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Video Game / Tetris: The Grand Master

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A screenshot wouldn't do the game speeds justice. Just look up videos for an idea of how intense it gets.
Ready, go!

Thought you were awesome at Tetris? Guess again.

Tetris: The Grand Master is a series of challenging Tetris games developed by Arika, intended for advanced players.

The TGM series falls into a lineage of previous Japanese Tetris arcade games, starting with Sega's original 1988 Japanese arcade version of the game. This lineage gives it characteristics like initial piece orientation, a delay for a piece to lock down when it hits the stack (allowing a bit of last-moment maneuvering) and even the piece color scheme is identical.

However, there are a few mechanics that alter the game dramatically. Leveling up, for instance, is no longer just done through clearing lines; instead, every piece you drop will raise the level counter by one, as well as clearing lines (one per line clear). However, level numbers also take on a different meaning: the game speeds up only at particular levels, rather than with every level. The level stops going up at level n+99, where n is a multiple of 100; at that point you must clear a line to level up. Like the Sega arcade game, where the speed went up then back down before going back up, the game gives the player a small respite by (briefly) slowing back down at level 200. All too briefly, in fact.

At level 500, the game's drop speed maxes out and pieces drop instantly in what is known as "20G"note  speed, forcing you to slide pieces along the stack (or ground) into place. And in newer games, some of the game's finer details are adjusted to make the game even harder. 20G went on to be featured in other, more mainstream Tetris games, such as Tetris DS, but most of those games had a mechanic known as "infinite rotation", so in practice, the drop was instant but the lock could be delayed indefinitely for each piece; this is not the case in TGM. In speed-ups after 20G, the time that the pieces take to lock decreases. The game ends at level 999.

Another major mechanic is the grade system. Instead of being ranked by score, you are given a grade, typically starting at 9 and going down to 1, followed by S1 through S9, followed by the titular Grand Master rank (or filler grades between S9 and GM, depending on the game). In the original TGM, Scoring Points will raise the grade, but newer installments use more complex mechanics to increment one's grade.

The series spans multiple games:

  • Tetris: The Grand Master (Arcade, 1998; aka TGM1) — The first game in the series. The easiest in the series (both to complete and to achieve Grand Master rank), though that isn't saying much. Was going to be ported to the PlayStation, but it was passed over for Blue Planet Software's The Next Tetris. It finally got an official home release in December 2022 when Hamster released the game for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 as a part of their Arcade Archives series.
  • Tetris: The Absolute - The Grand Master 2 (Arcade, 2000; aka TGM2) — An update to the original. Offers two modes: Normal (in which you play for points to level 300), and Master (which has a tougher grading system than TGM1 and continues increasing in difficulty after level 500).
    • Tetris: The Absolute - The Grand Master 2 PLUS (Arcade, 2000; aka TGM2+ or TAP) — An upgrade to TGM2 released two months later and given to arcade operators for free, that adds two new modes: TGM+ (in which garbage rises from the bottom at intervals), and the infamous T.A. Death mode (in which 20G kicks in as soon as the game starts. Here's the infamous video that introduced many Westerners to TGM.) TAP was going to be ported to the PlayStation 2, but legal issues with TAP's emulation in MAME lead to its cancellation. Fortunately, TAP did eventually see a home console release in July 2023 as part of the Arcade Archives collection.
  • Tetris: The Grand Master 3 - Terror-Instinct (Arcade, 2005; aka TGM3 or Ti) — Makes a few changes to the series' signature rotation system and also incorporates the Super Rotation System that's part of the guideline all officially licensed Tetris games have had to comply with starting with 2001's Tetris Worlds. Players can choose which rule set to use, referred to as "classic" and "world", respectively, and the tetrominoes even change color to indicate which set is in use, with classic rules using the traditional Sega/TGM colors, and world rules using the guideline-required colors. Revises the Master mode grade system and implements a "qualified grade" system that indicates your (roughly) average performance, similar to those of martial arts classes. T.A. Death has been replaced by Shirase mode, which has faster speeds and goes up to level 1,300 instead of 999. For those who aren't too bright at TGM, there's Easy mode, which has a slower speed curve and a special scoring system, as well as Sakura mode, which is based on the "target block"-clearing system from the licensed PlayStation 2 game Tetris with Cardcaptor Sakura: Eternal Heart that was also developed by Arika, itself a revisiting of the early Sega Tetris sequel Flash Point. This is also the game on which the infamous "Invisible Tetris" video was recorded.
  • Tetris: The Grand Master ACE (Xbox 360, 2005; aka TGMA or simply ACE) — The only console-specific release in the TGM series. Due to Executive Meddling by The Tetris Company, ACE's gameplay deviates strongly from other TGM games, mostly following the Tetris Company guidelines instead.
  • Tetris: The Grand Master 4 - The Masters of Round (Arcade, canceled; aka TGM4 or (T)MoR) — The latest game in the TGM series, originally due to come out in 2010. The new "easy" mode in this game is Konoha mode, a simplified "big" mode in which the goal is to completely clear the playfield of blocks as many times as possible. Its answer to TI's Shirase mode is Rounds, which goes up to at least level 2,500 and adds new gimmicks every several hundred levels. A location test was held in late 2009, but the game was apparently canceled in 2010 for unclear reasons. Until, somewhat out of nowhere, a new location test was held in the US in June 2015 and in Japan a month later, for what was being called The Grand Master 2015, which had the Konoha and Rounds modes available. Apparently there was disagreement regarding licensing, and Arika was actually considering releasing the new game without the Tetris name, though it would likely result in a lawsuit. As of December 2022, no news of an actual release of TGM4 has followed.

