Solve the Soup Cans

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Now put the cans in order according to their dominant colors' place in the spectrum, or you won't be allowed to edit this page.

"Soup cans" is a derisive term for bizarre and disconnected elements included in a game purely to serve as an obstacle to the player. The thematic equivalent of Fake Difficulty, and the nonviolent equivalent of Everything Trying to Kill You.

In a game which includes puzzles, often, anything at all can be a puzzle. Using a Mastermind game as the electronic lock on your door might seem like a dumb thing to do, but at least the one is associated with the other. To reach the true height of Solve the Soup Cans, it's not merely the case that the puzzle seems like a contrived way to bar the player's progress: it doesn't even make sense that the puzzle should be an obstacle.

It's like this. You walk into a room. There's a chessboard in the middle, and an exit at the opposite end. It seems like you ought to be able to just walk right past the chessboard and exit via the opposite door. But you can't. The chessboard is a puzzle, and, like vampires and running water (mostly), the player can not cross the path of an unsolved puzzle.

Less egregiously, the puzzle may have a direct effect on the game world (when solved, you are given some key item, or prompt a response from some NPC), but the connection between cause and effect is not conveyed beforehand, nor is the effect something that follows naturally from solving the puzzle. Needing to Solve the Soup Cans reverses normal puzzle-solving logic: it's not that you want to accomplish some goal, and have to solve the puzzle to get to that goal, but rather, you've got to solve the puzzle because the puzzle is there, and that's what puzzles are for, and the fact that you end up closer to your goal is, at least in terms of the storyline, more or less coincidental.

Used poorly, Solve the Soup Cans reduce the player to The Fool, just purposelessly blundering forward solving puzzles at random, hoping something good will happen. When this occurs in Edutainment Games, it's a case of Alphabet Soup Cans.

This class of puzzle ran amok in the middle-era Adventure Game, and can sometimes still be seen in the Action Adventure genre, especially during the non-action-oriented scenes of Survival Horror.

Named for a particular puzzle in The 7th Guest where the player must spell out a message by rearranging cans of soup. Soup cans whose only vowel is Y.

A really bizarre form of Only Smart People May Pass with even less justification. See also I Can't Reach It when the playing character is unable to accomplish a normally-possible physical act, just for gameplay reasons.

When it's the "how" rather than the "why" that's inexplicable, this is Already Undone for You. When it's the solution rather than the puzzle that's inexplicable, that's a Moon Logic Puzzle (which may overlap with this trope in the stranger cases). If it's a musical password, see Songs in the Key of Lock.

Examples of Soup Cans include:

