14 Visual Puzzles and Brainteasers That Will Leave You Stumped

Updated: Jun. 14, 2024

Try your hand at these tricky visual puzzles and give your brain a boost!

No, a visual puzzle isn’t just another fancy word for a jigsaw puzzle—though that is one type. The concept of visual puzzles is much broader than that.

This guide will introduce you to 14 different types of visual puzzles, explaining what they are, how to solve them and why they’re good for your brain. Read on to learn more about visual brainteasers, then click on one of the links below to put your visual puzzle skills to the test.

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What are visual puzzles?

A visual puzzle, also called a visual brainteaser, is any logic or reasoning problem that is expressed and solved using drawings and/or images. However, even though they all have the visual component in common, not all visual puzzles work the same way. For example, a spot the difference game is one type of visual puzzle and a find the hidden object game is another type. They both require the use of images, but you go about solving them using different methods. Check out this expert jigsaw puzzle strategy to solve it in record time.

Are visual puzzles good for your brain?

If challenging your mind with visual brainteasers and puzzles sounds like your idea of fun, then you’re in luck—doing visual puzzles is a great way to sharpen your logic and reasoning skills. According to a study published in the journal IRSN Neurology, solving visual puzzles requires “nonverbal reasoning and the ability to analyze and synthesize abstract visual stimuli.” By doing visual brainteasers like the ones in this list, you’re sharpening those skills. Think of it as a workout for your brain.

1. Math puzzles

Math puzzleBrainsnack

Don’t read the word “math” and panic—these are way more fun than your average math problems, since they’re visually focused. To play, you’ll simply need to read the image and turn it into a math problem. Each math puzzle looks different, and some might require addition or subtraction, while others require multiplication, patterns, algebra and more. The answer here is 2B (i.e. you need two yellow “B” balls to balance out the blue “D” ball).

Brain benefits: Just like normal math, these visual math puzzles test your critical thinking and reasoning skills—as well as your math abilities.

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2. Find the hidden object puzzles

Find The Hidden Objects Among The Rain, rainboots, umbrellas, storm clouds, and rainbowsCera Propper/rd.com

You’ll have to look closely at these find the hidden object puzzles! To play, you’ll be given a drawing that initially appears to be a normal-looking scene. But if you look closely, there are actually a bunch of random things (or just one) subtly hidden within the drawing that don’t belong there. You’ll be given a list of those hidden items, and it’ll be your job to hunt through the main drawing and find all of the hidden objects within it. Here, see if you can spot one snail, three worms, two bees, one mushroom and a sprout with only one leaf.

Brain benefits: Your attention to detail will be tested with this visual puzzle—and probably your patience too. Our brains naturally try to fill in the gaps, so to speak (the same way you can read what a misspelled word is supposed to say), so completing this type of visual brainteaser requires you to slow down and look at the items individually, rather than as a whole, to spot the hidden objects.

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3. Rebus puzzles

Rebus Puzzles that Are Almost Impossible To SolveRD.COM

Rebus puzzles are visual brainteasers based on common words or phrases, and your job is to figure out that word or phrase. You’ll do so by looking at the puzzle, which is often a combination of words, numbers and symbols arranged in such a way that they have a deeper meaning. If you deciphered that the above image means “travel overseas,” good job!

Brain benefits: Rebus puzzles challenge both the left and right areas of your brain by combining language skills with critical thinking and logic skills, plus a dash of creativity. That’s why they’re so much fun (and so tricky!) to solve.

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4. Triangle puzzles

How Many Triangles Do You See In This Puzzle FtRD.com

This triangle puzzle is all about seeing triangles … inside triangles … inside other triangles. Your goal is to see how many triangles you can count within this puzzle. The secret: Pay attention to how each smaller triangle is also part of a larger triangle, and how that larger triangle is part of an even larger one, and so on. Did you count 24?

Brain benefits: With this visual brain challenge, you’re training your noggin to see parts of a whole more clearly. It also helps you think more spatially, since you have to separate each triangle from the rest in your mind in order to count it.

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5. Sudoku puzzles


Sudoku puzzles consist of a grid of squares with nine columns and nine rows. Your goal is to have the numbers 1 through 9 in every column, in every row, and in every smaller box of nine (outlined by the bolder lines) without any duplicates. The key is to use process of elimination to figure out where each of the missing numbers can or can’t go—and when you find a box that has only one possible answer, write it in! Then, keep looking for boxes where only one answer is possible until you can complete the grid.

Brain benefits: Since sudoku puzzles are completed using a strategic process of elimination, they give your logic, reasoning and deduction skills a workout. Studies even say they can keep your brain young for longer! Sudoku puzzles aren’t easy, but with a little practice and some helpful sudoku tips, you’re sure to become an expert.

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6. Spot the difference puzzles

Spot The Difference 20 Gettyimages 1928387283RD.com, Getty Images

Spot the difference brainteasers are classic childhood games, so you’re probably already familiar with how this one works: Two nearly identical images are placed side by side, and your job is to spot the small, subtle differences between the two images. For example, maybe a dog’s spots are black in the first image, but brown in the second. (Or in this case, flower petals may be floating in different directions.)

