They go by all kinds of different names — nonogram, picross, hanjie, griddlers, paint by numbers, and more — but there’s something magical about picross games. Like a cross between minesweeper and sudoku, it’s a pure test of logic. You find the hidden image by filling squares on a grid, given clues for how many — both altogether and in succession — are in each row and column.
It takes only seconds to learn, but you could spend your whole life mastering the formula, and it’s incredibly addictive — not only have I wiled away many an hour, but I got my sister-in-law, brother, and girlfriend hooked at one time or another. And I’ve scoured the Play Store for the best in picross action on Android. Here are my 10 favorites.
Reminiscent of Mario’s Picross, Logic Square hides a tough and unforgiving design beneath its adorable façade. There’s a real sense of polish here, although you’ll have to settle for playing mostly with the directional pad as cursor as puzzles get mighty small and every mistake cuts down your time limit. The difficulty is offset, and given a strategic element, by three special items that you can buy with points earned in-game.
The small size gets pretty hairy, so it’s a good thing you have a d-pad.
Nonomatic delivers a compelling experience in a simple package, combining an attractive red, white, grey, and black color scheme with easy-to-learn controls. It adapts to small screens by letting you zoom in on sections of the grid, with the rest of the squares compressed into lines around the edge. This can be annoying at times, but for the most part works like a charm.
Nonomatic offers an interesting, mostly effective, method of showing you the grid zoomed in.
NemoNemo Picross is popular for a reason — it’s an excellent, consistent picross game with 80 well-designed levels. You can zoom in and out with pinch gestures, to make squares a larger target (or to let you read the numbers, if your eyes can’t handle the tiny text). There are separate buttons to switch between fill or cross out tools, while you get a maximum of five errors.
You don’t get the fancy extras of some of the other games on this list, but NemoNemo is strong where it counts — in puzzle design and ease of use.
Simple, pure, straightforward picross.
Price: Free Requires: Android 2.1 and up Google Play link:NemoNemo Picross Developer: GBong
GraphiLogic’s cool single and multi-color puzzles are let down by interface woes on smaller devices. A magnifying glass zoom function may sound good in theory — you warp the grid, enlarging everything in its arc, to better see and touch an area — but it’s awkward and clunky in practice. As is the need to fill background squares with the background color.
Aside from those problems, this ad-supported app puts a smile and a grimace on your face with complex puzzles and a light-hearted vibe (the game exclaims “yippee!” every time you finish a puzzle). You can expand on the relatively paltry set of default puzzles by picking up some of the free and paid themed puzzle packs, or create your own.
GraphiLogic goes too far, but it’s a quality puzzler all the same.
You may be better grabbing Griddlers Plus, which also features colored and multi-grid varieties in addition to the standard monochrome picture crossword. It offers a better interface, with pinch-to-zoom and multi-cell selection, and piles on hundreds of puzzles — all free, including an epic 220x260x20 behemoth (broken into 143 20×20 grids). Best of all, you can create and share puzzles with your friends.
Name these characters.
Price: Free Requires: Android 2.3.3 and up Google Play link:Griddlers Plus Developer: A. YILDIZ
The only faults I could find in Nono Logix are that it lacks zoom functionality —which makes it harder to use on phones — and it uses Adobe Air — which renders it unstable. Its flat, clean interface is a sight to behold, and it’s easy to fly through the puzzles without being slowed down by menus or loading times.
Nono Logix includes 100 free puzzles, with 21 paid packs of 25 puzzles for $0.99 each (so that’s over 600 puzzles in total, with more coming).
If looks could kill.
Price: Free Requires: Android 2.2 and up Google Play link:Nono Logix Developer:ooblada
The retro aesthetic of Nonogram Madness makes it an easy one to like, but it’s tough to love. While puzzles are easy to play, and the interface is straightforward, it’s sorely lacking zoom functionality. I found that the only way to unlock Medium, Hard, and Random modes was to press the Restore Purchases button (then I couldn’t access them at all later). Other minor issues plague the experience. The puzzles are fun, though, so hopefully the problems get ironed out soon.
NonoCube takes its cue from Nintendo DS hit Picross 3D, shifting the picture crossword into three dimensions. It’s not as blatant or shameless a clone as a certain other game, with intuitive and responsive new controls and a touch of Don’t Worry, Be Happy about its presentation. The fantastic controls and tutorials are a particular standout, but that’s not to say anything against the puzzle design.
It’s shiny, happy, fun, and not too similar to Picross 3D.
CrossMe comes in color and regular flavors, with the latter being a more traditional single-color picross and the former adopting two or more colors that add an extra layer of challenge. It’s smooth and responsive, with an easy-to-grasp two-step interface — one press to mark on, two to mark off; hold then drag to affect multiple squares in a row or column.
Grab the free versions first to get a feel for things. They have a few tricky puzzles that might take veterans of the genre for a spin, although you may need to pony up the cash for Premium to unlock the big head-scratchers.
CrossMe and CrossMe Color are smooth and responsive, with a nice look about them.
If you’ve been yearning for a multiplayer picross experience, Battle Cross Pixel might be just the thing. Its slick, retro-futuristic presentation makes quite the impression, too. The core puzzling side of the experience works well, but it is a bit easy to make mistakes because touch-and-drag filling isn’t locked to individual rows or columns.
There’s a single-player mode and two multiplayer modes — co-op or battle/versus. Be warned, though, that the multiplayer menus are in Korean, and in my testing it was hard to find opponents online.
You might need sunglasses to play Battle Cross Pixel.
If you’re a fan of Nintendo’s Picross series, it’s hard to go past Logic Square and NonoCube — although I found myself more enjoying the sleek elegance of Nono Logix and the epic scale of Griddlers Plus.
Nonomatic may be the most accessible to newcomers, with a gentle learning curve and plenty of easy levels to kick things off. But if you’re a fan of nonograms, I think you’ll find value in all of these. Just be prepared to learn an entirely new interface and control scheme with each title.
I’ve found around 25 of these kinds of games so far on the Play Store, so this is really just a sampling of the field. Did I miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments.