Tease your brain with the best puzzle games for PlayStation 4

Puzzle games are a great way to enjoy yourself and flex your brain at the same time. PlayStation 4 might not have tons of puzzle options, but it makes up for it with quality games. You can help a mouse on a grand adventure, explore an island covered in puzzles, and even delve into a military complex filled with monochrome dangers. Out of all the options available The Witness offers over 400 puzzles in a beautiful setting that will keep you thinking as you play. 

Best Overall: The Witness

Before you even begin, you’ll fall in love with The Witness. It’s a beautiful game with over 400 different puzzles to solve. Each frame is packed with vibrant colors and the island includes plenty to see and do. While the graphics aren’t super realistic, they are a visual feast with bright vivid greens and rich oranges for the trees, true blues for the water and the sky, and deep browns for the earth and mountains. It lends a fantastical air to the game and makes it come alive even when textures aren’t super smooth during play. 

The gameplay in The Witness seems easy at first. Inside of a beautifully rendered world there are puzzles: hundreds of puzzles. Each one is a 2D representation of a grid map that you solve using a variety of different methods. They start out easy; so easy, in fact, that you might get a little cocky. However, that changes fast. In many cases, you’ll run into a fairly easy puzzle that teaches you a new method for solving a far more difficult one next to it. You’ll move from puzzels that take a few minutes to complex solutions that can take the better part of an hour to work out. 

The one thing that The Witness really lacks is a cohesive narrative. This is a game about solving puzzles, and not much else past that. While this might be a turnoff for some gamers, it’s actually very refreshing. There are no random characters spouting off nonsense, just a few hidden audio files that you can play from time to time. Instead, your goal is to complete puzzles and there are plenty here to enjoy. 

Overall, The Witness delivers a top tier experience for anyone who loves brain teasers. The beautiful graphics add to the experience. The game is never capricious in how to solve something, and it teaches you new methods for completing every puzzle you come across before upping the ante with something new. 

Pros:

  • Gorgeous art style
  • Hundreds of puzzles to solve
  • You can walk away from puzzles and come back to them later 

Cons:

  • No emotional connection to the events of the game
  • Puzzles can get quite tricky in the late game

Best Overall

The Witness

One empty island, hundreds of unsolved puzzles

Explore an empty island and solve over 400 different grid based puzzles that will have you scratching your head as you search for a solution.

Best 2D: Inside

The world of Inside is painted in dark hues. Pitch black and moody gray dominate the environment with only a few pops of color here and there to give things more depth. The followup to Limbo, Inside is another 2D platforming puzzle game. In the early parts of the game, you’ll break into a military complex and things only get weirder the further into the campaign you go.  

Pared down mechanics attempt to make gameplay as simple as possible. You have one button to jump, and another to interact with the surrounding environment, along with movement through each level. Solving the puzzles you come across requires a variety of different methods. Sometimes you’ll need to move items around while others require you to take advantage of platforming to complete objectives. Inside is also the sequel to another awesome puzzle game: Limbo. Now you can snag both at the same time with an awesome double pack which gives you access to even more brain teasing puzzles to solve. 

Pros:

  • Gorgeous graphics 
  • Great physics based puzzle solving mechanics 
  • Tons of checkpoints

Cons:

  • No instructions or tutorials 
  • Campaign is only three hours long 
  • You’re going to die. A lot 

Best 2D

Inside

The perfect mix of platformer and puzzler

Comb through a mysterious military complex filled with brain teasing puzzles. If you get stuck, try your hand at Limbo, the first installment in this series and part of this excellent set.

Best Philosophical: The Talos Principle

The Talos Principle blends fun puzzle-based gameplay with a philosophical quest to figure out who you are. Dropped into the middle of ancient ruins that might be real, or might be some kind of wacky simulation, you must solve puzzles to figure it out. Complicating this is the voice of Elohim. According to him, if you solve all the puzzles you can win eternal life. 

The mechanics put an emphasis on thinking about your actions when you are trying to solve each puzzle you come across. Instead of being quick, being deliberate serves you much better as you manipulate cubes and lasers, amongst other things. The gameplay starts out easy enough, but don’t be fooled. It isn’t long before the solutions you need to complete are intricate multi-step ordeals. 

Separate from the puzzle solving aspects of gameplay are the philosophical questions and answers you come up with. It’s unclear whether you’re really a “person” and the game explores what humanity is, through a variety of different interactions. These include terminals, audio logs, emails, and even quotes from philosophers like William Blake. 

Pros:

  • Over 100 puzzles to solve
  • Wonderful graphics 

Cons:

  • Gameplay is overly easy starting out 
  • Lack of a tutorial is frustrating

Best Philosophical

The Talos Principle

Puzzling humanity

Solve puzzles, investigate your humanity, and solve the mystery of a doomed world.

