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.
Items need to be moved down by making matches and freeing up place underneath them.
To erase a layer, player needs to make a match in its cell one or several times. There are double, triple, etc. layers.
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.
Characters that need to be collected by making matches with them. Every turn they raise one cell higher.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Player cannot destroy or move the blocks. They are simply creating an obstacle and blocking bonus elements that they are in the way of.
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.
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.
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.
Player needs to fill in every cell of the grid with a special coat. This requires matching elements in such a way as to have at least one element on a cell with a coat – then the coat spreads to all cells in the match.
The grid contains an immovable element that can be used to base a chain of identical elements (according to the Chain mechanic.) The chain can be started with any element in a neighboring cell. The number on the item means the number of chains that can be created before it disappears.
Walls can be located between the playable cells. Elements divided by a wall cannot be switched places. There are removable walls that can be cleared by making matches next to them, or irremovable walls.
The timer on the bomb shows the number of moves left until its explosion. With every move the number decreases by one. If the bomb explodes, the player loses. In order to remove the bomb, it has to be matched with elements of the same color.
Level starts with part of the grid locked. Player can unlock an additional part of the grid by collecting a specific number of some elements.
Some elements have characters tied to them. In order to free them, player needs to make a match with the element the character is tied to.
All elements collected on the doubling cells count double, including bonus elements.
Matching three first level elements together creates a second level element. Matching second level elements creates a third level element.
In order to receive additional elements of a certain type on the grid, player needs to make a match next to a special item several times.
A character that removes elements from the grid after every move made by the player. By making matches next to the character, the player can “stun” it. A stunned character cannot collect elements for one turn.
A match that contains dirty elements will not be counted. Moreover, even if the match contains only one dirty element, the others will be “dirtied up” and the entire combination canceled.
After a match, wind moves all elements in the row or column one cell. The direction depends on the direction player used to switch the two elements places.
Every turn a special character moves to the cell where a match was made. It only moves when the match was made in the same row or column. As it moves, the character collects a special layer that covers part of the grid.
Taps above the columns regularly release an element they are marked with.
Character needs to reach a goal. In order for the character to take a step, player needs to make a match with a special element.
Additional elements of a certain color. When they are matched together, they produce one normal element of the same color.
A special element drops down and encounters an immovable obstacle on the way. Afterwards both element and obstacle disappear.
Every turn, this character changes its location on the grid. In order to remove the character, player needs to make a match next to it one or several times. Some characters can only move on restricted cells. Other can block playable elements on the grid.
An obstacle of this kind can only be removed with special bonus elements that are created by making a match of 4 and more elements.
A movable part of the grid, with elements on it, can be moved to one of the special empty slots on the grid. Moving the grid does not consume a turn.
When three special elements are matched together, they form a super element that explodes and destroys all the elements that surround it.
The grid contains elements shaped as a question mark. This question mark can hide an obstacle or a booster. In order to find out what is hidden behind the question mark, the player needs to make a match with it.
In order to remove an immovable obstacle, player needs to match specific elements next to it. The obstacle contains a hint. After the required number of elements is collected, the obstacle disappears from the grid.
In order to receive a cup of coffee, player needs to go through several stages of its production: coffee beans – coffee maker – kettle – coffee cup. For the coffee element to go from one stage to the next, player needs to match any elements next to it. The cups have to be collected by matching three of them together.
The grid contains immovable characters. When a match is made next to them, they yield an additional element which is immediately automatically collected.
After player makes a match on the grid, elements will not drop down to the freed place like on regular levels but instead move in a direction shown by an arrow. They can move upwards or sideways.
In order to remove these elements from the field, the player needs to ignite all the elements of this type. In order to ignite them, the player needs to make a match next to them.
Player needs to match elements to shoot at characters placed above the grid. Matched elements shoot up in the column where they were matched. If the character is in the same column, the shot hits.
By making matches on a grid with certain elements, player fills rows of the grid with liquid, starting from the bottom. In the part of the grid that is filled with liquid, new elements will float up from the bottom. In the places with no liquid, new elements will drop down from the top.
A character is on one side of the grid, a door is on the other side. Between the character and the door, the grid cells are covered by layers. After player clears all the layers that prevent the character from reaching the door, the character escapes through it.
If you know other interesting mechanics example, it would be great if you post it in your comment!