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Tetris (Game Boy video game)

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North American box art
Developer(s)Nintendo R&D1
Director(s)Satoru Okada
Producer(s)Gunpei Yokoi
Designer(s)Hirofumi Matsuoka
Programmer(s)Masao Yamamoto
Composer(s)Hirokazu Tanaka
Platform(s)Game Boy, Game Boy Color
ReleaseGame Boy
Game Boy Color (Tetris DX)
  • JP: October 21, 1998[2][4]
  • NA: November 18, 1998
  • EU: July 1, 1999
  • AU: 1999
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Tetris[a] is a puzzle video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy in 1989. It is a portable version of Alexey Pajitnov's original Tetris and it was bundled with the North American and European releases of the Game Boy itself. It is the first game to have been compatible with the Game Link Cable, a pack-in accessory that allows two Game Boy consoles to link for multiplayer purposes. A remaster, Tetris DX, was released on the Game Boy Color in 1998. A Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console version of Tetris was released in December 2011, lacking multiplayer functionality. The game was released on the Nintendo Switch Online service in February 2023.[5]


Tetris gameplay
Naïve gravity in action

The Game Boy version of Tetris plays identically to versions on other platforms. A pseudorandom sequence of tetromino shapes, composed of four square blocks each, fall down the playing field, which is 10 blocks wide by 18 blocks high. The object of the game is to manipulate the tetrominoes by moving each one sideways and rotating it by 90-degree units with the aim of creating a horizontal line of blocks without gaps. When one or more such lines are created, they disappear, and the blocks above (if any) move down by the number of lines cleared. As in most standard versions of Tetris, blocks do not automatically fall into open gaps when lines are cleared.

As the game progresses, the tetrominoes fall faster. The game ends when at least part of a tetromino extends beyond the top of the playfield when setting in place. The player can normally see which block will appear next in a window off to the side of the playing field, but this feature can be toggled during the game.[6] Points are awarded based on the current level and number of lines cleared. The level increases each time the player clears ten lines, as does the speed of falling tetrominoes.[6] The player may adjust the difficulty before beginning a game by selecting a starting level or choosing to pre-fill the play area with a given number of lines of randomly placed blocks. After completing a particular height, the player is treated to a cutscene of a rocket of various types being launched, eventually capping off with Russians dancing and the Buran shuttle being launched.

This version of Tetris includes a two-player mode, in which each player's objective is to remain in play for longer than their opponent. Each player plays with a separate Game Boy and Tetris Game Pak, with the two consoles connected via the Game Link Cable. When a player scores a Double, Triple, or Tetris, incomplete rows of blocks are added to the bottom of the opponent's stack, causing it to rise.


Alexey Pajitnov, the designer of the original Tetris, called the Game Boy version his favorite.

Tetris was first created in 1985[7] by Alexey Pajitnov. In 1988, Pajitnov teamed with fellow Soviet Academy of Sciences researchers Dmitry Pavlovsky, and Vadim Gerasimov to create a new two-player version of Tetris that ran on PCs.[8] The game was soon licensed by Andromeda Software executive Robert Stein, who sublicensed the game to multiple publishers in different territories. In 1988, Henk Rogers of Bullet-Proof Software noticed the US home computer version at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in a Spectrum HoloByte booth. Finding himself hooked to the game, he pursued the rights to publish Tetris in Japan, and secured licenses from both Spectrum HoloByte, who held the North American computer license, and Atari Games, which had produced the American arcade version under a sublicense from Mirrorsoft, which had the rights for the European computer market. Knowing Nintendo was planning to release the Game Boy, Rogers approached Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa to suggest Tetris as the perfect bundled launch game. Arakawa questioned the idea, having planned to bundle Super Mario Land, but Rogers countered by stating that though a Mario game would promote the Game Boy to young boys, Tetris would promote it to everyone.[9] Rogers was told to pursue the rights; he approached Stein to seek rights for it to be distributed with the Game Boy.[10]

