Best Puzzle Video Games: Top 5 Perplexing Plays, According To Experts

Puzzle games are a fun way to pass the time during long waits, flights, and other mass transit commutes. Playing these games is an addictive way to apply quick reflexes and problem-solving to rack up a high score. To narrow down the most enticing titles, we turned to our sources to discover the top five best puzzle games.

Between 1980 and 1985 there were many simple or logic-based puzzle games like the 1981 Atari title “Blockbuster” which was a digital representation of a Rubik’s Cube. All of this changed in 1985 with the release of what is considered to be the puzzle game GOAT, Tetris. This title was developed by Russian software engineer Alexey Pajitnov. The premise of this game is simple: arrange rapidly falling blocks so that they fill out rows across the bottom of the screen. Filling out a row makes all the blocks in that row disappear allowing players to stack more blocks that fall with ever-increasing speed.

Video games like these don’t always get the credit they deserve, as they require skill that not everyone can master. In fact, two in three Americans say it’s time for society to consider gaming a legit career. The revelation comes as 54 percent of 2,000 adults polled believe video gaming should also be taught in schools, and three in five think gaming should be part of the core school curriculum. Meanwhile, 53 percent noted that video games should be an academic extracurricular activity, like other sports.

Video gaming has come a long way and its public perception has evolved. Once considered a pastime for children and tech nerds, video games are now a major mainstream hobby. In fact, recent research indicates playing video games may actually boost a child’s brainpower, according to new research. Researchers in Vermont say gaming leads to better impulse control and working memory, improving behavior and academic performance. Lead author Dr. Bader Chaarani, a psychiatrist at the University of Vermont, describes the findings as “encouraging.”

So, now that you have an excuse to pick up a controller, be my guest. Gaming is even easier today with the popularity of smart phones. Having a powerful computer in their pocket allows puzzle video games and other titles to become fully ubiquitous anywhere that people find themselves waiting. From waiting for a table in a busy restaurant to the boarding area before a flight, puzzle games can be a great way to while away tedious or boring moments. Although Tetris may have been one of the greatest of all time, our list of the top five best puzzle video games shows how far the genre has come since 1985. Our list could even lead readers to discover a new favorite. Let us know your favorite puzzle games in the comments below!

Nintendo Switch
Nintendo Switch (Photo by Tobiah Ens on Unsplash)

The List: Best Puzzle Video Games, According to Experts


1. “World of Goo” (2008)

Addictive gameplay that rewards creative problem solving are hallmarks of this beloved puzzler. “‘World of Goo’ has stood the test of time after its October 2008 release over a decade ago. Simple and addictive, ‘World of Goo’ has mastered the physics-based gameplay format, forcing players to guide lost, frantic little goo balls towards a pipe. The catch? They must use some of their given goo balls to build structures that the others can use to reach the pipe… Proceed with caution with this game. We heard that some of the tougher levels have the tendency to turn human brains into goo,” explains GameRant.

“World of Goo” (2008)
“World of Goo” (2008)

“The physics-based puzzler uses goo as the literal building blocks of each level. Tasked with helping characters across massive chasms, the player must construct structures made of goo that the characters can cross safely. The real challenge begins when the player is limited by how much goo they can use, and the difficulty means that the game never gets repetitive,” adds ScreenRant.

“But what elevates World of Goo from a good puzzler to a great game are the detail and flourishes that aren’t necessary to the puzzles, but are absolutely indispensable to creating the marvelous world in which they exist. The squealing, bug-eyed Goo Balls are endearingly cute, and the light-hearted, sometimes cryptic messages left by the Sign Painter are entertaining in their own right. There’s a story here too, believe it or not, and it actually gets a little dark, although it never entirely lets go of its inherent goofiness,” states PC Gamer.

2. “Portal” (2007, 2011)

One of the greatest puzzler series of all time, “Portal” challenges players to solve puzzles using the strange physics created by a portal gun. ‘“Portal 1 + 2’ are some of the most creative games ever made, period. These unique puzzle shooters blend physics and shooting in a way that made them infinitely popular with gamers… In both games, you’ll be put to the test to see if you can outsmart the mechanical Glados. But how you go about solving the puzzles will test your problem-solving and creativity to the max. So dive in, grab your portal gun, and get the job done,” writes Gameranx.

"Portal 2" (2011)
“Portal 2” (2011)

“No list of best puzzle games is complete without Valve’s ‘Portal’ Series and I can say that with complete confidence. Their brilliance cannot be simply ignored. Initially released as part of a five-game collection called ‘The Orange Box’, the original ‘Portal’ was more of an experiment with just few dialog and short gameplay. Nevertheless, it makes up for that in intensity and excitement. Keeping ‘Portal’s’ initial success in mind, Valve launched ‘Portal 2’ with superior mechanics and more elaborative gameplay. Both games are based on a simple premise in which players solve puzzles using portals,” adds Rank Red.

“Portal was a success—a huge one—for a number of reasons. The writing, the humor, and the story that unexpectedly began to drip through the cracks of Aperture Science while we played Valve’s 2007 first-person puzzler. Thing is, it would still be a great game without any of that because the puzzle-solving is so damn great on its own… The difficulty increases gradually, getting more complex at just the right pace, so we never feel frustrated and yet it never seems too easy. There’s even a puzzle-based boss fight, and a charming little song when you win. While ‘Portal 2’ upped the ante in just about every department, the original is still a wonderful, funny, and rewarding way to spend a few hours,” according to PC Gamer.

