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50 Great Puzzle Types to Challenge Your Brain With

The best challenging puzzle games

Nothing like a good workout! And your brain also needs one once in a while, or let’s make that every day. It might look like you’re just playing, but every time you put your mind to solving a puzzle you’re forcing your brain to work hard and this is a very good way of keeping it sharp.

Let’s have a look at some of the most famous puzzles ever invented. How many did you play?




Acrostic Puzzle

This game is a combination between a word puzzle and a crossword puzzle. Invented back in 1934, acrostic is played by first guessing at some clues, just as you’d do in a crossword puzzle. The next step is to identify the letters that correspond to each a number and use them to decode a phrase. These addictive puzzles are sometimes called crostics, anacrostics, double-crostics or even triple-crostics, depending on their complexity.

Anagram Puzzle

One of the easiest and most entertaining word games ever. Anagram will have you rack your brains trying to come up with another word or short phrase that uses all the letters in a given word/phrase, but in a different order. It’s a great game to exercise your vocabulary, either on your own or the fun way, with a group of friends. The first who comes up with a valid anagram scores one point.

Back from the Klondike Puzzle

Nothing to do with the famous Klondike Solitaire. It’s not a card game, but a classical and extremely challenging puzzle. Back from the Klondike resembles a labyrinth, if you want, and you have to find your way out starting from the middle. Instead of paths, you have to use the numbers on the squares to tell you how many steps you are allowed to make. Do you think you can make it out?

Ball-in-a-maze Puzzle

This is what is called a dexterity puzzle and it looks more like a child’s toy. The classical Ball-in-a-maze puzzle is made out of wood and the goal is to guide one or more steel balls to the center navigating through the labyrinth. You can do this by tilting the board itself or in some variants you use little knobs to steer the ball. And, yes, there are also digital versions of this classical puzzle.

Burr Puzzle

Think of a construction game if you like, as the Burr puzzle uses interlocking pieces to build a model, and there are enough models to keep to keep you scratching your head for hours. The traditional Burr puzzle has pieces made out of notched wood sticks or blocks, but modern sets have plastic or metalic pieces. The original game only had six wooden sticks you had to put together, but modern variants have dozens of blocks and the models are quite complex.

Puzzle video games

You could probably spend the rest of your life solving the incredible amount of puzzles available on the Internet and still not go through all of them. To solve any of these puzzles you need to use logic, pattern recognition and sometimes test your thinking and memorizing skills to the limits. Some of the most popular puzzle video games require matching pieces together by shape, size or color, finding a hidden object or simply fitting the pieces together to create an image.

Cross Sums aka Kakuro Puzzle

The Kakuro puzzle looks pretty much like a traditional crossword puzzle, only instead of letters you use numbers. It looks like a normal grid with black and white cells, but instead of word clues you have sums. The numbers in each line or column must add up to the number printed at the top. Given that you have to have the correct sum both horizontally and vertically, that’s pretty challenging. In Japan, Kakuro puzzles are almost as popular as Sudoku.

Crossword Puzzle

Timeless fun. The old crossword puzzle your grandpa used to solve in the Sunday paper has successfully adapted to the digital era and remains as strong as ever. People love doing crossword puzzles as it’s a great way of testing your knowledge on many different topics. A traditional crossword puzzle consists of a grid with white cells, each line and column dotted by the occasional black square to mark the end of a word. The player gets a set of clues and has to fill the grid with the solution to each of these word puzzles.

 Cryptic Crossword Puzzle

Cryptic clues take the traditional crossword puzzle to a whole new level.It’s not just about filling in the grid, the clues themselves are a sort of puzzle, that’s why this puzzle is called cryptic. The clue is not a definition, but a cryptic reference which might or might not contain an anagram for the solution word as well as some form of word play.

Cryptogram Puzzle

This is a type of puzzle that uses a cypher you need to discover to get to the solution. Not quite the Enigma code, but close enough as cyphers were originally used to encrypt sensitive military or political messages. Sometimes cryptogram puzzles substitute a letter for another, but in some variants the letters are replaced by numbers. The player needs to discover the rule to decrypt the message which can be a saying or a memorable quote.

Disentanglement Puzzle

If you want to keep a kid occupied on a long trip buy him an disentanglement puzzle. Or buy one for your partner, as adults will spend just as much time trying to disentangle the two pieces of this type of mechanical puzzles. There are countless variants of this puzzle, some involving ropes or wires, some nails or rings. What makes solving these puzzles so tantalizing is that you know there must be a solution, a simple one probably, and you just cannot figure it out.

