10 of the Best iOS Puzzle Games

Use your free time to play some of the best iPhone and iPad puzzle games available.
Jim Squires

Puzzle games have challenged human beings for centuries, which is a whole lot longer than the iPhone and iPad have been around. The first tablets that puzzles were played on were actual tablets. The kind made of stone.

For modern puzzle gamers, few resources are quite as ready, willing, and able to challenge the problem-solving side of our brain as our iOS devices. With the vast selection of puzzle games to choose from on the App Store, it's sometimes hard to not feel paralyzed by choice.

If you're new to the iPhone or just looking for a gem you missed, here are 10 puzzle games you'll want to try next on your iPhone or iPad. 

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1010! iPhone iPad puzzle game

What We Like

  • Enjoyable, slightly less frantic pace than Tetris.

  • Simple and appealing design.

What We Don't Like

  • Free, but with ads. These can be removed for a fee.

  • App shares data about you with advertisers.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a person on the planet who hasn't heard of Tetris. It's the granddaddy of all video game puzzles and has enough intrigue around its inception to warrant an HBO miniseries. Even after all these years, it's rare to find a new game that plays with the idea of Tetris while making something unique.

1010! accomplishes this seemingly impossible feat.

A less panicked game than its loose inspiration, 1010! challenges players to position Tetris-style shapes in a 10x10 grid. If you manage to place shapes in a way that forms a complete line, that line disappears and creates more space, which you use to make more lines.

Don't let the slow pace and careful placement of1010! fool you. Without practice, you can quickly find yourself drained of possible moves and rushing head first into a "game over."

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Monument Valley (series)

Play Monument Valley on the iPhone and iPad.

What We Like

  • Beautiful game visuals.

  • Expansions to continue gameplay.

  • Challenging and surprising puzzles.

What We Don't Like

  • Storyline is simple and not very deep.

  • Original game is short.

If you like your puzzle games dripping with style, substance, and a sense of discovery, Monument Valley has everything you're looking for. This Escher-inspired puzzler tells the story of Ida, a princess in a world of impossible geometry.

You explore and discover Ida's world as she does, guiding Ida through stairwells and doorways as you poke, prod, and move the environment to help her progress.

Monument Valley is a thing of beauty, telling a story without words, using only gameplay to reveal its story. Maybe that's why it's taken home such prestigious awards as the BAFTA Award for Mobile & Handheld Games, the Apple Design Award, and the IMGA Grand Prix prize.

If you can't get enough of Monument Valley, check out Monument Valley 2 at the App Store.

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Pair Solitaire

Play Solitaire Pair on the iPhone or iPad.

What We Like

  • Simple gameplay but requires strategy.

  • Free (with in-game purchases available).

What We Don't Like

  • Lacks any music for atmosphere.

  • Volume of ads can be very loud.

If it seems strange to see a card game included in a list of great puzzle games, that's only because you haven't played Pair Solitaire yet. The debut release from Vitaly Zlotskiy, who also released Domino Drop), Pair Solitaire asks players to do something seemingly simple: match pairs of cards.

The challenge comes from having to match pairs that are separated by just one card, and such matches only remove one of the cards in the pair. So if you have two hearts, you only remove the one you touch. If you have two kings, it's the same story. Your goal is to clear as many cards from a standard deck of 52 as you can before you run out of possible moves. 

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Play the puzzle game, Prune, on your iPhone and iPad.

What We Like

  • Visually gorgeous.

  • Unique puzzle gameplay.

  • Sync games between devices to continue play.

What We Don't Like

  • May feel like a short game with not enough levels.

  • Later levels require quicker action and aren't as zen-inspiring as others.

Are you in search of an experience that somehow manages to balance tranquility with progressive difficulty? If so, Prune is the tree-trimming puzzler that will help you find your bliss.

Prune is a game about helping tree branches grow to find their way to sunlight so that they can flower as nature intended. For this to happen, you neatly nip off new branches growing in the wrong direction, steering your tree around different obstacles so that it can finally see the sun.

Prune is both a puzzle game and a bonsai tree. How very zen.

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The Room (series)

The Room iPhone iPad puzzle game
Fireproof Games.

What We Like

  • Very atmospheric with great music.

  • High-quality visuals.

  • Intuitive but challenging gameplay and puzzles.

What We Don't Like

  • Replayability is limited; once you complete it, there's not much reason to repeat it.

  • Story is secondary to the game.

