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National Puzzle Day: Five Fun Puzzle Games for Beginners

National Puzzle Day: Five Fun Puzzle Games for Beginners

When I was a little girl, I was absolutely awful at videogames. I had practically zero hand-eye coordination and commonly misunderstood even the simplest of instructions — for instance, it took me a long time before I realised that overwriting a save file didn’t just mean deleting all your progress. A large part of why I had so many issues with this was because I tended to overthink everything. I mean, I still tend to overthink everything, but I’ve at least gotten better at that. In any case, there was one genre that (usually) wasn’t hindered by this habit of mine: puzzles. I adored thinking through problems and situations, even if I wasn’t always actually great at coming up with solutions.

For that reason, I especially loved the easier puzzle games… and still do today. Sure, it’s fun sometimes to rack your brain to try and come up with the answer, but sometimes you need a brain teaser that doesn’t feel like it’d stump a genius. So, in the interest of making this National Puzzle Day a great opportunity for newcomers to the puzzle genre to jump in, here are five fun puzzle games that hopefully won’t make you want to throw a Rubik’s Cube through a window.

The Nancy Drew Series

Now, I know I said “five” and “games”... but I’m going to cheat a little bit here and suggest 33. The Nancy Drew series of computer first-person point-and-click titles from HER Interactive began in 1998 with Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill. Each instalment offers some sort of mystery to solve that’s loosely based on a novel from the similarly named Nancy Drew book series that focuses on the titular teen detective. In every game, you talk to suspects, pick up and examine clues, and solve a wider mystery in classic point-and-click style. There are also several more traditional puzzles throughout the areas you can explore: slider puzzles; Towers of Hanoi, one of my favourite puzzles where you attempt to shift a series of stacked objects of differing size one at a time without ever stacking a larger object on top of a shorter one; mazes; and even board games against the computer! What’s more, if you choose to play the series in Junior Detective mode, you’ll usually be given the option to ask for hints and also easily track everything you have left to do with a handy-dandy to-do list. This is somewhat missing in the earliest Nancy Drew titles, but most of them should be fairly easy to complete. Then, you always have the option of playing through again in the harder difficulty or aiming to nab the secret easter eggs scattered throughout the games.

In my opinion, the best Nancy Drew game to try out would be Nancy Drew: The Captive Curse, which sees Nancy getting invited to Germany to investigate a series of monster sightings around the picturesque Castle Finster that are reminding the populace of a legendary creature that’s said to have lived in the area for centuries, stealing young women away into the surrounding forest without warning. Like many titles in the franchise, it has an amazingly creepy atmosphere mixed with truly beautiful architecture, but it also features some of the best writing in the series and some very funny moments.


If Nancy Drew or any other point-and-click puzzle titles are a bit too wordy for you, Witch Beam’s 2021 hit, Unpacking, might be more up your alley. In Unpacking, you play through the years of a person’s life as they unpack their belongings and move into various rooms and houses. You go wordlessly from their first room to themselves, to living in college, to moving in with roommates, and so on. In each space, there are boxes you must empty and various beloved possessions to set in just the right place, with relaxing music playing throughout it all. It’s a relatively simple matter of clicking on items and dragging them around, and most of them can be placed in a wide variety of locations. Then, if something is actually left in the wrong place once all the boxes are emptied, those offending objects will be highlighted in red until they’ve found their spots. As an added bonus, a surprising amount of these things can also be interacted with for a little extra burst of silliness. What’s more, Unpacking is available on many different platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Steam Deck, iOS, Android, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, and Xbox One, so you can enjoy this delightful puzzle gem any way you like it.

Logical Journey of the Zoombinis

Next up is a title I adored as a little kid, Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, originally developed by Broderbund Software in 1996 before later being remade by The Learning Company as Zoombinis in 2015. I’ll be upfront in saying that this game was designed around teaching logical reasoning to children, and many of its colourful visuals reflect that. The game follows the journey of hundreds of the titular Zoombinis — round blue creatures that the player can customise — that must escape their once-peaceful island and find a new home by traversing dangerous logic puzzles, such as figuring out which pizza a tree person likes or how to arrange the Zoombinis on a raft such that every adjacent pair shares at least one feature. The adorable creatures travel in groups of no more than 16 on their journey, but any of them can fall and be sent back to their last rest stop if incorrect solutions are entered too frequently. Thankfully, any subsequent groups that don’t have 16 Zoombinis can pick them right back up. However, while the puzzles start relatively easy, they grow in difficulty as the player manages to complete them successfully repeatedly, which is why I feel this is actually a fantastic choice for puzzle game beginners, even adults. Yes, the difficulty will ramp up at some point, but only once you’ve proved that you can handle the easier puzzles, so you’ll never find yourself unduly challenged. In this way, you can grow your logical skills by completing puzzle after puzzle until you’re ready for harder games.

Professor Layton and Pandora’s Box

If you’re in the US, you might know this one as Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box as I do, but whichever title you use, this second game in Level 5’s puzzle series, Professor Layton, is my favourite, without a doubt. The whole series is quite good for beginners, what with their penchant for offering varieties of plentiful puzzles, as well as the fact that every single one of them comes with three hints to help out the player if they so choose to use them. Plus, as much as I am a bit of a completionist, Layton hardly requires that its many puzzles be solved to complete any given game. Personally, though, Pandora’s Box takes the cake with its self-contained story, beautiful soundtrack, and improvements over the first title in the series, Professor Layton and the Curious Village. That first game is still quite good and well worth your time, but I’m the one who gets to make this list, so I’m going to put my favourite here. Besides, Pandora’s Box lets you solve several Tower of Hanoi puzzles with delicious pancakes, whereas Curious Village does not. I rest my case.

Hitman: World of Assassination

The last puzzle game I have for you today is a little different. At first glance, this trilogy of Hitman titles from I/O Interactive seems more like some sort of action stealth title than a puzzle game. However, working through each sandbox of a level and finding the perfect ways to find and eliminate your targets without being spotted takes a lot of logical thought. Sure, unlike some of the clunkier early titles in the long-running franchise, it’s not terribly difficult to set up a bottleneck and gun down every guard in the area. However, that just means your task of finding these solutions is rather forgiving, especially considering how frequently you can save your game and the Mission Stories system that allows the game itself to guide the player to each next step. With new opportunities and items getting unlocked as you complete levels repeatedly in new ways, Hitman does a fantastic job of rewarding the player for thinking outside the box and puzzling out multiple solutions to the same problem. In turn, this trains you to see the in-game world as a puzzle all its own and think cleverly about how to exploit it. In my opinion, titles like Hitman that combine aspects of the puzzle genre with other styles of gameplay are one of the best ways to get into puzzle games, especially if the player is already well-versed in the other genres at play.

So, there are my five-ish recommendations for anyone looking to get into puzzle games! It’s a wide world, and these are only a handful, but they should be a good start to get a sense of what they can be like and train you a bit to get better at puzzles. For this National Puzzle Day, why not give one of them a shot and tell us how it went in the comments below? Or, if you have any suggestions of your own, go ahead and share them so that even more people can learn about them?

Erin McAllister

Erin McAllister

Staff Writer

Erin is a massive fan of mustard, writes articles that are too long, and is a little bit sorry about the second thing.

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pucechan - 07:27pm, 29th January 2024

Really fun set of games, really enjoying the Nancy Drew games currently too! :)

Erinsfrustrated - 08:18pm, 29th January 2024 Author

Thank you! It's honestly one of my favourite series. Are there any in the series that stand out to you?