Brain Games to Improve Memory
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Brain Games to Keep You Mentally Healthy
First, let's be clear. Brain training games are fun, but they aren't magic. Most current science says that "brain training" offers no more mental benefits than playing other kinds of games, including video games.
Which would be a big problem - if most current science didn't also say that video games are great for your brain! Whether your jam is crossword puzzles or Fortnite, playing games keeps your mind active, improves your attention span, stimulates problem-solving and encourages creative thinking.
We went looking for games with three main criteria:
Is it fun? There's no point in recommending a game if you'll tune out halfway through. Boring games are no good to anyone.
Is it accessible? We worked to keep things as platform-neutral as possible. All the chosen games are available on both iPhone and Android, and several have a PC or browser version as well.
Is it mentally engaging? Obviously not every video game has been the subject of an in-depth scholarly assessment, but we gave extra credit to games that either had science backing them up, or provided a deep, intellectually challenging experience.
Based on the above criteria, we heartily recommend any and all of the games below to anyone looking to keep their minds active. Note that these are in no particular order - well, they're in alphabetical order, but you know what we mean - so all of these games meet our criteria and get the coveted WordFinder Seal of Approval.
Brainturk is comparatively new to the marketplace and still has a few rough edges. It lacks the graphical panache of Lumosity, and the browser version required the occasional refresh to play properly. That said, the actual games were engaging and the selection, broken into categories based on particular cognitive skills, was both extensive and intuitive.
Brainturk has at least one major advantage over the competition: its price. The Brainturk Lite app for Android or iPhone is free and contains much of the program's content. The full app, with all the content and personalized feedback, will cost you a princely $1.97. Like the website, the app has the occasional glitch, but it's still a steal for cost-conscious gamers.
Elevate is one of the most impressive offerings in the current brain game market. It scores high both on design and on the depth and breadth of its games, offering help with everything from fast math to public speaking. It also has substantial science backing it up, with one study finding a 69% increase in Elevate players' cognitive skills relating to the games they'd played. Nice!
Predictably, since Elevate has the pretty graphics and deep bench of worthwhile games to challenge Lumosity, it also has that price point. Full access will cost you $11.99 for a month, $45 for a year, or $149 for a lifetime membership.
For lack of a better way to put it, Fit Brains is the most "gamey" of the brain training options on our list. Fit Brains has 60+ games and hundreds of unique combinations designed to fit your personal cognitive goals. Those games consistently come with scores, benchmarks to beat, and other signature video game qualities. That's no bad thing! As noted above, video games have been scientifically demonstrated to increase mental acuity, so incorporating their mechanics into quick, appealing cognitive tasks makes Fit Brains quite literally what the doctor ordered.
It may not be what your wallet ordered, however. Fit Brains is on the pricier side of brain training apps, costing $9.99 per month or $49.99 for a year. That said, the depth of games available and the unsurpassed level of personalization - you even get an algorithm called "Coach" that tracks your progress and makes recommendations - makes Fit Brains an impressive offering.
Lumosity is the OG brain trainer. More accurately, it's the OG example of game developers marketing their product as cognitively helpful. They actually got in some trouble about that back in 2016. They've cleaned up their act since, running proper studies to back up their substantial claims. Lumosity provides a suite of games that focus on different aspects of cognition. The games are all very pretty and tend toward a relaxing, natural theme. Don't let it fool you. These games can be properly challenging, which of course is exactly what's needed for a good cerebral workout.
As for pricing, much of Lumosity is available for free. The program also offers a free calibration test for prospective players to test out where their strengths and weaknesses are. There is also a Premium option with access to the full 60+ game collection and personalized feedback. Multiple pricing options exist for Lumosity Premium: $11.99 per month, $59.95 for a full year, $89.95 for 2 years, or $299.95 for a lifetime subscription. There's also nothing stopping you from trying out the free program for as long as you like before making a decision on Premium.
Peak is another well-designed and user-friendly option in the brain games market. Rather than dividing its collection according to academic subjects, it's broken down its 40+ games according to which cognitive skills they emphasize. They even include some interesting, if perhaps slightly less than rigorous, "emotional intelligence games." We tease, but several of Peak's products, particularly the Advanced Training Programs available through Peak Pro, were developed in cooperation with academics from Yale, Cambridge and King's College London, among others.
Peak Pro will cost you $4.99 per month or $34.99 per year, making it one of the more affordable premium brain game options. Combine that with the fact that Peak's offerings aren't just approved, but are in many cases designed from the ground up in cooperation with psychologists from some of the best universities in the world, and you have a thoroughly respectable brain training option.
On Thinking Well
It's ironic that, in a culture where every medium extols the virtues of physical fitness (and attempts to sell expensive things to encourage the same), we tend to neglect the well-being of our brains. Declines in mental and cognitive health are often ignored and diminished as "lazy, "moody," or an unavoidable result of age.
None of those things are true. Finding activities you enjoy that keep you active is as important for your brain as it is for your body. Brain training games, and games in general, prioritize that kind of mental improvement. These five options are all solid ways to improve your mental and cognitive health. Go forth and play.
Matt Salter has been a professional writer for over 10 years. He is a gaming and technology expert, and world-class word nerd.