Everyone seems to be in agreement that Tetris Effect totally rules, with our own review from Jordan Oloman (no relation) calling it “a visual therapy session that will invade your dreams.” The game is, by all accounts, a psychedelic thrill ride for the senses and mind, but where do you turn when the trip finally ends?
Fear not, blockheads. We’ve picked out five puzzle games to scratch that Tetris itch, and only one of them requires a Super Nintendo.
Originally released on the PlayStation Portable in 2004, Lumines: Puzzle Fusion was the brainchild of Q Entertainment, which was co-founded by Space Channel 5 and Rez producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Mizuguchi-san also produced Tetris Effect, and the two games share an undeniable, spiritual connection as a result.
Lumines doesn’t really play anything like Tetris, mind you — it is a falling block game, but blocks are cleared in time with a sweeping bar, and only when they form a two by two square of the same color. Where Tetris is a game about methodically forming and executing a plan, Lumines is a game about tension and release; a sort of inhale/exhale exercise in setting up a pattern and hoping the bar clears it in time for the next one.
The connection between Tetris Effect and Lumines, then, is stylistic. Many of the synesthetic ideas on display in Tetris Effect first took root all the way back in Lumines, or arguably, even further back in 2001’s Rez. It’s a little hard to put into words, but watch a video of either and you’ll get what we mean. (Strobe warning on these videos, by the way.)
Lucky for you, the game was recently re-released as Lumines Remastered on all three modern consoles and PC, so you won’t have to buy a used PSP at a haunted flea market in order to enjoy one of the best puzzle games ever made.
Puyo Puyo Tetris
Alright, so, Puyo Puyo Tetris is very, very tonally different from Tetris Effect. It’s a cell-shaded anime romp with talking dog doctors (dogtors?), and there’s a whole story mode about the Puyo Puyo universe merging with the Tetris universe and honestly we don’t remember most of it because it kinda all blurs together into one big moe glomp.
Gameplay-wise though, Puyo Puyo Tetris is a brilliant marriage of (you guessed it!) Puyo Puyo and Tetris, with an enormous assortment of single and multiplayer modes that use both systems in challenging ways.
One player, for instance, might be working with a board of puyos, while the other player has tetrominoes. Or maybe both players have both puyos and tetrominoes, on the same board. Maybe four players all have two boards each — a Tetris board and a Puyo Puyo board — and they’ve all got to keep both boards going in real time.
It’s extremely fun but also very difficult at times, and if you play online you can plan on getting completely demolished by seasoned Puyo Puyo players. They’re ruthless in a way that makes losing to an anime fish man even more humiliating than that sounds. Puyo Puyo Tetris is available on all three modern consoles, as well as PC.
Now, what I’m about to say isn’t the official Fanbyte position, but for my money as an independent human being, Threes is the best mobile game there is*. Full stop. Players use their thumbs/fingers/fish sausages to combine numbers on a sliding grid of tiles, with the goal of exponentially growing the total value of the board as high as possible. That’s it. And it’s beautiful.
People will disagree with me here, and I’m okay with that, but know that my position isn’t one of inexperience of naivete. Trust me, I’ve got hundreds of hours in a Puzzle & Dragons save that I’ll never get back. I’ve Lara Croft Go-ed my way through many a pharmacy waiting line. I played so much Mini Metro that I could probably solve New York City’s ongoing public transportation crisis. (Why doesn’t MTA just delete the subway lines they don’t need to make new ones during busy hours???).
It may not be the transcendental journey that Tetris Effect is, but Threes is as smart and engrossing a puzzle game as they come, and there’s even a free version if you don’t mind a few ads. Threes is available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and surprisingly, Xbox One.
I first saw Gorogoa during an experimental games panel at GDC 2014, where it elicited gasps and uproarious applause from the sardine-packed audience. It is truly a puzzle game unlike any I had seen up until then, or until now, for that matter, and while it isn’t a falling-block game like Tetris Effect, it does take the player on its own journey of the mind.
In Gorogoa, players are presented with a series of images on a two by two grid, and they can interact with those images in various ways: panning, pinching, zooming, moving, etc. The goal is to find the connection between the images given — sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively — and as straight-forward as that sounds, Gorogoa is anything but. It was developed over a period of six years by Jason Roberts, and is one of the most visually striking and well-animated games in recent memory.
Gorogoa is available on all three major consoles, PC, and iOS.
The grand-pappy of weird Tetris offshoots, Tetris Attack for the Super Nintendo was originally released in Japan as Panel de Pon in the fall of 1995, and it had nothing at all to do with Tetris.
See, Tetris Attack was basically just Super Mario Bros. 2 all over again. Nintendo had this puzzle game that it wanted to release in the US, but figured that Americans wouldn’t jive with an unfamiliar brand, or the game’s anime aesthetics. To solve this problem, Nintendo slapped Tetris on the title and replaced all of the game’s original characters with Yoshi and pals, since Yoshi’s Island was Nintendo’s big SNES release at the time.
And just like with Doki Doki Panic and SMB2, the con totally worked. Tetris Attack was an enormous success. Never mind that blocks rose from the bottom of the screen instead of falling from the top, or that players swapped individual squares horizontally, rather than placing unique groups of squares. It says Tetris right there on the thing! It’s Tetris! Yoshi is here too! Don’t question it!
Tetris Attack would see new life on the Nintendo 64 as Pokemon Puzzle League, and while I own and love that game dearly, even I must admit that it is a hideous-looking game with an insufferable midi soundtrack. If I’m gonna send folk down the rabbit hole of old puzzle games on defunct consoles, I can’t in good conscience make Pokemon Puzzle League the first stop on that journey.
Where will you find solace after the Tetris Effect has worn off? Let us know.
*(editor’s note: the editor-in-chief of this publication, John Edwin Warren, officially agrees with this position)