Tetris is a puzzle computer game designed by Aleksej Pazjitnov. The first playable version came out on June 6, 1984. The game became widely known because it was included with the Game Boy game platform from Nintendo in 1989. However, the game’s championships are often played on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The name is derived from the word tetromino, because every block consists of four squares and is thus a tetromino, and tennis, the favorite sport of Pajitnov.

The game

Blocks are constantly falling on the screen from the top of the screen. These blocks have different shapes consisting of four squares, so-called tetrominos. For example, there is a block that looks like an “L”, but there is also an O block or I block.

Tetris basic game.gif
Door Cezary Tomczak, Maxime LorantEigen werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, Koppeling

By rotating the blocks and moving them horizontally, the player must ensure that, once they have reached the bottom, they form a horizontally closed line with the other blocks that are already there. Every successfully formed horizontal line is deleted. If this does not happen on time, the layer with blocks is becoming higher and there is no more space and time to rotate the blocks.

The player can continue until the blocks touch the top of the screen and the game ends. As long as the blocks are stacked correctly, the player can continue, but in many versions the blocks fall faster and faster. As a result, the game becomes increasingly difficult as a result of which the player has more and more difficulty in correctly positioning the falling blocks.


In June 1984 Alexei Pazjitnov wrote Tetris on an Elektronika 60 computer while working at the technical university in Moscow. Vadim Gerasimov then made a version for the IBM PC. This version was quickly distributed by the university.

Through the contacts at the university the game ended up in Hungary. There it came to the eyes of a British software company, Andromeda. The owner of the company tried to contact Aleksej Pazjitnov. In the meantime, he had given the rights to the software company Spectrum Holobyte. Because Andromeda could not get the rights from Aleksej, they bought the rights from a Hungarian programmer who had made a clone. This lawsuit finally came to an agreement: Spectrum Holobyte had the right to sell IBM PC versions of Tetris, Andromeda was allowed to make versions for other home computers.

Because the rights were sold in (and at the time of) the communist Soviet Union, all revenues from Tetris went to the state and not to the creator Aleksej Pazjitnov himself. It was also unclear to which companies the Soviet government had meanwhile sold the rights – around 1988 various companies claimed to have the right to make and sell Tetris. To end this chaos, the Soviet government withdrew all rights in 1989 and sold them to two companies: Atari for the arcade versions and Nintendo for the home market.

After the Soviet Union was dissolved, Alexey Pazjitnov and Henk Rogers formed The Tetris Company LLC (“TTC”) to collect (successfully) royalties for Tetris.


The most famous Tetris melody, Music A from the Game Boy version of Nintendo, is based on a Russian folk song Korobejniki. Music B is a piece from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker; Music C is a work by Johann Sebastian Bach, namely Suite no. 3 in b minor, BWV 814, IV. Menuett – Trio.


A countless number of clones have been made of Tetris for various platforms. You can think of other Nintendo consoles, but also the PC, mobile phones and even the (fifth generation) iPod. In addition, Tetris can also be played on photoplay machines that can be found in caf├ęs or snack bars.

If you have two Game Boys that can be connected to each other (with a special cable supplied with each Game Boy), you can play Tetris together. If someone can make two or more rows of blocks disappear, one or more rows appear with the opponent. When two rows are disappeared, one appears at the opponent, at three rows two appear, but at four rows four appear.

Some Tetris clones get their own name, usually a variant of ‘Tetris’ where one or a few letters have been changed.