Having a sharp mind isn’t just for those in school, and homework, studying, and tests aren’t the only way to help sharpen your mind. Brain training apps can help you stay sharp, and these make the process fun and easy!
By using brain training apps, it’s possible to improve your concentration skills or even gain a stronger memory. They may even help your mind stay sharp as you age. With these fun apps and games, you’ll be better at these skills, which could even carry over to how your brain performs tasks in real life.
A consensus among scientists is yet to be reached about whether or not brain training apps are actually effective. Many believe that there is no proof that these games are ineffective, while others are sure they don’t work. There are many inconsistent and different conclusions out there, plus with so many brain training apps out there making hyperbolic promises of the health benefits that can be reaped from their apps, it’s understandable if it confuses you, too.
Mostly, the controversies settle around whether the sometimes-odd tasks one is asked to complete within these apps—like feeding a group of fish or completing simple rapid-fire arithmetic problems—have any consequential impact on your brain or daily life. Likewise, proponents in favor of brain games counter this by saying the brain is like a muscle that needs to be regularly exercised and toned, and that repetition and regular practice can absolutely make a difference.
According to the Mayo Clinic, however, results are mild to moderate at best with no strong evidence in any direction. Part of the problem is that there aren’t any long-term studies (spanning multiple decades) that have been completed on the topic to add sufficient evidence to either side.
So, unfortunately, any definitive conclusion regarding the efficacy of brain training apps is still up in the air. We think the truth lies somewhere in the middle, that they can probably do a little to sharpen your mind. Either way, these apps and games are super fun to play.
Using a brain training app is considered to be an active behavior, rather than one that’s passive, according to Tamily Weissman, PhD, neuroscientist, and Associate Professor of Biology at Lewis & Clark College. Actively thinking about something keeps your brain’s neural circuits more active, and when they’re repeatedly activated, they are strengthened.
Many brain training apps and games keep your mind thinking actively by having you juggle multiple tasks, recalling where items are or what they’re called, complete arithmetic problems, think creatively, or make accurate decisions quickly.
When thinking of brain training apps, the first one that probably pops into everyone’s mind is Lumosity (Free, with premium options), because it’s been around for years. The fun app offers over 40 puzzles and games that test your brain and help it train memory, logic, and math skills for a well-rounded mind workout.
It features specific challenges for attention, flexibility, problem solving, language, math, speed, memory, and more. You can also choose one of many workout modes, which offer curated lists of games along with personalized training tracking. This makes it a little easier to keep an eye on your progress.
Lumosity also offers detailed training insights so you can learn your strengths and weaknesses, and gives you an analysis of your gameplay that might help you make connections to daily life. The app’s premium subscription upgrade runs $11.99 per month and gives you personalized training, tips for more accurate gameplay and strategy, and in-depth insights.
Elevate (Free, with premium options) offers extensive developmental tracking across five categories, and gives you over 35 games to try your hand, or rather your mind, at. It uses bold, colorful games to test your mind, spanning areas like memory, comprehension, focus, and other similar skills. The app claims it can boost your productivity, self-confidence, earning power, speaking abilities, and processing skills.
Logging in regularly will help you keep up your streak on the app’s built-in calendar and help maintain motivation. Elevate also gives you personalized daily workouts that focus on working the skills you need the most help with, and its adaptive difficulty ensures your exercise is always challenging no matter how much you progress.
The app also has a pro subscription option with multiple tiers starting at $4.99 per month and a free trial period. Upgrading unlocks additional games, unlimited free play, and other features.
Focus Factor Brain Hub (Free, with premium options) takes a slightly different approach to things, balancing stimulating brain training with mindful meditation. The company believes this is a more holistic, well-rounded approach for users of all ages. It also shakes things up each day and offers personalized guidance.
Categories in Focus Factor include problem solving, language, memory, focus, and math, in a library of over 20 fun games. Problem solving games are designed to improve process of elimination skills; language games expand your active vocabulary and test creative word generation; memory games improve information and visual recall skills; focus games test your ability to maintain attention in rotating environments, and to avoid distractions; math games boost your quick calculation skills.
Focus Factor also has about a dozen meditation topics, which are then broken down into individual meditative sessions. Topics include managing stress, concentration, anxiety, breath, pain, and good sleep, and range from beginner to expert. You’ll also find a mood tracker, breathing exercises, a supplement log tracker, short-form audiobooks, and an in-depth performance tracker in the app.
The app also offers a premium option—at $17.49 per month, the priciest on our list—which grants you unlimited access to every last bit of content on the app. And though the app says it’s for all ages, we recommend it for adults or at least older children at the youngest.
The two best things about Peak (Free, with premium options) are its gorgeous design and its large library of categories, workouts, and games. Peak has over 45 games spanning six categories you can play, or you can challenge yourself with its versatile Daily Workouts to hone your attention, memory, coordination, emotion control, and mental agility along with your language and problem-solving skills.
The app features a convenient Coffee Break mode, which makes it easy to fit in a little training in under five minutes. There are other training modes to choose from as well, like Weakest Link, Low Rank, and The Total Workout, depending on what your particular goals are. You can also opt for the Advanced Training modules, which were designed with scientists and universities (including Cambridge).
You can track your progress with in-depth insights and statistics, and even compete against friends or compare our scores with other players in your profession or age range. Upgrading to the Peak Pro plan, which starts at $4.99 per month—gets you tailored workouts, deeper and more tailored performance analysis, and access to the app’s full catalog of content.
Though it might seem an odd pick after the brain training apps we’ve featured, Sudoku felt like a natural addition to our list. If you don’t want to bother with the dedicated apps, Genina Sudoku (Free) is a great way to keep your brain sharp any time of day. The stylish and easy-to-use app makes it easy to jump right into a game and work out unlimited puzzles.
The app gives you four difficulty levels to choose from, three input modes, the ability to make notes, and a handy auto-save function. You can select a digit or choose from the other myriad highlighting options, show a digit count option, get logic-only hints, and take advantage of the unlimited Undo and Redo feature. If you want, there’s even an option for submitting your results online, tracking your progress, and comparing your top scores against those from other players.
In a similar vein as sudoku, we’d also be remiss to exclude crossword puzzles from our lineup. If you find more of a challenge with words, rather than numbers, partaking in a daily puzzle from the New York Times Crossword app (Free, with a monthly subscription option) is a solid idea. This crossword puzzle app in particular is high quality, widely loved, and well-designed.
To get the most out of the app, we recommend paying for a subscription, which starts at $6.99 per month. With it, you’ll unlock every feature and puzzle type—including the daily puzzles, mini crossword packs, past puzzles, MIDI puzzle packs, spelling bees, and more. The app syncs across the mobile and web versions, and you can put your score on the app’s leaderboard.