The best free puzzle games for Android
Our favorite free Android brain-smashers, logic tests and path-finding games.
Otteretto in stills looks like Tetris or Columns, with its well of colored squares. But in play, it’s much more strategic. The aim in each level is to secure enough points by dragging out palindromic patterns – strings that are the same in each direction. The more complex the string, the more points you get.
Because the score target increases with each level, you soon learn to patiently spend time scouring the well for increasingly snake-like strings. Sometimes, you can tap individual squares to subtly shift the stack in your favor. It’s brain-bending and compelling stuff.
For free, you get all this and a daily challenge where everyone in the world gets the same starting set-up. For $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.69, you unlock three additional modes. In all cases, Otteretto is a mobile gem.
Dungeons of Dreadrock
Dungeons of Dreadrock is sneaky. It looks a lot like another me-too overhead tile-based puzzler, where you roam dungeons, avoid enemies and scarper for the exit. And to some degree, that’s precisely what it is. But smart design makes Dreadrock a lot more fun and interesting than its contemporaries.
This is evident from early on in the game, where the real-time puzzling action finds you evading a gigantic troll in one of the 100 single-screen challenges. Safely through the exit, you breathe a sigh of relief – until you realize the troll is in hot pursuit. The tension ramps up – unusual in this sort of game.
Surprises, shifts in pace and downright cunning puzzles persist through the game’s entire length. It’s another great example of how you shouldn’t judge a game by how it first appears, but by how it plays.
Kitty Q neatly showcases that no subject matter’s off limits to Android puzzlers. The game begins with a half-dead/half-alive kitty bursting forth from a cardboard box that appeared on your doorstep. Your task is to dig into the principles of quantum physics to help the cat escape her peculiar quantum superposition.
Don’t worry: you don’t need to be a science nerd to get through the game. It’s a sweet-natured, brief, enjoyable room escape title, where you discover objects, find clues, and solve puzzles to progress.
To assist you while helping Schrödinger’s cat, Schrödinger’s great-granddaughter offers tips, and an in-game Kittypedia lets you delve into the actual science, should you feel the need. Oh, and there are dress-up elements too, because if there’s one thing a half-skeleton cat needs, it’s glasses and a comedy mustache.
Samorost is an endearing point-and-click puzzle series that appears to have been released in reverse on mobile. Premium title Samorost 3 arrived first – and remains one of the finest games of its type on Android. But for Amanita Design fans and newcomers alike, the original Samorost is worth checking out to find out where it all began.
The game features a space-faring gnome who discovers his tiny world is about to be obliterated by an asteroid. He therefore blasts off in a tiny rocket, only to find himself in a fantastical world of surreal collage-like locations. Each of the half-dozen screens has a few puzzles to solve, and you’ll be done in half an hour. So don’t rush it: breathe this one’s beauty in, and be glad a bite-sized PC classic was so carefully remastered for your phone.
Empty. is a puzzle game for people with - or wanting - a decidedly ‘zen’ outlook on life.
Each handcrafted level begins as a minimalist space with objects dotted about. These are depicted almost as silhouettes, featuring as few as one and rarely more than a few colors. The idea is to manipulate the scene so objects are merged into matching flat planes.
Success mostly hinges on finding the correct order in which to dispense with items - and it’s satisfying when you manage to empty a room, unlocking the next stage. This game’s designers want you to relax while you play, too - it’s generous with object positioning, is devoid of ads and IAPs, and has no timers. Ideal stuff to unwind with, then - and to learn a little about the value of simplicity in your life.
Sky: Children of the Light
Sky: Children of the Light is a freeform adventure that draws heavily from Journey – a game that’s yet to arrive on Android. That doesn’t matter now, because Sky is arguably the better title.
If you’re into backstory, there’s one about children trying to spread light and hope through a desolate kingdom. All you really need to know is that there’s a lot of running about, giddily sliding down hills, and figuring out how to deal with puzzle-like barriers that block your way.
The twist is that loads of other people are playing at the same time. Often, you must work together to succeed - easier said than done when communication takes the form of parps and gestures. It can frustrate, but there are also times when someone will grab your hand, and a group of you will soar into the sky. Moments in mobile gaming are rarely so magical.
Total Party Kill
Total Party Kill finds a trio of heroes in dank single-screen dungeons with their exits inconveniently far out of reach. They then hit upon a novel way of escape: sacrifice.
Your job is to figure out in which order everyone needs to be dispatched. The knight hacks at chums with his sword, sending them flying across the screen – potentially towards otherwise inaccessible switches. The mage freezes companions into blocks of ice. And the ranger uses his arrows to impale cohorts on walls. You get the idea.
