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Best mobile puzzle games for stretching your grey matter on the go

(Image credit: Broken Rules)

A puzzle game doesn’t have to be a grid of numbers of symbols. It can look like anything, be wound up in a story that’ll make you cry or have graphics to compare with any AAA title you might mention. It can be just about anything including, yes, a pure puzzler grid of symbols that’ll make your journey to work a bit more interesting. Whether you're rocking an Android or iOS device, here are the best mobile puzzle games, and there’s something for just about every taste.

Monument Valley

(Image credit: ustwo games)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: ustwo games
Price: $4.00 / £4.99

Monument Valley and its sequel Monument Valley 2 are two of the most celebrated mobile games, regardless of genre. Many of their puzzles are based around the notion of playing with perspective. If its designers didn’t consider artist Escher their lead inspiration, we’ll eat an iTunes gift card. Completing levels reveals fragments of story, and unlike so many free-to-play puzzlers there’s zero fat on either game. You can complete each in a couple of hours, but the memories of playing should last as long as those of 100 hours of Candy Crush Saga. 

The Room series

(Image credit: Fireproof Games)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: Fireproof Games
Price: From $0.99 / £0.99

Puzzle games don’t need to be stiff abstract affairs that are pure gameplay mechanics. The Room series is not only one of the most consistent on mobile, it cleverly weaves puzzles into a story and an “escape the room” style scenario. 

There are four The Room games, and each is a minor masterpiece. They are extremely atmospheric, and gorgeous full-3D environments aren’t what you’d necessarily expect from a puzzler.

You don’t have to play them in order to appreciate their brilliance, but if you think you’ll have the stomach for all four, doing so will let you see how their scope opens up through the series. 

Threes!

(Image credit: Sirvo LLC)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer:
Sirvo LLC
Price:
Free

We were big fans of Threes when it first arrived in 2014. It caught fire for a while among mobile gaming fans. However, unlike flash-in-the-pan fads, we come back to Threes! every now and then for another week or so of obsessive number flinging. 

Your play field is a grid of tiles. You want to flick numbers of the same value together, which combines their total. But box yourself in so you can’t make any more matches and it’s finito. 

Threes! is a pure puzzler perfect for killing a few minutes on the way to work, with no pretentious nonsense going on in the background. 

Bridge Constructor Portal

(Image credit: ClockStone)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: ClockStone
Price: $4.99 / £4.99

We wanted to fit a bridge building puzzler in this round-up. There are lot to choose from. For a casual feel and sheer charm, you still can’t beat oldie classic World of Goo. And for the hardcore there’s Poly Bridge. 

Bridge Constructor Portal sits somewhere in-between. It’s accessible, but still makes you feel like a bit of an architectural genius. Oh, and it combines elements of Valve classic Portal, flinging the vehicles that travel over the bridges you make through portals. Those Portal elements haven’t just been nicked either. This is an official Valve tie-in. And when Valve gives something its seal of approval, you know it’s good. 

Lara Croft Go

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: Square Enix
Price: $0.99 / £0.99

The Tomb Raider games all let you explore ancient ruins. Relatively free-roaming exploration was one of the appeals of the 1996 original, after all. 

Tomb Raider Go boils this down to its essence, turning all that exploration into a turn-based trek along a grid. But it’s a grid still full of Tomb Raider-a-like environments. You can take things slower, but also have to think more carefully than in the usual Lara Croft games. There’s no simply rolling out of the way of enemies here. 

Square Enix has also given the same GO treatment to Hitman and Deus Ex, but Tomb Raider is perhaps the highlight of the trio. 

Prune

(Image credit: Joel McDonald)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: Joel McDonald
Price: $4.99 / £3.79

Some of the trendier mobile puzzle games don’t just work out your brain, they can also clear out your head and lower your heart rate as effectively as a meditation session. Prune is one of this ilk, and also an ode to trees. That sounds a bit odd, but stick with it. 

You tease a sapling out of the ground with a swipe, then have to clip its branches to get it to grow into a shaft of light in each level, causing its flowers to bloom. 

Prune’s combo of music and visuals make the game seem part-artwork, and just as carefully crafted as a bonsai tree. 

The Witness

(Image credit: Jonathan Blow)

Available on: iOS, Android
Developer: Jonathan Blow
Price: $13.99 / £13.99

You may have seen the fuss made of The Witness when it arrives on consoles. It’s a puzzler, but the puzzles are dotted throughout a beautiful island you can explore freely. 

This might make you think The Witness is an adventure that simply uses puzzles as its meat. But it’s not. There’s no traditional story, no characters you’ll stumble upon across the island. However, the setting and the way you can walk away, literally, from puzzles that turn into roadblocks are crucial. 

It lasts between 20 and 70 hours too, so is certainly worth the high asking price. You can get it for iPhone, but on the Android side it only works on Nvidia Shield TV, which is a shame.  

Mini Metro

(Image credit: Dinosaur Polo Club)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: Dinosaur Polo Club
Price: $0.99 / £0.99

When making your way around a new city, it’s easy to think whoever designed the transport system was a bit of an idiot. Mini Metro will make you feel their pain. 

You have to design underground rail systems to keep the inhabitants of various major cities happy. Those inhabitants are represented by squares, triangles and circles, but each really does feel like a bunch of, often unhappy, travellers. 

As the pressure mounts you have to choose whether to use more carriages, more tunnels or more lines, scrambling to keep up as the stations fill with waiting passengers. Mini Metro gets quite stressful quite quickly, but it never stops being engaging. 

Old Man’s Journey

(Image credit: Broken Rules)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: Broken Rules
Price: $0.99 / £0.99

Here’s a puzzle title that works best when thought of as a singular experience. It’s one of those memory-making games where you have to appreciate the quality of the work put in, not the number of hours you get for your pennies. Because you can finish Old Man’s Journey in 90 minutes to two hours. 

You have to manipulate the terrain and objects in each scene to get the old man, our main character, to progress. 

Old Man’s Journey charts the ups and downs of his life, making for a touching adventure you’ll love even if you don’t fall for every part of its puzzle mechanics. 

Cut the Rope Magic

(Image credit: ZeptoLab)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: ZeptoLab
Price: Free

Many of you will have played Cut the Rope before. It has been a mobile gaming mainstay since 2010. It’s a physics puzzler where you flick across the rope of the title, on the end of which sits a sweetie, to get it into the mouth of a little alien-type lizard thing called Om Nom. Cut the Rope Magic is the latest instalment of the series. The “magic” it adds lets Om Nom turn into other creatures, which becomes a core part of the brilliantly simple, yet evolving, game mechanics.