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Best Brain Training Games: Riddles, Brain Teasers, Puzzles, and More

Exercise your brain and sharpen your mind (the fun way!) with these 13 types of brain training games.

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Puzzle of various brain lobesDavid Malan/Getty Images

Brain games

Brain training games are games that allow players to complete tasks that practice specific cognitive skills that exercise their memory, attention span, logic, and fast thinking. Brain training activities can range from puzzles, video games, and board games, and they all come in varying degrees of difficulty. Despite being fun to play, each of these games has some added benefits for your brain, too—from helping to develop your problem-solving and reasoning skills to improving your eye for detail and abstract thinking abilities.

Research shows that brain training games have been proven to make a “major impact on cognitive function.” As you play brain games that involve critical thinking, logic, and creativity, your brain is adapting and rewiring itself to improve its performance. Or, if you play a game that tests your ability to remember visual patterns, it can enhance your brain’s ability to spot patterns. Likewise, memory-boosting games can help with recall and word or number puzzles can compel your brain to uncover hidden solutions—all of which, over time, can help improve cognitive functions and keep your brain “young.”

There are endless free brain games on the internet that you can play to give your brain a workout. Want to experience that feel-good moment when you finally figure out the missing piece to a tricky brain puzzle or when you finally crack a tough riddle? Just check out our giant collection of the best brain training games, puzzles, and problems below for some awesome brain activities that you can do either by yourself or with a group of friends.

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In 1990, a person is 15 years old. In 1995, that same person is 10 years old. How can this be?rd.com, Getty Images (2)

Brain teasers

To put it simply, a brain teaser is a type of puzzle or brain game, often involving lateral thinking. That means to solve it, you’ll have to use a creative, less straightforward thought process and the solution won’t be right in front of you. There are varying difficulty levels for brain teasers, but their main objective is to make you think more critically. Solving these games boosts brain power, keeps your memory strong, and keeps everyone entertained. Once you’re done with these, take a stab at solving these free printable brain teasers.

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I speak without a mouth and hear without ears. I have no body, but I come alive with wind. What am I? Getty Images, rd.com

Riddles

There are different forms of riddles, which are a statement, question, or phrase having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved.

  • Challenging riddles are serious brain training exercises that test your ability to solve hard problems within a short time span.

  • The best riddles for kids are geared toward children and use age-appropriate questions to test their brain function.
  • “What am I?” riddles put your smarts to the test with tricky riddles that usually illustrate one sentence or phrase that you have to guess what it belongs to.

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Four blue cars lay face downFraser Simpson

Logic puzzles

Logic puzzles come in many forms—matrix logic puzzles, mystery story riddles with clues, and even well-known visual games like Sudoku and crosswords are all examples. Logic puzzles challenge your brain by presenting a series of clues, and it’s the player’s job to determine the solution, which is why this type of thinking can improve your problem-solving, critical thinking, and reasoning skills.

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Impossible cube with impossible staircaseJorg Greuel/Getty Images

Visual brain teasers

There are many different types of visual brain teasers out there, but they are all a type of puzzle that involves visual thinking in order to be solved. Players are usually presented with a picture that has patterns that they need to identify or specific objects they need to spot. The brain benefits of visual puzzles can vary depending on what kind you do, but many encourage creativity and abstract thinking—and they all work your problem-solving skills.

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Illustration of six numbered snowboards in snow.BrainSnack

Which One Doesn’t Belong?

“Which one doesn’t belong” is another type of visual puzzle. In this series of puzzles, all of the objects look similar with a few minor differences—but it’s your job to figure out which one doesn’t belong with the rest. These puzzles are good for “warming up” your brain to practice problem-solving skills and honing your attention to detail, since you have to zero in to spot the odd one out.

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Find The Differences in the pansiesrd.com, Getty Images

Can you spot the difference?

You’ve probably played a “spot the difference” game before, where you compare two nearly identical images and look for subtle differences between the two. The instructions will tell you how many differences you need to spot and circle—which, according to studies, activates your right posterior parietal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for how a person directs their attention, their spatial perception, and their visuomotor control.

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Spot The Chick Amongst The Daffodils Courtesy Feel Good Contacts CopyCourtesy Feel Good Contacts

Find the hidden objects

“Find the hidden objects” puzzles test your ability to find something “unique” within the picture. The hidden object is often simple, maybe a dog, a cat, or a bunny rabbit. However, throwing in a series of confusing shapes, colors, and other objects that look really darn similar to what you’re looking for makes for some tricky visual brain teasers. Check out these free brain games in the link below, and time yourself to test how quickly your brain is able to find the hidden objects.

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Sudoku puzzleMind Stretchers

Sudoku puzzles

Sudoku puzzles are solved with logic and don’t require you to have any math skills aside from knowledge of simple counting. There are different levels, from easy to hard, depending on your skill level and experience with the game. To play, you must fill the numbers 1-9 in each row, each column, and each mini box, without any duplicates—it’s trickier than it sounds! These free brain games test your reasoning and deduction skills since you must use process of elimination to complete each puzzle.

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Rebus puzzlerd.com

Rebus puzzles

Rebus puzzles, also known as word picture puzzles or picture riddles, use images and/or words to convey a phrase or message, typically a common idiom or expression. Beyond testing your abstract thinking abilities, rebus puzzles can improve your critical thinking, language, and logic skills.

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Wordsearch CropMind Stretchers

Word searches

In word searches, all the words are hidden vertically, horizontally, or diagonally—in either direction. It is up to you to scan through the rows and see if you can find complete words that are hidden in a scramble of letters. Word searches, in addition to boosting your brain function, problem-solving skills, and spelling, are a great way for people of all learning abilities to learn new words, increase their vocabulary, and sharpen their pattern-spotting abilities.

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2x1+6x6=48rd.com

Math puzzles

Math puzzles come in many varieties. Some more straightforward number puzzles require calculations to find the solution. Others are more like logic puzzles and challenge you to look for a pattern, and others present the puzzle through pictures. They test your brain and critical thinking skills while also teaching you some math principles that you can use in everyday life.

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Old Residential building in Hong Kong that looks like a motherboardRatnakorn Piyasirisorost/Getty Images

Optical illusions

Optical illusions are pictures that turn into something else when you squint, or images that have two meanings at once. Optical illusions train your brain to think deeper than what meets the eye. These visual puzzles can give you a good mental workout that can, in turn, help you think more efficiently and solve problems more easily.

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Catan board gamevia amazon.com

Board games

Board games are the traditional pieces of entertainment for “game night.” There are the classic board games, like chess or checkers, and online board games. Not only do these board games test your brain’s decision-making skills, they also illustrate how your critical thinking and planning skills compare to your peers’. Board games stimulate brain areas that are responsible for memory formation and complex thought processes for all ages.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Maryn Liles
Maryn is a seasoned lifestyle writer who's always on the lookout for what's new and next. When she's not writing, you can find her working on her latest home decor DIY project, out for a hike or dancing around the house to 80s jams.

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