Eight Queens Puzzle

This is something chess lovers will appreciate, how to place eight queens on a board. There’s a catch, of course, no two queens can threaten each other. If you’re a chess fan you’re probably already trying to figure it out in your head, but this won’t probably work. You need to sit down with the queens and move them around until it’s all peace and quiet.

Einsteins Puzzle

This is also known as Einstein’s riddle or the Zebra puzzle. What you’ll need to solve this it’s lots and lots of paper, and lots of patience, too. The puzzle consists in a set of clues about some people living in houses all painted in different colors and you’re given a set of information about each of them. You need to use logic to determine who lives where and who owns a zebra. Complicated, but fun and it makes you feel smart!

Eternity Puzzle

What would you say if someone told you there was a $1 million dollar prize offered for solving this puzzle? And that someone actually won that prize? The simple description of this puzzle will leave you scratching your head – the aim of the game is to fill a large equiangular dodecagon with 209 polydrafters all made of twelve 30-60-90 triangles each. Confusing enough?

15 Puzzle

Also known as Magic 15 or Gem Puzzle, this is a fun and easy game. It consists of a plastic or wooden frame with sliding numbered tiles, from 1 to 15. There’s also an empty slot which allows you to move the pieces around. The point of the game is to arrange the sliding tiles in order. Once you’re done, scramble the pieces and pass the game to somebody else to give them a bit of a headache, too.

Wolf, Goat and Cabbage Puzzle

This is a classical logic problem and belongs to the class of so-called river crossing puzzles. It has many variants involving other animals, small children or even cannibals. The constant of the game is that a person can only take one item or character in the boat when crossing the river, leaving the other two on their own. What can you do, take the cabbage and leave the wolf and the goat behind?

Geometric Magic Square Puzzle

Or Geomag, for short. This puzzle is a variation of the much better known magic square, in which all the numbers in a row, column or diagonal must add up to a target number. A Geomag puzzle uses geometrical shape and the rule is they must fit it together to form a target shape.

Globe Puzzle

If you like jigsaw puzzles, you should try the spherical version. It’s the same thing only the shape is different. And sometimes, so is the material this puzzle is made of, for obvious reasons. The best version is that with the globe made out of steel, while the puzzle pieces have a magnetic layer to keep them steady in place.

Happy Cube Puzzle

This toy is fairly recent invention, only created in 1986. It’s called ‘happy’ because that’s how you feel when you finally put it together. The game consists of six square foam mats which you must arrange so that they form a cube. They have different models on their edges, which makes this game quite challenging. There different versions, but in most cases they only have one solution.

Induction puzzles

There are many puzzles that fall into this category and you need to make logical deductions to solve them. One of the best known puzzles in this category is the Muddy Children. The idea is that there’s a group of nice little children and a custodian tells them that at least one of them has a muddy face. Since they cannot see their own face, the kids will use logic to determine the state of their face.

Jigsaw Puzzle

Many grown-ups love jigsaw puzzles just as much as children do. The aim of the game is to fill in a frame using oddly-shape little pieces and recreate the image on the box. It can be anything famous paintings, landmarks, cartoon characters or puppies. The difficulty of the games varies, with jigsaw puzzles for kids having large easy-to-fit pieces, while those for adults have thousands of little pieces and they take many days to solve.

Kendoku Puzzle

This is basically a version of Sudoku for brainiacs. The game consists of a grid, 4×4, 5×5 etc and you have to fill each row and column with numbers, making sure each numbers appears only once. The catch is that Kendoku also has a few heavily outlined cells and the numbers in these cells must produce a target number by using various math operations.

Knights and Knaves Puzzle

A classical logic puzzle in which you have two types of characters, the knights who speak truthfully and the knaves who lie all the time. The point of the game is to find which are the knights and who are the knaves by analyzing their answers to one or several questions. More complicated versions can ask you to deduce the answer to other questions besides that.

Magic Square Puzzle

This game is over 2,000 years old and the first known examples can be traced back to Ancient China. It’s a fairly simple game, at least if you start with the basic 3×3 grid which you have to fill in with numbers. The rule is that the numbers on each row, column or diagonal must add up to a target ‘magic’ number. That’s just the basic version, more complex ones have bigger grids or additional rules.

