrectly non-filled pixels, though. You must fill in the puzzle completely before the timer runs out to mark each puzzle complete.
In addition to the general nonogram hints, Mario’s Picross also offers special hints for each stage, which fill in a random row or column completely. Every puzzle can be completed without these hints, though they can be quite helpful. Even if you fail a puzzle, you can start it over with a new timer and use the knowledge gained during the first playthrough to finish it more quickly. With all of these systems combined, anyone can finish the puzzle list regardless of skill. Not that you’d probably want to if nonograms aren’t your thing.
Completing every puzzle earns you access to Time Trial mode, a series of randomly chosen puzzles with no hints, no penalties or warnings, and no time limit. This is the ultimate challenge of the game, though if you play without hints it won’t be a significant departure from previous puzzles.
Whether you want to play Mario’s Picross comes down entirely to whether you enjoy Picross puzzles. If they are your thing, this game offers over a hundred puzzles to go through. It’s available on the 3DS Virtual Console and is worth a look if you’ve played the DS and later Picross games and just want some more Picross action.