The 15 best Android puzzle games for teasing your brain

The Play Store has an abundance of great puzzlers, and we've picked the cream of the crop.

puzzle games lead
Credit: Andrew Hayward
Brain pleasers

The Play Store is loaded with mindless distractions to fill your down moments, but you don’t have to play something dumb or monotonous. You can still put your mind to good use by playing an on-the-go puzzler, and luckily, Android has plenty of great options available.

We’ve picked 15 of our absolute favorite puzzle games out right now, which range from inventive spins on the match-three formula to strategic navigation games, challenging physics tests, and mystery-filled boxes. And don’t forget the snowman-rolling simulator, subway system-builder, and bonsai tree-snipping game. It’s a broad mix of options, and you’re sure to find something uniquely designed to tease your brain.

puzzle games minimetro
Credit: Dinosaur Polo Club
Mini Metro

Subway and transit maps often look like a mess of squiggly lines, but there must be some method to the madness… right? You’ll find out quickly in Mini Metro, a game that looks like those familiar maps and actually puts you in charge of creating your own working, ever-expanding transit system.

It starts off simply enough with just a couple of stations (each represented by a shape), which you’ll connect with train lines. As ridership increases, new stations pop up with anxious passengers, and you’ll need to figure out how to link it all together without stations becoming overcrowded. You’ll earn extra lines, train cars, and bridges the longer you can hold out, and the game’s 15 maps are based on real-life city layouts.

Mini Metro ($5)

bestpuzzlegames threes
Threes!

Math is magical in Threes!, a fantastic number puzzler focused on constant addition. You’ll need to merge number tiles together to prevent the board from filling, as a new tile appears after each move. The 1 and 2 tiles add together to make 3, and then all the other tiles—multiples of 3, naturally—can only blend with the exact same number to create even larger numbers.

That’s the goal: continually building larger and larger number tiles to maximize your score. Since each swipe can move or merge every tile on the board, you’ll need to carefully consider every action if you want to keep your game going. It’s a brainy, methodical, and endlessly replayable gem, and one of the most engrossing puzzlers available on Android. 

Threes! ($3)

puzzle games shadowmatic
Credit: Triada Studio Games
Shadowmatic

If you’ve ever made shadow puppets, contorting fingers and limbs to depict images on a wall, then you might get a kick out of Shadowmatic. The premise is much the same, only here you’ll rotate and rearrange odd-looking objects until they show something familiar on the wall. Move the janky shape around enough and you might see a rabbit, or a teapot, for example.

It’s a concept that works wonderfully on a touch device, giving you the feeling of manipulating real objects in front of a flashlight. Of course, it gets much tougher as multiple objects are provided, adding an extra layer of difficulty in discerning the solution. The free download offers a taste, with a $3 in-game purchase providing 100+ total puzzles, extra objectives, and more. 

Shadowmatic (Free)

bestpuzzlegames youmustbuildaboat
You Must Build a Boat

Puzzle Quest pioneered the match-three RPG concept, but You Must Build a Boat—follow-up to the equally excellent 10000000—trumps it on Android by taking a much more frenetic tone. As your pixelated adventurer sprints through the dungeon along the top of the screen, you’ll need to match the appropriate icons to help him succeed. 

When he encounters a monster, try to link up three or more blue swords or red wands. Run into a treasure chest? You’ll need to match keys to open it up and push ahead. Speed is essential, and the dungeons are randomized, so there’s a new challenge each time. And the quest keeps building, as each run helps you upgrade your gear, expand your boat (with rooms and crew members), and become faster and stronger. It’s addictive! 

You Must Build a Boat ($3)

puzzle games laracroftgo
Credit: Square Enix
Lara Croft Go

We previously had Hitman Go on this list, which is still worth a look (alongside the newer Deus Ex Go), but the best of Square Enix’s mobile bunch is surely Lara Croft Go. Based on the iconic heroine of the Tomb Raider series, this perfect-for-mobile puzzler turns her action-packed quests into a turn-based navigational game, in which you’ll overcome environmental hazards. 

Moving one space at a time on board game-esque terrain, you’ll surprise-attack enemies, flip switches, evade obstacles, and solve brain-teasers that block your path. Lara Croft Go includes more than 100 puzzles, with more promised, and does a really impressive job of translating the Tomb Raider allure into a smart, take-anywhere challenge. 

Lara Croft Go ($5)

puzzle games prune
Credit: Polyculture
Prune

Prune is a difficult game to classify. Bonsai tree simulator? Oddly relaxing arcade game? Tactical gardening action? Prune may not fit as neatly within the puzzle genre as some others on this list, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most original and uniquely captivating games you can play on Android.

Each stage begins with you pulling up a tree from the soil, and then watching as it grows into the light—and then quickly trimming excess branches to maximize its ascent. The 48 levels provide different kinds of hazards, from excess shade to wind and other obstacles, and you’ll need to experiment with placement and snip selection to overcome each challenge. It’s a true one-of-a-kind.

Prune ($4)

bestpuzzlegames theroom
The Room

Touch devices offer a sense of tactile interaction that a gamepad or mouse cannot, and that’s put to good use in The Room, a much-loved mobile original. In this first-person adventure, you’re tasked with solving a selection of 3D puzzle boxes, each of which is loaded with things like locks, codes, hidden doors, dials, and other brain-taxing mechanisms.

And it’s never just one solution: the challenge is finding which approach unlocks the next opportunity, and so on and so forth—all while you rotate the box, focus on clues, and seek out curious details to explore. It’s very haunting and atmospheric, as well, with great graphics and cleverly designed boxes. And if you dig the original, The Room Two and The Room Three further expand upon the premise.

