The best brain training games to get you ready for back to school season

With the back to school season looming, it makes sense to ensure your brain is back in fighting shape after the long vacation. That’s why we’ve found the best brain training games to nudge your neurons back to life. 

Even if the science is a little bit fuzzy on whether or not brain training games can do everything they claim to, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other games that help you improve your memory, health, speaking ability, and other skills. Some are fun traditional games that help you learn a language, while others mix learning subjects with fun, gamified mechanics. Here are the top 10 brain training games you can pick up right now.


Threes is addition and strategy, forcing you to think ahead while sliding around cute, chatty tiles, to make the biggest multiplications of three possible. It’s adorable and elegant design scored it an Apple Design Award in 2014, and it’s all the joy of swiping a screen, none of the Tinder STDs. 

It’s small and simple but, but so hard to master that there are pages dedicated to tips and tricks on Reddit, and it took more than three years after the games release it for someone to “beat” it by creating the final 12,288 tile. 

Download Threes on iOS here (opens in new tab)
Download Threes on Android here (opens in new tab)


Memrise combines fun games, memes, and conversations with native speakers to maximize your learning potential. It has over 42 million users even with a somewhat pricey subscription fee – the Premium Plan costs $9 per month or $59 per year – that needs to be paid after your first lesson. 

If the price is too steep for you, there are other major apps in the space like Duolingo or Babbel, both of which use fun games and conversations to guide you through vocabulary and grammar lessons. 

Download Memrise on iOS here (opens in new tab)
Download Memrise on Android here (opens in new tab)

Hitman Go 

Like other strategic puzzle games, Hitman Go forces you into head-scratching challenges where you must move Agent 47 along a grid in order to complete a mission. Each mission has special requirements, like a certain number of turns or a specific restriction, that must be met in order to get a higher score. 

While studies have said the more well-known brain training games don’t have as much of an impact, they did say that players who picked up Portal 2 experienced an improvement with a range of cognitive skills (opens in new tab). Traditional gaming is where it’s at for synapse spin class, and you can’t go wrong with Agent 47.  

Download Hitman Go on iOS here
(opens in new tab)
Download Hitman Go on Android here (opens in new tab)

The Wiki Game  

(Image credit: The Wiki Game)

The Wiki Game (opens in new tab) is a fun little exercise that should give you an extra bit of knowledge for the holiday dinner table. Similar to the browser version of the game, this mobile one takes the core idea of jumping from page to page through finding specific words and gives you 200 levels worth of it. It’s a way to gain various bits of knowledge in a wordy game of read-and-seek through the many pages of Wikipedia. 

Ever stay up into the wee hours of the morning playing your own personal version of the Wiki Game? If you have you’ll know how much random knowledge you can rack up. 

Download The Wiki Game HD on iOS here (opens in new tab)


(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Everyone knows what chess is, but far fewer know how its seemingly complicated rules work. While studies are split on whether or not chess functions like a brain training game and increases your cognitive functionality, Chess is still a deep game that requires prolonged concentration when making your move. 

Chess is also a good skill to learn as it may help with some of your analytical abilities. Like a chess player looking at a board and breaking down their different options, players can transfer that skill to how they deal with problem-solving in real life. Breaking down different options and plans to fix and issue which is perfect for troubleshooting. There are several versions of Chess on both iPhone and Android, but we like Really Bad Chess by Zach Gage for its unique take on the ancient game. 

Download Really Bad Chess on iOS here (opens in new tab)
Download Really Bad Chess on Android here (opens in new tab)


MindSnacks (opens in new tab) are specialized games/apps for individual languages including Chinese and several European languages. It spreads learning vocabulary, spelling, and grammar across nine different games with their own hand-drawn art. It also has traditional elements of language learning apps, including the ability to track progress.Forget sitting down with a pen and paper, here you need to use your knowledge to help a penguin slide along the ice. Why can’t college lectures be more like this?

Download MindSnacks on iOS here (opens in new tab)


This mix of memory games and brain training is definitely at the pricier end of the scholastic spectrum, demanding a huge $119.99 for an annual subscription, but it’s also the one that has the biggest range of activities. It even promises special programs to help with Dementia, Parkinson’s, brain injuries and more, and that it was developed by neuroscience experts.

Download Cognifit on iOS here (opens in new tab)  
Download Cognifit on Android here (opens in new tab)  


(Image credit: Tetris Company)

Everyone knows Tetris and its simplistic, addicting, and satisfying gameplay. Studies (opens in new tab) have shown that Tetris can improve spatial reasoning, help with anxiety, and even reduce episodes of PTSD. A 2009 study (opens in new tab) even found that playing Tetris can help your brain become more efficient overplay sessions. Don’t expect to see a huge increase in your IQ, or anything like that though. 

Like chess, Tetris has a number of games on Android and iOS. We recommend the classic (opens in new tab) version.

Download Tetris on iOS here (opens in new tab)  
Download Tetris on Android here (opens in new tab)  


If you like your brain training to come with a serious pedigree, BrainHQ boasts its own international team of neuroscientists. They were led by Michael Merzenich, a professor emeritus in neurophysiology no less, and claims to improve attention, brain speed, memory, people skills, navigation, and intelligence. They compare working out your brain cells to working out your abs and delts… let’s just hope it isn’t quite as sweaty or the bus ride home is going to be awkward. 

Download BrainHQ on iOS here (opens in new tab)  
Download BrainHQ  Android here (opens in new tab)  

Need to rest your brain after all that training? Check out the best movies of 2018 (opens in new tab) and the best TV shows of 2018 (opens in new tab), according to… us

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