For many years the series was seen as a something of a unicorn among western audiences, as none of the games were officially released outside Japan, none of the arcade games had home ports (until 2022, at least) and even the one home game, TGM ACE was seen as not exactly a TGM game, mechanically.

This lead to bootleg clones that simulate the TGM series gameplay, including NullpoMino, a Java-based open-source clone with a wide variety of modes (not just TGM) and customization, as well as online multiplayer, and Texmaster, a more minimalist clone aimed simply at simulating TGM modes, which is possibly most noteworthy for inciting the anger of Arika (and allegedly getting the PS2 port of TGM2 cancelled).

The TGM series has an official Twitter account here, although it is primarily in Japanese. It also has an official social media hashtag, #tgm_series.

In 2019, Arika would return to Tetris games with Tetris 99, a Tetris game with a 99-player battle mode. Although it contains references to the TGM series, it is not connected to its predecessor.

Despite the franchise's dormancy, Arika vice president (and TGM mastermind) Ichiro Mihara revealed on November 1, 2021 that the company is planning to announce ports of the TGM games (although which ones were not specified). As of December 2022, the original TGM's port has been released on Nintendo Switch and PS4, followed a few months later by a port of TAP, and a potential fourth TGM game may be considered depending on the success of the ports.

The Tetris: The Grand Master series provides examples of:

  • Advancing Wall of Doom: TGM+ in TAP has a slowly-rising stack of garbage blocks rise from the bottom, as well as part of Ti's Shirase mode.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Perhaps part the appeal of TGM is that despite being infamous for things like 20G and invisible sections, it does a lot of things to prevent Fake Difficulty:
    • Lock delay (the delay between when a piece lands on something and when it locks into place) is present much like in Sega and Jaleco Tetris games; it's the reason 20G is playable at all.
    • The randomizer is tailored to keep the game fair:
      • The game keeps track of the last 4 pieces dealt, and will select new pieces until it comes across a piece not in the piece history or has already tried 4 times (or 6 in sequels). This prevents getting too many of the same piece in a row, an infamous possibility in earlier games with true randomized pieces.
      • Said history is initialized to SSSS (or SZSZ in sequels), so the first piece will never be an S or a Z, so you cannot get overhangs in your first few pieces.
    • In the first two TGM games, an I laying horizontally on a surface can only rotate if two cells under the third block from the left are empty, which can make scoring Tetrises at 20G difficult. TGM 3 allows the I to kick off the floor to rotate into a vertical position, but only once.
    • In TGM 1, if versus mode is enabled, there's no way to prevent a versus match from happening if another player joins in. From TGM 2 onwards, pressing your respective Start button during play prevents the other player from initiating a versus match, forcing them to play single-player instead.
    • In TGM 3, if you reach Level 500 in Master mode in more than 7 minutes, the game will end early. However, in a Promotional Exam, in which you need to meet or exceed a target grade to earn it as your qualified grade, the time limit is removed, letting you reach Level 500 and beyond at your own pace.
  • Anti-Rage Quitting: Aside from being an Arcade Game and thus inherently discouraging ragequitting by charging money for each play, Tetris: The Grand Master 3 - Terror-Instinct discourages ragequitting in two of its own ways if you're logged in with an account:
    • The game keeps track of your last seven games, and if the average of your best four games exceed your current "qualified grade", you'll be given a "Promotional Exam" in which you try to meet or exceed the target grade; doing so increases your qualified grade to the target grade, giving you a measure of how well you generally do and not just your best performance. In fact, reaching the qualified grade immediately below Grand Master is required to be able to achieve the GM grade.
    • If you're doing poorly compared to your qualified grade, the game will quietly hand out a "demotional exam" with the opposite mechanism: if you do not meet your qualified grade, it will decrease by one.
  • Arrange Mode:
    • TGM1 has a few activated with cheat codes. Note that using any of them disqualifies you from rankings:
      • Big Mode doubles the dimensions of the tetrominoes, making the playfield effectively 5 x 10 rather than the traditional 10 x 20.
      • 20G Mode begins the game at instant drop speed, rather than waiting until level 500 to reach it.
      • Rev Mode turns the playfield 180 degrees.
      • Mono Mode makes all the blocks grey.
    • TGM2, mainly Plus:
      • 20G and Big Mode return, again activated with cheat codes.
      • Normal mode is effectively an "easy" mode (Master is the de facto main mode). The game ends at level 300, you do not need to clear a line to advance past level 99 or 199 (but you still must clear a line to reach 300), you get a Free Fall item (drops all floating blocks) at level 100 and Del Even item (clears every even-numbered row, then drops the rest) at level 200, and performance is based on score (there is no grade mechanic).
      • TGM+ causes garbage rows to slowly rise from the bottom.
      • T.A. Death starts at 20G and increases in difficulty by way of reducing timings for various mechanics. Initially, no grade is given, but you obtain Master rank and continue the game if you reach level 500 within a certain time threshold, and Grand Master rank if you reach level 999.
    • TGM3:
      • Big Block Mode returns. This time you can only activate it if you don't log into your account.
      • Easy mode is a 200-level game where clearing lines sets off fireworks, the number of which serves as your score for this mode. Clearing lines in succession creates a lot of fireworks, so players are encouraged to do line clear combos. During the first 100 levels, the outline of the current piece appears on the stack as a Hint System. Upon reaching level 200, the player enters the credit roll during which gameplay continues at 20G speed and fireworks will continously go off, and one last batch of fireworks activates if the player makes it to the end.
