The Best Story-Rich Puzzle Games

Puzzle games might have a bit of a niche audience, but the genre is still full of untapped potential. It’s natural for people who enjoy a more cerebral gaming experience to also crave a compelling narrative. Luckily, there are plenty of puzzle games on the market with a great story.

THEGAMER VIDEO OF THE DAY

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

Related: Best Puzzle Games On PS3

Puzzles and storytelling go together like cheese and fine wine. We’ve compiled some of the best narrative-focused puzzle games for your perusal. They’re all available for a variety of different platforms, so there’s something for everyone. From triple-A hits to indie darlings, the entire world of puzzle games is your oyster.

8 Zero Escape Series

Sigma, Clover, Alice, Phi, Dio, and Quark

The Zero Escape series are games that contain multitudes. It’s a series that combines visual novel elements with high-stakes puzzles and a weird but engaging plot. The games were developed by Spike Chunsoft, the same studio behind the Danganronpa series.

If you’re a fan of Danganronpa, it’s definitely worth it to give the Zero Escape games a try, since they have the same thrills and penchant for memorable characters. The games were originally released on the DS, 3DS and PSVita, but you can also grab the entire series on Steam for PC.

7 Catherine

katherine, catherine, and rin looking at the viewer

Catherine is definitely one of the spicier games on this list. You play as a 30-something manchild named Vincent, and are immediately thrust into his romantic woes. As the consequences of Vincent’s emotional immaturity begin to creep up on him, so too does the game’s titular succubus.

The gameplay of Catherine revolves around solving different puzzles by moving blocks and manipulating your environment. The levels are presented in an isometric, boxy style that’s reminiscent of QBert, but that’s where the similarities end. The remake, Catherine: Full Body, adds a new bachelorette and some new plot elements. Pick the version that most appeals to you and get ready for a wild ride.

6 Professor Layton Series

Professor Layton Luke driving a steampunk vehicle with two levers

Professor Layton is perhaps one of the first series that comes to mind when you think about narrative-based puzzle games. With a charming cast of characters and hundreds of puzzles for you to solve, this series is a master class in how to combine puzzle-based gameplay with a compelling storyline.

Related: Best Puzzle Games On Nintendo Switch

Every game contains a wide variety of puzzles of varying difficulties, so there’s something for everyone. If you’re new to the series we recommend you start with the first game in the series: Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the Nintendo DS.

5 Year Walk

A white horse wearing a suit standing in a river surrounded by small ghosts

Year Walk is a short, puzzle-based adventure game from the creators of Sayonara Wild Hearts. You play as a man in a 19th-century Swedish village who sneaks off into the woods on New Year’s Eve to take part in a strange folk ritual. A variety of different creatures from Scandinavian folklore await you, presenting you with myriad challenges.

Some of the solutions to Year Walk’s puzzles are a bit obtuse. The game provides you with hints and doesn’t penalize you for asking for help, however, so this isn’t quite so bad. What ties Year Walk together is its beautiful art style and evocative soundtrack. But its story? That’s a wild ride from start to finish.

4 Storyteller

Storyteller artwork that shows characters atop the book

Storyteller

Released
March 23, 2023

Developer
Daniel Benmergui

Storyteller is a cute puzzle game where the goal is to create different stories by arranging characters and scenarios together. Every puzzle requires a different plot, and you’re only given a few clues on how to tell the right story. The game has a unique art style that’s reminiscent of both a children’s book and old comic strips.

What makes Storyteller unique is the vast number of solutions any one puzzle might have. You’re able to craft any story you want so long as it the required tropes are in place. The results can be a bit odd and often downright hilarious. You should definitely give this game a try if you love creative writing and want a brain-teaser to keep you entertained while you take a break from your next masterpiece.

3 Unpacking

A shot from Unpacking showing the childhood bedroom

Unpacking is a cute puzzle game where you move items from moving boxes into different rooms of your new home. There are multiple levels, each with its own layout and inventory. You have to make sure each item is put where it belongs, but you’re given some flexibility in how you’re allowed to organize.

Related: The Best Xbox Puzzle Games You Should Be Playing Right Now

The gameplay is solid, but what makes Unpacking really shine is its environmental storytelling. You never see the main character, but sifting through her belongings lets you know almost everything about her life. Every level brings a new set of major life events and transitions. You’ll be left poring over every item in the boxes as you piece Unpacking’s story together.

2 Portal And Portal 2

Portal Screenshot Of The Ending Cake

While Portal’s presentation certainly isn’t typical of most puzzle games, its gameplay puts it squarely in the puzzle genre. The entire game is a series of different physics-based puzzles, with nothing but your portal gun and your environment at your disposal. The series is strongly implied to take place in the same world as the Half-Life series, but no knowledge of Half-Life is needed to enjoy the Portal games.

While the first game introduces us to the amazing GLaDOS and establishes the game’s setting, Portal 2 is where the series’ narrative starts to shine. With a story that’s a master class in dark comedy, this is one series you should definitely try. With enough practice, even the most challenging puzzles will be a piece of cake.

1 Papers, Please

players looks over paperwork showing passport, identity supplement, entry slip, certificates, and wanted list as Kristina Pitkanova waits at the border

Papers, Please is an unorthodox puzzle game where you play as a bureaucrat serving the proud nation of Arstotzka. As you process documents at a newly opened border checkpoint, you’re met with a number of different political and ethical dilemmas. Every day, you need to make enough money for you and your family to survive.

With every person who comes to your desk, you’re tasked with juggling multiple documents, dilemmas, and protocols, all against a racing clock. If you stick to protocol, your callousness can cost people their lives. But sticking to your principles means putting your family’s survival at risk. Papers, Please is a puzzle game with no easy answers, and that’s why we love it.

Next: Best Horror Puzzle Games

Leave a Comment