Here is a collection of all the snake-themed puzzle games in the known universe, complete with descriptions, pictures, and a few awards. The order in which they appear is roughly the order that I played them in. The purpose of this article
Table of Contents
- Table of Contents (YOU ARE HERE)
- List of games with a description, picture, and words from the author
- Ultra-Handy Quick-Reference Table
- Games coming in the future
- Discussion (the worst part)
My main qualification to write about these games is that I have solved all the puzzles. In describing them, I have sometimes left out key mechanics or high points, so that the reader will not lose the joy of discovery. If you find that I have erred too far to the side of spoiler avoidance, don’t tell me!
Snakebird by Noumenon Games
The most well-known of the snake puzzle games, and for good reason. The mechanics are deep and intriguing, and the game is well polished, with good levels and some of the best graphics of any 2D puzzle game. The main novelty is combining snake movement with gravity, and it also has growth by eating fruit, and the ability to individually control multiple snakebirds. My favorite trailer/video of Snakebird is this one (warning obscene language), which might be funniest if you watch after playing a few levels first. There is also an in-depth article by ElectronDance about his experience playing through Snakebird. Snakebird has great puzzles that reward planning ahead, and visualizing the shapes you will need to make in order to solve them. Its difficulty catches some by surprise, as the visuals look playful and benign. It’s not the hardest of the games here but it’s one of the harder ones. Overall it gets a very high recommendation! The creation of the game is discussed by its developers here
The idea came from misunderstanding how a game by a friend worked. My friend only linked screenshots and never actually described how it played, so when it later turned out that his game was in fact a platformer and not actually a snake game with gravity like I had thought I made a prototype to show him. The prototype was then sort of forgotten about and it would take about a year before we dug it up and started turning it into a proper game.
Snakebird Primer by Noumenon Games
A newer game from the makers of Snakebird that uses the same mechanics, designed as an easier version that will be accessible to many more people. The game remains fun and charming with the simpler levels, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone that wouldn’t enjoy it. It’s quite a bit easier than the original, so for those who have completed the original game this might not feel like it adds much.
Snakebird for Gameboy by freeball1
A remake of Snakebird done by a friend of the designer, strangely made for Gameboy. It comes with 10 original levels clothed in retro graphics. The new levels are well designed, are on average a bit more challenging than the original Snakebird, and have a clearly different puzzle style as well. The lack of an undo button can sometimes get annoying, but is overcome with a bit of patience. Based on a quick Google search, I ended up using the openemu emulator, and it worked well. Definitely recommended if you like Snakebird.
Snakefall by thejoshwolfe and contributors
There are three fan remakes of Snakebird that were built specifically to have a level editor. Snakefall was developed by thejoshwolfe and is the most successful of the three. There are by far the greatest number of levels built in Snakefall (70 at the time of writing), and they are the hardest of all snakebird levels made. One new thing in this version that is not present in any other Snakebird variant is one-segment snakes. Try out how these work in the first level, Disabilities Act! The hardest level sets are by XeroOl, Gooby, and Teal Knight, while an easier but still interesting set of 3 was made by Cookie.
The overall quality of levels designed in Snakefall is surprisingly high, with only a few uninteresting levels in the whole mix. Stand-out levels include (in order of appearance in the wiki): Etch-a-sketch (inukoblainc), Spike Maze (XeroOl), The Ordeal (thejoshwolfe), There and Back Again (gavinksong), Level 1 (Dr Endugu), Level 3 “The Servant” (Teal Knight), Level 4 “Greed that goes well” (Teal Knight), Level 6 “Decisions” (Teal Knight), Balancing Act (IHNN), Mine Rescue (Gooby), and Fruit Temple (XeroOl). Disarm (XeroOl) is not the most challenging level made, but it’s certainly the most sadistic!
|There is an experimental section in the wiki, with a few new mechanics introduced. The first and main one is a type of platform that allows snakes to move up through it, but not down - a snake is supported on the platform by any of its outside edges. It takes a bit of experimentation to fully understand the rule, but it works well for the puzzles. Perhaps the place to start would be Platformway to Heaven by thejoshwolfe since there are fewer parts to it. The most elegant puzzle of this set is Low Clearance by XeroOl, and another very good but more complex one is House on Fire by Gooby. Gateway to Freedom by LevelWorld introduces gates, and it works okay but the idea hasn’t been explored to the fullest.||Underground by Gooby is a cute level that uses diggable dirt terrain.|
I have added my own quite difficult puzzle, Temple. I also made some other contributions that you can find on the wiki, mostly in the form of modified levels. If you’d like to give them a try, I recommend solving their predecessors first.
Avis Anguis by Terzalo and contributors
The second reimplementation of Snakebird, this time in PuzzleScript. Terzalo programmed it and made one level for it, and a few others have made some levels for it. The editor that can be used to make levels is here. The first level made is Terzalo’s single demo level, which is large and demonstrates all of the mechanics from the original game. Connorses made two levels, here and here. The first level is novel and interesting, and the second more standard. I think the best is this set of three levels by CHz. The first two are on the easier side while the third is challenging and quite nice. As you can see below, the graphics leave much to be desired; but it’s clearly readable once you start playing with it.
Snakebird Fan-Edition by Jacob Munch-Andersen and contributor
The last remake of Snakebird in order to create fan levels, this one has 5 levels by the programmer (Jacob Christian Munch-Andersen), and one level designed together with Edderiofer. The link above takes you immediately to the last level, but it’s the best link since it contains all 6 finished levels. The first 5 levels are elegant and about the same difficulty as original Snakebird, and the last level is a little harder than that. The implementation is quite easy to read and control.
SnakeShit by Dario Zubović
Designed by Dario Zubović as a cross between Snakebird and ShitSnake (a whimsy by Draknek that is not a puzzle game), it’s a short but interesting variation of Snakebird. I will let you guess as to the mechanics!
ShitStain by Dario Zubović
Another game by Dario Zubović that is a kind of sequel to SnakeShit. This one makes a small change to the mechanics that allows for different, interesting puzzles. It’s only two puzzles long, the first to demonstrate the mechanics and the second to offer a challenge. Both of these games are quite amusing and worth playing.
