[From now until mid-January, IndieGames.com: The Weblog will be counting down the best independent and freeware games of 2010, with descriptions, screenshots, and links of the best games in each major category. Previously: Top 10 Experimental Games, Top 10 Shoot 'em Ups, Top 10 Role-Playing Games]

The fourth of our in-depth 2010 Best Of Features here on the IndieGames.com blog (after the overall Top 10 we did for Gamasutra and the 10 Indie Games for '11 article), we're proud to present ten of the best freeware puzzle games released in 2010.

We've tried to gather a bit of everything in this collection of puzzle games: there's a clever remake of the classic Minesweeper, a new release from the author of the Grow series, a puzzler written in HTML5, and a creepy maze exploration game that'll spook you quite a bit.

Here are the top freeware puzzle games of the year:


10. Grow Valley (Eyezmaze) [Flash, freeware]

GROW Valley follows the same format as the rest of the GROW series, providing buttons and asking you to click them in whichever order you feel inclined. As you click each one, components will be added to the main scene via small, faceless people.

If you manage to click them all in the correct order, the valley will be fully built and you'll feel all good inside. If not, you need to work out how exactly each different person interacted with the land and each other person, and plan your attack better.


9. My First Quantum Translocator (Rete) [Flash, freeware]

My First Quantum Translocator is a clever puzzle platformer that is centered around the concept of teleportation and inertia, created by the two brothers (Teddy and Kenny Lee of Cellar Door Games) who first came into the spotlight with their quirky text adventure game Don't Soil Your Pants. You play as an unnamed test subject that had just applied for a translocator device experiment, helped along by an observer named Steve who offers advice on how to survive the challenges ahead with your newfound teleportation ability.


8. Bo (Mahdi Bahrami) [Windows, freeware]

Bo is a platforming puzzle game with a unique concept that makes for some really interesting play. Your hero can move between different levels of the world by switching one grid space to another plane.

It's one of those games where it's easier to play than explain. Platforms that are initially too high up to jump to can be reached by creating lower platforms out of pieces of another plane - but when you switch planes, you'll be trapped in the new one until you switch back out again, so careful switching is the key to creating the appropriate platformers. There's also a very simple text-based method to creating your own levels.


7. Entanglement (Gopherwood Studios) [HTML5, freeware]

Entanglement is a great little puzzler involving hexagons and lots of twisty paths. An orange line leads out of the centre piece, and your job is to create a path from there that goes for as long as possible without hitting a wall.

Pieces can be rotated via the mouse wheel or arrow keys, then placed down with a click. It's possible to create some weird and wonderful paths, winding all over the place. There are some lovely local multiplayer options too, with games available for up to six players. A lovely, addictive time-waster, this one.


6. Seasons (Vectorpark) [Flash, freeware]

Seasons with Thomas is a nifty little Flash game from the creator of Windosill, featuring a white creature who rides a unicycle towards the direction of your mouse cursor. You can only move towards the right side of the screen at first, following the footsteps left behind by the skiers to proceed to the next area.

Each new location that you arrive at contains at least one interactive element for the player to toy around with. It doesn't really matter if you figure out what to do with all of the objects that you discover, and the game never restricts the player from moving forward and finding new content to be amused with.


5. Mamono Sweeper (Hojamaka Games) [Flash, freeware]

Mamono Sweeper is a unique take on the classic puzzle game included with nearly every single release of Windows, where mines are replaced with monsters and you now have RPG-like character stats to keep track of. You gain experience points by defeating monsters, although players will start to receive damage if they take on an enemy that is of a higher level than them.

Similar to Minesweeper, the numbers indicate the sum of every monster's level in the surrounding squares. With a bit of deduction you can easily pick out the location of low-level monsters that can be fought without losing any hit points. A table at the bottom of the page contains information on the five types of monsters that populate the board.

Huge and extreme versions of Mamono Sweeper are also available to play online, where the number of high-level monsters had been increased to make the game a bit more challenging for Minesweeper veterans.


4. Q.U.B.E. (Toxic Games) [Windows, freeware]

Q.U.B.E. is a clever first-person puzzle game that tells the story of an unnamed protagonist trapped inside a maze, equipped with a pair of gloves that allows him to extrude or contract multi-coloured cubes by willpower alone. Manipulating the cubes is as simple as targeting them before pressing the left or right mouse button, although cubes will stop responding to your commands when they have reached the limit of their extension or contraction capabilities.

No tutorial sequence is included with the game, but it really doesn't take more than a minute to learn the controls and start solving puzzles in every room. You can't save your progress though, so be prepared to spend about an hour or so if you're planning to beat Q.U.B.E. in one sitting.


3. Synopsis Quest Deluxe (Skipmore) [Flash, freeware]

Synopsis Quest is a collection of puzzle and arcade-based side quests, where the hero can be trying to save a princess in one minute and attempting to loot treasure from the enemy's lair in the next. The game features a total of twenty-five side quests to complete, and you can play them in any order you like.


2. Feign (Ian Snyder) [Flash, freeware]

Feign is a clever maze game that is similar to Mike Inel's Where and Hazard: The Journey of Life, in which players are instructed to find the nine missing people who have hid themselves inside a network of rooms and corridors. If you lose count of how many people you have found, standing still in one spot will cause a text that displays your current progress to appear on screen.


1. suteF (Ted Lauterbach) [Windows, freeware]

suteF tells the story of a nondescript blue character who is trying to escape from a nightmarish land called the Abyss, populated by some of the weirdest denizens you could ever find inside a game. The objective here is to guide our confused hero to the exit found in every room, although players would usually have to solve a tricky puzzle or two before they are allowed to reach the portal that takes them to the next area.

[Got feedback? Reasons to disagree? Post a response and we'll do a special 'best of reader comments' round-up at the end of our chart countdowns.]