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The 25 Best Puzzle Games Ever Made

Mind Bending

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10: Bookworm Adventures Deluxe

Developer: PopCap Games

Publisher: PopCap Games

Once upon a time, a prolific generator of genuinely great puzzle games said, “Hey, look at our word spelling game Bookworm – you know what’s wrong with it? It doesn’t feature a green worm fighting Greek mythical beasts!” After the applause died down, PopCap got to work and created one of the most brilliantly executed, strange and silly puzzle games ever released: Bookworm Adventures. (And its follow-on sequel, Bookworm Adventures 2.)

In a style a little bit similar to 10,000,000, Bookworm Adventure’s screen is split in two. At the top you’ve Lex the worm, squiggling inexorably to the right, encountering an array of daft enemies with special skills and attacks, and at the bottom a 4×4 grid of lettered tiles. You are tasked with spelling out words from those tiles, the longer the word the more powerful the attack. Along the way you gather special items that allow extra abilities, most impressively, allowing specific types of words to do extra damage. Animal words, say. That sort of thing.

There’s a silly story, a lot of very entertaining banter, and most of all, the enormous pleasure of spelling ace words to ultra-thwack enemies in their stupid faces. And it’s cleverly designed too, such that those with less wordy skills can still satisfyingly complete the game, while the more sesquipedalian will see bigger, more explosive results along the way. Few puzzle games are as hilarious, or as superbly crafted.

Notes:

It took two and a half years to make Bookworm Adventures and cost $700,000. Every cent and second was worth it.

Where can I buy it:

Steam, Pogo

What else should I be playing if I like this:

Definitely take a look at Dylan Loney’s Words For Evil.

Read more:

Our review of Bookworm Adventures 2
Eurogamer review of Bookworm Adventures 2

9: Gunpoint

Developer: Suspicious Developments

Publisher: Suspicious Developments

Gunpoint does two important jobs on this list. Firstly, it’s a bloody great puzzle game that absolutely everybody should play. Secondly, it stands as a totem to all the wonderful 80s Speccy, Amiga and ST puzzle games that are unplayable today.

It’s a puzzle game that feels timeless, partly thanks to its superb pixel graphics, and partly because the stealthy burgling feels like a good idea that could have happened at any point. Given a series of missions, you’re tasked with breaking into buildings, stealing items, taking out guards, and most importantly, rewiring.

At any point you can scroll your mousewheel, and then rewire a building to your advantage, using the superbly clean and simple method of drawing lines from switches to doors, lights, and so on. And in doing so, improvise your own traps to lure guards, create safe, silent pathways, or trap people where you want to keep them. Then RUN AND JUMP THROUGH A WINDOW.

The innovative controls are already being copied by games, something developer Tom Francis fully endorses. Play it and you’ll see why.

Notes:

Disclaimer: Developer Tom Francis is a lovely chap who used to work at PC Gamer, and most of RPS’s staff know him well. Corruption.

Where can I buy it:

Developer’s site, Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this:

You could check out Suspicious Developments’ free Floating Point grappling hook game.

Read more:

Our review.

8: The Talos Principle

Developer: Croteam

Publisher: Devolver Digital

It’s probably fair to say that we weren’t expecting the creators of Serious Sam to bring out the best first person puzzle game since Portal. More known for going out of their way to create games that are dumb, this time they set out to make something exceptionally clever.

The contrived setting – you’re a robot attempting to complete a set of tasks in a broken down, overgrown outdoor facility, while attempting to discern what happened there, and indeed, what humanity is – works splendidly for presenting dozens of intriguing puzzles. Aiming beams of light, freezing floating enemy bots, removing forcefields, and negotiating impossible mazes, all contributes toward that important goal: collecting tetromino puzzle pieces.