However, after several months passed, Stein had not signed to contract for the rights for the Game Boy, and Rogers learned that another person had approached Nintendo with the idea of a Game Boy Tetris. Requesting more time from Arakawa, he traveled to Moscow to speak with the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations's bureau for computer hardware and software export, called Elektronorgtechnica or ELORG, and Pajitnov. During this time, Nintendo approached Spectrum HoloByte on the prospect of a Game Boy Tetris, causing Mirrorsoft to send a representative, Kevin Maxwell, to Moscow to secure rights for the Game Boy version.[10] Meanwhile, Rogers negotiated for the rights for Tetris on the Game Boy, noting in a later interview that the government officials did not understand the concept of intellectual property, and were looking for greater payment than Rogers or Nintendo could afford.[9] However, it was revealed that the Tetris property had not actually been licensed to anyone because Stein had secured the rights from Pajitnov directly and not from the Russian authority.[11] Russia sent a fax to Maxwell in England with 48 hours to respond, but due to being in Russia at the time Maxwell did not receive the fax, and the handheld rights were given to Rogers. Rogers licensed the handheld rights to Nintendo. During this time Rogers discovered that the home console rights were actually not properly licensed, and in March 1989, Arakawa, and Nintendo vice president Howard Lincoln, working with Rogers, secured exclusive rights for console distribution of Tetris.[10] However, Tetris's production was delayed due to an ongoing legal battle with Atari Games over their home publishing subsidiary Tengen's version of Tetris for the NES and the game was released in Japan two months after the Game Boy's release there.[12] Bullet-Proof Software is mentioned as a copyright holder and the sub-licensor of the Tetris handheld rights to Nintendo on the game's startup screen.[13]


The main soundtrack for Tetris was created by Nintendo's accomplished composer Hirokazu Tanaka.[14] The player can select one of three types of background music during the game or play with sound effects only. Two of the songs are arrangements of works from other composers: "Type A" is based on the Russian folk song "Korobeiniki" (also known as "Korobushka"), and "Type C" is an arranged version of "French Suite No. 3 in B minor, BWV 814: Menuet" (transposed to F♯ minor) by Johann Sebastian Bach.[15][16] In an early version that was only released in Japan with an estimated 25,000 copies sold, the "Type A" song is "Minuet".[17] The compositions "Type A" and "Type B" can be unlocked in the Super Smash Bros. series, where "Type A" can be played on the stage, "Luigi's Mansion" in Brawl and for Wii U, and "Type B" can be played on the stage, "Luigi's Mansion" in Brawl, and "Wuhu Island" in for Wii U, both can be played on any miscellaneous Nintendo series stage in Ultimate.

The victory fanfares played after completing levels are different arrangements of "Trepak", from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker.


Tetris DX[edit]

Tetris DX is a Game Boy Color game that is backward compatible with the original Game Boy. It was developed by Nintendo and released in Japan on October 21, 1998, in North America on November 18, 1998, and in Europe and Australia in 1999. Tetris DX features battery-saved high scores and three player profiles. It has a new single-player mode against the CPU and also features two new modes of play. In "Ultra Mode", players must accumulate as many points as possible within a three-minute time period. In "40 Lines", players are timed on how quickly they can clear 40 lines of play. New music themes were added.

Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console[edit]

The Game Boy version of Tetris was released in North America and Europe as a Virtual Console game for the Nintendo 3DS on December 22, 2011[18][19] and on December 28 in Japan.[20] In contrast to the original version, it is not possible to play multiplayer in the Virtual Console version.[21] The Virtual Console version of Tetris was delisted in Europe from the Nintendo eShop after December 31, 2014[22] and in North America.[23]

Nintendo Switch Online[edit]

The Game Boy version was released worldwide on the Nintendo Switch Online service on February 8, 2023. Unlike the release on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console, multiplayer is fully supported. This version can also be played online.


Tetris has been credited as the Game Boy's killer app.[26] It topped the Japanese sales charts during August–September 1989[27][28] and from December 1989 to January 1990.[29] It also topped the US sales charts during August–September 1989[30] and then December 1989.[31]

Nintendo sold 2.5 million copies by early 1990, as its top seller.[32] About 7.5 million copies had been sold in the United States by 1992.[33] By 1997, 29.72 million units had been sold worldwide, including bundles.[34] As of June 2009, more than 35 million copies had been sold worldwide.[35]

Official Nintendo Magazine ranked Tetris fifth on its list of the "100 Best Nintendo Games".[36] Game Informer's Ben Reeves called it the best Game Boy game and a "legendary puzzle game".[37] In 2019, PC Magazine included the game on their "The 10 Best Game Boy Games" commenting: "Tetris serves up addictive and challenging gameplay on the go for all ages".[38]

In August 2008, Nintendo Power listed Tetris DX as the best Game Boy/Game Boy Color video game, stating that it meant more to handheld gaming than any other video game. They also described it as the best version of Tetris until Tetris DS was released.[39] Alexey Pajitnov called the Game Boy version of Tetris his favorite and very close to his original version.[9] In Japan, Famitsu gave it a score of 26 out of 40.[4]


