Skip to content

The classic game: Threes!

Perfect match: this personality-packed sliding puzzler was the best of its type on iPhone

The latest entry in our classic iPhone games series digs into a pitch-perfect puzzler that we reckon was – is – the iPhone’s Tetris. And it’s hard to think of a higher commendation.

Threes! in 2014

Threes! in 2014

What was Threes!?

A single-screen sliding-tile match puzzler. But a rare example that did something new rather than riffing on what went before. You manipulated tiles in a fixed four-by-four grid, strategically using its boundaries to merge and level up tiles. The ultimate goal: to combine two 6144 tiles and complete the game.

Why was it a classic?

Everything about Threes! felt polished to perfection. The basic mechanics were relatively simple to grasp but mastering the game was far from easy. It rewarded repeat play. Over time, you’d figure out tiny details in how everything worked to further your score. Beyond that, the game recognized that players might want to skip past the laborious early part of games – and allowed them to do so. And the game was also packed full of character, with each card having its own personality, occasionally babbling away in the background.

Where is it now?

Alas, Threes! was almost immediately ripped off by a host of clones, all of which lacked its nuance and character. Some argued the game was somehow ‘obvious’ and so such copies were fair game. (Natch, we disagree with that take.) The story of creating a truly original puzzler was then outlined in painstaking detail by its co-creator – and is well worth reading.

Fortunately, Threes! did well enough to survive, and still receives updates. And like the best and most timeless of video games throughout the ages, it feels as fresh now as it did on the day it was released.

Threes! today

Threes! today

Visit the Threes! website (which has an online demo of the game) or get Threes! ($5.99/£5.99) or Threes! Freeplay (free) from the App Store. The game is also part of Apple Arcade as Threes!+