      • Sakura is a recreation of the game mechanics from Tetris with Cardcaptor Sakura Eternal Heart (but without the copyrighted CCS elements), in which the player must clear lines containing gems to complete the stages.
      • Shirase is this game's version of T.A. Death, starting off at instant drop with ridiculously tight timings that get even stricter as the game progresses. The player must reach Level 500 within a specific period of time to keep playing, and fulfill a similar ask to keep playing past Level 1000, up to Level 1300. From Level 500 to 1000, garbage rows spring up from the bottom like in TGM2+'s TGM+ mode, and from Level 1000 to Level 1300, blocks take on a monochrome appearance looking like two square brackets ("[]"), a nod to the very original version of Tetris for the Elektronika-60.
  • Background Music Override: The Sakura mode music in TGM 3 overrides all other gameplay BGM, so someone could be in the 1200-1300 section of Shirase mode and be subject to cheerful, relaxing pop-like music because the other player started up a round of Sakura.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: In Ti, the message you get for going through a section fast enough reads "COOL!!" But go too slow and you get..."REGRET!!"?
  • Catchphrase: "Ready, go!", spoken by a distinct robotic voice at the start of each game.
  • Challenge Gamer: If you're playing this game, and are not one (nor were you introduced to it by a friend), you're probably playing the wrong Tetris.
  • Challenge Run: The game recognizes the infamous "form a '>' sign in the playing field" challenge and gives you a secret grade for doing so.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In TGM 1 and 2, the HUD text turns gold when you reach 20G speed. In TGM 3, the divider line in the level counter turns completely red.
  • Comeback Mechanic: An item in the VS rule of TGM 2 and 3 switches two players' playfields, which can transfer an inevitable loss from a player to the other instead.
  • Cosmetic Award:
    • Beginning in The Absolute, medals are given out for fulfilling certain conditions:
      • ST (Section Time): Coming close to or beating the current section time record.
      • SK (Skill): Making a large number of Tetrises.
      • AC (All Clear): Clearing all blocks from the playing field.
      • CO (Combo): Making combosnote .
      • RO (Rotation): Maintaining a large average number of rotations per piece. Not available in Terror-Instinct.
      • RE (Recovery): Having a large number of blocks on the playing field, and then clearing out most of those blocks. Not available in Terror-Instinct.
    • Terror-Instinct adds a "decoration" section for registered players, where medals are awarded after each game, or taken away if the player performed too poorly, as in, didn't even bother playing.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The game doesn't end at level 999. After clearing a line at level 998 to jump to level 999, the board clears and the game goes on for 60 more seconds at 20G speed. In TGM2+ and later games, if you reach the end fast enough and have a high enough grade, you then have to clear the Invisible Roll, in which pieces disappear on lock. You not only have to survive this credit roll, but also perform well in order to get the highest grades. Also, the individual sections of the credits (except for the "Produced by ARIKA" text at the end) are shuffled into a random order, preventing you from figuring out how far you are just by reading the credits.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!:
    • Trying to use TGM3's World Rule (based on the modern Tetris Guideline)—the rotation buttons are reversed.
    • TGM4 replaces the second counterclockwise rotation button with a special button that makes moving pieces sideways faster. Those who use both CCW buttons may get thrown off by this feature.
    • The Arcade Archives release of TAP runs at 60 FPS. This is significant because the original arcade version ran at ~62 FPS, which will screw with the timing for anyone who's played on the original hardware. Word of God stated that they considered adding an arcade-perfect mode, but decided to stick with 60 FPS for consistency and to level the playing field.
  • Difficulty by Acceleration: TGM does this in a manner different from most other Tetris games. Your level increases just from dropping pieces and clearing lines, instead of having to clear a set number of lines. To offset this, the game doesn't increase drop speed at every level, only at set thresholds, and in fact there's two points in most games where the drop speed temporarily decreases. Then the game takes this trope to its logical conclusion: Piece speeds will eventually reach the point where pieces drop instantly upon spawning; this would go on to appear in a few "guideline" Tetris games. Subsequent games in the TGM series further make things even faster by hastening several aspects of the game, such as the time before a piece locks down and how fast the line clear animation plays.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Firm drop/sonic drop, which drops the current piece to bottom immediately like the hard drop in SRS-based Guideline games, but doesn't lock the piece down. Newer players think it's pointless, but once you get the hang of it, it makes overhangs much less of a time-waster.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect:
