Sometimes a puzzle can put a hard stop to your tour of glorious destruction, and it can we annoying. Other times, you specifically need a dedicated puzzle game to take a break from destruction, but on your own terms.
Below we’ve gathered a few games which are sure to carve new pathways in your neurons and activate the areas other games have left idle. Some of them leave you free to come up with your own creative solutions, others are pure logic puzzles, others still might evoke a mild “escape room” vibe, but all of them are fantastic brain-teasers. Without further ado, let’s dust off these neurons with…
|The Witness||2016-01-26||Adventure||Thekla, Inc.||60%|
|The Talos Principle||2014-12-11||Adventure||Croteam||86%|
|Baba Is You||2019-03-13||Indie||Hempuli Oy||53%|
|World Of Goo||2008-10-13||Adventure||2D BOY||56%|
|Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes||2015-10-08||Indie||Steel Crate Games||35%|
|Human Fall Flat||2016-07-22||Adventure||No Brakes Games||67%|
|The Turing Test||2016-08-30||Adventure||Bulkhead Interactive||88%|
|Bridge Constructor Portal||2017-12-20||Simulation||ClockStone||90%|
|Opus Magnum||2017-12-07||Indie||Zachtronics Industries||78%|
|The Swapper||2013-05-30||Adventure||Olli Harjola, Otto Hantula, Tom Jubert, Carlo Castellano||60%|
|Superliminal||2020-11-05||Indie||Pillow Castle Games||68%|
|Lara Croft Go||2016-12-04||Adventure||Square Enix Montréal||85%|
|Strange Horticulture||2022-01-21||Farming||Bad Viking||31%|
|It Takes Two||2021-03-26||Co-op||Hazelight Studios|
|The Undergarden||2010-11-10||Puzzle||Artech Studios||85%|
|Mini Metro||2015-11-06||Adventure||Dinosaur Polo Club||27%|
|The Room Two||2016-07-05||Adventure||Fireproof Games|
|The Room Three||2018-11-13||Adventure||Fireproof Games|
|Kami||2016-10-26||Adventure||Kuro Irodoru Yomiji||83%|
|The Talos Principle||2014-12-11||Adventure||Croteam||86%|
|Hexcells Complete Pack||2014-02-19||Indie||Matthew Brown|
Portal 1 & 2
The Portal games are not only one of the most famous series in gaming, it also happens to be two of the most creative mainstream puzzle games you could play. The idea is simple but opens a way to many exciting challenges. You are playing as Chell, a test subject in a research facility. You’re armed with a gun which fires linked portals, and you get some protection from fall damage… good luck!
The games are effectively a series of rooms which require creative use of the portals to move around, transport weighted cubes and bypass cheerful turrets. There are moving platforms, surfaces which can’t hold a portal, buttons to press, and a snarky AI mocking your failures and complaining about your successes. Portal 2 even has a two-player co-op starring two bumbling robots.
The Room is a puzzle classic in its own right. A PC remake of an iPad game, with more content, better graphics, and the same degree of teasing your braincells. The game is filled to the brim with various mechanical and alchemical contraptions which you’ll need to figure out if you want to solve the mystery of a weird box in the attic.
The Room is absolutely one of the best puzzle games you could hope to play, especially if you’re hardened by challenges in old-school adventure games and have gloriously defeated every escape room you’ve ever been to. You should try the PC version even if you beat the game back in 2012 on your iPad, because the PC release adds an epilogue with a ton of extra stuff.
Baba Is You
Baba Is You is a delightfully weird game based on, effectively, extremely minor coding. Each map has a few rules phrased as “x is y” which define the way certain elements work or interact. Now here comes the trick: the rules are based on blocks you can push around, fundamentally changing the way a given level works. It’s a simple gameplay idea which paves the way for fascinating logic puzzles.
The complexity of challenges before you grows quickly, but the game doesn’t become too frustrating, partially thanks to its simple and friendly retro aesthetic. Baba Is You has low system requirements, is pretty cheap, and will give your hours and hours of head scratching and pondering before you complete all the challenges.
It Takes Two
Whereas most of the game on this list are perfectly singleplayer with a rare departure into optional multi, It Takes Two is a fundamentally co-op title, it can’t be played at all if you don’t have a co-op partner. Most of the challenges ahead of you require coordinated teamwork, whether it’s about operating two-person devices or platforming powered by the environment and character abilities.
