Before there was Wordle, there was Threes!: A simple, logic-based puzzle game that blew up into a huge, often-copied hit. Mobile gaming site TouchArcade called it "about as close as it gets to a perfect mobile game" when it debuted on iOS devices on February 6, 2014, and with the tenth anniversary of that big day coming up, developer Asher Vollmer has announced that it's finally coming to Steam.
Threes! is simple to play. By sliding tiles on a 4x4 grid, adjacent 1s and 2s combine to make 3s. 3s can then be combined to make 6s, 6s into 12s, and so on. Empty spots on the grid are filled with new numbers as you slide the board; combining numbers clears up spots. The bigger the number you can put together, the higher your score, until the board fills up and you have to start over. And start over you will, because this game hooks quickly and deeply, and unlike Wordle you can play it as much as you want.
The Threes! Steam page doesn't say much about the game, because honestly there's not much to say—it's Threes!, and that's really all there is to it. (That's not meant to be dismissive, Threes! really is just that simple.) The Steam release will feature a number of enhancements though, including achievements and leaderboards, controller support, and support for Steam Cloud so you can easily bounce back and forth between your PC and Steam Deck.
As is the way of things, Threes! was heavily copied once it became a hit: Pocket Gamer reported in 2014 that there were an average of 15 new Threes! clones appearing on the App Store every day. There were also browser-based versions: One, called 2048 (which was more specifically a knock-off of another Threes! clone called 1024), became a hit in its own right, drawing excited headlines from major outlets like the LA Times and CNBC about how developer Gabriele Cirulli was able to mash out a hit game over a single weekend.
The proliferation of clones understandably stuck in the craw of the makers of Threes!, who spent more than a year developing and fine-tuning their game.
"Gabriele didn't hurt us I don't think and even if he did, we don't feel ill will toward him or that there was any malice," Threes! co-creator Greg Wohlwend said in a separate 2014 Pocket Gamer interview. "But those that took advantage of his open source and are profiting heavily from it... that sucks not only for us, but for game designers everywhere.
"The people at the bottom of the barrel, the parasites, they're winning by a lot. Game designers need money, years worth of living expenses, to make games so it basically means we can spend less time on our games. It is the way it is."
Some developers took inspiration from Threes! in a more thoughtful fashion. Urbo, for instance, adapts the basic gameplay formula into a beautiful, chill city-building puzzle game: The influence of Threes! is clear, but it has its own ideas and stands on its own merits. (It also came out nine years after Threes!, so I don't think anyone is going to claim that it's trying to cash in on the hype.)
But all of that is water under the bridge at this point—the question now is whether Threes! will pop off on Steam like it did on iPhones back in the day. We'll find out soon enough: It's set to go live on February 6, 10 years to the day after the release of the original.