From the very beginning, Nintendo handhelds have been a powerhouse in the puzzle genre, championing games that might have been lost in the bombastic, graphics-obsessed arena of home consoles. Switch’s bridging of the portable/home console divide means it can uphold that proud puzzling tradition while also giving on-the-go gamers a chance to dive deeper than ever before into the ever-addictive world of puzzlers.
Of course, the avalanche of software on Switch can make it tough to sort the good’uns from the not-so-good’uns. Fear not – we’ve donned our thinking caps and waded through the eShop to dig out an assortment of puzzlers of all shapes and sizes which will set you on the right track. Until the incredible Pocket Card Jockey bolts onto Switch from 3DS, we’ll just have to ‘make do’ with this little lot.
So, without further ado, we present - in no particular order - our selection of the best puzzle games on Switch...
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What happens when you throw arguably the two most popular falling block puzzle games in a blender? It’s a miracle that the result wasn’t a horrible, horrible mess, but Puyo Puyo Tetris mixes the two so confidently that it doesn’t occur to you how catastrophic this cocktail could have been. Sonic Team respects the fundamentals of each series and offers a rock-solid game of both, but isn’t afraid to have fun stirring them together. There’s a bevy of multiplayer options for up for four people, and everything is presented with a vigour and verve which belies the decades-long history behind both puzzle genre titans.
The Story mode is… well, it’s a bit nuts, but it’s there if you want it (we were glad for the skip button). More importantly, the wealth of modes available means aficionados of either series have more than enough to occupy themselves with. In fact, it’s possible to pretty-much ignore your least favourite, but that would be a great shame; this is a glorious firework of a crossover, uniting puzzle fans of all creeds and it shines very brightly on Switch.
A real winner if your melon isn’t irreparably twisted by code, 7 Billion Humans squeezes onto the list thanks to its heady mix of puzzling and Tomorrow Corps’ trademark humour. A direct sequel to Human Resource Machine, it has you programming worker drones to solve increasingly complex number-based admin tasks. It can be pretty impenetrable if you’re unwilling (or unable) to buckle down and process what it’s asking of you. The developers’ next project promises to be a ‘road trip adventure’, and after two esoteric puzzlers we’ve got our fingers crossed that it’ll be a real treat for a wider audience, but the dopamine spurt here when you finally crack a code is really something, and we’d recommend anyone with the head for it give this a try.
Six years in the making, Gorogoa is utterly unique and tough to describe. It requires you to zoom in and out of scenes to make connections between overlapping tableaus displayed in four static windows. Its inked, storybook presentation sees you aligning seemingly unrelated landscapes and architecture, making intuitive mental jumps as you guide a young boy through its pages. A brief, beautiful game that is best experienced unspoiled and in one sitting, do yourself a favour and tap that eShop icon – you won’t regret it.
Originally released on Wii back in 2010, Art of Balance has popped up in some form on every Nintendo console since, and we’re not tired of it yet. It has you fighting that most persistent of foes, gravity, by stacking shapes in such a manner that they don’t topple into a bowl of water. Your construction only needs to survive three seconds without falling, but that can be tough when the shapes become more cumbersome. With a variety of modes, its zen-like setting and chillout soundtrack are the perfect accompaniments to the hair-tearing frustration of trying to balance a triangle on a circle.
Toki Tori has you guiding the titular chick to collect his half-hatched pals as they sit around five worlds of maze-like levels. Starting out on the humble Game Boy Color, Two Tribes’ waddle-puzzler has seen multiple rereleases over the years, each with a fresh lick of paint and quality-of-life improvements, and it’s never looked better than on Switch. The rewind feature is also a godsend – one wrong move or misused power-up can make collecting those hatchlings impossible. If you can’t get enough of cute chicks waddling around punishing puzzle platforms, the sequel is also well worth investigating.
You’ve got to work quite hard to mess up Picross, so whatever version you have handy is sure to be fun. Much like its predecessors, Picross S3 offers solid, no-frills Picross puzzling, although we’d have welcomed a frill or two; touchscreen support, for example. There’s a fine tradition of these games on Nintendo handhelds – the Picross e series alone got nine entries on 3DS – so we’re sure to see future iterations introducing some bells and whistles. In the meantime, we've chosen S3 because it's the latest and it introduces 'colour puzzles, but any of Jupiter's Switch entries will go down very nicely with a cup of tea.
Releasing towards the end of 2017, this highly polished presentation of a popular early ‘90s arcade game in Japan got buried as Switch releases began piling up. Screenshots show what looks like a Puyo Puyo clone; Soldam is anything but. 2x2 blocks of primary-coloured fruit fall into a well and matching fruit at the far ends of the lines (vertical, horizontal or diagonal) link together, transforming everything in between to their colour and causing them to vanish if you change an entire line. It’s confusing and counter-intuitive for anyone who’s spent hundreds of hours with Tetris or Puyo Puyo, but its unique take on the falling-block genre is equally addictive. With a whole bunch of modes and some cursory online multiplayer, this is a gem that shouldn’t remain hidden at the bottom of the eShop.
When Kyle Gabler teamed up with Allan Blomquist and Kyle Gray, their first release served as notice that Tomorrow Corporation’s output wouldn’t be your average puzzle games. Little Inferno has you buying objects from an extensive catalogue, combining them in your Tomorrow Corp-branded ‘Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace’ and seeing what happens when they go up in smoke. Burning stuff produces coins enabling you to buy more stuff and experiment with new combinations to unlock more from the catalogue. Mining the same vein of dark satire as Gabler’s previous game, World of Goo, this pyrotechnic sandbox is oddly relaxing and a good remedy after some of the more gruelling puzzlers on our list.
With a wealth of newer titles to choose from, it would be easy to overlook the older gems that have found a home on Switch. Hamster’s ACA Neo Geo releases have been a regular fixture on the eShop from the start and we’ve seen some cracking puzzlers amongst the shmups and beat 'em ups; Data East’s Magical Drop III is a shining example. You control a jester at the bottom of the screen who grabs matching balloons from the descending columns and deposits them together in order to clear them. A simple objective, catchy tunes and a fun cast of characters make this one of the most addictive retro puzzlers on the console (Puzzle Bobble – or Bust-a-Move, depending on your region – is another classic you should avail yourself of).
Battling across a series of conveyor belts loaded with sushi, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido tasks you with chaining together and stacking matching plates before lobbing them at your rival; the more expensive the plate, the more damage it deals. Sounds simple enough, though a complex system of transformative abilities and sprites multiply the strategies available as you fight. While it’s possible to play on the TV, the touchscreen makes things much easier, so this vibrant, sushi-centric brawler is best suited to portable play.