It seems like puzzle games have been around forever. The first puzzle was created in 1767 by engraver and mapmaker John Spilsbury. Since then, people everywhere have been fascinated by putting the pieces together, whether physically, metaphorically, or our favorite, virtually. Puzzle games are not necessarily as fast-paced or bloody as many other genres. Regardless, we love them. Something about merely solving a problem is so satisfying and addictive. We could play all day if the puzzle is challenging, like the physics-based problems on Portal 2, but Portal is old news. We want to talk about five awesome new puzzle video games that came out in 2019.
1. Tetris 99
Of all the puzzle video games ever created, perhaps none is more iconic and widely played than Tetris. That’s why we’re awarding the first slot on this list to the newly released (in February) Tetris 99. The latest iteration of his fantastic game allows you to play against ninety-eight other players in a battle royale-style variation of the classic game. Tetris is so well known that the new 99 doesn’t even bother to include a tutorial.
In addition to the unique battle style massive multiplayer element, there’s one thing that makes Tetris 99 especially challenging and differentiates it from previous versions. Whenever you clear two lines or more, it sends bonus lines of ‘garbage,’ with gaps for the other players to fill in. This added difficulty elevates the gameplay to a whole different realm. The original version of Tetris was created at the Dorodnitsyn Computing Center of the Academy of Science of the Soviet Union in Moscow on June 6, 1984. Because the inventor of this incredibly popular and beloved game, Alexey Leonidovich Pajitnov, was employed by the Russian government, he didn’t start getting royalties from his creation until 1996 when he formed The Tetris Company with Henk Rogers.
Pajitnov has worked on almost twenty of the most incredible and challenging puzzle games ever released, including Welltris and our favorite puzzle game ever Tetrisphere. That’s not all he’s done. Alexey moved to the US in 1991 and worked for Microsoft among other companies. He created Pandora’s Box and helped design the puzzle games in Yoshi’s Cookie. Anyone who has contributed so much to the world of puzzle gaming deserves a shout out on this list. Alexey truly changed the world of gaming, and we’ll be playing some version of his games for the rest of our lives.
2. Baba is You
Arvi Teikari (known professionally as Hempuli) is the Finnish indie developer responsible for this unique game for PC and Nintendo Switch. The idea behind Baba is You is simple. As a player, you can change the game. Not only will you solve puzzles by interacting with blocks, but you can also use the blocks to modify the environment, yourself, and even the goal if each level. Baba is You puts the power to create puzzle-solving worlds in your hands. The ‘rules’ in this game are the bocks. Words on the blocks show you what they can do. The rest is up to you and Baba. Some levels use other characters, but the concept is the same. You move the blocks, and they affect the world to change the way things work, allowing you to change grass into hot lava, yourself into a rock, and many other exciting permutations. Move the word blocks to change their meanings and reach the end of each level.
3. Dr. Mario World
Oh no! There’s been an outbreak in the Mushroom Kingdom (again), and the only one who can help is Dr. Mario. If you’ve played previous iterations of Dr. Mario, then you already understand most of what you need to destroy the viruses and save the land. You need only connect capsules of the cure to similarly colored viruses to destroy them. Unlike previous versions, this game is upside down. Physics works backward. Instead of the viruses being at the bottom of the screen, this time, they’re on top. Drag your capsules onto the screen and let them ‘fall’ or in this case, rise into place. Like Tetris, the pills have to reach an open space to connect, and leaving gaps in your medicinal wall will see you reduce your available area of play. Avoid the obstacles on later levels and get rid of all the nasty viruses to win. The concept may be easy to understand, but saving the day in Dr. Mario World is going to take serious skills.
4. Manifold Garden
This bizarre and beautiful first-person puzzle game from American indie developer William Chyr will also make you question the rules of physics. After seven years of perfecting his creation, Manifold Garden is finally available. This McEscher inspired architectural world allows you to explore the dimensions while moving simple blocks around a landscape to achieve various goals like growing a cubic tree. The puzzles are challenging, but the visual beauty of this game alone could hold our attention for weeks. Exploring the gravitic permutations of the infinite would be one way to describe this incredibly intricate world. Realistically, like Escher’s art, we don’t quite have the words to describe the bizarre, lovely, and mathematical genius that is Manifold Garden. You’ll just have to see for yourself.
5. Twist Hit!
Like many puzzle games, Twist Hit! is a deceptively simple game of timing and problem-solving. The goal is to fill in rings and create beautiful trees. Were all for a game that makes people more aware of the trees around them. Use basic, or more complex, geometric shapes to fill in the trees and save a forest. The idea behind the game is every bit as lovely as the graphics. Smooth, simple gameplay is nonetheless challenging and allows players of all ages to get in on the environmentally-minded fun.
With so many truly outstanding puzzle video games available, it was difficult to narrow this list down to just five. We could easily have added another ten exceptional puzzle games that just dropped this year like Slices and Jewel Castle, but then it wouldn’t be a top five. If you enjoy these games, then there are plenty more to choose from, both old and new. Try some classic Bejeweled, or replay Dragon Age Origins and see if you remember how to solve the bridge puzzle in the Gauntlet area of the Frostback Mountains. What is your favorite video game puzzle of all time? Let us know in the comments section below.