Puzzle games are a mixed bag of difficulty. Some can be brain numbingly easy, solved without really a thought. But others can be so complicated that players can give up and never play that game again.
These types of games can come in various genres. Plenty might be in a point and click style where solving puzzles is based on game logic instead of real-life logic. Lots of games use a first-person perspective, so it feels more immersive. A few developers, especially indie games, go out of their way to make niche puzzle games that only a handful of people will be able to solve.
Updated January 6th, 2021 by Thomas Bowen: Puzzles play an important part in many modern and cult classic titles alike. Whether in a point and click adventure or a survival horror nightmare, they’re a great way for developers to put players’ problem-solving powers to the test. While most developers typically opt for a light sprinkling, however, some instead choose to build their games entirely around them. Many can be solved with very little thought but there are others that will have players pulling out their hair.
15 Broken Sword
The Broken Sword series is one of the finest that the point and click genre has to offer and made its name through its thought-provoking puzzles and lovable cast. Players take control of an American tourist by the name of George Stobbart who finds himself caught up in the middle of a villainous plot to take over the world. Thanks to his astute actions though, he’s able to persevere.
The game borrows a lot from real-world history and adds its own embellishments to create a caper that’s as enjoyable as it is challenging. Players will need to think outside of the box if they’re to have any chance of stopping the Neo-Templars, although they will also need a fair amount of common sense as well. The infamous goat puzzle is easily the game’s most memorable, but it is just one of many that will take a bit of time to figure out.
14 Human Fall Flat
Physics-based puzzle games have become increasingly popular since the release of Portal in 2007. Human Fall Flat falls some way short of matching Valve’s masterpiece, but that’s not to say that it has nothing to offer. It might not look like it, but buried beneath its simplistic art-style is a game that is both challenging and enjoyable, especially when played with friends.
Admittedly, some of the game’s difficulty does arise from its wonky controls and physics, although this seems to have been by design rather than the result of inexperience on the developer’s part. The rest stems from some well-designed puzzles which require both a great deal of thought and patience in order to solve. It perhaps lacks the same level of replayability as some of the other great puzzle games out there, but Human Fall Flat is definitely worth playing at least once.
13 Baba Is You
Baba Is You is undoubtedly one of the best indie games of the past few years and one that does a fantastic job of gradually cranking up the difficulty as players progress. There’s not much of a narrative to speak of, but the game more than makes up for this with its unique and creative mechanics. It might look simple, but it is anything but.
Players will need to be able to think both clearly and logically if they’re to have any hope of completing the game. As they progress through, they’ll find a real sense of achievement as they begin to master the game’s mechanics. With a cross-platform level designer currently in the works, there’s potential for some even more challenging stages looming large on the horizon as well.
12 Opus Magnum
It’s very rare that an educational game manages to be entertaining, but that’s exactly what programmer Zach Barth was able to achieve with his 2017 title Opus Magnum. It’s a game that’s designed for programmers (or those looking to learn) and allows players to design devices to complete a wide variety of tasks. It can be a little daunting at first, but it’s actually incredibly intuitive and can be picked up in a matter of hours.
Once players have gotten the hang of things they should have very little trouble completing the game’s tasks as there are countless ways of doing so. Those hoping to have their names immortalized on the game’s leader-boards will need to put some real thought into their designs though as the competition at the top is really quite stiff. Finding the perfect solution will require not only brains but also a considerable amount of time and perseverance.
11 The Bizarre Adventures Of Woodruff And The Schnibble
Although Sierra’s King’s Quest series has its fair share of difficult puzzles, most of them are made to look like child’s play by the ones found in the company’s earlier title The Bizarre Adventures of Woodruff and the Schnibble. This wonderfully illustrated adventure game is teeming with perplexing puzzles that will require a considerable amount of reasoning in order to solve. Either that or some kind of walkthrough or guide.
It’s one of those games where the developer seems to have gone to great lengths to prevent players from progressing through trial and error, which can at times make it incredibly infuriating. Those who are able to master its challenging puzzles will come away with a real sense of achievement, even if they remain confused by the game’s convoluted plot.
10 Return Of The Obra Dinn
This game right here is a prime example of a developer creating a unique and niche puzzle game. Return of the Obra Dinn is about a missing ship that is classed as lost at sea, drifts into port, with no crew, and damaged sales.
You play as an insurance investigator who has the power to see into the final moments of someone dying, as well as hear their last seconds. By using this power, you determine how people died so that you can decide if payment is due. Ultimately, you’re to solve the puzzle of the ship of what ultimately happened on board.
