Mind games: The best modern puzzle video games
From puzzles to mysteries, these are some of our favorite video games that will keep your mind sharp and hone your problem-solving skills.
By Anabelle Vo
If you’re not a big gamer, it might come as a surprise to you just how many brilliant video games exist to help you hone your spatial senses and problem-solving skills. Moreover, many of our favorite games are excellent demonstrations of scientific theories and strong artistic achievements. From physics puzzles to logic exercises, these are some of our favorite games to keep the noggin whirring.
Portal 1 & 2
The legendary puzzle platformer series left fans wanting more, and ever since the release of “Portal 2,” a third game has been rumored, debunked, and rumored all over again. Known for its physics-based challenges, the game elevated the 3D puzzle game to its height with innovative gameplay that leaves us feeling an overwhelming sense of pride when we complete a challenge. The games might be old, but the puzzles will be evergreen, so we highly recommend this game to keep you preoccupied while riding out quarantine.
“Braid,” released in 2008, was an immediate indie darling whose reputation still remains to this day. “Braid’s” creator, Jonathan Blow, was driven by a desire to innovate gameplay while still focusing on the artistic and narrative merits of the game. The player uses time manipulation to navigate what, at first glance, looks like a traditional platformer. Yet it is in the details and actual gameplay mechanics that “Braid” truly shines. Give this oldie but goodie a try.
Another Jonathan Blow project, the gorgeous 3D puzzle game was created following the success of “Braid” that allowed Blow to expand his creative team. It also followed his driving philosophy to have information effectively conveyed through non-verbal communication. However, critics of the game have noted that the ambiguity of the narrative and difficulty of the puzzles might be off-putting to many players. This one might require some extra patience, but we think it deserves a look.
Professor Layton Series
Exclusive to Nintendo, the first installment in this series, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, was released in Japan in 2007. The series has spawned several sequels, mobile games, an animated film, and an anime series. The games are now available on mobile devices. They present a wide variety of puzzles, from visual to logic. The engaging mysteries are combined with aesthetically pleasing art design to make the games extremely playable.
The Talos Principle
Critically lauded for its clever puzzles and beautiful environment, the game is a first-person exploration puzzle game, much in the same vein as the classic “Myst”–and often compared to it. Ranked as one of the best puzzlers of all time, the game narrative is elevated by a focus on philosophy and mythology, questioning the nature of consciousness and humanity. You’ll have your hands full with more than a hundred puzzles, and there’s also a DLC for the game, titled “Road to Gehenna,” so you can continue the story once you’ve completed the main game.
Part German expressionist horror, part sidescroller, this game has it all. The macabre environment truly captures the menacing tone of the narrative, and the game received high praise for its art design. Controls are simple, and the player moves forward by interacting with the treacherous, trap-laden environment. The developers of “Limbo” calls the game have stated that they expect players to die many times before solving a puzzle. Proceed with caution!