Few types of games are as engrossing as a well-made puzzler, and the fact that the iPhone and iPod touch can put one in front of us wherever we are can be a real lifesaver. Whether you prefer color-matching puzzlers, ones with a role-playing or wordplay twist, or something that mimics the feel of tackling a physical puzzle, the App Store is absolutely loaded with stellar options that can fit nearly any interest or block of available time. Here are our picks for the 25 best iPhone puzzle games today, which we'll update as new and more perplexing puzzlers pique our interest.
Where better to start than with perhaps the world's most beloved casual match-three puzzler? Bejeweled ($0.99) challenges you to match up three or more like-colored gems on a board, with a few play variations (like the chill Zen mode and frantic Blitz) thrown into the mix. It's accessible but requires a high level of focus to master, and it looks and plays great on iPhone. No wonder it's a smash.
Distinct visual styling and intuitive touch controls make Hundreds ($4.99) an excellent iOS puzzle experience. Each stage presents a series of floating balls, which you must touch and hold to expand; the goal is to hit a total of 100 between them. The levels soon become deviously clever and challenging, and while it's slightly easier to play on a big iPad screen, it remains sharp on iPhone.
Word games don't always count as puzzlers, but the intelligent and bewitching SpellTower ($1.99) definitely does. You'll compile words based on the jumble of letters found on the screen, and in the puzzle mode, each move you make adds a line to the board; reach the top, and you're toast. The balance between wordplay and clearing the board makes for a tense and tantalizing puzzler.
Puzzle games don't need to move at breakneck speed to be enthralling. Case in point: QatQi (Free), an entrancing experience that moves at your own speed and tasks you with placing a certain number of letters to build words within limited space. The hook is that you'll discover the map's layout along the way, forcing you to make smart and conservative placement choices.
Circadia ($0.99) is a very unique entry on this list, as it hits on a rare element for puzzlers: rhythm. Against stark black backdrops, you'll tap colored dots to emit sound waves, which radiate outwards from the center. Your goal is to make all of the colored waves hit the white dot(s) at the same time. It starts simply enough, but quickly becomes tremendously difficult; it's a real head-scratcher!
Everybody knows Tetris ($0.99), and nearly every game-playing device released in the last 25 years has hosted some version of the line-clearing puzzler. The iPhone version from EA offers a couple of variations on the theme, including the classic marathon mode and a new one-touch option, which lets you pick from preset block destinations. Even the iconic 8-bit music is here!
One of the greatest indie sensations of the past several years, World of Goo ($4.99) is all about creating structures to reach a goal. However, your materials consist of various sticky creatures, which can connect from afar and in some cases have special abilities, but will also wobble like crazy once fixed in place. Brilliant scenarios, visuals, and music all make this one truly special.
While it initially found fame on the iPad, The Room Pocket (Free) brings the award-winning and atmospheric puzzler to iPhone in stellar fashion. The Room serves up a series of puzzle boxes to unlock and conquer, which is accomplished by turning the objects, looking at every little detail, and prodding to uncover their secrets. Fantastic puzzle designs and presentation make it memorable.
Scribblenauts Remix ($0.99) originally began life on the Nintendo DS, but the series finds its most comfortable home on the iPhone. In this puzzle-platform hybrid, you'll play a young boy tasked with solving various challenges by spawning items, which is done by tapping in words. It's a delightfully creative and open-ended affair that can be played again and again with fresh results.
Blending the equally strong allures of match-three puzzlers and card games, Chip Chain (Free) smartly spices up the former approach by using the look and feel of the latter. You'll place colored and numbered chips on the game board and use the special cards that appear, all with the aim of matching up like chips and creating the titular chains to maximize points. Plenty fun for free!
Utter chaos defines Super Monsters Ate My Condo! (Free), Adult Swim's blindingly vivid take on the color-matching puzzler. In this amusing affair, you'll link up like-colored floors in a building by swiping out unneeded ones (kind of like in Jenga), with giant, angry monsters causing havoc on either side based on what you trash. It's delightfully bonkers throughout.
Puzzle games are plenty addictive on their own, but adding a fast-paced role-playing aesthetic makes 10000000 ($1.99) particularly gripping. Matching like-colored icons doesn't simply remove them from the board -- it also makes your little side-scrolling hero attack enemies, open doors, and more. Speed and accuracy are key for lasting as long as possible through the dungeon.
