Mobile gaming apps have come a long way in the last few years, and that’s probably a bit of an understatement. The rise of Apple Arcade has meant that folks are actively choosing to pay for and play quality mobile games. It’s a far cry from the days of “this is a game I have to play while on the toilet.” Though I’m sure those still exist. What we love most about the developing platform is that there are dozens of game genres available for our phones: shooters, RPGs, puzzle games, etc. But, if we’re talking about simple, brainless entertainment and time-passers, brain training games and puzzle apps have emerged as one of the most wildly popular mobile game genres on the planet.
We love brain training games because they aren’t just fun, they condition our brains to be better and sharper. Memory retention, abstraction, divided attention, word memory — a good brain game has it all. And if you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, we think it’s about time you did. Here are 10 of the best mobile brain games, puzzle apps, and concentration games out there.
Can Games Make You Smarter?
Playing games can make you smarter in a number of ways. For example, strategy games like chess can improve problem-solving skills and critical thinking, while memory and attention-based games can improve memory and attention. Learning games, such as those that teach coding or math, can help to improve specific skills and knowledge.
And you don’t have to sit down in front of a board with a group of people to get the benefits. Mobile games can be just as good for brain health if they’re designed to challenge cognitive skills. Of course, not all mobile games are created equal in terms of their cognitive benefits (no, that first person shooter isn’t going to help with memory loss).
Mobile games will never replace other activities known to benefit brain health, like regular exercise, social interaction, and stimulating leisure activities. But if you have some idle time to kill, pulling one of these games up is a great way to pass the time while sharpening your critical thinking skills.
Peak has a friendly user interface with slick and quirky design. The 40-plus unique games featured here aren’t just exceptionally well designed, but are actually fun. Each brain game on Peak was developed by a team of neuroscientists and game developers in order to seamlessly bring the world of gaming and brain training together. And they’ve executed this strategy perfectly. You’ll find concentration games to help with your focus, puzzle games to improve your memory, and more. Peak even offers a “personal trainer” that will help users find the right workout at the right time. Additionally, Peak keeps track of progress and provides insights to help players better understand where they excel and where they need to improve.iOS Android
Puzzle games can help improve problem-solving and decision making skills, and sudoku is one of the most beloved puzzle games around. Designed by beloved game developed Zach Gage, Good Sudoku is a love letter to the puzzle game genre. It teaches you both the basics and the advanced techniques of the game of sudoku. The clean app design, simple premise, and effective gameplay come together for what will easily be one of your most played games. iOS
Searching for a brain training game that looks spectacular? Well, Blackbox is for you. This puzzle app earned an Apple Design Award thanks to its unique gameplay and minimalist aesthetic. Face off against deceptively simple brain teasers and puzzles in the form of dozens of minigames. The design is matched by the fact that this app is one of the best brain games available to download on your iPhone. iOS
If you want a very targeted brain game, Vocabulary Builder is a simple, straightforward app designed to boost your personal word count. In all honesty, it’s a relatively basic app. But it’s effective for helping you learn new words and find synonyms for words you already know. Will this win any high-end app design words? Probably not. It’s effectively an app with gamified flash cards. But sometimes that’s exactly what you want. Plus it’s perfect for students studying for specific tests like the GRE, SAT, and more. iOS Android
Personalized brain training and daily game workouts make Elevate one of the top contenders among games that can make you smarter. Elevate also offers a convenient workout calendar to help you track your progress and detailed performance tracking. Plus, you’ll find over 30 cognitive and concentration games that are fun and quick enough to play on a lunch break or while waiting for the train, but relevant enough to help you track and make actual progress. The game’s adaptive difficulty progression means that as players get sharper, the game becomes more difficult and keeps things interesting. iOS Android
Luminosity is one of the most popular brain training games out there, and there are some pretty good reasons for the high distinction. Like Elevate, Luminosity’s stable of more than 25 games adapts to your individual performance, so there’s a custom-tailored brain training experience for every user. The games are incorporated into a daily training regimen for people on all different types of schedules, meaning that if you stick with their program, you’ll get better. The Luminosity team also works with 40-plus university researchers all over the world to take classic cognitive and neuropsychological tasks, then turn them into fun new games for everyone. iOS Android
Monument Valley might not look like most of the brain games on this list. But, the relaxing soundtrack, beautiful design, and playful gameplay make this a simple yet effective puzzle game that doubles as a meditation app. Play through several stunningly illustrated levels guiding a silent princess through M.C. Escher-esque architecture. Unlike memorization or concentration games, Monument Valley asks you to take a creative approach to puzzles. The 2014 indie mobile game even spawned a sequel and it still remains one of the most beautiful games you can download on an iPhone. iOS Android
Another well-designed brain game, Impulse offers many of the same features as Elevate, Peak, or other such brain training apps. There’s a strong emphasis on memory games and problem-solving with Impulse, so if you’re looking for specific puzzles or exercises, this might be the app for you. Despite all of the apparent paywalls, Impulse is free to use, but a premium account unlocks significantly more features, puzzles, and progress tracking capabilities. iOS
Everyone’s favorite competitive spelling game is available as a mobile app. Sure, it isn’t billed as a brain training game, but if you want to improve your vocabulary, test your concentration, and have some fun while doing it, then this is the app for you. There’s a lot of fluff here (I don’t remember “rewards” or “side quests” when I was playing Scrabble with my grandparents), But the core game is still a ton of fun. Play against real-life friends, strangers on the internet, or the computer. iOS Android
GEIST combines the best parts of a brain game with a proper meditation app, keeping your mind calm, sharp, and focused. Play through memory and concentration games to improve your brain connectivity. Or, you can use GEIST as a way to relieve stress with simple meditation and mindfulness exercises. As with most of the apps on this list, GEIST will keep track of your performance and offer updates on your progress. The base app is free but opting for GEIST premium offers personalized workouts with brain training games tailored to your personality. iOS