The Top 7... Stupidest Puzzles

The Game: Space Quest IV

The Problem: Roger Wilco, intergalactic janitor, defeated Sludge Vohaul, intergalactic overlord, in Space Quest II: Vohaul’s Revenge. Feeling a little miffed, however, the resurrected Vohaul of Space Quest XII: Vohaul’s Revenge II sends his Sequel Police back through history to preemptively kill Roger in Space Quest IV. Our hero has hidden in an enemy time pod and must now enter the correct coordinates to escape to Space Quest X.

We know, we know. But if you’re confused and annoyed now, just wait.

The Logical Solutions:

• Those symbols are completely random and unintelligible. The answer must be written somewhere in this vehicle, right?
• No? On a different screen, then.
• No? In our inventory, probably.
• No? Maybe in the manual... or on the game’s box...
• No? Well the damn code has to be somewhere, doesn’t it?
• No?! What the hell.

The Stupid Solution: The answer is... there is no effing answer. The correct code is randomly generated every time. Far worse, the correct method for discovering that code is equally arbitrary.

Go ahead and search for the solution online. Nearly two decades after the game was released, people are still confused. Here’s a sampling from GameFAQs:

“It's either six times the first symbol or six times the last symbol.”
“The first six symbols or the last six symbols backwards.”
“Six random characters from the bottom row of the keypad.”
“The current code backwards.”
“Input the copyright protection.”
“Now try some codes at random.”

Our feelings exactly.

Why would anyone craft something so devious and unfair? Why would anyone place such frustration at the beginning of a game, denying players most of the experience until they solved an unsolvable puzzle? How could anyone get past this obstacle in 1991, when the game was originally sold and when access to the internet was rare?

Easy. Space Quest IV’s publisher, Sierra, sold a hint book and promoted a pay-by-the-minute hint line. See? The answer was staring us in the face all along.


The Game: The Longest Journey

The Problem: April Ryan, an art student, can do more than paint. Turns out she also has this talent for shifting between parallel worlds. Oh, and she’s the daughter of a dragon. And she can talk to trees. And she’s destined to restore peace, balance and order to the universe. Both of them.

Right now, though, all she wants to do is grab a random metal key off the electrified subway tracks for no apparent reason. Here we go again...

The Logical Solutions:

• You can’t shift between dimensions yet, so that won’t work.
• You can’t talk to dragons or trees yet, so they can’t help.
• You don’t even know you’re supposed to be restoring peace, balance and order to the universe(s) yet either, so umm...
• Why are you risking your life to grab a random metal key off the electrified subway track for no apparent reason?

The Stupid Solution: Ah, that’s right - you’re a videogame character. So of course you need to get your greedy little mitts on every last meaningless object you pass by.
We understand – now let’s make it happen!

Okay, this might sound strange, but maybe that unremarkable iron clamp we noticed back at your apartment could do the job. On the infinitesimal chance that we’re right, why not go to elaborate lengths involving levers, air pressure valves and a priceless gold ring to secure it?

What’s this? An inflatable children’s toy? Why would that have washed up at your window unless it was absolutely crucial to saving the world?

Better yet, after tricking the seagull into popping the rubber ducky with a trail of bread crumbs (don’t ask), you find a clothesline on the same chain. Hmm, couldn’t we have just used the clothesline or the chain to grab that metal doohickey off the tracks?

No, no, you’re right. This solution is much more logical.



Top 7


  • D0CCON - October 23, 2011 11:38 a.m.

    Wow with the last one, he makes a fake mustache to impersonate somebody who doesn't have a mustache.
  • Draijan - August 9, 2011 11:40 p.m.

    It took me forever to figure out the guybrush one, had that game for soo long, im surprised you didn't add just about every puzzle in that game to this list.
  • Gkicker2 - October 21, 2010 6:28 p.m.

    My only issue with this list is I couldn't relate to any of the games... because I played none of them.
  • FanofSaiyan - January 30, 2010 1:56 a.m.

    When it comes to tricky puzzles, Wild Arms can't be beat. The game had at least 5 different moments where I was completely dumbfounded, and I'm pretty good at solving puzzles. I literally just beat the 1st game last year. I GOT THE GAME IN 2003!!!
  • noofer7 - October 19, 2008 2:03 a.m.

