Genre Guides: Puzzle Games

PuzzleGenre: Puzzle

Featured LWK Games: Amazing Alex, Bad Piggies, Angry Birds SpaceProfessor Layton and the Curious VillageCargo BridgeBraid

Popular M-Rated Puzzle Games: Catherine, Limbo, Warp

Most Common Thinking Skills Used: Planning, Focus, Flexibility, Time Management


Genre Description

Video games and puzzles are a great mix. Taking all the fun and challenge that comes along with solving brainteasers and translating them to the big (or little) screen, these games are able to create interactive experiences that would not work with tradition pen and paper puzzles. From simple applications like Sudoku and Crosswords, to classics like Tetris and Dr. Mario, puzzle games offer a great opportunity to introduce your child to games that exercise their brain while they are playing and having fun. While some of these games simply pair traditional puzzles with an interactive interface, others like Echochrome or the Art Style series deliver fresh takes on the genre, delivering quirky mindbenders complete with innovative game play and a visually striking presentation. Some titles even claim to “train the brain” with daily or weekly puzzle routines, most notable, the Nintendo DS hit called “Brain Age.”

This Genre is typically Good for kids who need help with:

Time Management

Being efficient and aware of their use of time and effort.

Many puzzle games make Time Management a key component to success. This is most often accomplished by adding a timer to each level or puzzle. For the player to beat a level, he must not only figure out the solution to the puzzle, but he must do it before the clock runs out. Just like in real life, he will have to keep one eye on the time, and manage his progress so as to complete his task in the time allotted.


Getting started and then maintaining attention and effort to tasks.

While Puzzle games can help with almost any Thinking Skill, most of them are mainly useful in teaching your child about Focus. Any time a player has to solve a difficult puzzle, the first thing she needs to do is clear her mind and pay full attention to the problem in front of her. If she allows herself to be easily distracted, the solution will elude her, and she’ll never beat the game. If she can focus her mind on the task at hand, however, she will be able to succeed.

Use this Play Together guide to learn how you can help your child turn time spent playing RPGs into a positive learning and relationship-building experience. To learn more about why playing games with your children is so important, check out our Science of Play page.

Talk Before You Play

Take a minute to talk with your child about how the Focus and Time Management thinking skills work, and why they are important for success in school and at home.

Set Gameplay Goals

Most Puzzle feature smaller levels when compared to other video games, making them a perfect fit for small bursts of fun family gaming. Some will include introductory tutorials that teach you the game mechanics, so start here if you can. Otherwise, try playing a few competitive games if there is a two player mode. If only a single player mode is available, work together to make your way through the first segments of the game (generally about 4-5 levels), each taking turns between stages.

Stop & Reflect

After you’ve tackled your gameplay goals, sit down to talk with your child about how the game is exercising you thinking skills.

  • What puzzle took a few attempts before you beat it?
  • Which puzzles can be completed leisurely, and which ones must be attended to quickly?
  • How can solving a puzzle help you to be aware of time limitations and become more efficient in completing your schoolwork?
  • When did you get stuck on a puzzle? What happens if you get distracted while playing? How do Focus skills help you stay concentrated on a task, and stick with it until completion?
  • What are some everyday scenarios when similar Focus skills can help at home or at school?

For parents who are not avid gamers, playing puzzle games can be a familiar and enjoyable experience. Most adults have grown up with many different kinds of puzzles, including traditional picture puzzles, crosswords, mazes and even card games like Solitaire. For many adults, their first introduction to playing video games was the free Windows-based puzzle games such as Minesweeper, Hearts, and Solitaire.

In addition to helping children improve their Time Management and Focus skills, puzzle games are also a great tool for improving Planning, Working Memory, and Flexibility.  Many great puzzle games, like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, use complexity and problem solving to change the skills (Flexibility) and decisions (Planning) needed to beat the game. Some brain-training puzzle games even have sets of mini games to stretch and improve Working Memory skills.

Interestingly, there is a great deal of scientific research to support the use of video games for improving Working Memory skills. Achieving significant Working Memory improvement requires the use of increasingly difficult memory tasks, along with regular, intensive, and sustained practice. There are also specific brain training programs that use puzzle games as tools,  such as Cogmed Working Memory training, that may be of interest to you for improving Working Memory skills.

Because puzzle games are often familiar to adults, they are a great starting place for playing video games with your own children. While you may not have the game skills or facility with a game controller that your child has, you may be able to compete with them more readily due to your experience with the strategies and planning needed for puzzle games. This makes a great opportunity for you to model behavior or talk out your problem-solving strategies in order to help your child to do the same.

Related Games

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