Nintendo 10 Billion Barrel

10 Billion Barrel
A barrel of fun!

The Nintendo 10 Billion Barrel is a barrel made by Nintendo. This barrel isn’t full of beer or “Donkey Kongs”. It is full of puzzle. Infuriating, yet addictive puzzle. Here is a short history…

The barrel, also known as the Nintendo Tumbler Puzzle, is a mathematical puzzle which was thought up in 1980 by Gunpei Yokoi. It is probably one of his lesser known inventions; Yokoi having also created the Game & Watch and “cross-shaped” D-Pad among other things for Nintendo.

It consists of a central rod with three short rods, or prongs, at each end. Around the central rod are four transparent discs, each with separate compartments which house small plastic balls of different colour; four red, orange, yellow, green and blue ones and three black ones. All of the discs can be lifted or dropped simultaneously to allow the balls to access different chambers. Other than this movement the outer pair of plastic discs are fixed in place, whilst the inner pair of discs are able to fully rotate around the central rod. If my description has confused the Nintendo out of you (or if it has left you wanting to find out more about this plastic rotating beauty), you can click here to view the US patent for the Rotary Puzzle Device! As it happens,the patent actually expired in March 1995 and similar, non-branded barrels have since been produced.

The aim of the barrel puzzle is to manipulate the sections and arrange the balls so that you have five columns of matching colour, ideally in the order; red, orange, yellow, green, blue; with the three black balls sitting above three of the sections.

As a tribute to its creator, who was tragically killed in a road traffic accident in 1997, Nintendo have cameoed the 10 BIllion Barrel in a number of titles including; Metroid Prime, Animal Crossing: New Leaf and WarioWare Gold.

Upon bringing the puzzle home I spent some time messing around with it to try and get an understanding of how it worked. An hour or so later Jef found Jaap’s Puzzle Page which provides detailed instructions on how to solve the puzzle in three different ways, along with a computer simulation to walk you through it. After another hour or so of working through the step-by-step instructions and thoroughly confusing myself I finally gave in and used the computer simulation of the puzzle. This allows you to enter the current position of each of the coloured balls and then painstakingly takes you through each and every move to solve the barrel. After another half an hour or so I finally solved it and, although I relied entirely on a “walk through”, I felt so proud!

Here is the solved barrel!

Completed barrel


Jaap’s Puzzle Page actually has a comprehensive list of puzzles, each of which it shows you how to solve. I might try my hand at Rubik’s Cube next. But until then…Happy Gaming!

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