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The 5 Game-Changing Indie Titles for Puzzle Gurus

Tetris

The 5 Game-Changing Indie Titles for Puzzle Gurus

Key Points

  • Tetris popularized and revolutionized the puzzle genre of video games.
  • Unpacking is a peaceful and therapeutic puzzle game that revolves around unpacking belongings from boxes.
  • Viewfinder is a puzzle game that allows players to manipulate the environment using Polaroid pictures.
  • Superliminal is a first-person puzzle game that challenges players’ understanding of perspective and optical illusions.
  • Antichamber is a unique puzzle game that features impossible objects and provides inspirational messages throughout.
  • Shadows of Doubt is an open-world detective game with procedurally-generated cases and near-endless replayability.

In 1985, the world saw the release of Tetris. This block-falling indie puzzle game developed by Alexey Pajitnov is known around the world, even by those who don’t play video games. While not the first puzzle game, Tetris is notable for popularizing and revolutionizing the genre.

Nearly 40 years later, the puzzle genre of video games is still going strong. Developers of all sizes attempt their takes on the genre to varying degrees of success and notoriety. While puzzle games generally don’t sell the amount of copies that games like Call of Duty do, they are still a vital and refreshing part of the gaming industry.

This article showcases 5 of the most unique and refreshing takes on the puzzle genre from small-scale developers and publishers. Some of these games will leave you confused as you struggle to succeed, while others will give you a relaxing outlet to exercise the brain.

Let’s get right into it!

#5: Unpacking

DeveloperWitch Beam
PublisherHumble Bundle
Console(s)PC, iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One/Series, PlayStation 4/5
Release DateNovember 2, 2021

Unpacking is a stage-based puzzle game that revolves around you unpacking belongings from boxes into a room. Developed by Australian game developer Witch Beam, the game takes inspiration from the real-life action of unpacking unlabelled boxes and discovering what is inside.

The narrative of Unpacking is told entirely through the objects that the players will unpack, and is accessible to everyone regardless of language.

The point of this award-winning puzzle game is to be peaceful. Many players will walk away from Unpacking feeling that the game is therapeutic.

Unpacking is not the hardest puzzle game in the world and is not likely to be that much of a challenge. Despite this, there is a lot to enjoy here for zen gamers and puzzle gurus alike.

Unpacking Main Menu, used in Indie Puzzle Games article.
This cute little therapeutic puzzle game will bring you peace and exercise your mind at the same time.

#4: Viewfinder

DeveloperSad Owl Studios
PublisherThunderful Publishing
Console(s)PC, PlayStation 5
Release DateJuly 18, 2023

Imagine being able to take a photograph in a game, and then using that image to overwrite the world of the game. If you like the idea of that, Viewfinder is likely for you. Viewfinder is a puzzle game based on manipulating the environment via Polaroid pictures.

Much like the next game on the list, Viewfinder’s puzzles rely heavily on perspective and the manipulation of it. Aiming your picture from a different angle will also produce different results, as what happens to the world is based on your perspective.

Viewfinder is a very imaginative and interesting puzzle game that all puzzle gurus should experience.

Viewfinder in-game screenshot, used in the indie puzzle game article.
Taking a picture of a building could allow you to use the building as a ramp in this Viewfinder puzzle.

#3: Superliminal

DeveloperPillow Castle Games
PublisherPillow Castle Games
Console(s)PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One/Series, PlayStation 4/5
Release DateNovember 12, 2019

Superliminal is a first-person puzzle game designed around optical illusions and forced perspective. The player finds themselves trapped in a dream therapy program and is guided by the overseeing doctor (Glenn Pierce) on how to escape. The game was developed by a team of only six people and has received post-launch updates including multiplayer support.

Superliminal is a game that is going to test the player’s understanding of their environment and how perspective works. Using forced perspective, players will need to resize and move around items to solve an entire host of puzzles. Superliminal was inspired by other games including Portal and the next game on this list, Antichamber.

Superliminal menu screenshot used in the Indie Puzzle Game article.
Superliminal is a puzzle game based on the trend of ever-popular liminal spaces.

#2: Antichamber

DeveloperDemruth
PublisherDemruth
Console(s)PC
Release DateJanuary 31, 2013

Developed and published by one single Australian developer, Antichamber is the “impossible” puzzle game. By impossible, we don’t mean the game can’t be beaten, but rather that the puzzles of the game are built around impossible objects.

Antichamber is a mesmerizing and inspiring puzzle game that will take some effort to solve. The game encourages the players throughout with inspirational messages and advice. Conceptually, Antichamber is a one-of-a-kind puzzle experience that all gurus should play as soon as possible.

The opening screen of Antichamber, used in the indie puzzle game article.
Antichamber keeps players going with helpful and inspirational advice at every turn.

#1: Shadows of Doubt

DeveloperColePowered Games
PublisherFireshine Games
Console(s)PC
Release DateApril 24, 2023 (Early Access)

Despite dominating television, detective and investigative themes are on the rare side in the gaming industry. The last large and successful detective game was Rockstar Games’ L.A. Noire in 2011. Shadows of Doubt, which is currently in an early access release state, is here to fix that.

Shadows of Doubt is an open-world procedurally-generated detective game. The player must solve cases within the open world through stealth and a whole host of puzzles. Due to the procedurally generated nature, the detective simulator has near-endless replayability and will last puzzle gurus until the end of time.

Shadows of Doubt is also only currently in early access, meaning the game should get consistent updates in the future.

Shadows of Doubt main menu screen as used in the indie puzzle game article.
Shadows of Doubt is procedurally generated, allowing for infinite replayability and tons of new unique puzzles each time.

Summary Table

NumberTitleDeveloperRelease Date
5UnpackingWitch BeamNovember 2021
4ViewfinderSad Owl StudiosJuly 2023
3SuperliminalPillow Castle GamesNovember 2019
2AntichamberDemruthJanuary 2013
1Shadows of DoubtColePowered GamesApril 2023

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Unpacking have a story?

The game Unpacking offers a unique narrative that is told through the various objects that players will uncover while unboxing. There is minimal dialogue and text which allows players of all languages to enjoy the therapeutic game.

Does Superliminal have multiplayer?

Superliminal added various multiplayer modes post-release. The first mode that was added was a battle royale in which players competed to solve puzzles the fastest. The second mode added was a co-op mode in which players work together to solve puzzles (or troll each other).

Can I mute the dialogue in Viewfinder?

Viewfinder has a narrator in-game that provides context to what the player is currently doing. Some players find this type of narration annoying, but fortunately, the developers were aware of that. There is an option in the settings menu to mute the narrator in Viewfinder. 

Who developed Tetris?

Tetris was developed by Alexey Pajitnov, a software engineer within the Soviet Union. The goal of Pajitnov was to use computers to make people happy.

When does Shadows of Doubt release?

Shadows of Doubt is currently in an early access release state and was first made available on April 24th, 2023. According to the developers, Shadows of Doubt was in development for many years and decided to launch in early access to discover issues before a full release. The full version is intended to include additional content and optimizations, but the game will remain in early access into 2024 while the developers continue to work on the game.

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