Portal is a game that instantly puts the fabric of temporal space in your hands. This remarkably futuristic power is quickly put to use, helping you to traverse through a cognitive strip mall of puzzles. It’s the sort of game where every minor success makes you feel like a genius. If you're a fan of challenging puzzles, then these 16 games like Portal are sure to leave you scratching your head for more.
The Portal series has pierced through multiple levels of pop culture in ways most games can only dream of. Originally released in 2007, it basically redefined what people thought of as a modern puzzle game, with its clever sense of humor and convention-defying mechanics. Its fingerprints are very clearly seen on many of the games following its release. It even followed it up with a sequel that did the unthinkable and somehow topped it by a large margin. Do you think Portal 2 is better than the original? Are you among the vocal minority that the original will never be topped? Wherever you stand, it’s amazing to think that this all started from a DigiPen Institute student project.
Though a future entry in the Portal series seems unlikely, here are a few immensely enjoyable games like Portal and Portal 2 that might fulfill your search for similarly visionary experiences.
Like the intricate Valve puzzler before it, The Witness is deceptively simple at a mere glance. Comprised of hundreds of line puzzles, it’s the way in which each would be riddle builds on previous concepts and how it forces players to extrapolate on what they’ve learned to make the necessary leaps of logic. Twist after twist on the core formula and a rapid introduction of fresh concepts makes for a seamless dance of ingenuity.
Why it's worth playing: In a stroke of refreshing design choice, the structure of the game world is set up on an open-ended island that can be tackled in free-form order. The player has a lot of choice regarding where to go and what to do. Walking away from one sect of the island that’s got you stumped, and making progress elsewhere can do wonders in breaking new ground when you return.
Developer: Jonathan Blow
Genres (Video game): Puzzle game
The ruins of The Talos Principle make host to provocative puzzles reminiscent of those found in the Aperture Science Labs. Taking into account all the working pieces and geography around you, swapping in and out combinations of would-be hypothesizes, and carefully aligning refracted light beams, arriving at the much hoped for solutions. Often not even the second or third inclination is correct, but when you do eventually reach the desired configuration it can feel incredibly triumphant.
Why it's worth playing: Along with its puzzles, there’s certainly an air of mystery underlying the experience. Early on it alludes that something greater is at play, with historical and biblical allegories creeping up around the edges. It makes The Talos Principle all the more exciting to try to work through the levels and understand the existential ramifications the game is trying to provoke. If this is the distant future of our inevitable AI overlords, at least we’ll know that they’ll enjoy philosophy.
Genres (Video game): First-person puzzle game
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, + more
Where Portal games are traditionally pretty challenging, The Turing Test is a more laid-back affair. Still, the engaging plot and thought-provoking puzzles are enough keep you scratching your head long after you've finished playing. Released in 2016, gamers play as Ava Turing, a NASA engineer who's been sent on a mission to save her crew by working with the Ship's AI, TOM.
Why it's worth playing: Often cited as Portal Jr., The Turing Test focuses more on ambiance and plot threads as opposed to traditional puzzles, so more casual gamers might particularly love this one. The graphics are also a standout, which definitely helps keep you engaged during some of the slower moments.
Developer: Bulkhead Interactive
Genres (Video game): Puzzle
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
This one's pretty obvious, considering it's a mod of Portal 2. Developed by Prism Studios, it's basically an official love letter to the Portal series. Taking place in the Aperture Science facility, it includes many of the same gameplay elements, and the puzzles are, surprisingly, just as challenging, if not slightly more so at times.
Why it's worth playing: While Portal and Portal 2 are more linear, this one's a bit more open. It also adds a handful of new features and, on average, takes eight to 10 hours to play from start to finish.
Platform(s): Windows, OS X, Linux
Genre(s): Puzzle platformer