The debate over whether or not games offer brain benefits is a hot topic. There is evidence that games offer cognitive benefits like better focus and logic planning. Meanwhile, other evidence exists that games do not make you smarter, they just make you better at games.
Playing chess will make you better at chess, but it won’t make you a genius, for example. Chess masters are typically already smart from a young age and picked up the game early. However, even if games won’t make you Einstein, they can still exercise your brain. This has numerous benefits, such as preventing degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
In this article, we highlight 5 video games that will give your brain a real workout.
Portal was an instant classic when it was released by Valve. It took the incredible physics-simulation capabilities of the Source engine used in their famous Half-Life games, but instead of being a first-person shooter, Portal is a first-person room-based puzzle game with progressively difficult levels. It’s rather similar, though altogether different from, a lot of the great hidden objects browser games, like Escape The Room or House of Secrets 3D.
What made Portal different and unique was, as the name implies, the objective of Portal is to create portals between different points in levels and pass through them to reach the level’s exit. Of course, being a physics game as well, most of the puzzles include passing objects through the portals as well, such as dropping crates on top of buttons from ceiling portals.
Q.U.B.E. was a great Portal–clone puzzle game. And while Q.U.B.E 2 offers more of the Portal–inspired puzzles found in its predecessor, the graphics have been significantly updated to offer a much more immersive, atmospheric experience.
It offers increasingly complex and difficult levels, but not necessarily in progressive order. Instead of finding each level more difficult than the last, you might breeze through a level, then encounter a real stumper. It keeps things interesting; you never know if the next level will have an obviously simple solution, or keep you running around for an hour before you figure it out.
Chess has long been considered one of the most intellectually stimulating games. There’s a lot of recent evidence that chess won’t actually make you smarter in academia. But it’s still an excellent game for focusing and stretching your brain muscle, which can prevent degenerative brain diseases.
Simply Chess is a free 3D chess game available on Steam, with nice graphics and plenty of features. If you’re into board games, you can also check out Tabletop Simulator, which is like a sandbox toolkit for creating 3D board games, and for playing creations from the community. Or you can check out some great Tetris–inspired games like 10×10 in your browser.
This first-person puzzler was designed by Kim Swift, who is one of the creators of Portal. It very much emulates the room-based puzzle gameplay of Portal. But it introduces the unique concept of shifting between dimensions, each with their own separate physics.
For example, you might switch to the low-gravity dimension to pick up a heavy box and place it on top of a button; then you’d switch back to the regular gravity dimension for the box to trigger the button. Or you might pick up the box in low gravity, throw it, then switch to the slowed time dimension and jump on the box while it’s still in midair and ride the box’s inertia over a death trap. In this manner, Quantum Conundrum forces you to think about different aspects of physics all at once.
The Talos Principle
The Talos Principle is another Portal–like puzzle game. It follows the genre’s format of room-based puzzles that are solved via physics. But it weaves a highly philosophical story into the gameplay; you play an AI robot trying to discover if you have a human consciousness throughout the puzzles.
While the gameplay is inspired by Portal, it is incredibly more complex, with some of the puzzles taking some real dedication to solve. Think of it this way—the puzzles in Portal are comparable to a 100 piece puzzle. But in The Talos Principle, it’s more like a 5,000 piece puzzle.
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