Why Are Brain Games Suddenly So Popular?

Whilst games like chess, go and checkers have been played for literally thousands of years, these so-called ‘brain games’ have also seen a marked surge in popularity recently. These pastimes are no longer thought of simply as the hobbies of geeks and nerds, but rather as a great way to give your brain a workout, as a legitimate way to make some money or as a good way to maintain mental health.

Chess in particular has been shown to have a multitude of different benefits for those that play it, and people have cottoned on to the fact that exercising your brain is just as important as working out your body. Outside of puzzle books and newspapers, the internet has opened up the world of brain games to absolutely everybody. It’s now just as easy to access your favourite games on your phone as it is to play them on a physical games board or even a home PC. Daily sudoku puzzles and crosswords are enjoyed by thousands of people on their lunch breaks, or by commuters as they travel, as they’re available right there in their pockets. Strategy-based games, like chess, are breaking into this audience now too.

Word game

Word game

This new accessibility, particularly over the past ten years, goes a long way towards explaining an upsurge in the popularity of brain games. Being able to easily access them ‘on the go’ means that it takes very little effort to fit in a game during the average working day. However, the other reason people love these classic games is because they are just that – classics. The formats have persevered for so long due to their playability. Let’s take a look at a few favourites and how people are interacting with them in the modern age.


As enthusiastic chess-playing advocates, we feel duty-bound to talk about chess first. Moving the game from a physical board to the screen has actually been relatively easy and, so far, has led to the creation of some fantastic games. The fundamentals of chess transfer well between mediums, so that players can still get all the enjoyment of the game but in a more convenient format.

Research suggests that the unique formation of chess can help to improve memory and problem-solving skills, as well as helping to prevent Alzheimer’s. Therefore, the benefits of incorporating it into your downtime or making it a regular social activity are obvious. Whereas chess was often thought of as the reserve of the intellectually elite, people are now finding that it is a rewarding and enjoyable pastime for everyone. Yes, it can be challenging, but that’s what keeps the brain active and healthy.


Card games like blackjack have always had something of a glamour about them thanks to movies like the 007 classic License to Kill or the more recent based-on-a-true-story 21. They are often played in glitzy casinos by men and women in formal-wear, using inexplicable jargon to talk about the game in hand. However, blackjack in particular can be a great brain game to use on a regular basis. It doesn’t all have to be about winning the cash in a high-stakes casino setting; you can enjoy this well-loved card game just as much on your phone, on your PC or played with friends at home.

Blackjack is still a strategy game, just like chess, so it offers many of the same benefits. You’ll be so caught up in how much fun you’re having, that you won’t even notice your maths skills slowly but surely improving. You’ll also get better at impulse control, reading people, and recall or using your memory effectively. It’s the perfect game to pick up if you’re after something quick and simple yet still strategic.

Blackjack game

Blackjack game


Go is easily the oldest game we mention here, and is actually the oldest board game still regularly played today. Its endurance across thousands of years is down to the simple yet powerful formula of the game. Because it is so simplistic, using a plain grid and identical black and white stones as playing pieces, it’s also very easy to transfer to just about any medium. In fact, you can even choose what grid size you would like to play on when playing online, ranging from a beginner’s 5 to an expert’s 19.

Go effectively relieves stress and encourages creativity, at the same time as improving spatial recognition and communication skills. It’s easy to pick up but also leaves plenty of space to develop once you’ve mastered the basic techniques required. This combination makes it the perfect game to turn to if you’re after something a little different from chess.

Bonus: Civilization and Risk

One area of strategy gaming that has really taken off is territorial games. Titles like Civilization and Risk started off as board games, but have now developed into popular online and video games in their own right. They can be a fun and engaging alternative that come with appealing graphics and storylines that go one step beyond the simplicity of classic games.