    • Due to a glitch in combo bonus calculation, TAP awards consecutive triple clears far better than consecutive Tetrises. This was corrected in the sequel.
    • In TGM3 Master, play too fast in one section for a COOL and you'll have to play almost just as fast for the next section's COOL, which means you can get screwed out of the invisible roll for having a strong early game only to choke later on.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: In TGM3, getting a COOL!! will cause you to skip 100 levels of speed when you go to the next section. So if you get a COOL!! for the level 0-99 section, for instance, level 100 will play as if you're playing at level 200.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first game does not have any form of instant drop, uses your on-screen score as a basis for your grade, and only allows changing VS mode availability in an operator menu.
  • Easier Than Easy: TGM4's Konoha mode was going to be this; all pieces are doubled in size and the S and Z blocks never appear.
  • Endless Game: Averted. Unlike most traditional Tetris games, the TGM series does not have an endless mode of any sort, with the sole exception of versus mode in the original game.
  • Fake Difficulty: Averted for the most part, as the games go out of their way to challenge the player without resorting to clunky mechanics or deliberately trolling the player, but the game has some with regards to the I-piece. In games prior to TGM 3, I-pieces are very difficult to manipulate at 20G speeds. A horizontally-oriented I can only rotate if there are two empty cells under the third block from the left. This means if an I is horizontally oriented and on a completely flat surface and you try to get it into a one-cell-wide shaft on the leftmost or rightmost column, it can't rotate. TGM 3 corrects this with "floor kicks"—the I can "kick off" the floor to rotate into a vertical position once.
  • Fireworks of Victory: Celebratory fireworks are launched upon completing the credit run, and then another if you successfully pass the promotional exam and gain the coveted grandmaster rank.
  • Fission Mailed: In TGM3, after a promotional exam, what happens depends on how much you beat the grade by. If you are well above it, it just says you passed. if it's somewhat close, it shows a spinning pass/fail roulette, and stops on pass. If you barely passed, it will stop on fail, but then a gold block drops down to smash it and change it to pass. If you barely failed it stops on fail for real. If you didn't even get close, it just says fail immediately. Since GM is the highest possible grade, it always stops on fail for that one, and then changes it to pass if you passed.
  • Gaiden Game: TGM ACE.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • TGM3 has four frames of input lagnote . In a game where less than five frames can make the difference between superplay and disaster, this can be enough to break a run if you don't take it into account.
    • The 2015 test version of TGM4's C button, intended as a Lag Cancel button, was also accidentally implemented as a clockwise rotation button.
    • The Arcade Archives release of the first game had a nasty tendancy to freeze up in the middle of the game, requiring a restart. This did get fixed in a patch, however.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • TGM 1 explicitly indicates the amount of points needed to go up a grade...but at S9, the required points is simply displayed as "??????". As it turns out, not only is there a score threshold (126,000 points), but there are also "checkpoints" throughout the game that check your current grade and time, and you have to complete the game in 13 minutes and 30 seconds or less; failing any of these checkpoints' quotas means you won't get the GM rank. None of this is hinted at in-game.
    • The exact workings of subsequent games' grade systems are even more obfuscated. TGM 2 and TGM 2+ don't show your progress towards the next grade (your score is shown, but your score has nothing to do with your grade), and TGM 3 only shows your grade at the very end.
  • Harder Than Hard: TAP's T.A. Death, Ti's Shirase, ACE's Another and Another 2, and TGM4's Rounds.
