PT Guides: Like... Puzzle Games? You'll Love These!

By Nick Vigdahl 05 Apr 2017 7

Puzzle games are well suited for mobile gaming and the App Store and Google Play Store are both loaded down with puzzlers, with more coming every week. Unfortunately, many are not so good, and finding the best options can be difficult. Well no more! What follows is a whole host of great puzzle games for fans of the genre and casual players alike. There are many more out there and if your favorite didn't make the list please make mention of it in the comments.

Perfect Puzzlers

The best puzzle games and among the best mobile games, period.

Monument Valley (iOS and Android)

No reasonable discussion of great mobile puzzle games can occur without acknowledging the mastery that is Monument Valley and its Forgotten Shores expansion. In it, you must guide Princess Ida through some of the strangest structures imaginable by sliding, twisting, and spinning parts of the environment to make a path. Monument Valley's art is gorgeous and though in 2D does a great job of simulating a 3D world. The levels are the perfect level of difficulty to provide a good challenge but also let you explore and enjoy without feeling stuck. Monument Valley won Apple's iPad game-of-the-year and an Apple Design Award in 2014 and was used by Apple to sell iPads and was played by casual gamers and self-identified non-gamers in droves. If you play one puzzle game ever, it should probably be this one…

Prune (iOS and Android)

…Then again, Prune is pretty much perfect as well and just as aesthetically pleasing. In it you are a gardener who plants a seed with a tap and sends a tree growing from it in the direction of your choice with a swipe. Your work continues as you help it grow out of darkness and into the light where they can blossom and spread. You must slice off branches to keep the tree going in the right direction and away from danger. Once enough blossoms bloom you move on to the next level and tree. Gameplay is simple yet elegant and is for my money the best implementation of the swipe-to-slash mechanic in a mobile game yet. The visuals and musical score are both great as well and the game is full of contemplative themes to experience and on which to ruminate. This too is a must play and among the best of the genre.

High Score Chasers

You can always do a little better, whether it's topping your personal best or ascending a global leaderboard.

1010! (iOS and Android)

1010! is pattern-recognition, shape-management game a lot like Tetris, but with no moving pieces. To play you drop shapes of varied sizes, colors, and arrangements on to a 10 by 10 grid of squares (thus the name). You get three shapes to drop at a time and must place them all before getting another three. When you fill up a line of squares, either horizontally or vertically, they clear. You earn points for each square of the grid you fill and the game ends when you run out of room to place any more shapes. 1010! offers a fun challenge, but not an intense one, is relaxing to play, and very easy to stop and start. It’s a free game with a $2 in-app purchase to remove adds and one of my favorite mobile puzzle games.

Rings (iOS and Android)

Rings is played by placing two-layered rings of different colors on nine pegs. A full stack of rings has three layers, so one level is always missing, and your goal is to either complete a full three-layered stack of the same color on the same peg, or tic tac toe style matches across the game board. Preferably all of the above at the same time to cash in on big time combo bonuses. The game is over when you can’t place any more rings and the challenge mounts as the board fills up. The game is free to play with ad support and a $2 in-app purchase removes the ads altogether.

Just You and the Puzzle

These puzzles skip scores, stars, daily challenge levels, and in many cases tutorials, in favor of a minimalistic artistic style and simple and intuitive gameplay.

Klocki (iOS and Android)

In Klocki your goal is to complete a pattern by swapping or rotating pieces of a puzzle. The final patterns are usually easy to predict though there are a few levels that require some guesswork. This isn’t to say the game is too simple, far from it, and I had to come back to more than one level with fresh eyes, The difficulty also escalates as levels go from two to three dimensions. ramps up as the levels go from two to three dimensions. Klocki is a lot of fun and very relaxing and easily worth a buck.

Zenge (iOS or Android)

Zenge is an order-of-operations puzzle in which you must move a bunch of pieces to their correct resting place in the right order so that they don't obstruct each other. You know where the pieces are supposed to go but the challenge is how to get them there. This game starts out easy but as new mechanics are introduced, rotating and flipping pieces for example, the challenge ramps up in a hurry. The art and piano score are both great and contribute to the relaxing gameplay. Zenge also offers a ton of levels and plenty of gameplay for a very minimal price.

Minimize (iOS)

In minimize your goal is to slide different colored blocks around in an attempt to group like colors together, at which point POOF…they disappear. Make all the blocks disappear and you’ve beat the level. The trick in the gameplay is not so much to align the blocks—though that can get certainly get complicated—but doing so without leaving any unmatched blocks of a particular color. There are a bunch of levels, 100 to be accurate, and each builds on the last.

