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The Top 7... Games that make us feel like geniuses

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


7) Professor Layton

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.


6) Cut the Rope

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.

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67 comments

  • JADENkOTOR - February 3, 2011 11:47 p.m.

    Braid makes you feel smart because it makes you think the puzzle you just solved was hard when it was actually quite easy. Its a nice feeling but not really challenging. Darksiders had some of the hardest puzzles EVER, and should be towards the top of the list
  • SCRubS77 - February 3, 2011 8:57 p.m.

    I thoroughly enjoy every game on the list, but Charlie, you nailed the exact reason I don`t play Pokemon. That is intimidating as hell. I barely have the time to play through the games I want, let alone devote that much time and brain-power to one game. Anyway, good work!
  • Spybreak8 - February 3, 2011 6:10 a.m.

    Well gotta respect RTS titles, strategy, tactics and counters all in real time. Starcraft II or Company of Heroes anyone?!
  • Imthedoctor - February 3, 2011 1:38 a.m.

    God of war's puzzles pissed me off. like..it would take me a week at a time to figure them out they were that subtle
  • waffman11 - February 2, 2011 11:32 p.m.

    ...Where's my DS and my calculator, I have the sudden urge to play Pokemon/
  • Im2awesome - February 2, 2011 7:14 p.m.

    Pokemon. Hell yes. I cant even begin to tell you how many times i've spent over a notebook building a team for hours, then getting onto the game and spending way more hours DOING it.
  • Gurkogg - February 2, 2011 12:33 p.m.

    I thought Planescape: Torment would make it on this list. It was definitely 10x more thought provoking than victorian literature. The concepts of reality being defined by our own perceptions and whatnot were awesome. Plus it expanded my vocabulary with all the big words I had to look up in the dictionary!
  • Logan2911 - February 2, 2011 6:26 a.m.

    What about Zelda & Darksiders those are the two games that made me fell like a genies
  • Tochy - February 1, 2011 11:59 p.m.

    @ Darkhawk correct
  • Darkhawk - February 1, 2011 11:35 p.m.

    Way to pick two of the most pretentious games ever in your list of "genius" games. As wonderful as Braid's puzzles were, and as fun as BioShock's gunplay could be, both those games are extraordinarily guilty of the "we must be so smart because we sound like it" phenomenon. Braid's obtuse story was self-indulgent and meaningless. And the fact that a game in which you can shoot bees out of your hand also includes references to Ayn Rand does not make it intelligent. Just because God of War has Greek gods in it, you wouldn't call it a history lesson, would you?
  • NightCrawler_358 - February 1, 2011 11:15 p.m.

    These games make me feel like a total idiot most of the time. Especially if I'm ever broken down to reading a guide to geet through it. But when i beat Portal all by myself, I was so full of myself, struttin around.
  • seanhayden - February 1, 2011 11:13 p.m.

    no phoenix wright?
  • Nap1400 - February 1, 2011 8:54 p.m.

    Does anyone even use that formula for Pokemon? I'll just keep covering the mic and mashing A, thank you very much.
  • Japanaman - February 1, 2011 7:40 p.m.

    The NES Sesame Street games make me feel like a genius.
  • Rattlehead - February 1, 2011 7:01 p.m.

    What, no Deus Ex?
  • oryandymackie - February 1, 2011 5:32 p.m.

    Try playing Modern Warfare 2 online. You'll definitely feel like a genius.
  • 123deckbox - February 1, 2011 5:15 p.m.

    At least Tomb Raider was put on there! That game had me frustrated to no end trying to figure puzzles out and really made me feel like a genius when they were solved.
  • mikeydo00 - February 1, 2011 3:04 p.m.

    Im going to show that math equation to my teacher and see if his almighty ass can figure it out
  • Ilyere - February 1, 2011 2:53 p.m.

    My goodness, that Pokemon formula is complicated! I'll just stick with the normal "Gotta catch 'em all!" thing.
  • philipshaw - February 1, 2011 12:29 p.m.

    Great article and there couldn't have been a more deserving No.1

Showing 1-20 of 67 comments

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