Tetris Isn't The Best Video Game Of All Time

Okay, we're verging into hot take territory here, so forgive me in advance. But I think it's important that we're clear on this. It's important that we draw a little line in the sand.

Tetris is not the best video game of all time.

Time Magazine recently put out a '50 best video games of all time' list.

The list was bad. That's okay! Most lists are bad. Almost all video game lists are bad — particularly when they attempt to be totemic, all encompassing, 'important' lists. When they attempt to be a document of something. When they attempt to answer all sorts of hokey questions like which game was the most 'influential' or 'important'. When they try to sift and sort through a medium that defies categorisation in just about every possible sense.

At least novels are written on paper, and have between 30 and 200 thousand words. At least albums tend to feature 30 to 60 minutes of music.

Video games are... fuck. Do we even want to broach the idea of what a video game should and shouldn't be? Is that a discussion we even want to have? I certainly don't. It's a black hole that swallows time, light and reason. Avoid at all costs.

But when you make a list like the '50 Best Video Games Of All Time' and you sit Tetris on top of that list you're saying a lot of things about video games and what video games should be. And you're mostly saying something I don't agree with.

To begin with — Tetris is a boring choice. It's just about the most boring choice a human being can make if asked 'what is the greatest video game of all time'. It's the equivalent of claiming The Godfather is your favourite movie, or Dark Side of the Moon is your favourite album.

It's that canonical choice. The choice where everyone is supposed to just nod in agreement. 'Ah... Tetris'.

Yes. Tetris. Of course. Argument over. No, you can't mess with Tetris.

Tetris. It's perfect.

What do we mean when we say that? That Tetris is 'perfect'.

What we really mean: it's a simple idea — a genius idea really — and it's perfectly executed. That it's timeless. That its core loop will never age. That — as a video game — it's as perennial as snakes and ladders or chess. That it's easy to understand.

We mean it's trancendent in every possible sense. That it's beyond language. That it spans generations. We've all played Tetris, and we'll be playing Tetris in some shape or form until we're dead in the ground.

Good stuff. Great. No-one is denying the importance of Tetris, or its brilliance in both concept and execution. Tetris is good. It's very good.

But Christ almighty... is that it? Tetris. Is that the game? Is this the end point of this discussion for all of time. Is that the high watermark for video games as a cultural force? I fucking hope not. I certainly don't think so. It's a depressing thought.

Tetris is video games as a distraction. Tetris is video games when you've got five minutes on a train. Tetris is video games as a trivial artifact you can play and forget. Tetris is video games in a neat little box. Tetris is neutered. Tetris puts video games in their place.

No-one ever fell in love with Tetris. Tetris doesn't change lives. Tetris doesn't change the way you walk. Tetris isn't a revolution. It's a 'video game' as the broader world defines it.

Which is why a magazine like Time has to make it its 'Greatest Video Game Of All Time', almost by default. It makes sense. It's really the only choice. The safe choice that puts video games in the cultural corner with a dunce cap on, where it belongs.

What is the best video game of all time? Um... I dunno*.

Is it even a question worth answering? Worth discussing? Probably, for fun. But not in any serious, grand-standing sense. Lists should be personal, and if Tetris is your favourite game of all time then more power to you. But I think you're wrong.

*It's a tie between Dark Souls, Metroid Prime and A Link To The Past


    1st reaction: u fkn wot m8?
    2nd: Ahh. Fair enough. Yeah, it should probably be Mass Effect series.

    Last edited 26/08/16 11:36 am


      Mass Effect didn't even make a fucking appearance on the list, that's how you know it was written up by someone who probably cobbled together his list from five random top ten lists he saw on Buzzfeed.

    Resident Evil 2 is.

    "Tetris is not the best video game of all time." -- YOU TAKE THAT BACK!!!

    Tetris has always just been a boring time waster. As a form of entertainment it ranks around the same position as a Rubics Cube.

    As for the best game of all time...yeah, how do you even measure that? If it's what I've spent the most time playing then it's World of Warcraft hands down. Played that on and off for 4 years with a lot of time dedicated to playing WoW and only WoW. I forgot other games even existed. It's also still the highest earning MMO ever with the largest player base for an MMO ever....yet I still wouldn't say it's the best game ever.

