Brain Games

Games are not just for kids! Playing carefully-crafted, intellectually-stimulating games positively impacts quality of life and can improve higher brain functions in people of all ages. Research has also shown that brain games can be effective in improving cognitive symptoms related to many different conditions – including mild traumatic brain injury.

The brain games in this resource list have the potential to significantly increase attention, concentration, memory, speed of visual and auditory processing, verbal fluency – among other cognitive benefits. Ideally, you should play a variety of games, and focus on at least one game every day for the greatest benefit. If, for whatever reason, you do not find it practical to play brain games daily, you should play these games several times a week (minimum) to truly impact your brain.  When you do play, spend a solid 15 -30 minutes of your attention focused on improving your cognitive skills.

Patricia Youngman highly recommends these games for their brain-stimulating qualities:
Available from Mindware:  Colorku | Pix Mix | Q-bitz | Qwirkle | Rush Hour | Stare!
Available from Amazon: Blink | Blokus | Blokus 3D | Blokus Trigon | Bop It | Quiddler | QwitchRailroad Rush Hour | SET | SET Cubed | Simplexity | Scattergories | Taboo

Colorku - Sudoku in color!Colorku is “The Color Sudoku Puzzle” where you use colorful wooden balls instead of numbers to solve Sudoku puzzles. Many people are intimidated by Sudoku because of the numbers and associate the with math – even though you don’t do any math to solve Sudoku puzzles. ColorKu is a great way to do Sudoku because it takes numbers out of the Sudoku equation. Colorku comes with 81 colored balls in 9 different colors and a 13.5″ game board – all made from high-quality, solid wood.

ColorKu enhances visual processing, logic, reasoning and problem solving skills. In terms of strategy, you must employ a complex process of elimination to successfully complete each puzzle. Start with a few balls in the positions shown on one of the 104 puzzle cards. Then try to fill the board so that no color is repeated in any row, in any column, or in any 3×3 box. It’s much harder than it sounds. The puzzles included come in 5 levels of difficulty, and range from Easy to Challenging to Really Tough.  ColorKu also comes with a card that shows you how to convert the traditional 1-9 numbered Sudoku games to use with your Colorku set. There are also ColorKu expansion packs available to get even more challenging puzzles – ColorKu Puzzle Expansion Pack 1, ColorKu Puzzle Expansion Pack 2 and ColorKu Puzzle Expansion Pack 3. Each of the expansion packs come with 104 more puzzles at harder challenge levels.

Pix Mix
Pix Mix Line Jumble GamePix Mix targets visual discrimination and visual processing speed. It is a line art jumble where you sharpen your ability to analyze, break down and differentiate shapes. Transparent cards feature one simple image (like a butterfly or a cat), and the cards are stacked in window envelopes revealing a muddle of images. You have 30 seconds to identify all six “pix” within each envelope “mix.”



Q-bitz Visual Challenge GameQ-bitz features three different types of visual challenges. Round One is all about speed as players race to manipulate their cubes to copy the pattern on one of 120 different Q-bitz pattern cards. The first player to complete the pattern keeps the card. Round Two adds luck to the equation, as players roll their cubes to match the pattern. Round Three tests visual memory as players re-create the pattern from a glance. The player who collects the most cards wins.


QwirkleQwirkle is as simple as matching colors and shapes, but also requires tactical maneuvers and well-planned strategy. You earn points by building rows and columns of blocks that share a common shape or color. You score big by placing a tile that touches multiple pieces with matching attributes. Qwirkle received the Mensa Select Award.



Rush Hour
Rush Hour Puzzle GameRush Hour is a puzzle game that demands visual problem solving, critical thinking, and strategy development. In this “traffic jam logic game,’ you must navigate your red car through gridlock to successfully leave the parking lot in as few moves as possible. The game comes with 40 challenge cards with solutions – beginner, intermediate and advanced. Rush Hour has received numerous awards, including the Mensa Select Award.

To increase the cognitive challenge, Patricia Young recommends getting the three additional challenge decks that come with different escape cars: Rush Hour 2 (featuring a fun red convertible), Rush Hour 3 (featuring a fancy white limousine), and Rush Hour 4 (featuring a classic yellow taxi).   These three decks provide a combined total of 120 more original challenges from four higher challenge levels: intermediate, advanced, expert, and grand master.  The gridlock puzzles in these decks feature their respective new escape cars. To give you a sense of the difficultly of these advanced challenges – “Intermediate” traffic jams require 10 to 20 moves, but “expert” traffic gridlocks can take over 50 moves.  These additional challenge decks all require you to own the original Rush Hour game.

If you have difficulty with Rush Hour, you should start with Rush Hour Jr. and then work your way up to the original Rush Hour game. The objective of Rush Hour Jr. is to get the ice cream truck through the traffic jam and through the exit. The Jr. version of Rush Hour helps build attention/concentration, sequential thinking, reasoning, and planning skills in younger players and people whose cognitive abilities require starting at a lower level than the beginner level of the original Rush Hour game.

Stare! A Game of Visual MemoryStare! is visual discrimination and visual memory enhancing game. Pay close attention to the funny image, cartoon or sketch on each card and memorize as much as you can about it. Flip the card over and the answer a question about the image before the 30-second timer is up.




