Portal has been one of the world’s greatest puzzle games ever since its release way back in 2007. Its groundbreaking portal mechanic opened a way to many, many excellent puzzles mixing logical thinking and believable physics system, and its story, driven mostly by snarky GLaDOS, served as a great motivation to press on.
The thing that makes Portal, well, Portal, are a good sense of humor, fun with physics, a good measure of mind-bending solutions, and a tendency to give players time to test things out without immediate risk of death.
It can be a bit of a pickle to find more games that do this, but we did it! Well, mostly. The games below all have something in common with Portal, but not necessarily in the most straightforward way. They are all worth checking out, though! That’s for sure. Let’s get into it, shall we?
|The Talos Principle||2014-12-11||Adventure||Croteam||82%|
|Quantum Conundrum||2012-06-21||Puzzle||Airtight Games||74%|
|Vessel||2012-03-01||Arcade & Platform||Strange Loop Games||91%|
|Qube 2||2018-03-13||Adventure||Toxic Games|
|The Turing Test Collectors Edition||2014-05-20||Adventure||The Game Kitchen||35%|
|The Swapper||2013-05-30||Adventure||Olli Harjola, Otto Hantula, Tom Jubert, Carlo Castellano||65%|
|The Witness||2016-01-26||Adventure||Thekla, Inc.||65%|
|It Takes Two||2021-03-26||Co-op||Hazelight||41%|
|Superliminal||2020-11-05||Adventure||Pillow Castle Games||61%|
|Human Fall Flat||2016-07-22||Adventure||No Brakes Games||74%|
|The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe||2022-04-27||Adventure||Galactic Cafe|
The Talos Principle
The Talos Principle is an outstanding environmental puzzle game putting you in the chassis of a sapient robot faced with a series of puzzles which require both logical thinking and exploration of beautiful, carefully designed locales.
The game is not free from danger, as there are plenty of turrets you’ll have to disable or avoid, and there’s a lingering sense that somebody is always watching.
The Talos Principle is a fascinating, stunning game with a striking philosophical underpinning to its story and worldbuilding revealed to you slowly, as you complete more puzzles and overcome more challenges. It’s a rather somber experience, far from the cheeky, sarcastic tone of Portal, but in terms of compelling puzzle games, it’s absolutely one of the finest.
Antichamber is weird. Possibly the weirdest game on the list, despite solid competition.
The challenges it puts in front of you might twist your brain in a Gordian knot which can only be cut through with determination and experimentation. Whatever else might be true, remember this: the places you see don’t care about physical laws. Enter the fever dream of M.C. Escher.
Some corridors work differently based on the direction you’re facing, some staircases loop impossibly, and certain locations need some creative construction and destruction to manage lasers or open a way forward. There’s even an over-arching puzzle beyond the challenge rooms, connected to one of the walls in the titular antechamber.
Q.U.B.E. 1 & 2
Q.U.B.E. is, indeed, an acronym, standing for Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion and, indeed, you do extrude a lot of cubes.
There are several colors of blocks, each representing a different behavior: blue can launch entities with great speed, purple is used to make things rotate, etc. Not unlike Portal, the rules are simple, but their application can get very complex, very fast.
Over time, the conditions start changing and puzzles get new elements, which keeps you on your toes and gives a decent multidisciplinary workout for your brain. QUBE was so well-received that it got a sequel with a new story and new challenges. Oh yeah, QUBEs have a plot, to complete a story-driven first-person puzzle game vibe it shares with Portal.
The Turing Test
The Turing Test is a, well, test which checks if an artificially intelligent machine can produce humanlike behavior.
TTT is also a fantastic science fiction puzzle game made by Bulkhead Interactive in 2016. True to form, the game touches on the concepts of AI, but also, somewhat cheekily, put you in the shoes of one Ava Turing, who faces quite a few tests herself.
Guides by an AI named T.O.M. Ava will have to handle a lot of electricity fixes, thanks to the Energy Manipulation Tool. Of course, as you progress through the station and the story, more puzzle elements are added in, including taking control of electronic systems and robots, but your trusty EMT remains your core tool for pushing through to the end and seeing what’s really going on here.
|Developer:||Olli Harjola, Otto Hantula, Tom Jubert, Carlo Castellano|
Taking a break from the first-person perspective for a bit, The Swapper nevertheless might satisfy your Portal cravings.
