Columns (video game)

Last updated
Cover art
Developer(s) Sega
Publisher(s) Sega
Designer(s) Jay Geertsen
Composer(s) Tokuhiko Uwabo (console versions)
Platform(s) Arcade, Atari ST, Sega Master System, Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD, Sega Game Gear, PC Engine, FM Towns, NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-9801, Sharp X68000, MSX2, Super Famicom, Game Boy Color, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Virtual Console, iOS, Palm OS, ZX Spectrum
Mega Drive/Genesis
  • NA: June 29, 1990
  • JP: June 30, 1990
  • EU: July 9, 1990
Game Gear
  • JP: October 6, 1990
  • EU: April 26, 1991
  • NA: April 26, 1991
  • JP: December 25, 1990
PC Engine
  • JP: March 29, 1991
Sharp X68000
  • JP: October 16, 1991
Palm OS
Genre(s) Puzzle
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Cabinet Upright
Display Raster, standard resolution (320X224) 32 Colors

Columns (Japanese: コラムス, Hepburn: Koramusu) is a match-three puzzle video game created by Jay Geertsen in 1989. Early versions of the game were ported across early computer platforms and Atari ST. In 1990, Jay Geertsen sold the rights to Sega, who ported the game to several Sega consoles.



Columns was one of the many SameGame/Tetris -like tile-matching puzzle games to appear after its great success in the late 1980s. [2] The area of play is enclosed within a tall, rectangular playing area. Columns of three different symbols (such as differently-colored jewels) appear, one at a time, at the top of the well and fall to the bottom, landing either on the floor or on top of previously-fallen "columns". While a column is falling, the player can move it left and right, and can also cycle the positions of the symbols within it. After a column lands, if three or more of the same symbols are connected in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line, those symbols disappear. The pile of columns then settles under gravity. If this resettlement causes three or more other symbols to align, they too disappear and the cycle repeats. Occasionally, a special column with a multicolor Magic Jewel appears. It destroys all the jewels with the same color as the one underneath it. The columns fall at a faster rate as the player progresses. The goal of the game is to play for as long as possible before the well fills up with jewels, which ends the game. Players can score up to 99,999,999 points. [3]

Some ports of the game offer alternate game modes as well. "Flash columns" involves mining their way through a set number of lines to get to a flashing jewel at the bottom. "Doubles" allows two players work together in the same well. "Time trial" involves racking up as many points as possible within the time limit.[ citation needed ]

Ports, sequels, and clones

Columns was the first pack-in game for the Sega Game Gear. This version was slightly different from the Sega Genesis version and its soundtrack was transposed and rearranged due to the limitations of the handheld's sound chip. While the columns themselves were updated for the Genesis version, the overall decoration was less like a cartoon in the Game Gear version and instead more artistically designed. Lastly, the Game Gear version had a feature that let the player change the jewels to fruit, squares, dice, or card shapes (clubs, diamonds, spades).

Many sequels and spin-offs were produced: Columns II: The Voyage Through Time , Columns III: Revenge of Columns , Columns '97 , Sakura Taisen: Hanagumi Taisen Columns 1 & 2, and many compilations and re-releases (Columns Arcade Collection, Sega Ages Vol. 07: Columns ) as well. Because Columns was made by Sega, versions were made available on the Master System, Genesis, Sega CD, Game Gear, Saturn, and Dreamcast. Additional versions of the game have also been made available on PC Engine, Game Boy Advance, and PlayStation 2. A Super Famicom version was released in Japan via the Nintendo Power service. [4] The Game Boy Color version was specifically called Columns GB: Osamu Tezuka Characters, where it featured many of his characters such as Kimba and Astroboy, but also featured slightly less known characters such as Unico.[ citation needed ]

On November 7, 2006, Columns was released as part of the game Sega Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 2, and later on another release of the above compilation for PlayStation Portable. On December 4, 2006 the title was released on Nintendo's Virtual Console for 800 Wii Points. It is also included on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. [5] It was included as one of the games in Sega Genesis Mini. Most recently the game was ported to iOS by Sega.[ citation needed ]

Columns has also been cloned many times across different platforms:

TitlePlatformRelease dateDeveloperPublisherNotes
Coloris Amiga 1990Signum VictoriaeAvesoft
Magic Jewelry NES Hwang Shinwei RCM GroupThe title is the best known of all its clones, and was released on unlicensed Famicom multicarts.
Columns ZX Spectrum 1991Piter Ltd.Piter Ltd.
Magic Jewelry II NES Hwang Shinwei RCM GroupWith the addition of new features, it is the sequel to Magic Jewelry.
Jewelbox Macintosh 1992Rodney and Brenda JacksVarcon Systems
Yahoo! Towers Java 1999/2000 Yahoo! Games Yahoo! GamesThis clone allows up to eight players to compete against each other.
BREF Columns IOS, Android 2013MumblecoreMumblecore
Magic Jewelry 32015Guolin OuGuolin OuA magic column appears when a level is cleared, with which a player can clear all the jewels in same color.
Molums2018Antonelli FranciscoWisefox


Tokuhiko Uwabo composed the music for Columns. The song "Clotho" is named after the Greek Moira of the same name, related to the Greek flavor of some of the game's art. The other main songs are titled "Atropos" [6] and "Lathesis" (sic [7] ), other "Moirai".

