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Tetris for the Game Boy , a very popular version of Tetris (1989)

Tetris ( Russian Тетрис ) is a puzzle-like computer game by the Russian programmer Alexei Paschitnow , who completed the first playable version on June 6, 1984 on an Elektronika-60 computer . Today, Tetris is considered a classic computer game, has sold over 100 million times, has received multiple awards and has appeared for more than 65 computer platforms.


The Tetris building blocks I, J, L, O, S, T and Z (also called Tetrominos )

The game principle of Tetris is based on that of the puzzle game Pentomino ; In contrast to this, however, Tetris only works with seven (instead of twelve) shapes and the shapes are not pentominos, but tetrominos (and their mirrored shapes). This - always made up of four squares composite - forms are often referred to in the Latin alphabet, which they resemble: the I , the O and T are axially symmetric, in the other there are the respective mirror-image versions J / L and S / Z . Derived from the mathematical term Tetromino (shape consisting of four squares) the term Tetrimino exists especially for the Tetris game pieces. Originally, the Tetris shapes were supposed to consist of five squares, but this was too much programming effort for the developers.

The player has to turn and move the tetrominos that fall individually from the upper edge of the rectangular playing field in 90- degree steps so that they form horizontal rows with as few gaps as possible at the lower edge. As soon as a row is complete, it disappears. All rows above move down and thus release part of the playing field again. For the simultaneous repayment of several rows, the player receives a higher number of points per row than for a single one. The name of the game comes from the ancient Greek word tetra (English: "four") and denotes the number of squares per tetromino. The simultaneous deletion of four rows is also known colloquially as Tetris .

Physical incorrectness of the game modeling in classic Tetris: a game piece floats in the air

In the original form of the game, the pieces do not behave physically correctly. The tetrominos remain in the position in which they land instead of tilting according to gravity. In many versions, the following rows do not fill a previously existing gap. In this way, tetrominos can make it difficult to complete rows below. When a certain number of removed rows has been reached, the speed of fall of the tetrominos is increased. The game ends as soon as the rows that have not been dismantled, i.e. those with gaps, have piled up to the top of the playing field.

In 2002 Erik Demaine, Susan Hohenberger and David Liben-Nowell showed that the generalized version (playing field of any size) is NP-complete .


Idea and success in the Eastern bloc

The Russian Alexei Paschitnow , at that time employed by the Dorodnitsyn Computer Center of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow , came up with the idea of converting the puzzle game Pentomino , which he knew from his childhood and liked very much, into a computer game. The first version, developed by Paschitnow on his Elektronika 60 and still without sound and color, was soon finished and gradually cast a spell over the entire workforce. Paschitnow gave the game the name Tetris , as a combination of Tetromino and tennis . Vadim Gerasimov transferred the game to an IBM PC a short time later . The first color version was created in the summer of 1985, which Paschitnow then passed on to the outside world. The game continued to be copied and quickly spread to the Soviet Union and then throughout the Eastern Bloc.

First sales in the west

At the time, Hungary was quite successful in exporting puzzle games and computer technology , so that the businessman Robert Stein from Andromeda Software first became aware of Tetris there. His request to the computer center was received with little emotion, as Tetris was not taken seriously there. But Stein's offer was answered by expressing interest. Since informal agreements were common in the software industry, the software industry saw the answer as a promise. He got in touch with Mirrorsoft , the software wing of the Maxwell Corporation , which in 1986 belonged to the great British media empires. The game was also very well received by Mirrorsoft. Stein also managed to sell to Spectrum HoloByte in California .

Battle for the video game license

But when the first version appeared on the market, Stein received a telex from Electronorgtechnica ("Elorg"), a Moscow-based state company that was responsible for the centralized marketing of Soviet software products. She explained to him that the rights had never been granted. However, during a visit to Moscow, Stein succeeded in obtaining the rights for personal and home computers .

The big game market at that time was game consoles , so Mirrorsoft contacted Atari Games to produce a version for them. However, they were not aware that they did not even have the rights for this type of device.

Henk Rogers from the Japanese publisher Bullet Proof Software discovered the game in 1987 at the CES consumer electronics fair at the Spectrum Holobyte booth and tried to obtain the exploitation rights for the Japanese market. He received the license for computer conversions directly from Spectrum Holobyte. Rogers received the rights for TV game consoles from Atari Games and on this basis published a version for the Famicom console in Japan in 1988 .