Those first two are literally shit games tho, idk why you’re including them
Blocker Snake by Rosden Shadow
One of Rosden Shadow’s game-a-day that he kept up for a remarkable 87 days, it’s short but unique. Your snake picks up segments like usual, except these segments block the snake’s movement more than in regular snake. Worth trying, though it doesn’t match his most impressive game from the game-a-day endeavor, which is Islands.
I would have chosen to use a snake game to use as a puzzle game because I was working with every little idea I could think of. I chose to have the goal to collect all the orbs and having the orbs extend the snake and create walls because when it comes to snake games most of them are about navigating through or avoiding the wall/body that get in the way by your own movements and those mechanics worked towards enhancing and taking advantage of that effect.
Ouroboros’ Eggs by Marcos Donnantuoni
A game where your snake lays eggs if it makes a loop around empty space, and each puzzle asks you to lay a certain number of eggs in the given terrain. As with many of Marcos Donnantuoni’s games, the puzzles here were procedurally generated, though you might not have been able to tell based on just the level design. It’s an interesting take on snake puzzles, certainly feeling different and worth trying. There is variety in the solutions, but maybe not quite enough to justify the large number of puzzles in the game. There are two other puzzles game by different authors that are about catching your tail, but both were abandoned in the work-in-progress phase: In Ouroboros by Connorses, the only goal is to catch your tail. This is made nontrivial by having more complex maps, but it ends up feeling like mostly trial-and-error. Ouroboros by Grogge adds some lock & keys, and blocks that mimic your snake’s movement. Your tail stays put, so it feels more like the exit is coincidentally where you start, rather than chasing your tail. Unfortunately it also seems to add at least one major bug. Overall Ouroboros’ Eggs is by far the most interesting exploration of the idea.
Ouroboro’s eggs uses a mechanic that I planned to use in a larger game, which was going to contain several mythological serpents, each with different powers that manifested differently. In particular, the Ouroboros activates its power (laying eggs to reproduce) each time it closes in a loop, biting herself. This is an interesting topological idea, but constricting it to a grid made it a little more simplistic than I wanted to achieve. However, I was able to generate some interesting levels. In particular my favorites are those where laying the required amount of eggs is very straightforward, but the challenge is to do it in a way that allows you to get out of the burrow.
Snakehole by Jack Kutilek
Snakehole is a very interesting take on snake puzzles. As you might have guessed, there are “holes” that play a big role in the mechanics. Exactly how, you’ll need to find out for yourself! It only has 8 levels, but each one is large and meaty. It is also has some of the nicest visuals in a PuzzleScript game (I guess the bar is low, but it’s pretty hard to make 5x5 pixels look as good as they do in this game). This is one of my favorite snake games on this list, since it has both creative mechanics and good levels. I found a neat modification to level 7 that makes it harder, which you can try here (with permission from the designer. Naturally one should only attempt this after beating the game. I make no claim that my level is better than the original).
Snakehole spun out of a discussion about how you might implement snake-like movement in puzzlescript. I put together a quick demo, and once I had a nice snake of course I needed a crate to push around. I was interested in symmetric objects and mechanics, so of course the crate needed to be a snake, too. I introduced the hole as a way to get through tight spaces with a long snake, and I continued adapting its uses as I needed more mechanics for my level designs. I also used this game to practice pacing - inspired by the sequencing technique described in ‘Every Frame a Painting’s video on ‘F for Fake’, I designed multipart levels with alternating and developing themes. The goal of this was to create frequent, structured variation in gameplay while the full consequences of the mechanics are explored and shared with the player.
Snakeoban by Jack Lance
This wonderful PuzzleScript game is not well known, but the puzzles are fantastic. The mechanics involve controlling a snake on a flat plane and eating apples to grow, very similar to the original snake. The big difference is that in addition to eating all the apples, your goal is to place boxes on all the targets (hence the “oban” in the name, referring to the Sokoban genre). There are a couple of extra twists that come later, which I won’t spoil. This is one of the best PuzzleScript games out there, and it gets quite challenging in later levels. A few times I thought “ah, this must be the crowning puzzle of the game!” and was mistaken. The penultimate level is one of my favorite sokoban puzzles ever. Note, the itch version linked here contains many more levels than earlier iterations of the game had, in case you’ve played it before.
The level I remember liking the most was the one where the [REDACTED]. Just because it totally flipped expectations of what [REDACTED] had been used for.
Snakeoban by Wayne Myers
Similar mechanics to the early levels in Jack Lance’s game, but the puzzles here are easier and not quite as well designed. I would only recommend this if you really like the snakeoban idea and would prefer an easier game than Jack Lance’s.
Sokoboros by Trevor Newton
A short, continuous game about growing from a baby snake into one of legendary size. You’ll be sitting over pressure plates to open doors, and growing your snake ever longer by eating fruit. Has a few easy puzzles and a few more involved ones by the end, and overall is very charming!
In many snake games, you eat and grow longer, and then you move to the next level and become a normal length again. I wanted to set a game in a single open world where you gradually become so absurdly long that you occupy multiple rooms at once.
Dotsnake by Franklin Dyer
This game is like Snake in that you have to eat all of the food, but your snake has infinite length so it’s all about picking everything up without retracing any steps. The puzzles in dotsnake tend to be quite simple. Mechanically, it’s actually identical to one of the puzzle types in The Witness. This author also made another snake-like game, Jormungandr, but it was abandoned in an unsolvable state. The idea in Jormungadr is that your mythical serpent can cross the sea to visit other islands, but only in a straight line. In the link provided, I added one land tile so that the game can be completed.
Circle Serpent by EvilArtBunny
A game where your tail stays put, and you need to eat enough to extend your body until you are able to reach your tail with your head. The graphics are nice and the music is soothing. Most of the puzzles are quite straightforward. Once you understand the rules, you can press ‘end’ to skip some of the early levels that I think are too straightforward. The basic mechanics don’t really suggest a snake theme, but when multiple snakes are added it makes more sense.
Snek Alpha / Snek by St33d
A snake game where the main difficulty is restricted controls. Rather than being able to move freely in all 4 directions, you can only press left or right. The exact results of those button presses are left as an exercise to the player. The goal is to cover all the target squares. The alpha version has a shorter snake, while the main version has longer snakes and few more levels. The two versions of the game don’t overlap, so you can play either of them or both. It’s interesting, but takes a bit of time to get used to not being able to move in the direction you want to (at first it feels rather annoying!). Fuse is another nice puzzle game from this author.
