This is a genre that I don’t play that often. I usually treat them as time-waster games, which I play when I need to think about things or when I need a distraction from something more important. Sometimes these games get ambitious and give you a story mode!
The story modes are fun. They’re usually comedic, and they show off the crazy characters in the game or those created for the game. In the 90s, many of these games emulated Puyo Puyo and Tetris. The games that didn’t do this were hit-and-miss for me.
While looking up more information on these games, I was amazed at how they were all categorized. All of them were tossed into the Puzzle genre. While some of them play like Match 3s and Tile Matchers, the information I found didn’t make those distinctions. Anyway, here is a short list of my favorite puzzle games.
Let’s talk about what qualifies for this list. I’m not just going to be putting any random game on this list. Here are the criteria I used to compile this list:
- Has to be in my collection.
- I have to have fond memories of it.
Wario’s Woods (SNES)
Review Score: 70/100 (GameRankings)
This game grabbed my attention a few years ago. It was sitting on one of my shelves for a while, and I eventually gave the game a chance. It was way more fun than the other puzzle games with a story mode.
Wario’s Woods has a somewhat confusing control scheme. You can pick up items, kick them, and walk up them as long as you’re not carrying things. Your goal is to line up a row of three or more of one color, as long as one in the row is a bomb. It takes some time to get the controls down, but once you do, you’ll find this game is great.
I made a YouTube video on the game a while ago. It was one of the games that I found frustrating but in a good way. It reminded me that puzzle games can bring more than just gameplay. They can tell a story through their gameplay.
Kirby’s Avalanche (SNES)
Review Score: 74/100 (GameRankings)
This is a wonderful puzzle game! I remember playing it with a friend in the 90s before I started collecting video games. This was also my entry point for the Kirby series. I think I had heard of Kirby before, but I don’t think I played any of the games before playing this one.
This is a reskin of Puyo Puyo. In this game, you make groups of four or more little jellybean things of the same color. I have no idea how to describe Puyo Puyos. It is an incredibly fun game to get into, and it can take some time to get an idea of things. You want to set up chains of the Puyo Puyos so you can screw over the other player.
In many ways, this game was my entry point to both Puyo Puyo and Kirby. Unlike the Kirby games, North America didn’t get a Puyo Puyo game for a while. We did get a few reskins of the game, but not a stand-alone Puyo Puyo until decades after Kirby’s Avalanche.
Tetris Attack (SNES)
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Review Score: 8.25/10 (EGM)
This is not just a reskin of another game but a Tetris game that was given Characters from Super Mario World 2. Interestingly, Nintendo of America did this with some games. They probably thought the original game wouldn’t have sold well and needed either Yoshi or Mario.
This simple matching game plays like Dr. Mario, but what a more colorful art style. You need to arrange blocks in either horizontal or vertical lines of the same color in groups of three or more. New blocks scroll up from the bottom of the screen. Most of the levels have a line that you need to get below to win.
Tetris Attack is another game that I played with my friend, Drew. He was the one who introduced me to the SNES and many of the games for the system until I started collecting video games. It is an enjoyable game! I can’t remember when we started playing this game, but it was memorable enough for me to look for it later.
Shanghai II: Dragon’s Eye (Sega Genesis)
Genre: Tile Match
Review Score: 7.9/10 (Moby Games)
I have a lot of nostalgia for the Shanghai series. The games are versions of Mahjong solitaire. This simplifies the game to a simple tile-matching game that can take place on various shapes.
As you progress through the game, the tiles are arranged in different shapes, like a turtle or a castle. Sometimes, the game can be challenging as you have to think about what tiles to remove at the right time. The game forces you to think ahead.
The first version of Shanghai I played was on the Sega Saturn. It was a fascinating game to get into because I wasn’t into puzzle games at the time. I also had no idea what I was doing. After playing it for a while, I wanted to see what else the series offered. I stumbled across this version while I was out collecting video games, and I think it is one of the better versions of Shanghai.
Yoshi’s Cookie (Game Boy version)
Review Score: 3.4/5 (Nintendo Power)
This is an addictive game. Like many other puzzle games, this is easy to learn but difficult to master. It relies more on reflexes but isn’t as difficult as games like Tetris.
You play as Mario, which is odd because it is a Yoshi game, but whatever. Cookies enter the screen from the top and the right, and you must match them up. Your goal is to clear the screen of all the cookies and advance to the next level. The game speeds up as the game goes on.
I found Yoshi’s Cookie while I was collecting video games. At the time, I didn’t know much about the Yoshi games, and I didn’t know if this game fit into the series. I learned that it didn’t matter. Yoshi’s Cookie was a delightful game that kept me playing for hours.
Best of the Rest
There are plenty of puzzle games out there. It is a genre that I return to when I have some downtime. Here are some other games worth checking out or that are iconic in the genre.
- Dr. Mario
- Dr. Robotnic’s Mean Bean Machine
- Puyo Puyo vs. Tetris 1 and 2
- Solomon’s Key
- Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle series
I was amazed by the number of games that were reskinned for the global market. Nintendo of America would do this often, but I was surprised to see how many other games did. Solomon’s Key is one of the games that has had several reskins.
The puzzle game genre is fascinating. I usually associate puzzle games with the Game Boy and now Mobile Phones. I still come back to these games because they don’t require me to follow a story if I don’t want to.
There are many more games in the puzzle game genre. These five are my favorite puzzle games. Let me know what some of yours are!