Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Best Overall: Portal 2 at Amazon
"Portal 2 brings you right back into the Aperture testing facility of the original game but introduces new puzzle elements to make it even more challenging."
Best Narrative Adventure: Grim Fandango at Steampowered
"The game plays out more like a movie than your typical video game does now, with a fun film-noir feel to it."
Best 3D: The Talos Principle at Steampowered
"You’ll be forced to think about whether you should be solving these puzzles and whether you should obey the instructions your character is given."
Best Platformer: Braid at Amazon
"Different parts of the game will see you using different types of time manipulation to solve the puzzle."
Most Straightforward: World of Goo at Amazon
"The game sees you building structures out of living goo balls in cartoon environments, with physics working both with and against you."
Best VR: The Gallery - Episode 1 Call of the Starseed at Steampowered
"Given the immersion offered by VR, exploring and solving puzzles in The Gallery - Episode 1: Call of the Starseed will have you feeling like you’re on a real adventure."
Best Escape Room: I Expect You to Die at Steampowered
"The acting and scenarios are highly amusing, the intro on its own is a delightful VR experience, and the puzzle-solving is incredibly engaging."
There’s nothing like breaking a good mental sweat, and puzzles games offer some of the best challenges. So take a look below and see what to play when it comes to putting your brain to the test.
Portal 2 brings you right back into the Aperture testing facility of the original game but introduces new puzzle elements to make it even more challenging. The original portal guns stick around, requiring you to make a path for yourself and use physics to get to those hard-to-reach places.
But, beyond the portal gun, Portal 2 introduces a bouncy paint. It's up to you to figure out where the paint will be useful and use you'll have to use portals to help transport it there. Once a surface is painted, you can bounce extra high on it.
Aside from letting you continue to explore even more of the stunning Aperture Science Labs and interact with the mad AI GLaDOS, Portal 2 offers a two-player co-op mode. The co-op mode has its own extensive set of levels and requires even more crafty thinking. And, if all the solo and co-op levels aren’t enough, an editing tool and loads of workshop content offer the opportunity for plenty of player-created puzzles for you to try.
Courtesy of Steam
Grim Fandango is a true classic from LucasArts. It follows the character Manny Calavera, a travel agent in the underworld who’s trying to uncover a questionable scheme. There’s a whole cast of colorful and cartoonish underworld characters to interact with and get information from as you try to get to the bottom of the conspiracy.
As you play the game, you’ll have to get information, find clues, pick up certain items, and see how everything fits together in order to solve puzzles. The game plays out more like a movie than your typical video game does now, with a fun film-noir feel to it.
While the graphics of the original game may not hold up well now, since they’re over 20 years old, a remastered version of Grim Fandango has been released that offers the same gameplay experience but with higher resolution graphics, adjusted lighting, and a re-recorded score with a full orchestra. Even if you’ve played the game before, you can enjoy the revitalized remaster.
If you want a PC game that centers its gameplay all around the puzzles, then The Talos Principle is definitely one to check out. It’s not an action game with puzzles sprinkled in. It’s puzzle after puzzle, and the whole game takes place throughout a wide variety of interesting environments. There are wooded areas with castle-like structures, Egyptian-style settings, the likes of ancient Greece, and wintry landscapes.
In the game, you play as a robot tasked with solving the many puzzles. You’ll move blocks to reach new areas or activate triggers. You’ll direct lasers to connect points. You’ll even solve some jigsaw puzzles. There are also some puzzles that require time manipulation, so there’s no shortage of variety.
And, throughout the game, you’ll be faced with philosophical questions about what you’re doing. You’ll be forced to think about whether you should be solving these puzzles and whether you should obey the instructions your character is given. Your choices in the game can result in different endings as well, so there’s a bit of replayability available.
Braid looks like a simple platformer at first. It has beautiful settings done in a hand-painted style, so you’ll get to feel like you’re playing through a collection of art the whole time. You’ll be running and jumping around the gameworld just like Mario, even going as far as to save a princess. But, the puzzles come in the form of time manipulation, and they’re excellent.
Different parts of the game will see you using different types of time manipulation to solve the puzzles. In some areas, you may be rewinding time to undo your errors or do a little experimentation.
There are plenty of puzzles in Braid, and if any of them are too hard at first, you have the option of moving onto another and coming back. And, since puzzles use different types of time manipulation, the methods for solving puzzles don’t get old.
Courtesy of Amazon
If you want a really straightforward PC puzzle games, then World of Goo is the best pick. You won’t have to deal with any adventure, story, or intense action. Instead, World of Goo is all focused on puzzles and constructions.
The game sees you building structures out of living goo balls in cartoon environments, with physics working both with and against you. You’ll generally need to figure out how to build some structure that can meet a goal, whether it be stretching over a gap or reaching a certain height. Some designs will hold up better than others, and gravity will work to take them down.
As the game progresses, you’ll get more interesting challenges. And, to complete each challenge, you’ll start to use different types of goo balls that have unique characteristics, including floating, flammability, and more. All in all, the puzzles are engaging and challenging without being too hard. There’s fun music and plenty of curious environments as well, which makes also makes this one of the cuter puzzle games.
Courtesy of Steam
If you have a virtual reality (VR) headset like the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or a Windows Mixed Reality device, you can enjoy our top pick for VR Puzzle Games. Our pick for best VR puzzle games is The Galler - Episode 1 Call of the Starseed. It’s a VR adventure game loaded with puzzles.
The game lets you explore a lifelike environment, teleporting around for a comfortable VR experience. You’ll interact with objects in the environment, looking for some that might be useful to you. As you explore, you’ll find clues to help you solve puzzles and work your way toward finding your twin sister and a special machine.
Given the immersion offered by VR, exploring and solving puzzles in The Gallery - Episode 1: Call of the Starseed will have you feeling like you’re on a real adventure. And, if the game turns out to be one you love, the developers have released a second episode called Heart of the Emberstone that takes you even further into the story and to an entirely new world.
When it comes to puzzles, there’s nothing like an escape room to really put the pressure on and force you to use all of your wit to come up with crafty solutions. Our top pick is the VR game I Expect You to Die. In it, you play a secret agent on a series of missions that feel like old-school James Bond scenarios. The acting and scenarios are highly amusing, the intro on its own is a delightful VR experience, and the puzzle-solving is incredibly engaging.
Each scenario functions like an escape room. Throughout, you’ll always be seated in one spot, but you’ll pick up and interact with objects throughout your environment. One level may have you figuring out how to create a special chemical compound to neutralize a poisonous bomb while another sees you trying to safely exit an airplane in a car. Some levels feature little collectibles, like cash, and the game has so many interesting interactions.
While at some points you’ll have time to think carefully, events like a breaking submarine window can force you to think quick. And, with multiple solutions to some puzzles, there’s a good bit of replayability in I Expect You to Die as well.