25 Brain Games: Essential Back-to-School Supplies

Back to school already? Here are 25 social, casual and mobile games that will get your brain in shape before you know it. They’ll also keep you entertained for hours, and (let’s be honest), distract you from all that pesky homework! Did your favorites make the list?

Facebook games:

Brain Buddies by wooga – Brain Buddies offers its users a playful way to determine their brain weight. The game is focusing on a contest among friends to find the one with the heaviest brain. A large set of mini games as well as entertaining graphics make the game fun to play for a long time.

Who Has the Biggest Brain by Playfish – In ‘Who Has The Biggest Brain?’ you are taken through a series of mini games where you test your abilities in 4 areas of your brain: Calculation, Memory, Logic and Visual. The combined score from each of these categories add up to your overall brain rating. A great opportunity to settle the debate, who really does have the biggest brain? After playing a game of ‘Who Has The Biggest Brain?’ you are awarded a ranking, or ‘Brain Type’. There are 27 different brain types that are used to rank you and your friends.

Two other studious selections to try from Playfish are Word Challenge and Geo Challenge.

poweRBrands by Reckitt Benckiser – “Reckitt Benckiser calls the title ‘the first Facebook game of its kind’, as it’s designed to test players’ marketing and business abilities, teach strategy and decision-making skills, and introduce users to the culture and challenges that face the company’s marketers every day.”

DumbVille by GSN – Designed to see just how many brain cells you have kicking around! Tackle quirky questions and puzzle your way through mindless mini-games to rise through the ranks from Village Idiot to Mayor of Dumbville. It’s your chance show your buddies what’s what, but that’s not all. Every time you succeed AND every time your friends fail, you’ll win Oodles – redeemable rewards that you can use to purchase sweepstakes entries and prizes on GSN.com.

Scrabble by Electronic Arts – A new version of the original board game includes built-in chat and dictionary, multiple word lists, dynamic animations, and multiple speed settings for public games. An easy-to-use interface lets you play with anyone who loves the game!

Online games:

Empire Avenue – Reap the benefits of expanding your online influence while buying and selling virtual shares in your best friend, your favorite blogger or that pizza joint down the road – anyone, for free. Connect with other people who like the same things as you, find interesting bloggers to follow, or unearth a cool new business in your home town! This Internet thing is pretty useful, you know, and Empire Avenue helps you find the people and businesses that are relevant to you.

Risk: The Game of Global Domination on Pogo.com – Based on the classic board game of strategic conquest from Hasbro, Risk comes to life online where the object of the game is simple: Global Domination! Establish your military objectives, take command of your army and begin your campaign to rule the world. Risk is a turn based game with each player starting with their own controllable army in an attempt to capture territories from opposing players and control the entire map.

Word Whomp on Pogo.com – This free Pogo.com favorite challenges you to whomp adorable gophers and spell as many words as you can from a given set of letters before the clock runs out. Gophers will dig up veggies and bonuses as you unscramble words. Reach the carrot to enter the bonus round and score big!

Jeopardy on GSN.com – Test your trivia knowledge, just like the actual game show. Select a question from one of the six game categories by clicking on a dollar value under the category of your choice. When the question appears, you may choose to either “Respond” or “Pass.” If you choose to respond, you will have 15 seconds to answer a multiple-choice question. The game will end when you don’t have enough money to play on.

Wheel of Fortune on GSN.com – You can compete for cash and prizes, just like contestants on the actual game show, with 5 turns to solve the word puzzle. Correctly identify consonants or “buy a vowel.” Each successful guess gives you an additional free spin, but the faster you solve the puzzle, the higher your time bonus! When you choose to solve the puzzle, if your answer is correct, you’ll play in the Bonus Round. If not, you’ll lose a turn.

Tiny Planets – “Targetting kids aged six to 14, this game is based on the Tiny Planets animated TV series, and offers six ‘planets’ for users to visit consisting of simple games, web videos, social networking, a virtual world, goods, and currency, and, of course, learning opportunities. Tiny Planets is rich with entertaining and educational activities that focus on space, conservation, science, creativity, and critical thinking skills.”

