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Best Games for Mental Health and Cognitive Improvement

As we get older, the possibility of cognitive decline or worsening mental health can be a very real fear.

Thankfully, keeping our brains active -- through brain training and other games -- can be a great way to flex our brain's muscles, helping us to stay sharp for longer.

If you're looking for some fun games to help improve your mental health and cognition, you've come to the right place! In this article, we'll take a look at how games can boost mental health and help slow cognitive decline, and we'll offer up our top 8 games for you to try.

Can games help "train" your brain?

Yes! Studies have found that playing games can help reduce cognitive decline as we age.

How does this work?

Playing games is a mentally stimulating activity, utilizing many aspects of our cognitive functioning -- memory, concentration, visual recognition, spatial awareness, verbal fluency, and more. As we age it becomes even more important to use these cognitive abilities regularly to help keep them functioning well -- and games are a great way to do so!

Top benefits of playing brain-training games

Card games are great candidates for training your brain because they stimulate the brain and utilize many different cognitive components such as organization, complex thinking, and memory. Stimulating our brains in this way is important in keeping our mental health up and encouraging healthy aging.

In this section, we'll go over in depth how brain-training games can help us succeed -- mentally, as well as in the game itself!

Improve cognitive performance

The simple ritual of playing games regularly can be important to maintaining healthy cognitive function. The reason for this is that our brain, like a muscle, can experience some decline in function if it's not being used often. Engaging in games which involve complex tasks, memorization, or mathematics can be just what we need to keep our brains active and help prevent cognitive decline.

Boost mental health

Socialization is important as we age, especially for those at risk of cognitive impairment brought on by age. Research shows that social engagement can be facilitated through card games to improve cognitive functioning in older adults.

The benefit of card games is that they offer relatively low-demand play while being able to keep friends occupied for hours at a time. As depression and loneliness are an epidemic among senior citizens in America, having outlets for social play is a fantastic opportunity to improve your mental health and keep yourself active, socially and mentally.

Prioritize healthy aging

According to a study aiming to find the effects of card playing on mental cognition, socialized group activities -- such as multiplayer card games -- have been shown to have a positive effect on the decline in mental cognition that comes with age.

Overall, card games -- and other games, too -- are a great way to prioritize healthy aging through exercising cognitive skills, boosting social connection, and limiting the effects of cognitive decline.

Best games and puzzles to exercise your brain


A classic game of organization and "Patience" played across the world, Solitaire is a card game that requires players to use their brains to navigate a random tableau and face the trials of the deck.

What makes Solitaire so popular across continents and cultures? Well, it's a replayable, solo game -- simple, but hard to master fully! You can play at any time, put it down, and pick it back up later if you wish; plus, the pace and difficulty of the game are entirely customizable by the player.

Many of the cognitive benefits of Solitaire are similar to the other games in this list. The biggest benefit comes from the fact that the minutiae of Solitaire takes place almost entirely in the mind. It's a game that forces you to mentally visualize the effects of moves in advance -- to think through your strategy and assess your best moves. Solitaire asks players to adopt a new strategy with every draw from the deck, and to keep track of a complicated system across the tableau they're set to sorting -- as well as the stockpile!

Solitaire intently engages your memory, concentration, and attention to detail, making for a fantastically cognitively stimulating game.

Plus, technology makes it possible to play Solitaire online, avoiding the need for set-up, and letting you retrace your steps with the "undo" button -- perfect for giving it a second try when you get stuck.


Sudoku, the classic numerical puzzle game, is a relaxed but complex game experience. It's easy to put down and mull over your whole day, but to properly finish the game you'll need to flex your mental strength. Sudoku is great for solo brain training if you don't have the time for a full-sized card game or otherwise.

Plus, Sudoku is easily accessible. Play online or on your phone, pick up a Sudoku book, or beat the puzzles in your local paper.

Rubik's cube

The classic cube! Did you know that the classic 3x3x3 cube has an estimated 43 quintillion possible combinations? There's certainly a lot of variation you can have after shuffling the cube.

One of the primary strategies to employ while using a Rubik's cube is to be able to see the big picture. Getting a single side of the same color may seem like an objective step in the right direction, but when you have to pull it apart for the rest of the cube's faces you'll quickly realize that you need to be able to cognitively solve the entire cube before you're able to get the result you want.

Working on a Rubik's cube is a great exercise in concentration, forward planning, and pattern recognition. Plus, having a physical puzzle to grapple with can work to decrease anxiety!


Bridge is one of the most popular social card games around, and for good reason!

In this four-player game, players work with a partner to win rounds, or "tricks", via a form of cashless betting on the number of hands they believe they'll win. To accomplish your big win, you'll need to cooperate with your partner through non-verbal communication, mental flexibility, and a high attention to detail.

Being a team game opens Bridge up for a lot more avenues for social play, which is a great practice for keeping up your mental health and maintaining cognitive functioning. Regular social interaction is a crucial part of staying happy and feeling healthier -- and Bridge is a great way to do so.


Another social trick-taking game, Spades is a similar game to Bridge but is noticeably easier to immediately get into. With often quicker games and simpler objectives, Spades can be a great introduction to the trick-game genre that's still just as socially exciting and fun to play!

As another multi-player game, Spades is another great candidate for getting important social interaction during your routine. Spades is a more approachable variant of the trick-taking genre, so if you're finding Bridge a little too stressful then Spades is a fantastic alternative with all of the same cognitive benefits.


Chess is perhaps the most nuanced and highest-regarded competitive game of all time. It's easy to learn and gratifying to master, many grandmasters spend years of their lives perfecting their craft. As a social game, Chess will ask a lot of your mental play and strategy, but the rewards will certainly be worth the effort.

Crossword (and other brain teaser puzzles)

Crosswords! A little vocabulary practice along with your mental training is never a loss. Brain teaser puzzles -- whether from your favorite news establishment or website -- are easy to pick up and quick to play, perfect for players with only a little time who still wish to get their brain training in alongside their busy routine.

Spider Solitaire

Spider Solitaire is a complex and challenging variation of Solitaire that utilizes two full card decks. Mastering Spider requires patience, mental strategy, and a high attention to detail to succeed. If you have a fair bit of time in your day and you're the kind of player who loves to tackle a challenge from start to end, then consider checking out this amazing expansion of a classic brain-training game!

Plus, Spider Solitaire is available to play for free at 247Solitaire!

Ready to train your brain?

Hopefully, you've found a few new games to train your brain, boost your mental health, and test your abilities -- plus, you might even enjoy them! If you want to try out some variations of Solitaire online for free, check out 247Solitaire for the best online Solitaire available!


DISCLAIMER: The games on this website are using PLAY (fake) money. No payouts will be awarded, there are no "winnings", as all games represented by 247 Games LLC are free to play. Play strictly for fun.