I was thinking of making a game where you move through a 3D space but with fewer axes of control. I reasoned that if having less inputs it worked in 2D, then it should work in 3D. It amused me but it didn’t grab me, so I made other things.
Lime Rick by Tommi Tuovinen
An interesting snake game with gravity, where you need to eat all the apples but your snake grows with every move, not only after consuming fruit. The most common maneuver is to climb on your own body to reach greater heights, but there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s a longer game with many interesting levels, and adds two mechanics as the game progresses: locks and keys, and one that you might guess but I won’t reveal.
Lime Rick is actually pretty much an improved remake of my older game “I left myself behind” which I made for a certain game jam/compo. With keeping the time limit in mind I wanted to keep the concept as simple as possible and put the most of effort on making the puzzles interesting and compelling. I love coming up with challenging puzzles so after completing the game I started coming up with new levels. I felt that the original self-replicating straight-faced main character was somewhat awkward, so when upgrading the visuals a forever growing snake felt like a natural choice and the goal was changed to a red apple as in classical snake games.
Lime Richard by Franklin Dyer
A PuzzleScript fan variant of Lime Rick, it is quite short and plays with an extra couple of ideas. Give it a try if you liked Lime Rick, though the puzzle design is not as good as in the original.
Snake Escape by Einar Sauskas
Snake Escape is a fan-remake of Lime Rick for the ZX Spectrum. Why would a modern game be made for the ZX Spectrum, you ask? Dear reader, please stop with the silly questions! Snake Escape is described as being based on Lime Rick, with a modified design including making the original hard levels harder, and adding 4 new extra hard levels at the end. I went through both games side by side, and can list out the pros and cons of this edition.
Pros: More interesting graphics; original music (Lime Rick didn’t have music); levels 9 and 30 are made harder and more interesting; 4 new levels at the end (these are about the same difficulty as the later levels in Lime Rick).
Cons: Need an emulator; no undo button; level 26 is easier and less interesting; on my machine at least, movement was slower (brief delay between key presses).
In order to play I used the Fuse emulator. To get the music running, select 128k machine in the options. The controls seem to be left = O, right = P, up = Q, restart = space. The levels are generally modified to be on a smaller grid, to make room for the more interesting graphics of each tile. Most levels turn out to have basically the same solution as in Lime Rick, with the exceptions noted above. Although the mechanics and most levels are derived from Lime Rick, it has the blessings of Lime Rick creator Tommi Tuovinen (which I personally confirmed).
Bas de Reuver had an interesting idea to expand the game, which he demonstrated in a short prototype called Snake Escape 2, but it didn’t catch.
8 Happy Snakes by Stephen Lavelle
A small snake game with 8 levels, where snakes grow indefinitely and you want them in a specific shape. It has one main twist that I won’t reveal. Fun game but goes by quickly.
Unconventional Guns by Rectangular Tim
This short game could be separated into two parts for the two unconventional weapons. The first weapon is a snake gun, which shoots out a snake that travels until it hits an obstacle (and then can move in another direction). Use it to kill zombies! A fun little game that still poses a challenge.
Boa by Steven Miller
A neat snake game that feels like somewhat like an adventure since the levels are large. Puzzles are a bit hit-and-miss; some puzzles are nice and some less interesting. Adds several adventure-like mechanics, which I won’t spoil all of. One mechanism that works quite well though is “falling,” where your snake needs to be on top of at least one land tile in order to not fall. This is like a 2D plane version of falling in Snakebird, which worked very well. Since none of the puzzles are too hard, the game is relatively short.
Boa was my first puzzle game, and it often shows through odd pacing and difficulty drops. It was created for MiniLD 63, the theme for which was to take a classic game and give it a twist. I went with snake on a whim. At that point, I hadn’t seriously played sokoban or its variants, so the mechanics were pulled from more casual games. As it was my first foray into the genre, it wasn’t very well thought out, resulting in somewhat awkward gameplay.
Snake Trail by Steven Miller
In this game you control both a snake and a square, and the snake is used as a raft to assist the square in moving around and pushing things. Nice idea! Not too many puzzles but the later ones are good.
Snake Trail was my attempt at a game where the snake increased the freedom of player movement. I had somewhat recently played Snakebird, so I wanted to try something with snakes again, but I wasn’t too fond of how restrictive the snake character is. Instead of having the snake segments clutter the movement space, I made it part of the movement space.
Crate Snake by Steven Miller
An interesting snake game where you need to push crates onto targets (like “Snakeoban”), but here your snake can wrap around the screen (using torus topology). Some of the puzzles are not that tight, in the sense that target squares could have been put in different locations without changing the solution too much. It’s still pretty fun though.
The next snake game I worked on was Crate Snake. At the time, I was experimenting a lot with different movement mechanics, one of which was screen wrapping. The idea was to have the character’s length restrict movement but have the screen wrapping compensate by allowing more ways to avoid getting stuck. I was unhappy with the result and I actually abandoned the project for a while despite it being almost done. I released it almost 6 months later for the Finally Finish Something jam nearly unchanged.
These three games above were made by Steven Miller, whose best game I think is Vampire Garden, a fantastic, deep puzzle game that has nothing to do with snakes. He also made another game called Snake Blocks that I am not reviewing only because he has a major overhaul planned. I expect it will be very good!
Snake Maze by ZilverPhoenix
Does feel very much like a snake maze - how do I escape from this labyrinth of walls, buttons, and doors? - and the 10 levels in the base game are mostly interesting. Because the mechanics are basic, the main one being sitting on buttons with any part of your snake in order to open doors, the difficulty comes from having a lot of things to keep track of in the level. Manages to still be good overall though, and the levels are well designed. There is a bonus level pack of 10 extra levels, which is described as being more difficult and experimental, though I found the difficulty and style to be not far off the base 10 levels. I did slightly prefer the design of the extra levels, some having more open areas and other interesting geometries.
I was thinking of different existing games and how their mechanics could be extended upon, one such game being Snake. The idea of a snake pressing buttons just came to me, and since I couldn’t find any games that used this mechanic, I decided I must create it myself. I think the idea was great but I acknowledge that my sadistic level design and lacking amount of additional mechanics scares many players off.
