I’m a lifelong gamer. More or less. It would have been some time in the mid-1980s that I picked up my first controller on the old Atari. Missile Command and Defender were my jam. Over the years, I’ve wielded the Diskarmor with Rygar, fought viruses with Dr. Mario, and shot marbles from a frog’s mouth in Zuma. And as much as I love my fighting games and my side-scrollers, puzzle games have always appealed to me.
And so, for this first ever edition of Friday Favorites (should this become a regular thing?), we take a look at some of my favorite puzzle games of all time. And don’t forget to check out the list of Nintendo Switch games I want(ed) for Christmas too. (Side note: I’ve actually since received or purchased two of the five games I highlight in that post, plus one more I mentioned in passing. Now if only I could find the time to play them all!)
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
I know what you’re thinking. Michael only likes this game because of the Street Fighter (and Darkstalkers) characters. Well, yes, that’s part of it. But even if this game didn’t have the fighting game tie-in, I’d still put it atop my list for its fighting game-like mechanics. There’s so much strategy involved, from character selection to character match-ups.
And it doesn’t get much more satisfying than when you forge together one of the biggest mega jewels you’ve ever seen in your life, crushing it in a multi-string combo that brings your opponent to his or her knees. That’s the appeal of Puzzle Fighter. And if they ever port it over to the Switch, there’s a good chance I’m picking it up.
Believe me, OG Tetris and all of its basic off-shoots will always hold a special place in my heart. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, Canadian developer H2O Entertainment tried to fix in on the Nintendo 64 (it was originally designed for the Atari Jaguar) with Tetrisphere. This game isn’t going to make too many lists.
Even so, it’s easily one of the wildest and most imaginative re-inventions of the old Tetris wheel around (pun intended). I mean, it’s a spherical Tetris game! Imagine if they redid this in 3D VR with gesture controls!
Puzzle Bobble (Bust-a-Move)
Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever owned Bust-a-Move on a proper console. I remember playing it in the arcades on those Neo-Geo multi-select cabinets. I also remember the countless hours my friends and I would spend huddled around a computer in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s.
The idea is relatively simple. Shoot those colored bubbles from the bottom of the screen to form sets of three above. Maybe it’s because I was (still am?) a bit of a math nerd, but I enjoyed the whole geometry of it all. It was fun trying to figure out the right angles to get all those bubbles cascading down, careful not to connect two dangling strings.
Easily one of the most creative takes on the puzzle game genre I’ve ever played, the original Scribblenauts on the Nintendo DS felt so boundless in possibility. What do you mean I can write any word I want and have that object manifest itself in the game?!
It wasn’t perfect, but coming from a multiple-choice and set-path mindset, Scribblenauts was on a whole other level. And then Super Scribblenauts took it even further. Creative exercises like this have always appealed to me, so when you add in the puzzle game dynamic, you’ve got me hooked.
Angry Birds Star Wars
At this point, not too many people are playing any of the Angry Birds games anymore. We’ve been oversaturated with all the different variations, plus the TV and movie spin-offs. But at the time, the original Angry Birds showed us how a game developed specifically for mobile could work so very, very well.
They introduced new gravity effects with Angry Birds Space, pushing the physics engine in a more advanced direction. And then Angry Birds Star Wars really represented the apex of where this franchise could go. Just look at C-3PO as an egg and Chewbacca as a giant fuzzball. How awesome is that?!
Brick by Brilliant Brick
What are some of your favorite puzzle games of all-time? Lumines? Columns? 2048? Or are you looking for more of my favorite things? Have you seen my list of awesome webcomics on Instagram or some of my favorite smart YouTube channels? Am I asking too many questions?
Inspiration isn’t a tough puzzle to solve! You just have to open to absorbing it all.