Puzzle games have certainly evolved into something different over the years. They’ve shifted from the traditional “match shapes” systems we knew and loved from Tetris back in the day, and have sort of fused together with the Point & Click adventure genre. They’re not the biggest games on the planet, but they’ve certainly filled a unique niche as the quiet genre of the video game industry. It’s the go-to genre for aspiring artists to tell a simple, character driven story as opposed to a grand narrative.
That places a strangely important responsibility on the puzzle game genre. Since it’s where so much talent gets their start, it’s important to recognize the best works to better encourage others to strive to share their own experiences with the world. So, even if they’re not the best-selling or hottest games around, we thought we’d go ahead and count down the top 10 puzzlers of 2017!
- System: Playstation 4, iOS
- Publisher: KO-OP MODE
- Developer: KO-OP MODE
- Release Dates: May 2nd, 2017
It’s about as basic of a point and click adventure game as you can get. You’ve got a field of play in front of you, and everything will have a different reaction when you click it and you can make the different objects in your diorama-esque play area interact with one another. In order to beat the game, you’ll have to properly piece everything together to achieve your end objective. Do this for each new level and you’re done!
What makes Gnog special is that it removes all sense of context. When you turn on the game, and are greeted with a giant monster head, you’re not really sure what it is that needs to be done with it. All you can really do is poke at things that seem to stand out, and watch what happens from there. There is a puzzle to solve; you’re just not sure what that puzzle is, and finding it is the experience of Gnog.
9. Euclidean Lands
- System: iOS
- Publisher: kunabi brother GmbH
- Developer: kunabi brother GmbH
- Release Dates: March 11th, 2017
You ever wonder what would happen if you took a Rubik’s Cube and turned it into a turn-based strategy game? No. Of course not, those are two ideas that should be completely incompatible. Yet that’s exactly the concept behind Euclidean Lands. You’ll move around on a grid-based map structured like a cube, move your nameless character around on the plane that he’s on. But in order to shift to a different plane, you’ll rotate the entire row you’re on like you would a Rubik’s Cube. Be careful though! Enemies swarm around each level and will attack you when you’re in sight. Beat them all to open to the path to the next stage.
Euclidean Lands bridges the line that separates what we think of as “strategy” and “puzzle”. Because, in reality, strategy really is all about just piecing together a proper plan to achieve a desired result. The difference is just that the “pieces” that you need have random variables attached to them. Euclidean Lands makes those pieces much more defined and predictable, turning the experience into a puzzle-solving one rather than overload you with stats and tactics.
- System: Playstation 4
- Publisher: Tarsier Studios
- Developer: Tarsier Studios
- Release Dates: April 24th, 2017
All Dr. Ingen wants to do is test the limits of the mind. People keep harping at him for petty concerns like “humanitarian issues”, but really, everyone who’s there is a volunteer. All they have to do is work the contraption that they’ve got strapped around their hands and they’ll be fine! They know what they signed up for.
Statik is the sort of game that could only be made with the advent of new gaming technology. It takes full use of the VR experience, messing with your head and tricking you into what’s reality and what’s part of the game. The puzzle isn’t just logically thinking through the problem, but looking around and listening for cues that might help you out… or what might really be there.
7. Monument Valley 2
- System: Android, iOS
- Publisher: ustwo games
- Developer: ustwo games
- Release Dates: June 5th, 2017
Ro is a mother trying to raise her child in a world filled with optical illusions. This isn’t always easy, though, as one of the hardest parts of being a parent is letting go. Sometimes, you’ll have to separate the two characters in order to solve puzzles, which isn’t always fun for either of them, as Ro’s daughter is still quite young. But regardless, you’ll have to control both of them and figure out the mysteries hidden in this strange world.
Ustwo Games wasn’t really expecting people to latch onto the story of the original game. The visual design was really meant to just invoke a sense of simplicity to add an enigmatic flair to the perspective-bending puzzles. But what they found was that fans really latched onto the non-present narrative hook to the original Monument Valley, and added just a touch more story to the sequel without losing what hooked the fans originally. Even if you never tried the original game, it’s still worth your while to give Monument Valley 2 a shot!
6. Hidden Folks
- System: iOS, Android, Steam
- Publisher: Adriaan de Jongh
- Developer: Adriaan de Jongh, Sylvain Tegroeg
- Release Dates: February 15th, 2017
Everyone’s picked up a Where’s Wally/Waldo book, right? Of course. Just looking for things is so basic and instinctual for us as humans, so embedded in our biology, that we’re just driven to hunt for small, inconsequential things. That’s the philosophy that Hidden Folks was designed under. The entire game is literally just looking for specific people on a map, and when you find them all, you unlock the next map. That’s it. That’s the game.
