Through innovation and distinctive gameplay mechanics, Portal has inspired a variety of first-person puzzle adventures in the last decade, and has set a new standard for puzzle games as a whole. For this list, we've selected five Portal-esque puzzle games that feature first-person puzzle solving mechanics that any Aperture Science test subject would appreciate. These games involve manipulating your surroundings using unique tools or gadgets to solve challenging, physics-based environmental puzzles.
The Turing Test
The Turing Test is most recent game from this list to be released. It's named after the philosophical intuition pump created by Alan Turing, which postulates that any computer capable of tricking a human into thinking they are talking to a human would be considered truly intelligent.
In the game you play as Ava Turing, an engineer working on a space station near Jupiter. A robot named Tom has been “sanctioned” to wake you up. Tom informs you that communication with the ground crew has been lost, and you, being christened as the emergency response by the people you work for, must investigate. The mystery unfolds from here as you progress through a series of puzzles, all very influenced by Portal and the slew of games that followed from it. The story takes on a more serious tone in comparison to Portal’s humorous style, but it manages to maintain an intriguing narrative with a climax you won’t see coming.
The main puzzle mechanic consists of distributing energy to locked doors. You have to figure out the best method of distributing that energy in order to allow you to get through to the next room. Sometimes, however, your methods need to coordinate with how you get through the second room as well. This room-to-room pacing plays out similarly to that of Portal.
There are many similarities between The Turing Test and Portal: you play as a female character, you’re waken up by a robot, and you progress through a series of stages all while trying to uncover the mystery of why you are there. If you’re in a Portal mood, The Turing Test may be the game you’re looking for.
The Talos Principle
Puzzle aficionados were pleasantly surprised when Croteam, the developers behind the Serious Sam games, decided to make the thought-provoking puzzle adventure, The Talos Principle. Blending concepts from philosophy and science fiction, The Talos Principle focuses on the notion of self and what it means to be a conscious entity.
Like Portal, players awake in a strange world, and are tasked with solving confined environmental puzzles while simultaneously trying to piece together the purpose of their actions. A booming, godlike voice intermittently offers words of encouragement as you solve the puzzles in each location, giving off a feigned sense of direction on your otherwise unguided journey. Meanwhile, a snarky computer program prompts the player to think about introspective questions regarding themselves and whether or not they are a truly rational being.
The thought-provoking theme lingers in the back of your mind as you push forward through complex puzzles set in ruined locations, inspired by lost civilizations. Laser beams, fans, and disruptors are among your arsenal of unique puzzle-solving gadgets, and new tools and mechanics are unlocked as you progress further toward an ominous tower that may or may not hold the answers you seek. The Talos Principle is a game of discovery and self-reflection, and is a must-play for Portal fans and puzzle lovers alike.
TRI: Of Friendship and Madness
TRI: Of Friendship and Madness is a surreal first-person puzzle game that allows players to construct their own path through the dreamlike world of the Odd Gods. The game begins with an ethereal masked figure who grants you special triangle-conjuring abilities in the hope that you will help find his Fox companion, who has scampered off into the maze-like puzzle world.
The main puzzle solving mechanic of TRI involves creating triangles that materialize into physical platforms and objects. These triangular forms are used as platforms and pathways to help you traverse each geometrical landscape. Despite its somewhat minimalistic style and textures, the deep jewel-toned color palette and geometric design layout lend itself well to the triangle-conjuring mechanic. If you’re interested in a puzzle game that relies on spatial awareness and ingenuity, then we suggest giving TRI a try!
Quantum Conundrum is a quirky first-person puzzle game that involves shifting between dimensions to solve various physics-based 3D puzzles. After an experiment gone wrong, you must make your way through a high-tech mansion in search of your zany scientist uncle using his latest dimension-altering invention. This device causes the environment to shift between altered dimensional states, allowing you to manipulate the items around you.
There’s the Fluffy dimension, which covers everything in a plush, cloudlike coating that makes all objects light enough to lift. Likewise, the Heavy dimension significantly increases the weight of all objects in the room, which can make lighter objects heavy enough to activate pressure plates or deflect laser beams. There are four main dimensions that players can manipulate on the fly to platform their way through the mansion.
Quantum Conundrum’s comical narration and cartoony aesthetic make for a generally charming experience overall. If you are comfortable with your timing and platforming capabilities, then this Portal inspired puzzle platformer is worth a shot.
Magrunner: Dark Pulse
If the thought of a Cthulhu-inspired Portal game sounds appealing, then Magrunner: Dark Pulse may be the game for you. Based on the mythos created by H.P. Lovecraft, Magrunner is a unique take on the first-person puzzle genre that incorporates the myth of Cthulhu into a world composed of physics-based puzzle platforms. If you are a fan of either Portal or Cthulhu, you may get a kick out of this one, at least during the early parts of the game.
Magrunner crafts its puzzles around the use of magnets and alternating polarities. Rather than a Portal gun, your character, Dax, utilizes a special Magtech glove to control magnetic polarities and manipulate objects around you. Much like Portal, you must solve rooms of puzzles using a combination of magnetic polarity manipulation and platforming mechanics. The Cthulhu theme is present throughout, but only really serves as an eerie backdrop for your puzzle solving endeavors. The grand finale turned out to be a bit too complex for some players, which tarnished the quality of what is otherwise a decent puzzle platformer.
Magrunner: Dark Pulse’s story may lack the charm of a sentient robot like GLaDOS, but the tricky puzzles are redeeming enough. Portal fans should consider trying Magrunner for its magnet-based physics puzzles over its trite Lovecraftian gimmick.