Hatris: Like Tetris… But With Hats (not a word of a lie)

Hatris the Tetris like 1990 game

You all know about puzzle game Tetris, it’s one of the most famous video games ever. In modern times, there have been astonishing takes on the formula (see Tetris Effect).

But then, back n 1990, the game’s creator Alexey Pajitnov tried a bizarre hat-based modification that seems to have fallen into obscurity. Well, not anymore!

Hatris Meets Tetris in Hat-Based Puzzle Romp

Pajitnov developed Hatris with Vladmir Pokhilko (1954-1998), an academic and Soviet-Russian entrepreneur.

Pokhilko was friends with Pajitnov and actually carried out psychological experiments with Tetris through human-computer interaction (HCI). He was the first clinical psychologist to carry out tests with the game.

Tetris is now used in various fields, including the theory of computation, the algorithmics theory of games, and cognitive psychology.

Unfortunately, Pokhilko seems to have been quite mentally unstable and he and his family met a grisly end in September 1998. But we won’t comment further there (Google it if you’re interested).

Away with that! We’re here for jolly things.

In Japan, Hatris launched as Hattorisu (ハットリス) in 1990 on the NES, Game Boy, TurboGrafx-16, and in the arcades. ParaGraph Intl. was the developer, with Tetris publisher Bullet-Proof Software publishing the thing.

It must have done okay, as the game then got a US launch in 1992.

Hatris plays in similar fashion to Tetris. Have a gander at the Game Boy version here, complete with pixel art interpretation of Pajitnov on the title screen (note the excellent beard).

In Hatris, the idea is to manipulate falling hats into neat piles at the bottom of the screen. The more you do that, the more hats get removed from the stack.

Create a stack of five hats and it’ll disappear. The aim isn’t to get a high score, though, it’s to get as many sets of five as possible.

The trick is to finding out how each hat stacks differently so you can get a high score. Hatris features six different types of hats, including the classic bowler, baseball cap, and a top-hat.

And there’s very little else information wise available about this thing online. And we had a bloody good look around. On Retro Gamer’s Hatris section, uploaded in 2010, it states:

“I must confess that I originally bought this game from a bargain bucket in Tokyo for no reason other than curiosity – to see if it actually was a Tetris clone based around hats. However, after giving it 10 minutes of my time, the game has stolen many hours of my life.

In truth, the game’s similarity with its forbearer ends at the point of it being a vertical, item-dropping puzzle game with amazingly addictive background music. The aim of Hatris is to stack each type of hat into columns of 5, the hats dropping in adjacent couples. Sounds simple, but the hats are never paired together as the player wishes. Hence the hours of frustration.”

The reviewer hails the gameplay as genuinely addictive, which we found also to be somewhat the case. It’s available to play online on various emulators.

We’re not expecting a HD remake of the title any time soon.

Yet it’s now an intriguing curiosity we dug up, as we’d never heard of it before. Some 1,046 games launched on the Game Boy and Hatris disappeared into obscurity. Like a hat being blown off one’s noggin in a storm.


  1. It’s interesting how one Soviet-era puzzle game can become so famous and the other so forgotten. At least I had never heard of Hatris before reading about it here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed! Hatris is pretty good fun. Maybe it lost out because it didn’t have the same catchy music. Frankly, I’d never heard of the game before until I searched for “weird NES games” last week.

      Liked by 1 person

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