13-year-old becomes first player to ever “beat” NES Tetris

Christopher Baggett
Blue Scuti breaks Tetris, effectively beating the game

NES Tetris player Blue Scuti has gotten the first-ever kill screen, effectively becoming the first person to beat the classic game.

Video games didn’t have endings once upon a time. They were designed to just go on forever, with players running the gauntlet of ghosts, barrels, or evil invaders until they ran out of quarters.

This has created something of a unique subset for gamers, as those seeking world records and personal bests had to find a way to identify what their run was seeking to accomplish.

One young Tetris player is making headlines now for breaking several NES Tetris records and managing to “beat” the game for the first time ever.

Blue Scuti “beats” NES Tetris by crashing the game

Willis Gibson, aka “Blue Scuti,” is only 13 years old, but he’s been playing Tetris professionally for some time now. He has a YouTube channel that consists of NES Tetris speed runs where he maxes out levels and crushes his own personal bests.

His latest video is genuinely gaming history, though. Blue Scuti actually “beats” NES Tetris by causing the game to crash under specific conditions.

Speaking with the Classic Tetris YouTube channel, Scuti explained he was motivated to take on this challenge after nearly beating another player’s world record.

“I got the world record the same day that Fractal started his game crash grind. In that world record, I was only about 18 lines off and I just thought if I’m that close, I might as well race him for it and try and beat him to the crash.”

What Scuti does, in essence, is force the game to reach a kill screen, which is something of an outdated idea today. Classic arcade games like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and more didn’t have endings you could reach and weren’t designed to be “finished.”

The kill screen occurs when the game goes for too long and runs out of memory, leading to the game crashing. These kill screens have become the de facto endpoints for many speed runs and high-score competitions, as seen in documentaries like The King of Kong.

For NES Tetris, that includes hitting a very specific set of conditions, including clearing a single line rather than multiple lines. You can see Blue Scuti deal with this in his video, as he gets the wrong line clear at one point, failing to crash the game’s memory and trigger the kill screen.

This doesn’t take away from the victory, though. So far as anyone can tell, this is the first time a Tetris kill screen has been seen, let alone documented, as having been performed by a human player. Previous attempts to break the game, such as Greg Cannon’s 2021 run, have made use of programs or even AI in order to assist with playing a “perfect” game.

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