Recently, we’ve been looking at the best games in Hamster’s Arcade Archives line of arcade game re-releases. With hundreds of games available in the line, it can be a little hard to find the cream of the crop. In our previous lists, we first took a look at the best shoot-em-ups and then the finest of the beat-em-ups. Another popular arcade genre is also quite well-represented in Arcade Archives: the puzzle game. There are tons of them, from the biggest names to the incredibly obscure. In no particular order, here are our ten favorite puzzle games in the catalog.
Tetris The Grand Master ($7.99)
We’ll start with the biggest name of the bunch and the grandfather of the falling block puzzler: Tetris. But this isn’t the normal Tetris. This is Tetris The Grand Master, and if you’ve ever entertained any notions about your level of talent at Tetris it will quickly disarm you of them. That said, if you’re interested in playing at the top level of the game with some very specific quirks, this is a great choice to sharpen your skills at.
Puzzle Bobble 2 ($7.99)
Often imitated but never properly duplicated, Puzzle Bobble is Taito’s flagship puzzle game. The adorable dinosaurs from Bubble Bobble switch from hopping and popping to a more sedentary lifestyle of using a special launcher to fire their bubbles. Match up three of the same color and they’ll drop off the screen. Plan your shots just right and you’ll knock off a whole bunch at once in an incredibly satisfying manner. Whether you’re playing through the standard stages or going up against another player, Puzzle Bobble is amazing fun.
Magical Drop III ($7.99)
It took me a little while to see the charms of Magical Drop, but once I did I was completely enthralled. Like in Puzzle Bobble, you’re working from the bottom of the screen and trying to stay ahead of the pieces encroaching from the top. You can pull down pieces and throw them back, but you can only carry one type of piece at a time. Group up four or more of the same pieces and they’ll disappear, with the remaining blocks shifting to fill in the gaps. With some careful planning you can create wild chains, racking up a huge score bonus as your reward. But there’s risk in it, because to make a truly large combo you’ll have to allow the play area to fill up to a large extent. A thrilling display of risk versus reward.
Sometimes known as Plotting, Flipull is a very unique game that somehow hasn’t been cloned six ways to Sunday like most other puzzlers. In each stage, you have to remove a certain percentage of pieces by matching them up with other pieces of the same kind. Your means of interacting with those pieces is by lobbing the one you’re holding at them. When you do so, you’ll swap that piece with one from the pile and whatever you’ve matched will be removed. Careful planning is required or you’ll end up in a situation you can’t get out of.
Solomon’s Key ($7.99)
If you’ve heard of this game before, it’s probably via its port to the NES. That’s a great version, but if you’d like to play the arcade original for a slightly fancier and more difficult experience, here it is. Get the key on each stage and get to the exit. It sounds easy, but you’re a squishy wizard who can only make and destroy blocks and toss out the occasional ball of fire. Did I mention the stages are crawling with enemies, all of which can kill you at the slightest touch? Oh, and there’s a timer. Think well, think fast, and execute with precision. Only the best of the best will see the end of this version of the game.
Money Puzzle Exchanger ($7.99)
The idea of Money Puzzle Exchanger is that you need to stack coins to create larger denominations until you’re able to match two 500-coins, which will clear them from the play area. It’s quite similar to Magical Drop, but the way the coins collapse into larger coins gives it an extra twist of its own. As with many matching puzzle games from the 1990s, the real meat of the gameplay comes from setting up combos. Plan things properly and you’ll be able to watch as huge portions of the screen are swept away, much to the detriment of your opponent. I’ve sunk many hours into this game.
Block Hole ($7.99)
Most Western players who have seen this game before will likely know it as Quarth. It’s an odd intersection of shoot-em-up and falling block puzzler from Konami. Pieces of various shapes fall from the top of the screen, and you have to shoot blocks at them to make them into rectangles or squares, which will make them disappear. The bigger the block you make, the more points you’ll get. You have to be very careful with your shots, as one stray block can cause a panic as you try to level things out before you get crushed. Frantic and enjoyable, as you would expect from Konami in this era.
Soldam is a game that is initially hard to understand, but its rewards for the patient are plenty. It’s a falling block puzzler where you’re trying to make lines of the same color, but with a Reversi/Othello twist. If you surround pieces of one color with pieces of another color, they’ll change to the same color. When you clear a line, it will become the color at the bottom of the well. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed if you’re not cautious about where you play your pieces, but that challenge and novelty makes it an exciting standout in a well-trodden part of the puzzle genre.
Twinkle Star Sprites ($7.99)
Another shooter/puzzler hybrid, this time with a heavy emphasis on versus-play akin to games like Puyo Puyo. It plays like a shooter, but there’s a method to how you take out the enemies. Do it the right way and you’ll send a lot of trouble your opponent’s way, but fail to take advantage of the more complex mechanics and you’ll soon be buried yourself. One of the key elements is to send back what your opponent sends to you, creating a pleasant ping-pong flow to the game that makes every match a heart-pounder.
Libble Rabble ($7.99)
From the creator of Pac-Man, Libble Rabble is a very unusual game. Your goal on each stage is to harvest all of the little mushrooms by surrounding them with your rope. The playfield is made up of pegs, and you control both ends of your rope using the two sticks. You have to wrap the rope around the pegs, and it’s a serious case of trying to pat your head while rubbing your stomach. There are extra treasures to find if you go looking, and enemies that you need to avoid or defeat by roping them in. The bigger the area you manage to clear, the more points you’ll earn. Like many games on this list, it takes some time to learn but is hard to put down once you do.
And that’s the lot, friends. I hope this list helps you find some new games to play, and if you have any Arcade Archives puzzle games you would like to recommend, please comment below. We’re all looking for more good stuff to add to our libraries, after all. Thanks again for reading!