Puzzle games are a great way to kill time and exercise your brain in one fell swoop. They challenge you to think strategically and plan ahead, whether that's to create killer chain combinations for maximum points, or to plain old keep from getting killed.
But with so many puzzle games floating around on both the App Store and Google Play, it can be hard to choose the right game to tickle your noggin. So after several days of non-stop puzzle-gaming research, we've come up with our own list of the ten best free puzzle games to help you find the perfect one.
When selecting these games, our main criteria was that they all had to be free with no obtrusive ads, all while letting you progress through the game without the need for in-app purchases. That said, here are the best puzzle games that are free to download for both Android and iPhone.
If you're looking for a quick puzzle game to stimulate your brain while out and about, Flow Free is right up your alley. The game gives you the right balance of relaxing and challenging gameplay, which involves forming a pipeline to connect matching colors while completely filling the grid provided in as few moves as possible.
To ensure you're never bored, Flow Free provides you with grids of different sizes that range from 5x5 all the way up to 13x13 for maximum fun. If that weren't enough, the game also comes with other modes of gameplay like "Time Trials," various packs, and samplers to keep you challenged.
As a free game, Flow Free comes with ads, though they're largely out of the way and primarily just banner ads that run along the bottom, in addition to full screen commercials that play every five stages or so. You can also view ads as an option to obtain hints, and can opt to get rid of them altogether by paying $3.99.
Cookie Cats is another addicting game that will have you tracing across at least three cookies of the same color to achieve objective-based goals within a set number of moves. Goals range from feeding a number of lovable kitties their corresponding cookies to knocking out pastries to cook waffles or keeping away the neighborhood dog.
Like many puzzle games, Cookie Cats gives you five lives which regenerate with time to keep gameplay challenging. And if things get too hairy, the game also gives you bonus items like slingshots and fireworks that you unlock as you progress, which can help you get rid of cookies and other obstacles in a pinch.
Ads are largely non-existent in Cookie Cats. They're more of an option that you can watch for perks like extra moves, items, and so on, to minimize distractions. The game can be played in either portrait or landscape mode to better suit your needs.
The idyllic Mushroom Kingdom is always in trouble, and this time is no different. With Dr. Mario World, you'll need to don your lab coat alongside the lovable plumber to get rid of all the viruses plaguing the magical land. Gameplay is simple enough: just eliminate viruses with pills of matching colors. You need to be strategic with placement, however, as you only have a set amount of pills per stage.
There are also numerous obstacles to contend with, along with various elements like Koopa shells that you can use to your advantage in your quest to disinfect the land. Of course, Dr. Mario World wouldn't be complete if it didn't include perks like hammers and and other powerful bonus items that you can earn or purchase in-app to help you get through those tougher levels.
An addicting puzzle game with a simple premise, 1010! Color has you match at least three tiles of the same color using randomly generated shapes. The game can go on perpetually, and only ends when you run out of space on the board to fit pieces in.
To ensure a high score, strategic thinking is necessary to keep the board free of clutter in order to fit larger pieces that will appear. Gameplay is straightforward otherwise — there are no extra lives to worry about so you can play it as much as you'd like. Ads are also minimal, only appearing in between sessions, never in the middle of a game.
Jewel Castle is a color-matching puzzle game in the same vein as Candy Crush Saga, which means forming chains of at least three blocks (in this case, gems) to complete various tasks like freeing owls, destroying blocks, and so on. The game comes with all the usual trappings found in this genre, such limited lives that recharge over time, numerous perks for emergencies, and more.
Ads are pretty light in Jewel Castle. They primarily show up as banners along the bottom of the screen, which keeps unwanted distractions to an absolute minimum. Of course, you can choose to buy the game for $1.99 if you still find them bothersome. In all, Jewel Castle is a great alternative to other, more famous titles, and is definitely worth a try if you're looking for something new, yet familiar.
Cube Critters is the ideal puzzle game for those who prefer to compete against other players for dominance. The game will have you race through a labyrinth full of traps and treasures, and you can beat the competition by being the first to claim the crown at the end of the maze.
There are items you can collect as you race your opponent in Cube Critters, such as coins that you can use to buy custom characters, and perks that give can give you an advantage over your adversary. Gameplay is fairly simple, and you control your character's movements on the map simply by swiping the screen. If you enjoy navigating through mazes while racing past your rivals, then Cube Critters is the game for you.
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Help Snoopy save Woodstock and friends by popping them free from their colored bubble prisons in the aptly-named Snoopy Pop. The gameplay itself is easy enough — simply aim and shoot a bubble at a group of bubbles of the same color to free any bird that's trapped within. The game gets more challenging as you progress, and you'll have to contend with tougher obstacles like rocks, swinging bubbles, and of course, the infamous Red Baron.
Thankfully, You'll have the support of the lovable characters from the iconic Peanuts comics, who come to your aid if things get too difficult. Perks such as Charlie Brown's bubble-bursting kite are sure to come in handy in an emergency. Like other puzzle games, you get 5 lives as you play from stage to stage, and you can re-up over time. If you're a big fan of Snoopy and his friends, then Snoopy Pop is right up your alley.
Connecting dots has never been so fun and relaxing, and that's what the simple Two Dots brings to the table. As its name implies, a minimum of two dots can be connected vertically and horizontally, but not diagonally. You can also connect long chains of dots for greater points, and even make squares to knock out any dots located inside them to save moves.
To make things more interesting, Two Dots has objective-based tasks — primarily collecting set numbers of dots — that must be completed within a given number of moves in order to progress to the next stage. The game gives you five lives to start with, which then regenerate every 20 minutes. With its simple, intuitive gameplay and practically non-existent ads, Two Dots comes highly recommended.
AMAZE! is another relaxing puzzle game with the simple premise of sliding a ball across stages of varying layouts to completely fill them in with color. The game is not only great for winding down after a hard day's work, it's also perfect for kids of all ages thanks to its straightforward gameplay devoid of any limits to movements and time, along with special moves and other elements present in other games.
Advertisements are pretty few and far between here. Aside from the small banner that runs along the bottom, full screen commercials will occasionally show up every few levels or so. You have the option to get rid of these ads by purchasing the game for $2.99 if you find them a little too obstructive.
Blending elements of puzzles and RPG games, Empires & Puzzles has players fight monsters by connecting like-colored blocks to devastate foes. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, as the game lets you build your very own city to harvest resources, and unlock and upgrade a collection of heroes, each with their own unique abilities to help you dominate your enemies in the battlefield.
Several elements in the game are sure to keep you busy, but its puzzle-based battle system is where Empires & Puzzles really shines. Matching up blocks in groups of three or more converts them to troops which then rush into your enemies, dealing damage in the process. You can also make combo chains, and even unleash your heroes' abilities once they've reached their attack limit, all to devastate your enemies even further. For lovers of both RPGs and puzzle games, Empires & Puzzles is highly recommended.
And there you have it, our picks for the nine most interesting puzzle games for both Android and iPhone. Give them a try and prepare to waste copious amounts of time stimulating your brain. What puzzle games would you recommend? Feel free to share your thoughts by posting in the comment section below.
This article was produced during Gadget Hacks' special coverage on mobile gaming. Check out the whole Gaming series.