A good puzzle is one of the best things in life. Some are relaxing time-killers, while others test our skills in critical problem solving or quick mental gymnastics; both can be incredibly satisfying. Video games can elevate these head-scratching problems to new heights and complexities by immersing you in a setting, messing with concepts like the tenants of time and space, or by simply giving you endless access to your favorite brainteasers. Here are some of our favorite modern puzzle games listed in no particular order, that you can play right now that will pleasantly twist your brain into knots.
Tetris Effect – Connected
Let’s be honest. Tetris is already in the conversation of being one of the greatest games of all time. Luckily, we’ve been recently graced with an awesome entry in the series with Tetris Effect: Connected. This take on the concept comes from the mind of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the man behind games like Rez and Lumines, who sculpts the tetromino-dropping gameplay into a complete sensory experience. Each stage has its own visual and audio theme that changes as you play. Music will swell as the scenery pulses, and flipping your Tetris pieces becomes a new note to the symphony of sounds. It’s a wholly unique experience in the puzzle space, and what’s even better: Tetris Effect is a darn good version of Tetris. Compete with others in the new Connected expansion or experience Effect a transcendent way in VR on PlayStation 4 or PC. | Our Review
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Breaking out of the bonus scenarios from Super Mario 3D World, Captain Toad: Treasure Trackers takes those fun puzzle levels and builds an entire game around it. As the adventurous Captain Toad, you’ll explore diorama-like areas in search of precious Power Stars. The catch? Every cleverly built level is designed to be completed without the ability to jump. You’ll have to navigate these charming labyrinths, and solve environmental puzzles with the help of levers, duplicating fruits, moving platforms, and good old-fashioned camera perspective. Captain Toad offers experiences ranging from chill brain teasers to precision pathing through a stage, but typically lets you take things at your own pace. It’s a charming, refreshing take on familiar locals and ideas from the Mario franchise, and one of the great puzzlers to play on Switch right now. | Our Review
A decade after its release, playing with portals is still as fun as ever. Portal 2 takes everything that was great about the brief first-person puzzle game from Valve’s Orange Box and builds upon it substantially. The basics of Portal rely on the portal gun, which lets the user project two portals on surfaces like walls, floors, ceilings, allowing you to pass through from one to the other as if they were simply doorways. Following the events of Portal, series heroine Chell has to escape an Aperture Science facility yet again, while learning of the company’s sometimes hilarious, but always intriguing, history from its founder, Cave Johnson.
There are all kinds of fresh takes on the portal gun gameplay messing with gravity, inertia, dopey sentient gun turret target systems, and much more. Goopy liquids called Gels can be used to paint the test facilities, with each color of the substance allowing Chell to bounce, move faster, or place portals on surfaces not normally meant to hold them. Portal 2 also features an entirely separate cooperative campaign where two players take the roles of robots named ATLAS and P-body. Co-op requires just as much creative problem solving, timing, and coordination as the single-player levels but asks it of both players. Are you looking to start “thinking with portals?” The best ways to experience this puzzle classic on modern hardware is on Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One X via backward compatibility or the ever-reliable PC version. | Our Review
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