Listening to pundits, parents, and politicians, you'd think that videogames were the worst plague ever visited upon humankind. They make us dumb. They make us violent. They make us perverted. They make us twitchy and impatient. They make us disconnected loners and social misfits.
Here's the antidote to such overblown criticism – seven games that will make you smarter. Next time someone's trying to tell you that your hobby is stupid, show them one of these and see if they can solve even a fraction of its brilliance.
Contributor: Carolyn Gudmundson
As far as casual games go, the Professor Layton series is about as hardcore intellectual as it gets. It's not that every single puzzle is incredibly challenging, but it's the range of puzzle types – logic, reasoning, spatial visualization, mathematical word problems, and all manner of brain teasers – that make it feel like the most awesome MENSA test ever.
Professor Layton works your brain harder than any so-called brain training game out there, and it does it with style befitting the most discerning of tastes. Stepping into the shoes of such a distinguished professor as Layton has a way of making you feel smarter than usual, and sets up a mood that you're capable of solving any puzzle, no matter how difficult. It helps that Layton himself is such a classy gentleman too, which goes with the series' crème de la crème status among puzzle games.
When you finish this countdown, you'll notice that we've avoided including more than a couple pure puzzlers. That would be too easy, too obvious, and we really wanted to honor games in other genres… ones that could have challenged us with harder enemies and fiercer button-mashing, but unexpectedly challenged us to think instead.
Why does a relatively basic puzzle game like Cut the Rope deserve a spot, then? Each of its over 100 bite-sized obstacle courses manages to teach the player a new mental trick within a matter of seconds, whether the trick involves speedy reflexes, perfect timing or extreme multi-tasking. More importantly, Cut the Rope uses a touchscreen so that those tricks, once learned, are performed effortlessly through intuitive motions – there's no control scheme acting as middle management between your brain and your finger.
Most importantly, however, Cut the Rope is a mobile app, meaning that this could be the smartest you'll ever feel while sitting on the toilet.