The tail of the Serpent by Lucas Le Slo
Each of the segments of your snake are different symbols in this twist on snake games, and you need to match the segments to target squares on the ground. Also, instead of having your tail block movement as in most snake puzzles, here you can eat yourself, resulting in rearrangement of the symbols. A fresh feeling game with really good level design that keeps things small and elegant. It was done for a Ludum Dare with the theme “your life is currency” and this game fit the theme incredibly well! If you already played the Ludum Dare version, I recommend replaying the whole game, as most of the levels have been redone and are of much higher quality now. I will also mention that Le Slo made Flockoban, which is a wonderful puzzle game though there are no snakes.
The theme of the jam was “Your Life is Currency”, I wanted to avoid classic interpretations so I spent most of the first day thinking. The string to pull was: a snake that pays with his body, at that moment it could be enemies with patterns, switches and doors or a weird metroidvania. Experimenting with eating your own body and leaving the tail behind pushed me to make this a puzzle game, so I spend most of the second day migrating everything to my level editor. At the end I was still confused by the eat yourself mechanic, levels were a bit random and wasn’t completely pleased with the general difficulty. Laying at night, looking at the floor, the push mechanic appeared to me and I decided “I need to add this tomorrow morning to the game” before falling asleep, I was glad the system surprised me that way. That caused having little time the third day to design levels, especially with the eat yourself mechanic, because I already explored it a bit.
I’m actually very happy with the result (not only the system but the aesthetic and music), I managed to make in 3 days a coherent game. I replayed it a couple of times and started finding unintended solution and redundancy between levels, of course. I gave me the 3 weeks of rating games to redesign the puzzles, finding new ideas (wow, new ideas! I couldn’t believe it) and fixing a couple of bugs. Although I’m pleased with the new levels, I think I messed up a bit the level order (classic!) and nowadays I would permute a couple of the levels. I believe that this is the game I made with the highest puzzle-theorem rate in spite of puzzle-example and I hope in the future I come up with ideas like this, that doesn’t only puzzle the players during their playthroughs but surprise me while making them. Ah, and I absolutely love level 25, it’s the best level I ever designed. [editor’s note: by puzzle-theorem he means a puzzle that requires a new discovery or insight to solve, as opposed to a puzzle-example which is an application of something already learned]
Snake’s Tale by Michael Fairley
Nice graphics and a good set of mechanics. The objective in each puzzle is to get a specific snake to a goal, while other snakes (that you also control) get in the way. Several more mechanics are introduced later, and they complement each other quite well (pressure plates, eggs to eat and grow, different terrain, and more). The puzzles themselves are on the easier side but many are interesting. Controls were surprisingly natural when played on android. The author wrote an extensive post-mortem blog article here.
I spent some time thinking about what sorts of puzzles could be made with snakes on a grid, and something Rush Hour-like stuck out to me as a decent choice, so I started building out some levels for it and was pretty happy with the direction it was headed. I had also played Snakebird a year or so before (and loved it), and while I didn’t consciously think about it that early in the project, I’m sure it was a subconscious influence on me. (I ended up making Stealing from Birds a direct homage to Snakebird’s level 11).
Vertebrae by Ali Nikkhah
A brilliant, difficult game where you are a little mouse that gets stuck inside a snake skeleton’s skull. Mechanically, the novel idea is that you can move backwards and attach vertebrae to your skeleton. The challenge of each level is figuring out how to place boxes on buttons, similar to the snakeoban games, but the backwards motion really adds a lot more complexity than you would first imagine. There are a remarkable number of original concepts explored throughout, with each level presenting a new idea. If you like hard puzzle games, this is one of the all-time best.
NB: Ali recently made a significant update to the puzzles in the game. If you played it prior to August 2019 I would recommend playing again from the start. Disclaimer - I helped a bit with the update.
Okay, so this game’s mechanics is based on two what-if questions applied to snake mechanics; first “What if trying to move backwards did something?” and also “What if moving onto your body did something other than kill you?” The rest followed from there, with little adjustments being made here and there and other simple mechanics being added to enable making puzzles with the main mechanics.
Train Snaking by Dario Zubović
A more snake-like variation of Cosmic Express. People who have played Cosmic Express will probably get the most fun out of this one, though there is nothing wrong with playing Train Snaking if you did not. It’s cute and the levels are short but interesting. If you haven’t played cosmic express and want a quick taste before looking at this game, the designer of Cosmic Express made a PuzzleScript prototype of the game called Train Braining, on whose code Train Snaking is based.
Puzzle Snake by Kroum Grigorov
An old (2006) game with basic rules: red dots make you grow, try to eat them all and reach the exit door. It has eight levels, and the puzzles work but are not that exciting. This is the oldest game on the list! (though only because the original Wriggle puzzles are currently out of commission)
Snake Slider by Bas de Reuver
Snake Slider is a 2D snake game where you control both neutral snakes and a special green snake, and the goal is to get the green snake to the exit. The premise is similar to A Snake’s Tale above, and this ends up being much like a harder version of that game. Unlike most snake games, you can move snakes by either the head or tail in this game. The head is still slightly different in that you can eat apples from that side. This game is also similar to Wriggle (see below), with a few added mechanics, such as eating apples and growing. I believe they were developed independently, though Snake Slider came out after the original Wriggler idea by Andrea Gilbert, which was in 2003. Both were inspired by Rush Hour.
Snake Slider uses a move counter, and a side goal is to find the optimal solution to each puzzle. This tends to be a divisive mechanic, as finding optimal moves generally puts more focus on brute-force logic than other types of puzzles do. However, I found the goal to work well in this game. All uninterrupted movements of a single snake are counted as one move, so efficient maneuvering is key. Finding the optimal solutions to the late puzzles gets to be quite hard. I think the game will still be interesting if you ignore finding shortest solutions, though the difficulty curve will become more variable. Works very well on mobile (both Android and iOS, as it’s run on mobile browser).
-Bas de Reuver
Hungry Kraken by Stephen Lavelle
Hungry Kraken is ostensibly a kraken game, not a snake game. But its tentacles behave like snakes, and the game is quite fun. It comprises a single level, where you need to figure out how to use your tentacles/snakes in order to… well, you’ll see.
Shy Snake by Daniel Freer and Stephen Lavelle
Shy Snake is a type of fill-all-the-squares game, and its unique feature is that your snake has width two. It’s short and only a little snake-like, but the snake graphic is certainly cute.
der Hydra Krypta by Stephen Lavelle
In “the Hydra Crypt,” when your snake head eats a human, the snake doesn’t grow longer - it grows another snake! The puzzling does require some trial-and-error because of how much is going on, but it’s very humorous and not too long.
