Everyone knows about Words With Friends and Candy Crush, but here are a few more apps that I love to play for hours on end. Whether you prefer word games, jigsaw puzzles, logic puzzles, or matching games, there’s something here you’re guaranteed to love.
Mahjong Deluxe Free
Mahjong Deluxe is a matching game that uses traditional mah jongg tiles in 168 different layouts. You race against the clock to try to find matching pairs that are unimpeded on at least one side. This one is great because you can play each level over and over to try to improve your score; the first time I played I hardly ever cleared a level in less than 10 minutes. Then I replayed them until I earned at least one star on each level (finishing in under seven minutes), then aimed for two stars (under six minutes) and three stars (under five minutes). I’m currently going back through to try to finish in less than three minutes, and I’ve managed to do it on quite a few of them! You can play on your phone or tablet, but it’s much easier on a larger screen.
There are also several different variations on the game that use mostly the same layouts, but different artwork. I absolutely adore Barnyard Mahjong (currently $0.99); the tiles have cute cartoons of fruits, vegetables, and farm animals, and it plays absurd sound effects when you match pairs of animals. The pictures actually make it a bit easier to play than the original version, especially when you give them names like “Grumpy Mr. Potato Face.” (Shut up. It really is a cartoon potato with a grumpy face. See?)
Both versions and several others (including alphabet games for kids, with modified rules) are available for Apple, Android, NOOK, and Windows via EnsenaSoft.
I love Magic Puzzles. I’ve always been a jigsaw puzzle fan, but it’s hard to work on large puzzles with a “helpful” kiddo around (or when I was a kid, cats who liked to chew on the pieces and knock them under things or just plain slide across the table and destroy all my hard work). Magic Puzzles has free collections along with some that you have to pay for, in a range of options from landscapes to cartoons to creepy stuff. You can also upgrade to make your own puzzles. I love the free monthly puzzle packs, which are tricky because you don’t get a preview image and have to solve it without any hints! (If you get really stuck, you can cheat and work the easiest version first so you know what the picture looks like.) There are five difficulty levels on each puzzle, ranging from 42 to 550 pieces. Lexie likes to play the easy levels, while I alternate between 143 and 288 pieces depending on how much time I want to spend on it. You can also choose whether or not to have all the pieces facing the correct way or to have them rotated randomly. I just use the free version, which has sidebar ads, though you can pay to get rid of those if they annoy you. You also accumulate coins by solving puzzles, which you can use to buy extra packs.
Magic Jigsaw Puzzles is available for Apple, Android, NOOK, and Windows via XIMAD.
This is probably the geekiest game on this list. Falcross is a nonogram/picross puzzle where you use numerical clues to figure out which squares in a grid should be filled in to form a picture. The easy level uses a 5×5 grid — if a row says 5, you fill in every square; if it says 2 2, you fill in the first two, skip the center one, and fill in the last two; if it says 3, there are several possibilities, so you fill in the center square and use the clues on the columns to figure out which other squares are filled in. Once you get the hang of that, you move up to 10×10, 15×15, 20×20, and even 25×25 grids! The easier levels can be worked on your phone, but the larger grids are really hard to do unless you have tiny fingers, so those work better on a tablet. (The latest version lets you zoom in on your phone, but I haven’t tried this yet.) I’m pretty sure this is the only game I’ve actually spent money on in-app purchases for, since the basic version only gets you three packs of 30 puzzles each. There’s also a free daily puzzle pulled from the user-created puzzles; the ability to make your own unlocks once you solve 150 puzzles (which yes, requires paid upgrades).
Falcross is currently only available for iPhone/iPad, but there are similar games available on other platforms.
That Word is a scrambled letter game. You’re given six letters on each level, from which you have to make at least one six-letter word to advance to the next level, plus as many shorter words as you can think of to earn extra points. You get bonus points for solving the six-letter word first, for working quickly, and for finding every possible word, but you lose points if you guess more than three incorrect words. Each level moves quickly; you get more time depending on how many words can be formed from each set of letters, but the most you can spend on any one level is about 2 minutes and you may not need the full amount allotted. This is great because you can easily kill time and keep a game going pretty much indefinitely (especially if you close the game and pop the letters into Scrabble Finder when you get hopelessly stuck on the 6-letter word). I *might* have made it through 2,535 levels and placed 11th on the all-time high score list, but it took months of playing a few minutes here and there. There are some quirks in their word list, including a fair amount of British slang (the developer is Canadian), but after a while you start remembering the ones that pop up frequently. Plus, you can change the settings to include dirty words!
That Word is currently only available for iPhone/iPod and costs $1.99.