Best Companion: The Last Guardian

The art style of The Last Guardian immediately transports you to a different world. Filled with light greys and greens, towering ruins and decay, it’s as magical as it is dangerous. The whole point of the game is to escape the ruins you find yourself in with the help of your bird-dog companion, Trico, and the ruins you run through are a major part of the game. You have to work out puzzles and decide which parts of the environment can be climbed on, jumped across, or destroyed in order to do that. 

There are only two real characters in this game: the boy you control and Trico, a gigantic bird-dog creature trapped inside the ruins. When you first come across Trico, he’s not in a good way and is just this side of being a ravenous beastie. However, as you play, he shifts to become your most loyal protector and friend, and without his help neither of you will ever escape the ruins. 

What The Last Guardian does well, it does really well. But there are a lot of issues that keep this game from being stellar. You never fully control Trico and this can become problematic since you need him in order to solve many puzzles. It’s supremely frustrating to know how to solve a puzzle, but cannot do so because your companion refuses to cooperate. Likewise, the camera angles are frequently terrible and you regularly get a screen that obscured by Trico’s massive feathered frame. 

Pros:

  • Great story
  • Fantastic art style
  • Trico is fantastic

Cons:

  • Camera angles are frustrating
  • Controls lack finesse
  • Puzzles are irritatingly finicky 

Best Companion

The Last Guardian

A boy and his bird-dog

Work together with Trico to escape the ruins and find a friendship you never expected along the way.

Best VR: Moss

Being a mouse doesn’t mean you aren’t brave. The story of Moss revolves around a wee little mouse named Quill. She must go on a very big adventure when her uncle is kidnapped by Sarffog, a fire breathing snake that has taken over their little world. The entire game takes place inside of a storybook and, from the opening volley to the last moment, it’s magical and the best VR puzzle game available on PlayStation VR. 

During your gameplay, you don’t play as Quill. Instead, you’re the Reader; the entire game takes place inside of a storybook. While there are some combat mechanics, the bigger part of gameplay are the puzzles you encounter along the way. These start out simple and become more difficult from there. They never quite reach the point of making you want to bang your head against the wall, but some of them require a few tries to figure out. This is especially true when you are dealing with time-based puzzles that require you to jump between platforms to finish. 

Pros:

  • Use of sign language for conversation is awesome
  • Adorable graphics
  • Fun gameplay mechanics

Cons:

  • Only four hours long
  • PSVR issues can cause motion sickness for some players

Best VR

Moss

Meet Quill

Become the reader in a game that is also a storybook as you bring Quill on an epic mouse-sized adventure.

Best Co-op: Unravel 2

Unravel took the usual tact of a physics based platformer and tweaked it by putting you in charge of a bundle of yarn. Yarny was a red bundle that could run, jump, swing and rappel through each level. Now with Unravel 2, a second Yarny joins the shenanigans in blue, or any of the other colors available. While the second game can be played all by yourself, it’s far superior with a friend. That’s because Unravel 2 delivers a co-op experience that require more than just two bodies running side by side across the screen. 

There are no new aspects of gameplay, but the game itself has been fine tuned for two players. The puzzles you run into require true cooperation both on and off screen. Off screen you have to communicate with your partner since precise timing is needed to complete puzzles. If you get stumped, there is a robust hint system that will help you out, but trial and error is the best way to figure out what comes next. On screen, this translates to having one player hold yarn while the other rappels, swings, builds bridges, and more. 

The world of Unravel also comes alive with great graphics. Yarny is a tiny little creature which means the perspective you play from is super zoomed in. You’ll often see normal items blown up to giant sizes in perspective. Since Yarny is barely taller than blades of grass, this means finding random items on the ground like sporks, or climbing up sticks that would barely be as tall as a person’s shoe. Best of all, of you can get both the original Unravel and Unravel 2 in a double pack letting you play through all the best forced perspective puzzles. 

Pros:

  • Fun gameplay mechanics
  • Awesome graphics
  • Cooperation is key to beating levels 

Cons:

  • Trial and error method of solving puzzles can feel monotonous
  • Story doesn’t feel particularly compelling 

Best Co-Op

Unravel 2

Better with friends

Run, jump, swing and rappel through a giant world as Yarny. Do it with friends and you get a hilarious cooperative experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Bottom line

Every puzzle game that made our list has its own version of great brain teasers to play through. Many of these options are a few years old, but that just means they’re more affordable to play, and while they all offer an excellent experience, the best of the best is definitely The Witness.

The Witness brings an empty island filled with puzzles to life, thanks in part to excellent graphics that make your screen drip with color and detail. When you add over 400 different puzzles that run the gamut from super simple to frustratingly difficult, it’s easy to see what makes it the best puzzle game available on PlayStation 4. 

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Jen Karner has been an avid gamer for over twenty years. She’s spent hours banging her head against the wall trying to solve puzzles, but always ends up coming back for more.

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