The 10 best games for giving your brain a workout

Because, occasionally, it's not only about shooting men and driving cars and being an angry man in space…

Playing games makes you clever, and that's a FACT. Don't believe us? Consider this: every member of the Stuff team is an avid gamer, whereas chickens aren't. So there's your proof.

Of course, while all games boost your brain power, some are specifically designed to test your grey matter. So read on for our list of the 10 most cerebral games ever. And if your IQ's not 10 points higher by the end, you get your money back*.

* Bear in mind that you've paid nothing for this feature anyway.

10. Super Meat Boy (2010)

A very tough platform game, made rather gruesome by having a lead character that tends to disintegrate when falling into the levels' many grinding cogs, blades and lasers. Hundreds of rock-hard maps made this a superb throwback to when games were tougher than Arnie with an AK-47.

9. Powermonger (1990)

This took the still-new concept of the god game and updated it with a 3D core, with players battling for control of the land by managing food, inventing new weapons, drafting locals into an army and eventually building up enough power to wipe out all enemies.

8. Herzog Zwei (1990)

Brought the hardcore concept of real-time strategy to Sega's 16-bit console, with players battling the computer or a real human friend for control of planetary bases. Holding bases earned you cash and cash equalled greater military might, quickly escalating its intense 2D wars. 

7. Command & Conquer (1995)

An absolute classic of the RTS genre, C&C was one of the finest multiplayer strategy games ever created. You started off mining for resources, gradually building refineries, factories and weaponry, gearing up both attacking and defensive forces before it all kicked off. The key was knowing when to strike...

6. Sim City (1989)

Two games in one, this, with the classic open-ended city-building part augmented by a clever series of disaster and public planning scenarios that put the resource management skills of the player to good use. The threat of random disaster gave it an edge. A real gaming legend.

More after the break...

5. Supremacy (1990)

An absorbing point-and-click war management game, in which you battled your computer enemy for control of a series of alien worlds. Terraforming, taxation and technological developments were key to victory. That and knowing how to use zero gravity toilets. 

4. Super Bomberman 2 (1995)

Bomberman is one of gaming's key archetypes, a genre all of its own that spans generations. You start in a corner, with just a bomb on you. Try not to blow yourself up, drop it somewhere strategic and run away from the blast. Get more powerful and repeat. For two decades.

3. Lemmings (1991)

One of the most original concepts in puzzle gaming, Lemmings was all about assigning tasks to your suicidal rodents at speed. You played god by trying to keep them alive, building, digging, controlling and even detonating a sad few for the greater good of level clearing. Great soundtrack too.

2. Tetris (1989)

The very model of simplicity. The computer equivalent of Snap or Draughts, Tetris is now omnipresent on pretty much every hardware format known to man - seriously, there are probably kettles which can play it. It's easy for a bit, then gradually ramps it up until you swear further progress is impossible. But will try again, just to check. And again. And again. One Stuff staffer spent an entire 11-hour flight to America playing it. Without stopping. The Game Boy version remains the best, but if you don't own it on your current smartphone, you're a fool.

1. Portal (2007)

They only went and brought some sort of new idea to the table. Portal initially looked like it was going to be about shooting men or aliens in grey corridors, but really it was a 3D puzzle game in which you warped around, trying to escape its many chambers, at the behest of a weird robot lady voice. We shouldn't really have been suprised by how good it was, given that it was made by Valve - the masterminds behind Half-Life and Steam - but puzzle games are never usually so... exciting. It was also graphically slick, with bags of humour and charm. But its real genius was in how brain-shatteringly clever it was. To properly understand some of the puzzles, you'd need to be a mathematician specialising in non-Euclidean geometry, but that didn't matter, as trying, trying and trying again to solve them was never anything less than tremendous fun. Portal 2 wasn't bad either.

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