Mahjong Solitaire

One of the most popular online games, you can spend hours trying to match the tiles in a Mahjong game. There are countless versions of the original game played with Chinese characters. You can find versions with tiles illustrated with cute animals, flowers or the ever-popular jewels. Oddly enough, this game has evolved from a four-player game with totally different rules.

Mathematical Puzzles

Maths made fun! This is a very large category of games that require the use of maths ans a bit of logic to solve a problem. Ever heard of the problem in which you are given three jugs with different water capacities and you have to find a way to fill up one of them or make sure they each hold the same quantity? This is just one type of mathematical puzzles, but there are way more.

Maze Puzzles

The good old maze started as a pen and paper game, in which you had to find your way to the treasure in the middle or find your way out by carefully avoiding obstacles and dead ends. Today there are many types of maze puzzles, a great number of them online. Some modern versions of this classical games are tridimensional, using bridges, while other have movable walls.

Morpion Solitaire Puzzle

Also known as Join 5 or simply Line Game. You can play it on your own, hence the name Solitaire, but it can also be played by two people and the one who manages to draw more lines wins. All you need for this fun little game is a sheet of paper with dots on it. The dots must be placed following a certain pattern. Each player has to connect five dots in a straight line.

Nurikabe Puzzle

This is what is known as a determination puzzle and is sometimes referred to as Islands in the Stream. The game consists of a rectangular grid in which some of the cells have numbers on them. These numbered cells are part of an island. The player needs to determine the shape of each island, which must contain a number of cells equal to the number on the main cell around which it is drawn.

Packing Puzzles

Packing problems fall into the category of optimization problems and use math to determine how many identical items can be packed into a container. There are basically two types of packing puzzles. The first category requires the player to determine the maximum number of objects that can be stored in a container, while the second involves packing a given amount of objects in as few as possible containers.

Paint by Numbers Puzzles

The aim of this game is to reveal a certain image by coloring in a pattern. Each area has a number on it and you must use the appropriate color. Traditionally, these games are sold in kits containing a set of images, paintbrushes and pots of colors bearing numbers corresponding to those found in the patterns. Obviously, you can find paint by numbers games online as well.

Peg Solitaire Puzzle

This is a centuries old game, which is played on a board with holes in it. At the start of the game, all holes have pegs in it, except for the one at the center of the board.  The player is allowed to move vertically and horizontally, jumping over one peg which is then removed. The aim of the game is to remove all the pegs on the board.

Pentomino Puzzle

Also known as 5-omino, this a puzzle inn which the goal is to fill in a frame, usually rectangular using polygonal shapes made out of 5 squares of equal size. The tiles have various shapes and can be rotated at will so they fit together. The puzzle looks like a Tetris sort of game, but the aim is not to make the lines disappear, but to cover the whole area without overlaps or gaps.

Pirate Loot Puzzle

Just as the name says, this is a game involving pirates discussing how to divide the loot, in this case 100 gold coins. There are five pirates and each of them can propose a plan by order of seniority. If the plan is rejected by the others, the proposer is thrown overboard. If you think this is easy, you might be surprised as the pirates have their own plans and might reject what seems a reasonable plan.

Prisoners and Hats Puzzle

A famous induction puzzle in which the players have to use logical deductions to guess the color of the hat they’re wearing. A variant of this game is The King’s Wise Men Hat Puzzle. Both games follow the same rule. An announcer, the warden in the prisoners’ game or the king in the other one, states that at least one of the persons has a color of a certain color.


Rebus is a puzzle that confronts the player with a set of images, mixed in with letters and the aim is to guess the word or phrase they stand for. In the olden days, rebuses were used in heraldry, with the images painted on shields making up the name of the bearer. In modern times, rebuses are featured in magazines or game shows.


Who doesn’t like riddles? They exist in every culture and consist of metaphoric clues one needs to figure out to arrive at the solution. The oldest recorded riddles date back to Babylonian times. Some classical riddles have achieved international fame and can be found in any language, like the old Riddle of the Sphinx or the Two-legs, three-legs, and four-legs.

Rubik’s Cube

Invented in 1974, Rubik’s cube is considered the most popular puzzle game in the world. The original Rubik cube had six faces, each with 9 squares of the same color, but today there are countless versions in various shapes. The aim of the game is to unscramble the cube, and arrange all the faces to be of one color. If you’ve never managed to do this, now it’s the time to impress your friends as there are many sites that can help you solve the puzzle by guiding you through the moves.