MYST is a first-person adventure title, which is once again oddly unique, the game gives you very little backstory, along with no goal or purpose laid out. There is no time limit or risk of death; all players must do is explore and find everything out for themselves.
Players can interact with the world via clicking and dragging on objects with scenes of the game. And this is how you solve the puzzles in the world of MYST.
To complete the game, players must discover books that transport them to several different Ages, and then those mini-worlds puzzles must be solved. There are multiple ending to this game, that encourages multi playthroughs.
8 The Witness
The Witness is an indie game from 2016 very much inspired by the game MYST, where the entire game is set in first-person, and players must interact with the world. Players awake on a strange island and must solve the puzzles there to escape, that is the central premise of the game.
More or less, all puzzles are the same; a path is drawn on a grid. But the beauty of this game is how they are portrayed, and the rules behind each puzzle. As the problems get harder, the grid is no longer important, as the environment and objects are used instead. They are over 650 puzzles in the game. The Witness gives an open-world feel too, as regions don’t have to be completed in order, so if players get stuck, they can move on.
7 The Talos Principle
The Talos Principle is a narrative-based puzzle game, but it can be played from a first and third-person perspective. In this game, you play as a robot who seems pretty much human. Players have to solve a plethora of different puzzles to move onto the next area. But as you progress through the Talos Principle, the difficulty increases with more puzzle elements being added into the mix, like jump pads, the use of clones, and more.
These puzzles can and will kill you, as they’re multiple things within the puzzle course that will destroy you. But alas, there is no penalty for dying, apart from the puzzle being reset.
6 Portal 2
Portal 2 is the hit sequel to Portal and is more or less the same premise; it’s a very entertaining narrative-based game, and no-one can forget about GlaDOS. Players use their trusty portal gun in first-person to create portals to navigate themselves or objects to solve puzzles between two different portals.
However, teleportation is not the only thing you can do with portals; using momentum is also a significant part of solving puzzles, as well as light refraction.
There is also a co-op campaign, where two people have to work together to solve these puzzles; however, choose who you play with wisely, as a lot of laughs can be had, as well as frustration.
Unheard is another beautiful example of Indie developers creating a unique and brilliant game. With Unheard, you play as an Acoustic Detective, using only audio to solve cases. Using a specific device, it’s possible to eavesdrop on conversations from past crime scenes.
However, all clues, motives, everything is presented in the form of audio. Match names to voices determine fake screams to real ones. Everything is not given to you on a silver platter; instead, you become the fly on the wall. To observe, to listen, to solve. Attention to detail is paramount with this title, to solve the puzzles within.
4 The Turing Test
The Turing Test is a first-person puzzle game set up in space on the moon of Jupiter named Europa. Play as an engineer for a Space Agency, who have sent you on a mission. This mission is to find the cause of the disappearance of the ground crew who were stationed there.
However, upon your arrival, the AI, Tom, has been busy creating tests that only a human can solve. And apparently, these tests were created by the ground crew.
Use different perspectives, and the ability to transfer power between machines to solve all of the puzzles Tom has laid out for you, as you discover what really happened to the ground crew.
SpaceChem is a design-based puzzle game, and the whole premise is to manipulate molecules and atoms in reactors to create new ones. Then build even more reactors with different molecules to even more complex molecules.
However, knowing chemistry is not needed to play this title, as it uses pseudo-science to engage and teach you what you need to know. The puzzles, of course, get more difficult as you progress through the game. And in some cases, people have never finished this game due to the difficultly of the later levels, as it becomes very time-consuming.
Fez is an indie puzzle game, that’s 2D but also 3D. This is the unique game mechanic that Fez has to offer. The game is played in 2D; however, the world is 3D, but only in 90-degree increments, which means that the world only has four facings. But the rotation mechanic is essential to the game, as this is the pain puzzle aspect of Fez, that a different angle can reveal new paths and secrets that were not there before.
The main premise of Fez is to collect cubes and cube fragments to restore order to the universe, to do this, players must explore the 3D world of Fez and complete an array of different puzzles. There are no enemies or bosses, as Fez prioritizes its puzzle-solving aspects over all else.
Discworld is one of the hardest point and click puzzle games of all time. You play as Rincewind the wizard, as he attempts to stop a dragon from terrorizing the people of Ankh-Morpork. Now point and click puzzle games can be extremely difficult, as you’re using the games logic instead of rational logic, and Discworld is well known for having some of the hardest puzzles.
Typically, if you get stuck in these games, it’s best to use everything with everything, as who knows what might have to be combined to progress through the game.