Columns (video game)

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Designer(s)Jay Geertsen
Composer(s)Tokuhiko Uwabo (consoles)
Platform(s)Arcade, Atari ST, Master System, Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD, Game Gear, PC Engine, FM Towns, NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-9801, X68000, MSX2, Super Famicom, Game Boy Color, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Virtual Console, iOS, ZX Spectrum
Genesis/Mega Drive
  • NA: June 29, 1990
  • JP: June 30, 1990
  • EU: July 9, 1990
Game Gear
  • JP: October 6, 1990
  • EU: April 26, 1991
  • NA: April 26, 1991
  • JP: December 25, 1990
PC Engine
  • JP: March 29, 1991
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Columns (Japanese: コラムス, Hepburn: Koramusu) is a match-three puzzle video game created by Jay Geertsen[citation needed] in 1990. The game was ported to computer platforms including the Atari ST. In 1990, Jay Geertsen sold the rights to Sega, who ported the game to several Sega consoles.


Columns was one of the many tile-matching puzzle games to appear after the great success of Tetris in the late 1980s.[1] The area of play is enclosed within a tall, rectangular playing area. Columns of three different symbols (such as differently-colored jewels) appear, one at a time, at the top of the well and fall to the bottom, landing either on the floor or on top of previously-fallen "columns". While a column is falling, the player can move it left and right, and can also cycle the positions of the symbols within it. After a column lands, if three or more of the same symbols are connected in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line, those symbols disappear. The pile of columns then settles under gravity. If this resettlement causes three or more other symbols to align, they too disappear and the cycle repeats. Occasionally, a special column with a multicolor Magic Jewel appears. It destroys all the jewels with the same color as the one underneath it. The columns fall at a faster rate as the player progresses. The goal of the game is to play for as long as possible before the well fills up with jewels, which ends the game. Players can score up to 99,999,999 points.[2]

Some ports of the game offer alternate game modes as well. "Flash columns" involves mining their way through a set number of lines to get to a flashing jewel at the bottom. "Doubles" allows two players work together in the same well. "Time trial" involves racking up as many points as possible within the time limit.[citation needed]


Columns was the first pack-in game for the Game Gear. This version was slightly different from the Sega Genesis version and its soundtrack was transposed and rearranged due to the limitations of the handheld's sound chip. While the columns themselves were updated for the Genesis version, the overall decoration was less like a cartoon in the Game Gear version and instead more artistically designed. Lastly, the Game Gear version had a feature that let the player change the jewels to fruit, squares, dice, or card shapes (clubs, diamonds, spades).


Tokuhiko Uwabo composed the music for Columns. The song "Clotho" is named after the Greek Moira of the same name, related to the Greek flavor of some of the game's art. The other main songs are titled "Atropos"[3] and "Lathesis" (sic[4]), other "Moirai".


In Japan, Game Machine listed Columns on their April 15, 1990 issue as being the eighth most-successful table arcade unit of the year.[8]

Reviewing the game's appearance in Sega Arcade Classics for the Sega CD, Glenn Rubenstein gave it a B+, describing it as "like Tetris but a bit better."[9] Mega placed the game at number 34 in their "Top Mega Drive Games of All Time".[10]


Many sequels and spin-offs were produced: Columns II: The Voyage Through Time, Columns III: Revenge of Columns, Columns '97, Sakura Taisen: Hanagumi Taisen Columns 1 & 2, and many compilations and re-releases (Columns Arcade Collection, Sega Ages Vol. 07: Columns) as well. Because Columns was made by Sega, versions were made available on the Master System, Genesis, Sega CD, Game Gear, Saturn, and Dreamcast. Additional versions of the game have also been made available on PC Engine, Game Boy Advance, and PlayStation 2. A Super Famicom version was released in Japan via the Nintendo Power service.[11] The Game Boy Color version was specifically called Columns GB: Osamu Tezuka Characters, where it featured many of his characters such as Kimba and Astroboy, but also featured slightly less known characters such as Unico.[citation needed]

On November 7, 2006, Columns was released as part of the game Sega Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 2, and later on another release of the above compilation for PlayStation Portable. On December 4, 2006 the title was released on Nintendo's Virtual Console for 800 Wii Points. It is also included on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[12] It was included as one of the games in Sega Genesis Mini. Most recently the game was ported to iOS by Sega.[citation needed]

Columns has also been cloned many times across different platforms:

Title Platform Release date Developer Publisher Notes
Coloris Amiga 1990 Signum Victoriae Avesoft
Magic Jewelry NES Hwang Shinwei RCM Group The title is the best known of all its clones, and was released on unlicensed Famicom multicarts.
Columns ZX Spectrum 1991 Piter Ltd. Piter Ltd.
Magic Jewelry II NES Hwang Shinwei RCM Group With the addition of new features, it is the sequel to Magic Jewelry.
Jewelbox Macintosh 1992 Rodney and Brenda Jacks Varcon Systems
Yahoo! Towers Java 1999/2000 Yahoo! Games Yahoo! Games This clone allows up to eight players to compete against each other.
BREF Columns IOS, Android 2013 Mumblecore Mumblecore
Magic Jewelry 3 2015 Guolin Ou Guolin Ou A magic column appears when a level is cleared, with which a player can clear all the jewels in same color.
Molums 2018 Antonelli Francisco Wisefox


  1. ^ "The Maturation of Computer Entertainment: Warming The Global Village". Computer Gaming World. 1990-07-08. p. 11. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Highest points total on Columns (Mega Drive version)". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Lang, Chip (December 1990). "Sega ProView: Columns" (PDF). GamePro. p. 136.
  6. ^ MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 5, page 78, May 1992
  7. ^ "Columns review score". Archived from the original on 2016-09-01.
  8. ^ "Game Machine's Best Hit Games 25 - テーブル型TVゲーム機 (Table Videos)". Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 378. Amusement Press, Inc. 15 April 1990. p. 25.
  9. ^ Rubenstein, Glenn (January 1993). "At the Controls". Wizard. Wizard Entertainment (17): 21–24.
  10. ^ Mega magazine issue 1, page 76, Future Publishing, Oct 1992
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2004-04-06. Retrieved 2004-04-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Parish, Jeremy (2006-10-31). "Wii Virtual Console Lineup Unveiled". Retrieved 2006-11-01.

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