Puzzles are ingenious sources of entertainment that never grow old. And computer-based puzzles can deliver mental challenges that the physical kind—from the old-fashioned cardboard cutouts to the plastic Rubik’s Cube—simply can’t duplicate.
We’ve collected 10 of our favorite puzzlers here, starting with one that allows you to manipulate time and twist dimensions.
Braid combines puzzle logic with platform gaming to create one of the most enthralling digital experiences you’ll ever encounter.
The game’s backstory is open to interpretation: Theories have ranged from the dissolution of a bad relationship to guilt over triggering a nuclear war. Whatever it is, you’ll quickly find yourself hooked by the game’s mechanics, which have you manipulating time to solve its amazing puzzles.
Time is both an enemy and an ally: Reverse time if you die, speed it up to make a lengthy jump, pause to find the perfect opportunity to fight an enemy—and simply reverse and try again if you lose.
Getting to the end of Braid is a feat not to be taken lightly.
Speaking of crazy story lines, SpaceChem asks you to build factories in space to churn out awesome chemical compounds.
You use a series of commands to time and position atoms, and then bond them together or arrange them in sequences to produce new compounds. At the higher levels, you then put your chemicals through another process to produce more-complex concoctions.
And you don’t do it just once—you have to make sure the solution is effective and efficient enough to supply a ton of the final product without creating chemical collisions or backing up the line.
You can’t be surprised to see this one crop up—it’s one of the best PC puzzle games of all time. Portal 2 took the original title’s brilliant idea and expanded it exponentially.
In this game, you create portals on flat surfaces to create interspatial pathways between two locations, bending the laws of physics in the process. Play through the challenging single-player mode, and then load up the entirely separate co-op campaign and play with a friend.
You’ll find a lot to love, and the fun need never stop thanks to user-made maps that you can download right from the Steam Workshop.
The world of Scribblenauts is filled with strange problems, and your job is to come up with strange solutions for them.
You can use the words in your magic notebook, or you can fire up the object editor and build just about anything your wild imagination can think of. The options are endless.
Check out our full review.
If you love puzzles, physics, and friends, Trine 2 should be at the top of your list.
You command three characters: a thief, a wizard, and a knight. Your objective is to complete a series of puzzling physics challenges. Each character has different abilities, so you’ll need all of them to reach the end.
If you have a couple of friends with you, each person can control one character and civilly discuss the best course of action. The game is fun either way.
Don’t have a powerful graphics card in your PC? Worry not: You don’t need the latest graphics hardware to play this retro platform game.
You play as Gomez, a little fellow wearing a magic fez. Although only two dimensions of the game’s 3D environment are visible at once, you can rotate the world around Gomez’s position to reveal new areas.
For more, read about Fez’s long development and final release.
It's tough being an eternal, omnipotent spirit of the Earth—you need some helping hands.
You start the game with a barren wasteland of a planet. But with the help of four gods, you’ll create oceans, forests, swamps, and deserts from which plants, animals, and eventually humans will sprout.
As the humans develop, they’ll use the resources you provide to build great works. As civilization evolves, you’ll need to maintain a delicate balance of food, wealth, and science. Keep your people happy lest war break out.
Everything you do in this game affects everything else—so be careful where you plant those tomatoes!
If you liked Portal, you’ll love Antichamber. But be warned: You’ll need genius-level intelligence to get all the way through this fiendishly clever first-person puzzler.
Antichamber throws you right into the game with no direction whatsoever. Even figuring out the rules of the game is part of the puzzle.
Being a superstealthy spy for hire isn’t all about cool clothes and gadgets. You must be able to think through difficult situations under stress. Well, the gadgets are pretty important, too.
Infiltrate office buildings to hack computers, rewire switches, and punch guards. When you’ve done all that, jump through a three-story window and land safely on the ground—thanks, technology!
You can rewire everything, so a security door will open when you flip a light switch, say, or a room will go dark if you walk in front of a camera. The key is to find the perfect way to set up your traps so you can get in quickly and quietly, and then get out without being noticed. This game turns infiltration into an art form.
Check out our full review.
World of Goo
That mucky, sticky goo needs to reach the pipe to escape, and your job is to build bridges across difficult terrain to help it get there.
The rules of physics play a big role, so don’t extend yourself too far or you’ll tumble into the vast pit below.
You earn bonus points for building superefficient contraptions.
11 indie games you must play
Indies are at the height of their popularity—and for good reason. They’re innovative, fun, and all too often addicting.
Check out our list of 11 indie games you have to try out, and add your favorites to the comments below.