Puzzle games are the chameleons of the gaming world. They can adopt the flair of an RPG, disguise themselves as an adventure game, and even hide in plain sight as a minimalist game. Puzzle games are always different, and they can vary from extremely complex to super simple.
A great puzzle game will keep you entertained for hours as you try (and a lot of times fail) to progress in the game. You may get frustrated, you may put down your iPhone or iPad in anger, but the game will keep you coming back for more because you sure as hell aren't going to let a game get the best of you. The sheer force of will required to continue you in a well-crafted puzzle game is something a lot of gamers have a love-hate relationship with, but there's no denying its power. Here are my top picks for the best puzzle games for iPhone and iPad.
- Red's Kingdom
- The Room 3
- Monument Valley
- Slayaway Camp
- Ultra Flow 2
- Deus Ex GO
- Mini Metro
- You Must Build A Boat
- Donut County
- Lumino City
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Red's Kingdom is a perfectly crafted adventure puzzle game that has a lot of depth. The goofy but heartwarming story with its colorful characters is bound to grab your attention, and the incredibly fun gameplay never seems to go stale as the game layers in plenty of elements to surprise you at every turn.
Red's Kingdom opens the doors to its world and allows you to take non-linear paths giving you the opportunity to explore different areas and find alternate routes to hidden treasures. Although it's a puzzle game at its core, the game feels more like an action-adventure game than anything else. I can't recommend Red's Kingdom enough.
The Room 3
I couldn't make a list of best puzzle games without including the super creepy puzzler The Room 3. The entire Room series is worth a download, but The Room 3 is especially fun If you enjoyed playing Myst back in the day.
The Room offers complex box-related puzzles along with an atmospheric storyline and unsettling clues to the reality behind the madness. The visuals are outstanding, and the soundtrack is just as spooky as everything else, playing The Room 3 is a full experience.
Another puzzler with eerie visuals and a compelling tale, Monument Valley offers a variety of 3D maps to conquer — all while transporting you into a strange world of crows, block creatures, and breathtaking Escher-style landscapes.
Monument Valley has been praised by critics and player alike, earning accolades such as Apple's Game of the Year 2014 and the Apple Design Award 2014. Plus, the game has over 20,000 ratings and holds a 4.5 rating overall.
Once you're done with the original, don't miss out on the critically-acclaimed follow-up, Monument Valley 2 ($5).
Slayaway Camp (17+)
Slayaway Camp is a morbidly funny take on the puzzle genre that tasks you with going on a killing spree, and no one you meet is safe!
You'll need to slide around each scene and murder your victims in a particular order to reach the portal to advance to the next area. With plenty of obstacles such as fire pits, open water, and cops, you'll need to be smart during your rampage.
Taking its inspiration from classic 80s horror films, the violence in this game is over-the-top, extremely fake, and incredibly funny.
A film-noir inspired comic book adventure, FRAMED is a unique puzzle game with great visuals to boot and compelling story to boot!
The story is told in comic book form with panels, but they are all jumbled up, and you'll need to put them in the right order to progress forward.
The comic book art is stunning, and all hand-crafted, and the mysterious storyline will keep you glued to the game for hours.
Once you're done with FRAMED, make sure to grab the sequel, FRAMED 2 ($5) for even more graphic novel panel puzzle solving.
The matching game that started a 2048-clone phenomenon, Threes brought smarts (and some great background music) to the puzzling genre.
Threes may be a game comprised of numbers, but you need no real mathematical skill to excel at this game — just an open mind and a penchant for thinking ahead.
Best of all, you can always find new paths to pursue, new tricks to test, and new methods for matching; the game is always different, though the numbers remain the same.
Ultra Flow 2
Ultra Flow 2's simplicity is probably its greatest strength. The game has a fun and engaging soundtrack and focuses more on hand-eye coordination than serious brainpower.
That being said, it's still not easy. It's in the sweet spot: challenging enough that your mind gets a workout, but easy enough that you're never stuck on the same level for longer than a handful of cracks at it.
Deus Ex GO
From Square Enix popular GO series, comes the mobile addition to the Deus Ex franchise that has everything you could want in a puzzle game.
Deus Ex GO never gets boring, as the game layers in complex systems to solve each puzzle. Defeating enemies, hacking computers, and sneaking your way around the map are just a few of the techniques you'll need to apply to be successful.
