Puzzle games thrive on innovation and strangeness, so indies have a particularly high station in the genre. They are free from mass appeal and are content to baffle you in the most bizarre ways possible. But it’s a fine line for puzzles to feel equally surprising and sensible. They should unfold naturally, intelligently, and unexpectedly.
This list will include just a few indie puzzle games that best represent their tone or style. That includes games for younger audiences, co-op fans, and more. Puzzle games are plentiful and continue to explore exciting new ways to test your brain. Our selections are a combination of games for every kind of fan, featuring as little overlap as possible.
While there are many obligatory indie puzzle games for this list, PHOGS! is an overlooked gem and probably a surprise. This is a thoughtful, family-friendly puzzle game with a great gimmick and an inventive, adorable art design.
The world themes might appear a bit generic, at first. But the level design is excellent, and the puzzles can occasionally feel a bit challenging. So, there’s a good difficulty range that adults can enjoy too.
Dog lovers are sure to get a real kick out of this game. It works best as a co-op experience, since it challenges you to control a dog with two heads. As a result, it takes more coordination than you might think, and that’s simply easier if you play alone. Although the story is relatively short and simple, it’s also very endearing, relaxing, and cheerful.
6. Human Fall Flat
This casual indie game stands apart thanks to its hilarious, physics-based ragdoll controls and variety of answers for every puzzle. Alongside the wobbly controls, there’s a sense of freedom and comedy in every aspect.
It would be just as satisfying to simply explore each world, which offer just the right blend of charm and surrealism. The music contributes to an equally mysterious and upbeat atmosphere that’s easy to immerse yourself in for hours.
Human Fall Flat also supports large groups of players, and still features new level updates. In fact, there’s also a Steam Workshop that offers countless community creations. This is a great all-ages puzzler with some terrific 3D platforming, too. Luckily, a sequel was recently announced from the same developers.
There have been many puzzle games that wield perspective to confuse, but Superliminal remains the most effective indie. Viewfinder is a similar, newer release that deserves an honorable mention.
But Superliminal is less forgiving, and more inventive in the way it incorporates your surroundings. It makes the most of your first-person point of view, testing you to repurpose everything you see. There’s simply a broader range of twists to discover.
Although Superliminal can feel quite short, it’s a satisfying experience and available on the Xbox Game Pass. That’s always helpful for shorter games, which may not justify their price tag for some users.
The sheer volume of content on The Witness’ island is astonishing. It feels like the devs pondered as many different puzzle games as possible, then collected them into one open world. There are hundreds of puzzles, in fact. But The Witness carefully avoids becoming a messy, mixed bag.
The puzzles achieve this by inviting many different ways of thinking, which sometimes fold over each other. The result is a series of epiphanies that will convince you to continue playing longer than you expected to. The Witness is an excellent choice for those who want more hours of non-stop solving.
3. The Talos Principle
This genre staple is weirdly and delightfully existential. You are encouraged to make crucial choices and self-reflect about the nature of humanity or culture. The puzzles are built to reinforce that, so fans of vintage sci-fi literature will be pleased.
The sci-fi lore is also worth uncovering on its own, and would likely serve any genre well. But this setting is perfect to create curiosity and isolation. There are also over a hundred puzzles to explore, so you won’t be able to breeze through this indie game, either. Fortunately, developer Croteam is returning for the sequel, which releases next month.
2. Baba Is You
This iconic indie has one of the greatest hooks of any game, by essentially letting you alter the rules themselves. Baba Is You will subvert all expectations as you progress, and it does so with simple, retro visuals.
The key is to rethink both language and your environment in order to create the right conditions you need. This generally involves unexpected transformation, and there are often multiple layers to each challenge. As a result, the possibilities for each puzzle can feel strangely loose. But the answers are always perfectly reasonable and bring a smile to your face.
Inside is a sophisticated follow-up to the devs’ previous game, Limbo. It is even more ambitious in scope and flair, but it still offers the same imaginative risks. The art design uses color sparingly, but the environments are still packed with personality. Its setting is spectacularly novel, with detailed imagery that is legitimately unnerving.
This selection is sure to please fans who prefer their puzzles to be driven by a compelling narrative. You can easily connect to the young hero and their plight in an unforgiving world. Inside is an incredible blend of horror, puzzles, and 2D platforming that is equally punishing and rewarding. It isn’t just an extraordinary puzzle game, but one of the best indie games of all time.
Puzzle games are thrilling oddities and often experimental, sometimes to a fault. But there are many more indie puzzle games that could naturally join this list. Tell us about your favorite puzzle indies, especially overlooked gems for newcomers to discover!