The best puzzle games on PC have a variety of brainteasers, from classic head-scratchers to frustration-fueled problems. Whether you’re looking for clever dialogue, moving narratives from rich stories, or a healthy dose of laughter with your conundrums, puzzle games are versatile enough to find a way to do it all.
This vast genre covers everything from pirate point-and-clicks to tetromino trickery and quantum physics capers. These games are so good they were even considered for our list of the best PC games. Our comprehensive list outlines the best puzzle games, including a few very familiar faces.
The best puzzle games on PC are:
- Baba is You
- Opus Magnum
- Escape Academy
- Return to Monkey Island
- Portal 2
- Tetris Effect
- The Pedestrian
- Return of the Obra Dinn
- The Witness
Baba is You
Baba is You is a gateway puzzle game for anyone with a vague interest in learning programming languages. Every object has a particular rule it obeys somewhere on the level. The trick here is that you can change these rules by pushing new objects in their place. For example, if you want to become a block, you can push a block in place of the Baba icon so that the code reads “Block Is You”. It starts simple, but this deceptively adorable puzzle game will soon put your logic skills to the test.
Sizeable might be the lighthearted puzzle game for those who love a bit of terraforming. Solving each puzzle requires changing the size of objects on the map, such as making canvas tents bigger to bounce a cannonball onto the target. You can also affect sea levels by changing the moon’s size or the season by clicking on the sun. It’s a relatively short game compared to others on the list, but it has plenty of secrets to uncover. If you need a little more convincing, a demo is available on the Sizeable Steam page for you to try.
It may have a more mechanical look than others on this list, but Opus Magnum has much of the same programming appeal as Baba is You. However, Opus Magnum is more focused on using hexagonal shapes, gears, and droppers to combine ingredients, and it’s immensely satisfying when everything comes together. When you eventually run out of levels, there’s a Steam Workshop community crafting new puzzles with ever-increasing levels of complexity. It may be a few years old now, but it earned high praise during our best games of 2017 season, and it still holds up to this day.
Take the stress of moving and turn it on its head with Unpacking. This emotionally-charged but relaxing puzzler tells a meaningful story while reminding its players that not everyone inhabits spaces the same way.
Players are tasked with finding homes for all household items, from toilet paper to books and even diplomas. Paying attention pays off, as familiar objects and changing locations reveal more about the game’s protagonist and their life’s journey as they move from place to place across their life. You start as an interested voyeur and leave with intimate knowledge of their journey.
With BAFTA award-winning music from Jeff Van Dyck and meticulously detailed pixel art, Wren Brier and the team at Witch Beam deliver a hand-crafted world that doesn’t demand your attention but asks for it kindly while offering a cup of tea.
In Escape Academy, keeping your heart rate down is hard as this is one high-pressure puzzle game. Where typical escape rooms may end after solving a few tricky tests, this clever indie is set in a school of the escape arts, with a curriculum full of intrigue, missing persons and mind-boggling exams to be completed.
After a seemingly simple introduction, you’re welcomed into the hallowed halls of the Escape Academy and tasked with battling against the clock with other students and your brain. A seasonal campus serves as a fitting backdrop to each set of challenges, with chunky cel-shaded assets and fully-realised characters inviting players down the rabbit hole – no pocket watch needed.
And, if you wrap up the main campaign, there’s a season pass of DLC full of headache-inducing trickery for those looking for more delicious morsels of mystery.
Return to Monkey Island
Ron Gilbert’s pivotal pirate has returned, taking on enemies old and new. In this hotly-anticipated follow-up, the Terrible Toybox team ask important questions like, ‘What is nostalgia’, ‘Can you maintain a legacy’, and… ‘Is scurvy contagious?’