At Nintendo we wanted Tetris in launching the newly developed Game Boy settle. Henk Rogers should therefore quickly secure the rights for Nintendo. Robert Stein had already largely clarified this with Mirrorsoft, but wanted to keep Rogers as a potential buyer for other software.

Although the game sold successfully, the license payments got stuck in the exploitation chain, so that Elorg never received the agreed payments from Andromeda Software. Nikolai Belikov investigated the case with Elorg on behalf of the Soviet government. The matter became increasingly political as the head of the Maxwell Corporation, Robert Maxwell , was one of the richest men in the world and had good contacts with Gorbachev .

Since there was no payment, further negotiations stalled. Rogers felt held back by Stein and flew to Moscow himself. Stein was in Moscow too, and Mirrorsoft had secretly sent Kevin Maxwell , Robert Maxwell's son, to secure the rights. While the two had appointments with Elorg, Rogers came to Moscow unprepared and unexpected. It so happened that all three appeared at Elorg's on the same day, although they did not see each other. Rogers was the first and showed Belikov the Japanese Tetris version, which was licensed from Atari Games and thus indirectly from Robert Stein. It turned out that the rights for this had not been given to Stein at all. Rogers was shocked, but offered his good contacts with Nintendo. Stein was the second visitor of the day and had hoped he could secure further rights to Tetris, but was then only confronted with allegations because of the license violations and lack of payments. Maxwell appeared third and quickly broke off the negotiations, as the license violations were unknown to him up until then and he had to consult first.

Belikov was able to use clever negotiating tactics to narrow down the rights for Stein precisely to certain devices, without his being aware of it. Ultimately, the new treaty largely stipulated the rights that had already been concluded. In the meantime, Rogers had made friends with Paschitnow. Since Maxwell was also arrogant, Elorg decided to give the handheld rights to Rogers. Nintendo wanted to secure the console rights and secretly flew to Moscow and there signed a contract with Elorg, which stipulated an amount of 500,000 US dollars plus 0.50 US dollars per copy.

Political pressure

When Maxwell realized that they had not received the rights, they were furious and threatened on March 23, 1989 in a telex to Belikov that they would put pressure on Gorbachev personally during his state visit to Great Britain. Belikov was also put under pressure from the Soviet side, but since perestroika had changed the situation , the effects on him were not as fatal as they could have been a few years earlier.

Disaster for Atari Games and Maxwell

For Atari Games , the matter turned into a disaster and thus became one of the reasons for the company's demise. Millions of dollars had been invested in development and commercialization when Nintendo informed the company that they did not have the video game rights. Atari Games' console game subsidiary Tengen brought the product onto the market in May 1989 and Atari Games initiated a lawsuit against Nintendo in which Belikov was supposed to testify. Before he left, he was summoned to a state committee where he was threatened with being held responsible for all losses the Soviet Union would suffer if Atari Games were to win the trial. In November 1989 the decision was made in favor of Nintendos. Atari Games had to destroy hundreds of thousands of game modules in their warehouse.

Nintendo's and Paschitnow's greatest success

For Nintendo, Tetris was a great success. They sold eight million copies for the Nintendo Entertainment System . The Game Boy was also a success thanks to the Tetris included in the scope of delivery and sold a total of 70 million times.

However, Paschitnow received nothing from the money he had paid and decided in 1991 to emigrate to the USA and set up a company in Seattle . Between 1996 and 2005 he worked for Microsoft . The originally granted rights also expired in 1996, so that from then on he also received money for the game he developed. However, at that point in time the profits were only a fraction of the sums paid in previous years.


Tetris on a TI-83 Plus - Calculator
GNOMEtris: a free clone of Tetris

Tetris has been copied and imitated ( software clones ) like hardly any other game and has appeared in many versions and variations for almost every system. Tetris games from manufacturers such as Atari, THQ and Nintendo for various home computers and stationary arcade systems soon appeared in the late 1980s .

Tetris for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color

The 1989 monochrome version for the Game Boy portable game console from Nintendo became very popular and successful, as the first Game Boys were shipped with a Tetris module . The Game Boy version of Tetris can be played by two Game Boys via a link cable. By breaking down two or more lines at the same time, you can push an incomplete line into your opponent's field from below. Two complete lines result in one line for the opponent, three lines correspond to two. Only with a "Tetris" - four lines at a time - are four lines sent to the opponent. The rows contain a free column, so if this column is not covered by other stones, they can be eliminated with a suitable shape and thus sent back.

