Essential Android & iOS Puzzle Games 2019
There’s perhaps no genre more synonymous with mobile platforms – especially iPhone or Android devices – than puzzle games. Low intensity inputs are good for a device with no buttons, and the pace of these games plays well with the low session time, start-and-stop nature of mobile gaming. Puzzle games also take so many unique forms nowadays that a top list in the genre can produce completely different looking games.
If you’re looking to test your literacy skills, we’ve got a great collection of Word puzzle games as well!
As you’ll see below, we have our own menagerie of titles that we feel represent the best Puzzle games have to offer across iPhone, iPad and Android devices…
Not every puzzle release earns a place in our ‘Best of’ list – so here’s a round-up of some recent releases that you can check out, make up your own minds about:
With a visual aesthetic that reminds us of the rather excellent Mini Metro, Powernode is a fun and challenging puzzler that has you connecting power generators to nodes to stop them from disappearing. Cables are permanent, and you have more nodes requiring attention than you have power crystals, so planning is key. New nodes spawn as you complete existing ones however, throwing an ever complex range of spanners into you intricate power network.
It’s got a few niggles, but this is an excellent, thoughtful puzzle game and perfect for anyone looking for a challenge that involves numbers and planning.
Divide by Sheep (Review)
Developer: tinybuild LLC
Platforms: iOS & Android
This gem was released way back in 2015, but it was brought to our attention earlier this year simply because I was asked to review a game we hadn’t reviewed before and picked this one. (Because reasons?-ED) Regardless, this is a vibrant and friendly educational puzzle game that uses maths, and is an excellent example of hay-day app store design practices. It’s a bit lighter than your usual fair, and some of the puzzles can be brute-forced, but if you’re looking for something different and accessible to fill your puzzle needs, then you could do worse than this four year old diamond in the rough.
A cheap & cheerful puzzler that’s especially great on phones, ELOH is a kinetic game that’s colourful, challenging, and possess some great attention to detail. The basic challenge is to position blocks in the right positions to bounce balls into the the correct holes. There’s a light rhythmic element to this, and as things get more complicated the blocks take on more creative forms. Some will move along specific axis, for example.
None of the puzzles should take longer than a few minutes to bounce your way through, but there’s over eighty of them, so you’re looking at a few good hours of gameplay for your minimal upfront investment, and no IAPs to boot!
Where Shadows Slumber (Review)
This is an excellent pick for fans of both Monument Valley and Square’s GO games. It lacks the variety and the degree of ‘cleverness’ that those other game’s possess, but there’s an ingenuity to its design that still does a great job at scratching that itch. The use of light and dark to change the scene in front of you is especially creative.
This is a maze-based puzzle game with intuitive controls and a satisfying gameplay loop. Atmospheric and imaginative, Where Shadows Slumber is a worthy new addition to our ‘best of’ roster.
Platforms: iOS Universal
This recent release is an easy inclusion in our best-of collection not only for its accessible nature, but also because it requires a lot of careful thought and planning. It’s more of a high-score puzzler than anything else, but the floral theme and impressive nuances make for some entertaining sessions. Evergarden’s developers estimate that the game will take between four to eight hours to fully explore. After this, it is all about breaking into the global high score tables.
Consequently, it is more of a Tetris high score chaser rather than the type of puzzler where you have to pit your wits against increasingly difficult levels. Unlocking all of the game’s secrets does not require particularly high levels of skill, just the persistence to keep playing and adding to your gem collection.
Infinite West is a puzzler that resembles more boardgame than match-3. It’s difficult to find which had a bigger influence on it, the sombre motif of the Ed Porter/Sergio Leone style western or Square Enix Montreal’s critically acclaimed GO series. What’s easy to see is that developers APE-X have a clear reverence of both and have done their best to highlight what makes both strong while adapting it to a unique vision. Achievement hunting and score chasing in Infinite West can throw you in that fervent, ‘just one more map’ loop because of the solid core concept, and the presence of IAPs is by no means a deal-breaker as you get given a modest amount of freebies anyway.
