34 years after its launch on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), a 13-year-old gamer has shattered a long-standing barrier in Tetris, beating the game for the first time since its launch by achieving the infamous “kill screen” after a 40 minute playthrough. The teen dedicated the achievement to his father, who passed away a week ago.
Ars Technica reports that for over three decades, the standard NES Tetris game, released in 1989, ended with a block reaching the top of the screen, signaling a game over.
However, on December 21, 2023, BlueScuti, a 13-year-old gaming prodigy, broke this 34-year streak by becoming the first person to reach the game’s “kill screen.” In a gaming session lasting 40 minutes and comprising 1,511 lines, BlueScuti pushed the game beyond its functional limits, causing it to crash.
For years, the Tetris community believed that surpassing around 290 lines was nearly impossible for a human, making BlueScuti’s achievement even more impressive. Reaching Level 29 in NES Tetris, which requires clearing between 230 to 290 lines depending on the starting level, brings the game to its highest speed.
Traditional control methods became ineffective at this stage, with players struggling to move pieces to the sides of the screen. This usually resulted in the game “topping out” shortly after reaching this level. In an effort to break past this stage, players developed new playstyles and strategies such as “hypertapping,” a method requiring a special grip to vibrate a finger over the D-pad at rapid speeds, allowing players to move pieces at faster speeds.
Notable players like Thor Aackerlund and Joseph Saelee used hypertapping to achieve new milestones in Tetris, with Saelee dominating the Classic Tetris World Championships in 2018 and 2019 and achieving Level 35 by 2020. EricICX reached Level 38 using the hypertapping method.
In 2021, a new technique called “rolling” was introduced; inspired by arcade player Hector “Fly” Rodriguez. This development allowed players to manage pieces effectively at Level 29 even with the board stacked up to eight rows high. By August 2022, EricICX, using the rolling technique, reached Level 146.
BlueScuti’s achievement is even more impressive given setbacks he faced while playing, such as missing a guaranteed crash at Level 155 and persisting through to Level 157 with only a two-thirds chance of success. BlueScuti dedicated the win to his father, who had passed away just a week before.