It might not occur to most people, but some of the best and most popular video games of all time are the simplest and least complicated. Do you think Tetris, as monumental as its success has been, was ever thought of as complicated. There are no fancy graphics, epic battles, or gorgeous videos to “enhance” the gameplay in Tetris. The gameplay is sound and classic enough that Tetris can just be Tetris and everyone loves it.
There have only been a handful of games like that in the history of gaming, games with such impressive and perfectly crafted gameplay that there’s no reason to brighten them up or make something special. These are games that will be remade until the end of time in new and impressive packaging, but never changing the gameplay for new platforms. Tetris might be packed into a tiny little Nintendo DS cart and a bunch of Nintendo characters added to its repertoire, but it will never not be Tetris.
The same can be said for all of these classics of puzzling game simplicity, the best of the simplest games around, and titles that no generation will ever not be given the chance to play.
The original mass popular puzzle game, Tetris has seen more iterations on more consoles and platforms than any other game in history. If there’s a new console, there will be a Tetris. If there’s a cell phone, computer, iPod, or new gameboy, there will be a new Tetris. The simplicity of Alexey Pajitnov’s masterpiece is what makes it so enduring.
The game found arcade release at first and later console, home release, but it was with the 1989 Gameboy release that Tetris found the massive foothold that it still holds today. Often named as one of the greatest games of all time, it’s surely the most addictive.
Born as an arcade derivative of Bubble Bobble, an extremely popular NES game, Bust-A-Move took the characters from that popular series and turned them into bubble flinging puzzlers. SNK’s coin op masterpiece has seen multiple releases over the years and with those releases, multiple upgrades, the newest versions of the game containing hundreds of levels and variations.
The root of the gameplay though, lies in shooting colored bubbles at other colored bubbles. Three or more stuck together makes them fall and the goal is to knock them all down. It sounds simple, but with time limits, growing numbers of color variations, and a ever more crowded screen, the game can get pretty hard pretty fast.
The newest game on the list is Q Entertainment’s PSP puzzler, Lumines. Originally released as a launch title in 2005 for the PSP, Lumines was the best reviewed game at the time for the handheld and today still is. The game is a combination of block, Tetris style puzzling, and smooth rhythm game music. Blocks of four fall from to the bottom of the screen, each of the four blocks made up of one color. Your goal is to put the colored blocks together and form a square of all the same color. The more of these you get at the same time, the more points you get.
The pleasure of this game lies in that it is only as hard as you want it to be. It takes a while to get to the harder levels, and you are free to play the lower ones only if you want. The speed changes as it gets harder and you almost have to get multiple sets at once. Lumines is available for the PSP, as well as its sequel, Lumines II, and a superb port to cell phones was released just last year, along with a very recent port to the Playstation 2.
A game that has sadly been neglected for a few years too long, Dr. Mario was a classic game of lining up three of the same color, represented by one half of a pill, thrown onto the screen by Dr. Mario. A very similar color matching system to many puzzle games, Dr. Mario was great because of its quirky characters and catchy tunes. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a version of Dr. Mario around, but I don’t imagine Nintendo will let it sit for too long. If nothing else, a Virtual Console edition for the Wii will be released eventually.
Bejeweled is another relatively new game, originally released as a flash game in 2001. Since then it’s gone on to garner ports to most cell phones, PDAs, different websites, and recently Xbox Live Arcade. The game is an immensely addictive variation of the color matching block game, but this time around you already have all of your blocks on the table.
The goal then is to line them up and make them disappear. The game has been retooled recently for multiplayer use and variations of it can even be found on video arcades and gambling machines at bars and bowling alleys. The “match three” concept has been copied repeatedly and Bejeweled has spawned a dozen or more copy cat style games.