A good brain teaser or word puzzle game can be an entertaining and relaxing way to pass the time on your own, with a friend or while hanging out with the family.
But working on these puzzles is more than just a fun hobby—it’s also an excellent exercise for brain health. Studies have found that these brain-training games improve memory and reduce cognitive decline in older adults. Playing brain-training games also helps stave off boredom, which researchers have linked to cognitive decline.
Here are some of the most popular brain-training games to get you started.
Hailing from Japan, this logic-based number puzzle has become popular all over the world. Although there are numbers, no math skills are required to play. Instead, you’ll be flexing your deductive reasoning and cognitive skills. Play for free on various websites that offer a range of difficulty levels.
If you’re in the mood to test your math skills, this is the game for you. The company that creates these puzzles claims that regular play will make you smarter, so it can’t hurt to try your hand at a game or two!
This popular platform offers a wide range of brain-training games developed in partnership with cognitive health researchers. Games focus on memory, flexibility, math, attention, speed, problem solving and more.
Pricing: Free, with some paid options
This highly-rated app offers more than 40 fun, quick games and challenges designed in partnership with brain health researchers at several top universities in the U.S. and U.K. Take an assessment, then get started on your daily workouts (with a virtual personal coach to assist and motivate you). Focus on important skills like critical thinking, attention, coordination, memory and language.
Pricing: Basic version is free; Peak Pro is $34.99 for one year
This app, created by neuropsychologists and scientists studying neuroplasticity, receives rave reviews for its engaging design and highly specific training. After an initial assessment test, you can opt into a personalized brain-training program for adults 65 and over that focuses on memory, perception, reasoning and coordination. You’ll receive an evaluation after each session.
Pricing: $19.99/month; $119.99/year
Designed in partnership with cognitive scientists, this platform contains dozens of challenging and unique games created specifically to help stimulate and sharpen the five different areas of cognitive function: memory, language, attention, reasoning and logical thinking, and visual and spatial skills.
Pricing: Free 7-day trial; then, $14.90 for 1 month, $79.80 for 1 year, $119.80 for 2 years
This fun website could keep you engaged for hours on end. It’s packed with online strategy and word puzzles, trivia and all sorts of brain teasers to give your noggin a real workout. You can print out some of the puzzles if you feel like taking a break from the screen to work with pencil and paper.
The 40+ games available on this award-winning app have an emphasis on improving communication skills, including speaking, vocabulary enrichment and even spelling. Several of the games also help you work on strengthening your memory, focus and concentration.
Pricing: Free limited version; prices may vary, but subscription is approximately $7.99 per month, $44.99 per year
Old but gold. This game is a classic and always promises to provide fast and furious mental stimulation. If you find it tricky to play with a keyboard on your phone or tablet, you can check out the video game version on a system like Nintendo Switch, which allows you to use a controller.
Pricing: Online version is free
Although this popular Chinese game is traditionally played in person with four players, you can also experience all the fun and brain health benefits of mahjong by playing solo online. You can also try the multiplayer version to play against friends or other people from around the world.
Developed and constantly updated by a team of neuroscientists from Germany, this app (for desktop or mobile) is the real deal – it’s currently being used in a wide variety of studies by researchers working in the area of cognitive health. An initial evaluation of your cognitive functions allows the app to adapt the 30+ exercises to the areas you should focus on most, including memory, speed of thought, logical thinking, concentration and more.
Pricing: Free limited version, then $41.99 for 3 months, $83.99 for 1 year
Although this top-ranked app is all about learning new languages and not specifically focused on brain-training, it can still provide brain benefits as you pick up a new skill. Researchers have found that studying a second language can contribute to delayed onset of dementia and improve brain function in older adults.
Need a break from the brain teasers? Go grab your kids’ or grandkids’ Nintendo or XBox and dive into a game of Super Mario, Animal Crossing or Minecraft! Studies have shown that video games can actually enhance memory in older adults. If you don’t have a gaming console, not to worry: Miniplay has some of the greatest classics of all time, as well as newer games. You can play on your device either solo or with others.
Pricing: Online games are free
Before you dive into your favorite virtual game, consider which device you feel most comfortable with. Games on your phone will be on a smaller screen with a smaller keyboard compared to games you play on your PC or tablet. If you prefer to get off your devices, try your hand at a video game, which requires a separate controller.
Online games not your thing? Check out our 13 Classic Board Games article.
To get the most of out any of these brain-training games, play consistently and frequently, even if it’s just 10 to 15 minutes a day. Now go get your brain into shape—and have fun!
Do you play any online brain-training games or puzzles? Share your experience in the comments below.
Looking for more online brain games? Check out our brain teaser library here on Extra Mile!