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Elite Tetris player takes the NES version where no one has gone before

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‘Level 1E’ is actually Level 33

Forgive us, we missed this when it happened two months ago. But given this is a world record that concerns a game celebrating its 30th anniversary, it still seems timely to me. Not only was a new level reached in Tetris for the NES back on Feb. 15, the Tetris savant who accomplished it made it past what is considered the game’s kill screen.

For the record, that’s Joseph Saelee (via Reddit’s r/videos), also the record holder for fastest to 300,000 points, and co-record holder for fastest time to reach 100 lines. He’s playing on Level 18 difficulty, which means he starts the game at that speed but must still clear 130 lines before advancing to Level 19, and so forth.

After Level 29 (240 lines cleared) the game begins glitching — the level counter shows him at “Level 00,” then “Level 0A,” then Level 14, and finally “Level 1E” with 270 lines cleared. That is effectively Level 33, upland territory where no one has gone before.

Technically, Level 29 is not a kill screen because the game is still playable past that point. But the game has run out of levels to count, and it also cannot speed up the tetrominoes any more. Elite Tetris players, for whatever reason, have not gone past Level 30 before, much less reached Level 33. Who knows how far Saelee could go. As he points out, players are entirely at the mercy of the random number generator, and some very fortunate drops at the end of Level 27 almost zeroed out his whole board.

Also, watch Saelee’s hands. He’s multitasking with his right, rotating the tetrominoes with his ring and pinky finger while also moving the piece with his right thumb, in concert with his left. That kind of hyper-tapping is essential to these deep, elite Tetris runs, but even it has its limitations.