Tetris 99: 5 tips for beginners and casual players

Jumping into Tetris 99 for the first time and looking to claim victory against 98 opponents? It won't be easy, but Shacknews is here to help with a few tips for those beginners and casual players.

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In a February 13, 2019 Nintendo Direct filled with exciting announcements and blockbuster first-party games, Nintendo's biggest surprise may have turned out to be the sudden release of a puzzle gaming classic. Tetris 99 was revealed and suddenly released within moments of Wednesday's presentation, making the puzzle game into one of the unlikeliest battle royale contenders yet. It may also be one of the best.

Those who are in the middle of battling this potentially addicting puzzle battle royale, like those in our Chatty community, may also be among those who are the early knockouts. There's no shame in not making it into the Top 50. If you are, it just means you need some more practice. It may also mean you need some pointers.

That's why Shacknews is here today. As hardened Tetris veterans, we're here to offer up a few early pointers for Tetris 99, especially if you're a casual player getting into this madness for the first time. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Tetris 99

1. Hard Drop is your friend

One of the keys to success in Tetris 99 is speed. This is a game of ruthless efficiency. You must not only keep your pile manageable, but you must do so quickly. That's where the Hard Drop comes in. This is tied to Up on the Control Pad and it's something you should learn to use frequently. As garbage piles threaten to pile up, the only way to hold back the tide is to offset them with your own lines and combos. With only so much time before the garbage stack triggers, you need to move fast, hence the need for the Hard Drop mechanic. Learn to clear out lines as quickly as possible and it'll help you control the garbage pile heading your way.

This is especially essential if you make it into the Top 50. At that point, you no longer have the luxury of taking your time. Not only are the pieces moving faster, but if you dawdle in trying to find a spot to place your Tetrimino, the garbage stacks will all pile onto one another. Going at a snail's pace is the easiest way to go from a single stack of lines to a full screen of garbage in the blink of an eye.

Tetris 99

2. Know the right people to target

You may notice at the start of the game that it's possible to select your targets with the Right Control Stick. This is more important than it might look and knowing who to target could be the difference between total victory and a mere Top 50 finish.

Start out by targeting for KOs. This will send your garbage piles towards the poor casual suckers who don't know what they're doing. It may seem like foul play to target the weak, but they knew what they were getting into when they signed up for battle royale. Hit your Tetris combos early and often to send them home. This should at least ensure you a Top 50 finish every time out, if nothing else.

Once things start getting more intense, you'll notice you're being targeted more. This is where you should begin targeting Attackers and Badges, depending on who presents the more immediate threat. If Attackers are proving to be a pest, make sure to clean up your pile as fast as possible and retailiate in kind. If you can string together enough combos out of the garbage they send you, you should be able to trip them up. Reaction time and reflexes are key, so use the Hard Drop and work fast.

Tetris 99

3. Do not approach this like single-player Tetris

This cannot be stressed enough. You are not playing solo Tetris! The idea is not to rack up a high score or large strings of back-to-back Tetrises without any singles or doubles in-between. You are playing multiplayer Tetris and your score is irrelevent. With that said, you must keep your pile manageable. Clean things up with Doubles or Triples whenever necessary.

This becomes particularly important as you head into the Top 50 and especially into the Top 10. Don't worry about Tetrises at this point, instead racking up Doubles and Triples wherever possible and keeping your pile as close to the bottom as possible. Use the garbage piles sent your way to craft your Doubles and Triples. You might even have enough for a Tetris.

The breakneck speed that kicks in upon hitting the Top 5 should be enough to trip up your opponents on its own, so just do you. Sharpen your focus and don't let the higher speed trip you up. Hit Doubles, Triples, and Tetrises when the opportunities present themselves, but do not aim for them. If you do, you can get tripped up by a large garbage stack and it will end your day quick.

Tetris 99

4. Use the Hold window strategically

At the start of the game, the Hold window should be used for the long "l" piece to help get your Tetris train rolling. But as things start to get more intense and more players start to get knocked out, do not use it exclusively for this piece. That could prove to be folly by the time you hit the Top 10.

This feeds into the above idea of not approaching this as solo Tetris. Holding onto the long piece can help create back-to-back Tetris opportunities, which can knock players out. But garbage stacks will start flying in faster as the game winds down and your screen may not be conducive to holding long pieces. Even the most hardened Tetris expert can get pelted by an onslaught of garbage stacks as they hit the Top 5, sending their pile near the top of the screen. These stacks are not neat, either, so an "l" piece will not help you here. Have a "t" piece at the ready, since it's the most versatile tool you'll have available at this stage of the game.

Do not place square pieces in the Hold window towards the end of the game. This is just death as piles go higher and Tetris piles get messier.

Tetris 99

5. Don't panic!

This might go without saying, but if you do manage to reach the Top 10 and the "Flight of the Bumblebee" music kicks in, the game will reach a fever pitch with blinding speed and more frequent garbage piles. Remain calm and keep going at your own pace. Shift your strategy as noted above, but don't get jittery or panic or you'll be more prone to make mistakes.

Those mistakes can include errant Hard Drops or screwed-up rotations, both of which can lead to your demise fast. Watch what you're doing, be cautious of the moves you're making, and maintain your poise. This goes double if you're using a Pro Controller. The Up button can have a hair trigger on it, so it's very easy to accidentally toss down a Hard Drop. And if you drop something in an ugly spot, that's pretty much the end.

If you hear "Flight of the Bumblebee" kick in, just enjoy the ride. You've made it this far! You're almost there!


Any pointers for your fellow Tetris 99 player? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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