Examples in Video Games

  • The trope namer, The 7th Guest is particularly Egregious: You have a lot of letters, the only vowel you're given is "y", and must rearrange them into a sentence. That sentence? "Shy gypsy, slyly, spryly, tryst by my crypt". Oh, and it only makes any sense in retrospect, as, up to that point, you didn't know the house had a crypt. Or, if you're really unlucky, what a tryst is.
    • In addition to the Trope Namer soup cans, The 7th Guest and its sequel The Eleventh Hour will also throw puzzles at you in the form of crypts, bathroom tiles, chess pieces, chess pieces on bathroom tiles, decorative carpets and bedspreads, microscopes, pianos and cakes.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's The Final Cut had a puzzle based around cooking Apple Crumble for the sake of advancing your serial killer investigation. Of course, the puzzle was less a "test of wits and intelligence" and more a tedious instruction following exercise.
  • American McGee's Alice has several of these, including a version of the aforementioned chessboard puzzle (twice, though it at least fits the Through the Looking Glass theme, unlike some others). Mind you, the chessboard literally blocks your path, and you're impaled by sharp blades for trying to continue without solving it. Thus, it makes sense that you need to solve it... even if it doesn't make sense that it'd be there in the first place. Considering that Wonderland is created by Alice's psyche and Alice is pretty much Ax Crazy in this game, it somehow does...
  • At one point in the early PlayStation RPG Beyond the Beyond, you are being pursued, and hide behind a church, where you are confronted with a sliding tile puzzle. Trying to leave the screen except through the exit unlocked by the puzzle results in the Big Bad showing up and killing you.
  • Blue Dragon uses this Trope excessively, adding little puzzles (usually of the action command variety). They are usually simple enough that you are not forced to repeat them. Completing them perfectly often unlocks 360 achievements.
  • Dare to Dream, a shareware adventure, featured a door that wouldn't open to any key, but would open if you stuck a dead herring in the keyhole. The absurdity is lampshaded by the game, although it is Justified in that the game is a dream.
  • Devil May Cry 4 has a blatant example of this when Nero must play a standard move-from-start-to-finish board-game built into a room, where the piece is a statue of Nero, he must roll a large, demonic die cube by smacking it with his sword or shooting it, and different circles may spawn enemies, spawn orbs, or send you back. It's worth accepting it as part of the game just for Dante's reaction to the puzzle; he just slices the huge die in half and the room, apparently unable to cope, lets him through. It's worth noting that Dante generally has bad luck with gambling, so him cutting the dice might be a way to spare the players any pain. Although, Nero's scenario isn't that great for those who inherently have bad luck in the first place, and thus end up taking forever getting past it.
  • Eternal Darkness has a couple of these; lighting candles to open a locked drawer is probably the most obvious. However, the theme of insanity flows through this game very strongly, so it basically boils down to just fucking with the player.
  • The Fatal Frame series does this a lot, but at least they tried to tie it in to the story. During one part of Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly, the story deals with haunted dolls, and one puzzle requires the player to find the head and arms of a doll standing on a locking mechanism. This is soon found to be insufficient, however, because the head is missing its eyes.
  • Ghostbusters on the Wii has a few of these. One required the player to match dancing skeletons in order to open a gate. Though the game does have soirees into the "ghost world" where reality is muddled, this part was not one of them, making it a particularly odd task.
  • The entire text-based game The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy by Infocom is one of these composed of a million little ones.
  • Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail Of It has many examples, due to the Dream Logic inherent in its concept.
  • In Hotel Dusk: Room 215, you have to solve a matchstick puzzle and a coin puzzle before you can get vital information from one character.
  • The Institute - this adventure game was almost nothing but Solve the Soup Cans. And yet, the game actually worked well, because most of the soup cans were inside dreams, giving them an excuse to dispense with real world logic completely. So Tropes Are Not Bad. Even when you weren't, maybe your sanity (or possible lack thereof) is to blame?
  • Killer7 was made primarily of these. One puzzle forces the player to light the candles in a candle holder in the correct order. The effect of this? A locked cabinet opens.
  • Lampshaded in King's Quest VI: after Prince Alexander manages to overcome the three magical barriers on the Isle of the Beast, the Beast approaches him and asks him why he did it. Alexander's response: "I suppose it is simply my nature to break through magical barriers." Turns out, they were for his own protection, rather than the Beast's - and by breaking through them he was cursed. Oops.
  • In The Legend of Zelda games, Link very frequently must kill all of the monsters in a room for a door to unlock, a ladder to fall into place, etc. even though he can often just run past enemies to the next room at other times. Of the hundreds of dungeon puzzles Link must solve throughout his adventures, maybe five of them make any logical sense...especially since the reward for completing many of them is a treasure chest that appears out of thin air for no discernible reason.
    • A stock puzzle is "light all the torches" to open a door or make a treasure chest appear. This is lampshaded in Twilight Princess as a "not very subtle" way of closing a cellar.
    • In one dungeon in Link's Awakening, you must kill the three monsters in one room in a specific order in order to proceed, and while the game gives you a hint (located halfway across the dungeon), you have to know the names of the monsters in question to interpret the hint correctly. And they're not in the manual. Once you know that you have to kill the monsters in a specific order, though, there are only six different orders to try.
    • Fewer than that if you note the first enemy to kill is described as "imprisoned," and only one monster is partitioned off in that room.
    • Not a puzzle per se, in the 100-level dungeon in "Twilight Princess", you can blow out the torches with the wind boomerang and open the door to the next level without defeating any monsters . Only on floors that aren't multiples of 10, though.
