“Life is more fun if you play,” said Roald Dahl.

And there’s even better news: those same games can also make you smarter. Here are 11 games that exercise different mental abilities.

1.Super Mario Brothers

Good news for fans of the adorable Italian plumber! A neurological research study has found that playing Super Mario Brothers for at least 30 minutes a day for two months improves neural plasticity — the brain’s ability to change and grow.

Guiding Mario and Luigi through the different levels increases the gray matter in their brain that is essential for “spatial navigation, strategic planning, working memory, and motor performance.” The researchers concluded that the right dose of the Super Mario Brothers adventures can help those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and neurodegenerative diseases.


If you’re competitive playing Scrabble, you can brag to your friends that you’ve got some crazy language skills!

A study comparing competitive Scrabble players against a test group of novice players found that Scrabble experts are more adept at vertical fluency and semantic de-emphasis. The first skill allows you to handle words presented vertically, and the second enhances your ability to handle word responses. These two abilities combined lead to better word recognition in adults. Unfortunately, researchers don’t believe these same skills can be gained through Scrabble’s digital counterpart, Words With Friends. So put down your smartphone and start playing this board game.


If the world famous company Rosetta Stone invests 12 million dollars in a suite of brain training apps, you should give these apps a try. And boy, does brain training app developer FitBrains have a release? They claim that by using their apps for 15 minutes a day, five days a week, you can improve your memory and concentration, and prevent mental illnesses like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. FitBrains includes memory, visual, focus, speed, logic, and language games, all accessible through its website or smartphone apps.

4. Chess

There is strong evidence of the mental benefits of playing chess on a regular basis in all age groups.

  • Chess players in elementary schools make significant gains in reading scores.
  • Primary school students who play chess show improvements in math skills.
  • Mastering chess at any age is related to better object and pattern recognition.
  • There are several anecdotal accounts of adults playing speed chess and making a profit in other activities.
  • Proving the thesis that the brain works like a muscle, the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that adults over the age of 75 who engage in “brain stretching” activities such as chess are less likely to develop dementia.

 5. Mahjong

While chess is considered one of the ultimate intelligence tests in the western world, mahjong is its counterpart in the eastern world. Widely popular in East and Southeast Asia, mahjong is played with a set of 144 tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols. Adults with mild to moderate symptoms of dementia can improve their cognitive functions by playing the game.

However, various studies indicate that the health benefits of mahjong extend beyond older people with dementia. Mahjong improves social skills, memory, and even math skills.

6. Tetris

If you still suspect that playing video games can make you smarter, then here is a game that will cast your doubts away. Through the use of brain activity tracking technologies, the researchers found that adolescents showed better brain activity after three months of playing Tetris. Girls ages 12 to 15 practiced Tetris for 1.5 hours per week over the three-month period. During and after a Tetris session, your brain experiences significant activity that leads to increased brain efficiency. In addition to improving your noggin, playing Tetris can help you fight cravings and become part of your weight control or habit reduction plan.

7. Monopoly

This is my favorite board game, so I was excited to read the reviews of the game from renowned board game designer Philip Orbanes. He is a global authority on Monopoly and has judged US and World Monopoly championships for more than 30 years. (Watch him judge the Final Game of the 2009 Monopoly Championship, which brought together national champions from Russia, Norway, New Zealand, and the United States.) He strongly believes that Monopoly provides real life financial lessons.

Orbanes points out that Monopoly can:

  • Provide children with their first important lessons in the art of negotiations in a safe environment;
  • Teaching players of any age understand the concept of diversification;
  • Offer hands-on training in money management;
  • It helps to exercise arithmetic and statistical skills without feeling like homework.

It turns out that Monopoly is serious business!


This is an alternative to FitBrains. If you’ve seen one of Lumosity’s commercials on TV and decided to check out his site to see what neuroplasticity is all about, you’re not alone. The site has over 60 million subscribers, spending just over 11 minutes on the site per session.

Lumosity provides 40 games that are designed to increase memory, attention, processing speed, mental flexibility, and problem-solving skills. For example, the Waitress Game exercises your ability to remember names and RainDrops works on problem solving. Could you find free alternatives to all 40 games on your own? Sure, but Lumosity has already done the work for you and can provide custom reports and suggestions on what to work on next.

9. LittleBigPlanet

If Lumosity sounds too adult for your inner child’s taste, then give LittleBigPlanet a try. This game requires such high levels of critical thinking and creativity that a New York public school added LittleBigPlanet to its curricula.

There are many versions of LittleBigPlanet, but the one that has been praised the most for its skill-building benefits is LittleBigPlanet 2. Given the availability of an in-game level editor for creating custom levels, many have noted how it provides players with an introduction. basic to computer science or game design. This opportunity to design and test your own game levels could be a great investment. After all, the game design industry offers annual salaries ranging from $37,000 to $200,000.

10. Charades

The classic family room game is a great way to give your brain a workout. Trying to decode and communicate through gesture alone recruits a number of brain areas that are necessary for simulation and mentalization. While the benefits of charades are best enjoyed when actively trying to guess at the charades, there are also marginal benefits when simply watching. Having to play and present information without speaking trains sham players to make sense of new information more efficiently. Additionally, role-playing facilitates your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

11. The Professor Layton Series

Last but not least is the popular series for the Nintendo DS gaming platform. While the game is known for its beautiful animation sequences, it is downright addictive due to its cleverly designed brain busters. Up to 75% of players indicate that brain teasing is their preferred aspect of the game. This motivator is more than double that of any other included in the survey. The variety of logic challenges keeps you engaged and if you find them too easy you can increase the difficulty level. Before deciding on a specific game to buy, you can try some of the puzzles, such as those in the Arzan Legacy Series.

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