From the Nintendo Wiki, a wiki covering all things Nintendo
Jump to navigationJump to search
Developer Nintendo R&D 1
Intelligent Systems
Publisher Nintendo
Platform(s) Game Boy, Virtual Console (3DS)
Release date Game Boy:
Japan April 21, 1989
USA August 11, 1989
Europe September 28, 1990
Virtual Console (3DS):
USA June 6, 2011
Europe June 7, 2011
Australia June 7, 2011
Japan August 3, 2011
South Korea June 1, 2016
Genre Breakout game
ESRB: - Everyone
PEGI: - Three years and older
CERO: - All ages
ACB: - General
Mode(s) Single player
Game Boy:
Game Pak
Nintendo 3DS:
Digital download
Game Boy:
Nintendo 3DS:

Alleyway is a Breakout-style game that was released as a launch title for the Game Boy in 1989. It was developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo. The North American and European box art and the in-game introduction show that Nintendo's mascot, Mario, is controlling the paddle, although Alleyway is not explicitly a part of the Mario franchise. In 2011, Alleyway was ported to the Nintendo 3DS's Virtual Console.


The player's objective in Alleyway is to clear all of the breakable blocks in each stage using a ball and paddle while keeping the ball from falling into the pit below, similar to that of Breakout. The paddle's speed can be adjusted by holding either the B or A button on the controller while moving the paddle, which can move only horizontally at a fixed height. At the start of each life, the player can reposition the paddle before releasing the ball and commencing gameplay. When released, the ball will always begin at a 45° angle above the paddle aimed toward its center.

The bottom-right of the screen has an icon of Mario's head and a number showing how many paddles are left, similar to an extra lives feature. Each time the ball falls into the pit under the paddle, and the bottom-right counter decreases by one. If the player loses every paddle, they get a Game Over. Once all blocks are destroyed, the game continues to the next level.

The game ends when all the player's paddles are depleted. An additional paddle is granted for every 1000 points scored until the player has over 10,000 points. The player may have up to nine paddles at once.

The game has no continue feature, although the high score is retained until the game is reset or turned off. As there is no battery-backed SRAM or password feature, Alleyway can only be completed in one sitting.

Ball behavior[edit]

The ball only travels at 15°, 30°, or 45° angles. If the ball hits a block, that block disappears and the ball ricochets in a different direction at the same angle. The ball's speed depends on the type of block that it hits: gray and black blocks increase its speed, while white and square, indestructible blocks have no effect. A sound effect plays whenever the ball collides with an object or wall, with walls producing the lowest pitch and black blocks doing the highest.

The ball's direction and speed can be controlled by the paddle's velocity and point of contact. Changing the paddle's direction of movement at the exact moment the ball comes into contact with the paddle is called a snap technique,[1] which bounces the ball upward with increased speed. Moving the paddle quickly in the opposite direction of the ball results in it bouncing in the same horizontal direction as the paddle at a 15° angle. If the ball contacts with the body of the paddle before just before falling into the pit, it bounces back above. If either corner of the paddle collides with the ball instead, it is knocked directly into the pit.

Alleyway's ball cannot be locked in an infinite loop of ricochets. Whenever the ball starts to loop between objects such as the ceiling, indestructible blocks and/or the paddle itself, its velocity changes at a random point after the second cycle on its next collision. This results in the ball traveling at a slightly raised or lowered angle, depending on its current trajectory, and breaking out of the loop.


The first stage

The game features 24 regular stages, most of which have a generic design, and they are based on eight block patterns in groups of three. Each stage has either one of four game patterns, which progress in a set order like the stages. Every fourth stage is a bonus stage, which make an overall total of 32 stages. The stage after every bonus stage goes back to the first block pattern. The three regular block patterns are:

  • Normal Block Screen: A pattern screen with no special effects, allowing for basic gameplay.
  • Scrolling Block Screen: The blocks move from left to right. Every second level has this stage pattern.
  • Advancing Block Screen: The blocks slowly move down by the height of one row of blocks, and they slowly increase in speed as the ball bounces off the paddle. Any part of a block below a height of ten blocks above the paddle is automatically removed.

As the player progresses through patterns, new elements are added to the gameplay. After the fourth stage, if the ball comes into contact with the top of the area, the paddle's size is halved until the stage is cleared or a life is lost. From this point on, the third stage variant features hidden blocks above the ceiling that descend progressively, using either a similar of the same layout that must also be cleared, meaning the pattern must be cleared twice. In later levels, blocks in the second stage variant may not move at the same speed or in the same direction. After the twelfth stage, indestructible blocks are incorporated into the block patterns.

The first bonus stage, with the blocks arranged in the shape of Mario

In bonus stages, the ball destroys blocks without ricocheting off them, and contact with the ceiling does not affect the paddle size. Bonus stages are the only stages to have background music during play, and cannot be paused. A timer is present in every bonus stage; it starts at 95 for the first bonus stage and is reduced by five for each subsequent one completed beforehand. The bonus stage ends once either time runs out, the ball falls into the pit or all blocks are destroyed. For bonus stages, the player does not lose a paddle if the ball falls into the pit. If every block is destroyed before the timer expires, additional bonus points are yielded, which vary depending on the level. If the eighth and last bonus round is completed, the game displays a congratulations screen using the Mario graphic from the original Mario Bros. game, and then loops back to the first stage.

Every bonus stage shows a sprite of a certain character in Super Mario Bros.: Mario, Koopa Troopa, Blooper, Piranha Plant, Bullet Bill, Goomba, Cheep Cheep, and Bowser.


Points are awarded for destroying blocks based on their shade:

  • White block: 1 point
  • Gray block: 2 points
  • Black block: 3 points

The player may earn additional points for completing the bonus stages, with the bonus starting at 500 for the first and reaching 1,500 for the last five. The game only displays four digits of the player's score, yet it has a maximum value of 65,535. Scores of 10,000 and above are displayed as a combination of icons and the numerical display. For every 10,000 points, an item sprite from Super Mario Bros. is shown below the numerical score:

The sprite stops changing after the Starman icon. As a result, the highest score that can be displayed is 39,999, although the maximum score of 65,535 is shown as 35,535. If the maximum score has been reached, it rolls over, but only if the player completes a bonus stage. A rollover does not affect the recorded high score.


Nintendo eShop description[edit]

Originally released at the launch of the Game Boy, Alleyway is a fondly remembered update to the classic ‘bat and ball’ style of games.

The aim is simple: survive and rack up a huge high score! Take control of the paddle and deflect the ball to break the blocks, but don’t let it drop. Break all the blocks to move onto the next of 32 challenging stages.

It starts out simple but later levels introduce walls of blocks that move horizontally or vertically. You can also enjoy bonus stages where the aim is to break as many blocks as possible within the time limit.


Box art[edit]



Most of the critic reviews have been either mixed to negative.

Mean Machines gave the game a 33/100%, and they criticized the game's repetitiveness and they stated "this variant doesn't have much more to offer than the original Breakout". They also added "once you've finished a couple of screens, you'll be bored stiff." They also compared it to Arkanoid, and regarded a lack of power-ups in the game.

4 reviewers from Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the game scores of 6/10, 6/10, 5/10, and 3/10. All of them compared it to Arkanoid, and they complained about the lack of enhancement over the Breakout format. However, two reviewers who gave the game a 6/10 said it was perfectly designed for the Game Boy, and one of them added that "it's also a very good game that combines some new features ... with the original Break-Out theme," and they concluded with the game being good, but a bit long.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Alleyway manual, page 11.