If you're a fan of Deus EX or the other games in the GO series, downloading Deus Ex GO is a no-brainer.
If you need a game to help you relax after a long day, Prune may be the perfect puzzler for you.
Prune tasks you with cutting trees in different patterns to reach the sunlight, all while avoiding the dangers of the world around. Its minimalist design and very limited color scheme allow you to focus in on the game in a very relaxing way, making it perfect to help you unwind.
Do you ever look at your city's public transportation and think you could design it better? Well, Mini Metro will let you try to create your own subway system.
Minimalist in design but complex in its mind-boggling puzzles, Mini Metro provides hours of fun — even if for some of those hours you will be scratching your head.
You Must Build A Boat
You Must Build A Boat takes the classic formula of match-three and combines it with a challenging and frantic RPG, with a dash of endless runner and building.
Embark on a journey of battling monsters and getting them to join your ranks as you recruit them for your boat, which grows bigger and bigger with every conquest. Battle by matching blocks in groups of three or more to attack, defend, cast magic spells, unlock chests, and more. Watch as your boat continues to grow, and as more creatures join your ranks and offer valuable services and upgrades. And since your matches can be chained, the possibilities for huge combos can be done.
You Must Build A Boat is one of my favorite match-three RPGs ever, and it's well worth picking up. You won't regret it.
Photographs - Puzzle Stories
From the same guy who brought you YMBAB, comes a new puzzle game that focuses on the narrative. Say hello to Photographs.
Photographs is an interesting one because you'll be searching around and solving puzzles, but as you do, you'll uncover and hear a story to go along with each scene. And not only will you be immersed by the captivating stories, but the beautiful pixel art and music pair along with the narratives so perfectly.
Each story takes place in a different setting and will feature unique gameplay mechanics. And while the game is fairly short (only takes about three hours to complete), it's an experience that you need to try out.
If you like the panel puzzle concept like FRAMED, then you'll get a kick out of Gorogoa as well.
The gameplay of Gorogoa is interesting and fairly unique. You'll have several hand-drawn panels that you need to arrange and combine in order to solve the puzzles they contain. It's simple but complex at the same time. The art is also beautiful, and everything becomes animated once you figure it out. The entire concept of Gorogoa is something you've not seen before in other puzzle games, so it's definitely an experience you should check out if you're a puzzle fan.
Donut County is one of the most quirky and interesting puzzle gams you'll come across. Think of reverse Katamari Damacy.
Meet BK, the raccoon. He has a device that creates donut holes in the ground, which basically helps him steal trash in order to win stupid prizes. One day, he ends up falling into one of his own holes and finds his best friend, Mira, along with other Donut County residents, such 999 feet underground. They demand answers!
The gameplay of Donut County involves exploring the home of each character, who also have their own distinctive stories to tell. You'll move the hole around to swallow up their stuff, and the hole grows as you get more trash in it. You can combine items for fun effects, and catapult things out of the hole if needed. Sometimes you'll have to in order to solve the puzzles that await you.
It's a puzzle game, though it doesn't always feel that way. After all, you are controlling a big old hole in the ground and devouring everything that's in the way. Honestly, what else do you need in a game?
This puzzle game will help you find your groove and relax at the same time.
ELOH is a musical puzzle game that's all about finding the right position for the blocks to help guide the balls into the correct holes. As you progress through the game, the puzzles get a bit harder, but they all have one thing in common: rhythm. The blocks that you'll need to move also take on more creative shapes and forms and some can only move in a certain way. The game looks beautiful, has over 90 stages, and there's no time limits or other stress factors. Just find your rhythm and solve the puzzles. No stress or in-app purchases!
If you're into beautiful games that look as good as they play, then you must get Lumino City. It was painstakingly hand-crafted from real-life paper, cardboard, miniature lights, and motors to create a wonderful little world that we can all interact with.
Lumi's grandfather has been kidnapped from Lumino City, and it's up to you to help Lumi explore the city to find out what happened to her grandfather. The city is full of realistic puzzles that are all connected and intertwined together, and you can interact with everything through simple touch controls.
The game is a bit long in the tooth at this point, but it's still a must-have in our book.
What are your favorites?
Have a favorite puzzle game, I want to know about it! Leave a comment down below or hit me up on Twitter.
July 2019: Added more puzzle games to the list.
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Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.