  • dweller - October 5, 2008 4:25 a.m.

    Yeah! I remember playing all those games except Gabriel Knight 3. I played the first two but just never got around to the third one. It's too bad though, I missed out on cat mustache. As for Space Quest IV, CD-ROM version, I thought the code was the symbols right on the outside of the time machine. Man, I still hate that puzzle in The Longest Journey!
  • lovinmyps3 - October 4, 2008 3:27 a.m.

    re4 was the only one of those i played, and that puzzle was easy y dont they put the puzzle u gotta solve as ashley? that was fukn hard!
  • katwood92 - October 3, 2008 12:14 a.m.

    I should be used to convoluted thought processes (mine can be very so, making things I say seem very random, even though it's not), but those are way out there.
  • soren7550 - October 1, 2008 6:38 p.m.

    That last pic made me laugh. How about the puzzle in Half Life 2:Episode 2 where you have to go through an entire network of a giant bug infested mine (by yourself) so that you can get some bug juice to save Alyx. Oh, you can't kill the giant ass bug that's guarding the stuff, otherwise it won't work. But it can kill you all it wants. Good luck getting that bug juice!
  • gulfcoastfella - September 30, 2008 9:46 p.m.

    Oh SH!T... puzzles in a puzzle game.
  • Scott1121 - September 30, 2008 8:25 p.m.

    OMG! those are terrible puzzles
  • Iffo - September 30, 2008 7:51 a.m.

    You want hard, illogical and often time sensitive puzzles, involving multiple seemingly unrelated actions by several characters? Go get the Gobliins series!! These are just a few extreme examples but the whole genre was based around wacky illogical puzzles. The frustrating thing about many of these games was you had to ask yourself "What did the game designer want me to do here?" instead of "What do I do here?" ... and Sierra is the worst offender. Maybe it had something to do with their help line? Anyway I really loved Lucas Arts and Legend quests back then!
  • gilligan2021 - September 30, 2008 6:39 a.m.

    the largest WTF in the entire article is that little penis that follows you around in Touch Detective. As if that game title didn't arouse enough naughty thoughts...
  • Ravenbom - September 30, 2008 5:37 a.m.

    OMFG! It's been so long that I forgot how bad some point and click games were! @drprofessor, good call! That was one of the most BS puzzles ever! But like many games back then, Nintendo Power ftw. 747 Like StarTropics, I hated the Carmen Sandiego because after me and my parents moved, I had lost the Almanac that came with the game, and even if you knew all the clues and everything, then to advance, the stupid game would ask you to turn to a page in the almanac and type in the first entry or something arbitrary... No problem if you have the Almanac, but it really crushed my young spirit back in the day. I was being punished for actually knowing (having a 30 volume encyclopedia that the family wasn't otherwise using) the answers. Stuff like that was basically a midgame DRM.
  • blankpixelsCG - September 30, 2008 4:09 a.m.

    Man, the weekend drought was killing me! Good too see another Top Seven. Also, thanks for helping me realize that I need to play the last Monkey Island again - I wonder how much that runs for on eBay? Anyway, the skin part was nowhere near as awesome as the insult wrestling (but I suppose that wasn't a stupid puzzle, thus warranting no mention).
  • 1NVAD3R - September 30, 2008 12:19 a.m.

    Another great one Charlie, fantastic article.
  • sourpunch - September 30, 2008 12:05 a.m.

    That was amazing article I was laughing almost the whole time.
  • CandiedJester - September 29, 2008 11:53 p.m.

    LOL you have to put on a fake mustache when the guy your dressing up as doesnt even HAVE a mustache..and then draw one on the passport. That's priceless.
  • Blinder - September 29, 2008 11:20 p.m.

    Hmm... I seem to remember some of the puzzles from Discworld bringing about quite a few WTF, moments. Did you get the number of that donkey cart?
  • gilligan2021 - September 29, 2008 11:15 p.m.

    i don't exactly understand the point of making a fake mustache if the person you are posing as doesn't even have one, and you're just gonna draw one on his passport after the fact... that's not to say that I object..

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