The mind-bending puzzle games of 2023 that messed with our heads

Featuring baffling bugs, robot riddles, and perplexing perspectives!

After you’ve wrapped up formal education, video games are one of the few places left to source a steady supply of logical problems with predetermined solutions you can reach for an ultimately meaningless god star. Well, games and cryptic crossword puzzles, and only true sickos dare venture into those dark and gridded lands.

Fortunately for the enigma-obsessed of us, 2023 packed plenty of puzzle games for our minds to pick at. Deciphering languages, linking lasers, rewriting reality through perspective – our brains have tackled a lot this year. So in honor of all the work those now-exhausted gray cells have put in, here are the best and most boggling puzzles games of 2023.

Cocoon

Jokes based on the movie Inception are over a decade out of date at this point, so unfortunately we’re going to have to work a bit harder to explain the genius of Cocoon. This is a puzzle game about worlds within worlds. The small beetle protagonist can carry entire levels as orbs on its back. Each orb grants a power while equipped, but you can also dive inside them to progress through the separate but intrinsically linked land within. 

Figuring out how these transportable worlds and their powers link together leads to brilliant moments of rediscovery as you reassess what’s possible with the tools at your disposal. Cocoon has already been nominated for multiple end-of-year awards, so if you’re a puzzle lover, make sure to give it a go.

The Talos Principle 2

mind-bending puzzle games 2023 the talos principle 2
 
© Croteam

A lot of games have attempted to ape Portal’s style. 2014’s The Talos Principle was one of the few to not just pull it off but create something both playfully and thoughtfully distinct. This year’s sequel follows the same general format, pairing structured 3D puzzles featuring boxes, switches, lasers, and more with genuinely interesting philosophical musings. But it does so in a far grander package. Both the story and the worlds themselves have been noticeably expanded.

The early and core puzzles are satisfying but don’t present too much of a challenge. The later and optional tests in each area, however, are likely to leave you ruminating possibilities for sizable chunks of time. Until, eventually, your neurons forge a new pathway and the solution presents itself. If you’re after 3D puzzles presented with impressive visuals and voice acting, The Talos Principle 2 is a brilliant buy. Though we’d still recommend picking up the original first if you haven’t already.

(Pondering puzzles is a best accompanied by music. Grab a high-end HyperX headset so you can enjoy those soundtracks and in-game effects to their fullest!)

Chants of Sennaar

In Chants of Sennar your aim is to scale the Tower of Babel. A task easier said than done, though that really depends in which language you’re trying to say it. You see, the inhabitants on each floor of this striking spire speak different languages. Languages you don’t know. Or at least, not yet. 

By inferring from actions and context, you’ll begin to piece together meanings for the logographic snippets of conversation. Through these learnings, you can then find ways to progress further, expanding your knowledge and your access as one. Just as you feel you’re in control, the next floor presents a new language to tangle with.

Viewfinder

A screen of a black-and-white photo creating a bridge between two ledges - Viewfinder best puzzle games 2023
 
© Sad Owl Studios

Viewfinder's core concept is brilliantly simple. What if you could take a 2D image and imprint it into the 3D world based on your perspective? Actually doing it though? It feels brilliant every single time. Puzzles start simple, using pre-printed photos to bridge the gap between two disconnected platforms. But before long you're let loose with your own camera, hunting down angles to create new pathways forward or copy key items. 

Viewfinder's puzzles can't match up to the other games on this list, but it reinvents the core concept in multiple entertaining ways over its short runtime. Sometimes this includes completely reworking the art style of a level, even multiple times in a row! If you want a short puzzle game that's feels more like a playbox made to put a smile on your face, then don't hesitate to push the button and snap up Viewfinder.

Humanity

Do you miss Lemmings? We miss Lemmings. So too did the creators of Humanity, a puzzle game in which you play a Shiba Inu in charge of guiding a mob of people to an end point for no discernible reason. Laying down directional instructions will help the marching masses progress through each abstract environment.

Level layouts start in a simple fashion, but you’ll soon be coping with jumps, fans, and even full on boss fights. Careful planning helps, but sometimes you’ll need to dash through levels to redirect on the fly when things go awry or conditions change. Failure is part of the process. You can restart levels while maintaining your current commands, making it easy to iterate upon a broken approach. There’s even a VR mode which transforms each level into a miniature display for you to peer at from all angles.


If you’re exhausted by all these enigmas then we have some good news: HyperX store doesn’t have any tricks: just great gaming gear at good prices. Head to the store to secure all the best gaming gear to enjoy these puzzlers and all the new ones 2024 has to offer. Want more end of the year holiday themed action? Check out these 12 games of Christmas you can enjoy each day after the 2023's grand present-unwrapping event!

Associate Editor

Henry Stenhouse serves an eternal punishment as the Associate Editor of AllGamers. He spent his younger life studying the laws of physics, even going so far as to complete a PhD in the subject before video games stole his soul. Confess your love of Super Smash Bros. via email at henry@moonrock.biz, or catch him on Twitter.

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