Complexity doesn't have to require hundreds of hours within a game. Beautiful visuals don't have to mean the latest graphics engine with the largest development team. And engaging gameplay doesn't necessitate online multiplayer with constant updates. Sometimes you can get all of that in a smaller package that still packs a punch.
Puzzle games exist that meet all of those criteria and they're a blast to play. Xbox One currently has access to some of the best puzzle games in the genre. Our favorites are ones that you can easily pick up but can only put down with difficulty.
10 The Witness
From the creator of Braid, this superb puzzling experience jettisons the player on an island with nothing but puzzles around. Some are easily visible and simple enough to solve. Some require more dexterity and patience. But one thing is certain: The Witness is fantastic.
There are hundreds of puzzles to solve and as you progress they will become increasingly complex to the point where you might leave it partially complete before leaving to find inspiration. There isn't much of a story, but that doesn't detract from the exciting challenges that await you on the island.
One of a pair from the studio Playdead, Limbo is a 2D puzzle-platformer, and the atmosphere is soaked in tension and mystery. The indie title has received about as many awards and glowing reviews as an indie game can.
You have to experience it for yourself, though. The dark and grey world will pull you in and leave you breathless. The visuals alone deserve commendation, but the gameplay is also satisfying. Interesting puzzles block your path, and you have to navigate through and around them.
Inside proved that Playdead's first attempt at the 2D puzzle-platformer was not a fluke. Their mastery of the genre was on full display with their follow-up, and it was just as warmly welcomed as the first game, if not more. The story centers around a boy who becomes enmeshed in a scary world from which he must escape.
The narrative will suck you in, though, and it will only spit you back out once you've invested in the life of this unfortunate boy. There's so much that goes right with Inside. It deserves your time and attention.
From Valve (the guys behind Steam) comes one of the greatest puzzle games of all time and one of the most influential video games across any genre. This is where we met GLaDOS. This is where we learned that the cake is a lie. The pop-culture references alone demand that you play Portal.
That doesn't take away from the addictive gameplay, however. Who doesn't want to make portals that you can jump through? One blue. One orange. And physics is never the same. Discovering how to solve the puzzles in Portal is so satisfying. Just take good care of your companion cube.
6 Portal 2
More of a good thing is a good thing. Which is why Portal 2 makes the list of best puzzle games that you can play right now. The Perpetual Testing Initiative is back, except it's better than ever. Portal 2 introduced new puzzles and new ideas that made more challenging obstacles courses.
It also introduced the ability to play with a friend and to design puzzles all on your own. Really, anything that gets us back to the gun that shoots the orange and blue portals is fine. Also, GLaDOS is a potato. One of the smartest machines alive embedded into a potato. Priceless.
5 Human: Fall Flat
No Brakes Games developed Human: Fall Flat, which is a surreal physics-based puzzle game where players explore a wacky landscape with humans that look molded from clay. The open-ended nature of the world is intoxicating, and you'll have to make your way out by solving puzzles. As expected, physics plays a part.
You can play by yourself or with some of your friends, and the physics-based part is a really fun experience. The silliness in Human: Fall Flat is not frequently present in the puzzle genre, so it's a refreshing change from some of the darker or somber games that you might play.
4 Unravel 2
Puzzles are challenging. Puzzles are fun. But they can also be fun with a friend. Combining the intellectual and strategic prowess of two minds helps to break down the challenges in a puzzle game. Unravel 2 incorporates successful elements from the first game, but it introduces a new character so that two players can navigate the world in cooperative mode.
That option is enjoyable when you're wanting to relax with a friend and maneuver past obstacles together. There is something beautiful in playing as two Yarnys who are connected by a single thread.
3 The Talos Principle
A first-person puzzle game, The Talos Principle relies on philosophical science fiction to create a unique world. As a robot, your creator has built with a singular purpose: To overcome puzzling challenges and prove your technological worth. But existential questions arise as you delve deeper into the world.
You'll start asking questions about your identity and purpose outside of the restrictions your creator intended. That's some heavy stuff. Most puzzle games won't wade into the pool of philosophy, but The Talos Principle is not most games. It's a journey that will linger in your mind long after you finish playing.
2 Life Is Strange
Episodic adventures are relatively new to the video game industry, but Dontnod Entertainment has the formula figured out. This series was so successful that it's almost finished with the second game already. The puzzles in Life Is Strange are fewer in number than in most games, but the adventure is still worth mentioning. There are mysteries that must be solved, and some of them are traditional obstacles past which players have to move.
In the game, you follow Max Caulfield, a senior in high school who discovers she can rewind time. That revelation alone would consume most teenagers' focus, but Max must also find a way to save her best friend Chloe. That's all we want to give away. The rest you have to find out for yourself.
1 Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Ubisoft is not the first studio you'd envision when thinking of an artistic puzzle game. The studio's devotion to history, though, is always present in Valiant Hearts: The Great War. World War I does not attract the same amount of attention in the entertainment industry as the second global conflict, but this puzzle game strives to correct that.
It's a story of intertwined destinies in a place where love and happiness are hard to find. The protagonists who feature in Valiant Hearts are caught in the midst of trench warfare. A ghastly affair, indeed. Thankfully they have faithful dogs to accompany them through the horrible war-torn landscape. Get the box of tissues ready. You may not have dry eyes when this is done.