Games of the Year 2019: The worst online service gave us one of the year's best online games
Over the festive break we'll be running through our top 20 picks of the year's best games, leading up to the reveal of Eurogamer's game of the year on New Year's Eve. You can find all the pieces published to date here - and thanks for joining us throughout the year!
Over a year after its belated release, there's no denying one incontrovertible truth. Nintendo still can't do online gaming, and Nintendo Switch Online - well, to put it simply, it kind of sucks. For a service that remains so severely limited, I'd almost be appalled at the gall of charging £17.99 for something that lacks so much basic functionality. But - and here's the kick - the worst online gaming service is where you'll find one of the best online games of the year.
It helps, of course, that that particular game is built around Tetris - and if there's one other incontrovertible truth around these parts it's that Tetris, across its many variations, remains the ultimate game. Tetris 99 might be one of the most fascinating variations since... Well, since last year's Tetris Effect. Tetris 99 works as a beautiful counterpoint to that blissed out meditation, though, and whereas Tetris Effect didn't offer straight-up multiplayer, Tetris 99 offers almost nothing but.
The premise reads like some throwaway joke you might have half-heartedly given a like to on Twitter before forgetting about it completely; it is Tetris does Battle Royale, with 99 players fighting it out to the bitter end. It might well have remained a joke, if it wasn't the for the expertise and execution of Arika, developers of the superlative Tetris: The Grand Master series that still finds use in competitive play to this day.
You know Tetris, sure, and Tetris 99 rolls out a familiar take on the classic. But it's also full of secrets - there's so much depth hidden away if you want to find it - and it's emboldened by the constant thrill of competitive play. I'd say there's enough there, in that main mode and the pull of achieving top spot and Tetris Maximus, to keep you going for an age, but since launch a handful of additions that have been made to make it ludicrously compelling.
There's the old faithful Marathon mode, Team Battles that further ape the Battle Royale genre, CPU fights against 98 AI or just straight-up versus mode. There are fresh skins to unlock (although trust me - grind out 15 tickets and invest in the Donkey Kong one. It's all you'll ever need), daily challenges that gently inform the way people play (get stuck in when one of the challenges requires acquiring a certain number of KOs in a single match and you'll notice that everyone plays that bit more aggressively) and special timed events where you can get new themed wallpapers (and you're finally able to unlock those you might have missed thanks to the most recent update).
And beyond all that there's faithful old Tetris, as satisfying and exhilarating now as it was in its late 80s heyday. There have been countless retellings and remixes over the years, pushing and pulling Alexey Pajitnov's formula in new and surprising ways. Tetris 99 stands alongside last year's Tetris Effect as one of the very best yet.