The story puts you in the role of soon-to-be-divorced couple Cody and May, who ended up in toy bodies because of a magic spell unknowingly cast by their daughter, Rose. Now they need to complete challenges posed by a sentient relationship therapy book if they want to return to their bodies. The problem is that they’ll have to work together and remember they used to love each other.
|Developer:||Kuro Irodoru Yomiji|
Kami is as much a puzzle game as it is a relaxing experience. The idea is that you have a screen filled with a grid made of neatly folded colorful paper, and your task is to fill the screen with a single color. You do it by unfolding (clicking on) the pieces of paper, which turns them into the hue you’ve selected. The fewer moves you need to do it, the better. That’s pretty much it.
As you complete levels, the arrangements of colors get more and more elaborate, creating lovely patterns. The game even uses real paper as the base of its aesthetic, instead of relying purely on computer-generated elements. Watching tiles unfold into new colors looks great and sounds great. Kami is both a great puzzle game and is also incredibly satisfying.
Lyne is yet another minimalist puzzle game on this list, because sometimes a good puzzle doesn’t require complex graphics, just a neat presentation. Lyne gives you grids filled with geometric shapes which you have to connect with, well, lines. The trick is that you must connect all shapes of the same kind with a single line, and that different lines can’t cross.
Some grids also feature cross-roads tiles, which allow a specific number of different lines to pass through. Simple rules, complex solutions, and potentially infinite number of procedurally generated levels. On top of that, Lyne uses very eye-friendly color palettes and tidy designs of the geometric shapes, which creates a very neat, easy to parse experience which won’t burn your retinas.
The first, but not the last, puzzle game from developer Zachtronics Industries, a studio very keen on creating free-form, creative puzzle games. In Spacechem you’re playing a designer of chemical processing systems. You have to design pipelines, set up factories, program the reactors, and meet increasingly difficult production quotas.
Each reactor requires you to move atoms around or arrange them into desired combinations, and the true challenge is programming a loop which can work infinitely. Sometimes you might even need to set up several factories on a single line, working in sequence. SpaceChem puzzles are quite complex, but on the upside, it doesn’t force you into a specific solution so you can get creative.
The Talos Principle
The Talos Principle is not only a fantastic puzzle game featuring both logical and environmental puzzles. It’s also a great science fiction game with a lot more than just a little of philosophical thought behind its story. It’s an amazing combination, and whether you want to dig into the themes of the game or just solve some cool puzzles you’re in for a real treat.
As you ponder philosophical questions about existence and purpose, you’ll avoid spoilers, arrange tetrominos, and explore weird, seemingly anachronistic collections of futuristic and ancient environments. The Talos Principle is a true brain teaser on several levels, and the immersive locations made it a perfect material for a VR version, which it received not too long after release.
One more Zachtronics game, and you can rest assured, not the last one, either. Infinifactory is a 3D, sandbox puzzle game about building, well, factories which can sustain an infinite production loop, spitting out stuff your overlords require. You get conveyor belts, pushing mechanics, welding tools and everything else you might need to complete your abductors’ orders.
Unlike many other Zachtronics games, Infinifactory is fully 3D, which literally adds another dimension to your contraptions, don’t waste that opportunity! There’s even a story to motivate you from puzzle to puzzle, and if the base serving of the game somehow isn’t enough for you, Infinifactory also features a good mod support, including a Steam Workshop integration.
The Hexcells series is going to make the day of any season veteran of Minesweeper and Picross, since it is inspired by both…and has plenty of cool twists of its own. As the title implies, instead of a square grid you get a hexagonal one, and some tiles have numbers in them, telling you how many adjacent tiles you have to mark. Some of them take on a hue, others reveal more numbers.
The above are just the basics. Before long more rules come in, throwing in a lot more complexity. What is important, however, is that the puzzles can be resolved with pure logical reasoning, no guesswork required. There are three Hexcells games at the time of writing, each with its own selection of puzzles, but Hexcells Infinite uses procedural generation to support its pre-made
Opus Magnum from, indeed, Zachtronics, has a premise very similar to Spacechem, but done a bit differently. You’re still producing chemicals, but this time you’re operating on a hexagonal grid, and assembling alchemical elements has a fully mechanical presentation, full of pistons, rotating multi-arm contraptions, and conveyor lines. Your task is to program a smooth, infinite loop of production.
Every mechanical element gets a dedicated timeline for commands, making it easier to synchronize actions of different pieces. It’s a great puzzle game, and it only cares about the product, so you can go as minimal or as grand as you want – as long as you can program a perfect loop it’s all cool. But you’re also judged against other in terms of speed, cost, and efficiency, giving some motivation to optimize.
That concludes our list of games you should absolutely check out if you’re looking for something to flex the puzzle-solving muscles and get your thinking juices flowing. Ranging from neat minimalist designs to 3D sandboxes, each game on the list has the potential to keep you engaged with its challenges.