  • Hidden Mechanic: If the player starts to make a formation of blocks such that the holes form a ">" (greater-than sign), and completes at least the first horizontal half of the formation, they will be awarded a "Secret Grade" upon ending the game. Much like the regular grade system of the first two games, Secret Grades go from S1 up to S9 followed by GM depending on how much of the pattern was completed, with the Secret Grade of GM awarded if the player completes the formation. In Tetris The Grand Master 3: Terrror-Instinct, if the player manages to do this in Shirase mode (a mode where blocks drop instantly and have exceptionally strict timings), the S1-S9 grades will be replaced with m1-m9 grades.
  • Hint System: When playing the first 100 levels of TGM 3's Easy mode, the game shows an outline suggesting where the player can place the current piece nicely in most cases.
  • Interface Screw
    • In Master mode in TAP and Ti, when you reach the credits roll, the pieces will turn invisible five seconds after locking, or immediately after locking if you performed well enough.
    • In Ti's Shirase mode, at level 1,001, the blocks you get for the rest of the game will have a black-and-white (or black-and-green in World Rule) "[ ]" pattern, as a Shout-Out to the original Tetris (which uses "[ ]" to represent blocks).
    • TGM4's Rounds mode had a haze that covers the bottom part of the screen, though its screwiness extends beyond this: any lines made in the haze will not clear until you complete the current section.
    • In the normal Master mode, you're given a ghost piece to guide where pieces will lock in the first 99 levels. It's inexplicably taken away starting at level 100, which can throw off players who look at it for too long. It's especially jarring when the speed resets and you suddenly have to play at low speed without this guidance. This becomes a non-issue in later sections when pieces fall so fast that the ghost doesn't help at all, but in the meantime, expect many misplaces for the next 50 levels or so.
    • TGM1's Upside-Down mode. There are GM-class players who can't even reach level 200 with it.
    • In TGM3 Master mode, if you are doing bad compared to your qualified rank, the game will quietly hand out a "demotional exam", in which you must meet or exceed your qualified rank or it will be decreased by one level; this is indicated by the playfield, pieces and all, occasionally shaking as you play.
    • The Versus modes in each game, as well as Item mode in TAP, has several items that cause this, ranging from making the blocks' brightness cycle in a pattern (Color Block) to turning all blocks completely invisible for several seconds (Dark Block).
  • Kyu and Dan Ranks: The 9-to-1-then-S1-to-S9 grade system is very similar to these.
  • Lag Cancel: The 2015 test of TGM4's C button removed the delay for fast horizontal movement and turned sonic drop into a standard hard drop when held down. Unfortunately, it was also a clockwise rotation button.
  • Lighter and Softer: TGM4 was developed with a theme of "kindness" and incorporated pretty flowery graphics to that end. See for yourself. Big step down from Terror-Instinct to this, isn't it?)
  • Loads and Loads of Rules: The series' signature Grade Recognition System rules are deceptively complex for a game that's about putting tetrominos into a well to make solid lines. While they basically boil down to "play quickly and make a lot of Tetrises", the exact workings are far more complex than just "more lines means more points". And don't expect any sort of in-game explanation on how these mechanics work. Game-specific details:
    • In the first game, the grade system isn't too bad, as it's based on points...that is, until you get to grade S9. To achieve the final grade, Grand Master, simply earning points isn't enough (the game's "Next Grade" display will show the next threshold at "?????? points"), you also have to meet time-and-grade thresholds at three particular checkpoints during the game. Failure to meet these checkpoints and you're locked out of GM grade.
    • The second game, Tetris: The Absolute - The Grand Master 2 and its Updated Re-release Tetris: The Absolute - The Grand Master 2 PLUS is significantly more complex with how grades work. First of all, your on-screen score doesn't reflect your grade anymore. Then, its version of GRS is influenced by several factors: Clearing multiple lines at once and making consecutive line clears, and the hidden points that contribute to your next grade slowly decrease if you don't make new line clears. And then to get the GM rank, you have to make a certain number of Tetrises in each section, complete each 100-level section within a target time, and for the second half of the game, the target time is no longer fixed but instead based on your previous sections' times. If you meet those requirements, then in the Mini-Game Credits that follow, your pieces turn invisible when they lock down and you have to survive for one minute (akin to a True Final Boss), or else you only get an M grade instead of GM.
