10 Puzzle Solutions In Video Games That Made Players Feel Clever

Puzzle solving is an integral part of many video games. Some puzzles require logic to solve, whereas others might rely on mathematics, physical experimentation, or knowledge. Some force the player to think more outside the box. All of them, though, should feel incredibly rewarding and satisfying to complete.

There are numerous different types of puzzles in video games, but some stand out for requiring cleverer solutions than the rest. Some are obscure puzzles with seemingly illogical solutions, whereas the genius of other puzzles could also lie in their simplicity or in the joy of working through them. Here are the top 10 puzzles that require the cleverest solutions.

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10 Dishonored 2 – The Jindosh Riddle

Release Year

2016

Developer

Arkane Studios

Platforms

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Completing the Jindosh Riddle unlocks the gate to Aramis Stilton’s Manor during Dishonored 2‘s Dust District section. Players are required to complete this puzzle to progress, although the answer can be found elsewhere in the level as it’s a pretty tough puzzle to wrap one’s head around. Players don’t need to think outside the box to solve it, but they will need to use logic and, likely, a pen and paper to help keep track of it. The puzzle is made even harder by the fact that the solution is randomized between playthroughs, meaning players can’t simply look up the answer online.

The riddle itself is two paragraphs of information about a dinner party, its guests, and the heirlooms they all own. It asks players to match the heirloom to its owner, who can be identified by matching several clues, such as their drink of choice, the color of their clothing, their city of origin, and their position at the dinner table. By slowly matching each clue to each guest, it eventually becomes apparent who owns which heirloom. This iconic puzzle is very well written and requires some seriously clever logical thinking to solve.

9 Deathloop – Finding Aleksis Dorsey

Release Year

2021

Developer

Arkane Studios

Platforms

PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox Cloud Gaming

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Deathloop‘s main story is an intertwining and engaging time-loop puzzle in itself. To break the loop, players must figure out how to assassinate all eight targets, known as Visionaries, in one day. There are numerous other puzzles for players to solve throughout the game, but one of the most unique tasks the protagonist, Colt, with figuring out which wolf mask-wearing partygoer is the Visionary target, Aleksis Dorsey. Such a challenge may sound simple, but when players realize that every guest at the party is wearing the same mask, it becomes a whole lot harder.

There are several ways that players can single out the real Aleksis Dorsey. They all require a little exploration first to uncover the clues and enact a plan using those clues. For example, players can sneak into Aleksis’ bathroom to find a unique code and cassette mixtape. Combining these in the dancefloor’s DJ booth will cause the real Aleksis to shout “All lights on me!” as he starts dancing alone in the middle of the dancefloor. Alternatively, players can learn which strange beer is his favorite, before turning off the tap. He’ll get angry and head to the basement to calm down. Uncovering these subtle clues and cleverly piecing them together with an action plan feels hugely satisfying when it comes off.

8 Grim Fandango – The Rotating Directions Sign

Release Year

1998

Developer

Lucasfilm Games LLC

Platforms

Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Android, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, iOS, macOS, PlayStation Vita,

Grim Fandango is widely regarded as one of the best point-and-click adventure games ever made. It’s also especially ideal for those wanting to get into the mood for spooky season. As is the nature of point-and-click games, it includes numerous puzzles for players to solve, but one in particular has a very clever solution.

In the Petrified Forest Maze, players will eventually pick up a Directions Sign and find themselves in an opening in the forest, surrounded by cave entrances. Players can put the sign in the ground to make it spin and point in a certain direction. The most obvious take from this information is that the sign is pointing towards the correct cave, but players who attempt this solution will get nowhere, as the caves aren’t actually the way out. Instead, the sign is pointing towards the key place to plant the sign. When placed in the correct location, it will once again spin, this time to reveal a hidden passage and the correct way out of the forest maze.

7 Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – The Axe Trial

Release Year

2017

Developer

Naughty Dog Studios

Platforms

PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC

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The Uncharted franchise is filled with puzzles that provide fun intermissions between the mega action sequences that it’s so famous for. Its best puzzle, though, is arguably not found in one of the mainline installments, but rather in Chloe Frazier’s spin-off adventure, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. The puzzle solution requires forward-thinking logic and, although it doesn’t require any outside-the-box thinking, it’s perfectly designed and hugely satisfying to complete.

In Chapter 4, players will encounter a set of platforms that Chloe must jump across to progress. However, there’s a large statue that periodically swings its ax every time she lands on a new platform. If she’s in its attack range, she’ll get swiped off the tiles to her death. Players need to figure out the order to jump across the tiles so that she’s not caught when the statue swings its ax. However, the true genius of this puzzle is that the next room includes a larger version of the same puzzle, with three statues and plenty more tiles. The solution is clever precisely because it forces players to adapt and progress everything they’d learned from the first puzzle. As a result, it feels very rewarding and fun to complete.

6 Portal 2 – Chapter 7

Release Year

2007

Developer

Valve Corporation

Platforms

Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, OS X, Android, Nintendo Switch

Portal 2 is one of the best puzzle games of all time, so choosing a particular level as the best is very challenging. Chapter 7 as a whole is certainly up there, though, as it introduces several different gels to add a new dimension to the gameplay. For example, Repulsion Gel forces any object or player to bounce off surfaces covered in it, Propulsion Gel reduces friction, making objects much easier to move, and Conversion Gel allows any covered surface to have a portal placed on it, even if it can’t normally have one.