Tetris for Windows

In 1989 Tetris was included in the first Microsoft Windows Entertainment Pack for 16-bit Windows , including a reference to Alexei Paschitnow and Wadim Gerasimow . The Windows version itself is by Dave Edson .

Tetris for Xbox 360 and Arcade

From 1998, Tetris: The Grand Master, an arcade series and a version for Xbox 360 appeared .

Tetris for the Nintendo DS

Two Tetris games are known for the Nintendo DS . Tetris DS was released on April 20, 2006 and offered some classic game modes that were adapted to the touchscreen of the Nintendo DS. Tetris Party Deluxe is another Tetris game released on September 3, 2010. Players can now also create puzzles themselves. The game was also released for the Nintendo Wii .

Tetris for the Nintendo 3DS

The game Tetris was released for the Nintendo 3DS on October 21, 2011 . Using the AR functions of the handheld, it is possible to project the playing field into the environment, and all 20 game modes can be played in 3D. An 8-player online mode is also new.

Tetris for the PlayStation 4

Released on November 9, 2018 for the PlayStation 4 and can optionally be played with the PSVR. The game was licensed from Tetris Corporation. In July 2019, a Windows version of the game was released.

Tetris 99 for the Nintendo Switch

Tetris 99 was released for the Nintendo Switch on February 13, 2019 . This version combines the classic gameplay with a kind of Battle Royale mode . This means that up to 99 players can play Tetris online against each other. The aim of the game is to be the last one left and to keep the Tetris game going. It is also possible to take active action against your competitors by assigning your own dissolved blocks to certain opponents, on whose screen they then appear. So contains 99 Tetris also a tactical component.

Other versions

Tetris is one of the most imitated and cloned computer games ever by third-party manufacturers and hobby programmers . For example, there are over 100 variants of the game even for the Commodore 64 , as many hobby programmers create new versions themselves. Tetris clones were later created for Unix desktop environments such as Gnome or KDE . There are also imitations for editors like Emacs or Vim . From Electronic Arts released versions for various mobile phones.



Tetris was also played over the window lighting of the Finnish
Mikontalo student residence at Tampere University of Technology (2007)

Tetris is now considered a classic computer game and was later referred to in retrospect as the “mother of all casual games ”, as the early origin or forerunner of this later very successful computer game genre. Tetris was also influential outside of the computer game industry; For example, it also inspired crockery manufacturers or was played on many buildings, e.g. B. on the window lighting.

Like no other game, it has appeared in many versions and variations for almost every system: game consoles , computers , cell phones , portable media players , PDAs , network music players, graphical calculators and even as an Easter egg in non-media products such as oscilloscopes . Guinness World Records listed Tetris as the game ported to most systems; In 2011 the book indicates 65 different platforms.

While many versions of Tetris were sold for many home computers and arcade systems in the 1980s, it was the hugely successful Game Boy version from 1989 that established Tetris' reputation as one of the most popular games ever. Tetris has sold more than 70 million copies. In January 2010 it was announced that Tetris has been sold 100 million times on cell phones alone since 2005. In issue 100 of Electronic Gaming Monthly , Tetris appeared in first place as the Greatest Game of All Time . In 2007, Tetris was ranked second in IGN's "100 Greatest Video Games of All Time". Tetris in 2009 reached third place in the Top 200 Games of All Time of Game Informer .


Tetris was voted into the Game Canon in March 2007 , a list of computer games that are considered milestones.

The Tetris-Tetromino L was also able to win the sixth annual video game character popularity contest of the video game website GameFAQs in 2007 , although this was originally treated as a submission that was not intended seriously.

On June 6, 2009, Google honored Tetris for the 25th anniversary by adapting the logo ( Google Doodle ) to a version consisting of tetrominos.

On November 29, 2012, the Museum of Modern Art announced the purchase of 14 computer games, including Tetris, for a new permanent design exhibition in the Philip Johnson Galleries from March 2013. The announcement identified the titles as outstanding representatives in the field of interaction design. In addition to the visual quality and the aesthetic experience, criteria were therefore all aspects that contribute to the design of the interaction, such as the elegance of the program code or the design of the player behavior.


