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The Top ‘Make You Smart’ Video Games

it is very easy to dismiss video games as a mindless hobby where you repeatedly press the same buttons over and over to stomp on enemies or shoot other players in the head.

Some of the biggest and best-known video games certainly do that repeatedly, but like any huge multibillion-dollar industry, there are plenty of exceptions to the rule if you do a little bit of searching. Just like how it seems every big blockbuster movie is a superhero or sci-fi epic, in truth you just have to do a bit of digging to find more challenging and thoughtful films.

The video game industry has already passed the movie industry in terms of money-making, so don’t hesitate to try out these titles and find out just how much more this medium has to offer. Whether you are playing on your phone or a state-of-the-art Virtual Reality headset, you can definitely feel like the smartest person in the world (although to afford the VR equipment, you might have to sell a kidney or become a trans sugar baby).

Portal (2007)/Portal 2 (2011)

These two games have a sci-fi sheen about them since you are a ‘volunteer’ in this lab who is given a special gun that shoots portals at walls, which you are able to enter, and then emerge immediately in a different part of the room.

Reaching certain platforms, getting around certain barriers, and disposing of gun-toting enemies (so much for volunteering) will require lots of brain-power, and you will have loads of fun while doing it. The introduction of realistic physics in a video game was never easy, and the first Portal game did a great job at making it not only familiar, but fun to learn.

The story is rather thin, but it doesn’t take a lot of thinking to realize that things are not what they seem, and there might not be cake at the end of your journey. It was released to great acclaim, and the Valve Company who developed it suddenly found themselves with many fans wanting a follow-up. So Portal 2 added co-op mode, where you can now solve these puzzles with friends, making it a social experience in problem-solving. 

Since gamers are never satiated, they have waited for ten years for any news on a third game, but Valve is known for taking their time. After all, their other big series (Half Life), took thirteen years for a follow-up. Rumours have been around for years, and while some have suggested the introduction of VR, others are just dead ends or links to places like a squirt gay site.

Tetris (1984)

It’s hard to not acknowledge the importance of Tetris in the history of video games, if only because all its various interactions make it the best selling title of all time. Falling blocks is all you need to say, but being able to quickly decide where they best fit to make a line that will then disappear so you still have space is a good way to get your brain working. It is true that over time it can be just as much about how quickly you can mash the buttons as figuring out where to put the piece, but the way Tetris has influenced the puzzle video game genre cannot be denied.

In 2019, Nintendo introduced the game Tetris 99, where you can play against 98 other players at the same time, offering up plenty of Group Fun for this otherwise solo game.

The Room series (2012-2020)

Fireproof Games is a small studio that made a big impact with this series since instead of going big, it went small. Not only does it take place in a room, but more specifically a very elaborate puzzle box that sits in the middle of it. You are able to explore all its nooks and crannies and secret compartments, and you will use a variety of tools like keys, screwdrivers and magnifying lenses to figure out how to advance.

Letters and correspondence do not just help the backstory but offer cryptic clues of how to open new areas. The thrill of accomplishment you have when you suddenly open it must be similar to what Einstein felt when he discovered the theory of relativity (and he may have done it quicker).

The series has sold over ten million copies, and its most recent outing embraced VR technology, further solidifying this method of gameplay as the future of the medium.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)

While the Portal Games have you test physics with one wild weapon in a series of confined rooms, this recent title from the long-running Legend of Zelda series allows you to test your problem-solving skill and limits of your imagination in a massive, open fantasy world.

Yes, you have to save it from an evil supervillain and part of doing so is killing plenty of monsters along the way, but with the various powers you have at your disposal, how you do such things can become very creative. You can control metal objects, stop the flow of time for certain items (and then whack it with a weapon to create stored up kinetic energy that is suddenly released when the time stoppage period ends).

Like Portal, there are many optional puzzle rooms for you to explore that will test your problem-solving skills.

The freedom of choice in this game is what sets it apart from several others on this list, and is one of the reasons why gamers are still raving about it. A sequel is due for this year, and the excitement is boiling over.