    • The third game, Tetris: The Grand Master 3 - Terror-Instinct, stacks two more sub-systems on top of that. The version of GRS is carried over to this game, and implements a new system wherein if you complete a 100-level sectionnote  fast enough, you will get a "COOL!!" bonus that raises your grade by one...but every time you get a COOL!!, the next section's requirements for one will be based on your time for the section you just cleared, so you can lose COOL!!s because you keep going faster and faster. You can't dawdle in 100-level sections either, otherwise you will get a "REGRET!!" and lose one grade. And on top of that, if you make it to level 999, the credits mini-game comes back, and the lines you clear in this section contribute towards your final grade; normally each piece will vanish 5 seconds after being placed, but meet certain conditions and they will immediately turn invisible, and you will earn substantially more points towards your grades. If you master all of that, you will only get a Master M grade and not the coveted GM grade. To get that, you have to get a "Promotional Exam" for a "Qualified" MM rank, which itself requires you to (to oversimplify) maintain an average MM grade over the course of a seven-run period, then take the exam, which is randomly given out and does not give you the option to opt out and get an MM grade there, then play well enough to be issued the exam for a GM grade.
  • Musical Spoiler: If the music cuts out towards the end of a section, the next section is going to have significant changes from the current section.
  • Nintendo Hard: On top of the difficult learning curve, getting GM in any of the games (other than TGM1) is a feat that takes many months, if not years, to attain. As of this update, there are maybe about 100 or so players with a GM rank in TAP Master (a mere three of which come from outside of Japan), and only sixteen Ti GMs.note  That said, the series is actually some of the fairest games in the Tetris franchise.
  • Non-Indicative Difficulty: Level ~300 to 500 in TGM1 and TAP is regarded as the trickiest part of Master mode; since it's partway between minimally-low gravity and 20G, it can be tricky to tell what moves are possible and what moves are not.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Certain modes have what is known as a torikan, which terminates your game if you hit a specific level too slowly. TAP's T.A. Death and Ti's Master have one at level 500, and Ti's Shirase has two—one at level 500, and one at level 1,000. Word of God claimed that level 1,300 (the highest level reached so far) was also a torikan, but leaked data proved that there's nothing past level 1,300.
  • Press Start to Game Over: In most games, a casual player might last about 3-4 minutes before topping out, albeit playing extremely slowly by the game's standards. But in Ti, players who don't know what "Shirase" entails might pick it wondering what the mode is, promptly crap their pants over the ridiculous lock speeds, and get a Game Over in about ten seconds. At least in TAP, "T.A. Death", to the Japanese non-reader's eye, sounds like a mode that newbies should stay away from.
  • Production Throwback: TGM3's Sakura mode serves this to Tetris with Cardcaptor Sakura Eternal Heart.
  • Public Medium Ignorance: Trying to explain the difference between this and other versions of Tetris to other people, particularly those who haven't seen the infamous "Japan Tetris Finals" or "Invisible Tetris" videos, in which case they'll probably flip out and declare the series as some sort of evil freaky Japanese thing. Pick your poison.
  • Rank Inflation: In TGM3, the developers decided to go above and beyond the existing ranks up to S9, inserting 14 new grades: the ranks m1 to m9, and then Master, MasterK, MasterV, MasterO, MasterM, before getting to Grand Master.
  • Recurring Riff: Several tracks throughout the series reference "Hardening Drops", the level 0-499 BGM from the original TGM, including the Master 0-499 and 500-699 tracks from TGM 2, as well as BGM 1 and BGM 3 from TGM 3. In essence, "Hardening Drops" is to TGM as "Korobeiniki" is to the Tetris franchise as a whole. "Hardening Drops" is heavily based on "2009 sy loop" a sample from X Static Goldmine. This very same sample is also used for "Resolution", Chun-Li's theme in Street Fighter Alpha 3.
  • Retraux: The final 300 levels of Shirase mode (out of 1300) change the block designs to monochrome (in Classic Rule) or green (in World Rule) blocks made of opening and closing square brackets ("[]"), a tribute to the original Electronika-60 Tetris.
  • Rocket-Tag Gameplay: TGM ACE's Versus mode ends in victory for whoever scores 20 lines first. To put it in perspective, that's only five Tetrises.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: The game shoots fireworks at the end of most modes when they end without your losing, but not all endings are victories. If you imagine the fireworks as representing clapping, failing the torikans or missing out on GM qualification conditions may get you this.
