By Amber Hensley
Just about everyone would like to keep their brain sharp no matter what their age, so take the advice of many researchers who say that some games work to stave off dementia, strengthen critical thinking skills, and promote brain health. The following games range from online games meant specifically to nurture brain health to puzzles to video games to board and card games. No matter what your interests or level of tech-savvy, there are games here that will help you keep your brain in the best shape.
Online Brain Sharpeners
These online games are developed for improving your brain fitness.
- ThirdAge Games. Brain fitness is the object of these games featured on this site.
- BrainCurls. Find jigsaw puzzles, memory games, and games that sharpen your observation skills here.
- Sharp Brains Brain Teasers and Games. These 50 brain teasers and games are meant for keeping your brain fit and young.
- Grandparent Games. Meant to keep grandparents and their grandchildren connected through shared online games, you can help keep you brain young while connecting with family.
- Braingle. This popular site offers fun brain activities that include brain teasers, riddles, trivia, and brain exercises.
- Fit Brains. If you want brain games designed by scientists specifically for promoting brain health, then give these a try.
- Games ~ Grandma Faith’s Website. These family-friendly games are meant for both young and old and offer plenty of ways to keep your brain working.
- Brain Bashers. The video games here are meant to sharpen your mental acuity while providing entertainment.
- Strategy Games. Keep your brain young with these seven strategy games.
- AARP.org Games. Chess, puzzles, card games, and multiplayer games are offered here to help aging brains stay sharp.
- Games for the Brain. Games like Mastermind, chess, and Sudoku presented here offer you a great way to challenge your brain.
- HAPPYneuron. Try the fun games and activities here to keep your brain young.
- BrainTraining 101. Find an assortment of different types of challenging brain games here.
- Freedom Years Games. Designed especially for seniors, these games include jigsaw puzzles, a memory game, and Sudoku.
Puzzles and Word Games
From crossword puzzles to logic puzzles to sudoku to word games, these puzzles and games will help you get your think on.
- LA Times Daily Crossword. The interactive, online version of this popular crossword puzzle also offers a printable version to take on the go.
- WebCrosswords.com. Similar in format to the LA Times puzzles, these daily puzzles provide more crosswords to keep your brain fit.
- Classic New York Times Crossword Puzzle. Get a daily puzzle free or sign up for a membership to have access to the archives for these super-challenging puzzles.
- Free Online Word Search Puzzles. Word search puzzles can help keep you brain young, and you can find plenty at this site.
- The Letterbox Game. Compete against the computer to make as many three and four-letter words as possible from the words given.
- Web Sudoku. Sudoku has been shown to help keep the brain sharp. Find plenty of games here with varying degrees of difficulty.
- Online Sudoku. Get more online Sudoku here where you can choose difficulty, save your game, reload, get hints, and check how you are doing.
- A Game A Day. This site offers a different word game every day.
- Puzzability Sampler. Try interactive and non-interactive versions of classic games like Hangman, Acrostic, and Slider here.
- The Word Playground. The word games at this website are all original and offer you a different type of online game opportunity.
- Thinks.com Jigsaw Puzzles. Working these online jigsaw puzzles can help sharpen your brain.
- Logic Puzzles. These free logic puzzles offer a solving grid and timer and help keep your brain young with these challenging logic puzzles.
- Instant Online Crossword Puzzle Maker. If you enjoy crossword puzzles, you should give this a try to both work your brain and create unique crossword puzzles you can share with others.
- Wordplays.com. Word games such as Boggler, anagrams, word jumble, and word morph are available on this site.
- word games. Get a good selection of several different types of word games here.
- PlayWithYourMind.com. The original word games at this site offers plenty to give your brain a workout.
- Merriam-Webster Online Word Games. Play classic games or choose the game of the day at the home of this popular online dictionary.
Scientists have shown that playing video games helps improve seniors’ mental performance, so no matter your age, give these video games a try to see if it helps keep your brain young.
- Brain Age. Available on Nintendo DS, this game is excellent for sharpening the brain, and has specifically shown positive results in studies among seniors.
- Flash Focus. This DS game for adults works to strengthen your ability to focus and also helps memory.
- Civilization. This strategy game allows players to build civilizations from the Stone Age into the Space Age and is a great way to use all that history knowledge you may be storing in your brain.
