Fans of puzzles have never had it better. Go back a few years, and they did not have many options. There was chess, draughts, crosswords and Connect 4. That was about it. Okay, I might be exaggerating the paucity of puzzles a tad but back then the launch of a new puzzle was a major event - just witness the media attention lavished on the Rubik's Cube when it came out in the 1980s.
Nowadays, the launch of a new puzzle barely merits a mention. That is because - thanks to the massive growth in computer ownership and cheap readily-available games - we have at our fingertips an unbelievably huge number of puzzle games, everything from puzzle platfomers such as Shift and Continuity and physics puzzle titles like Fantastic Contraption and Wake up the Box to countless word, memory and card games.
Many of these games can be played in your browser for free and to celebrate this fact we have corralled together what we think are the most innovative and challenging online puzzle games in the world. Enjoy!
Imagine that your television was broken and only displayed one horizontal line of pixels. Imagine too that the line of pixels moved rapidly down from the top of the screen to the bottom, displaying tiny slices of the television picture as it did so. Do you think you could guess what was showing on the television just by viewing this one line?
Probably not. Television pictures are quite complicated and are changing all the time. But what if the picture was static and not moving, what if it was a letter such as 'A' or a commonly-know symbol? In this case, with a bit of concentration and imagination, it might just be possible to guess what the picture was. But would it be any fun? The answer - if this game, which is based precisely on this principle, is anything to go by - is a resounding yes.
Z-Rox is a brilliant puzzle game that will have you thinking in ways that you never had before. Play the game here.
One of the most stunningly beautiful games we've had the pleasure of playing, Auditorium challenges you to manipulate the flow of light to illuminate a series of sensors. You are helped in your task by tools that allow you to bend and split the light beams.
Sounds dull but the spellbinding graphics, inspired music and head-scratching puzzles make this a browser gaming experience not to be missed. You will have to pay to play the full game but the demo we link to offers a good few hours of entertainment. Auditorium can be played here.
3 3D Logic
There have been many rip-offs of the Rubik's Cube but few have bettered the original. 3D Logic - a game by Alex Matveev - however has a good claim to have succeeded where others have failed. This brilliant puzzle game is like the Rubik's Cube on steroids.
When you start each level, the faces of the cube only have a handful of squares filled in. You may find there are two white squares, two pink ones and two orange ones, for example. There are also a number of black squares. You then need to join up squares of the same colour by filling in empty squares. It sounds complicated but after a few tries you will get the hang of how it works.
The puzzles start off easy but the difficulty soon ramps up, providing a good challenge even for hardened puzzlers. We cannot recommend this game enough. The original game can be played here. A sequel - with improved graphics and sound - can be found here.
4 Doodle God
Doodle God by Avalon Alliance was one of the biggest Flash gaming hits of 2010. At heart, Doodle God is a good ol' alchemy game, in which you have to combine stuff to create new stuff, and then mix up that new stuff in a big bubbling cauldron to create yet more stuff. Cooking in other words.
You start off with four basic elements - earth, air, fire and water - and are set the challenge of creating 115 different things, ranging from vodka and bacteria to wizards and whales. Doodle God might not be the most mentally challenging puzzle game but it is a whole lot of fun, so go play it here. If the game has hooked you, you'll probably want to check out the sequel - Doodle Devil - here.
5 Loops of Zen
I have a confession. Until very recently, I was addicted to Loops of Zen. Not addicted as in "I quite liked playing the game" but as in "I spent every spare moment playing it". One of the reasons my husband set up this blog for me was that it might distract me from playing this game. It didn't work. Loops of Zen is a serene puzzle game where you manipulate shapes to make sure there are no jagged ends. If you are prone to addiction, be warned, don't click on this link to the game.
Don't make the same mistake I did with this game. After completing the first few levels - successfully guiding the robot via a series of commands to the desired locations - I started wondering what all the fuss was about. People had called LightBot one of the hardest games they'd played. Either they were really stupid or I was as brainy as hell.
I was starting to think the later when I suddenly got stumped by a level. The game was not as easy as I had originally thought and I started feeling a bit foolish over my earlier over-confidence. I eventually completed the level but I now had new found respect for the game.
LightBot can be a frustrating game thanks to its difficulty but that toughness in turn brings its own rewards. You feel a real sense of achievement when you finally complete a level that has been tormenting you for ages. Play LightBot here. An even more difficult sequel to the game can be played here.
7 Electric Box 2
Anyone who has met me knows that I can be quite obsessive. Especially when it comes to games. If I find a game that I like, I will play it and play it and play it - often for months on end. The game that I have been obsessing over in recent times is Electric Box 2.
Sequel to the 2009 title, Electric Box 2 is a fiendish puzzle game where you have to complete the circuit from the power supply to the target. You do this by placing components at strategic places on the circuit board that forms the main area of the game. Electric Box 2 might be too geeky for some but I think it is simply genius puzzle fun. Play the game here.
In Sheepish, you are set the challenge of relocating the hungry sheep to a nearby paddock full of succulent tasty grass. No easy task this, as the sheep are a bit dim and will only move in one direction, unless they are physically turned via curved tubes that you place in their route. Sheep can also be cajoled into jumping over fences by placing another special object in their path.
There are nine special objects in total, each affecting the sheep in a different manner, and you will have to master them all in order to complete this cute but tricky puzzler. Sheepish is one of the first Flash puzzle games I played and it is still one of my favourites. Sheepish can be played here.
9 Picross Quest
This game is a bit like Suduko in that you have to fill in rows and columns through a process of elimination. But whereas the end result of a Suduko puzzle is an ugly mishmash of numbers, a solved Picross Quest puzzle - in a very nice touch - creates a pretty picture. Be warned, however, this is not a game for dilettante puzzle-solvers. Picross Quest - even on the easiest level - can be very difficult. To the game's credit, the difficulty rarely turns to frustration. Picross Quest can be played here.
10 Sugar Sugar
Game developer Bart Bonte - the best thing to come out of Belgium since, erm... well, ever - has been responsible for some great fun puzzle games, of which perhaps the best known is Factory Balls. For this list, however, we are featuring his latest game, Sugar Sugar, released about a week ago.
Sugar Sugar has a simple premise. You need to put some sugar in some mugs of coffee. Being a puzzle game, this is of course not going to be as easy as opening the cupboard, getting out the sugar and putting a spoonful of it in the cup. Instead, you will have to manipulate gravity, construct intricate hand-drawn slopes and undertake colour transformations in order to get the sugar to its patiently-waiting receptacle. Play Sugar Sugar here.
If you enjoyed this list, you may also want to check out our list of top platform puzzle games. Plus, if you think we have missed out any great online puzzle games from the list, please tell us all about them in the comments section below.