Get Blink Card GameBlink enhances speed of processing and verbal fluency. You are one of two players who race to be the first to play all of your cards. You must quickly match the shape, count, or color on the cards in the two piles and call out “shape,” “color” or “number” (or a combination thereof) as you match the cards. The first player out of cards wins.



Blokus Abstract Strategy GameBlokus is an abstract strategy board game. Your objective is to place 21 pieces onto a 20×20 board (400 positions) so that you are left with as few pieces as possible. There are four sets of pieces and two to four players play at a time, but all four sets of pieces are always used: If there are only two players, each player plays two colors at a time. The first move a player makes must cover one of the board’s four corners. The pieces you lay down on the board can only touch at the corners as opposed to on an edge. Gain extra points for playing all your pieces and an extra bonus if the last piece played is the piece with only one square. Blokus received the Mensa Select Award.

Blokus 3D and Blokus Trigon are two additional Blokus variants. Blokus 3D is a good abstract strategy game that has all of the qualities of the original Blokus plus sharpens spatial awareness. Blokus Trigon re-imagines the classic Blokus strategy on a Hexagonal game board.

Bop It
Get Bop ItBop It stimulates motor skills, builds attention and concentration, and enhances speed of information processing and responding. Bop It also encourages active listening and hones your ability to follow directions. The game instructs you to do one of three things: to Pull It, Twist It or Bop It. You must listen closely to the directions – that can sound jumbled because of the music that goes along with the game. As you play, the speed at which Bop It issues the commands increases. Choose from one of three different games: Solo Bop, Vox Bop and Beat Bop. Bop It is very challenging when you use the “Beat Bop” game setting that substitutes sounds for the verbal commands.  You can play alone or with multiple people.

Quidler Word GameQuiddler is a short word game that uses beautifully-illustrated alphabet cards to enhance visual perception and strategy skills as you try to combine all of the random letters in your hand into words.  Quiddler is a versatile game where 2- 8 people can play a game in about 15-20 minutes. The Quiddler solitaire rules offer endless word challenges for the single player. Quiddler Deluxe edition also includes the Quiddler Short Word Dictionary – a dictionary is organized both alphabetically and by the number of letters per word so you can find the best two, three, for, and five letter words.


Qwitch The Quick Switch Card GameQwitch is a “quick switch game” that can improve your brain’s speed of processing and responding. Each person picks 5 cards from a draw pile. As the starting card is turned over and the die is rolled, you must try and get rid of as many cards as you can and call out your selection. Each card has a single number and letter, and the die represents a specific symbol (+, -, =). The value of the die and top card determine what cards can be played next. For example, if the die displays the + symbol, the card you play must be one number OR one letter up from the top card. Say the top card is B2, you can play any card with a C or 3 on it.

Railroad Rush Hour
Railroad Rush HourRailroad Rush Hour is a logic puzzle game (spin off of Rush Hour) that demands attention/concentration, sequential thinking, visual problem solving, critical thinking, logic, reasoning and strategy development. You must navigate your little red escape locomotive through train gridlock and around platforms to successfully leave the train station exit gate in as few moves as possible. The game comes with 50 challenge cards with solutions – junior, beginner, intermediate and expert levels.


SET GameCreativity requires the use of both the left and right sides of your brain, and SET is a game of visual perception that enhances the potential for creative thinking by utilizing both “right brain” and “left brain” thinking skills. To create a SET, a player must locate three cards where each of the four features is either all the same or all different on each card. The four features are:  symbol (oval, squiggle or diamond), color (red, purple or green), number (one, two or three) and shading (solid, striped or open). The SET game involves learning a rule of logic, and so players must invoke “left brain” logical thinking skills.  In order to find the SETs, players must examine the spatial array of cards and locate the cards that satisfy the rule – which exercises “right brain” spatial and intuitive thinking skills. SET is a great challenge for either solitaire or competitive game play.

SET Cubed
SET Cubed GameSET Cubed is a twist on the original SET Game that challenges your ability to identify SETs between the dice in your hand and those already on the board.  Unlike the SET Card Game where you use 4 features to create a SET, SET Cubed is a 3 feature SET: symbol (oval, squiggle or diamond), color (red, purple or green), number (one, two or three). Only having 3 features makes it easier to make SETs. Play up to 3 dice per turn to make as many SETs as possible. Create SETs up, down and across the board. As the number of dice on the board increases, so do the possible SET combinations. Since there are also “Wild” Cubes, SET Cubed is about 95% skill and 5% luck.

Simplexity Brain Bender GameSimplexity is a high strategy game with a simple objective: be the first player to get four pieces of your shape or color in a row wins. The tricky part is that over half of your pieces are your opponents shape, so your next move might actually be helping your opponent. The game is simple to learn, simple to play, but complex enough to demand your full attention.



ScattergoriesScattergories is a fast-thinking game that targets cognitive flexibility and auditory processing. In this classic game invented in 1923, players try to match categories using words that start with the same letter. There is also a Scattergories Card Game.



Taboo - A game enhancing verbal fluencyTaboo is the fun and classic word describing game that can help you develop better cognitive flexibility. Each team of at least two players takes turns guessing as many words from the game cards as they can in one minute, without using the “taboo” words. The better your team does, the further you move around the game board, and the first team to get to the end wins.