Columns was the first Tetris spin-off, and by far the most successful. It combines falling blocks with tile-matching. All the blocks consist of three tiles with different colors or symbols, traditionally, six. Blocks cannot be rotated, but you can change the order of the tiles. As soon as three matching tiles are in a row, column, or diagonal, they vanish. Otherwise, gameplay is exactly the same as Tetris.
Columns was first created by Jay Geertsen (not Geertson, as he is erroneously credited in the Windows port) of HP on the X Windows system. This original seems to have vanished completely, mention of it is found only in the docs of the subsequent versions. It may never have been widely distributed. Nathan Meyers, another HP employee, ported it to DOS with some unspecified enhancements, Chris Christensen to Macintosh. John Rotenstein created an early Windows version based on Christensen's Macintosh port. P. C. M. van der Arend ported it to, or recreated it on, the Atari ST, using the hi-res monochrome monitor.
|Columns for Atari ST||89||P. C. M. van der Arend|
|Columns for DOS||Nathan Meyers|
|Columns for Mac||Chris Christensen||Beyond Columns||Brad P. Taylor|
|Colors 1.1||90||Jim Bonczyk|
|Columns for Windows||John Rotenstein|
|Columns (Sega)||Coin-Op, Sega Genesis|
|Bubble Bath Babes||NES||91|
|Stack 'Em||Brian Boese|
|Chain Reaction (ST)||Paul Margetson|
|Phoenix PD Columns||David Tierney|
|Fallout||Brad P. Taylor|
|1993tris||93||Young K. Chung|
|Jelly Bean Factory||Mark Batchelor|
|Xixit||John Hood and Thomas Pytel|
|Chain Reaction (DOS)||96||Thomas Pytel|
This table includes all the games that combine color matching with falling blocks (or rising bubbles) and do not fall into the very distinct Dr. Mario category. Two out of three of them are more or less faithful clones of the original Columns, the rest are variants.
Amusingly, while Tetris started out as a commercial game and Columns as freeware, later on the former would become more popular with freeware authors, and the latter with commercial projects. Right in 1990 it was released by Sega for Game Gear, Genesis, MSX and Sega Master System.