Wriggler Demake by Tapio Saarinen
Wriggler Demake should really be considered a “puzzle game inspired by Wriggle,” but I suppose the author was being humble about their creation. This game is similar to Wriggle in that there are multiple snakes on a grid that can be dragged from either end, and the goal is for all the colored tiles to have that color of snake on top of them (this is the same as the original Wriggle rules. The creator of Wriggle later changed the goal to be an exit square, as in Wriggle 3D). One difference is in the way the player controls movement using a pseudo-cursor, which I haven’t seen anywhere else. The game is short and well done, and will be worth looking at if you enjoy the types of puzzles in Wriggle or Snake Sliders.
Wriggle 3D by Andrea Gilbert and Tom Jolly, developed by Conlan Rios
The original Wriggle puzzles (the game is not currently playable, but the designer is working to update the website to fix it) by Andrea Gilbert from 2003 I think is the very first snake puzzle game! It was initially created as a variation of sliding block puzzles of the Rush Hour variety. In Rush Hour, vehicles can only move by their front and back, along the line defined by their long end. This variant relaxes the movement – the front and rear of the objects are the only parts that can lead, but instead of moving just in a straight line, they can move in any direction and the rest of the object will follow in a snake-like way.
The extra flexibility in movement is countered by walls that block movement, to make puzzles that do feel quite a bit like Rush Hour, giving the same feeling of “how do I ever clear my path to the exit.” I think this is a step up, being more fun and deeper than Rush Hour. Deeper in the sense that for the same difficulty of puzzle, the solver will need to think more conceptually and strategically in this game. Like in Snake Sliders, the secondary goal is to solve each puzzle in the fewest moves (again counting a move as dragging the end of a snake by any distance). This proves to be quite a tough challenge, on par with Snake Sliders. There are many really interesting puzzles in the game, the final one being exceptionally nice.
Wriggle 3D comprises the same 80 puzzles that were present in a now defunct mobile app called Wriggle. I find the graphics, music, and controls work well. It is currently only available for Mac.
Snortal by Stephen Lavelle
What would happen if you crossed Snake with Portal? That’s a question that nobody but Stephen asked themselves. It turns out to be a fun and difficult puzzle! I think it’s my favourite of Stephen’s short snake games.
Snakey Snakey Makes a Sixy by Stephen Lavelle
What do you do in this game? Very mysterious… It has a snake, I’ll tell you that much.
I don’t think it’s as fun as Stephen’s other small snake games though.
SnakePace by LogicalCell
Another answer to the question “what if snakes could back up?” This one takes a little bit of time to understand how exactly the mechanic works. The goal in each level is to eat all the apples, and to do so you’re going to have to make full use of backing up. The levels are generally pretty interesting.
FillerSnake by Jaberish
A Hamiltonian Path style puzzle game, similar to Shy Snake above, where you try to visit each square in the grid once with your snake. There are a few twists, including locks and keys, bombs, and more, which add some fun to a sometimes mundane genre. The puzzles are generally good, though some of them are further towards the trial-and-error side of things than I would like. Lacks an undo button, which you may find objectionable. Although there are a lot of puzzle games of this type, not all of which I really consider snake games, this one was interesting and snake themed, so I have included it. See the excluded games discussion below for a number of similar puzzle games that did not make it to the main list.
I wanted a game that had less of a repeating arcade feel and more of a puzzle feel. Mostly because I wanted to put more of my creativity in making puzzles itself. This game was inspired by other games with similar game-play but built upon by adding new concepts (mostly through the tile interactions). I believe most players like playing games that have “life” in it, so I made the main tile be a character with eyes. Using a snake character felt the most appropriate given the game-play.
SnakekanS by Wu Binxing
SnakekanS is a fantastic iOS game that starts with the basic snake idea, where you need to eat all the animals and then reach the exit, and adds different animals that have special mechanics. The first special animal you encounter is the frog, which changes the direction of your snake when you eat it. Such a simple idea with such great potential! I found the other animals also interesting, though none change the game quite as much as frogs. The level design is also very well done, the final puzzle being particularly memorable. Before getting comfortable with all the mechanics it can feel like some puzzles are too open-ended, having not enough direction and resulting in a lot of trial-and-error, but with time you gain the ability to spot the central ideas in each puzzle better, and are able to think through the level without as much testing. Graphics and sound are very pleasant, and controls work well.
Quetzalcoatl by 1button sarl
Quetzalcoatl is an iOS game that draws on the original Wriggle mechanics, where you want colored snakes to lie on specific tiles according to their color. Quetzalcoatl makes the win condition more flexible by allowing colors to be applied to specific segments of snakes rather than entire snakes. The game has 180 levels, that I feel is somewhat influenced by a push for quantity in iOS games in general. I think the game would have been more enjoyable for me if the number of levels was cut down, but some may like that you can use similar techniques on increasingly difficult problems, honing your skill. The puzzles are grouped by difficulty, including easy, medium, hard, and ultimate. The last set of puzzles is indeed challenging, sometimes requiring insightful solutions and sometimes requiring good old hard work. There is generally quite a bit of variety in the style of puzzles. Some are claustrophobic “how do I swap these snakes in such a tight space” puzzles, while others are expansive levels where an appreciation of the overall geometry is key. The touch controls work extremely well, and the art is nicely colorful.
When we started to work on this game in 2014 we wanted to create a puzzle with snakes and colours. With this idea in mind, everything came very easily to us: a grid with coloured tiles, snakes with coloured dots, drag the snakes to match the colours. We made a quick and dirty prototype in about one hour just to validate the principle. We realised that it has a huge potential for many different levels. Then we developed a level editor (a private iOS app) and we started to work on the puzzles (everything is handmade). At the same time, we also worked on the game itself, designing the graphics and the sound effects. The minimalist graphics kind of reminded us of aztec symbols, so we wanted to name the game Quetzalcoatl (the feathered Serpent in Aztec mythology). We hesitated a lot because this word is very difficult to spell, but we didn’t find a better name and we got used to it.
