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8 mobile games that won't rot your brain

POSTED: May 19, 2017 10:31 a.m.
Justin Adams/

Hocus is a puzzle game that challenges players to think outside the box as they navigate a small red cube through rounds of obstacles that resemble something from an M.C. Escher painting.

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It's no secret that smartphone mobile games are a huge industry. Hugely popular titles like Clash of Clans, Pokemon GO and Candy Crush have led mobile games to the top of the market — beating out both computer and console games in total revenue, according to CNBC. However, some of these games have been labeled as "addictive," "mindless" and "pointless." While that may be true for some mobile games, there are plenty of others that can give brains young and old a workout. Here are eight mobile games that may actually make users feel smarter and more creative after playing them.

1. Lightbot

Interested in learning coding? Lightbot is a problem-solving game that teaches users the fundamentals of coding. Players must arrange a set of commands like "move forward," "turn right/left" and "jump" into a program that guides an avatar through stages of obstacles. A basic version called Lightbot: Code Hour, which is free at the Apple App Store and Google Play, guides players through simple commands, functions and loops. The main version of the game featuring more advanced levels is available for $2.99.

App Store rating: 4.5 stars

Google Play rating: 4.5 stars

2. Little Alchemy

This game starts with a simple premise: players are given four elements: earth, air, water and fire. Players can then combine any two of those elements to create new elements. For example, combining earth and water will produce mud. Adding fire to the mud creates a brick. Putting two bricks together builds a wall — and so forth. The game challenges players' creativity and basic scientific knowledge as they work from the four starting elements to a possible total of 560, including skyscrapers, guns and even life itself. The game is free at both the Apple App Store and Google Play.

App Store rating: 4.5 stars

Google Play: 4.2 stars

3. Trivia Crack

Trivia Crack was all the rage in early 2015, but if you missed the boat, it's not too late. Trivia Crack is a head-to-head competitive trivia game. Users can connect the game to their Facebook accounts, making it easy to challenge friends and family members to duels of knowledge with bragging rights on the line. The questions fall into six categories: History, Art, Science, Entertainment, Geography and Sports. Users, however, won't be able to rely on their smarts in just two or three categories — winning a game requires players to answer questions correctly in all six categories. Trivia Crack is free at both Google Play and the Apple App Store.

App Store rating: 3.5 stars

Google Play rating: 4.5 stars

4. Geometry Dash

This game may seem a little mindless at first. This simple side-scrolling game has players tapping the screen whenever the square-shaped avatar must jump over an obstacle. However, the game is not merely a test of reflexes. The long precise routes demand exact timing. Getting to the end of one requires a strong memory, intense focus and a refusal to give up. Who wouldn’t want to have more of that? The full game is $1.99, but there is a free "lite" version at Google Play and the Apple App Store.

App Store rating: 4.5 stars

Google Play rating: 4.5 stars

5. 4 Pics 1 Word

A puppy. A chocolate bar. A smiling baby. A lollipop. What do these four things have in common? Answer: they're all sweet. 4 Pics 1 Word provides players four images that share a connection — the player's task is to figure out what the connection is. The game does tell the player how many letters long the word is and provides only 12 letters to choose from, which should make the game easy. However, while the first few rounds might not be a challenge, the game quickly becomes quite difficult. 4 Pics 1 Word is free at both the Apple App Store and Google Play.

App Store rating: 4.5 stars

Google Play rating: 4.4 stars

6. Real Kakuro

Kakuro is a puzzle challenge similar to crossword puzzles, but instead of words, users play with numbers. Unlike Sudoku, which is based purely on logic, Kakuro requires players to incorporate some arithmetic into their logic. It's basic adding: players must fill each box with single-digit numbers that add up to the total displayed for that column or row. Similar to Sudoku, the same digit cannot be repeated in any column or row. So, if given two spaces that must add up to 4, putting two 2’s is not an option. The answer must then be 1 and 3. Real Kakuro is free at both the Apple App Store and Google Play.

App Store rating: 4.5 stars

Google Play rating: 4.5 stars

7. Hocus

Players, are your abstract thinking caps on? Hocus is a puzzle game that challenges players to think outside the box as they navigate a small red cube through rounds of obstacles that resemble an MC Escher painting. The game starts easily enough but will soon have players' brains tangled into knots of confusion. Those who enjoy Hocus may also want to check out a similar abstract puzzle game, Monument Valley, which comes with more content but costs $3.99. Hocus is free at Google Play and the Apple App Store.

App Store rating: 4.5 stars

Google Play rating: 4.7 stars

8. Lumosity

Lumosity is an app with several games (28 to be exact) that test users' memory, attention, problem solving, speed and flexibility. Each day, users are given three games that emphasize different types of brain activity. Over time, the app creates a sort of report card that measures users' proficiency in those categories, allowing them to track their progress over time. For those wanting a more in-depth experience, there is a subscription option that allows users to play more games as well as see how their results compare against the national average. It is a little on the expensive side though: $60 for a year-long subscription. Both the Apple App Store and Google Play feature free versions.

App Store rating: 5 stars

Google Play rating: 4.2 stars

Do you have a favorite mobile game that gives your brain a little exercise? Let us know in the comments.
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