  • The Nintendo DS versions of Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Lego Indiana Jones: Mainly in Free Play mode, if one tries to use a specific character on a wall panel to unlock a door, he/she must solve a puzzle as fast as possible to open the door and get bonus studs.
  • In The Lost Crown: A Ghosthunting Adventure, the first puzzle involves finding the pieces of a sign and placing them back together. It's somewhat justifiable as a tutorial, but you have to align the pieces perfectly before you can carry on. When you get it right, the boy blocking the path to Saxton disappears.
  • Lufia II contains many unlikely ways to lock a door, occasionally devolving into this trope. A door that opens when all of the grass patch nearby is fully grown, anyone? And you make the grass grow by walking over it. There's also a similar puzzle where the door won't open until all nine patches of grass are cut and you fail if it overgrows. The grass grows back every time you take a step! You can't even make it to the exit doorway before the grass overgrows - unless you solve the puzzle perfectly.
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for Sega CD. Your progress out of the first room is blocked by a pile of electric eels. The solution? Pour a bottle of acid on them to dissolve them, of course.
  • Myst had several rather irrational ways of getting at the various Linking Books; the in-game explanation was that the characters in question were paranoid (quite reasonably so, as it turned out) about having their books destroyed. The sequels were, generally, more reasonable about how and why things were where they were.
    • The sequel Riven, generally considered the best of the series, is also usually considered the game with the best-integrated puzzles—although it does suffer occasionally from one of the two sides taunting each other with clues.
    • Exile, on the other hand, forces the player through what was, according to the Backstory, originally designed as an interuniversal obstacle course meant to teach children about how different Ages come together. Several of the puzzles have been sabotaged by Saavedro, but (as Saavedro intended) in a way that leaves them solvable, though more difficult.
      • In the opening scene of Exile, Catherine lampshades this trope's usage in previous games by saying her husband is probably running late because it "takes him forever to reset all his codes".
    • In Revelation, the puzzles are either security against jungle creatures,[1] manipulating creatures to perform a task, or operating machinery left behind by someone else.
    • In End of Ages, the whole setting is a kind of testing ground put together by... someone... in order to prove your worth to obtain the MacGuffin. Interestingly, it's only possible to pass the test by taking advantage of the cheating done by previous testers who had failed for moral reasons.
  • At the end of the Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned For Danger adventure game, Nancy has to open a door (to save herself from the culprit of the murders) by pushing several buttons on a panel in a certain order. With no clues given. Pure Trial and Error Gameplay. With a short time limit.
    • Many of the subsequent Nancy Drew games also utilize the "find the arbitrary secret arrangement" puzzles in the form of, for instance, making the water level in a series of eight pipes the same by turning valves that each randomly change levels in one or more pipes. Madness!
  • Obs Cure: It plays it straight when you need to align two arrows so they point to coordinates on a map so the safe behind it will open. Then earlier it averts it be having a locked door with a glass window. The solution? It's not finding a key three rooms away. It's using a melee weapon on the window then reaching through the broken glass to open it from the inside.
  • Justified Trope in Obsidian (a mid-90's PC game that could charitably be called an attempt at a Sci-Fi version of Myst), which is set in a nanotech-created world based on the dreams of the main characters, and thus uses dream logic. The various stages of the game's universe were internally consistent - especially the dreamworld of a scientist trying to get a project funded. Her stage is populated by robotic bureaucrats who force her to shuffle obscure permits through multiple, oh-so-politely unhelpful departments, collecting stamps of approval (an experience all too well known to anyone who has worked with a central government) before she can move on. The presence of these types of puzzles in the game should come as little surprise, as the game's entire ad campaign was based around the tagline "Your Rules Do Not Apply Here".
  • Despite the page quote above, almost all the puzzles of Phantasmagoria 2 evolve naturally from the story, while exceptionally lame and usually based around some variation of "Just click at random and something good might happen". The most blatant exception to this is a pattern-matching tile puzzle which locks a door. In a bondage club.
  • The Professor Layton series of games is damn near the Platonic ideal of this trope. Literally every single person in the game, as well as a number of animals and inanimate objects will set you puzzles that have nothing to do with the game world. The first game justified it as a plot point (all of the townspeople are robots created for the baron's daughter; the puzzles they ask you are to prove your worth as a protector for her. Now, why they think that someone who's good at answering puzzles would be a good guardian for Flora...), the next two gave handwaves, but the fourth finally gave up trying to explain it. The out-of-setting reason for this, incidentally, is that the game is actually inspired by a series of puzzle books... you might have read that sort of book as a kid, they typically have a puzzle a page with (sometimes) a loose plot linking them together, or a few sentences of humorous framing text. For the 'genre', this is expected.
  • Resident Evil. series
    • Resident Evil: There's a chess puzzle in the police station. Statues to be moved around until they click on special switches, too. And a whole lot of other senseless puzzles. There's typically a lame attempt at justification for this in the form of a letter lying around that will note that the person who designed the place was insane, but why the person was hired to design a secret high-tech laboratory isn't addressed.
    • Resident Evil Zero has an emergency brake system on a train that can only be activated... By solving a math puzzle. On a pair of terminals found on opposite ends of the train. Don't, just don't, think too much about that one.
    • the Darkside Chronicles The trope is even given a Lampshade Hanging and a justification of sorts in ' with the explanation being that the people who place the puzzles about really don't want anyone else to get around that easily.