- Metal of Honor. This battle game is one where only the bad guys get killed and the person playing the game sharpens the mind, improves visual learning, and strengthens eye-hand coordination.
- Age of Empires. This complex strategy game will certainly give your brain a workout and help keep it young.
- The Legend of Zelda. Combining action and adventure with puzzle-solving and role-playing, this game will keep your brain working while you are entertained.
- Super Mario Brothers. One of the most popular video games, Super Mario Brothers challenges players with plenty of activities in an attempt to save the princess. New Super Mario Bros. is also available for the DS.
- Guild Wars. This online role-playing game offers rich graphics and the ability to connect players with others socially as well as sharpen the brain.
- Rise of Nations. Used in a study to measure mental skills with video game playing, this game showed improvement in working memory, reasoning, switching between tasks, and–to a lesser degree–short term memory and the ability to recognize rotating objects.
- Arx Fatalis. Eye-hand coordination and "stimulates the brain, beyond belief" are two of the reasons one woman gives for enjoying this role-playing game.
Wii fitness games have become incredibly popular among the senior set due to the ability to participate in sporting events with low impact on the body and the benefits to keeping mental acuity in top form. Whether you are young or old, give these Wii games a try to keep your mind from aging.
- Wii Bowling. Virtual bowling tournaments are all the rage in senior centers, and it seems that Wii bowling is the most popular of the Wii games among seniors.
- Wii Tournaments. Many retirement communities are hosting Wii tournaments for their residents as a way to keep their minds and bodies fit.
- Wii Play. With games like table tennis, billiards, and shooting range, you can participate in plenty of fun activities that will keep your brain working.
- Wii Golf. Wii Golf is an excellent way to enjoy the mental aspect of the game with a low impact on the body or when you don’t have time to go out for a real game.
- Tiger Woods’ PGA Tour 09. Another golfing opportunity with the Wii, this popular game provides mental challenges for golfers of any ability.
- Boxing. Sparring through the Wii helps keep both body and mind physically fit and also provides opportunities to simulate the sport for those a little past their boxing prime.
- Mario Kart Wii. Race go-karts or motorbikes around one of 16 tracks or participate in plenty of diversions like slowing down your opponent or playing in a battle arena.
- The Price is Right. Fans of The Price is Right can gather friends or play on their own while enjoying many favorites from the show including a chance to spin the Big Wheel.
- Link’s Crossbow Training. Buy the Wii Zapper and you get Link’s Crossbow Training, included–a popular shooting game.
- Tennis. Enjoy the mental challenge of the game of tennis without the sore muscles and bursitis that come with the real deal.
- Wii Hooked!. Practice fishing on your own to improve your skills or switch to tournament mode and compete with friends.
Board, Card, and Strategy Games
Not only will these games help keep your brain young with the various abilities they strengthen, but they also promote social interaction, which is also known to help keep the aging brain young.
- Scrabble. This popular word game is famous for it’s brain-boosting abilities.
- Mahjong. An ancient Chinese game, Mahjong strengthens memory and logic skills.
- Dominos. This seemingly simple game actually provides an excellent opportunity to practice your strategy skills and can be quite competitive.
- Checkers. Known as draughts in most other countries, this simple game allows anyone of any age to compete while using strategy to try to win.
- Gin Rummy. Problem-solving skills get a workout with this popular card game that is easy to learn but will always leave you room to grow.
- Chess. Chess helps develop problem-solving, logic, and strategy skills and is known for both its educational value and boost to intelligence.
- Bridge. Find a bridge club or round up several friends who would like to learn to play this game that is considered to be the ultimate in card games.
- Backgammon. Grab a friend and sit down to this fun game that helps protect against brain deterioration.
- Spades. This card game was invented in the US and has gained more world-wide recognition with its availability online in recent years.
- Hearts. Easy enough for the whole extended family to play, Hearts is also great for memory and strategy.
- Euchre. This card game is about battling wits, so learn to play and keep your brain working.
- Parcheesi. A great game for players of all ages, Parcheesi helps strengthen problem-solving skills.
- Chinese Checkers. Despite its name, this fun and simple game is derived from an old German game and helps build problem-solving, logic, and sequencing skills.
