Physics in games run the gamut from puzzles to construction to destruction. When you’re dealing with physics, the possibilities are staggering. Check out our top picks for the best physics games on various platforms, choose one, and get playing!
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Best Physics Games
Physics Games for iPhones
It’s no secret that iPhones carry some great games. The App store reportedly has more than 200,000 gaming apps in 2021, and it’s only growing. If you’ve got an iPad or iPhone, check out some of their offerings for physics games.
1. World of Goo
With more than a dozen awards under its belt, World of Goo is called “beautiful and surprising.” In this quirky world, you drag and drop goo balls — who don’t know they’re in a video game, of course — to build structures like buildings, cannonballs, and giant tongues.
The little goo balls are, in fact, quite adorable, and the purpose of the game appears to be to collect them. (Apparently, they also have no idea they’re delicious?) With simple, fun music and cute sound effects, World of Goo involves concepts like structural engineering, cantilevers, and geometry.
It’s an Editor’s Choice on the App store, and the Editor mentions that it not only begins as a tactile game with goo balls who steal your heart but then it gets even more interesting. They don’t spoil how, so you’ll have to play for yourself to find out.
A note: one user mentioned the precision necessary to grab the balls of goo made playing this on a small screen a bit difficult, so if you have an older/smaller iPhone, you may want to use an iPad instead.
2. iBlast Moki 2
In iBlast Moki 2, you play with Moki’s cute little creatures that are perpetually smiling. They’re round so they’ll happily roll wherever you send them, but that’s the only help you get.
You have to build contraptions like bridges, carts, and more, and use specific types of bombs to move the Moki from one place to the goal. Bouncy bombs, slick bombs, regular bombs, and glue bombs are part of your building arsenal.
With 6 worlds and 90 levels, this game will take you a while to complete. One reviewer mentioned it also has the ability for you to design and play your own Moki levels, adding to its replay value and boosting creativity skills.
Solving these puzzles and timing everything just right brings a very particular feeling of satisfaction.
Physics Games for Android
You can get a lot of the same games on Android as you do on iPhone (including World of Goo) but here are a few other options.
3. Bounce n Bang
With a deceptively simple premise, Bounce n Bang gives you a cannon and unlimited cannonballs. The trick is to bounce these cannonballs off walls and other objects strategically, so friction doesn’t take away the speed too soon.
The goal is to help villagers regain land that was stolen from them. Using angles, friction, and strategic thinking, this app pairs physics with cute animations and a simple-yet-fun story. Plus, the higher you score, the more powers and other cool cannons you get.
With 60 levels that are all free (there are ads in the app, however) plus higher levels with fun characters like a dragon to guard the more prized possessions, Bounce n Bang definitely gives you the most bang for your (non-existent) buck.
The goal of Hexasmash is to smash as many hexagon-shaped jewels as you can in as few moves as possible. The premise sounds simple but you must release a pendulum swinging from a chain with absolutely perfectly timed moves to succeed.
There are tricks to get in your way as well — trampolines you must use, explosives you must avoid, glass and brick you must break.
It gets even trickier, too. On some levels, there are multiple pendulums you have to release in a precisely timed pattern to collect all the gems. Even a moment’s mistake can cost you! Users report the physics feel accurate and the play is fun and engaging.
Physics Games for PC
Whether you play on Steam or another platform, PC has long been the go-to computer system for gamers.
Speaking of Steam, Mugsters is a game in which aliens have taken over the world, and you’re the only one who knows how to end their control of humanity.
In a sandbox environment, you have to outmaneuver your enemy with physics-based movements, collecting crystals and freeing prisoners as you go. Be careful of the alien abduction rays, traps, and rocket turrets!
Players report this game is fast-paced, engaging, and versatile. Couple that with its minimalist, abstract animation and you’ve got a winning game.
With another deceptively simple premise, TransPlan asks you to deliver a transport payload to its destination with only a few tools and the laws of physics. Possibly the most unique part is that each level is hand-drawn, giving the game an old-fashioned vibe.
This game reinforces planning and engineering concepts as you design and attempts to implement your path. Use catapults, ramps, and more to get your payload to its destination. Bonus points for finishing on budget, because that gets you hints for later in the game.
Best Physics Games for Consoles
The versatility of the console platform lends itself well to dozens upon dozens of video games. We were hard-pressed to narrow it down!
7. Portal & Portal 2
An oldie but a goodie (and this writer’s personal favorite), Portal and Portal 2 are puzzle platform games that utilize a portal gun to complete various levels. The portal gun creates a wormhole-esque connection between two areas, giving this game unending creativity.
You move through these portals to reach different areas within each level (or test chamber). The most fun part is learning how to conserve your momentum. To do this, you sometimes have to leap off the edge and fire an opening portal beneath you which will fling you out of its corresponding portal elsewhere in mid-air. Then you must act quickly to re-fire the original portal so you don’t touch the ground until you’ve developed enough momentum to reach your desired area.
Full of fun physics challenges like this and endearing characters (the little robot turrets were my favorite – so cute!), Portal and Portal 2 are quite popular, and for good reason. You can play these games on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
8. Kerbal Space Program
If you want to explore the physics of space travel, look no further than the Kerbal Space Program. This flight simulation game lets you develop and launch your own space program operated by Kerbals, who are, quite literally, little green men.
Once you launch your spacecraft, you can engage in real-world astrophysics moves like a bi-elliptic transfer orbit. This game basically sneak-attacks you with orbital mechanics and the laws of motion. Plus, who doesn’t love the little green men?
With very convincing three-dimensional physics, this game does not disappoint. And while it actually spans multiple platforms, for consoles, it can be played on Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Best Physics Games for Non-Screen Time
While your best physics games experience might benefit from a screen you can manipulate, we wanted to include one board game option for a less screen-focused preference.
(Bonus!) Riff Raff
In an interesting twist on the balancing concepts of Jenga combined with a hefty dose of physics, Riff Raff is a game for 2–4 players that takes approximately 30 minutes to play. It’s good for ages 8 and up, and especially good for those who love the high seas.
The “board” is a wooden ship with a deck and three masts. Each player has a collection of the same objects and cards numbered 1–10. Players must simultaneously reveal their cards and then scramble to place whatever piece of cargo on the board they’d like.
If the ship overbalances and cargo falls off, you can try to catch it again, but should you miss, it gets added to the cargo you need to get rid of. The first swashbuckler to get rid of all their cargo wins.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a physics game?
A physics game is any video game or otherwise, that has physics at its core. That’s quite a broad definition, but essentially, if the game teaches, reinforces, or is based on physics concepts, it can count! Whether it’s the mechanics of space travel like Kerbal Space Program or the mind-bending science behind Portal, if it’s engaging with physics concepts, it’s a physics game.
Why are physics games good or useful?
Sometimes, they’re just cool and really visually appealing. But most of the time, a physics video game can overtly or subtly teach physics concepts. For example, in World of Goo, if you don’t build a structurally sound bridge, your level falls apart. This can be especially useful for kids who are bored with the usual “build a bridge out of toothpicks” activity.
Are physics games STEM activities?
Technically, yes, because physics is a subset of science. However, some of the physics games are more directly or obviously teaching those concepts, so we’d be more likely to call them “STEM activities.” Technically, even games like Angry Birds could be considered “physics games,” so it depends on the depth to which the game gets scientific.