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On Running Feuds
Tetris - Always the Bridesmaid
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on February 27, 2009   |   Episode 160 (Show Archive)  


Although Tetris is one of the best games ever made, this NES port isn't one of my favorites!
What is it about Tetris that makes people take it for granted? It's the go-to puzzle game when we try to describe any other game with falling blocks, it's easily available for free and it has been on practically every game system ever made. Yet, despite its prestige and availability, Tetris is always a game that we love in passing. We admire how great it is, but there's always one game that is better than Tetris. Perhaps we just have to face it; Tetris is always the bridesmaid, never a bride.

You see it every time one of these so-called expert magazines decides to rank the top 100 games of all time. There it is, always number two. Don't believe me? Then I guess you haven't seen Guinness World Records 2009 Gamer's Edition list of the Top 50 Games of All Time. This is the list that

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features such "gems" as Wii Sports (#25), Ridge Racer (#36), Project Gotham Racing 4 (#28) and Lego Star Wars (#23). Dismayed by the games completely left off the list, I wasn't too surprised when I got to the top and read that the top game of all time was ... Super Mario Kart?

That's right; Super Mario Kart is the best game of all time, according to Guinness and their experts. And let's face it, there is nobody on this planet more qualified to rank the fifty best games of all time than the guy who watches people rip up telephone books and measures toe nails. I mean, why not have the same organization that looks for the tallest man

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or the shortest woman picking the best games of all time? And while we're at it, maybe Guinness will go ahead and give us medical advice and rank the 50 greatest love songs from the 1970s.

While I was ranting and raving about how ludicrous it is to put Super Mario Kart at the top spot, I happened to look down and notice that number two was none other than Tetris. Poor old Tetris, the game that singlehandedly created the casual games market. The game that prompted millions of game developers to code puzzle games with falling objects. The game that launched Nintendo's worldwide dominance in the handheld video game market. Tetris, the only game I can think of that is perfect.

I prefer my Mario Kart to be Pac-Man free!
No really, Tetris is the perfect puzzle game. The concept is simple, yet elegant. You move a handful of pieces, try to match them together and hopefully beat your high score. There's not a thing that I would change about it. I wouldn't make the play area larger, I wouldn't add new pieces and I certainly wouldn't give players something stupid like a bomb to plant. Tetris is perfect the way it is. And to prove that, you'll notice that every time somebody added

I would rather have Super Metroid as the best game of all time than Super Mario Kart!
something to the Tetris formula it never actually improved the gameplay. In most cases future additions were deemed unnecessary and only cheapened the game. The truth is, if you don't like Tetris it's because you don't like the concept, not because of the gameplay or glitches or anything done by the design team.

And even though it is universally loved, Tetris is still number two on Guinness's list of the top games of all time. Number two? Beat out by a Super Mario spin-off racing game? There's just something about losing to a Mario Kart game that doesn't feel right. Then again, when Electronic Gaming Monthly listed their top 100 games of all time back in 2002,

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Tetris lost out to Super Metroid. There it is, yet another Nintendo game. I guess I can't complain too much, Super Metroid truly is one of the best games of all time (though, I wouldn't say it's THE best).

So there it is again, Tetris coming up just short. It's the Clay Aiken of video games. The Robin, the Ed McMahon, the Waylon Smithers. It just can't catch a break. Not in Guinness or Electronic Gaming Monthly, and especially not in Next Generation magazine.

In Next Generation's short seven years on this planet, they printed two separate lists of the best video games of all time. The first one came less than two years into the magazine's run, back in September 1996. At that time

I would rather have Super Metroid as the best game of all time than Super Mario Kart!
everybody was excited about the Nintendo 64, the game that was going to change everything. You could tell Next Generation was excited, since in their 21st issue they gave the top honor to none other than Super Mario 64. And that number two spot? You guessed it.

"There's something so perfect, so Zen about the falling blocks of Tetris that the game has captured the interest of everyone who has ever played it," Next Generation states. "Businessmen, housewives, hardcore gamers -- all have become addicted. Dreaming Tetris blocks is not an uncommon symptom of the afflicted, and mentally rearranging furniture of buildings into lines is to be expected." Yet the game isn't number one? Seriously, what does it take for Tetris to be ranked over a Nintendo game?

29 months later Next Generation was at it again. This time around the magazine decided to reward the complete Zelda series as the best games ever

Ocarina of Time is great ... but it's not better than X-COM!
made, knocking Super Mario 64 down to number 3. And there at number two? That's right, it's Tetris. Always the bridesmaid. "Tetris is the essence of gameplay at its most basic. You have a simple goal, simple controls and simple objects to manipulate. Playing at a decent level demands total concetration, because it requires thinking, strategy and intuition on a level rarely used in everyday live (except by professional movers and packaging designers)." And yet it continues to hold steady at number two.

Look, the Zelda series is phenomenal. I mean, Zelda III: A Link to the Past is one of the greatest games ever made. But giving the series this award was based purely on the excitement surrounding Ocarina of Time. Had Next Gen just played Majora's Mask the franchise wouldn't have even made the top 25. It's the same

For a feud that's all about bridesmaids, there sure aren't many women on this page!
reason the magazine put Super Mario 64 at the top of their list, they (like most of us) are susceptible to the hype of a big game. You can't blame them for that. But I still say that Tetris deserves that top slot.

Of course, the sad truth is that not even I put Tetris at the top of the list. I talk about all of these games beating out the most influential puzzle game of all time, yet I'm no better than Next Generation or Electronic Gaming Monthly (I am better than Guinness, since I don't go around measuring pubic hair for a living). To me the best game of all time is X-COM: UFO Defense, followed closely by Tetris. But I can get around the charges of hypocrisy by pointing out that so far I have not compiled a complete list of my favorite games, so it's an academic argument at best.

It seems that there's nothing Tetris can do to topple the power of Nintendo. I suppose in the long run it doesn't really matter, since comparing a puzzle game to, say, the world's first 3D platformer is ludicrous. It's not that Super Mario 64 is a better game; it depends entirely on what kind of mood you're into. If you're looking for a game where shapes fall from the sky, then you're probably going to put Tetris at the top of your list. By that rationale when I am looking to play the worst game of all time I pull out Konami's Rock Revolution. On second thought, Rock Revolution is number two, beaten out by Mortal Kombat Advance. Rock Revolution, always the bridesmaid ...


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