Tetris (NES video game)

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Tetris NES cover art.jpg
North American box art
Developer(s)Nintendo R&D1
Producer(s)Gunpei Yokoi
Composer(s)Hirokazu Tanaka
Platform(s)Nintendo Entertainment System
  • NA: November 1989
  • EU: February 23, 1990

Tetris (also referred to as Classic Tetris) is a puzzle video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) released in 1989, based on Tetris (1984) by Alexey Pajitnov. It is the first official console release of Tetris to have been developed and published by Nintendo. It was released after two earlier NES versions of Tetris, an official Family Computer version released by Bullet-Proof Software in Japan in December 1988,[1] and an unofficial Atari version released by Tengen in North America in May 1989.


A-Type game

This version of Tetris has two modes of play: A-Type and B-Type. In A-Type play, the goal is to achieve the highest score possible. As lines are cleared, the level will advance and increase the speed of the falling blocks. At the beginning of a B-Type game, the board starts with randomized obstacle blocks and the goal is to clear 25 lines. In B-Type, the level remains constant, and the player chooses the height of the obstacle beforehand.[2]

During play, the tetriminoes are chosen randomly. This leaves open the possibility of extended periods with no long bar pieces, which are essential because tetrises are worth many points more than lesser line clearings. The next piece to fall is shown in a preview window next to the play field. In a side panel, the game tracks statistics of how many of each tetrimino appeared.[2]

In A-Type, the level advances for every 10 lines cleared. Each successive level increases the points scored by line clears and changes the colors of the game pieces.[2] Some levels also increase the speed of the falling pieces. In particular, level 29 represents a tremendous increase in the falling speed, which typically results in the game ending almost immediately. Level 29 is often called the "kill screen", although in recent years skilled players have progressed beyond level 29.[3] When starting a game, the player can select a starting level from 0 to 19. When starting on a later level, the level is not supposed to advance until as many lines have been cleared as it would have taken to advance from level 0 to the starting level.[2] Due to a bug, the levels will begin advancing earlier than intended when starting on level 11 or higher.[4]

Saint Basil's Cathedral appears in the title screen and ending, alluding to the Soviet origin of Tetris.[5]

At the end of an A-Type game, a substantial score yields an animated ending of a rocket launch in front of Saint Basil's Cathedral. The size of the rocket depends on the score, ranging from a bottle rocket to the Buran spaceplane. In the best ending, a UFO appears on the launch pad and the cathedral lifts off.[4] After a high-level B-Type game, various Nintendo characters perform in front of the cathedral.[4][6]


By 1989, about six companies claimed rights to create and distribute the Tetris software for home computers, game consoles, and handheld systems.[7] ELORG, the Soviet bureau that held the ultimate copyright, held that none of the companies were legally entitled to produce an arcade version, and signed those rights over to Atari Games. Non-Japanese console and handheld rights were signed over to Nintendo. Tetris was shown at the January 1988 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it was picked up by Dutch-born American games publisher Henk Rogers, then based in Japan. This eventually led to an agreement brokered with Nintendo that saw Tetris bundled with every Game Boy.[8] The Nintendo home release was developed by Gunpei Yokoi.[citation needed]

The game's code includes an unfinished and inaccessible two-player versus mode, which sends rows of garbage blocks (with one opening) to the bottom of the opponent's board when lines are cleared. This feature may have been scrapped due to a rushed development schedule, or to promote sales of the Game Link Cable which enables a two-player mode in Nintendo's Game Boy Tetris.[4]


The soundtrack was written by Nintendo composer Hirokazu Tanaka, who also scored the Game Boy version.[8] Focusing on Russian classical music,[5] the soundtrack features arrangements of "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker and the overture from Georges Bizet's opera Carmen. The former replaces the arrangement of "Korobeiniki",[4] present in the Game Boy version, which has become strongly associated with Tetris.[8]


In its first six months of release by 1990, Nintendo's NES version of Tetris had sales of 1.5 million copies totaling $52 million (equivalent to $114 million in 2021), surpassing Spectrum HoloByte's versions for personal computers at 150,000 copies for $6 million (equivalent to $13.7 million in 2021) in the previous two years since 1988.[11] As of 2004, the NES version had sales of 8 million copies worldwide.[12]

IGN noted that "almost everyone" regarded Nintendo's Tetris as inferior to Atari's Tetris, which was pulled from shelves due to licensing issues.[13]