    • Okay, so the mansion was passed off in REmake as George Trevor being specifically asked to build a hideout with traps and puzzles. But what about Raccoon City itself. What in the blazing hell were the engineers thinking? City planner: "Okay, I got an idea. If someone wants to get downtown, they need a key to go through a door. But the key is in a box surrounded by electricity, so they'll have to shut it off by messing with the city's power grid. Oh, oh, oh,but they need three emblems to get into it. We'll make sure they need a valve wheel to get one, though!" Mayor: "...I LOVE IT!"
      • It's supposed to be the same guy who designed the mansion from the first game designed the city.
      • There will always be a valve handle or crank.
  • Zork: Grand Inquisitor
    • The cocoa recipe. An answering machine tells you of a recipe for a cocoa blend. With the ingredients at hand, you naturally try to make it, for no conceivable reason. Once you do, your companion is reminded of a spell of his he developed while drinking this, and teaches it to you.
    • Subverted in Brog's quest. Brog is incredibly stupid, and the final thing to do in his subquest is to get a skull out of a cage. Surrounding the cage are three circular chess boards. Clicking them just causes a pawn to go back and forth. The solution is to bash the cage open with a plank of wood.
  • Shivers is particularly bad about this. The hero (that is, you) has no in-game reason to actually do anything other than sit by the door until morning. Even if he's just curious, most of the "puzzles" have no reason to be solved, nor is there any reason to suspect they have solutions—other than the fact that the game focuses in on them! In a recording the museum's creator, Professor Windlenot, even lampshades how the puzzles become annoyances when there are real emergencies going on (like Ixupi on the loose).
  • Silent Hill is built on Chaos Architecture, and things tend to have have some relationship to where they are, such as putting the right pill in the right creepy-doll that corresponds to the right insane asylum patient. Other times, the puzzle makes much less sense, to put it lightly. In either case, Silent Hill does it for dramatic effect. Questions like 'what's wrong with this town?' and 'what brought me here?' seem to go beautifully with 'why is this tin can full of light bulbs?' On harder difficulties, this goes straight into Moon Logic Puzzle territory.
    • The reason why gamers let such things slide more than in the other examples is because it actually adds to the gaming experience, giving the impression that the town itself hates you in a passive-aggressive way, which is arguably the scariest thing about the games.
    • These usually result in several That One Puzzle sequences - the piano in Silent Hill 1, the Shakespeare anthology in Silent Hill 3, the revolving prison tower in Silent Hill 4, etc.
  • Starship Titanic is an infuriating example. After being wowed by the fancy animation and pseudo-AI, you soon realize that you're just wandering around aimlessly pointing your mouse at everything trying to find an object you can interact with/pick up/break/fix/manipulate.
    • You need a long stick to push something out of a tree. You find a long stick behind glass you need to break with a hammer. You find a hammer dispenser with a button 10 feet up in the air you need a long stick to press! Of course, you find another stick being used as a bird perch and get the hammer with that, after an even stranger puzzle. Of course, it's a game by Douglas Adams, so maybe not making sense makes sense.
    • Getting back home: all you have is a 3D star map and a photo of the night sky from your back yard. No further instructions are given. The goal is to match three bright stars in the picture to the representation of them in the 3D starmap. There are hundreds of stars to choose from.
    • Then there's The Bomb. You find it, not doing anything, with a giant red button labeled "Disarm." Pressing it in fact arms the bomb, and it begins counting down from 1000. Its ok though, it has an AI too, and you can talk to it and confuse it and get it to reset its count. Unfortunately you'd never know this unless you'd read the book first.
  • In the graphical adventure Still Life, you have at one point to bake cookies for the player character's father. For some reason, you can't go forward with your serial killing investigation without doing this first. The ingredients in the recipe have all been replaced with codewords (like "love" and "compassion") based on their colors and no hint to what each codeword means. With a general idea about cookie recipes you can figure it out... after hours and hours of trial and error. Another puzzle involves the protagonist's ancestor picking the lock of the door of the suspect's art gallery. Too bad that said door has what seems to be the most complex tumbler lock ever built...
  • Tales of Symphonia
    • One needs to find the Ymir Fruit in Ymir Forest before being able to reach Heimdall. This evidently necessitates the painfully tedious process of making the fruit drop into the water, and then getting the little fishies to guide the floating fruit all around the forest before one can obtain the item. Apparently, eight people cannot try anything else other than this—like summoning Undine, using their various weapons to try knocking it somewhere closer by (although it drops into the water reasonably close to the player anyway), asking the party member with * wings* to fly up and grab it, or best of all, just reaching down and grabbing the freaking item (something about "dangerous-looking fish in the water"). "Dangerous-looking fish" is made all the more pointless when you realize that the party contains The Messiah, a pair of incredibly powerful magicians, and an angel. Over the course of the game they've dealt with bunnies more intimidating than the "dangerous-looking fish" Lloyd is bitching about. Genis even poked fun at Lloyd for "squaring off" against the fish. To top the whole shenanigan off, an optional skit features Lloyd expressing interest in trying a Ymir fruit for himself. Now, up until this point, anytime you make a mistake in the overly-tedious series of maneuvers required to get the fruit into a position where anyone's willing to expend the effort to reach over and grab it, you could knock a new one into the water and try again. But once you finally nab one, it is apparently the last one in the world ever (those cocksucker fish took all the rest), because everyone gets on Lloyd's case for wanting to eat it when a sick woman needs it as medicine.
    • You have to solve a puzzle to open a door. It's not particularly weirder than any other puzzle, except it happens in a facility in which people work and walk around all day. It gets Lampshaded by the two goons that show you how to solve the said puzzle:

