Tetris (Nintendo)

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Tetris - GB - USA.jpg

Game Boy - USA - 1st edition.

Developer Nintendo R&D1
Publisher Nintendo
Published 1989-06-14
Platforms Game Boy, NES
Genres Action, Active puzzle, Puzzle, Single-screen
Series Tetris
Multiplayer Simultaneous versus
Distribution Commercial

Tetris is an active puzzle video game developed and published by Nintendo and released on 1989-06-14 for Game Boy, then ported to the NES in November 1989. It is a port of the original Tetris. The Game Boy version was supported by the Super Game Boy. The Famicom did not see this release in Japan because Bullet-Proof Software held the publishing rights there.

While later releases of Tetris would have many different variations, this earlier release only contains two types of game play which are referred to as A-Type and B-Type. A-Type is endless game mode, and B-Type requires you to get 25 lines to win. Each mode supports starting at any level from 1-10 and has the option of an empty well, or a well filled with a variable level of garbage. Paradoxically, the NES port doesn't support multiplayer, but the Game Boy port does with a Link cable. The NES game has a the code for a 2-player version, but it's unfinished and unimplemented. The game was also included in a multicart released in the NES Super Set in Europe.


Won?Yes. B-Type game, level 10, height 5.
FinishedGame Boy: 2017-12-09 / NES: 2017-12-18.

This was the second version of Tetris that I had access to, and I spent a lot of time playing both the NES and Game Boy ports. I first played the Game Boy port on a Game Boy my brother had stolen from someone at school, but then a lot more on my high school girlfriend's Game Boy when we vacationed in Florida for a week. I first played the NES port at my friend Chris's house, he had borrowed it from a neighbor, and I was able to beat the in-game high score. My cousin later borrowed it from his friend, and he and I played it a lot. Throughout my childhood, I almost exclusive played A-Type games, but I never kept any of my high scores. The last time I played A-Type, my high score on the NES port was 96,038.


Video Game Review Icon - Enjoyment.png Video Game Review Icon - Control.png Video Game Review Icon - Appearance.png Video Game Review Icon - Sound.png Video Game Review Icon - Replayability.png
7 6 5 6 8

Best Version: 8

— This section contains spoilers! —


  • The game is a pretty faithful port of the original Tetris, just with better window dressing.
  • The game is a lot of fun, and I rarely get tired of it even after decades of playing.
  • Both versions have great music composed or arranged by Hirokazu Tanaka, though I prefer the songs on the NES port.
  • I really enjoy the changing color-palette across levels in the NES port. I wish later Tetris games would follow this innovation, but The Tetris Company has since created an invariable color set that must be followed.


  • The controls on both the Game Boy and NES versions are a bit stiff and difficult to work with sliding.
  • The NES port has code for a 2-player mode, but it was strangely scrapped before the game was released. Which means the Game Boy has 2-player mode, but the NES, which had built-in 2-player controls, does not!
  • The NES port annoyingly clears the screen when you pause. I assume they did this to prevent cheating, but it essentially guarantees failure on the harder difficulty levels making the feature pointless.
  • The NES port has a few bugs, though most of them are difficult for a human to see. Clearing a line when all the top lines are full actually clears a line at the bottom of the well. There is also a kill screen around level 237, though no human has ever reached it.


  • Nothing.


Box Art



Review - Game Boy World.
Record progression to kill screen.
Why the NES game crashes at level 155.
Tool assist - History of tool assists.
Longplay - NES. A-Type max score, B-Type level 9 all heights.
Tool assist - Level 19 start to kill screen.

Play Online

Game Boy, NES (Europe), NES (USA)


Strong female character?FailIn the NES port, Peach and Samus appear. In the Game Boy port, some female Russian folk dancers appear. None are important.
Bechdel test?FailNo women ever talk.
Strong person of color character?FailEveryone in the game is white.
Queer character?FailThere are no queer characters.

Port Differences

  • The NES game features ten color palettes that cycle across the levels.
  • The NES has three musical options, the Game Boy only two, all five songs are different.
  • The NES version is slightly harder at identical difficulty levels.
  • Strangely, the NES port, which has two built-in controller ports, is strictly a 1-player game, but the Game Boy, which only has an optional connection port, features 2-player mode.


The NES port alters the color of the tetrominoes as you progress through the levels. It has 10 programmed palettes which cycle through as the levels progress. The game has a bug after level 137 where the color palette becomes garbled. I've created a graphic which shows the 10 normal palettes and ranked them below.

Tetris - NES - Palettes.png

Palette Rank Colors Notes
0 2 Blue / Cyan Very crisp colors and reminiscent of Mega Man.
1 4 Forest / Chartreuse A nice combo, very fresh and comforting.
2 5 Magenta / Pink This one always makes me think of cotton candy.
3 6 Blue / Green Reminds me of the old Seattle Seahawks logo.
4 9 Red / Seafoam Christmasy colors, pastel but just as clashing. Ugly.
5 7 Seafoam / Cornflower I looks nice together if you like boring pastels lacking contrast.
6 1 Red / Gray This one reminds me of lava and ash. I'm always happy to see this palette.
7 3 Purple / Burgundy Nice combo, and the only double-dark set.
8 8 Blue / Red Makes me think of the American flag, except the colors aren't dark enough.
9 10 Red / Orange Yuck. It makes me think of clowns or fast food logos.

I've created a hack of the NES port of Tetris which features ten new colors palettes which you can download below. While creating the hack, I gained respect for the designers who created the original color set. The NES's color palette is so limited, it was quite difficult to come up with colors that both harmonize and contrast enough.


Language Native Transliteration Translation
English Tetris
Japanese テトリス Tetorisu Tetris
Russian Тетрис Tetris


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