How to play Tetris 99

Tips and tricks to help you excel at the unique new battle royale game from the makers of Tetris.

Tetris 99 was announced as free-to-play and immediately available for Nintendo Switch Online members during a Nintendo Direct livestream on February 13. While an exciting new addition to the "battle royale" genre, Tetris 99 has one main flaw in that it lacks a tutorial for new players. If you’ve been struggling to download Tetris 99, or are simply wondering how everything works, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ve put together a quick guide on how to play Tetris 99! 

Note: This is a beginner's guide to Tetris 99. If you're wondering how targeting opponents and badge collection work, be sure to check out our other guides on Tetris 99!

How to Download Tetris 99

How to download and play Tetris 99
If you have a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online, you can search for Tetris 99 in the Nintendo eShop and download the game for free.
© Nintendo

The first question gamers have is how to download Tetris 99. As of right now, Tetris 99 is exclusively available to Nintendo Switch Online members. Note that you can’t download Tetris 99 without a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, and you can’t download it on any platform outside of Nintendo Switch. If you aren’t a Nintendo Switch Online member, you’ll need to sign up and pay for the service.

There are various pricing plans for Nintendo Switch Online including 1 month for $3.99, 3 months for $7.99, and 12 months for $19.99. With your Nintendo Switch Online subscription purchased and tied to your account, visit the Nintendo eShop while logged into that account and search for Tetris 99. Once you find it, you should be able to immediately download the game for free. Can’t seem to find the game? Click here to visit the Tetris 99 page on the Nintendo eShop

How to Play Tetris 99 - The Basics

Tetris 99 works similarly to other Tetris games in that the goal is to build and clear lines in order to earn points.
Tetris 99 works similarly to other Tetris games in that the goal is to build and clear lines in order to send Garbage Blocks.
© Tetris

Tetris 99 works a bit differently than most battle royale games on the market in that you won’t be hunting down players on a map. Instead, you’ll matchmake with 98 other Tetris players in a giant game of multiplayer Tetris. In the center of your screen is your Tetris grid known as the Matrix. On the right side of your Matrix, you can view a queue telling you which Tetriminos are dropping next. 

Inside the Matrix, gameplay works the same as every other modern Tetris game in that you’ll need to use these Tetriminos to build and clear lines in order to send Garbage Blocks to enemy players. Note that other players also have the ability to send Garbage Blocks your way with Garbage Blocks appearing as a pile of grey Tetriminos at the bottom of your Matrix.

The more Garbage Blocks sent your way, the higher your Tetris “stack” gets pushed towards the top of the play area. When your stack reaches the top (known as a top out), you lose. In Tetris 99, loss displays your final score on the leaderboard, and you’ll be given the option to “rematch” by jumping into a new game. 

How to Play Tetris 99 - The Controls 

Avoid having your Tetris
Avoid having your Tetris "stack" reach the top of the Matrix, as this will result in an immediate loss.
© Tetris

You can soft drop Tetriminos by gently guiding them down using the down arrow on your d-pad. We recommend using the soft drop method first if you're new to Tetris in order to avoid misdropping your Tetriminos. To rotate your Tetriminos to the right, tap the “A” or "Y" button. To rotate your Tetriminos to the left, tap the "B" or "X" button.

Continue tapping A, Y, B, or X until the Tetrimino has achieved the desired position before hard or soft dropping your Tetrimino into place. Unlike soft dropping, a hard drop will instantly place your Tetrimino from its position at the top of the Matrix to the bottom without you guiding it into place. To hard drop, tap the up arrow on your d-pad.

Before you hard drop, push the Tetrimino either left or right using your left and right d-pad arrows until it’s hovering over the area where you want it to be. Once you’ve confirmed the Tetrimino will land in the right spot, you can initiate your hard drop. Hard dropping is the fastest way to build and clear lines in Tetris, though it requires a bit of Matrix familiarity. To recap, we've included the main controls for Tetris 99 down below. 

  • Soft Drop: Down arrow on your d-pad.
  • Hard Drop: Up arrow on your d-pad.
  • Move Tetrimino Left/Right: Left and Right arrows on your d-pad.
  • Rotate Right: A or Y
  • Rotate Left: B or X
  • Hold: Left or Right Bumper
  • Target: Left Analog Stick
  • Rematch: Hold A

How to Play Tetris 99 - Easy Strategies to Use

How to play Tetris 99
An easy strategy to try out in Tetris 99 is building a stack at least 4 lines high while leaving an open area for your I-Tetrimino to drop into.
© Tetris

Again, the more lines you clear in Tetris 99, the more Garbage Blocks you send. One of the easiest strategies to employ when sending Garbage Blocks is to build a stack 4+ lines high or while keeping a single space open on either the left or right side. This open space is called a “well” and can be filled with the I-Tetrimino, otherwise known as the “long, skinny piece.”

By dropping the I-Tetrimino into the well you’ve created on either the left or right side, you’ll earn a 4-line clear known as a "Tetris" which sends four lines of Garbage Blocks. To ensure you have the I-Tetrimino ready to go, you can “hold” a piece by tapping the left or right bumper. To access the piece after it’s been held, tap the left or right bumper again.

If you’re new to this method, try to avoid building your stack taller than 8 lines as an attack of Garbage Blocks can easily K.O. you if you’re not prepared. Other methods of success include using T-Spins. The T-Spin method is a lot harder than your traditional “stack-and-well” method as we’ll call it, as T-Spins require setting up an open well in the shape of the T-Tetrimino and then perfectly rotating the Tetrimino into the well.

This can take a bit of practice, but when mastered, T-Spinning often becomes the go-to strategy of many Tetris pros. Finally, the most important key when it comes to winning at Tetris 99 is practice, practice, practice. As with any other Tetris game, the more you play, the better and faster you get. To win Tetris 99 you’ll need to be able to quickly build and clear lines, and clean out any Garbage Blocks you receive in order to avoid being pushed to the top of the Matrix.

To practice without the stress of a multiplayer setting, you can play Tetris for free on Tetris.com. After playing a few rounds of Tetris 99, what do you think of the game? What’s the highest score you’ve earned, and what strategy do you feel is the best when it comes to multiplayer Tetris? Let us know down in the comments below!

Morgan is a writer, indie game lover, and socially awkward coffee addict. When she's not gaming or caffeinating, you can reach her at morgan.shaver@allgamers.com or say hello using GIFs on Twitter.

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