The best puzzle games can be found both online and offline. As of today, there are hundreds of puzzle games available for download.
To help you with your picks, this list rounds up the 21 best puzzle games that can sharpen your wits and boost your IQ.
Inside This Article
- What Are Puzzle Games?
- 21 Best Puzzle Games
- Cats in Time
- Murder Mystery Machine
- Granny 3
- Help Me!
- Tetris Effect: Connected
- Twelve Minutes
- Half Dead 3
- Somewhere in the Shadow
- My Life Changed
- Panda in the Clouds
- Ki11er Clutter
- Sunshine Heavy Industries
- Mosaic Chronicles
- Operation: Tango
- Temple of Snek
- Detective VR: Secret Files
- Final Word
What Are Puzzle Games?
What They Are
Puzzle-solving is a type of video game that can intersect with many other genres. The topics for the best puzzle games are broad, but their essence boils down to the questions of logic: recognizing patterns, solving sequences, and even through Text Twist-type word challenges.
This genre of video games can be upfront: fill in the missing pieces of a picture. Or, be woven into a game’s story: escape this room by solving its puzzles and get out. For the most part, the purest of puzzle games have its players solve logical and spatial problems.
Unlike most video games, the puzzle genre blossoms in pressure. However, given its broad nature, some of the best puzzle games give you all the time you need. Special games, like Tetris, give you unlimited time until you inevitably lose to your own game.
The most popular puzzle games can be matching-type, visual, time-bound, or memorization challenges. While developers can shape these puzzle games however they want to, all puzzles have one thing in common: they get more difficult as you go along.
What makes digital puzzle games so special is their relatively long history. The most popular game in the genre, Tetris, is so revolutionary that there is no game like it today.
Created by Alexey Pajitnov in 1984, Tetris ushered in an era of puzzle gaming unlike ever before. In this game, the goal is simple: arrange upcoming boxes of different sizes to complete a complete line. Do this before your boxes pile up, and you have nowhere else to place upcoming ones.
A success, Tetris sold millions of copies across decades of gaming. It became a hallmark of the Atari, one of the world’s first popularized consoles. Because of Tetris’s simplicity, it was passed on from one platform to another with no issues.
Since Tetris, puzzle games have made bolder strides but also have managed to keep their introverted charm. As most puzzle games are randomized, players are always kept on their toes. Moreover, other digital puzzle games that have made their mark in this era also have a simple style. Candy Crush, for example, can be played by adults and kids alike. Released in 2012, this is still one of the most popular and best puzzle games of the 21st century.
Puzzle games do not rely on chance or character skill. Being one of the oldest game genres in the world, it taunts the mind. You have to piece together a process. It wants you to wrap your head around the abstract, looking at problems from different perspectives.
There is a puzzle game for every gaming platform known to exist. Tetris was compatible with the Atari and still is compatible with the PS5 as Puyo-Puyo Tetris.
The best puzzle games are available for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, the Xbox 360, and especially iOS and Android operating systems. As mentioned above, they can also be played on next-generation consoles such as the Xbox Series X | Series S and the PlayStation 5.
Of course, compatibility depends on the game you want. Lower-budget games can be compatible with smaller devices, while specialized games such as the Tetris Effect are more fun on consoles.
For the list below, we’re focusing on puzzle games you can play on PC and gaming consoles.
21 Best Puzzle Games
1. Cats in Time
Help Professor Tim Edger find his cats using his world-renowned time machine! Cats in Time is a modern puzzle game with over 30 3D levels you can play on. Each level offers a different aesthetic and difficulty, as well as a cute cat for you to save.
What’s great about Cats in Time is that it really doubles down on its premise. Find cats in 20th-century New York or in the land of ancient Greece. Both could not be more different and more the same—flooded with characters, culture, and cats for you to see.
There are over 300 cats for you to save, with the ultimate Steam version boasting extra levels and game features. Cats in Time definitely does not only boost your IQ but also brings brightness to your life.
Unlike Cats in Space, Myst is a more traditional puzzle game. First released in 1993, this game is a click-and-drag game shrouded in mystery and puzzles. It was so successful at the time of its release that it had a renaissance in 2000 after the debut of Myst: Masterpiece Edition.
