Happy National Puzzle Day!
by Robert Wery
Puzzle games and puzzles in games are some of the most maddeningly satisfying feelings one can get from a video game. With no solution in sight, even the simplest puzzles can become rage-inducing nightmares with no escape. And then you feel like a fool for not seeing the answer that was right in front of your face the whole time. Let’s take a look back at the best puzzle games and puzzles in games!
Tetris - The definition of a puzzle game, created in 1984 by Russian Alexey Pajitnov. With a deep and complex history of politics and rights ownership, Tetris is a classic that has bridged console and PC for generations. You may be good, but Kevin DDR claims the title for world’s best by completing the final hidden level with invisible blocks. Git gud son.
Resident Evil 2 - On this day in 1998 Resident Evil 2 was released, and the puzzles sprinkled throughout were a much needed breather from its horror and tension. Pushing the statues for the red jewel, shifting the bookshelves for the plug and flipping the switches to bring the power back up were difficult to solve at times, but such a nice break from the zombies to the point where you’d forget about the jumpscares.
Portal - There’s nothing like carefully deliberating through an intricate puzzle while being insulted every step of the way. When Portal came out in 2007, the portal gun put a fresh twist on the puzzle game genre. Combine that with GLaDOS’ mockery at your failures -- and even your success -- and you’ve got players chomping at the bit to beat the game just to shut her up.
Lt. Surge’s Gym (Pokemon Red) - I can’t tell you how many times I looked up how to get through the stupid trash can locks only to run into a dead end and just randomly pick until it worked. It’s not even a puzzle, you’re just at the mercy of RNGesus. Now I know why the devs put Diglett cave so close to that town. Sweet revenge.
Half-Life 2 - While most people wouldn’t consider Half-Life 2 to be a puzzle game, it being one of the first FPS games to introduce physics to game progression makes it inherently so. In the previous game, the Barnacles littered throughout your path were something to skirt around, or take time and resources to kill. However in Half-Life 2, the ability to pick up objects and throw them opened up a whole new world of possibilities, something that gamers of 2018 understand without a second thought.
The Witness - A beautiful and minimal game set on an isolated and lonely island, The Witness spends little time holding your hand. As you progress through the puzzles the satisfaction of realizing the solution and moving on to the next is helped quite a lot by the fact that the entire island is open to you. Stuck on a certain part? Walk away and try another one, often the change in perspective is all you need to come back and find a breakthrough.
The Stanley Parable - More of a social experiment on the player than a puzzle game, the heavily narrated experience quickly has the player second guessing themselves. More often than not they come to a crossroads and reply to the narrator "Alright, but not because you told me to!"
Obduction - Like the games listed above, Obduction -- and its predecessors Myst and Riven -- feels not so much like a puzzle video game, but a trip through a organic world. Though as timeless and interactive they’re utterly frustrating, specifically The Maze on Maray. Anyone who says they finished The Maze without looking up a guide is a liar. Fight me.