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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

  • inSovietRussiaDatesRecallBrettElston - January 31, 2011 10:30 p.m.

    no gabriel knight charlie?
  • ventanger - January 31, 2011 10:34 p.m.

    Hm. "Adventure puzzle games" like Sam & Max, Hugo's House of Whatever, and yes, even Gabriel Knight are less about testing your own intellectual aptitude and more about adapting your train of thought to what's the most likely outcome schemed up by the designer of the game. Whereas say, Portal presents you with a defined set of rules and a challenge to overcome by using those rules, Adventure puzzle games rarely really set up a concrete foundation with which to solve your predicament. n' shit.
  • GamesRadarCharlieBarratt - January 31, 2011 10:34 p.m.

    Gabriel Knight has some great puzzles, but nothing that surpasses the puzzles in every other point-and-click adventure game. I love Gabriel Knight more for the story, setting and characters.
  • juicenpancakes - January 31, 2011 10:35 p.m.

    I couldn't agree with #1 more. Portal made me feel like I was an idiot for the longest time, but then when I'd finally figure out the puzzle it was as satisfying as a moment I've had with games in the past few years. Then I could walk away happily feeling like a genius.
  • GamesRadarCharlieBarratt - January 31, 2011 10:35 p.m.

    Ooooh, what ventanger said. Very nicely put!
  • Roflcoptersmileyface - January 31, 2011 10:39 p.m.

    good article Charlie, you've made me seen pokemon in a different light :)
  • ricono - January 31, 2011 10:41 p.m.

    i totally agree with number 1, when i played portal it made me just feel like i was discovering all these cool ways to complete puzels instead of the game telling me how to manipulate the portals to do what i wanted it to do, even though in a way it was.
  • GamesRadarCharlieBarratt - January 31, 2011 10:41 p.m.

    @Roflcoptersmileyface Thank you, but the Pokemon entry was actually written by our resident Pokemon PhD, Carolyn Gudmundson.
  • Radagast107 - January 31, 2011 10:43 p.m.

    you know another game that takes FOREVER to beat because of its difficulty and length. Ecco the Dolphin. Some of those mazes are near impossible and after beating the game you feel like you have accomplished something great. But also after beating it you vow to never play the game again. At least that is what I did!
  • Phazon117 - January 31, 2011 10:48 p.m.

    YOU FORGOT ANGRY BIRDZ (because I know how much you don't care for that game :P)
  • pinoklin - January 31, 2011 10:51 p.m.

    amazing article, and by seeing that screenie i take it mashing the buttons to catch pokemon doesn't work right?. But really nice read good job Charlie.
  • talkraider - January 31, 2011 10:51 p.m.

    I love being smart
  • paganpoet - January 31, 2011 10:53 p.m.

    It was Alundra for me. That game has some of the most brutal RPG puzzles ever (the Ice Manor, anyone??), but, damn it, I did it. And I was only 14.
  • AnarchyZombie - January 31, 2011 10:56 p.m.

    The Dut' always makes me feel intelimagent because of all the wild plot twists.
  • MrPlasticTramp - January 31, 2011 11:01 p.m.

    No Monkey Islands? I've never felt smarter than when i realized i had to use the chicken to get across the rope ! I was quite young though when I first did it to be fair...
  • CaptainSalmon - January 31, 2011 11:03 p.m.

    I would have personally put Phoenix Wright up there instead of Prof. Layton; Layton always makes me feel insanely dumb when I can't solve a 40 picarats puzzle about a man and his three sons. The youngest son is 9. 10? 11?! F*ck this.
  • TURbo - January 31, 2011 11:04 p.m.

    Brett Elston has a lot of explaining on the Pokemons
  • DevilDoor - January 31, 2011 11:08 p.m.

    Thought there would be at least one entry with Sherlock Holmes.
  • IcelandMaelstrom - January 31, 2011 11:17 p.m.

    this one's a little out there definitely, but keeping in the theme of games that really make you think, but aren't strictly puzzle games my mind went immediately to demon's souls. demon's souls creates a very specific atmosphere for thought. there's one part memorization and hack/slash skill, which doesn't warrant anything special, but every obstacle is so brutal, and they"re all so varied, that there is far more strategic thought involved than twitch reflex (although it's a blend of both that makes me feel smart when i play it). it's just so clear about watching what your enemies are doing and knowing how to respond- and doing it quickly. it's like a really quick game of chess, only someone's screaming in your ear the whole time, and so you have to reach a zen in the game. anyways, it's a different kind of pick and all these ones definitely fit with the theme better, but were it a top 8 that would be my pick
  • BrochachoLovers - January 31, 2011 11:19 p.m.

    After playing Darksiders i felt mentally fatigued . And sadly have to agree with what Ventanger pointed out. ( your still a fruity rabbit )

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