Tetris & Dr. Mario (1994) features an enhanced remake of Tetris.[14] Tetris Effect: Connected (2020) includes a game mode that simulates Tetris's rules and visuals.[15][16]

In 2009, Harry Hong became the first independently verified person to achieve the maximum score of 999,999 points, known as a max-out score. Earlier plausible but unverified max-out scores were claimed by Thor Aackerlund c. 1990 and Jonas Neubauer c. 2002.[3]

Competitive play[edit]

The 1990 Nintendo World Championships were based on A-Type Tetris, Super Mario Bros., and Rad Racer. In each round, contestants were given a total of six minutes to score as much as possible across all three games.[17][better source needed] As the Tetris score would be multiplied 25 times in the final tally, the prevailing strategy was to immediately exit the other two games to spend all available time in Tetris.[18][better source needed]

Since 2010, the NES version of Tetris has been featured in the annual Classic Tetris World Championship. It has a 1-on-1 competition to score the most points. Specialized cartridges give both competitors the same piece sequence.[19]


The speed at which a game piece moves horizontally when the D-pad is held can be increased by instead repeatedly tapping the D-pad, a technique called "hypertapping". Since 2018, this technique has been heavily utilized in Tetris tournaments.[3] For hypertapping to be a viable strategy, the D-pad must be tapped at a speed of at least 10 times per second.[20] One way that players exceed this speed is by flexing the biceps until their arm tremors, allowing the thumb to tap the D-pad extremely rapidly.[3]

The success of hypertapping has inspired young people to acquire NES consoles to play Tetris competitively. In contrast to the older playerbase of past tournaments, every world champion since 2018 has been a child below age 18 who used the hypertapping technique.[3]


  1. ^ "Products: Family Computer". Bullet-Proof Software. Archived from the original on 2000-08-23.
  2. ^ a b c d Tetris Instruction Booklet (PDF). USA: Nintendo of America. 1989. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e Sweet, Jacob (March 26, 2021). "The Revolution in Classic Tetris". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e Birken, Mike (January 28, 2014). "Applying Artificial Intelligence to Nintendo Tetris". Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Sheff, David (2011). Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered The World. United Kingdom: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 0307800741.
  6. ^ Oxford, David (July 4, 2019). "Mario Mania: Game Cameos for the Fan's Complete Collection – Tetris for NES". Old School Gamer Magazine. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  7. ^ "From Russia with Litigation". Next Generation. No. 26. Imagine Media. February 1997. p. 42.
  8. ^ a b c "How Tetris conquered the world, block by block". The Guardian. June 2, 2009.
  9. ^ Suck, Michael (November 1989). "Tetris". Aktueller Software Markt (in German).
  10. ^ Weiss, Brett Alan. "Tetris". AllGame. Archived from the original on February 16, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  11. ^ Dvorchak, Robert (17 June 1990). "Soviet Game Conquers the Free Market : Technology: Tetris, an electronic Rubik's Cube, proves to be addictive. Sales are sizzling. Sequel is coming from East Bloc". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2020-01-10. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  12. ^ Director/Producer: Magnus Temple; Executive Producer: Nick Southgate (2004). "Tetris: From Russia With Love". BBC Four. Event occurs at 51:23. BBC. BBC Four. The real winners were Nintendo. To date, Nintendo dealers across the world have sold 8 million Tetris cartridges on the Nintendo Entertainment system.
  13. ^ Claiborn, Sam. "48. Tetris (Tengen) - Top 100 NES Games". IGN. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  14. ^ "Now Playing". Nintendo Power. Vol. 70. March 1995. pp. 102–107. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  15. ^ Viray, Aileen (June 16, 2021). "Tetris Effect: Connected cross-platform multiplayer comes to PS4 this July". PlayStation Blog. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
  16. ^ McWhertor, Michael (October 28, 2020). "Tetris Effect: Connected pays homage to classic NES version". Polygon. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  17. ^ "Nintendo World Championships 1990 for NES". MobyGames.com. September 16, 2005. Retrieved July 4, 2009.
  18. ^ McGuire, Keegan (February 18, 2022). "The Untold Truth Of The Nintendo World Championship". Looper. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  19. ^ "Official Classic Tetris World Championship Site". Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  20. ^ Gach, Ethan (October 22, 2018). "16-Year-Old Dethrones Tetris World Champion With Difficult Hyper-Tap Technique". Kotaku. Retrieved October 4, 2021.