Join Guybrush Threepwood as he searches for purpose and finally seeks the true secret of Monkey Island, with the weight of his past adventures in tow. Threepwood’s charms may not be as effective in navigating this new, more modern pirate world. However, a legacy of kindness and clever wordplay keeps the lovable pirate at the centre of his usual hijinx, quirky quizzes (our guide to the Return to Monkey Island trivia cards will help here) and intriguing point-and-click puzzles.
A vibrant cartoonish art style from Rex Crowle puts a sensational spin on Monkey Island’s iconic pixelated past, complemented by scene-stealing characters with big personalities.
No list of the best puzzle games would be complete without Portal 2, a legendary adventure that will continue reliving in the spotlight long beyond this list. Known for being a head-tickling story full of sarcasm, turrets and ground-breaking teleportation tech, the maestros at Valve made sure Portal’s younger sibling would be one for the history books.
After achieving great success with the original game, Portal 2 adds more ambitious and robust mysteries to solve, ones that players can approach in various ways. All you need is your trusty portal gun, a dose of lateral thinking and a good chunk of luck, and Aperture Science is your oyster. Players are tasked with navigating through the gorgeous remnants of a once-futuristic facility to find their freedom, as well as the pockets of lore hidden carefully in its walls. Just be prepared for the game-changing goops and cubes that come to complicate its later puzzles. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s also on our list of the best co-op games.
Do yourself a favour and play Tetris Effect with headphones on. This clever synaesthetic spin-off of the ‘80s classic brings beats and bliss, making stacking blocks feel emotionally charged. Each level is tied to dynamic dioramic environments that interact with each move, your every decision pulling you deeper into a cleverly-crafted web from the mind of Rez and Lumines’ Tetsuya Mizuguchi.
Old-school Tetris tactics are still very welcome here, but beware, Tetris Effect’s disarmingly-beautiful imagery may seek to distract you from the task at hand. Finding a way to balance your attention between its beautiful vistas and the need for the right tetromino can save you from some painful losses as you play through its epic campaign, which is aptly named Journey Mode.
Find a new love for industrial imagery with The Pedestrian, a platforming side-scroller offering clever sign-based storytelling from a unique perspective. You play as a plucky stick figure who flips, switches, overcomes obstacles, and jumps between literal signage in the 2D space as the bustling 3D world continues around them.
As you piece together The Pedestrian’s broader narrative puzzle, you will help your figure friend build confidence and rearrange road signs to move around a giant concrete jungle, with all of its anxiety-inducing features front and centre, impeding your pathways through the sweetly-soundtracked urban sprawl.
Return of the Obra Dinn
Strap on your investigative boots and prepare to examine what’s left of a once-missing merchant ship in The Return of the Obra Dinn. Five years since its voyage, this once great vessel is now a hollow shell, full of ghosts and mystery aching to be uncovered.
As an insurance appraiser, players must deduce how a ship full of sea folk and quality goods could go tragically missing. Your proverbial magnifying glass is the Memento Mortem, a pocket watch that, when used on a corpse, transports you into the moments right before their demise. In this death-filled diorama, quick-witted exploration offers clues and information about what happened on this fateful venture. Let’s hope you have your sea legs, it will be a bumpy ride.
Waking up on a mysterious island with your memory missing may not be the most welcoming premise. Still, by wading into the mysterious waters of The Witness, you may find a meaningful message hidden within this enigmatic indie that makes it well worth the puzzling playtime.
On this lonely berg full of luscious biomes, there is only forward motion: Interacting with grid puzzles of varying difficulties. The Witness constantly teaches players new rules and tools, enabling further exploration, while optional video and audio logs discovered throughout the journey provide slivers of information necessary to understand the player’s purpose on the island. Look inwards as you methodically unlock all of its areas, and if you feel lost, remember to keep going, as The Witness is only as confusing as your next puzzle.
If you’ve exhausted this list of the best puzzle games, why not check out our picks for the best adventure games on PC? A lot of them share similar traits to the titles in this list, or our list of the best story games may help if you’re looking for something a little more narrative-driven.