Modern Tetris and Classic Tetris: What is the difference?

Over the years, developers have added different mechanics that make Modern Tetris different from Classic Tetris. In 1989, Classic Tetris games came out for game systems such as the Game Boy and NES. Modern versions, include Tetris Effect and Tetris 99 which came out in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

1. Piece Sequences

The 7 pieces (or Tetrominoes) used in the game are I, J, L, O, S, T, and Z. Modern Tetris uses a 7-Bag Randomizer, which takes those different pieces and shuffle them. This gives the player the same 7 pieces every time, in different order. This means that the longest you can go without a specific piece is 13.

In Classic Tetris, the piece generator is completely random. When you play Classic Tetris, such as NES Tetris, you can go through many pieces without a specific piece. Matt Buco went through an 81 I-piece drought. In October 2020, B14NK had an 83 I-piece drought. Here’s a video that explains how NES Tetris RNG works.

7 Tetriminoes in Tetris


2. Modern Tetris Has The Hold Option

Modern Tetris gives you the hold option which allows you to hold on to a piece for future use. This option is useful for games such as Tetris 99. A strategy for the this option is to hold the I-piece and use it to score a Tetris. It is also useful for when you get a piece that you don’t want and you want to hold on to it for later use. Classic Tetris does NOT have a hold option which means the player must use pieces they get.

3. The Ability To Slide Pieces

Another feature added to Modern Tetris is the ability to slide pieces on top of the stack. It is easier to slide pieces left and right in Modern Tetris, because the piece does not lock into place immediately after it reaches the top of the stack. This can be useful when there is a gap that requires a piece to enter the gap horizontally to fill it in.

In Classic Tetris, the piece will almost immediately lock in place once it reaches the top of the stack. This gives the player very little opportunity to fill in gaps horizontally. This also makes it easier for someone to misdrop their piece because the player cannot slide the piece to their preferred place once the piece touches the top of the stack.

4. Hard Drop Makes Modern Tetris Fast

This allows the player to drop the piece immediately straight down, instead of waiting for the piece to fall down. If you notice that Modern Tetris goes really fast, it’s because of the hard drop that allows the player to drop the piece immediately.

5. Piece Preview

Classic Tetris games have only one piece preview, that shows the player what the next piece is. While Modern Tetris can have up to a six piece preview. The piece preview helps a player figure out what to do with the next piece while placing their current piece onto the board. In NES Tetris, there is an option to disable the piece preview. Playing without the piece preview turned out to be more difficult than expected. To be fair, they were playing at Level 18 speed.

Each Version Of Tetris Is Difficult In Their Own Way

All of these mechanics makes different versions of Tetris unique in their own way. Because of this, a player that is great at Tetris 99 would not necessarily be good at NES Tetris and vice versa. Although NES Tetris is not as fast as Tetris 99, a player has to deal with their own unique challenges such as the brutal RNG of the piece generator and having to play without a hold chamber. When watching the Classic Tetris World Championship (which uses NES Tetris), you now understand the difference between playing Modern Tetris and Classic Tetris.

To learn more about the difference, check out the video below from a Modern Tetris Professional.