Classic Games Online
Whether your friends are too busy when you are available for the real deal or if you just prefer playing online, you can take advantage of these online versions of classic games.
- Free Online Backgammon Game. Try free online backgammon here. Click "Help" for instructions if you don’t know how to play.
- Free Online Mahjong Games. Whether you are a beginner or a master player, this site has a huge number of mahjong games to choose from.
- ChessHere.com. Find others with whom you can play chess online and compete in real time or by correspondence.
- Simon Says. Amazingly similar to the old hand-held game, this online version will strengthen your memory skills.
- Truantduck.com Chinese Checkers. Play this classic game against the computer to practice your strategy and logic.
- Internet Scrabble Club. Play live online Scrabble here where you can select your level, play in other languages, and find online playing partners.
- Tetris. This classic game will sharpen both eye-hand coordination and quick, logical thinking.
- Online Checkers. Strengthen your strategy skills while trying to beat the computer in this online checkers game.
- Bridge Base Online. Players of all levels can play bridge online with this virtual community of bridge players.
- Breakout. This classic game requires you to keep the ball in play until it breaks all the blocks at the top.
- Solitaire. Try one of the many versions of Solitaire offered here to keep your brain working smoothly.
Other Fun and Brain-Stimulating Online Games
While these games aren’t specifically designed to promote brain health, they will help develop certain skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and strategy.
- Bookworm. This online word game can help sharpen the brain while exercising those language art skills.
- FreeRice. Test yourself in several categories including English, Chemistry, Geography, Art, Math, and foreign languages to keep your brain sharp with the added benefit of helping feed the hungry, too.
- Diner Dash. This popular online game has you serving diners. Make sure everyone gets seated, orders, and gets their food without getting angry.
- Legends of Elveron. Try this fantasy game that is heavy on the strategy and doesn’t require any downloads.
- Oregon Trail. Download this favorite to practice the challenges of life on the Oregon Trail.
- Text Twist 2. This fun and challenging game pushes your memory to solve this word game.
- Pharaoh’s Secret. This puzzle game helps fend off brain aging with the strategy and speed you develop while playing.
- Bejeweled 2. Use logical thinking and problem-solving to figure out how to put rows of three, four, and five jewels in this simple, yet challenging game.
- Wheel of Fortune Online. Practice your word power while playing this "spin-off" of the popular TV show.
- Zuma. Combine eye-hand coordination with problem-solving skills and you’ve got Zuma.
- Jewel Quest II. Match jewels in this game that promotes problem-solving against the background of an adventure story.
Fun Things to Do to Keep Your Brain Sharp
While not games in the traditional sense, these fun activities will definitely get your brain working and help keep it young.
- Surf the Internet. Scientists have shown that middle-aged and older adults who surf the Internet show brain activity that was once only attributed to younger brains, so keep your brain young by surfing the Internet.
- Juggle. Juggling requires you to use your less dominant hand, therefore stimulating your brain in ways it typically does not work.
- Practice using your memory. Make a list and try to recall it an hour later or draw a map of a new route you have taken to give your brain a memory workout that will help keep it strong.
- Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy provides a sensory opportunity that stimulates your brain, and when combined with other activities, works your brain in ways that keep it from falling dormant.
- Eat with chopsticks. Learn to use chopsticks and you will provide your brain with stimulation–and learn a new skill.
- Study a foreign language. Many studies show learning a new language provides your brain the opportunity to make new neural connections, which keeps it young and working well.
- Journal. Write down your thoughts, create a poem, or express yourself however you like in a personal journal to help keep your brain thinking and young.
- Read. Reading, especially when it is new material, helps keep your mind sharp.
- Doodle. NPR explains how doodling helps the brain stay focused when you are engaged in mundane activities. Try doodling to keep your brain active.
- Write down dreams. Write down your dreams as soon as you wake up in the morning to help remember your dreams. Examining your dreams can open you up to introspection and give you insight to how your brain is working while you sleep.
- Music. Listening to music uses both the right and left brain, and has shown to increase self esteem along with brain strength.
- Switch hands. Doing regular activities in a different way keeps your brain working and active. Try using your less dominant hand for simple tasks like eating, brushing your teeth, or writing keep your brain young.
- Laugh. Laughing stimulates five different parts of your brain, so laugh often to help keep your brain from aging.