Home Happy 40th birthday, Tetris, a landmark video game work born of the Cold War

Happy 40th birthday, Tetris, a landmark video game work born of the Cold War

Tetris, the landmark pack-in game for the Nintendo Game Boy, and many other platforms, coded by Alexey Pajitnov, is officially observing its 40th birthday, according to The Tetris Company.

Though there is some dispute as to the date the first playable version of the classic puzzle game actually became available, The Tetris Company, established by Pajitnov and the Dutch entrepreneur Henk Rogers, says June 6, 1984 is the game’s birthday, which means it’s 40 years old as of today.

Gaming historian Norman Caruso dates the game’s playable origins to 1984, in a 2018 video that’s well worth your time.

Tetris was a first-year induction to the World Video Game Hall of Fame at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y. in 2015. The game was first developed by Pajitnov on the Soviet Union-made Electronika 60, later ported to IBM personal computers of the day and then ultimately as a launch title for the Game Boy when that handheld gaming system released in 1989. Guinness World Records counts it as the most-ported video game ever, with versions on 65 different platforms.

Where can I play Tetris today?

The game’s original ASCII-based version is playable on the web through Tetris’ official website. As the story goes, Rogers and Pajitnov basically smuggled the addictive game out from behind the Iron Curtain in the last days of the Soviet Union, striking gold with Nintendo by offering it as a base game on the Game Boy when that platform first launched.

After about seven years of publication under Nintendo, the rights reverted back to Pajitnov, who started The Tetris Company in 1996 with Rogers to manage and license the game and its numerous adaptations since. The story of Tetris’ origins made for an unexpected — and very entertaining — Cold War spy thriller that premiered on Apple TV Plus in 2023.

“The enduring appeal of Tetris lies in its simplicity,” Tetris Company chief executive Maya Rogers, the daughter of Henk Rogers, said in a news release. “Easy to play and highly intuitive.” The franchise’s most recent adaptation was 2019’s Tetris 99, a battle-royale, multiplayer approach to the classic format.

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Owen Good
Gaming Editor (US)

Owen Good is a 15-year veteran of video games writing, also covering pop culture and entertainment subjects for the likes of Kotaku and Polygon. He is a Gaming Editor for ReadWrite working from his home in North Carolina, the United States, joining this publication in April, 2024. Good is a 1995 graduate of North Carolina State University and a 2000 graduate of The Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University, in New York. A second-generation newspaperman, Good's career before covering video games included daily newspaper stints in North Carolina; in upstate New York; in Washington, D.C., with the Associated Press; and…

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