  • Scoring Points: Used for TGM1's grades, becomes a mere number in TGM2 outside of Normal mode, and is barely even shown in TGM3. However, screenshots of TGM4 show that it would have had an actual use again in one of the modes.
  • Serial Escalation: The games strive to push the limits of speed.
  • Serious Business: Surgeon General's Warning - Watching videos of people playing TGM may cause harm to your perception of Tetris as a mere casual game.
  • Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: Each piece has its own unique sound that plays whenever the piece associated with it is next.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In TGM3, if one player is playing Sakura mode, and the other player is playing any other mode, the Sakura music will override the non-Sakura player's music. This can lead to some interesting situations for Sakura's cheerful music, such as hearing it while in the last 300 levels of Shirase mode.
  • Stalked by the Bell:
    • If the game goes on for more than 15 minutes (which is unlikely in TAP and Ti, in which games usually last no more than 11 minutes), the game speed will suddenly kick into Shirase-level speeds.
    • In TGM2+'s Doubles mode, if one player completes Level 300 before the other, they keep playing, but they will be locked into 20G fall speed until the other player finishes.
  • This Is a Drill: TGM2 and TAP's level 800-899 background.
  • Time Keeps On Ticking: All line clears take the same amount of time to resolve, and the timer counts up while you wait. This is true of all Tetris games, but in a game where time is a critical part of your ranking, this means that high line clears must be made as frequently as possible and not just for points. Long strings of single clears, especially at low levels, can be toxic to your grade. The pressure of the torikans ensure that you prioritize speed over all else.
  • Timed Mission:
    • In TAP's T.A. Death mode, if you take more than 3 minutes and 25 seconds to reach level 500, the game will end at level 500 with no grade given.
    • In Eternal Heart, Story Mode has a 20 minute time limit throughout the entire game that canít be increased.
    • In TGM3:
      • In Master mode, the game also ends early if you reach level 500 and take more than 7 minutes to do so, unless you're in a Promotional Exam, in which case the game will allow you to play all the way to level 999 regardless of speed.
        let's go better next time
      • Shirase has two timed checkpoints: one at level 500 and another at level 1000 (the game has a total of 1300 levels). The checkpoints in Classic Rule require shorter times than the corresponding World Rule checkpoints.
      • Sakura mode has both a stage timer and a game timer, both of which tick concurrently. Running out of level time will advance you to the next stage, but will reduce your "stages cleared" percentage, while running the game timer out results in a Game Over. You can skip a stage, but it will take 30 seconds off the game timer. The stage timer and stage skipping are disabled during EX stages.
  • True Final Boss: The invisible credit rolls of TGM2 and TGM3.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable:
    • TGM1's Big Mode comes close. Blocks are double-sized, but piece movement isn't scaled up to accomodate the increased block size—that is, while all blocks are two cells wide, you still move pieces one cell at a time. Land a piece in an odd-numbered row? You've just made the game go from Nintendo Hard to pretty much impossible.
    • Pieces spawn in a half-column. Although this means you must always move a piece horizontally at least once, it also means that it will always land on the higher of at least two "regular" columns which can be a lifesaver at 20G. It's still really hard though.
    • While TGM2's and TGM3's Big Block Modes correct this (movement is now 2 cells at a time), this isn't the case for Stage EX3 of TGM3's Sakura Mode, which goes back to TGM1's Big Mode behavior.
  • Violation of Common Sense: The best way to score in TGM3's Easy mode is not to make Tetrises. Instead, you earn more "Hanabi" points by dropping consecutive pieces that clear lines.
  • A Winner Is You: "YOU ARE GRAND MASTER!"
  • Womb Level: A number of TGM1's backgrounds are biology-themed:
    • Level 0-99: Blood cells (except tinted blue).
    • Level 100-199: Sperm.
    • Level 200-299: Vine-like things.
    • Level 500-599: Neurons.
    • Level 800-899: A human brain.
    • Level 900-999: A human fetus.
  • Word Salad Title: Tetris: The Absolute - The Grand Master 2 (PLUS), Tetris: The Grand Master 3 - Terror-Instinct and Tetris: The Grand Master 4 - The Masters of Round. Whew, that's a mouthful.

Alternative Title(s): Tetris TGM