In this game, you enter an unknown world with tons of objects and places to explore. Navigate this world and let it lead you along its path of mysteries and puzzles, hidden in its every crevice and corner. There are rights to defend and injustices to face—be the one to face them all.
Myst is not a blatant puzzle game, at least not like most of the best puzzle games on this list. However, it uses puzzles in a unique way, ushering in an era of interactivity in gaming. With this comes a special treatment to puzzle gaming, which still holds up to this modern era.
3. Murder Mystery Machine
Going back to modern puzzle games, Murder Mystery Machine is a plot-driven puzzle game that needs your help in getting to the bottom of things. Play as Cassandra Clarke and join the District Crime Agency, where fellow detective Nate Robinson reluctantly needs your help. A politician has been murdered, and it is your responsibility to keep the case open—there’s something wrong with the quick conclusions.
This game is full of brain teasers for you to solve. Rendered like a “modern noir deduction thriller,” it is a sentimental true crime puzzle game. In many ways, this is its appeal. However, this comes as no surprise as Murder Mystery Machine is produced by Blazing Griffin, a BAFTA-winning production company.
Unlike most modern puzzle games, Murder Mystery Machine is dark and eerie, but that’s the point.
Get Murder Mystery Machine on Steam
4. Granny 3
Riding on the darkness of the previous game is Granny 3, a game that has been very popular in the YouTube gaming scene. Here, you have to escape an old mansion and get away from the clutches of Granny and Grandpa. You have five days to get out of its premises, cross a moat, and jump over a large wall. It is the only way to get out, and Granny and Grandpa do not make it easier.
Equipped with weapons, you have to fend off the two seniors from keeping you locked up. Explore their mansion, look for objects, and keep quiet. Like in all the other best puzzle games, you have to think quickly on your feet: strategize your escape and plan your way around your items.
5. Help Me!
When you read this game’s title, you might think it is like Granny 3 or Murder Mystery Machine. However, as the best puzzle games come and go, Help Me! has one of the most innocent premises.
Play as a psychiatrist and counsel your patients as they confide their problems and mental issues to you. These patients, like in real life, have different needs and experiences. It is your job to treat them as best you can—give them their medication and sound advice.
Help Me! has a particular groove to it, with you being rewarded for strategizing your responses well. The wrong treatments can worsen a patient’s situation and inevitably end your career. This game is a mind-boggling puzzle, training your emotional IQ. It is also one of the latest games under Steam’s puzzle releases.
Not intended to be therapeutic, Help Me has you attending to anthropomorphic animals as a practice of empathy.
Going back to more blatant puzzle games, Fallow is about an isolated woman wrestling with the loss of her sisters. Growing up in isolation with them, they are the only life she has ever known. However, in her corner of the world, forgetting is so rampant that it’s beginning to forget itself.
Help Isabelline Fallow hold on to her memories by solving dreamscape puzzles on beautiful pixel backgrounds. There are worlds for you to explore, which can be finished in 2-5 hours of gameplay if you really wanted to.
7. Tetris Effect: Connected
This would not be a list of the best puzzle games without some version of Tetris. Born in the modern era, Tetris Effect: Connected is an unparalleled multiplayer game experience like no other.
Introducing a Tetris co-op mode, Connected ups the ante when it comes to competitive Tetris. There are also modes like “competitive online” and “local multiplayer” for you to explore, along with over 10 other modes.
In Tetris Effect, there are over 30 single-player stages with their unique musical backgrounds and special effects. Play to the beat of their music and see if you could keep up with the high-pulsating EDM that defines this game.
Get Tetris Effect: Connected on Steam
8. Twelve Minutes
A game featuring Hollywood A-listers such as James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe, Twelve Minutes is one of the best puzzle games you can choose under the escape room genre. Here, you play as a man who is stuck in a time loop, replaying the same 12 minutes of your life again and again.
It doesn’t help that the last thing you remember is the police barging into your home, accusing your wife of the most heinous crimes, and leaving you for dead. With this, anyone can lose their mind, and the goal for you is to keep yours intact.
