The best ways to play Tetris in 2023
The new Tetris movie on Apple TV Plus plays fast and loose with facts, but there’s one thing it gets right: the game absolutely rules. Watching the movie is very likely to give you the urge to get back to moving falling blocks around until your eyes bleed. And there are a lot of ways to do that.
The best way remains grabbing the original cartridge and slotting it into a Game Boy (or an Analogue Pocket, if you’re fancy). But many of the other options are terrible, like the main mobile app, which is riddled with lengthy ads and a Candy Crush-like structure that sucks the joy out of the game.
Luckily for you, I have multiple versions of Tetris installed on basically every device I own, so I’ve pulled together a few options of the best ways to play the game on modern hardware.
No modern interpretation of Tetris understands the game as much as Tetris Effect. At its best, the game is a meditative experience, where you lose yourself in the process of making blocks line up perfectly. There’s an entire phenomenon named after how it influences your brain. Tetris Effect doesn’t mess with that — it amplifies it. The gameplay is pretty straightforward Tetris, but it’s augmented with beautiful and trippy visuals and soundscapes that make it easier to slip into that zone. It even tells a story along the way, and it’s surprisingly great in VR.
Much like Tetris Effect, Tetris Beat mostly augments the classic experience. It has a kick-ass soundtrack to play along to and also introduces a very interesting mode called “tap” where you have to drop blocks in time to the beat. It’s a bit like Tetris meets Lumines (which is fun in a circular sort of way given how Tetris clearly influenced the latter). It also has remarkably solid touch controls, which aren’t easy to pull off for a game that requires such a level of precision. The only hitch is that you’ll need an Apple Arcade subscription to check it out.
If you’re looking for the classic experience without the classic hardware, you might want to splurge on a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Nintendo recently added Game Boy games to the service, and Tetris was part of the first batch. This is the game in its purest form: the original music, simple visuals, and not even the option to hold a piece for later use. It also looks very crisp and clean when you set it to GBC color mode and play on an OLED display, exactly what the $350 handheld was built for.
If you don’t want to fuss with a subscription, Tetris the Grand Master is a good bet. Arcade Archives is a huge collection of classic arcade games ported to both the Switch and PS4 — seriously, just look at this giant list — and this is a port of an arcade version of Tetris from 1998. Aesthetically it’s… let’s say, interesting, with a pulsing electronic soundtrack and very ’90s backdrops. But the gameplay is solid Tetris without any unnecessary frills.