Puzzles: so many games incorporate them well, but to create puzzles so masterfully that they can stand on their own is an art worth celebrating and maintaining.

In an age where indies have more options than ever to monetize and commercialize their work, it's also worth celebrating when developers release fascinating games for free, be it for practice, for fame, for fans, or for the love of their craft.

The Top 10 Free Puzzle Games of 2012 collects the year's finest freeware and browser-based puzzle games from the masterminds Michael Brough (smestorp), Stephen Lavelle (increpare), Mahdi Bahrami, Eyemaze, and more.

telepaint1.png10. Telepaint (Mark Foster) [Windows and Mac]

Telepaint may look like a platformer, but the character moves on its own. The player must use sets of portals to navigate the character to its goal. Players must time when to activate the portal pairs to use the appropriate trajectory.


9. What's in the Box (Finlay Costello) [Windows]

Wrapped in a charming BBC Micro-like aesthetic, players must carefully navigate their extending arm through the levels to carry a box and keep it safe. The trouble comes when the arm or box can't fit into the same places. Fiendish, indeed!


8. FLOG (namoul) [browsers]

As much as I enjoy miniature golf, the physical part of the sport seems to always get in the way. FLOG asks players to strategically place obstacles, boosters, and portals on the course to get the ball into the hole. The automated direction and power of the shot dictates the position of the objects. FLOG was made for the TIGS Sports competition and went on to earn third place!


7.MMMMMM (Increpare) [browsers]

Increpare's slanted take on VVVVVV uses the player as the puzzle piece, while allowing for gravity manipulation in one of eight directions. MMMMMM has 3 maps worth of levels and collectible items for those who want to dive deep into the puzzle-levels. MMMMMM remains one of the few games that uses diagonals in a most curious way!

6. Hanten Puzzle (Rei Nejimaki) [Windows]

In Hanten ("inverse") Puzzle, players have a set number of times they can invert blocks or even themselves in a given column to arrive at the red cube. To quote IndieGames user creath "Good god, this is a mindfuck of a game. Great stuff here. Nothing evolutionary as much as looking at a genre from a different angle entirely."

The developer was even kind enough to provide an English-friendly version, even though the directions are minimal.


5. Puzzle Popstar! (logicow) [browser]

Don't let the casual/social game visuals nor the name deceive you, Joel Bouchard-Lamontagne's (logicow's) Fuck This Jam entry showed that someone could create a fascinating game in a genre he presumably hates. Players use a line to connect the popping star objects to all the other like-colored objects. Order, angle, refractions, warmholes, and supernovas all play a part in this brilliant puzzler.


4. Black Box (Eyemaze) [browsers]

The GROW series developer gave us this wonderful interactive toy to point, click, pull, and prod. This main robot creature in Black Box magically animates as you figure out where to do what; just be sure to click every centimeter!

Half of the game can be unlocked with a password found here, the rest for as tiny or as big of a donation as you want.


3. Puzzles (Increpare) [Windows and Mac, browsers]

How can 8 puzzles eat up hours of your time? When Stephen Lavelle crafts them, the stretching and straining of grey matter is assured. The goal is to get your tiny square to the goal without setting off any game-ending traps and using movable pieces to trick those traps. I dare anyone who thinks they're good at puzzles to give Increpare's Puzzles a try.

farsh.png2. Farsh (Mahdi Bahrami) [Windows and Mac]

From the Nega Kon and Bo developer comes Farsh. Players must roll a farsh (Persian for "carpet") along floating and switching platforms to the goal. Players must plan even more carefully when the game introduces one-time use green platforms. The basic rules are simple, but it truly is a magic carpet (puzzle) ride worth trying. Farsh also features a mix of piano and setar that I want to hear more of.


1. Corrypt (Michael Brough) [Windows and Mac]

Michael Brough's last entry in 2012 was tucked away in a holiday indie promotion called The Advent of Indies and probably came out too late in the year to earn the recognition it deserves outside of a couple swell indie blogs. Well here it is, and here we tell you once again to dig deep into your brain and attempt to solve these difficult, evolved spatial puzzles. I don't feel the tasks you receive and dungeon-like map you fill dilute the puzzle experience; they merely accent it. Keeping the spoilers in tact, the best parts of Corrypt await for your discovery.

Honorable mentions: Gunbrick , Promises, Mushbits, Niña Nueve, Mentat, Mamono Digger

[IndieGames continues its year in review, with lists including the Top 10 Indie Adventure Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Strategy Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Horror Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Shoot-'Em-Ups of 2012 and our Top 10 Indie Games of 2012 (+2!).]