Puzzle games exist to confuse you, to get your gears turning, and even to frustrate you. But when you finally complete that puzzle you’ve been struggling to solve, you feel an immense wave of satisfaction.
As much as puzzle games irritate you, they can also serve as a sort of relaxation. Try out one of these mind-boggling puzzle games the next time you want to challenge yourself.
1. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
The Professor Layton series has been around since the days of the Nintendo DS, and it never fails to stir up new entertaining puzzles and stories. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is one of the more recent additions to the series.
It follows Professor Layton, the detective-in-training Luke Triton, as well as his companion Emmy Altava. The more puzzles you solve, the closer you get to unraveling the mystery of the chaos-causing Masked Gentleman.
If you haven’t played Portal by now, you should. The gray-tiled rooms, the omniscient AI, GLaDOS, and the teleportation portals make this game instantly memorable. Using a handheld portal-creating device, you’ll need to solve each room’s puzzle to advance onto the next stage.
Remember that you can only create two portals at a time. Each portal operates as an interconnected entrance and an exit—enter through one portal, and you’ll come out of the other.
Released in 1984, Tetris is one of the first puzzle video games ever created (and it’s still popular today). Its simplicity and challenges provide you with hours of entertainment. As each jagged block falls, you must attempt to fit them in between the blocks on the bottom of the platform.
When you create a solid horizontal line across the screen, that segment of blocks will disappear. If you let the blocks pile up to the top, it’s game over.
4. Super Bomberman
The newer Super Bomberman games don’t come close to the awesomeness of the SNES original. The first game plants Bomberman in a maze-like room that’s filled with dangerous enemies. Place bombs to kill enemies and to destroy walls that block your path.
In order to get to the next level, you’ll need to clear the entire room of creatures and find the hidden exit portal. Just be careful not to blow yourself up!
5. The Witness
The Witness provides you with zero directions, dialogue, or characters. It consists of pure puzzles that you have to wrack your brain to solve. You play in the first-person perspective as you explore an island full of intricate puzzles.
The puzzles are all done on grids, and you occasionally have to use the environment around you in order to figure out how to solve them. When you finish enough puzzles, new panels will light up, furthering your completion of the game. Try not to be a sore loser when you can’t solve a puzzle—by the time you’re done with the game, you’ll be a puzzle-solving master.
Limbo is both a horror and puzzle game at the same time—its chilling environment coupled with dangerous bear traps and brain-sucking worms can give anyone the heebie-jeebies.
You play as a young boy on a treacherous quest to save his sister. This platformer presents tough challenges, forcing you to solve puzzles to avoid various traps. One wrong move, and you’ll have to start over from your last checkpoint.
7. Dr. Mario
Dr. Mario is Nintendo’s much quirkier version of Tetris. You control Dr. Mario, the pill-throwing hero who attempts to eradicate the screen of filthy germs.
Each capsule has two sides and two colors. Match the color of the pill with the color of the virus to “cure” the disease. Like Tetris, you win if you clear the entire screen.
8. Monument Valley
Monument Valley provides a relaxing puzzle-solving experience, chockfull of stunning visuals. You’re tasked with the seemingly easy job of guiding Princess Ida to the exit of every level.
It’s not so simple when each level looks like an M.C. Escher drawing—the head-scratching optical illusions incorporated into each design make it even more challenging. Build bridges and move platforms to help Ida move forward.
9 Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
If you played Super Mario 3D World, you probably remember the mini levels involving Captain Toad—Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is just an expansion of those short levels.
Play as Captain Toad or Toadette as you traverse each level, navigating past obstacles in order to find the hidden star. Use your Super Pickaxe to defeat any roaming enemies, or to destroy the blocks that stand in your way.
Inside comes from the same creators of Limbo, and it carries the same dark undertones of its predecessor. The game doesn’t directly relay any instructions or any narration about the storyline, making it even more mysterious.
You play as a young boy, as you trek, swim, and climb through various dimly-lit environments, avoiding any dangers as you go along. The deaths are just as gruesome as in Limbo—you risk death by dogs attacks, drowning, tranquilization, or shockwaves.
11. Return of the Obra Dinn
Return of the Obra Dinn has one of the most impressive and unique art styles that looks like it comes straight out of a sketch book. You play as an insurance adjuster for the East India Company during the 1800s, and your job is to hop aboard a washed up East India ship to determine what went wrong.
The ship’s crewmembers have all died. As you investigate the ship, you’ll find several hints that you can use to identify bodies, and figure out how each crewmember met their demise.
12. The Turing Test
Take on the role of Ava Turing, an astronomical engineer tasked with researching Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Ava and her comrades have been put into a cryogenic sleep, but Ava is scheduled to wake up after her crew finishes setting up.
However, she gets awoken early—the Technical Operations Machine (T.O.M.) frantically wakes Ava, urging her to help her endangered crewmates. When Ava lands on Europa, the puzzles begin. You’ll have to quickly complete these tests if you want to reach Ava’s crew.
There’s nothing like a good puzzle to keep your mind sharp and nimble. Clear the cobwebs out of your brain, and try out one of the above games when you have some downtime.
For even more challenging puzzle games, check out our review of the World of Goo.