10 best puzzle levels
Love a good head-scratcher? We show off ten of the toughest (and most satisfying) brain-teasers on Xbox
10 Inside – The Depths
There’s nothing like solving a puzzle under pressure. Inside is exceptional at building tension, drip-feeding you clues and slowly teaching you the rules of each area before testing your skills – before changing up the scene completely so you don’t get bored. The Depths is no exception. While this isn’t the trickiest of puzzle levels, it’s one of the most memorable – simply because of the creature you meet towards the end. The girl with the etherial, floating hair chases you when you try and escape the level, and only your light can chase her away. Top tip – don’t push it and try to get too far without pushing her back again using the light. We learned that one of the hard way. She’s super hangry.
09 Tomb Raider – Wind puzzles
The 2013 TombRaider reboot found a fantastic balance between puzzles and action, and the highlight for us was this breezy brainteaser. With an old tower blocking Lara from reaching her prize, she needs to be creative with what’s around her. Thankfully, the weather forecast has swung in her favour and things are getting gusty in the hall. The shutters let Lara direct that wind – or block it off – giving her the chance to swing the giant hanging ball in the right direction to smash down the enormous bell. When later puzzles start involving cranks and moving platforms that require perfect timing to manoeuvre in the serious squall, the challenge really ramps up. High fives all round if you nail it first time.
08 QUBE 2 – Chapter 11: The Abyss
Combining all of the physics-based skills that you learn throughout the game,
QUBE’s final chapter will challenge your grey matter more than most school exams. Finding the right combination of abilities when there are so many possible permutations will mean every room in this area will be a head-scratcher. Like another puzzle title that might or might not be at the top of this list, QUBE does a fantastic job of letting you slowly learn skills until you master them without even realising. As you put the different pieces of the puzzles together to build a solution that will get you to the exit, that warm feeling of genius will start to creep through you. Then you’ll reach the next room and it’ll come crashing down again.
07 Fez –Security Room
If you came into Fez expecting a fun, light puzzler that uses perspective to solve problems… you’ll be surprised. There certainly are elements of that in there, but this title requires a lot more skill and critical thinking than it takes to spin a camera round four times. And the security room poses a particularly tough challenge, because you can’t just run around reading clues or activate a Batman- style, famously cheaty, Detective Mode to light up everything you need in glowing orange light. All you get is a short riddle: “My first half is what it is. My second half is half of what made it.” That’s it. Easy, right? If working it out wasn’t enough, then you have to spell the answer in blocks. Yikes!
06 A Way Out – The Farmhouse
This unique two-player title packs in a lot of puzzles, but it’s the farmhouse that stands out to us. The house and surrounding farmland give Vincent and Leo more to do than shoot up police cars, hide in woodlands or beat up random prisoners. Your main tasks are to get a truck up and running again, find new clothes and arm yourselves. But to do that, you’ll need to explore the house, and that’s where the real joy arises. It’s filled with cool little nuggets of information, neat touches and fun things for the guys to do. The real challenge is finding the things you need amongst the dozens of other things to explore. But why rush? The house offers a great chance to take a breather.
05 Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons – The Mines
What Brothers does brilliantly is create challenges that force cooperation between Naiee and Naia, and for us there’s no better example than the mines. This cavern is full of ruins and machinery that the brothers must use to traverse the level without falling to a painful death. The camera regularly angles downwards to show the working trolls below, setting the scene beautifully. The puzzles here mostly involve teamwork, timing and the odd climbing challenge – and even though they’re simple, they’re also super satisfying. But it’s the ending to the level that really makes it memorable. As you reunite your lovelorn troll friend with his beau, every pushed lever and leg-up feels all the more worthwhile.
04 Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time – The Hall of Learning
Most of this game’s puzzles involve getting from one place to the other using the Prince’s wallrunning and backflipping skills. But the Hall Of Learning is special because it mixes this with some good, old-fashioned puzzling. For a start, it’s huge – and you soon realise that the whole library is one big puzzle made up of lots of smaller puzzles that you have to solve one by one to unlock new areas. Whether you’re pushing mirrors around to redirect light, smashing down walls to create new paths, or clambering over bookshelves, you’ll need to read the scenery to understand what you need to do, and then do everything in the right order. It’s the perfect summary of what makes this classic title so good.
03 Hitman 2 –Mumbai
Is Hitman even a puzzle game? Because every level offers so many potential assassination options, and multiple ways to achieve each one, we see every mission as an opportunity to solve the same puzzle over and over – in a different way every time we attempt it. And for us, Mumbai is the best example in the series so far. Not only is the level bursting with vibrancy and life, it also changes depending on how you play, which means every playthrough could be different. Working out the best way to find and kill your targets is just one piece of this puzzle – how you go about it changes how the rest of the mission plays out. Plus, unlike some games on this list, it’s a puzzle we revisit over and over again.
02 Sea Of Thieves – The Art of the Trickster Riddle
The Tall Tales that Rare added to this pirate-’em-up earlier this year as part of the AnniversaryUpdate have given players some more much-requested backstory to exp-LORE (sorry). But they also challenge you to solve new riddles that take you across the seas in search of treasure, adventure and Gamerscore. All of the riddles are good fun, but we’re big fans of the Art Of The Trickster – and not just because Salty The Parrot is the one to give it to you. On Plunder Island you’ll need to move some skeletons into specific positions in order to uncover a spyglass. There’s more to this one after you’ve gathered your first treasure, but we won’t ruin it for you – just be prepared for a fight.
01 Portal 2 – Chapter 7-5
Let’s face it, Portal2 is probably the best puzzle game ever made. But which level is the best? We’ve gone for Chapter 7-5 simply because it involves a lot of air and some of the most mind-bending gel placement in the game. Once you’ve propelled yourself to the top of an enormous room, you’ll need to create a gel chain reaction that can help you skid, bounce and portal your way into a vent area. After that, the right portal placement will spray gel all over every wall in front of you, allowing you to reach even greater heights. And just when you think you’ve literally peaked, one final leap will help you rise for one last time. In a game that’s all about escalation, this level just doesn’t stop.