Girls Like Robots ($2.99) is a tile-arrangement puzzler that tasks you with aligning characters based on their affections for the neighbors. As the title implies, girls dig robots, but they hate nerds; and nerds hate being in close proximity to each other. The list goes on and on, and each mission challenges you to place every tile while maximizing happiness. It's quirky and smart!
Wrapping a rope around an oddly shaped wooden object just sounds like a chore in real life, but in Zen Bound 2 Universal ($2.99), it's an amazingly meditative task. Equally challenging and chill, the goal in each stage is to cover as much of the surface as possible with the virtual rope by spinning the object around. It's a definite one-of-a-kind, and a longtime iPhone favorite.
Promising to "punch your brain in the face," Puzzlejuice ($1.99) merges three kinds of puzzlers into one, blending falling blocks, wordplay, and color-matching into one brain-tickling experience. What could have been a messy hodgepodge of disparate elements is actually an engaging and smartly presented puzzle affair, one that's packed with personality and challenge.
Mixing match-three gameplay with a role-playing aesthetic and fantastic hand-drawn visuals, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes ($4.99) puts a new spin on the classic RPG franchise by having warriors battle it out with puzzle mechanics. You'll line up like-colored soldiers to unleash attacks, with each faction delivering a distinct experience. It's engaging and hugely attractive.
One of the App Store's most popular games of all time is also one of its best and most accessible puzzlers. Cut the Rope ($0.99) is based around just that: slicing strings with your fingers to guide candy to a cute alien creature. However, the breezy initial levels give way to much more complicated physics puzzles that require multiple timed actions and considerable thought.
We have trouble considering Angry Birds a proper puzzler, but its swine-starring sibling entry Bad Piggies ($0.99) fits the bill. Each stage finds you building a vehicle using available parts, and then helping it find its way to the goal via wheels, balloons, wings, jet engines, and more. It's a series of puzzling scenarios to solve as you see fit, with extra stars given for smart building.
The average Polymer ($2.99) game board looks messy and intimidating. Your goal is to shift the entire rows and columns, Rubik's Cube-style, to connect the various little pieces to generate much larger shapes, which can then be cleared from the board. Polymer's creation-focused approach gives it a distinct feel, with timed and endless modes included. How big of a shape can you make?
Best known in some circles for surviving a silly copyright claim challenge, the EDGE series serves up some of the best puzzle experiences on the iPhone. EDGE Extended ($2.99) is the latest and greatest, challenging you to guide a cube across maze-like grids that begin with straightforward paths before giving way to mind-melting, skill-testing deathtraps. Tread carefully.
Pulling together core elements from better-known puzzlers like Lumines and Bejeweled, Radballs ($0.99) soars thanks to a mix of stellar gameplay and flashy presentation. You'll swipe together like-colored balls, which are cleared from the screen thanks to a rhythm-matched moving line, and the bold visual skins and thumping electronic pop tracks make a really significant impression.
Puzzle Quest is the elder statesman of the puzzle/RPG mash-up genre, but for our money, we'd recommend the greatly enhanced and expanded Puzzle Quest 2 ($1.99). As with the original, the game uses Bejeweled-esque matching gameplay to let you whip spells at opponents during an epic quest, and the sequel pumps in more variety while also adding excellent online play.
Long a favorite of hardcore puzzle aficionados, Drop7 by Zynga ($2.99) is an engaging original option that finds you dropping colored and numbered discs into a grid, with the intention of clearing them and triggering chain reactions based on the displayed digits. Success requires considered actions and ample strategy, and there's a free ad-based version for dabblers to check out.
Bust-a-Move is a storied match-three puzzle franchise with arcade origins, and New Bust-a-Move ($4.99) brings the experience to iPhone in solid fashion. Commanding a launcher at the bottom of the screen, you'll aim the colored balls and try to pair them with those already on the board, thus clearing them. Poor decisions can fill the board quickly, causing a quick (but adorable) demise.
Marble-matching games have been big hits on the iPhone, and we're particularly partial to Luxor Evolved ($0.99), which puts a vibrant twist on the formula with flashy, retro-stylized graphics and dizzying power-ups. The colored balls still creep along the pathways, and you're still tasked with clearing them before they reach the end, but this take has a bit more punch than most.