Desian 1: Oh yeah. This room has a special mechanism.
Desian 2: It's really annoying that you always have to electrify and push the onto the switches to open the doors.
Desian 1: Lord Botta likes it a little bit complicated...

  • Tales of Legendia was even worse than its predecessor, Symphonia. There were puzzle rooms placed randomly throughout some dungeons which required you to push blocks and shoot crystals. There was never any storyline explanation for why these rooms were there; you just had to solve them. Actually, you didn't have to solve them... if you wanted, at any time, you could just skip all of them. Completing every puzzle without using any help with earn you a fancy title for Senel, and nothing else.
  • Mostly averted in Tomb Raider, but there are exceptions:
    • Some are justified in The Last Revelation, as the game is set in several already elaborate tombs, but the level where you have to play a game of Senet to proceed certainly counts.
    • In Tomb Raider: Anniversary, at the beginning of Sanctuary of the Scion you must rotate four columns to match the arrangement of symbols on the walls surrounding them. The problem is, moving one column moves the other three with it, causing the puzzle to be extremely awkward and similar to a Rubik's Cube. Thankfully, it can be bypassed simply by moving the northwest and southeast ones in one direction once and the northeast and southwest ones in the other direction.
  • Vagrant Story demands you solve the push-pull-lift-place-destroy block puzzles, or you will never proceed. Ever. In fact, it's the Trope Namer for Block Puzzle.
  • Lampshaded in The white chamber, in which random human body parts lie throughout the space station, just enough for a single complete body. If the player collects them all and assembles them on a bed in the medical room, the protagonist wonders why she did that in the first place. At the end of the game (the proper end, not the dozen-odd ways to kill yourself) you're given the suggestion to replay the game and input a code before the character actually learns it.
  • Xenosaga games are full of these. Random puzzles are everywhere, and have no possible bearing on getting where you want to go.
  • The superhero adventure game, Noctropolis, is full of these. To enter a cathedral guarded by a lethal, flying gargoyle, the player must A) locate the couple pixels representative of the only loose bar in the iron-wrought fence, B) open utility panel of a nearby streetlight, C) attach fifty-pounds worth of cable to connect the fence post to an arbitrary lead, and d.) throw the bar, like a spear, some 20-yards so that it lands upon the fountain on which the beast occasionally perches so that it is electrocuted the following time it does. This puzzle was one of the first in the game and significantly simpler that later examples.
  • A very common trait in online "get out of the locked room" games. One required you to feed cactus-flavored roasted peanuts to a parrot to get the key. Aside from the moon-logic procedure to make said nuts (including the combination-locked fireplace), there was no indication that this brand of nuts was required (since the bird ate everything else you fed it, with no visible response) or even that the key was in the cage in the first place. And if you knew the key was there (perhaps by mentioning that when you looked at the bird, instead of telling the obvious "it's a parrot in a cage"), wouldn't a sensible person have wanted to open the cage and just grab it?
    • And have your finger potentially bitten off by the bird? Seriously, those kinds of birds are far more dangerous in real life than they look. You want to stay on their good side while invading their space if you don't want to get hurt.
      • Of course, you could also just turn the cage upside down (slowly if you care about not hurting the bird) and the key would simply drop out.
    • Possibly one of the worst offenders in this regard is Tesshi-e's "Escape from the Living Room." A key you need is hidden under a couch, all the way back against the wall. A sensible person would move the couch away from the wall. Here, on the other hand, you have to combine a cell phone, a straw and stick you've cut in half, some corks, some tape, and a piece of string to make a little car that you can roll at the key so that the tape sticks to it, then pull back with the string. Nothing at the game even remotely hints at this being either the solution or even doable...mostly because the game, like so many higher-quality room escapes, is entirely in Japanese.
  • Hitman: Blood Money has two levels set in Viva Las Vegas. The first takes place in a hotel/casino, in which you not only need a specific keycard to get into each hotel room (happens all the time in real life), you also need a special keycard to access any given floor (less likely to happen in real life). And if you, say, hide on top of an elevator as it's ridden to the floor you want, then get out and exit onto that floor, the hotel has guards posted at every elevator to make sure no one gets off without the proper keycard (never happens in real life). The purpose of all this? To make a perfect rating basically unobtainable without climbing around on the ledges outside the hotel.
    • Unless of course, you wait on top of the elevator box for targets with the corresponding floor keycard to enter the elevator, then strangle them. This makes perfect logical sense in the context of the Hitman series.
  • Fur Fighters has a lot of these, it being a mix of shooting and platforming it can be quite jarring. One actually involved making a special soup in a jungle with an elongated fetch-quest to boot.