3. “Baba is You” (2019)

A programming puzzle game might not sound exciting, but it is one of the most addictive puzzlers on the market. ‘“Baba is You’ essentially takes the challenges of programming and remodels them into an accessible and ingenious puzzle game. Each puzzle in ‘Baba is You’ revolve around short strings of words that dictate the rules of that puzzle. ‘Baba is You’ for example, means that you control the character known as Baba, while ‘Rock is Push’ means that rocks can be pushed around by other things. But these words can themselves be pushed around and rearranged. Change ‘Baba Is You’ to Rock is You, for example, and suddenly you’ll assume control of the rock. The result is a puzzle game about breaking the rules, where you solve its conundrums by coming up with your own cheat codes. It’s enormously satisfying and so, so clever, packing an immense amount of puzzling fun into a tiny, simple-looking package,” offers Bit Gamer.

“Baba is You” (2019)
“Baba is You” (2019)

‘“Baba Is You’ is a tough game to describe, as it’s unlike anything else currently available. The basic premise is simple: Each puzzle has a series of rules, e.g., ‘baba is you,’ ‘wall is stop,’ and ‘flag is win.’ With those rules in place, it’s your job to solve the puzzle. In the case described, that would mean reaching the flag as the little rabbit known as Baba. Nothing is set in stone, however. You’re free to move blocks around and change the rules of the puzzle you’re solving. Although the setup seems simple, it quickly becomes mind-bending. Nothing in ‘Baba Is You’ holds any value, so a reasonable solution to a puzzle could be as simple as allowing you to move past a wall or as complex as becoming the wall itself,” writes Digital Trends.

“Rather than you always being at the mercy of a game’s rules, ‘Baba Is You’ lets you decide the rules of the universe for once. In fact, the whole challenge comes in the form of deciding how different aspects of the environment will interact with one another in order to proceed forward.  In a true retro game art style, this is a game that will run on most PCs and is also incredibly addicting to play. That being said, ‘Baba Is You’ is a puzzle game that’s more challenging than it looks and requires a lot of thinking outside the box, along with a dash of creativity,” writes The Gamer

4. “The Witness” (2016)

This game allows players to flex their problem-solving muscles as they solve puzzles to navigate a maze. “The island of ‘The Witness’ is very big… And each of these bits are full of puzzles – each area having a slightly different flavor of puzzle, though they’re basically all getting a line from one side of a little input board to the other – teaching you the rules of how to solve things in ‘The Witness’ … What makes ‘The Witness’ so impressive is what makes it hard to describe: it’s sort of every kind of puzzle game at once. And, on top of that, you’re walking around a weird island, listening to cryptic voice notes and wondering who put all these machines there in the first place. Eventually, if you play it long enough, you can see there are puzzles all around you,” raves Rock Paper Shotgun.

“All the puzzles in the game are maze-like and can be solved by drawing a path connecting the start point to the goal or endpoint. You must follow certain rules while progressing, and these rules can change from puzzle-to-puzzle. While many of them can be solved quite easily, most are a hard nut to crack. An important component of the game is yellow boxes that carry a set of puzzles which must be solved in order to activate them and eventually conclude a region,” writes Rank Red.

“Exploring a resplendent open-world environment, the player is dropped into the game with very little instruction. Puzzles represent roadblocks, and the trick to solving the puzzles isn’t clearly defined by the game itself. This open-ended gameplay allows users to discover the game at their own pace, and solving puzzles is that much more rewarding,” offers ScreenRant.

5. “Catherine: Full Body” (2011)

“Catherine” is as much a visual novel as it is a puzzle game where players explore the possibilities and conclusions that are created by their own choices. “Vincent has a problem: he’s just drunkenly cheated on his longtime girlfriend. Now he’s having nightmares about climbing block towers that disintegrate underneath him (also, he’s a sheep in his boxers). Leave it to the team behind the ‘Persona’ series to come up with a puzzle horror game that crosses social interactions and commentary on relationships with a blood-soaked ‘QBert.’ There’s no other puzzle game quite like ‘Catherine,’ and despite its steep difficulty it’s definitely worth your while,” explains Complex.

“Catherine: Full Body” (2011)
“Catherine: Full Body” (2011)

“The game is divided into two segments spanning over day and night. During the daytime, your character can do certain things like chatting with his friends and ordering drinks. The puzzle element of the game takes place during night time, well it’s actually ‘nightmare times.’ Your objective is to climb giant staircases which are slowly collapsing, and safely reach the top. Remember it’s all happening in Vincent’s dream. In order to climb the staircase, you must quickly push and pull blocks while avoiding certain pitfalls,” details Rank Red.

“From Atlus, the creators of the ‘Persona’ series, ‘Catherine’ is a unique puzzle-dating sim hybrid. You play as Vincent Brooks, a 32-year-old systems engineer who’s been dodging marrying his longtime girlfriend, Katherine with a ‘K.’ One late night, Vincent encounters Catherine, who’s the antithesis of his controlling girlfriend. After a one-night stand, Vincent starts having terrifying dreams where he must outrun demons. Of course, these dreams mirror the double-life Vincent is leading in reality, as he’s joined by other men who’ve fallen to infidelity. The dream sequences are where ‘Catherine’ comes into its own, offering ruthlessly fast and mind-bending puzzles built on the simple premise of moving blocks,” states Digital Trends.

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