Reception and legacy

Review scores
GamePro SMS: 18/25 [8]
MegaTech 88% [9]

In Japan, Game Machine listed Columns on their April 15, 1990 issue as being the eighth most-successful table arcade unit of the year. [10]

Reviewing the game's appearance in Sega Arcade Classics for the Sega CD, Glenn Rubenstein gave it a B+, describing it as "like Tetris but a bit better." [11] Mega placed the game at number 34 in their "Top Mega Drive Games of All Time". [12]

Related Research Articles

<i>Ghouls n Ghosts</i> video game

Ghouls 'n Ghosts is a side-scrolling platform game developed by Capcom and released as an arcade game in 1988, and subsequently ported to a number of other platforms. It is the sequel to Ghosts 'n Goblins and the second game in the Ghosts 'n Goblins series.

<i>Puyo Puyo</i> (video game) 1991 video game

Puyo Puyo (ぷよぷよ) is a puzzle video game released in 1991 by Compile for the MSX2. Since its creation, it uses characters from Madou Monogatari. It was created by Masamitsu "Moo" Niitani, the founder of Compile, who was inspired by certain elements from the Tetris and Dr. Mario series of games.

<i>Altered Beast</i> 1988 beat em up arcade game

Altered Beast is a 1988 beat 'em up arcade game developed and manufactured by Sega. The game is set in Ancient Greece and follows a player character resurrected by Zeus to rescue his daughter Athena from the ruler of the underworld, Neff. Through the use of power-ups, the player character can assume the form of different magical beasts. After its initial arcade release, it was ported to several home video game consoles and home computers, including the Sega Genesis, for which it was a pack-in game.

<i>Dr. Robotniks Mean Bean Machine</i> 1993 video game

Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a falling block puzzle game developed by Compile and published by Sega. It was released for the Sega Genesis and in North America and Europe on November 1993, and ported to the Game Gear in 1993 and Master System in 1994.

<i>Golden Axe</i> (video game) 1989 beat em up video game

Golden Axe is a side-scrolling beat 'em up arcade video game released in 1989 by Sega for the System 16-B arcade hardware. It is the first game in the Golden Axe series.

1994 has seen many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country and Sonic & Knuckles.

<i>The Revenge of Shinobi</i> 1989 video game

The Revenge of Shinobi, released in Japan as The Super Shinobi, is a video game developed and published by Sega in 1989. It was the first Shinobi game developed for the Sega Genesis, and was later released on the coin-operated version of that console, the Mega-Tech.

<i>Pac-Attack</i> 1993 puzzle video game

Pac-Attack, also known as Pac-Panic, is a 1993 falling-tile puzzle video game developed and published by Namco for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis. Versions for the Game Boy, Game Gear and Philips CD-i were also released. The player is tasked with clearing out blocks and ghosts without them stacking to the top of the playfield — blocks can be cleared by matching them in horizontal rows, while ghosts can be cleared by placing down a Pac-Man piece that can eat them. It is the first game in the Pac-Man series to be released exclusively for home platforms.

<i>Streets of Rage 2</i> 1992 video game

Streets of Rage 2, released in Japan as Bare Knuckle II: The Requiem of the Deadly Battle, is a side-scrolling beat 'em up video game published by Sega in 1992 for the Mega Drive/Genesis and developed by an ad hoc team of several companies: Sega, Ancient, Shout! Designworks, MNM Software and H.I.C. It is the second game in the Streets of Rage series, a sequel to Streets of Rage and followed by Streets of Rage 3 and Streets of Rage 4.

<i>Bonanza Bros.</i> 1990 video game

Bonanza Bros. is a 1990 3D-style, 2D shooting platform arcade game by Sega. It is one of the earliest arcade games powered by the Sega System 24 arcade system board.

<i>G-LOC: Air Battle</i> video game

G-LOC: Air Battle is a 1990 combat flight simulator arcade game developed and published by Sega. It is a spin-off of the company's After Burner series. The title refers to "G-force induced Loss Of Consciousness".

