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Tetris 99 - Controls, how to play, and strategy

Learn more about the basic strategy of Tetris battle royale with our guide to controls and how to play Tetris 99.


Gamers who tuned into the recent Nintendo Direct presentation were given a special treat: the surprise reveal of Tetris 99, a Tetris-themed battle royale made freely available to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. The new game throws a wrench in the Tetris formula by allowing players to join matches with up to 99 players total, turning the classic puzzle game into something distinctly more competitive. Here's how to play Tetris 99, including the basic controls and the strategy that players should be using for any given match.

Tetris 99 controls and how to play

Given that Tetris 99 is a battle royale game designed around Tetris gameplay, users shouldn't have too much coming to grips with how the game works. The directional pad controls movement of individual pieces: left and right move the pieces to the left and right respectively, where D-pad down is used to speed the piece's descent and D-pad up corresponds to the Hard Drop, which instantly drops the piece to the bottom of the play area. Any of the face buttons, A, B, X, or Y, serve to rotate the piece, while the left shoulder button is used to place a Tetronimo into or remove a Tetronimo from the Hold area.

The biggest change that Tetris 99 throws into the mix is the option for Targeting. Mapped to the right analog stick on the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, Targeting allows players to focus their outgoing attacks (garbage piles earned by clearing lines) toward Random players, Badge-focused players, Attackers, or players who are close to a Knock-Out. Each of these choices provides a distinct change to the overall strategy:

  • Targeting Randoms will send garbage piles toward random opponents.
  • Targeting Attackers will send garbage piles to opponents who are attacking the player.
  • Targeting K.O.s will send garbage piles to the opponents who are closest to being knocked out of the game.
  • Finally, targeting Badges will send garbage piles to the players with the most badges. Effectively, this sends garbage piles to most experienced players in the match. Consequently, it also targets players who are the most capable attackers.

Because Tetris 99 is played with nearly a hundred players, there will come a time in each match where simply clearing the board isn't enough. Players need to actively manage where to send their garbage piles in order to secure their place in the final leaderboard, which means they'll need to actively manage incoming threats and watch for players who are close to being knocked out of the match.

The ability to target other players forms the core strategy of Tetris 99. As it's a Tetris game at its heart, learning how to play the game primarily involves learning how to play against other players. Given enough experience, Tetris fans shouldn't have too much trouble going after that ultimate victory. To learn even more about the game, check out our guide to Tetris 99 beginner tips. For all other coverage, be sure to stop by Shacknews' Tetris 99 home page.

Guides Editor

Kevin Tucker is a core component of Shacknews' powerful guide development team. For questions, concerns, tips, or to share constructive criticism, he can be reached on Twitter @dukeofgnar or through e-mail at

From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 18, 2019 5:15 PM

    Kevin Tucker posted a new article, Tetris 99 - Controls, how to play, and strategy

    • reply
      February 22, 2019 8:06 AM

      Thanks for the tips man!

      Tetris 99 is really killing it with the hype right now.

      This will give battle royale enthusiasts wanting to dive into this latest tile-matching puzzle game ideas of how to play it.

      I doubt it would be that hard.

      Still, this will bevery helpful.

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