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For those players who like to use their brains to the fullest while playing, puzzle video games are the best option! With these games, you will have to solve various puzzles and use your brain in a new way to achieve victory. So if you love brain teasers, get to know the genre and the best puzzle games firsthand with our guide!
What are puzzle game features?
This kind of video game emphasizes solving various puzzles. They test problem-solving skills, such as logic, pattern/spatial recognition, sequence solving, and word completion. There are a lot of different puzzle video games, from simple to intricate and even cinematic. Some of them have a decent storyline, while others have interesting mechanics and world design.
Types of puzzle video games
Just like any other game, puzzle games can be divided into different sub-genres based on their gameplay mechanics. From simple Jigsaw puzzles for kids to classic word search puzzles to FPS games implementing puzzle mechanics and complete brain melters for hardcore problem solvers. Here are the most notable puzzle game sub-genres:
- Physics-based. These mind-bending adventures challenge players to harness the game's physics and environment to overcome ingenious puzzles, pushing the boundaries of what's possible. With meticulously crafted worlds and consistent physics, these games deliver an extra layer of challenge that keeps you hooked for hours. From the mobile game market to educational settings, physics puzzle games have become a popular choice, offering both entertainment and a practical way to showcase the principles of physics. Immerse yourself in renowned titles like Portal, The Talos Principle, The Witness, Braid, Fez, World of Goo, Angry Birds, and Cut the Rope, where every clever move and calculated interaction brings you closer to unraveling the mysteries that lie within;
- Coding. Coding games are immersive puzzle-solving experiences that combine logical thinking with programming elements. Examples include "The Incredible Machine," "SpaceChem," and "Infinifactory." These games challenge players to use coding principles to solve puzzles and enhance problem-solving skills.
- Exploration. There are a few kinds of exploration games, including point-and-click and isometric puzzle platformers, that are similar to adventure games and walking simulators, where the player has to explore the level and find the solution to the given situation. These games require inductive reasoning in order to progress. The style of puzzles in exploration games requires players to guess and check before solving to reveal more of a puzzle. Examples of exploration games are Myst, Limbo, Monument Valley, The Monkey Island series, and The Room;
- Hidden object games. Also known as hidden object puzzle adventures (HOPA), hidden object gameplay has players looking for certain hidden items from a given list. This kind of puzzle game is popular among casual gamers;
- Tile-matching. Here, the player must manipulate tiles to make them disappear according to a matching criterion. For example, matching pairs of shapes or colors. In some tile-matching games, the player must swap pieces, other games adopt the classic tile-based Mahjong game. There are also games where the player has to shoot the pieces on the board. Tile-matching game examples include such popular releases as Lumines, Chain Shot!, Bejeweled, Candy Crush Saga, Zuma, and Threes.
Best puzzle games to play
PC, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PS4 puzzle games – we got them all! There are a lot of titles to choose from, but we present you with the most exciting puzzle games:
- Portal. Created in 2007 by Valve, Portal was an immediate success, but the second installment, Portal 2, stole the hearts of millions of players across the globe. In Portal games, players have a gun that can create portals on certain surfaces. That is a crucial part of solving various portal-laced puzzles. Moreover, the game boasts an engaging narrative, well-developed characters, and an incredibly peculiar atmosphere. You can play Portal 2 with a friend, so it's a perfect co-op puzzle game!
- Angry Birds. Probably one of the most popular mobile video games, Angry Birds offers physics-based puzzles where players have to destroy the platforms of enemies by throwing birds at them. The first Angry Birds game was released in 2009, but there are a ton of various main-line and spin-off titles of the series available on PC as well;
- Braid. It's a puzzle platformer developed by Number None in 2008. Immersing players in a story where the protagonist has to save a princess, the game features a time manipulation mechanic, as well as platforming sections;
- Fez. A puzzle platformer created by Polytron Corporation and released in 2012, Fez is a unique indie puzzle game where players have to navigate through colorful levels and have the ability to rotate the camera, thus changing angles and perspective of view;
- Limbo. An atmospheric, popular title made by indie developer Playdead in 2010. It's a 2D platformer with a physics system. The main protagonist of Limbo is a boy who searches for his lost sister. It's a beautiful title that instantly captures you with its mysterious world, jaw-dropping art design, and physics-based puzzles;
- Myst. A graphic adventure puzzle game developed by Cyan in 1993, Myst is one of those classic famous puzzle titles that are remembered to this day. In this game, the player has to travel through the book to an island called Myst, from where they can visit four different worlds and solve mysteries. It's a perfect title for those looking for plenty of puzzles and time-tested experience;
- The Talos Principle. Released in 2014 by Croteam, The Talos Principle is an enthralling puzzle game with a deep storyline, where the player takes the role of a robot with a human-like consciousness. The game offers environments that contain more than 120 puzzles.
- Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You might not have expected to see a Zelda game on this list, but the innovations, tools, and freedom to solve puzzles in this 2017 masterpiece have pushed the boundaries of game development, as well as how much we can interact with the game's word. 2023's sequel Tears of the Kingdom further improved and surpassed its predecessor by offering new ways of interaction by offering the complete and utter freedom to solve puzzles in any way players can imagine.
History of puzzle video games
Here is a brief history of this genre:
- The 1980s. Space Panic (1980) released in arcades by Universal Entertainment, inspired such puzzle-platform games as Lode Runner (1983), Door Door (1983), and Doki Doki Penguin Land (1985). However, Tetris was the game that revolutionized and popularized the puzzle genre. It was created by Soviet game designer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984 and released by Spectrum Holobyte for MS-DOS in 1987 as well as Atari Games in arcades in 1988 and sold 30 million copies for Game Boy.
- The 1990s. In 1991, the Lemmings, a game where the player has to assign jobs to specific creatures called lemmings to guide them to a safe destination, was released. Players began to use the mouse to play puzzle video games. When Minesweeper was released with Windows 95 OS, it took the world by storm, and to this day, many players still have no idea how to actually play it.
- The 2000s. PopCap Games released an enhanced version of the 1994 MS-DOS game Shariki in 2001. In the game, players have to touch groups of jewels on a grid, causing them to disappear, then new stones fall into their place. This mechanic was a foundation for such popular puzzle titles as Candy Crush Saga and Puzzle & Dragons, both released in 2012. The popularity of physics-based logic puzzle games started with the release of Portal (2007) by Valve.