Review: Tetris on the Game Boy from 1989


Writing a review for a game that is now thirty years and a few months the first review on since years actually..hehe..this one will be interesting to write 🙂


History Lesson about Tetris on the Game Boy for those who care

Well, Tetris on the Game Boy, first released in Japan on the 14,June 1989 before it reached the USA on July 31, 1989 and eventually PAL (Europe and Australia) regions on the 28 September of the same year was probably THAT version of Tetris that made the game a popular success story worldwide. The Game Boy version was sold over 35 million times which makes it one of the most sold video games of all time.

In 1989 it was bundled with the Game Boy outside Japan however which boosted its sales numbers of course.

The Game Boy version of Tetris was re-released as Tetris DX for the Game Boy Color in 1999 and became a Virtual Console title for the Nintendo Wii in 2011. 

While the creator of the original Tetris in 1984, Alexey Pajitnov mentioned that the Game Boy port is his favorite one, there was a legal battle over the release between Nintendo and Tengen. I recommend reading this article for many more details about it. 

Fun Fact: The popular Japanese video game Famitsu magazine gave it only 26/40 points back in 1989, the Famitsu Readers, however, voted it into their 100 favorite video games of all times in 2006. 



The Game Modes & How to play Tetris

To bundle Tetris with the Game Boy was already a good idea, but to also include the Game Link Cable accessory, needed for multiplayer games was simply genius.

Tetris on the Game Boy has two excellent Single Player modes called Type A – which is the straightforward Tetris experience where the player starts with zero “tetrominoes” (The blocks that fall down) on the ground and Type B that is a puzzle mode where the player has to figure out how to get rid of the tetrominoes that are lined up in the field already. 

However, while both modes can be a lot of fun and form a timeless challenge for both young and old gamers, the true fun of Tetris is drawn from the joy of playing against another human, and the Game Boy was the perfect device to play Tetris against each other, at home and on the go!



The gameplay of Tetris inspired countless other video games .. it’s simple and yet so very challenging. You have a field of ten squares and have to keep it as free as possible while blocks made of four squares in different shapes like an L or a Square are falling down to the ground. 

You can rotate these blocks and have to fill out all 10 squares on the ground with them which will erase one line. If you can erase 2,3 or even 4 lines at once you will receive more points. In the multiplayer mode, the opponent will receive lines on the ground that will stack up his lines. The game is over if the lines reach the upper end of the screen. 

The blocks will fall faster every 10 erased lines when the player reached the next speed level. There are no power-ups like in later Tetris games. You can say its as simple as Street Fighter II in comparison to Street Fighter III. But just like the old Capcom fighter can still be fun and just got another updated port for the Nintendo Switch in 2017, the classic Tetris can still be a lot of fun and mean a challenge. 




Graphics & Artstyle

Tetris for the Game Boy, developed in collaboration by Bulletproof Software and Nintendo is one of the first titles for the Handheld system, it was a launch title in the west together with games like Super Maro Land, Alleyway and the GB ports of Baseball and Tennis, first released in 1984 for the NES. This means that its graphics were simple and not as nice looking as the Game Boy titles released in the following years like the insane Donkey Kong Land. 

But this is Tetris, and the graphics are totally doing their job by looking clean. The menus are all straightforward the interface gives the player all important information. There are a few animations with Mario and Luigi in the two-player mode, and single players will launch a rocket to the sky in the Type-A mode if the reached a certain level or see dancing Russians when they cleared Type-B. 

Many Game Boy titles had big problems with flickering sprites or started to run in slow motion when a lot was going on, there are no problems like that in Tetris. 

Regarding the art, well its a 1989 Game Boy port of a 1984 puzzle game. everything is simple and to the point, Mario & Luigi are looking a lot more serious than in their own games that were released after SMB I. 




Music & Sound Effects

Tetris on the Game Boy has four music tracks, the menu music and three tracks the player can choose to play during the game, they are called Type A, B, and C.

Type A and C are actually more or less chip tuned adaptions of the popular Russian folklore composition Korobeiniki and a slightly different version of the French Suite No. 3 in B minor, BWV 814: Menuet (transposed to F# minor) by the classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Only the quite dramatic Type-B track is a completely original track. 

All four tracks were created by Nintendo’s Hirokazu Tanaka who also composed the soundtracks for Metroid and Kid Icarus among many others. He is active as a video game composer till today and is the president of the Japanese company Creatures which is affiliated with the Pokemon company. 

All three tracks became fan favorites and gained a lot of popularity. In 1992, nobody else than the popular English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber composed a Eurodance version of the Type A track simply called Tetris, however, he used the Pseudonym Doctor Spin for this track that made it into the charts in many countries.  Today, there are many cover versions and remixes of all three music tracks including hardstyle, techno, and even orchestral versions. 

There is nothing spectacular about the sound effects in the game, but they are like the graphics fitting for the game. 


Replayability..and is the game still fun after so many years and newer Tetris titles?

Tetris has no story mode campaign and just the two mentioned game modes + the multiplayer, and usually, that is enough already for gamers that like the concept of Tetris.

The Game Boy version of Tetris is over 30 years old already but Tetris is one of those timeless experiences that can still be fun even if you just played one of the newest, technically much more advanced games of its kind. However, the question is if you prefer the old, classic type or the many newer Tetris experiences like the excellent Tetris Effect as an example. It is still fun, no question about it, but yeah, it’s an old game.

If you still like this classic experience, you can still play it for hours and hunt your own highscores 🙂


Its availability and costs now

Since the Game Boy version of Tetris was re-released for years and is one of the most sold video games ever, the price for used versions is below 10 bucks now in 2019. But if you are a collector of retro games in excellent conditions, or even completely unopened together with its package and manual you will have to spend a lot more.

I saw one auction with an unopened Tetris version from 1993 for not less than $850…around 765€. A second auction was from a seller in Belgia for around $200 that one was sold with the package and manual and probably a great condition but it was not factory sealed after all. 

The Game Boy version of Tetris was ported to the Nintendo 3DS as a Virtual Console title in 2011 but was delisted from the market in 2014 in Europe and the USA, this version also lacked the multiplayer mode of the game. The Game Boy version of Tetris is not available for a current platform.  



Final Verdict / Finally the Opinion part of this review


R.Hoffmann, Game-Art-HQ Founder

As a currently 39-year-old gamer, I played this excellent game back when it was launched. I played it alone, with family members, with friends. And loved it. Tetris was this one game that was not about killing enemies, saving princesses and jumping around at the was a puzzle game that could be enjoyed by kids as well as by grown-up people that saw video games normally as entertainment for kids. 

It was a true challenge to be good in this game and it could be played again and again, I am not sure how many hours I played it..but they were many.  The only flaw I saw in Tetris even back in the early nineties already was the lack of a battery in the cartridge. I mean..we tried to be better and beat our own high scores but there was no solution to save these high scores directly in the game. We actually had to write them up lol. 

The graphics were okay for the game and the music was and is perfect for Tetris, we loved it and ..I still do 🙂

Instead of giving you a number like a 10/10 I still give Tetris on the Game Boy two big thumb ups and believe that it was THE killer application for the system back in time. It absolutely belongs in every Game Boy collection and is one of these 8-bit games that are still enjoyable to play. Kudos to its creators, thanks for all the fun hours and experiences with it.