Fantage.com, a TriplePoint client – A next-generation destination site for children that offers games and adventures to entertain, delight, and promote positive social interaction in an engaging, exciting, safe environment that both kids and parents love. Fantage also provides an age-appropriate, safe social networking experience within a fun virtual world.

FitBrains.com – Provides scientifically developed brain games targeting the five major brain areas: memory, problem solving, concentration, visual spatial, Language. Focus on one brain area or play all the games to give your brain a complete workout. Brain games are a fun way to exercise your brain and an important pillar in living a healthy life. Try your luck and test your skills in games like Travel Quest, Sum Snap and Uber Brain.

iPhone & iPad games:

The Oregon Trail by Gameloft – Assume the role of a wagon leader in a side-view journey where your strategic decisions must ensure the safety of your party along the treacherous Oregon Trail. Overcome the perilous journey to Oregon in America’s Wild West. Just like the real pioneers, experience the decision-making, problem-solving, and role-playing fun of this historical event. A unique strategy/educational game relating the first pioneers’ journey to Western American.

THINK by TriplePoint client, Ravensburger Digital – 16 exercises spread across four distinct categories, all designed to give your mind a rigorous workout in different areas of thought. THINK is currently available in English, Spanish and German. Could your brain use a boost?

RedFish Puzzle by Fresh Planet – “Fun games for smart people.” Fresh Planet offers several brain games on various platforms, including the RedFish series of learning apps for young children on the iPad. RedFish Piano 4 Kids is another good one to check out.

Words with Friends by Newtoy Inc. – Turn-based crossword gaming in your pocket! Not much else to say, besides this game is Scrabble in your pocket, with your friends, in real time… and it’s as addictive as they come 😉

HexaLex by TriplePoint client Nathan Gray – Takes the classic, easy to learn but hard to master crossword game and adds a new dimension. Hexagonal tiles let you play words in three directions instead of two. Words interact in new and interesting ways. But have no fear, you’ll be up and playing in no time, thanks to the tutorial and detailed, built-in help. If you’ve ever played Scrabble, Lexulous, or Words With Friends you’ll feel right at home!

Word Warp by MobilityWare – Word game fans rejoice! If you’ve enjoyed countless hours playing games like TextTwist, Word Scramble, Jumble, Boggle, or Scrabble, then Word Warp is the game for you! Similar to Text Twist, Word Warp is a challenging anagram type of word game in which you try to form as many words as you can out of the six letters you are given before time runs out. You will receive points for each correct word you come up with, but in order to advance to the next level you must come up with at least one word that uses all six letters.

Word Scramble 2 by Zynga – Scramble is the fast fun game of finding words in a jumbled grid. Quickly slide your finder over letters next to each other to make words! Compete with friends and play live with fellow word game fans.

Nintendo games:

Big Brain Academy (Wii and DS) by Nintendo – Weigh Your Brain! With 15 activities that challenge your brain in single-player Test and Practice modes, Big Brain Academy Wii sees how you measure up in five categories: memory, analysis, number crunching, visual recognition, and quick thinking.

My Word Coach (DS) by Ubisoft – My Word Coach, developed in collaboration with linguists, helps players improve their verbal communication and vocabulary in a fun way. Practice need never get boring with six different exercises to choose between. Players can input missing letters from words, spell out the answers to various definitions, choose which word matches a particular definition, form specific words with Scrabble-like tiles, and more. Three levels of difficulty are available, and the game includes a built-in dictionary of over 17,000 words. Two of the games can be played multiplayer over wireless and the data of three different players can be saved.

Personal Trainer: Math (DS) by Nintendo – Makes learning fun with fast-paced, high-speed arithmetic problems that keep your math basics fresh, from addition to subtraction and multiplication to division. Daily math drills and an attendance record help keep you on track. As your calculation speed improves, earn medals in each exercise to prove your mathematical mastery! 40 different exercises, ranging in difficulty from simple to elaborate calculations, provide tons of ways to build on your knowledge and improve your arithmetic skills until all your math worries evaporate forever!