<i>Mercs</i> 1991 video game

Mercs, originally released as Senjō no Ōkami II, is a 1990 top-down run and gun arcade game developed and published by Capcom for the arcades. It is a followup to the 1985 Commando. It was followed by Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 in 2008, a downloadable game.

<i>ESWAT: City Under Siege</i> 1990 video game

ESWAT: City Under Siege, released in Japan as Cyber Police ESWAT, is a 1990 side scrolling action platform video game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis and Sega Master System video game consoles.

<i>Columns III</i> 1993 video game

Columns III: Revenge of Columns is a puzzle arcade game published by Sega in Japan and by Vic Tokai in North America in 1993 as a sequel to Columns II: The Voyage Through Time.

<i>Super Thunder Blade</i> 1988 video game

Super Thunder Blade (スーパーサンダーブレード) is a shooter for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis console, developed and published by Sega. It was one of the two launch titles for the console in Japan, as well as being one of the six launch titles for the console for its U.S. launch. It is a follow-up to the 1987 arcade game Thunder Blade. It was released for the Virtual Console on September 17, 2007. It was also included in the Sega Genesis Collection for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable in 2007 and in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Puyo Puyo (ぷよぷよ), previously marketed under the name Puyo Pop in North America and Europe, is a series of tile-matching video games created by Compile. Sega has owned the franchise since 1998, with games after 2001 being developed by Sonic Team. Puyo Puyo was created as a spin-off franchise to Madō Monogatari, a series of first-person dungeon crawler role-playing games by Compile. The characters from Puyo Puyo originated from Madō Monogatari. As of 2018, the series has sold over 27 million copies worldwide since Sega obtained the rights.

<i>Samurai Shodown</i> (1993 video game) Competitive fighting game

Samurai Shodown is a competitive fighting game developed and published by SNK for their Neo Geo arcade and home platform. Released in 1993, it is the first installment in the Samurai Shodown series. In contrast to other fighting games at the time, which were set in modern times and focused primarily on hand-to-hand combat, Samurai Shodown is set in feudal-era Japan and was SNK's first arcade fighting game to focus primarily on weapon-based combat.

M2 Co., Ltd. is a Japanese video game developer and publisher, best known for handling emulation of re-released games, such as some Sega Ages titles, Virtual Console titles for Nintendo systems and the 3D Classics series for the Nintendo 3DS. M2 has spent much of their recent time working for Konami, creating not only arcade compilations, but also an entirely new set of games for WiiWare under the ReBirth moniker.

<i>Puzzle & Action: Ichidant-R</i> 1994 Sega arcade puzzle video game

Puzzle & Action: Ichidant-R (also known as just Ichidant-R is a puzzle video game developed and released by Sega in 1994 for the Sega System C-2. It is the sequel to Puzzle & Action: Tant-R and is the second of the Puzzle & Action series. Gameplay is similar to Tant-R: the player must complete a series of mini-games, although its crime theme is replaced with a medieval theme. The detectives from the first game return and play the role of knights in a theatre play. An English version of the game exists, which replaces the Japanese voices with English voices. The Korean version also uses the English voices. The game was ported to the Sega Game Gear in 1994, Mega Drive in 1995, and released on the Sega AgesRouka ni Ichidant-R compilation for the Sega Saturn. The game was released for the Wii Virtual Console in 2007. All console versions except for the Switch version are Japanese exclusives. The third and final game in the series, Puzzle & Action: Treasure Hunt, was released in 1995.

Sega Genesis Mini dedicated video game console

The Sega Genesis Mini, known as the Mega Drive Mini in regions outside of North America, is a dedicated console modeled on Sega's Genesis. The Mini emulates the original console's 16-bit hardware, and includes 42 games ported by M2. It was released in North America and Japan in September 2019, and in Europe and the Middle East the following month.


  2. "The Maturation of Computer Entertainment: Warming The Global Village". Computer Gaming World. 1990-07-08. p. 11. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  3. "Highest points total on Columns (Mega Drive version)". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  4. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2004-04-06. Retrieved 2004-04-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. Parish, Jeremy (2006-10-31). "Wii Virtual Console Lineup Unveiled". . Retrieved 2006-11-01.
  8. Lang, Chip (December 1990). "Sega ProView: Columns" (PDF). GamePro . p. 136.
  9. MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 5, page 78, May 1992
  10. "Game Machine's Best Hit Games 25 - テーブル型TVゲーム機 (Table Videos)". Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 378. Amusement Press, Inc. 15 April 1990. p. 25.
  11. Rubenstein, Glenn (January 1993). "At the Controls". Wizard . Wizard Entertainment (17): 21–24.
  12. Mega magazine issue 1, page 76, Future Publishing, Oct 1992