The Room ($1)

bestpuzzlegames alphabear
Alphabear

Letter tiles meet adorable, super-powered bears in the weird and wonderful Alphabear, a word puzzler with some strategic twists. As you build your words from the letters that appear on the board, the bears grow to fill in the blanks. The bigger the bears at the end of the game, the more points you earn. Easy, right?

But there are other considerations. Tiles not used quickly enough turn to stone, which block your bears’ paths, and the bears themselves each offer unique bonuses that can make or break your high-score run—so choose wisely. With daily missions and dozens of bears to unlock, it’s a surprisingly addictive entry, not to mention a fresh-feeling game in a well-worn genre.

Alphabear (Free)

puzzle games framed
Credit: Loveshack
Framed

We’ve seen games that are inspired by comic books and characters, but what about a game that plays with the structure of a comic book? That’s what Framed offers, as this noir-soaked tale of a man and woman on the run challenges you to solve the logic puzzle at play on each new page. Your job is to rearrange the panels to get the fugitive safely ahead to the next run-in.

Each panel shows a different event, and they influence each other, so you must figure out how each panel’s happenings can ultimately lead the hero to safety. You’ll drag and drop the panels around the screen and watch the action play out, and then make modifications based on what results. It’s a compact, but very inventive touch experience.

Framed ($3)

bestpuzzlegames monumentvalley
Monument Valley

Surreal and gorgeous, Monument Valley is one of the most memorable and mesmerizing games available on Android. As Princess Ida, you’ll attempt to navigate the curious terrain, which often isn’t grounded in reality. Monument Valley plays with perspective to create mind-boggling locales, which you’ll manipulate by turning dials, rotating staircases, and more. 

Each level is a new treat: one might find you working your way to the top of a tower with no obvious path ahead, while another is a puzzle box that exposes surprising new areas as it unfolds. While relatively short (a couple hours, tops), Monument Valley is absolutely sweet, and it even has an affecting little story parceled out along the way. The Forgotten Shores ($2) expansion within is well worth the money, too.

Monument Valley ($4)

bestpuzzlegames blek
Blek

What makes Blek so utterly refreshing is not only that it’s a true touchscreen original, but also that it does away with traditional structure. Yes, there are missions and perhaps even an ideal way to solve each stage, but the design of this inventive puzzler allows for so much freedom and creativity.

Essentially, the goal in each stage is to clear the colored dots in a single attempt by drawing a doodle or squiggle. Once your finger leaves the screen, the drawing repeats your input as an endless animation, bounding around until it leaves view or hits a black dot. If you get all the colored dots in one go, you win! If not, you keep doodling until you sort out a viable solution. It feels so distinct from every other puzzler on this list, not to mention everything else on the Play Store (except the clones).

Blek ($3)

puzzle games goodsnowman
Credit: Draknek
A Good Snowman is Hard to Build

It might be most seasonally appropriate for winter, but A Good Snowman is Hard to Build is actually a great puzzle pick for any time of the year. This clever little game challenges you to build an array of snowmen across a large garden, each matching the traditional three-ball design from large up to small. Accomplishing that, however, is not always an easy task.

You’ll need to roll the balls around each area to get them into formation, but rolling a ball over fresh snow only makes it larger—and if you have the wrong-sized balls, you can’t finish the snowman. Figuring out the order of when to roll the balls and where to roll them to is the real challenge, and A Good Snowman is Hard to Build packs in plenty of warmth and personality to offset any frustration. 

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build ($5)

bestpuzzlegames worldofgoo
World of Goo

World of Goo was first built for a Wii Remote or mouse pointer, but it feels perfectly suited for touch, as this physics-driven puzzler finds you building structures from living balls of glop. You'll simply drag one away from the existing tower or bridge, and then release to set it, thus expanding the structure's shape. The goal is to stretch all the way up to a suction tube and save the rest of the goo balls.

It's a simple task at first, but not for long. World of Goo's inventive campaign delivers an array of twists—like reusable balls and various obstacles—that shake up the gameplay, and no two levels are the same. Better yet, the colorful graphics and haunting soundtrack pair perfectly, and there's even an odd little story that creeps into view. It's a marvelous adventure.

World of Goo ($5)

bestpuzzlegames fourletters
Four Letters

Enjoy word games, but don’t want to labor over each and every turn or move? Try Four Letters. It’s all about speed: as the timer ticks away, you’ll have to sort out a word from the letters that appear on the screen. Each completed word extends your timer, and if you’re particularly quick with an entry, you’ll earn extra points—and the bonus multiplies if you get on a run of speedy inputs. 

Given the focus on short words, Four Letters might seem like a breeze—and you may well knock through a couple dozen terms in a stretch without issues. But it’ll pull out some tricky letter combos to throw you off, providing tense moments of frantic tapping. It’s a nice break from the average word puzzler, and even with the quick pace, it’ll certainly tease your brain.

Four Letters (Free)

bestpuzzlegames twodots
Two Dots

Credit Two Dots for showing how a simple premise—and a free-to-play one, at that—can be expanded out into something truly challenging and engaging. Like the original Dots, this puzzler is all about connecting circles: you can draw a line between nearby ones of the same color, and that clears them from the board. In each stage, you’ll need to remove a certain number of each listed color. 

It doesn’t take long for the concept to evolve. Lines become boxes, and then you have bombs, fire, and anchors in play, all while maintaining that accessible approach. Two Dots has loads of content—more than 1,000 stages as of this writing—and gorgeous design outside the minimal game boards, and it’s a great freebie option. And sequel Dots & Co. delivers even more fun. 

Two Dots (Free)