Twisted Lines (iOS and Android via Amazon)

Twisted Lines is an attractive, handcrafted, puzzle game that will have you drawing intricate, twisting, many-colored patterns to solve each level. The gameplay is clever, unique, intuitive, and a lot easier to see in the trailer below than explain. Levels of this game can be very complicated and require quite a bit of thought and experimentation to figure out. It isn't frustratingly challenging as other puzzle games can be, however, and its difficulty makes it super satisfying when you solve a tricky level. There are over one-hundred levels with more freebies on the way and the game's music adapts and changes based on how you solve the puzzle.

LVL (iOS and Android)

LVL plays like a virtual Rubik’s Cube with a twist: puzzles are solved in two dimensions with pieces that exist in three dimensions. The game is played on a six-sided cube on which various shapes of three different colors are placed. Each face of the cube shares a color with its opposite side. Your goal is to fill an entire side in two dimensions with the same color, and no overlap, based on the pieces on both of the opposite sides. You will have to spin the cube around and adjust pieces on both sides to complete a color. Do that three times, once for each color, and you finish the level. The gameplay is fun and challenging, especially at higher levels, and is perfect for gamers that enjoy puzzles based on shapes and spatial-recognition.

New and Noteworthy

Several very good puzzle games have launched over the last couple months. Keep 'em coming developers!

Yankai's Triangle (iOS and Android)

A unique puzzler with trippy, handcrafted art and endless levels to play. You rotate three triangles in order to match colors and cause them to snap together to form a bigger triangle, rinse, and repeat until you've made a giant triangle and then it's on to the next level.

Splitter Critters (iOS and Android)

Another game that makes use of the swipe-to-slash mechanic, Splitter Critters requires you to rend earth and sky and move the pieces about to get a variety of blobby but ambulatory alien creatures find their misplaced spaceship. Behind the cute aesthetic lurks a clever, unique, and surprisingly challenging experience.

Hidden Folks (iOS)

Any hidden-object game invites the inevitable Where's Waldo jokes and comparisons. For Hidden Folks, the comparisons may be inevitable, but the game advances the concept considerably. It features detailed, hand-drawn landscapes that you interact with, poking and prodding your away around in search of a variety of people, creatures, and items. It's relaxing and fun and worth your time if you're into that type of game.

Euclidean Lands (iOS)

Euclidean Lands is a highly tactical puzzle game where you, a daring spearman, hunt down and defeat adversaries on a constantly shifting Rubik's Cube. You've got to twist and turn the game board this way and that to take out your foes before landing on a specific spot and advancing to the next level. There's a bunch of different foes to defeat, environmental challenges to overcome, and some nifty shields and weapons to make use of. We've got a full review of this coming soon!

Cosmic Express (iOS and Android)

Cosmic Express is a route-building puzzle game where you determine the best way to pick up a host of cute little aliens and drop them off at their soon-to-be-constructed homes in a series of oddly arranged space colonies. It sounds and is a bit cutesy, but that doesn't mean it's not a challenge, far from it, this game can be tough. The nice thing is that completing levels opens up a bunch of different galaxies to explore, each with their own set of puzzles, so if you get stuck you can try something else and come back. The game is well designed and a lot of fun to play.

Pocket Tactics Love

Want more? Here are some puzzle games we've played, enjoyed, and given high marks over the years. Check out the reviews for much more on these great options.

Framed (iOS and Android)

You rearrange the frames of a graphic novel to allow the game's protagonist to evade pursuers and other dangers with a much coveted briefcase in tow. It featured clever and quite original gameplay and Kelsey gave it 4 stars.

Hitman GO (iOS and Android)

A turn-based, tactics heavy puzzle game that feels a lot like a roguelike. It won the Pocket Tactics puzzle-game-of-the-year in 2014. See also Deus Ex GO and Lara Croft GO (both 4-star reviews).

The Room Three (iOS and Android)

A puzzle within a puzzle set in a puzzle on an island of puzzle. Dave gave it five stars. See also The Room One and Two.

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build (iOS and Android)

You play as a monster, one who likes to make snowmen, in this touching and well-designed game. Tanner gave it five stars.

Mini Metro (iOS and Android)

Ever wanted to try your hand at building your own mass-transit system? This game's for you. I gave it four stars and the game has since added an awesome Endless Mode for more relaxing gameplay.

Warlock's Tower (iOS)

You help the bravest mailman in the history of gaming deliver a very important letter in this puzzler that feels like a roguelike. I gave it four stars.

That's all for our Puzzle Games guide. Man, those are a lot of games... seen any we've missed? Let us know in the comments below!  

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