After years in his little brother's shadow, a young Tetris pro has emerged to obliterate the game's world record score

(Image credit: PixelAndy)

Update, February 21: A few details have been corrected based on a message from a member of the classic Tetris community. Notably, the community does not refer to the game-ending crash as a "killscreen" - that's what they call level 29 - and PixelAndy's record run did not reach deep enough into the game to run a risk of triggering those crashes. The passages in question have been corrected in the story below.

Now that pro players are finally starting to beat NES Tetris, the scene around the game is starting to absolutely explode - and now, another teenage prodigy has managed to absolutely obliterate the game's score record.

You probably heard about how a 13-year-old finished the 34-year quest to beat Tetris back in December, and that accomplishment has been just as monumental within the scene as all the mainstream news coverage would suggest. The 'ending' - a game crash that effectively ends the NES game - triggers only in the glitched-out later stages, and has a chance to occur when you make certain numbers of line clears at particular levels. A total of three players have managed to reach the fabled crash, and now the race is on to find new frontiers of competition.

There are dozens - if not hundreds - of different versions of Tetris out there, all of which have their own quirks in terms of difficulty and subtle changes in terms of controls and rules. The NES version of Tetris, developed by Nintendo itself, has become the go-to edition of the puzzle game for much of the competitive scene. It's the version that the Classic Tetris World Championship uses, and some of the most notable Tetris players out there practice primarily on this version.

One of those players goes by the name PixelAndy. He's now one of the handful who has now beaten NES Tetris, but for years it was actually his younger brother, who goes by dogplayingtetris, that seemed like the true Tetris prodigy. The two regularly met in Tetris tournaments, with dogplayingtetris always ending up with the win - until 2023, when PixelAndy finally beat his little brother and started setting some impressive records of his own.

If you want a full breakdown of PixelAndy's story, the video above from aGameScout is essential viewing - but you've already seen the headline, so you know where this is going. The key quirk of NES Tetris is that it was designed to be impossible after level 29, when the game reaches its maximum speed. From then on, holding a direction on the D-pad won't move a piece fast enough for it to reach the edge of the board. It's only in recent years, after pros came up with a technique that let them rapidly push in a direction by rolling their fingers across the back of the controller, that playing through further levels became possible.

For context, the in-game scoreboard doesn't even go to one million points, and up until 2022, nobody had ever managed more than 2.4 million. Until, suddenly, a player named EricICX managed it with 3.7 million. Then 6.5 million. That latter record stood from August 2022 through December 2023, when the players who reached the crash managed to add a few hundred thousand to the final score. Each of these players managed to set their scores by playing through over 100 levels that would've been deemed literally impossible by the game's original developers.

So what makes PixelAndy's new record so impressive? Well, he didn't just break the old record - he obliterated it. Remember, the world record scores had been in the 6 million range for years. Then, suddenly, PixelAndy broke it not just by surviving and clearing lines in the game's most difficult stages, but by actually managing to set up and complete Tetrises - four-line clears - at a speed where most of us would barely even be able to see what's happening.

Over the course of the run, PixelAndy became the first player to reach 7 million points. Then the first player to reach 8 million points. After finally making a few unrecoverable mistakes, the score now stands at 8,952,432, a record that would've seemed utterly unfathomable just a few years ago.

But now the Tetris community is already reaching for further horizons. The Classic Tetris World Championship YouTube channel is now hosting weekly 'Race to 10 million' streams, where top players - including PixelAndy and dogplayingtetris - try to be the first to break the 10 million point barrier. NES Tetris will turn 35 this year, but the scene around the game has never been hotter. 

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Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.