To escape this loop, you must solve the mysteries of the game. The items in your memories are point-and-click, so be as creative and strategic as you would like.
9. Half Dead 3
Play as a group of four in this co-op sci-fi adventure from Room710Games. In this game, you wake up in a room with your friends, not knowing how and why you got there. No, it wasn’t a wild night. This is the beginning of the wildest, most terrifying day of your life, though.
As you explore the place you’re in, you’re quick to realize that all of the rooms look the same. There is no way out, but there is also no way for you to keep staying in. You cannot stay in one room for longer than a few minutes, as there are traps—both fatal and non-fatal—ready to catch you and your friends slipping.
Solve the puzzles of Half Dead 3 and get you and your friends out alive. This game has a single-player mode, but it’s always best to explore the eight room biomes, five room designs, and many floor levels with your pals.
10. Somewhere in the Shadow
The genre of the best puzzle games keep falling back to horror, especially in the modern century. Somewhere in the Shadow is no exception, where you and your friends also wake up in a strange and dark area.
Like in Half Dead 3, the goal is to stay alive. You realize that the place you found yourselves in is a cursed and haunted house and that the only way out is to solve its puzzles while fending off its residents.
Whether you are playing as a group of four or alone, Somewhere in the Shadow has many riddles and horrors for you to discover. It also is a challenge of the mind, from keeping your cool to thinking on your feet.
Get Somewhere in the Shadow on Steam
11. My Life Changed
Straying away from the genre of horror, My Life Changed is a personal project of an indie developer, Naoka Games. Named literally, this game is an avenue for storytelling. It is simple and low stakes. In many ways, My Life Changed is an art piece shared through a game.
There are six jigsaw puzzles for you to solve. Each is a different experience, with different levels, songs, aesthetics, and more. While these do provide a different experience, however, they also come together to shape the narrative of Naoka Games.
In this story of love, players can relax and solve their way through the lessons, characters, and happenings of the Naoka Games’ life. This is one of the best puzzle games out now because of its friendly approach to the genre and easy interactivity. As a bonus, you can admire the jigsaw puzzles as actual art after you play their level.
12. Panda in the Clouds
Following the bright and relaxed suit of My Life Changed, Panda in the Clouds is a platform puzzle game where you have to lead your panda to a red flag. This game title has you moving only in grids and navigating different maps as you progress.
There are over 30 levels in Panda in the Clouds, with increasing difficulty as you move along. This is a staple of the genre of the best puzzle games, but Panda in the Clouds serves this with a warm hug.
Get Panda in the Clouds on Steam
Straying away from the treatment of the best puzzle games like My Life Changed and Panda in the Clouds is Noctambulant. Unlike most games on this list, this puzzle game is a 2D experience. However, like others on this list, it is a survival-horror puzzle game.
Live the life of Renee, a young woman recently forced to move in with her grandmother after the death of her parents. As she continues to stay in her grandmother’s place, a mystery begins to unfold. Why is she always told to sleep so early? What other rules does her well-meaning grandmother have for her?
To find the answer to Renee’s questions, you have to solve strange and unusual puzzles in the premise of her own home. Your choices and game strategy will shape the ending of your game.
14. Ki11er Clutter
If you are a true puzzling fanatic, purchasing Ki11er Clutter is a bang-for-your-buck idea. Boasting over 1,700 puzzles for you to play, this game is for sure one of the best puzzle games that can boost your IQ.
In this game, you have to sort through piles and piles of clutter. You can do this by using sliding puzzles, square jigsaws, and other unique treatments. As the 11th installment of one of the best puzzle games, Ki11er has the genre down to the tee: random levels, original music, and even 144 main game Quests.
There are also new objects in Ki11er Clutter, most of which resemble the clutters of a modern century home.
This is one of the unique moments when a puzzle game meshes with profound philosophy. An exploration between life and death, Endings is a 2D puzzle platformer game that makes amends with these types of sentiments.
Condensed into 23 unique levels and 40 puzzles, this game helps you take your time and ask similar questions about the moments that separate living and dying. Adding to this treatment is the game’s black and white atmosphere, which completes its entire aesthetic.