Snake Blocks by Spooky Cat
Snake Blocks is a game about connecting pairs of colored points in 3D space, where one point is the start of that color of snake and the other point is its destination. This is like a 3D version of the familiar 2D pen and paper puzzle – connect pairs of points using lines without crossing. The 3D snakes can support themselves in the air (as long as any part of it is touching the ground), meaning that the order in which you draw out the snakes doesn’t matter. I think it might have been more interesting if it worked similar to Lime Rick, where every segment of a snake needs to be supported against gravity. There is an added constraint that each snake can only grow to a certain maximum length. It can be a bit tough to get the snakes to go exactly where you want them to using the cursor controls, but I didn’t find it too annoying. The puzzles provide a good exercise in thinking in three dimensions, and can be fun but at times also have a bit too much trial-and-error.
SNIKS by Shelly Alon
In SNIKS, like in Quetzalcaotl, the goal is to have each colored square (here represented by colored fruit that you temporarily ‘eat’) be matched by that color of snake on top of it. The big twist in this game is that snake segments (but not heads) of different snakes can overlap, which makes it feel quite fresh. There are additional mechanics common to many snake games, like teleporters and things that make you grow in length. There is also a mechanic in world 4 that will be familiar to players of other types of puzzle games, but which has never been tried in a snake game before. It works surprisingly well! The music and graphics are nice, but the controls feel a little slow at times. The puzzles in SNIKS focus equally on determining the end-state of the puzzle and on maneuvering to get there, while in Quetzalcoatl the focus is more on the maneuvering. This game also distinguishes itself in having a large variety of mechanics to play with, whereas the variety in Quetzalcoatl comes more from its different puzzle geometries.
Snake Sokoban Spiral by Justas Dabrila
Snake Sokoban Spiral is similar to Tail of the Serpent in that the goal is to match snake segments to symbols on the ground. One idea added in this game is that segments get stuck to their ground markers for 1 turn, which allows for rearranging segments but can also make things trickier. The next addition is the “roll” move, which works somewhat how you’d expect it to and definitely shakes things up. A short game with new ideas, interesting levels, and also some rough edges.
Around the time of development I was frequently deconstructing various puzzle games and taking note of the individual actors, their states and the rules between them. It was fun to paper prototype games with a small amount of actors that maximize the state they can be in.
LD45 was starting. It was around 1 in the morning. The theme was “Start With Nothing” and nothing exciting came to mind for a few hours. I recalled seeing a game by Lucas Le Slo titled “The Tail of the Serpent” on a stream a while ago. Feeling defeated, I attempted to sleep on the idea of making a snake game. It wasn’t long before I started thinking of a design that had more actor states than actors.
Instead of sleeping, I booted up my editor and messed up my sleep for the rest of the jam. I think it very clearly shows: Some of the levels have unintended solutions. The difficulty curve at the very start has a very unwelcome spike. I even neglected to think that the snake pieces should mirror their direction after being rolled!
For the 48 hours it took me, I was happy with the game when I had called it done. Now having all this behind me, I can’t help but be reminded of Chris Hecker’s “Please Finish Your Game” rant from GDC 2010.
ENIGMASH by Jack Lance
ENIGMASH is the Frankenstein’s monster of puzzle games. Patching together different puzzle themes within individual puzzles, and then connecting those puzzles together in a single world, it’s a marvel of PuzzleScript code and puzzle design. Whether Snakes appear in it is unknown. Perhaps I am including a game without snakes so that the next time I add a game with surprise snakes to my snake article, nobody will see it coming.
Snakey Jakey by Ethan Clark
Snakey Jakey is a snake that doesn’t like to follow the rules of physics. In Snakebird you can defy physics by pushing snake A with snake B, even if snake B requires snake A’s body to push off of. Jakey takes this a step further by being able to push himself. There are a couple of other new things expanding on that idea that you’ll discover in later chapters of this PuzzleScript game. The movement feels strange initially, but you get the hang of it quickly and the experience is interesting.
This game started out as a way to take a break from my current big project. I’ve played my fair share of snake puzzle games, including many of the games on this article. For this game, I conceptualized a snake game where the snake could push itself.
In the original prototype, the snake sort of pivoted its tail when it pushed itself. This was really unintuitive, and extremely difficult to program. So, I changed the rules to make pushing yourself be a lot simpler, and it immediately became much more intuitive, was easier to program, and had a lot more puzzle potential. After that, it was pretty easy to make the rest of the game!
I’m happy with how this game turned out. If I ever need a big project that isn’t too big, then it might be nice to remake this game into a full-fledged browser game. Of course, I’ve learned that I shouldn’t make promises when it comes to sequels, but it’s definitely a possibility!
