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

2) Braid

Plenty of games give you the power to manipulate time. Prince of Persia has a button for rewinding death, while Singularity includes a gun that can fast-forward enemies’ lives to the point of decaying corpse, but you won’t find either of those examples on our countdown. What makes Braid special - and what makes us feel like fourth-dimensional wizards while playing it - are the sheer number of radically different ways in which you manipulate time.

You can instantly and repeatedly reverse mistakes, condensing what should be hours of trial-and-error into a few seconds of back-and-forth-and-back until you hit that precise sweet spot of platforming. You can slow time within a small, specific radius of the screen, bringing deadly enemies to a harmless crawl while you pass quickly and unhindered by them. In a later level, merely moving forward shifts every other thing around you backwards, while in our favorite part of Braid, your present self is joined by the shadowy ghost of your past self, literally allowing you to be two places at once and solving puzzles in a very strange twist on together.

Yet, as complicated as some of that sounds, you’ll likely figure most of it out without consulting a guide. Braid manages to put you in a mood - possibly through the hypnotic art and music, or the heady philosophical musings - that is conducive to constant “Eureka!” moments.

1) Portal

Orange and blue. Enter and exit. That’s all you really need to know. Portal may be the most massively brain-bending game we’ve ever played, but its true brilliance lies in its simple and straightforward premise: Go through the orange circle and you’ll come out the blue circle. Or go through the blue circle and you’ll come out the orange circle. One basic, interchangeable rule that is incredibly easy to learn and remember.

Then, step by step - test chamber by test chamber - Portal asks you to expand your mind, and to reassess what you’re capable of accomplishing with this single tool. At first, you think only to create shortcuts. Several minutes later, you’ve realized you can forge pathways for other objects, such as the turret bots or Companion Cube. Within a couple hours, you’re switching portal destinations on the fly in order to navigate platforms or elevators and, by the end of the game, you’ve completely mastered the physics of gravity and linear momentum to launch yourself through successive portals until you’ve built enough velocity to propel yourself over any obstacle in your path. Whew!

You won’t think of the solution in those exact terms, however, because Portal teaches you these thesis-worthy tricks through doing, not telling. Through gentle guidance, not obvious tutorial. For such a crazily challenging game, we don’t know many gamers who have grown angry or frustrated with Portal - the learning curve, from clueless to genius, is so damn subtle that it’s practically invisible.

Jan 31, 2011

The Top 7... Stupidest puzzles
Ridiculous riddles that defy logic, common sense... and your patience


The Top 7… Games based on books
The written word, made more betterer by gamification


Top 7... ways games can transform you into a superior human being
Play games and become truly awesome


Top 7


  • 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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