  • The Core series of Flash games. In the installment "Tower Core" this is especially Egregious because the framing device is that you have to power up the defense system to fend off an impending meteor strike, or something like that. Since this appears to be the only purpose of the titular towers, one would expect actual human security to be the better option, instead of wasting time trying to solve random puzzles.
  • Schizm II: Chameleon had an absolutely perfect example of this. Through various cunning methods, the player finally gains access to an elevator. The elevator promptly takes them down to a single room, which contains nothing but a code panel. Finally switching the symbols around correctly... gives a cutscene of NPCs finding you there, and so advancing the story. The act of solving the puzzle does nothing in the game world.
  • The entire game of Alundra is based around this. Every dungeon is full of puzzles that yield random switches that open gates; the gates won't open without hitting all the switches in a particular order, for example, or lighting all the torches. Most of the dungeons are inside dreams, so make a little bit of sense - but many aren't.
  • The Wild ARMs games have examples set in in temples and ruins.
  • This happens a lot in the Frogwares Sherlock Holmes games, complete with sliding puzzles, using the Kabbalah to open a safe in a Jewish club, measuring out exactly 478cc of gunpowder with three different receptacles of different sizes...the list goes on. Increasingly averted with each game, thankfully -- Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper has a deductions system replacing random quizzes, for one.
  • Sherlock Holmes and The Secret of The Silver Earring - Holmes has to visit the home of one character in the game in order to acquire some intel, and the whole house is full of puzzles that he has to solve in order to continue. The game justifies it by claiming the character is a big fan of toys and puzzles.
  • Assassin's Creed II averts this despite having a good number of rather difficult, Guide Dang It level puzzles. All the puzzles are optional, and they reveal some very cool backstory fluff about the war between Templars and Assassins, as well as a cutscene involving the true origin of humanity.
  • Final Fantasy VIII gives you a clock pattern on the floor and a bunch of paintings with Latin names, and you have to combine three Latin names for the answer.
  • Final Fantasy X gets a pass for its ridiculous Cloister puzzles because they were designed as tests of persistence. Final Fantasy X-2, however, has a final dungeon that forces you to repeatedly find contrived ways to play the same sequence of notes using the objects around you. You can just skip the puzzles—if you don't mind facing a long, difficult boss each time.
  • The Interactive Fiction game Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina is better than it sounds—but includes more than one pointless puzzle nailed to the wall. The worst example is a Magic Fifteen puzzle that spells out the words of a song. Hope you know the song ...
  • Wild ARMs 2 is full of these. Every single dungeon/new area has at minimum 3 and up to 10 puzzles placed in your way which must be completed in order to unlock a door, reveal a passage, or reveal/open a treasure chest. Sometimes, the puzzle you needed to complete in order to open the door/activate the machine/etc. is actually 2-3 rooms back.
  • In Puzzle Agent the protagonist, Nelson Tethers, is from the FBI's Puzzle Research Division, and is as such obsessed with puzzles. However the town he's sent to investigate is equally obsessed with them with everyone having puzzles for you to do and everything you need to do being a puzzle. The in game explanation is that most of them are in a cult that worships gnomes who communicate through puzzles... Because that totally makes sense.
  • The first half of King's Quest V is spent walking around in Serenia, solving puzzles and collecting a lot of items that will admittedly come in handy later. But we're given absolutely no indication why King Graham should be bothering with all this, considering he needs to journey through the mountains to save his family. It's just aimless wandering about.
  • XBLA indie game Decay subverts this brutally in Part 2 - the game is a point and click horror, so players are already in the puzzle seeking mindset, and the game is obliging with a steady supply of actually very logical puzzles. When the player is confronted with a soup can in the form of a Breakout game on a computer, it seems odd, but the player gets right down to business... only to be confronted with the reflection of the game's Creepy Doll staring at you in the screen, its horrible glowing eyes demanding why you are wasting time on something so silly when you were given specific instructions to HURRY UP...I'm sorry, Lisey, I'm sorry, oh god please don't stare at me like that... *whimper*
  • Lego: Batman has a few of these. For instance, in an early level, to enter a factory you need to climb a ramp and pull a lever to make a giant ice cream cone turn from blue to yellow, then another lever to turn it from yellow to red. Then you need to pull each lever again to make it turn back to blue, at which point the door opens.
  • Subverted in Ratchet and Clank Going Commando by Ratchet basically Cutting the Knot.
  • In Pilot Brothers: Theft of the striped elephant, the main characters fail to just open the door to pursue the criminal, and must instead open the fridge. Said fridge is locked on a large hang lock (with the key guarded by a crocodile) and the infamous hardest puzzle in the game. When the fridge is opened, a cat walks out of the fridge and easily opens the door (by pushing it, the characters were knocking and pulling).