Best overall game: Snakebird
Deepest and most challenging: Vertebrae
Best original mechanics: Snakehole, Tail of the Serpent, SnakekanS
Snakeoban (Jack Lance) – excellent puzzle design
Lime Rick – combination of interesting mechanics and levels
Wriggle 3D – great optimization puzzles, elegant
Snake Slider – great optimization puzzles with extra mechanics
Snakefall – excellent fan-made levels for Snakebird
Work great for mobile / touch controls: Snake Slider, Quetzalcoatl, Snake’s Tale
Most humorous: Trifecta of snake games by Dario Zubović (SnakeShit, ShitStain, Train Snaking)
Ultra-Handy Quick-Reference Table
|Puzzle Snake||Kroum Grigorov||July 2006||Eat and exit||Easy - Medium||8||Web|
|Wriggle 3D||Andrea Gilbert, Tom Jolly||Sept 2009||Reach exit in optimal moves||Easy - Very Hard||80||Mac OS|
|Snake Slider||Bas de Reuver||July 2011||Reach exit in optimal moves||Medium - Very Hard||75||Web|
|Filler Snake||Jaberish||Mar 2013||Fill all squares||Medium||31||Web|
|Lime Rick||Tommi Tuovinen||Aug 2013||Reach higher by stepping on tail||Medium - Hard||38||Web|
|Snakeoban||Wayne Myers||Oct 2013||Snake + Sokoban||Easy||10||Web|
|Wriggler Demake||Ardeej||May 2014||Fan version of Wriggle||Medium||14||Web|
|Quetzalcoatl||1button sarl||Nov 2014||Match colors||Easy - Hard||180||$2||iOS|
|Unconventional Guns||Rectangular Tim||Apr 2015||Snake gun||Medium||15||Web|
|SnakePace||LogicalCell||Apr 2015||Move backwards||Medium||15||Web|
|Snakebird||Noumenon Games||May 2015||Eat to grow + gravity||Hard||51||$7||All|
|Snakeoban||Jack Lance||June 2015||Snake + Sokoban||Hard||23||Web|
|Snakebird fan edition||NohatCoder||July 2015||Fan version of Snakebird||Hard||6||Web|
|Snakefall||Josh Wolfe||July 2015||Fan version of Snakebird||Hard - Very Hard||70||Web|
|Avis Anguis||Terzalo||July 2015||Fan version of Snakebird||Hard||6||Web|
|Lime Richard||Richard Dyer||Sept 2015||Fan version of Lime Rick||Easy - Medium||10||Web|
|Dotsnake||Franklin Dyer||Sept 2015||Eat all the dots||Easy||12||Web|
|Snortal||Increpare||Nov 2015||Snake + Portal||Hard||1||Web|
|Snake Blocks||Spooky Cat||Dec 2015||Connect pairs in 3D||Medium||50||$5||Win/Mac|
|Boa||Steven Miller||May 2016||Adventure through large maps||Easy - Medium||20||Windows|
|Snakebird GB||freeball1||Sept 2016||Fan version of Snakebird||Hard||10||Gameboy|
|Snake Escape||Einar Sauskas||Nov 2016||Fan version of Lime Rick||Medium - Hard||42||ZX Spectrum|
|Snake’s Tale||Michael Fairley||May 2017||Reach exit||Easy - Medium||75||$3||All|
|Vertebrae||Ali Nikkhah||July 2017||Move backwards, collect vertebrae||Very Hard||55||Web|
|SnakekanS||Chen Gong, Binxing Wu, Weihao Xie||July 2017||Eat different animals||Medium - Hard||50||$1||iOS|
|Snake Trail||Steven Miller||Sept 2017||Snake as raft||Easy - Medium||12||Windows|
|8 Happy Snakes||Increpare||Dec 2017||Push against walls||Easy||8||Web|
|Hungry Kraken||Increpare||Dec 2017||Tentacle snakes||Medium||1||Web|
|Snek alpha + Snek||St33d||Jan 2018||Control snake with 2 buttons||Medium||13||Web|
|Crate Snake||Steven Miller||Jan 2018||Wrap around map||Easy - Medium||18||Windows|
|Snake Maze||ZilverPhoenix||Apr 2018||Escape the maze||Medium||20||$0-$5||Windows|
|der Hydra Krypta||Increpare||June 2018||Grow extra snakes||Medium||6||Web|
|Shy Snake||Daniel Freer and Increpare||June 2018||Fill all squares||Easy - Medium||3||Web|
|Ouroboros’ Eggs||Marcos Donnantuoni||June 2018||Lay eggs inside a loop||Medium||38||Web|
|Snakeshit||Dario Zubović||July 2018||Snakebird with excrement||Medium||6||Web|
|Shitstain||Dario Zubović||July 2018||Snakebird with levitating excrement||Medium||2||Web|
|Blocker Snake||Rosden Shadow||Sep 2018||Even more blocking||Easy - Medium||6||Web|
|Circle Serpent||EvilArtBunny||Nov 2018||Return to your tail||Easy||19||Web|
|Sokoboros||Trev Newt||Jan 2019||Keep growing!||Easy - Medium||N/A||Web|
|Snakehole||Jack Kutilek||Feb 2019||Snakes can enter holes||Medium||8||Web|
|Snakebird Primer||Noumenon Games||Feb 2019||Easier version of Snakebird||Easy - Medium||76||$8||Win/Mac/Linux|
|Tail of the Serpent||Le Slo||Apr 2019||Match symbols on ground||Medium||25||Web|
|Train Snaking||Dario Zubović||May 2019||Deliver passengers safely||Medium||9||Web|
|Snakey Snakey makes a Sixy||Increpare||June 2019||Mystery||Easy||1||Web|
|SNIKS||Shelly Alon||Aug 2019||Colored snakes overlap||Medium||110||$3||iOS|
|Snake Sokoban Spiral||Justas Dabrila||Oct 2019||Drop off segments, roll||Medium||16||Web|
|ENIGMASH||Jack Lance||Nov 2019||Mash of different games||Medium - Hard||N/A||Web|
|Snakey Jakey||Ethan Clark||Jan 2020||Push yourself||Medium||32||Web|
Games coming in the future:
Snake Blocks (awaiting revision)
Sausage Dog Tends to Infinity
Sushi Snake was published but ran into compatibility issues that are being worked on.
The original Wriggle puzzles which used defunct java applets are currently being updated to HTML5
The style of game where you need to touch all the squares in a room without revisiting any square is sometimes themed as a snake game. Formally this type of puzzle is equivalent to finding a Hamiltonian Path in a graph, except when there are mechanics in which order matters (like the bombs in Filler Snake), or other oddities like touching multiple squares at once in Shy Snake. The original Hamiltonian Path puzzle is the Knight’s Tour, invented back in the 9th century!
There are several other games of this type that I did not include – the list is long enough already. Here is a quick list of some that I found:
Alcazar was the most popular implementation of this type of puzzle game, but is unfortunately no longer available. Edderiofer wrote a couple of interesting blog posts about techniques in these types of puzzles.
Hamiltonian Mazes changes connectivity from the regular square grid.
Grand Tour Puzzles 1 includes required path segments
Grand Tour Puzzles 2 is currently down because it relies on java applets
Fillall has crossings and a type of lock & key.
Filler has sliding tiles, crossings, portals.
Linemaze seems very similar to how Alcazar was, in appearance and mechanics (I don’t know about puzzle quality but it’s unlikely to be as high).
Overlink plays on a 3D surface.
Lineway looks pretty, and has merged tiles, directional tiles, and some other things.
Line Master Puzzle has lock & key, crossings, direction tiles.
Snakes and Serpents’ Nest both add multiple snakes controlled independently.
Maze Dash uses sliding style movement.
Snakes and Apples adds apples to pick up in a specified order.
Fill the world with your rainbow adds blocks to push around (though it’s a very short game).
Mochi Mochi Boy defies description.