    That's because I don't think you can ever define one game as the best ever. You might be able to do a best per category type of thing but how do you compare WoW to Trine to Zelda to CoD to Elder Scrolls etc....Games are just too varied to be able to quantify which one is better than another, the inherent preference of whoever writes the list will always show because there's no metric you can use to rate all games equally.

    Might as well compare apples to bananas to oranges and decide which one is the best fruit of all time.

    No-one ever fell in love with Tetris. Tetris doesn’t change lives. Tetris doesn’t change the way you walk. Tetris isn’t a revolution.

    Tell that to the people who both played, and the thousands of people who watched them play Tetris: The Grandmaster series at the last few GDQ.

    The best is Asteroids obviously.

      Nah, pong mate....or maybe frogger

      Last edited 26/08/16 11:52 am

        Nah, Highway Crossing Frog! That Frogger game was a blatant ripoff...

    This has always bothered me too, they put together a list of the "best" games then you get to the top ten or something oh look, Tetris. And the first thing they say is "one of the most important games of all time". Ok, but is this a list of the best or the most important? You need to make your mind up first. Best, most important, favourite, they should all make for different lists. Tetris is something that ranks high because you think you're supposed to put it there, not because you want to.

    Unless it's Tetris DS.

    Mortal Kombat, on Sega Genesis, is the best video game ever.
    I disagree, it's a very good game, but I think Tetris is the best game ever.
    Tetris sucks.
    You know something? YOU SUCK!

    I was saddened to see the Time article had no real information on why the list is sorted the way it is. Their definition of best game ever is pretty much required knowledge for this discussion to make sense and we don't have it.

      That's exactly what I was thinking. Did they consider it best because of engaging gameplay? Or the longevity of it's appeal? Or some amazing technical precedent? Or the sheer volume of people who played it? Or something else?

      I have no problem with "top x lists" but without knowing the criteria it's hard to agree with the selections.

    Okay, we’re verging into hot take territory here, so forgive me in advance. But I think it’s important that we’re clear on this. It’s important that we draw a little line in the sand.
    Tetris is not the best video game of all time.

    @markserrels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EnsUeR2MyI


    Jokes aside, when it comes to games I don't think there is such a thing as a best game. Instead it is better to look at what games make the big splashes in the industry during their time.

    Pong made a well placed shot. So did Tetris. But I'll stop there because there is pretty much one game that really causes a stir (good or bad) every couple of years so the list is a bit long.

    Last edited 26/08/16 12:07 pm

    I disagree. It's a very good game, but I think Donkey Kong is the best game ever.

    Saying Tetris is the best game of all time doesn't just say you're bland it says the concept of depth is totally alien to you. It's like saying your favourite book is the instructions on a first aid kit. Important yes, but if that's your favourite book you don't understand the question.

    While we're on the subject Pac-Man and Pong are important, famous and culturally significant but they're not good. They're decent when put next to a claw machine or air hockey but they were massive hits because of their novelty. I challenge anyone to play those games without nostalgia for more than 15 minutes.

      I spent a lot of time playing Pac Man a couple of years ago in my college course, and much more than 15 minutes at a time. I think it becomes a lot more interesting once you learn how some of the underlying mechanics are set up.

    I thought it would be bejeweled given how many clones exist today. But seriously, the question everyone needs to ask themselves is whether Tetris is "The Ultimate Video Game", or are we all just chasing some ephemeral dream of a perfect game floating out there in some kind of conceptual dimension in which the perfect form of all things exists and our reality is but a crude copy of? Someone call Jon 'Jonno" Jonson, the people demand answers.

    Video games are a lot of things.

    They're a fierce competition. They're a mindless distraction to play on the bus. They're a medium with untapped narrative potential. They're wish fulfillment. They're so much more than just Tetris.

    But Tetris is the best is what it does and what it does is very much a part of what video games are.

    Saying Tetris is great doesn't diminish video games in the same way that enjoying Gone Home doesn't diminish someone else's (or your own) enjoyment of Call of Duty.

    I would say perfect dark is the best game, it had interesting missions Story and imaginative weapons (Laptop Gun) and it multiplayer built upon Goldeneye's and was even better - playing against perfect sims was always an interesting experience especially the first time.

    it was going back to it on the N64 despite having incredible level completion times and completing every level on perfect agent, finding that all my proficiency was gone.

    i was especially proud as a 14 yr old of completing Duel on perfect agent in less than 10 seconds

    Last edited 26/08/16 12:40 pm

    I would've put TLOU at the top but I can recognise that any kind of list like this won't be for everyone. It's just my choice.

