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  • 45 Distinct Match-3 Mechanics

    - Kirill Razumovskiy
  •  In Match-3 games, levels are what constitutes the main content. The mechanics used on levels define game tactics and heavily affect the gameplay variety. This article contains a description of 45 mechanics encountered in TOP-50 Match-3 games.


    Element - the elements of the grid that can be moved.

    Matching - the process of combining three or more elements of the same type.

    1. Dropping

    Items need to be moved down by making matches and freeing up place underneath them.

    2. Layer

    To erase a layer, player needs to make a match in its cell one or several times. There are double, triple, etc. layers.

    3. Immovable obstacles

    An element that cannot be matched with any other stays immovable on the grid. Making a match next to immovable obstacles removes them from the grid. There are double, triple, etc. immovable obstacles.

    4. Character up

    Characters that need to be collected by making matches with them. Every turn they raise one cell higher.

    5. Blocked element

    An element that cannot be moved until it is unblocked. In order to unblock it, player needs to make a match with it. There is also multilevel element blocking, which requires several matches.

    6. Portals

    The grid contains two special cell types: entrance portals and exit portals. When an element reaches the entrance portal, it disappears from the spot and reappears on the cell with the exit portal. Every entrance has a corresponding exit.

    7. Movable obstacles

    An element that cannot be matched with any other but can be switched places with neighboring elements. Making a match next to movable obstacles removes them from the grid. There are also double movable obstacles.

    8. Items under a layer

    The grid contains large items which are covered by another layer of elements. Player needs to remove the layer by matching the elements. The layer can be a double one.

    9. Moving characters under a layer

    In order to catch the character, player needs to clear the layer that covers it by making matches on the layer's cells. The character can move under the layer. After the player clears the layer from the cell that contains the character, it will move to neighboring cells.

    The characters can be hidden under a double or triple layer.

    10. Conveyor

    A conveyor is a moving band on the grid. Every turn the elements on the band move one cell. The player can match elements on the conveyor, can switch them with other elements on the grid.

    11. Boss

    In order to defeat a level boss, player needs to match elements that do damage to the boss. In the process, the boss can create obstacles for the player using different mechanics (layers, movable obstacles, immovable obstacles.)

    In some games, the purpose is not to defeat the boss but to feed it. The player needs to match certain elements to feed the boss.

    12. Blocks

    Player cannot destroy or move the blocks. They are simply creating an obstacle and blocking bonus elements that they are in the way of.

    13. Cannons

    Every turn the cannons add +1 to elements of the level which are found in the same row or column as the cannon. The elements with the +1 tag are counted as several elements for the level's goal.

    14. Growing obstacles

    Obstacles that grow one cell every turn if the player does not create a match next to them. In order to clear this obstacle, player needs to match elements next to it.

    15. PVE battle

    Player and opponent take turns. The one who reached the level goal first wins. The player can also lose after failing to reach the goal within the assigned number of turns.


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