'Tetris 99' How to Play: Rules, Switch Controls, Badges and Tips for 'Tetris' Battle Royale

Tetris 99, a new, free-to-play multiplayer take on the 1984 Soviet puzzle classic, is out now for the Nintendo Switch. All you need to play is a Nintendo Switch Online membership, which costs $3.99 a month or $19.99 a year. Here's everything you need to know to play Tetris 99, including rules and tips for taking on the other 98 players in the battle royale, plus controls and how to use new, in-game features like the Badge system.

This is how to play—and how to win—Tetris 99.

Tetris 99 Switch: Rules for How to Play Battle Royale

In "Tetris 99" you're up against 98 other players via the Nintendo Switch Online service. Arika / Nintendo

Tetris 99 is like normal Tetris ... just with 98 other players trying to kill you by flooding your playfield with blocks. Nevertheless, your first priority is playing a good game of Tetris, because clearing rows and performing combos doesn't just keep your playfield clear, but also dumps Garbage Blocks on other players.

You'll also need to watch out for attacks.

Garbage Blocks stack up fast when other players are targeting you in "Tetris 99." Arika / Nintendo

It's important to keep an eye on the gutter just to the left of your playfield, because that's where incoming Garbage Block attacks accumulate. Stacked squares first appear as solid yellow, then quickly turn red, then flash yellow, red and pink, which means the blocks are about to get added to your playfield, as gray rows. To get rid of the attacking Garbage Blocks, you'll need to drop combos. For example, clear two rows at once and you'll eliminate two blocks from the oncoming attack. You don't necessarily need to clear multiple rows at once, clearing a single row will eliminate a row of incoming attack blocks.

Tetris 99 Controls

Despite its frantic, information-rich, battle royale format, Tetris 99 controls are still, mostly, classic Tetris controls. Use the D-pad to move tetrominoes side to side, press down for a speedy descent "Soft Drop," or press up for a "Hard Drop" to instantly pop the piece into place (Hard Drop can be turned off completely in the Options menu). Face buttons—A, B, X and Y—rotate the tetromino. Things get a little more complicated from there.

If you want to hold a piece in reserve, use the left shoulder button to place a tetromino in the Hold Area. Press the left shoulder button again to deploy it.

Then there are the multiplayer options. You have several strategies when it comes to targeting other players with Garbage Blocks, which can be chosen using the right analog stick. Here are the four choices, visible in faded white font at the top of the playfield:

  • K.O.s: Garbage Blocks will be sent to the player closest to getting knocked out of the round.
  • Randoms: Garbage Blocks will be sent to random opponents.
  • Attackers: Garbage Blocks will be sent to players who are sending Garbage Blocks to you. This is the only mode where you can target multiple people.
  • Badges: Garbage Blocks will be sent to the player with the most Badges—a reasonably proxy for the best player in the match.
Combos. like clearing 4 lines for a Tetris, send out attacks against other players. You can choose the target. Arika / Nintendo

You can also choose your own targets with the left analog stick.

Tetris 99 Badges

For most badge features, you'll want to check out the dashboard window with your rank at the top. Just beneath your rank, K.O.s are listed. Every K.O. contributes to badges, which appear beneath your K.O. count.

Each completed badge you have increases your attack power by 25 percent. You can accrue up to four badges, but that requires a whopping 30 K.O.s. You'll earn the first badge with two K.O. points, the second badge with a further four K.O. points, a third badge after eight more and the final K.O. badge after 16 more knockouts.

But here's where the Badges Targeting mode comes in really handy: K.O. a player with badges and you get their badges. That means it's possible to nab four badges without locking down 30 knockouts first.

Once you have all four badges, your attack strength is doubled. Eight Garbage Block lines will be sent instead of four, for example.

Tetris 99 Tips and Advanced Techniques

Ploddingly Soft Dropping every tetromino just isn't going to cut it in Tetris 99 . Not only do you need to clear lines to avoid Garbage Blocks row from dropping into your playfield, but you also need to nail constant combos to keep on the offensive. Here's some expert tips.

Focus on K.O.s to Level: While going after the best player or clapping back at attackers can be satisfying, early on in your Tetris 99 career you really want to stick to K.O., which targets your Garbage Blocks at people on the brink of death. Getting K.O.s against other players is one of Tetris 99 's most important metrics, outside of survival of course, so it's the best way to level up.

T-Spin: This is a tricky technique, but an absolute must for advanced Tetris 99 players. A T-Spin is when you rotate a T block into a position where it can't fit with a drop. Typically, this involves an overhang, where you drop a T tetromino to the exact level of the overhang, then rotate it into place right at the last moment. A T-Spin doubles your combo, powering up your attacks.

Besieged: If three or more people are attacking you (the yellow lines point out attackers) simultaneously, you get an attack bonus, sending additional Garbage Blocks out. Since the Attackers Targeting mode is the only one that goes after multiple targets, hit back by switching to Attackers mode when there are multiple attackers after you, maximizing your damage output.

When multiple people are targeting you for attack in "Tetris 99" it's a good idea to switch your own Targeting mode to "Attackers," which fires back. Arika / Nintendo

Back-to-Backs: Many in-game combos, like T-Spins and Tetrises (clearing four rows at once), grow even more powerful if you can do them again right after. Two T-Spins or Tetrises in a row can result in a devastating attack.

Developed by Arika, creators of Endless Ocean and the Tetris: The Grand Master arcade series, Tetris 99 is out now for Nintendo Switch.