Puzzle game classic Threes gets surprise Steam PC release in February

Puzzle game classic Threes is getting a Steam PC launch to celebrate its 10th anniversary, developer Asher Vollmer has announced. The release date is 6th February, and here’s the Steam page. The new version adds controller and Steam cloud support together with achievements and leaderboards. Given its mobile origins, it should scrub up nicely on Steam Deck.

Me writing this post is an absolute travesty. It should be Katharine, RPS’s resident self-professed Threes nutter, but she’s on her day off, leaving dopey old Edwin to sing the praises of this globe-swallowing numerical majiggy, which you can still play in a browser over here.

Back in 2014, I think I was mostly playing Destiny and had little time for such trivial distractions. “Three”? What kind of DPS output is that? Wake me up when it’s 37425 plus Void damage, with an escalating fire-rate.

But I will concede that Threes is an extremely good puzzler, not least for being so intuitive: it’s a game in which you slide numbered tiles around a small grid and squidge them together to make multiples of three. And of course, those numbers can get pretty high if you know what you’re doing. I believe the largest number you can alchemise is 12288, which you certainly wouldn’t sneeze at if it fell out of your Destiny rocket launcher.

Vollmer wrote the first Threes prototype in a single night, taking inspiration from Area/Code Inspiration’s Drop7, then spent half a year with artist Greg Wohlwend polishing it up. Amongst other things, the pair experimented with fancier tile designs, including monster and sushi-themed sets, but these felt like unnecessary elaborations. The final tile designs aren’t just numbered rectangles, however – they have little emoji faces tucked away at the bottom, and part of the thrill is discovering these quaint personalities as you climb the scoreboards.

Prototype sushi-themed designs for tiles in Threes

Some early prototype designs for Threes tiles. | Image credit: Ash Vollmer/Polygon

Threes is also notable for being the subject of one of gaming’s most infamous “rip-offs”, 2048, whose creator Gabriele Cirulli didn’t actually play Threes until months after releasing his own game – he based it on another game called 2048. The Verge has an interesting report on the situation which digs into the often-tricky distinction between homage and plagiarism.

Are you a returning or current Threes player? Now that it’s Officially A Proper PC Game it seems a dead cert for our best puzzle games list, though the Steam release seems unlikely to retake the title of Internet Daily Brainteaser from almighty Wordle. I’m afraid I can’t personally rank Threes higher than 18th unless they move Gorogoa to the top five.

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