      Fortunately your choice is correct ;)

        I was tempted to say "but I recognise that anyone who disagrees is wrong" :D

    I generally agree with your point, however need to clarify that DSOTM actually IS the best album ever ;)
    not just because it's trendy to say it is, it actually is the best ALBUM, by which i mean a collection of related songs from start to finish, unlike many albums that are more of a collection of singles.

      Isn't that more specifically a concept album?

      Note: I know little about and listen to very little music, so lack much understanding.

        imo different people would call it different things, eg some would call Deus Ex a shooter, some call it an fps, some call it an rpg, some call it a stealth game, doesn't really matter the classification imo, i just call it an album, but then again i call all music albums, well just albums.
        same as i try and just call all games 'games', not much point to me seperating them into different sections, basically if its fun i'll play it, certainly not into this 'i only play fps' or 'i only play sports games' type guy
        same with music albums, if its good i listen to it, regardless of alleged 'genre'
        main point was just that it is a proper start-finish album, not just a collection of songs that can easily be played independently in any order without any real bearing overall.

        I guess think of it like playing Starcraft in the order intended, makes it much better than all the missions playing out randomly. playing out in proper order start to finish, thats kinda DSOTM imo

        where as more something like GTAV where you can pretty much play any mission in any order without much relation to any other mission, ie doesn't really matter if you play the 25th mission first or the 3rd mission or the 76th.

        not saying GTAV for example isn't still great, just different and less of an overall cohesive story
        (all these are just examples, none to be taken too literally)

        ... damn that was longer than i meant to type lol

          I guess I'm just trying to imagine what a proper start-finish album is. I mean the thing I listen to most and am most familiar with is Judas Priest, and most of their songs I guess are pretty standalone but a couple of times in the past I've tried just setting my car stereo to shuffle and found myself skipping through tracks all the time which I never do while listening to each album start to finish, so that's the only way I listen to them and to me they are a cohesive whole, each song does lead on to the next. Though then they had the Nostradamus concept album where all the songs basically did actually lead on from one to another.

          I guess it would probably help if I were in any way familiar with Dark Side Of The Moon outside of just being a common cultural reference :P

          Last edited 26/08/16 1:23 pm

            DSOTM is up there with the best of them. It doesn't have hits like "breaking the law" but feels like watching a really good movie when you listen from start to finish.

              Lol as much as I love Breaking The Law I fucking hate Breaking The Law :P

              Wish GH Live used an actually interesting song of theirs instead of that. I mean it barely has a solo, even something like Beyond The Realms Of Death would have been a better pick.

                Tbh it was the first song of thiers that came to mind as my parnter and i sing it when we see someone doing a dodgy or a bunch of cop cats racing somewhere :)

        It's not really a concept album in the same way as, for example, The Who Sell Out (tracks are loosely thematically linked, but it's not really solid )

        It is an "album" though- it has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and a really defined track order

      At which point, I would see that challenge and raise you Operation: Mindcrime

        never heard of it, do go on.

        edit; just looked it up on wiki, looks and sounds good, will grab and have a listen. good'un

        Last edited 26/08/16 1:17 pm

          Hope you like it! I was introduced to it by a couple of Musos at work. They were big into Pink Floyd, the Who and all those kinds of bands.

      Nonsense! Hooked by Vanilla Ice is the best album ever. Any other opinion is objectively wrong.

    None of these are as perfect as Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing.

    I would say Tetris is the second greatest game in the world, and say that the greatest is Solitaire.


        Oooh. Thats a good one. I'm decent at Minesweeper but found I was terrible at the System Shock 2 variant with corn.

    But the thing is, Tetris kinda is the *best* game ever. But that term doesn't really mean anything. I doubt Tetris is anyone's favourite game, but it's hard for anyone to describe it as "bad".

    Are you young, not much fine motor skills? That's fine, Tertis will teach you that
    Not a fan of violence? Tetris has your back
    Only have two fingers? Tetris is still 100% playable.

    The only possible reason I can see people not having a bit of fun with Tetris, is if Russian folk music sends them in to violent rages.

    Heresy! Cleanse the Apostate Serrels with fire!

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