Tetris (NES video game)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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 (or Classic Tetris) is a puzzle video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) released in 1989, based on Tetris (1985[1]) by Alexey Pajitnov. It is the first official console release of Tetris to have been developed and published by Nintendo. It was preceded by an official Tetris for Family Computer in Japan in December 1988,[2] and an unofficial Tetris by Atari 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. As lines are cleared, the level advances and increases the speed of the falling blocks. At the beginning of a B-Type game, the board starts with randomized obstacle blocks at the bottom of the field, 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.[3]

During play, the tetrominoes are chosen randomly. This leaves the possibility of extended periods with no long bar pieces, which are essential because Tetrises are worth more than clearing the equivalent amount of lines in singles, doubles, or triples. The next piece to fall is shown in a preview window next to the playfield. In a side panel, the game tracks how many of each tetromino has appeared in the game so far.[3]

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.[3] All levels from 1 to 10 increase the game speed. After level 10, the game speed only increases on levels 13, 16, 19, and 29, at which point the speed no longer increases. On level 29, pieces fall at 1 grid cell every frame, which is too fast for almost all players, and it is thus called the "kill screen".[4] The developers of the game never intended anyone to play past the killscreen, as the game does not properly display the level numbers past 29,[5] but with modern speed techniques, a few very skilled players can play past level 29.[6][4]

When starting a game, the player can select a starting level from 0 to 9, but if the A button is held on the controller when selecting a level, 10 additional levels are added, raising the starting options to 0 to 19.[3] 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.[3] Due to a bug, the levels will begin advancing earlier than intended when starting on level 11 or higher.[7]

Saint Basil's Cathedral appears in the title screen and ending, alluding to the Soviet origin of Tetris.[8]

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.[7] After a high-level B-Type game, various Nintendo characters perform in front of the cathedral.[7][9]


The score received by each line clear is dependant on the level. Each type of clear, being a single, double, triple, or Tetris, has a base value which is multiplied by the number 1 higher than the current level. For any level , a single will give points, a double will give points, a triple will give points, and a Tetris will give points.[3] The game also awards points for holding the down key to make pieces fall faster, awarding 1 point for every grid cell that a piece is continuously soft dropped.[3] Unlike line clears, this does not scale by level.

This scoring convention makes scoring Tetrises much more efficient than scoring an equivalent amount of lines through smaller line clears. At level 0, a Tetris awards 300 points per line cleared, a triple awards 100 points per line cleared, a double awards 50 points per line cleared, and a single awards 40 points per line cleared.

Speed techniques[edit]

One of the most limiting factors in NES Tetris is the speed at which a tetromino can be moved left and right. When a movement key is pressed, the piece will instantly move one grid cell, stop for 16 frames due to delayed auto-shift, before moving again once every 6 frames[10] (10 times a second, as the game runs at 60 fps[11][better source needed]). At the higher levels, waiting for this delay is unfeasible as the pieces fall too fast. To circumvent this delay, a technique known as hypertapping was developed. When hypertapping, horizontal tetronimo speed is maximized by rapidly tapping the D-pad more than 10 times per second.[12] Since 2018, the hypertapping technique was heavily utilized in Tetris tournaments. Players flex the bicep until it tremors, and use the high speed tremor to tap the thumb on the D-pad.[6] This technique has inspired young people to acquire NES consoles to play Tetris competitively. In contrast to the older player base of past tournaments, every world champion from 2018 to 2021 has been below the age of 18, and has used the hypertapping technique.[6]

In late 2020, a technique known as rolling was discovered by competitive NES Tetris player Chris "Cheez_fish" Martinez.[13] When rolling, a stationary finger is placed on the D-pad, while the other hand's fingers are drummed across the back of the controller, pushing the buttons up into the stationary hand. This technique is much faster and not as physically straining as hypertapping.[14] Rolling allows players to move pieces horizontally up to 30 times per second, which has allowed players to play far past level 29. Since 2021, rolling has enabled numerous world records and is used in tournaments.[13]


By 1989, about six companies claimed rights to create and distribute the Tetris software for home computers, game consoles, and handheld systems.[15] ELORG, the Soviet bureau that held the ultimate copyright, claimed 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 where Tetris became a launch game for Game Boy and bundled with every system.[16] 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.[7]