No, it doesn’t have a portal gun. Instead, it has a gun which creates duplicates of yourself, between which you can teleport. It’s somewhat creepy and existentially mortifying once you think about it, but it also absolutely makes for interesting puzzles!
The Swapper is a 2,5D game, with 3D models and environmental models presented in a side-scrolling manner. The levels create a gloomy atmosphere of run-down bases and overgrown facilities, which make for a great backdrop to the game’s plot. You’re playing as a scavenger finding herself on a research station, it falls to you to find out what happened here…and get out..
The Witness takes place on a lovely island, showing signs of prior intelligent life living there.
Unfortunately for you, whoever lived there before also decided to pepper the place with hundreds of puzzles, big and small, and if you want to progress, you better start solving. Thankfully, the puzzles are really fun – based mostly on finding the correct path to trace on a 2D maze.
Many such mazes are found on tablets and screens, but some of them are cleverly hidden in the environment and visible only from a specific point of view. Each maze requires a different approach, as the rules change often, but the process of discovering the solution is crucial to the experience. Overall, The Witness is a great, relaxing puzzle game on the backdrop of nice-looking vistas.
It Takes Two
It Takes Two will be a nice follow-up to the co-op of Portal 2.
Except, instead of bumbling robots, you get two awful parents magically turned into tiny dolls so that they find it in themselves to be better spouses and better parents. As May and Cody you’ll explore various regions of your huge rural house, transformed by a horny book into a series of elaborate tests of character and wit.
It Takes Two can only be played by two people, and requires good communication, because all of its systems rely on coordination, often with each person having a very different range of abilities and duties. Especially since ITT is a masterclass in diversified gameplay. Each region, of which there are many, is completely fresh thematically and mechanically, down to cute little interactions.
|Developer:||Pillow Castle Games|
Do you remember how Antechamber earlier on the list used Escher-esque impossible architecture to bake you noodles?
Superliminal is similar, but instead of weird geometry, it’s based on optical illusions and playing around with perspective. Small objects can suddenly become large, items can spawn in thin air, if you only look the at the environment from the right angle, and more.
Superliminal also has a Portal-like story, based on you waking up to a weird series of dreamscape experiments run by some dude whom you saw on TV. You even get narrated by the good Doctor and the AI assistant, both of which are not exactly helpful. The game is very entertaining, and the way perspective puzzles work is truly impressive.
Human Fall Flat
|Developer:||No Brakes Games|
Human Fall Flat is another divergence from the first-person puzzler theme.
However, if your favorite part of Portal is the physics-based puzzles and a not-so-gentle touch of silliness, then perhaps this little game could be to your liking. And like Portal 2, HFF is doubly fun in multiplayer, with a similar potential for messing with your fellow player(s).
In Human Fall Flat you’re controlling, and we’re using the term loosely here, a vaguely humanoid sack of floppy jelly. Your main form of interaction is grabbing onto things to lift or drag them or climb up, and the jellies do it all in an adorably clumsy manner. Many puzzles don’t have a set solution and instead allow you to just kind of… stumble into something that does the trick.
Okay, so technically the Stanley Parable is not a puzzle game, but it does put you, in first-person, in an abandoned corporate complex, and adds a deeply sarcastic narrator who could potentially win a snark match with GLaDOS.
More specifically, you are Stanley, and while the narrator’s job is informing you on what you need to do, your job is to pretty much do anything but.
Stanley Parable originated as a Half-Life 2 mod in 2011, but not only has it received a standalone release, but it even got an Ultra Deluxe edition, which adds even more ways to frustrate the living hell out of the narrator. There are many different endings, lots of Easter Eggs, and many choices to make. It’s a short, easy game, but it’s incredibly replayable and extraordinarily witty.
Puzzle smarter, not harder
This concludes our list of games, which should give you some aspects of that Portal vibe, each in its own way. Most are similarly FPP, some have a familiar sense of humor, others have mildly unsettling subtext.
Either way, you’re in for great puzzles, immersive environments, and probably a few laughs. Have fun!