Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Tetris 99 is a singular creation of evil, time-devouring genius

Is your real enemy the other 99 players? Or the game itself?
Screenshot: Nintendo

Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?

Hey, here’s a fun joke for you: I meant to write about Tetris 99 for What Are You Playing This Weekend last weekend, when it was originally released. But I was too busy playing Tetris 99.


Also, I’m losing my goddamned mind.

Tetris addiction is one of the oldest bugbears to ever plague electronic gaming. Anyone whose mom suddenly started hoarding their NES circa 1989—when that weird, black, unlicensed Tengen cart of the original game first arrived on home systems—knows the terrible, controller-hogging power of those pretty falling blocks. Still, if you’ve been in the puzzle game trenches for long enough—surviving a tidal wave of Dr. Marios, Wetrises, and Wario’s Woodses in abundance—you might think the Tetris phrase of your life was well and truly over.

Sure, you dallied with the shockingly good DS port back in 2006. (Bring back Push Mode, Nintendo!) And of course, sometimes you’ll bust out Puyo Puyo Tetris for friends. Tetris Effect? What a trippy, fun novelty, one you can put down whenever you want! But obviously, as a mature adult, your days of staying up until 2 in the morning, desperately trying to eke out a few more brightly colored lines while your eyes steadily rot out of your skull are behind you.

(One second, a new match just loaded up… Fuck! How did I crap out at 19th place, again?!)

I don’t know who first decided to marry Tetris’ ever-compelling multiplayer action to the recent battle royale craze, but I hope they were wearing a cape. It would flap dramatically behind them as they hatched this plot of divinely inspired distraction, merging addictive puzzle gameplay with that “me vs. the world” feeling that’s become all the rage in modern multiplaying game. And when they decided to make this little poison pill free for anybody with Nintendo Switch Online to access? I hope the sky exploded behind them, lightning and rain crashing down as they turned their heads upward and cackled madly at god, gleeful at the evil they had wrought.


(Shitting hell, 40th?! How am I getting worse?)

It’s the kind of idea that’s terrifying in concept, and even worse when it actually arrives in your hands, tossing you into the arena with 98 other block-dropping maniacs, all trying to bury each other in screen-obstructing trash. At least PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite give players a few moments to breathe before the action kicks off at the start of every match. Apex Legends sticks a few blessed loading screens between you and throwing yourself immediately back into the fray, letting you recover after a Jesus, really, 75th, what is wrong with me, finish.


Tetris 99 has no such mercy. Finish one match? Start another. And another. And another. It’s like some sort of perfectly adaptable parasite, absorbing the most compulsive elements of modern gaming, cutting out the weaknesses, and devouring your time in teensy, five-minute bites. (Heck, there’s even a version of PUBG’s “scavenge what you kill” system, as you collect badges from K.O.’d opponents that cause you to send higher and higher mountains of garbage at your remaining foes.) After all, you might not have time for a 20-minute Fortnite game. You always have time for Tetris 99.

You just might not end up having time for anything else.


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