Other Examples


  • Die Hard With a Vengeance has John McClane having to solve a Stock Puzzle to defuse each of the bombs that Simon has left over the city.
    • Justified in that the bomb plot was a decoy. Simon wanted everyone to be busy trying to figure out inane puzzles while he tried to rob the gold reserve.
  • The plot of National Treasure essentially revolved around the protagonist solving an elaborate series of soup can puzzles.


  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in which the puzzle obstacles surrounding the Stone are reinforced by magic, and cannot be passed until they've been resolved.
    • The door unlocked by the correct flying key has been enchanted not to respond to the standard opening spell.
    • The life-sized enchanted chessmen physically block the player's progress.
    • The potions of the potions puzzle are needed to exit the room either way once the player is inside.

Live-Action TV

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • An episode of Phineas and Ferb had the brothers use a computer to generate a complicated maze, and several doors were locked out with various puzzles, including but not limited to a chessboard, a jar of jellybeans with a numeric pad asking the number in the jar, and a room with the "Idol Switching" scene from Indiana Jones. They even had the jacket and hat on the wall for added effect.

Real Life

  • A textbook for 8th grade Spanish class tried to frame the lessons with a very loose narrative. You, the reader/student, were a secret agent airlifted onto a Spanish-speaking island somewhere and repeatedly had to rendezvous with other agents. Invariably, your contacts would always give you twenty pages of silly Spanish exercises to work on (learning how to say useful phrases like "Oh, it's the king who used to play funeral chants on the drum.") to prove your identity.
  • Teachers who inevitably get pressed on the practical applications of history, algebra, grammar, or just about anything really, sometimes respond with a hypothetical situation where students would be required to know some obscure fact. For example, should you find a bomb hidden under the rug in your new log cabin in the woods, you'll need to know this bit of trivia in order to defuse it! Nya-hah!
  1. although one ground-level gate was apparently installed to obstruct creatures that can fly