The mix of dark humor – especially the little jig the escapee does while his friends lie dead – and tight puzzles make for an entertaining brain-smashing time.
Turn It On! Free
Turn It On! Free is an excellent response to all those people who gripe when they find it a bit tricky to turn on a new piece of kit they buy. At least those items aren’t as bonkers as the black boxes in this game, which take powering things up to a level beyond the ludicrous.
Initially, you flick the odd switch or twiddle a dial. But Turn It On keeps upping the insanity level. Even fairly early on, you’re faced with an entire board of switches, and no idea what any of them are for.
Eventually, there are cranks and cogs, meters and displays, and probably your quiet sobbing voice in the background when you realize you’re 15 minutes into a level and still have no idea how to complete it. The mark of a solid puzzler, then.
XOB transplants an ancient TV into your Android device. Within the CRT fuzz and lurid colors lie 100 levels of platform puzzling, where you must find a path to the exit by manipulating gravity.
You play a square. By dragging the screen, the entire level tilts, forcing the square to trundle. If it falls from an edge on to another plane, the entire scene twists. A single tap and the square leaps to the ceiling, rotating everything 180 degrees.
This can disorient, but XOB keeps you glued to the screen with its retro-modern aesthetic. The end result is something that at its core is actually quite basic, but the whole is elevated by way of superb presentation and execution, in a manner countless other free Android games would do well to take note of.
Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle
Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle bucks the trend in Android horror games. Instead of traipsing about a rickety building that may as well hang ‘Enter to be horribly murdered!’ above the door and getting the odd jump scare, you instead face a sliding puzzler. Think Sokoban – but with buckets of cartoon gore.
The aim in each level is to slide horror icon Jason Voorhees into unsuspecting campers, who are then summarily dispatched. The required pathways become increasingly convoluted; hazards and move limits also act as barriers to your desire to get all stabby.
The puzzles are well designed, and the horror neatly straddles the line between icky and ridiculous. After all, it’s hard to take things seriously when your mother’s decapitated head, levitating in the corner, is offering sagely wisdom.
Tiny Bubbles is a mostly meditative match game set in a world of gloopy bubbles. A premium app in its previous life on iOS, it comes across intact to Android in free form, merely dropping in the odd ‘commercial break’ if you don’t fancy splashing out on IAP.
The game itself is delightful, having you figure out how to match four bubbles of the same color, which then pop, ideally in an explosive chain reaction. Complications come by way of color mixing demands, troublesome bubbles to remove, and the machinations of a bubble-blowing fish.
If that all sounds a bit too sedate, the game ramps things up some in the arcade mode. But however you take on this puzzler, it’s bursting with fun!
Flipflop Solitaire is at its core spider solitaire. The aim is to remove every card from the table. Cards can be built on the tableau in rank, and in-suit sequences can be moved between columns – but Flipflop shakes things up by messing with the rules.
First, it’s primarily designed for smartphones, and you get just five columns of cards. This is trickier than the standard spider layout, and so the game allows you to stack cards in both directions – enabling dizzying sequences like 9876787654543. You only have to stop stacking when you run out of space.
These changes might seem paltry, but they have the effect of making almost every hand technically possible to win. Throw in endless undos and this transforms Flipflop from yet another throwaway card game into a deviously clever mobile puzzler.
A Way to Slay
A Way to Slay turns epic and extremely bloody sword fights into a kind of turn-based puzzle. You start each bout surrounded by angry foes with a penchant for getting all stabby and head-choppy. Double-tap on any enemy and your hero zips his way over, before painting the screen red with their insides.
On making a move, your opponents also get a chance to adjust their positions – and they are vital to keep track of. For if you venture too near to anyone, it’s your innards that end up decorating the sparse landscape.
The key to victory, then, rests in figuring out the combination of moves that will see you tap your way to victory, a lone survivor surrounded by a sea of corpses. Top stuff, assuming you’ve the stomach – and brains – for it.
Aquavias is a sedate path-finding puzzle game. The aim is to deliver water to cities, which will otherwise suffer from drought. Unfortunately, a buffoon has decided the means of moving said water is by way of elevated and fragmented aqueducts.
Each section – most being a single line or quarter circle – can be individually rotated, the idea being to gradually fashion a solid path for the water to follow.
Naturally, this is where you come in. Each tap rotates a piece 90 degrees clockwise. Depending on the level, you’ll either have a limited number of moves, or a rapidly draining reservoir.
Over time, the complexity of the required pathways increases – notably when T-junctions enter the fray; but the game never becomes overbearing, and its pleasing visuals and soundtrack further add to the charm.