Endings also have mind games for players to enjoy, so if you want the best puzzle games that boost your (mental & spiritual) IQ, this puzzle game is for you.
16. Sunshine Heavy Industries
You are a new spaceship engineer from Sunshine Heavy Industries. Your job is to solve problems, whatever they may be—from customer demands to budget woes. On top of it all, you have to attend to the needs of your business partners, keeping your livelihood afloat all of the madness.
In this game, multitasking is key. However, your first task is to design a 2D ship before time and other resources run out. Like most of the best puzzle games, Sunshine Heavy Industries is a moldable experience, with solutions relying on your creativity to be done.
Assemble spaceships with over 100 different parts, solve problems, and think your way out of puzzles in this game. There are over 50 story levels for you to patch up and dozens of subsystems for you to use.
Live the ultimate space fantasy and sharpen your mind while doing so.
Get Sunshine Heavy Industries on Steam
17. Mosaic Chronicles
Inspired by Olga Gromyko, Mosaic Chronicles is another plot-driven puzzle game with lessons on life, love, and friendship. In these parts of life, the values of courage and luck are intertwined, but such values are also good to have in this game.
In Mosaic Chronicles, there are over 50 mosaics for you to assemble. This can be done by moving and rotating the pieces. By doing this, you slowly unravel the stories of Gromyko and unlock the beauty of the game’s art pieces.
You can visit your finished mosaics in the game’s gallery. There, you can also see your in-game progress.
Get Mosaic Chronicles on Steam
18. Operation: Tango
Horror mystery is popular in the world of the best puzzle games. However, Operation: Tango takes a more classic route. In this co-op game, you pair up with a friend as spies. Together, you have to overthrow an evil tech mogul and save the world.
Operation: Tango is a unique gameplay experience because teamwork is king. You and your friend play as either an agent or a hacker, solving puzzles of communication, space, and more. To top it all off, you can also hear each other while playing (and only hear each other).
Investigate the world’s most controversial people in augmented reality. Operation: Tango is a sight to behold and a lot of fun to be had.
19. Temple of Snek
The concept for Snake-type games is easy: grow for the sake of growing, but never let it get in your way. A tile-based puzzle dungeon adventure, the Temple of Snek adds a layer of story to this gameplay: protect your temple from ne’er do wells.
Robbers, raiders, and explorers want a taste of your treasures and secrets, and as the goddess Snek, it is your duty to draw the line. Play as a giant snake and guard your temple using puzzle strategies, special abilities, and gameplay settings.
There are about 2-5 hours of total gameplay for Snek, but it is so traditional that it is highly replayable. Its classic mode is a simple eat-and-grow attack accompanied by music. The game’s more challenging settings have players doing their own Snek puzzles.
When it comes to puzzles, the classic jigsaw type gave birth to all the rest, and now you can solve jigsaw puzzles online without any of the mess of physical puzzle pieces. Im-a-Puzzle has over 1,000 puzzles and numerous customization options. These include customizing the shapes of puzzle pieces, choosing the number of pieces for an extra challenge, and even creating puzzles of your own to share with others!
21. Detective VR: Secret Files
The final entry to this list of the best puzzle games to boost your IQ is Detective VR: Secret Files. In this game, you investigate the mystery of a missing collector. In a solo investigation, it is up to you to get to the bottom of things—hopefully, the truth is not as scary as people initially think it is.
As a detective, you have to explore secret locations, observe location details, and much more. As a puzzle game boosting your IQ, it has an added feature of building logic chains and solving riddles. A little background on chemistry and digital footprints will help you solve this case immensely too.
There is no telling where the story of Detective VR is headed. Rooted in the current digital trends of NFTs, specifically Ethereum, you will encounter chilling details about digital occultism.
Of course, you can only enjoy this game with the best VR headset models.
Get Detective VR: Secret Files on Steam
This list only rounds out the 21 best puzzle games, but given the genre’s reach, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of these to explore further.
Gaming is an avenue to learn many real-life skills, such as skills of communication and leadership. However, at the heart of it, all are the skills championed by the best puzzle games: of critical thinking, logic, problem-solving, and strategizing.