There are some games that used the same mechanics as Snakebird or Wriggle without mentioning their inspiration, and without new ideas. With Snakebird it seems very likely that the mechanics were copied, while with Wriggle it’s possible that other developers just hadn’t known about it. Too Many Snakes, TruPuzzle, and Twisted Snake have the same mechanics as Wriggle, but came after Wriggle did.
Choo Choo Puzzles is like Wriggle on a hex grid, but also with pushing. It does feel a bit more like moving vehicles around than snakes, but it’s a good concept.
Almost a puzzle is Chnakess, a snake + chess combination where you try to eat all the chess pieces. The pieces will escape your bite if they can move without being blocked by your tail, and if they have multiple options they choose somewhat arbitrarily. This makes it feel slightly more like an arcade game than a puzzle, but it’s worth checking out.
Slime Path is a game about slimes which probably would have made it if it had snake graphics. You control multiple slimes that act like infinite snakes, with some added mechanics like lock & keys, and you need to get all slimes to their exits.
Snackzzle technically fits but has some issues with arbitrary lock-key combinations, no undo, and uninteresting puzzles, so I didn’t include it.
Globule is a puzzle game about a robot guiding a puddle of slime, which acts very much like a two-headed snake would. However, the levels are mostly tedious.
The Serpent’s Shadow has an interesting mechanic, which is that you need to shade an area of ground from a light source using your snake’s body. The puzzles are not particularly deep though and there is a small real-time element.
Snake Pass is a snake game that has puzzle elements, but is overall more of an adventure game.
Also omitted (due to both fundamental differences and my lack of experience) are the Pen and Paper snake puzzles. Snakes in these logic puzzles tend to be contiguous groups of tiles whose shape has width 1 all along its length, and is bordered by empty tiles (ie the snake doesn’t touch itself). The solver is tasked with finding the exact shape of the snake given certain information, such as numbers on rows and columns defining how many snake segments are present in that row or column. Puzzle creators play around with what type of information to give, to keep things interesting. I haven’t gone through enough of these puzzles to make recommendations, but here are some resources I found:
GMpuzzles snake collection
Melon’s Multi-Ouroboros puzzles - adds multiple snakes!
Puzzle Picnic snake puzzles
Erich Friedman’s chess snake puzzles - the extra information is in the form of chess pieces!
Para’s Puzzle Site (link is to search results for their snake puzzles).
There’s a type of physical puzzle called a snake cube, where you have a long string connecting small 1x1 cubes together in a snake-like shape, and you need to twist the snake into a 3x3 or 4x4 cube. I had one of these to practice on when I was younger, and would pretend that I hadn’t seen them before and then solve it in 2 seconds.
The motivation for this article came from the astonishingly false realization that “I must have played nearly all snake puzzle games at this point!” My rate of discovery of new snake games came at just the right pace so that I always thought I was nearly done - a state lasting months.
The most difficult games to complete were Snakefall, Vertebrae, Snake Sliders, and Wriggle 3D.
Snakebird and Vertebrae have among the most deep and interesting mechanics, not only of all snake puzzle games, but of puzzle games generally. The fan snakebird levels found in Snakefall are more difficult than the original levels, and demonstrate the depth of the mechanics to an even greater degree. This is not to say the original is deficient in any way. Snakebird makes use of two conceptually rich state-changing mechanisms: eating apples to grow, and gravity. Each of these allows many lines of logical argument – how long does a snake need to be in this position (defined by where it can travel with the limitations of terrain and gravity) to accomplish what I need it to accomplish? And further, what combinations of snakes of different lengths do I need to achieve a more demanding goal? One of the definitions of depth in puzzles is that there are conceptual sub-goals to plan out in service of solving the puzzle as a whole, and both gravity and apple eating allow for rich sub-goals. These factors are discussed a bit by extratricky in his blog post, that includes some words about snakebird.
I didn’t want to spoil the mechanics of Vertebrae too much in my description of it above. At first it sounds like all you do is push boxes onto buttons. Oh and you can move backwards, how much could that affect things? The awesome possibilities are revealed to the player soon enough, and explored with great success in the levels that follow. There are many challenges that are conceptual rather than technical – you might feel like you need to do some impossibly precise maneuvering to solve a puzzle, when the solution is instead based on a brilliant new idea. There are also some impossibly precise maneuvering puzzles ;). Vertebrae has more “oh that’s how!” moments than any other game on this list, and is perhaps the hardest of these very difficult four games.
Wriggle 3D and Snake Slider have nice puzzles that are made more challenging by asking for the optimal solution. Many puzzle solvers find this a cheap way to increase difficulty, since it could be added to any grid-based puzzle out there, and usually will not make it more interesting, just more time consuming. This criticism is often accurate, but in certain types of puzzles it actually becomes more interesting having to find the shortest solution. This is true in the great board game Ricochet Robots, and I would argue also in these two snake games, though I still don’t think they will be for everyone. Trying to find the shortest solution can be frustrating, since it’s often not clear what part of the solution you need to improve. In a more traditional puzzle, the challenge of the puzzle is presented clearly to the solver; the most satisfying puzzles are often ones that immediately evoke a “this is surely impossible.” But in finding an optimal solution, you are not given the problem up front, and have to find the problem first of all. Is there a part of your solution that could be improved? Is there an entirely different approach that might work better? This can be good and bad. In the best case, it is exciting to discover an elegant tactic where you didn’t think one existed, or a completely new way to solve the puzzle. It can also be exhilarating playing out a new solution idea, and seeing as you get closer to the finish whether you’ll make it in the lowest number of moves. In the worst case the solver must resort to brute force, checking all reasonable combinations of moves until stumbling upon the shortest sequence. This unfortunate event is often caused by a lack of ‘understandability’ of the puzzle, so to speak. The more intuitive or conceptual tools a solver has, the less trial and error they will need to use. I was quite impressed with the two games mentioned here, whose puzzles keep the solver engaged and thinking conceptually, while searching for the optimal solutions. There is something oddly satisfying about maneuvering snakes efficiently.
As a final note, I will aim to answer the age-old question: Can a snake move into its own tail? The answer, as given by the applicable games above, is no! (by a count of 16 to 8) I do suspect that part of this is due to the slight nuisance of programming it. Interestingly, in Snakebird there is a bug whereby a snake cannot normally move into its tail, but it can move another object into its tail. The reverse situation is present in Snake Slider, where a snake can normally move into its tail, but cannot push a different object into its tail.