best puzzle games for building spatial skills and improving cognition

Puzzle games as fun activities that are good tools to help us all build cognitive skills and raise IQ. Puzzles are good for people of all ages. They help reinforce existing connectors between our brain cells and build new connectors. In addition to training and expanding cognitive skills, puzzle games help improve small motor skills and stimulate creativity. Puzzles have been shown to help people improve their short-term memory and increase IQs by as much as 4 points (University of Michigan, 2011).

Today we aren’t limited to physical puzzle games. We can play video and online puzzle casino games on any desktop or mobile device. There are online puzzle games that you can play for free and puzzle gambling games for puzzle aficionados who want to compete at real money online gambling games.

While some people prefer the sensation of physically manipulating puzzle pieces or physically writing their answers down, most puzzle enthusiasts play digital games at least part of the time.  Both physical and digital puzzle games include games that focus on word completion, spatial recognition, sequence soling, logic, pattern recognition and problem solving. Why are puzzle games so popular? Do we instinctively feel that we should play games that are good for us?

History of Puzzle Games

Games have been a part of man’s time on earth since the Stone Age. Puzzle games came later, possibly in an age when more complex thinking became a more recognized and valued part of society. Early puzzle games involved games with labyrinths that held religious and spiritual significance and were played approximately 5000 years ago in ancient Greece, Crete and Egypt.   A tactile puzzle was developed soon afterward in the Indus Valley which seems to have been a dexterity puzzle.

Other ancient puzzle games included Chinese bottom fill puzzles and secret compartment rings and lockets in Rome. In the Middle ages there were Seal Puzzles in Germany, Burr Puzzles in England, Knife puzzles in Spain and Wisdom plates in the Far East.

The jigsaw puzzle dates back to 1760 when European map makers cut maps into small pieces to amuse children and help them in their geography lessons.

One of the most physical puzzles of modern day is the Rubik’s cube, a 3D combination puzzle that involved lining up colors together on a 6-sided cube.

Today you can find digital versions of many of these historic puzzles as well as new digital puzzles that are played on consoles or online. If you’re looking for a digital puzzle game for yourself, your family or your students, which are the best? Some of the top puzzles of 2022 include:


Tetris, which was developed in Russia in 1984, is an iconic tile-matching puzzle game that involves moving different shaped tiles as they descend on a screen. The goal is to form complete lines so that the line disappears and new lines can form. The more lines you eliminate, the higher your score goes.

Tetris is recognized as a good game for building the brain’s spatial and visual systems. Playing Tetris activates motor skills, eye-hand coordination, impulse control and dexterity. Science Daily reports that research on brain imaging shows that Tetris leads to a thicker cortex and may also increase brain efficiency.

Windows Minesweeper

Windows Minesweeper debuted in 1990 as a single-player logic-based game which challenges the player to locate a pre-determined number of “mines” that have been placed randomly on the board. Players aim to click” safe” squares and avoid mined squares. If the player detonates a mine, they lose points. Minesweeper has been shown to advance hypothetical thinking and logical thinking skills.


Lumines was first launched in 1990 and since then has been remastered several different times for online and console play. The objective of the game is to rotate and align 2x2 blocks that vary between two colors so that you form 2x2 squares of a single color. If the Time Line passes over them the squares are erased. If the blocks get to the top of the playing field before the player can erase them, the game is lost.

In a 2021 study published in the National Library of Medicine, researchers noted that brain teaser puzzle games like Lumines have multiple positive cognitive benefits including increased mental flexibility and improved cognitive indices.


Hocus is a mind-bending perspective puzzle game that involves  getting a cube to the red finish marker as efficiently and as quickly as possible. As you play Hocus you can create and play other user-created puzzles.  In this  hand-management puzzle, players work against a scarcity of actions. Only one action is possible during each turn and once that action is taken, there’s no possibility of doing anything else needed.

Essentially, this makes Hocus a game of trade-offs as you make your decisions about which action you should take that will put you in the best position for the next round.

Chess Light

Chess light is a puzzle game based on the classic chess game. With Chess Light you have over 180 different chess scenarios and in each, you need to find a way to win. There are six separate difficulty options so you can choose the level that is right for you. There’s a huge variety of puzzle combinations. As in the classic game of chess, Chess Light challenges memory, visual-spatial skills, problem-solving skills, calculation and critical thinking abilities.