Gamers who grew up on Myst are going to want to pay close attention to this one. The Room is a series that tasks players with exploring boxes that can only be opened by hunting for switches, levers, and unseen mechanisms controlled by intricate puzzles.

With a variety of different solutions required to open each container, you'll be surprised at just how many secrets one box can contain. The Room is a head-scratcher, requiring plenty of logic and "a-ha!" moments to complete.

As hard as it may be, though, you'll be desperate for more the moment you unlock all The Room mysteries. Guess it's a good thing there's The Room Two.

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Play Rules! on the iPhone or iPad.

What We Like

  • Three game mode difficulties.

  • Clever and engaging memory game.

  • Great visual design and quality.

What We Don't Like

  • Memory intensive gameplay may not be enjoyable for some.

  • Time limits may be frustrating (turn them off with the Timeless play mode).

The name gives it away, but Rules! is a game about following the rules—all the rules—in the order you received them, only in reverse.

If it's starting to sound complicated, that's because it is.

Rules! is a game that tests your memory and speed in a way no other app has before it. Each round asks you to clear away certain tiles using a specific rule, and then the following round asks you to do the same and introduces a new rule. You'll need to remember all the rules in reverse order if you want to see your way to the end. The #1 rule? Don't break the rules.

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Scribblenauts Remix

scribblenauts remix iphone ipad game
Warner Bros.

What We Like

  • Good game for kids.

  • Word Pass in-app purchase expands puzzles to 140.

  • Vocabulary builder.

  • Clues help when you're stuck.

What We Don't Like

  • Combines content from previous two games; if you have those, you may not find much that is new.

  • In-app purchases required to expand the game and add new avatars.

A game where the only limit is your imagination, Scribblenauts Remix asks gamers to dream up their own solutions to 50 puzzles pulled from the best levels of Scribblenauts and Super Scribblenauts. That number of levels grows to more than 140 if you buy the World Pass upgrade as an in-app purchase.

Wondering what an imagination-based puzzle looks like? Imagine you need to get a star down from a tree. You could give your avatar an ax to chop the tree down or a ladder to climb to the top. If you can think it, and you can type it, Scribblenauts Remix can make it come true.

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Play Threes! on the iPhone and iPad.

What We Like

  • Smart and fun math game.

  • Simple design is appealing and easy to learn.

What We Don't Like

  • Music can begin to feel repetitive.

  • Ads for merchandise between games can feel disruptive.

If you're looking at Threes! and thinking "that game is ripping off 2048!" you've got the story backward. A beautifully simple game that's accessible to all skill levels, Threes! was so good that it inspired countless impersonators only weeks after its release, and that's a shame because a game this good should be shouted from the rooftops.

Threes! tasks players with sliding all the numbers on the board together in one of four directions. If two identical numbers are squished together, they create the sum of those two numbers. The goal of Threes! is to keep squishing like numbers and, in the case of "1" and "2," dissimilar numbers, until you run out of possible moves and tally an incredible score.

Then, tweet that score, because if you can't rub your Threes! high score in your friends' faces, why do they even have faces?

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Play Touchtone on the iPhone or iPad.

What We Like

  • Interesting story with twists and surprises.

  • Challenging puzzles.

What We Don't Like

  • Not much help to move forward if you're stuck on a main story puzzle.

  • Problematic and off-putting story elements and messages.

Challenging puzzle game or riveting social message? TouchTone proves that a game can be both.

On the puzzling side, TouchTone presents you with wiggly lines that need to connect to like-colored nodes. To do this, you slide rows and columns containing objects that can split and redirect the lines in different directions.

But those lines? They're lines of communication, and as the latest citizen tasked with monitoring communication as part of your civic duty, you'll follow a tantalizing story as you try to determine whether what you're listening to is pertinent to protecting this great country.

Spoiler: Everything is pertinent when it comes to protecting our freedoms.

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World of Goo

World of Goo
2D Boy

What We Like

  • Fun and creative art design.

  • Originality in puzzles and gameplay.

What We Don't Like

  • Music can become repetitive during long levels.

  • Multiplayer gameplay is not as compelling.

One of the App Store's early puzzle hits is still one of its best. World of Goo perfected the bridge-building style of physics-based games when it launched on the Wii and desktops, but it never felt more at home than when it came to the iPad and the iPhone.

Players drag adorable, anthropomorphic balls of goo to create structures that, while wobbly, will hopefully stand the test of time. These structures are needed to help rescue other goo that is stranded just out of reach. 

Unique, charming, and challenging, World of Goo feels like a physics simulation by way of Dr. Seuss. What could be more puzzling than that?