  1. ^ Japanese: テトリス, Hepburn: Tetorisu


  1. ^ White, Dave (July 1989). "Gameboy Club". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 3. p. 68.
  2. ^ a b ゲームボーイ (in Japanese). Nintendo. Archived from the original on March 17, 2015. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  3. ^ テトリス(TETRIS) [ゲームボーイ]. Famitsu (in Japanese). Enterbrain. Archived from the original on November 23, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  4. ^ a b テトリスDX [ゲームボーイ]. Famitsu (in Japanese). Enterbrain. Archived from the original on November 23, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  5. ^ Plant, Logan (February 8, 2023). "Nintendo Switch Online Adding Game Boy and Game Boy Advance Games". IGN. Retrieved February 9, 2023.
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  11. ^ Evans, David Sparks; Hagiu, Andrei; Schmalensee, Richard (2006). Invisible Engines: How Software Platforms Drive Innovation and Transform Industries (Illustrated ed.). MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-05085-4.
  12. ^ Sheff, David; Eddy, Andy (1993). Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World. Random House, Inc. (New York). ISBN 0-679-40469-4.
  13. ^ Nintendo (June 14, 1989). Tetris. Nintendo. Scene: startup screen.
  14. ^ "Works". Sporadic Vacuum. Hirokazu Tanaka. Archived from the original on January 19, 2011. Retrieved December 8, 2010.
  15. ^ DiCrescenzo, Brent (November 13–19, 2008). "Ode to joysticks". Time Out Chicago: Opera & Classical. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  16. ^ Greening, Chris. "Hirokazu Tanaka Biography". Square Enix Music Online. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
  17. ^ "Tetris (Game Boy)". The Cutting Room Floor. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  18. ^ Ronaghan, Neal (December 22, 2011). "Nintendo Download - December 22, 2011". Nintendo World Report. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  19. ^ Newton, James (December 22, 2011). "Nintendo Download: 22nd December 2011 (Europe)". Nintendo Life. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  20. ^ Bivens, Danny (December 23, 2011). "Tetris and New Picross Coming to Japan eShop". Nintendo World Report. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  21. ^ Thomas, Lucas M. (December 22, 2011). "Tetris Review". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on November 28, 2015. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  22. ^ Whitehead, Thomas (November 28, 2014). "Two Tetris Downloads to be Removed from the 3DS eShop in Europe". Nintendo Life. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  23. ^ Whitehead, Thomas (January 2, 2015). "Two Tetris Titles Pulled From the 3DS eShop in North America". Nintendo Life. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  24. ^ "Tetris for Game Boy". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on December 9, 2019. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  25. ^ "Tetris DX for Game Boy Color". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on December 9, 2019. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  26. ^ "75 Power Players". Next Generation. No. 11. Imagine Media. November 1995. p. 52.
  27. ^ "ファミコン通信 TOP 30" [Famicom Tsūshin Top 30]. Famicom Tsūshin. Vol. 1989, no. 19. September 15, 1989.
  28. ^ "ファミコン通信 TOP 30" [Famicom Tsūshin Top 30]. Famicom Tsūshin. Vol. 1989, no. 22. October 27, 1989.
  29. ^ "Weekly Famimaga Hit Chart! (12/25~1/28)". Family Computer Magazine (in Japanese). Tokuma Shoten. February 23, 1990. pp. 134–6.
  30. ^ "U.S.A. TOP 10". Famicom Tsūshin (in Japanese). Vol. 1989, no. 22. October 27, 1989.
  31. ^ "U.S.A. TOP 10: '89年12月22日" [U.S.A. Top 10: 1989-12-22] (PDF). Famicom Tsūshin (in Japanese). Vol. 1990, no. 1/2. January 5, 1990. p. 14.
  32. ^ "Surviving Together". Surviving Together. Vol. 20–22. Committee and the Institute. 1990. p. 68. 2.5 million copies later, Tetris is Nintendo's top-selling title for the first few months of 1990.
  33. ^ Weaver, Kitty D. (1992). Bushels of Rubles: Soviet Youth in Transition. Praeger Publishing. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-275-93844-4.  "If I had known it would make big money, I wouldn't have given all the rights," he says, contemplating sales of 7.5 million copies in the United States, where Tetris is standard equipment for the Nintendo Game Boy hand-held unit.
  34. ^ Rothstein, Edward (December 8, 1997). "Nintendo's Game Boy lives as nostalgia for simpler computer games catches on". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 27, 2015. Retrieved December 25, 2021.
  35. ^ Saltzman, Marc (June 12, 2009). "'Tetris' by the numbers". USA Today. Retrieved June 13, 2009.
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  38. ^ Edwards, Benj (October 17, 2019). "The 10 Best Game Boy Games". PCMAG. Retrieved January 25, 2022.
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