Situation puzzle

Situation puzzles are extremely popular these days. Decades ago you could find situation puzzles in magazines, but today there a plenty of websites offering a never-ending supply of such problems. Typically, the host of the game (aka the one who reads it from the web) presents a situation and the other players have to ask Yes/No question to understand what happened. Very similar to the Twenty Questions game, extremely popular in the United States in the 19th century.

Sliding puzzles

There are endless versions of this simple game which traditionally consists of a frame, usually rectangular, and a number of sliding tiles or blocks.There is always an empty slot allowing you to move around the tiles. Some are math-based and require you to arrange the numbers so as each column or row adds up to the same number, but there are also letter-based sliding puzzles. The sliding puzzles for children involve recreating a certain image, an animal or a cartoon character.

Snake Cube Puzzle

This mechanical puzzle is sold as a ‘snake’ made out of 27 or 64 small cubes, called cubelets tied together by an elastic band that runs through them. This elastic allows the cubelets to rotate freely and the point of the puzzles is to arrange them in a cube. In other versions, the target shape is not a cube at all, but a character, a robot, for instance.

Sokoban Puzzle

The original Sokoban video puzzle was released in 1981 in Japan, but today the concept is used in a myriad of other games. Sokoban literally means ‘warehouse keeper’ and the character in the game has to put several crates in their designated storage spaces. It’s a modern variant of traditional sliding puzzles as it requires the player to make use of empty spaces to push the crated into place.

Soma Cube Puzzle

This is basically a wooden toy, which consists of seven pieces in various colors that must be arranged to form a cube. Six of the pieces are made up of four equal-sized cubelets arranged in various shapes, while the remaining piece has only three cubelets. This puzzle is so challenging many mathematicians have dedicated long hours to finding all the possible solutions to it. Very similar to the Bedlam or the Diabolical Cube.

Stick Puzzles

Broadly known as Matchstick puzzles, these games require to move a certain number of sticks in a given pattern to transform into something else, the target pattern. Sometimes it’s about transforming the shapes, but there are also mathematical puzzles created with sticks. The game can also be played with straws or little wire pieces. Some versions use the sticks to create three-dimensional configurations.

Sudoku Puzzle

If you’re bored and want something fun, try a Sudoku to give your brain a workout. Sudoku is basically a 9×9 grid which you must fill in using numbers from 1 to 9. Each row or column has to include all the numbers and, to make things a bit more complicated, the grid is divided in nine squares of nine cells, which again must contain all the numbers from 1 to 9. That’s the traditional game, but there are many variations to it and the Internet is full of them.

Tangram Puzzle

The name translates as ‘seven boards of skill’ and it does take a lot of skill and a keen eye to recreate the target images by using the seven tiles of Tangram. Traditionally, the tiles are made of wood and come in various geometrical shapes. The game is usually sold with a booklet filled with puzzles, that is the various images the player needs to replicate. There are also many online versions of the game.

Three-cottage Puzzle

This is a classical mathematical puzzle, also known as the three utilities problem.You have three cottages that each needs to be connected to three utilities, usually gas, water and electricity. The little houses are placed in a row and you have to make sure the lines connecting them to the utilities do not cross other lines. The real question is not what’s the solution, but rather is there a solution to this puzzle?

Tower of Hanoi Puzzle

A very old and very simple game which is extremely challenging. The game, sometimes referred to as The Towers, consists of three wooden rods and discs of various sizes. At the beginning, all discs are stacked on one rod in ascending order, with the smallest one on top. The aim of the game is to move all the discs to another rod and arrange them in the same way. There are, of course, a few rules which make the puzzle more complicated than it seems.

T Puzzle

This game is somewhat similar to Tangram, but consists of only four tiles of various shapes. The aim of the game is to put the pieces together to form a capital T. It’s not an easy game as the the tiles come in irregular shapes and it’s hard to figure out how to fit them together. Another version of this very old game is the Latin Cross.

Verbal Arithmetic Puzzles

Also known as alphametics or cryptarithmetic, this type of game falls into the mathematical puzzles category. Traditionally, you have a sum of two words and a solution. The digits are replaced by letters and the point of the game is to determine the value of each letter. Solving the puzzles requires little maths, but you need to make logical deductions and exhaustive tests to determine what number each letter stands for.