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Released: 1988

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: Arcade

Publisher: Atari

Developer: Alexey Pajitnov

Submitted by: Gabe McGrath

This game is a member of a very exclusive club.  In almost four decades of coin-operated videogames, there have been less than ten members. Choplifter, Boulderdash, Pitfall, Lode Runner, Tetris. They're all members – of The Reverse Ports Club.

Each game originated on a home console or computer,  and was later ported to the arcade. No – not the other way round. Each title showed such promise, that a coin-op manufacturer was prepared to commit it to silicon chips and a wooden cabinet.

In Tetris' case, there really wasn't a risk. Alexey Pajitnov's game had been a hit on every format it touched. Perhaps the only concern was that people may not stop playing the home versions long enough to visit an arcade! But Atari Games added something the home ports lacked. A simultaneous 2 player option.

Just like Streetfighter 2, the real “pull” of arcade Tetris was talking on another human. Yes – I know the Gameboy version had “link cable multiplayer” but it’s not the same. Actually seeing the other player’s actions on the same screen – that’s where it’s at. Oh, and racing your opponent to beat the level, then gleefully maximising your score in the bonus stage.

But for all it’s brilliance, the original Tetris concept can feel a little, well….  clinical.  Sterile perhaps.  So Atari Games added a little personality.  Literally. A little Russian guy who lived inside the building in the centre of the screen.  Often he only emerges to “check” how you’re going at the end of a level.  If you succeed, he’ll do a joyous Russian dance.

In Craig Grannell’s excellent “making of” feature (RG 42) he asks Alexey Pajitnov for his theory on the popularity of the great game. The mathematician says he doesn’t have a definitive answer. So – I thought I should find a Tetris fan, who’s also a psychologist. Luckily, I’m married to one. 

My wife suggests Tetris is all about making things tidy.  You’re presented with chaos, and you make order out of it.
Just the opposite of most arcade games, then.

The Tetris arcade PCB is fairly common, going for around £25/US$45.


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Released: 1988

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: NES/Famicom

Publisher: Tengen

Submitted by: Mat Corne

Back in the early 90’s my dad bought the family a dodgy NES clone from Hong Kong – to be fair, it actually looked just like a real NES aside from not having the Nintendo logo on it. Anyway, with this console came one of those ‘200-in-1’ game carts that really only had about 30 games on it. The first of these games was Tengen’s version of Tetris, and without a shadow of a doubt that was the game that got played the most. My sister and me would spend literally hours playing the game in both competitive and co-operative modes.

I’m sure the story above is one that the majority of gamers can relate to. Tetris was, and still is, one of those games that is universally recognized and loved. Simple to play but hard to master, released on virtually every games system ever invented (not to mention mobile phones, watches and who know what else), one could argue that this endless game of forming shapes into lines can’t really be classed as retro because as many people are playing it now as ever have.

I didn’t know it at the time of course, but my dodgy copy of Tengen’s Tetris was doubly dodgy because Atari released the game without getting a license to do so from Nintendo, who were producing their own version!