My Virtual Tutor: Reading Kindergarten to 1st Grade(DS) by Mentor Interactive – By combining the kid-friendly Nintendo DS with a proven reading curriculum developed and tested at the University of Colorado, My Virtual Tutor: Reading makes learning reading skills fun, affordable and portable. Through interactive books, school age and grade relevant phonics instruction and fun quiz modes, your child will learn the comprehension, phonics, fluency and vocabulary necessary to become an expert reader, all while having fun with their Nintendo DS.

Brain Age (DS) by Nintendo – The title is a series of minigames designed to give your brain a workout. The 17 engaging activities are all designed to help work your brain and increase blood flow to the prefrontal cortex. Whether you’re playing simple songs on a piano keyboard or monitoring the photo finish of a footrace, you’ll love your new mental workout!

Soapbox: Devouring the Social Game Buffet – Why We Play

Pondering the psychology behind social gaming usually starts with personal experience.

Does this sound familiar? I don’t even want to look at my to-do list some days, much less tackle it. So why is it that I look forward to a virtual to-do list of serving up dinners, harvesting crops and digging for treasures on Facebook each day?

Looking back on some of the things I said (and didn’t say) in “Why do we play social games?” I can’t seem to let it go… My degree is in psychology. I live, work and basically breathe social games, social media and the video game industry. Yet, for the life of me, I can’t explain it.

Most of the Facebook games I play are straight-up simulators of real world activities that I have no interest whatsoever in doing. What is so enticing about the Facebook gaming platform that makes me want to perform mindless point-to-click tasks several times a day, just to maintain my virtual game world full of cafes, farms, islands, pets, gangs and big cities? I assure you there are dozens of other things I could do with all those minutes of my life.

If you think this is a cheap stab at social game developers, think again – in fact, Facebook game developers are obviously privy to knowledge the rest of us aren’t, because for such unexplainable phenomena, social gaming business models and loyalty rates are through the roof. They’re smart, savvy and quick-to-action. Every industry should be so lucky.  I’m just searching for answers behind the psychology of social gaming, and it only makes sense to share.

I’ve conjured up some philosophical theories about social gamers. Some have been tossed around before, some have psychological backing, and some simply come from personal experience. In the end, it’s probably a combination of all of these and more:

Reality check – We play social games because we can do things we’d never do in real life. We can barely scratch the surface of our real life to-do list – seems like there are never enough hours in the day. But in a few short minutes, we can virtually harvest acres worth of crops, redecorate a 9-bedroom home, build an elaborate city park, and cook up 10 new delicious dishes to serve to hungry customers. We are in charge, and we have the ability to complete big tasks and achieve big goals, with little effort invested.

* Gold star syndrome – We earn points and level up for almost every action we take in a social game. Our friends pitch in and help us earn special prizes and rewards to redeem in-game and showcase to our worldwide web of Facebook friends. When does that happen in real life? We don’t typically earn money for doing chores in the real world. There are no levels and no scoreboards to top. Social games feed into childhood ideas of reward and motivation – aka, gold star syndrome.

* Bragging rights – “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it…” When we earn a new high score that breaks personal and network-wide records, we want someone else to acknowledge how hard it was to score that many points in a 1-minute round of match-3. Or once we’ve built the best farm or city on Facebook, we want to share it with our friends and show them how creative, funny or crazy we can be. It’s not nearly as much fun to score 400k+ in Bejeweled Blitz if we can’t brag to our friends about it (and have a shared scoreboard to keep us honest).

* Calgon, take me away – It’s an escape. Social games give us a quick getaway from real life. The formula has been proven millions of times over by companies like Zynga and Playfish: Give us something fun and interesting to look at and strive for, spruced up with some inconspicuously catchy tune that repeats on loop. Constantly give us new items to decorate our virtual spaces in ways we couldn’t afford or physically do in real life. Get our minds off of our worries, and let us rule our own world for a few minutes. That’s all it takes to reel in happily hooked players. Playing social games can even help us refocus and think more creatively.

It seems the only gameplay elements (motivators, if you will) missing from social games are challenge and chance. Are players hungry for more? Let that soak in and then check back tomorrow for my regularly scheduled Sunday Soapbox, where I’ll try to take social gaming to new heights via opinion.

Meanwhile, what do you think? Have I left out something obvious that drives us to play social games (and spend real money in them), or have I gone off the deep-end entirely with the list above? Why do you think we play social games?