It seems bizarre that for as simple as concept as Hidden Folks is, and how much we love hidden object games as a species, that no one has made a serious go at making one. Sure, hidden object games aren’t anything new, but few have been made with the sheer density or heart that Hidden Folks was made with. The maps start small, but sprawl into such gargantuan clusters that would even make Wally/Waldo himself blush.
5. Puyo Puyo Tetris
- System: Playstation 4, Switch, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Wii U, Steam
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sonic Team, Sega of America
- Release Dates: April 25th, 2017
Hey, you got your Puyo Pop in my Tetris! You’ve got a wide variety of different modes to choose from. You can play classic versions of both of the iconic puzzle games of course, but then you can also delve into weirder fusions of both games. Swaps mode is what it sounds like and intermittently switches players between playing Tetris and Puyo Pop, Fusion combines the pieces of both games and only lets you build combos with matching sets, and Big Bang mode forces you to quickly figure out pre-set combos before your friends do!
We don’t really see many classic, arcade-style puzzle games anymore, so it’s refreshing to see a new ones come out and experiment with what can be done with the genre. Even if it’s a combination of two classic arcade puzzlers, crossovers of these genres simply never happen. We’ve never seen puzzle games that attempt to combine rulesets, so it’s nice to see this type of experimentation with what can be done with the genre. Plus, where else are you going to get a multiplayer-focused puzzle game in 2017?
4. Opus Magnum
- System: Steam
- Publisher: Zachtronics
- Developer: Zachtronics
- Release Dates: December 8th, 2017
Admit it: you always wanted alchemy to be real. But, just so you know, even if it was, it wouldn’t just be drawing a transmutation circle and clapping your hands together like *ahem* one certain famous alchemist does. It’d actually be a very chemical process, with you replacing the atoms of elements themselves in order to transmute them into others. You’ll need to swap them out quickly and precisely though in order to prove the worth of your transmutation machine!
While the current trend of puzzle games seems to be focused on whimsy and discover, Opus Magnum, from the creators of SpaceChem, takes a much more scientific, technical approach. It’s almost like demonstrating your product at a trade show; you’ll build your machine to show how efficiently it can transform elements, and then export a demonstration to a .gif format that you can share with your friends. It’s like developing your own little scientific community!
3. Old Man’s Journey
- System: iOS, Android, Steam, Switch
- Publisher: Broken Rules
- Developer: Broken Rules
- Release Dates: May 17th, 2017
The old man’s life is pretty much run its course. You had a good run, but it’s about time to retire. However, he receives a letter from someone from his past and decides to head out to see them. You’ll manipulate the land around the old man in order for him to complete his journey. As he travels, he’ll sit around and remember moments that shaped his life and how he got to that point.
Felix Bohatsch from Broken Rules describes Old Man’s Journey as something akin to a touristy trip around Europe. That’s a pretty accurate assessment of his work to be honest. Your main focus for Old Man’s Journey is to basically take in the sites and reflect along with the old man about the journey he’s had up until and how that ties into his current one. It’s not a grand experience, but it’s a simple and warm one.
- System: Switch
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: SFB Games
- Release Dates: March 3rd, 2017
You got Snip and you got Clip; two sentient parabolic lifeforms that somehow have the ability to cut shapes out of one another. Don’t feel too nervous about that though; they can regrow themselves pretty easily. And when you and a friend control them, you’ll need to do it… a lot. Snipperclips is all about cutting each other into different shapes to solve different problems. Sometimes you’ll need to form each other into the proper image, sometimes you’ll need to cut grooves into one another to transport objects across the screen, and so forth.
If your schedule ever aligns up with your significant other, and neither one of you has any plans for the day, consider giving Snipperclips a shot. It’s the sort of easy-going, non-judgmental game that’s perfect for couples with uneven skill levels. It’s not a high stakes game by any means; you’ve just got a single task to solve per level, and you don’t even have to worry about time limits or losing! It’s just the simple joys of a pleasant day!
- System: iOS, Android, Steam, Switch
- Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
- Developer: Jason Roberts
- Release Dates: December 14th, 2017
Have you ever looked at two different photographs or art pieces and try and find common threads between the two of them? Weird visual similarities like recurring images or patterns between the two of them? Maybe imagine if a tree branch from one extended into the other. That is roughly the idea that Gorogoa is based on; picking out seemingly separate images and pointing out where the similarities are between them.
But more than that, Gorogoa is a visual experience never before seen in the video game industry. Not only are you pointing out the relationships between the photos, but you’re piecing together a story that unfolds right in front of your eyes. We don’t want to go any further than that in describing it, as Jason Roberts is very adamant about people going into his game without any prior knowledge. Just take our word that it’ll be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We know we missed some games here. After all, new creators are putting out new games every day, and we can’t just sift through them all. These were the ones that struck a chord with us the most ,though, so if there’s something that really touched you this year too, please let us know in the comments below!