Lara Croft GO (Review)
Many a sterling series has seen its reputation dinged by weaker entries. In particular, the sophomore slump, that challenge to recapture what made the original great without slavish repetition. Every member of the GO series has its unique merits and mechanics, but Lara Croft GO stands as the series best. Hitman GO was plagued by odd turn-counter challenges which offer only derivative challenges and pad the playtime without expanding content; Deus Ex GO’s grand plan for daily challenges and community-generated puzzles largely fell flat, but Lara Croft GO along with its two expansions hit the sweet spot of challenge, presentation and pacing. Its focused treasure hunts will keep the best minds, most any mind, really, engaged. (There’s even a maddening hidden-object sidegame to unlock cosmetic goodies if either of those are your wont) Its solutions were exclusive and in many cases immune to the kind of brute-force, mindlessly-spam-moves approach to puzzling, and the whole adventure felt like just that.
Cosmic Express (Review)
Cute little aliens harumph and squidge themselves into unlikely spherical compartments as they commute to their destinations in outer space. In Cosmic Express, the puzzles are pickup-and-deliver, drawing train paths for a route that allows for no cross-overs or doubling-back. The game includes a ton of levels and gets surprisingly difficult (or rather: uncompromising, since difficulty is always a relative, judgmental term) sooner rather than later. Every level feels crystal clear in the post-solved hindsight; nothing is superfluous. Cosmic Express winds its way through the galaxy and wends its way into your heart.
Developer: Alec Thompson
Beglitched is the story of the Glitch Witch’s sudden disappearance from a computer OS and the player character’s sudden quest to train and replace her. You’ll open ‘files’ to find items, other avatars and programs, and enemies. The game is split between overland mode, which utilizes a minesweeper-like method of divining connecting spaces, and the match-three battle mode. The tone is light and idiosyncratic, and the level design is inspired and gimmicky in a good way. Constraints, properly applied, stimulate creativity. (Or else we’d be without the phrase ‘thinking outside of the box’). Beglitched was released without much fanfare and then subsequently ported to mobile, where it shines even more because of its screen-within-a-screen schtick.
Mini Metro (Review)
Logistics makes the world go around. These often break down into math and logic puzzles, even to the point that we have fields dedicated to studying the topology of knots. But maybe none of this matters and you just need to get to work. Well, Mini Metro folds all of this and makes for an amusing, minimalistic puzzle about ordering and sequencing the right trains in the right time to complete the right route. So, programming motion to meet specific goals, and tinkering towards that end. Some puzzles rely unduly on shifts in perspective or tricks of the light to interpret what happens next; not so with Mini Metro. The needs and requirements of the puzzles are always clear, the demand is upfront: all the player has to supply is the way forward, that vital connection which will close the gap and make everything come together.
The search for the story is the story in Framed 2. Cleverly partitioning and recombining what made the original so great, the follow-up refines and refreshes the initial conceit. Comic book action meets stealth in a cheesy noirish setting. One could even say it…re-frames…what made the original great. Yes, it is probably the shortest and most easily exhausted member of this list but it still has a little extra panache that merits some special attention. There are games to play for months or years, trying to crack their mysteries or refine skills. Then there are those games to consume in an afternoon, letting the whole experience become a unified and unbroken memory. Framed 2 belongs to the latter category, a class of brief puzzlers definitely worth playing.
The Room Three (Review)
What can be said about The Room series that hasn’t been said before? Its excellent value and construction, or the heaps of critical awards? Not to mention the host of mistaken-identity jokes based on the so-bad-it-is-a-phenomenon film of the same name. Puzzle boxes are a unique tactile treat which shrink a world into a single object and then propel one to open it based on nothing more than curiosity and the hint that something might wait inside. The Room has digitized this experience as well as it could have been, all while making the experience portable and affordable and just a skosh mysterious.
Hall of Fame
As new great puzzle apps get released, we need to rotate our list so that it’s kept lean and relevent. Just because a game loses it’s spot though, doesn’t mean it no longer deserves to be there. Here are some past greats that deserve to be remembered.
What would your list of the best puzzle games look like? Let us know in the comments!