Portal 2‘s seventh Chapter is so satisfying to complete because it requires players to combine all of these skills and abilities to find a way forward. It brings a new depth to the iconic gameplay and rewards players who can utilize everything the game offers them. The Portal franchise as a whole could easily be on this list as being a clever puzzle overall, but Chapter 7 of the second game does really stand out.

5 Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge – Monkey Wrench

Release Year

1991

Developer

Lucasfilm Games LLC

Platforms

Microsoft Windows, FM Towns, DOS, AmigaOS, Classic Mac OS

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Monkey Island is an iconic point-and-click franchise that’s naturally full of puzzles for players to solve. The second game, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, stands out, though, as it includes one of the hardest puzzles ever found in a video game. Solving it requires some seriously outside-the-box thinking that’s almost too clever for its own good. It begins when players must switch off a pump to progress. It’s within reach and can be interacted with, but no tools or seemingly logical inputs can get it to budge.

To fix the pump, players need to return to the Bloody Lipp bar on Scabb Island to find a piano-playing money. Next, they need to attach a banana to the metronome that sits on top of the piano to hypnotize the monkey, who can then be picked up and added to the player’s inventory. They can then return to the pump and “use” the monkey on it to fix it, the reasoning being that the pump requires a “monkey wrench” to work. Such a ridiculously outside-the-box solution is made even harder for non-American audiences who refer to a monkey wrench as a spanner instead and therefore wouldn’t have understood this solution at all. It’s obviously a very clever puzzle, but it’s also one of the most frustrating and illogical in gaming history.

4 Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box – PU!

Release Year

2007 (Japanese), 2009 (international)

Developer

Level-5

Platforms

Nintendo DS

The Professor Layton franchise is essentially a collection of puzzles. They’re incredibly varied and offer a fun and charming challenge for those who enjoy the brain-teasing genre. One puzzle, from Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, is especially clever, though, and requires some real outside-the-box thinking. It tasks players with blocking the smell of garlic using two plugs on apparently three maze entrances. However, on closer inspection, all three maze tunnels lead to the garlic, so it’s seemingly impossible to stop the smell with only two plugs.

Therefore, the solution requires players to be a little smarter in their thinking. The final hint makes this especially apparent as it says “You don’t have enough corks to stop up all three openings in the container. Well, you’ll just have to look for another set of openings to seal off from the smell with the two corks.” The other set of openings referred to in the clue are, in fact, the man’s nostrils. Using both plugs directly on his nose will stop him from smelling the garlic, completing the puzzle in a humorous, fun, and ultimately very clever manner.

Release Year

2001

Developer

Konami

Platform

PlayStation 2

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Late on in 1990’s Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, players will come across an impassable laser fence blocking their way forward. There aren’t any accessible switches to turn it off and no way around it. The solution to getting past it is very clever as it requires players to explore the environment and take note of everything, even if it’s not immediately apparent why it’s useful. Completing this puzzle will have players smiling with satisfaction.

As players explore the area past the fence a little more, they can learn from some children that the lasers are actually switched off at night. Another child also comments that she’s scared of the owls that howl at that time. This seemingly innocent piece of information is a vital clue because a little further onward, players will find a lab containing an egg. Once they carry it around long enough, it eventually hatches into an owl. If players let the fence’s guard see the owl, he’ll be tricked into thinking it’s nighttime and therefore turn off the laser fence.

2 X-Men – Reset the Computer

Release Year

1993

Developer

Western Technologies, Inc.

Platform

Sega Genesis

In 1993, X-Men was released on the Sega Genesis (also known as the Mega Drive outside North America). It was a fun action game, so players wouldn’t have been expecting such a clever puzzle to appear right at the end. In the game’s penultimate mission, Mojo’s Crunch, after even having beaten the level’s boss, players will find themselves in a room with the on-screen instructions urging them to “Reset the computer now!” However, there aren’t any in-game ways to reset a computer, leading many players to give up in confusion and frustration.

The solution is actually incredibly clever and way ahead of its time. The computer the game is referring to is, in fact, the Sega Genesis itself. Players must press the console’s physical soft reset button to initiate an in-game sequence that finishes by explaining that the infectious virus program has been suspended. Players can then move on to the game’s final level.

1 The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass – Press the Sacred Crest Against the Sea Chart

Release Year

2007

Developer

Nintendo

Platforms

Nintendo DS, Wii U

The Legend of Zelda franchise is well-known for its puzzles. These range from huge dungeons to smaller shrines and even individual puzzles. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was released on the Nintendo DS in 2007 and arguably is home to the franchise’s most intuitive puzzles. It makes full use of the DS’s unique features, with one puzzle requiring players to physically blow into its microphone to blow dust off an old map. Although that may be a very clever puzzle, there is one that’s even more brilliant.

Later on in the game, players find a Sacred Crest, with the game telling them to “Press [it] against the sea chart to transfer it.” It sounds simple, but there’s no in-game way to achieve this minor feat. Instead, players need to think outside the box and use the Nintendo DS itself as a tool. By opening the sea chart on the bottom screen and having the crest open on the top screen, players can physically close the console to make the two meet, thus transferring the crest across. The satisfaction from figuring out this solution is elevated by its clever simplicity and interactivity.

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