Brain benefits: This fun brain game helps you hone your attention to detail, since you have to zero in on all the minute details in order to spot the differences between the two images which, at first glance, probably look identical.

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7. Square puzzles

14 Visual Brain Teasers And Puzzles That Will Leave You Stumped How Many Squares Do You See In This Puzzle GraphicRD.COM

Just like the triangle puzzle above, this visual brainteaser is all about seeing shapes inside other shapes inside other shapes—it just uses squares instead of triangles. Your goal is to count how many squares in total you can see in the image. If you didn’t count 40, go back and try again.

Brain benefits: You’ll have to challenge your brain to think spatially and spot how individual parts make up a whole in order to solve this puzzle.

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8. What doesn’t belong?

Illustration of numbered bowling balls and pins on blue backgroundBrainsnack

This visual brainteaser is all about finding the one element in an image that isn’t the same as the others. The problem: Finding the odd man out is not always obvious! For example, can you spot which bowling ball doesn’t belong in the above image? (Hint: Look at the size of the finger holes on each bowling ball.) That’s right, No. 4 has two thumb-sized holes, while the others only have one—and that is why it doesn’t belong.

Brain benefits: Just like visual puzzles that have you spot the difference or find a hidden image, these puzzles can help sharpen your attention to detail while encouraging you to think more critically about what you see.

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9. Droodles

Spider doing handstandCourtesy Tallfellow Press

In the 1950s, humor writer Roger Price became famous for creating a new type of visual puzzle called Droodles. These Droodles were cartoon-y line drawings of abstract images, and readers were asked to decipher the drawings’ intentionally absurd and LOL-worthy meanings, which Price would include beneath the drawing. Here, the question is what’s sticking up from the ground? One of many answers could be a spider doing a handstand.

Brain benefits: This visual brainteaser exercises your abstract thinking skills and creativity—and in truth, there’s no real right or wrong answer. It’s all about training your mind to see things in a different light, which can benefit your problem-solving skills.

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10. Movie puzzles

Romantic Movie Moments together to make one larger imageCourtesy FloraQueen.com

A movie puzzle is a type of visual puzzle that has a series of images or illustrations depicting different famous movie scenes, and you have to name the movie title for each one based on the image alone.

Brain benefits: You might think the only benefit of a movie puzzle is showing off your pop culture IQ, but the truth is, these visual brainteasers help with memory and recall too.

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11. Find the cat

find the cat among the bats hidden object puzzleCourtesy Gergely Dudás

Don’t be fooled! These aren’t all bats in this drawing. There’s one cat hidden among them, but you’ll have to look closely to spot it—just like you would hunt through a spot the difference puzzle or a find the hidden image puzzle.

Brain benefits: If you want to improve your attention to detail, this visual puzzle can help, since you’ll need eagle eyes to spot the cat among these look-alike bats.

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12. Word puzzles

15 Word Puzzles That Will Leave You Stumped 14qRD.com, Brain Games

Visual word puzzles come in all different styles—from fill-in-the-blank word puzzles to word-decoding puzzles and finding words within other words. The spatial arrangement of these words and letters is integral to how the puzzle must be solved, which is why these are considered visual brainteasers, even though they’re word-based. Only one of the rows above is an anagram of a five-letter English word. Do you know which one it is? (Answer: Build)

Brain benefits: Aside from giving your linguistic abilities a workout, visual word puzzles also engage your creative thinking and problem-solving muscles. Like the example above, some of them even challenge your progressive thinking skills, since each subsequent choice hinges on the one before it.

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13. Mazes

CuriousMazes-pp152Courtesy Dr. Julie E. Bounford

Mazes are one of the most common types of visual puzzles out there, and many of us have been doing them since we were kids. The goal is to get from the starting point to the finish line without running into any dead ends. Some puzzles are simple, but other puzzles, like the one shown above, can be tricky to complete!

Brain benefits: You might not think a simple maze would challenge your brain in so many ways, but it does. Mazes test your spatial awareness, your decision-making skills and even your memory.

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14. Word searches

Mammals Word searchMind Stretchers

Word search puzzles are grids of seemingly disjointed letters that have a series of words hidden within them. To find and circle these hidden words, you might have to read top to bottom (or bottom to top), left to right (or right to left), or even diagonally. You’ll be given a list of words to find within the word search, and it’ll be your job to scour the grid of letters to find and circle the hidden words.

Brain benefits: In addition to improving our brain’s problem-solving skills and ability to search for and recognize patterns, studies show that doing word searches can also help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

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Reader’s Digest is known for our humor and brain games, including quizzes, puzzles, riddles, word games, trivia, math, pattern and logic puzzles, guessing games, crosswords, rebus, hidden objects and spot-the-difference challenges. We’ve earned prestigious ASME awards for our entertainment content and have produced dozens of brain-teaser books, including Word Searches, Word Power, Use Your Words, Fun Puzzles and Brain Ticklers, Mind Stretchers, Ultimate Christmas Puzzles and more. Our 10 published volumes of Mind Stretchers were edited by Allen D. Bragdon, founder of The Brainwaves Center and editor of Games magazine. Read more about our team, our contributors and our editorial policies.