The striking thing about this list of the best Android puzzle games released in 2020 is the sheer variety on offer.
Among the usual shape-sorting and noodle-scratching, there are zombies trying to kill you, kittens to feed, stuff to suck into your growing maw, relationships to cement through shared memories, and more.
There’s a distinctly international flavor, too, with Latin American death mythologies, Chinese poetry, and Japanese cuisine all on the menu.
Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead is a testament to the power of imagination and lateral thinking. You wouldn’t have thought the Bridge Constructor series had many places to go, but Headup Games parlayed it first into a clever Portal mash-up and then into this, an inventive tie-in with AMC’s Walking Dead series. It sees you putting your engineering prowess to work making traps, building bridges to escape the zombie hordes, and more.
The Almost Gone is yet more proof that puzzle games don’t need to be shallow or sterile. Straddling the puzzle and adventure genres, it sees you exploring a story of addiction, neglect, trauma, and other experiences from the gloomy deep end of the human condition. Gameplay-wise, it’s a bit like The Room, with shades of Monument Valley, presenting you with a series of subtle, mind-bending environmental puzzles to solve.
Donut County is both the exact opposite of Katamari Damacy, and its twin. It casts you as a roaming hole in the ground that devours everything small enough to fit. As you swallow stuff, you grow, allowing larger and larger objects to tumble into your void. What prevents Donut County from being a tedious inverse tribute to the Katamari games is its stylish pastel-hued presentation and the clever, funny story sections that bookend the stages.
It’s hard to imagine a more charming game than Inbento. This pitch-perfect puzzler from the creator of Golf Peaks sees you playing as a mother cat making bento boxes for her kitten as she grows into a cat. This gives the game a heartwarming narrative, carrying you through 120+ pattern matching puzzles. The artwork is gorgeous, too, with a palette of pastel colors and clean, spare lines.
We’re going to use the word “pastel” again. Couch Installation Service is yet another puzzler with a clean, pastelly aesthetic presumably inspired by Untitled Goose Game. Anyway, this time around the gameplay sees you arranging furniture, moving it to specific points in a confined room using as few moves as possible. It’s a familiar mechanic, revived with a slick look and a neat premise.
Published by Tencent, The Everlasting Regret is a puzzler based on a classic narrative poem from Chinese literature. It’s presented in a gorgeous, totally unique style drawing on Chinese paintings, and it sees you solving puzzles by altering these paintings. It may not be the best puzzle game in the world, but it introduces a tradition and a gorgeous aesthetic that will be unfamiliar to many.
The second title on this list from boutique publisher Playdigious, Arrog is a short but sweet puzzler that features hand-drawn monochrome artwork. It sees you exploring a bizarre abstract world based on Latin American folklore, and your goal is to learn about death and what it represents. You’ll know if it’s for you based on that description. Firmly located in the “arthouse” section, Arrog is a relatively expensive 30 minutes, but if you’re in the market for a mind-expanding puzzler it could be for you.
The third in a trilogy of Professor Layton games on mobile, Layton: Unwound Future HD is a time-travelling instalment of the popular series in which you have to explore a dystopian future London in an attempt to avert temporal disaster. It consists of 200 brain teasers and logic puzzles from the fertile mind of Akira Tago. You know what the score is, but if not, the Layton games are utterly charming puzzle affairs with gorgeous picture book graphics and likeable characters.
Presentation isn’t everything, but it can really elevate a game. Sphaze, from Subpixels, is an inventive and well-constructed puzzler in which you have to manipulate a circular maze to create a path for a robot to travel down. Timing and reactions are key, along with puzzle-solving brainpower, making this an arcade puzzler like Cut the Rope, rather than a static puzzler like Monument Valley (which is cited as an influence nevertheless). It looks stunning, and plays well.
green is the latest game in Bart Bonte’s color-based series of highly refined puzzlers. He drops one of these every few months, always for free, making him a sort of year-round Santa Claus for puzzle game enthusiasts. The puzzles themselves are mind-bogglingly inventive and varied, leaving you to identify the internal logic anew every time.
Boasting an enviable string of glowing reviews and awards, The Gardens Between is a visually stunning and emotionally moving puzzle adventure game. You play as a pair of neighbors and childhood best friends exploring their memories before one of them moves house. The environmental puzzles are inventive and ingeniously designed, while the gameplay sees you interactive with objects and manipulating the passage of time. It’s good stuff.