I'm near the end of a few games, but rather than rush through them I thought I'd finally get around to my second post in my series of favorite games of all time (the first post, from March (!) is here). Unlike the first post, which was just miscellaneous games, this one is thematic and is my list of favorite puzzle games. As before, this isn't meant to be comprehensive as it's impossible to play all the great games out there, but these are ones I've come across in my game playing journey and that I've found to be indispensable.


Intergalactic Video Game Academy's Favorite Games of All Time: Puzzle Games

Art Style: Aquia (DSiWare, 2008). I'm starting off my list of favorite puzzle games with three completely distinct puzzle games in skip Ltd.'s amazing Art Style series. The Art Style games are all unique and supremely polished and mathematically elegant, and Aquia is a great example. I usually prefer my puzzle games to have combo mechanics, and on the surface the game looks like a simple match 3 type of game. However, the steady progression of new elements is deeply satisfying and the Lumines-like presentation is top notch. I played this addictively for hours when I first downloaded it, and I'm happy to say it wasn't the only great game in the series.
Art Style: Boxlife (DSiWare, 2009). To me one of the most amazing things about the Art Style series isn't just how uniformly great all the games are, but how different they are. Boxlife is a sort of tangram like experience, where you take on the role of a factory worker tasked with cutting up the board into pieces and then folding them into boxes. The game is the most charming game in the series and an incredibly charming game in general, and as with the other Art Style games its presentation is supremely polished. As with the best puzzle games it's easy to pick up and hard to put down, and it also has a satisfying progression in difficulty. At the time I wrote, "the pixel-perfect precision of the controls really make this an experience as opposed to just another puzzle game", and as with other games in the series it's hard to imagine it succeeding at all on most other platforms. Although it gets maddening at the very end (the most difficult part of the game), the majority of the experience is a lot of fun. Another definite recommendation.
Art Style: Zengage (DSiWare, 2009). This was the last of the DSi Art Style games that I played, and I was surprised that it ended up also being one of my favorites. This game is designed to be a more serene experience (to start with anyway), and the first part of the game feels rather like playing a 2-D version of a Rubik's Cube. As someone who has never been very good at Rubik's Cubes (or interested in being good at them), it took me a while to warm up to the game, but soon the game shifted focus to be more on mastering the various new mechanics that are introduced, such as tiles that can't be moved. As with the other games in the series, this game feels very compact and doesn't have a ton of levels, but the experience is still extremely polished and satisfying. Another great puzzle game from skip Ltd., and here's hoping that the series gets the recognition it deserves at some point in the future.
Tetris (Game Boy, 1989; originally 1984). Moving on to other puzzle games, of course Tetris, the grandpappy of them all, would have to be on my list of favorites. I continue to play various iterations in the series, but the original is still a classic, despite being in greeny black and white. This is one of those games that needs no intro, as anyone who's every picked up any version of it knows how incredibly addictive and fun it is. Very few puzzle video games have become part of pop culture, but this one deserves all the recognition it's gotten over the years. Elegantly simple, hugely influential, and still just as enjoyable as it ever was.
Tetris Attack (aka Panel de Pon, aka Puzzle League) (SNES, 1996; originally 1995). The success of Tetris quickly led to all sorts of similar games, but Tetris Attack helped push the genre forward. Other games had introduced combo systems, but Tetris Attack took combos to a new level where you don't just set up chains and let 'er rip, you can actually keep a combo going by quickly maneuvering blocks into place as other ones are falling. Masters can clear entire boards in one move and create absurdly long chains. I certainly can't count myself among that elite crowd, but I do feel like every time I pick it up my skills improve. This is another one of those games that gets rereleased regularly (the most recent being a surprise inclusion in the Animal Crossing: New Leaf update), but the original version (outside of Japan, anyway) is still one of the best iterations and features a cute Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island setup.
Pushmo (3DSWare, 2011). You'd think by now that it would be hard to come up with a great puzzle title, but Intelligent Systems makes it look so easy. Pushmo is unique in that it's a puzzle game in which you move a character around the 3-dimensional board. In this case you're tasked with helping the main character, Mallo, climb to the top of the level by pushing and pulling parts of it to form staircases. It's a wonderfully creative idea and a lot of fun. It made great use of the 3DS's stereoscopic capabilities, and is one of the few puzzle games that has great user-creation features as well. Its sequel, Crashmo, is also a great game, and although I keep forgetting to try out its follow-up, Stretchmo, I'm definitely looking forward to it.
Toki Tori (GBC, 2001). I'm not entirely sure where I heard about Toki Tori, but as a fan of The Adventure of Lolo, this was an easy draw. The game is superbly designed, and although the number of game elements is very small, the variety of puzzles is surprising and very satisfying. The presentation is fantastic (the main character is very endearing), and the difficulty progression is spot on. I'm looking forward to playing the game's remake (some day...), and athough the sequel is less polished, it was also still a lot of fun.

Honorable Mentions:

That's it for now. We'll have to see what other puzzle games make it onto my list in the future. ;)

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