Gather enough, and you can use them to solve a simple puzzle to open new skills and the next section of the game. But as you go, you’ll encounter computer terminals that will ask you peculiar questions, seemingly going through some sort of existential crisis, exploring notions of what it is to be alive, to be real. This stupendous writing is the work of Tom Jubert and Jonas Kyratzes, and it adds an astonishing amount to an already superb puzzle game.

Notes:

The game, despite its polar opposite nature to Serious Sam, was in fact a happy accident from experimental ideas while developing Serious Sam 4.

Talos was a giant made of bronze whole lived in mythological times. He was basically a cool robot.

Where can I buy it:

Steam,

What else should I be playing if I like this:

Definitely take a look at The Swapper, also written by Jubert, and The Infinite Ocean from Kyratzes.

Read more:

An early hands on with the game.

Our review.

7: Scribblenauts Unlimited

Developer: 5th Cell Media

Publisher: Warner Bros.

While most videogames are created using programming language and game engines, Scribblenauts is carved out of magic. There’s no other explanation for how this impossibly wonderful series of games could possibly work. You play Max, a little cartoon boy, who has a magic notebook. Anything he writes in it is created as an interactive object/living thing in his world. “Anything?” you ask incredulously? Well, almost, yes.

How 5th Cell managed to not only draw and animate, but also provide meaningful application in reaction to the world, for every damned noun in existence can’t really be explained without resorting to the dark arts. In its early incarnation on Nintendo DS, it was a brilliant idea, but it didn’t know what to do with itself. By the time it reached PC in the form of Unlimited, that issue had been resolved by offering larger, more open levels, where your improvised madness can support getting bored of trying to achieve set goals and just seeing who would win in a fight between Cthulhu and God.

Of course, the magic does get burst when you stumble on a word that isn’t in the game, which is always a sad moment. But then you’re back riding on a velociraptor, seeing if you can create a waterfall to blow out the candles on a birthday cake, and everything is joyful again.

Notes:

The PC version of the game comes with an object editor, meaning you can craft your own in-game items, bestow them with AI and properties, and then share them across Steam Workshop.

Where can I buy it:

Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this:

There’s also Scribblenauts Unmasked, which licenses DC characters, meaning some proper nouns get in.

Read more:

Our review.

6: Peggle

Developer: PopCap Games

Publisher: PopCap Games

Peggle is a pretty special game to these parts. Its 2007 release coincided with our being born into existence, and we all fell in love with it. (Although some more correct people than others pointed out that Bookworm Adventures was the deeper game.) In fact, for a year or so, all download sizes on the site were measured in “how many Peggles”.

Inspired by the predominantly Japanese Pachinko, it was the first time the toy, originating in 1920, had been interpreted for videogames. And gosh, it was done with aplomb. A screen is filled with blue and orange pegs, at which you fire a silver ball, which pings and bounces between them, removing them as it hits. The aim being to clear each screen with a limited number of balls.

As you progress through levels, new special skills are added, giving you a bit of variation, and an extra element of skill, to what is – really – a puzzle game based mostly in luck. In fact, we can return to the whole Bejeweled argument about whether this should really count as a “puzzle” at all – is it just an arcade game? The answer: shush, it’s in our Top 25 puzzle games, and you can like it or lump it. Go to your room.

It’s splendid, funny, filled with bright, cheerful noises and graphics, although you’ll never want to hear bloody Ode To Joy ever again after playing it through. Excuse us a moment, we now need to go have a game of Peggle.

Notes:

There have, of course, been sequels. There’s Peggle Nights, Peggle Extreme, and something called Peggle Blast that appears to be free-to-play.

PopCap were smartipants, and knew things like ensuring the pitch of sound cues always has to rise when gathering combos, to keep players hooked.

Where can I buy it:

Steam, Pogo

What else should I be playing if I like this:

Definitely check out the game’s sequels, and don’t forget to take a look at PopCap’s own approach to tower defence, Plants Vs. Zombies.

Read more:

An interview with PopCap about their company’s success, and our love of Peggle.

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