The soundtrack was written by Nintendo composer Hirokazu Tanaka, who also scored the Game Boy version.[16] Focusing on Russian classical music,[8] 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 "Minuet",[7] present in the Game Boy version, which has become strongly associated with Tetris.[16]


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 $123 million in 2022), surpassing Spectrum HoloByte's versions for personal computers at 150,000 copies for $6 million (equivalent to $14.8 million in 2022) in the previous two years since 1988.[19] As of 2004, 8 million copies of the NES version were sold worldwide.[20]

IGN noted that "almost everyone" regarded Nintendo's Tetris as inferior to Atari's Tetris, which was pulled from shelves due to licensing issues.[21]


Tetris & Dr. Mario (1994) features an enhanced remake of Tetris.[22] Tetris Effect: Connected (2020) includes a game mode that simulates Tetris's rules and visuals.[23][24]


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.[25][better source needed] As the Tetris score was 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.[26][better source needed]

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.[6]

Since 2010, the NES version of Tetris has been featured in the annual Classic Tetris World Championship (CTWC), which consists of a 1-on-1 competition to score the most points. Specialized cartridges give both competitors the option to use the same piece sequence.[27]

Since 2017, the tournament Classic Tetris Monthly (CTM) has run every month with the same 1-on-1 format as the CTWC. The CTM rules are more relaxed than those of the CTWC, allowing the usage of emulators and third party hardware.[28][4]


  1. ^ "Tetris | video game | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved April 18, 2023.
  2. ^ "Products: Family Computer". Bullet-Proof Software. Archived from the original on August 23, 2000.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Tetris Instruction Booklet (PDF). USA: Nintendo of America. 1989. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c "How Gen Z is pushing NES Tetris to its limits". Engadget. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  5. ^ Good, Owen S. (April 13, 2019). "Elite Tetris player takes the NES version where no one has gone before". Polygon. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  6. ^ a b c d Sweet, Jacob (March 26, 2021). "The Revolution in Classic Tetris". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e Birken, Mike (January 28, 2014). "Applying Artificial Intelligence to Nintendo Tetris". Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Sheff, David (2011). Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered The World. United Kingdom: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0307800749.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "What is DAS and Hyper Tapping in Tetris - Simon Laroche". simon.lc. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  11. ^ "PlatformFramerates". TASVideos. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  12. ^ Gach, Ethan (October 22, 2018). "16-Year-Old Dethrones Tetris World Champion With Difficult Hyper-Tap Technique". Kotaku. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Bankhurst, Adam (April 29, 2021). "NES Tetris Players Are Using a Special Technique Called Rolling to Set New World Records". IGN. Retrieved July 19, 2022.
  14. ^ "NES Tetris Players Call It 'Rolling,' And They're Setting New World Records". Kotaku. April 26, 2021. Retrieved July 19, 2022.
  15. ^ "From Russia with Litigation". Next Generation. No. 26. Imagine Media. February 1997. p. 42.
  16. ^ a b c "How Tetris conquered the world, block by block". The Guardian. June 2, 2009.
  17. ^ Suck, Michael (November 1989). "Tetris". Aktueller Software Markt (in German).
  18. ^ Weiss, Brett Alan. "Tetris". AllGame. Archived from the original on February 16, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2014.
  19. ^ Dvorchak, Robert (June 17, 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 January 10, 2020. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Claiborn, Sam. "48. Tetris (Tengen) - Top 100 NES Games". IGN. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  22. ^ "Now Playing". Nintendo Power. Vol. 70. March 1995. pp. 102–107. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  23. ^ Viray, Aileen (June 16, 2021). "Tetris Effect: Connected cross-platform multiplayer comes to PS4 this July". PlayStation Blog. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
  24. ^ McWhertor, Michael (October 28, 2020). "Tetris Effect: Connected pays homage to classic NES version". Polygon. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  25. ^ "Nintendo World Championships 1990 for NES". MobyGames.com. September 16, 2005. Retrieved July 4, 2009.
  26. ^ McGuire, Keegan (February 18, 2022). "The Untold Truth Of The Nintendo World Championship". Looper. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  27. ^ "Official Classic Tetris World Championship Site". Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  28. ^ Bennett-Cohen, Justin (December 16, 2021). "The Classic Tetris Monthly Tournament: What Is It and How Do You Compete?". MUO. Retrieved April 18, 2023.