Gaming to Exercise Your Brain

Although it seems unlikely in the extreme, gaming on your smart devices can actually be good exercise for your brain. Even smashing cockroaches and zombies over and over again. Read on to learn more about some free, standalone games that can help you think better.

Rote Relaxation & Learning

Rote skills like doing jigsaw and slide puzzles does more for you than just pass the time. When your brain needs to rest, it likes the kind of simple repetition that playing solitaire and sudoku provides.

Rote skills games are also good for controlling OCD (Obssessive Compulsive Disorder), giving the brain something like a worry stone to fidget with while your muscles relax and regroup. Rote skills games can also help improve memory, general concentration and fine motor skills.

Pattern Recognition Games

Some of the earliest and most famous video games are pattern recognition games like Tetris, which teaches the eye to track shape and color, and Collapse!, a match-three game where players color block groups of three and larger to score points.

Touchscreen technology makes it possible to exercise the brain in new ways by training and improving eye-hand coordination. Games where you slide one or more fingers across the screen to make the game move work many muscle groups and regions of the brain simultaneously while engaging the brain and mind with color and sound.

Developing and honing pattern recognition skills is essential for drivers, who need to spot changes in traffic patterns as soon as possible, and is important to designing layouts – like floor plans, blue prints – and gridding, arranging objects, textures and other elements so that they’re equally spaced.

If you’re good at recognizing patterns, you probably have a good memory for faces, and likely you memorize directions and instructions easily.

Escape Adventure Games

When you want to exercise your brain in several directions at once, try escape adventure games like the Can You Escape series and’s Vineyard Escape and Escape from the Catacombs.

In addition to training rote skills by using the controls to navigate through the game, escape adventure games require finding clues that give hints to solving puzzles hidden throughout the game course.

Escape adventure games are also very goal-oriented. In order to move from level to level in the game, players must open stuck elevator doors and find or earn keys to unlock other barriers as well as collect and figure out how to use tools. Escape adventure games can take days to solve and often involve memorizing the layout of the game course.

Whether players get caught up in the storylines or not, hand, eye, and brain have to work together to search for clues and solutions, integrating new information on the fly.

The result is a busy, training brain engaged on many levels.

Rovio Games

When your brain needs to do some heavy lifting while playing, there’s nothing like a Rovio game to give it a good workout.

Rovio is the originator of Angry Birds and Angry Birds 2, deceptively simple games where players use a giant slingshot to throw bombs at targets. The better you are at pattern recognition, depending on your aim, the faster you demolish the game course and the higher your score.

Angry Birds forefunners Amazing Alex and Bad Piggies are two of the best mind/brain workouts you can get. Both involving building tools from scraps to move players through the game as they performing very specific tasks.

Both require the ability to think like a kid while the brain somersaults from problem to problem. Purposely counter-intuitive, both games make significant and surprising demands that reinforce critical, analytical and synthetic thinking.

The Rovio game that probably requires the most integrated thinking to date is Tiny Thief, part fairytale and part old movie very clearly intended to test the adult brain, memory and sense of play. In the process of saving the king and princess, players must remember how to use secret passages, gather and use tools and collect hidden objects to score.

Train your brain and earn points by playing your favorite games on