Melody from Korobeiniki

The music of the Game Boy edition of Tetris (Music A) became famous for its catchy melody. It is based on the song Korobeiniki , which is based on the poem of the same name written in 1861 by Nikolai Alexejewitsch Nekrasow . This song has the character of a Russian dance and is usually played with a steady acceleration ( accelerando ). Music C in the Game Boy version is a modified adaptation of the minuet of the third French Suite by Johann Sebastian Bach , a dance collection for keyboard instruments, in B minor , BWV 814. The two-part piece is played in A minor on the Game Boy .

Doctor Spin , a short-lived electronic project, released a Eurodance version of the music in 1992 that debuted in the top 10 of the UK charts.

The famous music can also be found in the game Super Smash Bros. Brawl : an orchestral and folk song-like variant of type A and a more Arabic version of type B; both titles are played in the Luigi's Mansion stage.

The most prominent piece of music of the NES version published by Nintendo is the dance of the sugar fairy from the ballet The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky .

The Commodore 64 version of the game has a four-part soundtrack that is almost 26 minutes long.


  • Tetris: From Russia with Love , 60-minute documentary by Magnus Temple (BBC, 2004) ( related page at bbc.co.uk, English)


The PC game by Spectrum HoloByte (1987) included a memory- resident version of the game, which, with its size of 56  kB, could be loaded into the then usually 640 kB main memory and switched on and off at any time with the Strg+ key combination C. This made it possible to run any software and still be able to switch between Tetris and Tetris in a fraction of a second. In addition, this version was kept without noises or music. In theory, this made it possible to use the game at the IT workstation inconspicuously during working hours: if a supervisor had come in sight, the Strg+ key combination could Cimmediately switch back to the current work environment, in which it was possible to continue working seamlessly as if it had no interruption given. There was no visible indication that Tetris was waiting in the background in pause mode and that the current game status could be continued by pressing Strg+ Cagain.

In 1989 Rainbow Arts released a 3D variant of Tetris called BlockOut . At the level of difficulty Flat Fun , the conventional Tetris game pieces are simply put together from cubes.

In the computer game Rise of the Tomb Raider , published in 2015, there is a Tetris Easter Egg : In the copper works zone, Lara Croft finds a relic game that looks somehow familiar - Tetris. She does not mention the name of the game, but when looking at the relic the strong similarity is unmistakable.

At the Classic Tetris World Championship 2018, in which the version for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was played, Joseph Saelee reached level 30. He was the first player in the history of Tetris for the NES to do this live.


  • Solomon W. Golomb : Checkerboards and Polyominoes. In: The American Mathematical Monthly 61, December 1954, No. 10.
  • Solomon W. Golomb: Polyominoes. Scribners, New York NY 1965, (Revised edition: Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1994, ISBN 0-691-08573-0 ; Russian edition: Polimino, Moscow Мир 1975)
  • Ilja Karenovics: Falling East Blocks. Tetris or How the Soviet Union made the Game Boy a superstar. In: Birgit Menzel (Ed.): The East in the West. Popular culture imports. ( Eastern Europe 57, 2007, 5), pp. 83-93.
  • Maria Koth, Notburga Grosser: The Pentomino Book. Thinking game fun for children from 9 to 99. Maths for copying. Aulis-Verlag Deubner, Cologne 2004, ISBN 3-7614-2543-0 .
  • David Sheff: Nintendo - "Game Boy". How a Japanese company conquered the world. Goldmann, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-442-30600-0 , p. 370ff.

Web links

Commons : Tetris  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  2. Witold Pryjda: Tetris and the triumphant advance of the falling stones. Zeit Online, June 10, 2006.
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  6. a b Most ported computer game. Guinnessworldrecords.com, October 1, 2010, archived from the original on April 2, 2015 ; Retrieved on November 23, 2013 (English): “ Tetris, created by Alexey Pajitnov in 1985, has been translated (or“ ported ”) to more than 65 different computer game platforms, including mobile phones. Updated in Guinness World Records Gamers Edition 2011 "
  7. Timo Brücken: 30 Years of "Tetris" - Ten Things You Didn't Know About the Block Game. Stern, June 6, 2014, accessed August 16, 2018 .
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  16. Article on DSi-Fans.de
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  24. Fall 2007: The Great GameFAQs Character Battle VI. GameFAQs, accessed November 29, 2007 .
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  26. 25 Years of Tetris - courtesy of Tetris Holding, LLC. Google.com, June 6, 2009, accessed November 22, 2012 .
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