People have been doing brain training for years – it just used to come under different names like sudoku or crossword puzzles. But from the moment the first brain training games were released on Nintendo, most people started to prefer to challenge themselves digitally. And while the vessel is different, the idea is still essentially the same.
So, how do can we get to the bottom of not only which is the best, but which is the best for you individually? Well, in this article, we hope to pose questions that you can answer, which in turn, will identify what is going to keep you entertained and engaged. We'll also share our favourite free and paid brain training apps for seniors, kids and everyone in between to download on iOS and Android.
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Whilst there isn’t too much between these educational and training apps, there are some nuances that are worth considering before diving straight in and downloading, especially if you're going to be paying for your purchase. Here are the top points to mull over.
First things first, you'll need to weigh up the different content features each app offers, and importantly, who they are aimed at. Getting these right will ensure the one you commit to provides you with everything you need to bulk out your brain!
The first factor that you’ll need to consider is the number of games available. Most apps offer a variety of different challenges and puzzles that centre on different areas of the brain such as memory, language, mental agility, maths and focus.
What distinguishes each app in this sense is that they offer these challenges in varying quantities and in different ways – some have just two games with graduating levels, while others have over 45. Depending on how quickly you get bored, it might be worth looking for an app that has greater flexibility in the tests it offers.
The only time we would recommend sticking to one particular challenge is when you know you like that specific type of game. A great example of this is sudoku, which has had many people hooked in recent years. The active working-memory requires a player to think three or four steps ahead, making it a prolific exercise for the noggin.
Another crucial point to think about is the age range. There are different brain training apps designed for different age ranges, which you can choose depending on whether you’re reading this intending to download for an adult or a younger child.
The biggest variation is the level and difficulty of the challenges, which rightly so will be more complex in the adult games than it is in the younger version of these apps.
However, the in-play communication and graphics will be aimed at the respective target audience too, which could quickly become boring if you're too young or grating if you're too old.
Plenty, but not all, brain training apps offer the ability to track your progress. This will show your scores from previous games and continually compare to show you which areas you are excelling in and which you require more practice in. Some even use a health app to explain how your sleep and step count affect your brain training, too.
Of course, this is generally a feature that one will have to pay for, either through a monthly subscription or an additional in-app purchase (more on these later), so they’re going to be more expensive.
That said, many people find these features motivating and it helps to keep them committed to playing, so if you feel you could benefit from the motivation it might be worth a few quid per month.
Aside from the content and features of the app itself, there are a couple of final technical considerations to check out. Here are the two most important, one of which, of course, is how much you are willing to fork out for your new brain builder.
When it comes to brain training apps, most are free, at least initially. This means you can download them and have a little play around on the games they have available. However, they won’t provide you with the full scope of games or how much tracking information they gather.
Instead, this data is often hidden behind a paywall that requires a subscription. These range in price depending on whether you go for a rolling monthly bill or you pay for the whole year. While the big lump sum can be off-putting, if you’re committed to the training it will likely save you a few pennies in the long run.
The other option is a one-off upfront payment, which is less common and typically found within the younger age brain training apps. Generally speaking, apps with this payment option will have a small cost of around £5, so they can be a good way to test the waters.
The final technical aspects to consider is making sure you can actually download and play the app, because, unfortunately, not all apps are universal. This means that some are available on one app market place and not the other, and some are only available on smartphones as opposed to tablets.
There isn’t generally too much of an issue with brain training apps as their programs aren’t that complex and therefore don’t need re-writing too differently. Nonetheless, it’s always worth checking before getting your hopes up!
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This app offers many of the same features as many of the other options available, but it's the slickness and polished look that helps Peak take it that one step further. With over 45 games, it also boasts an impressive collection of mysteries and riddles to test your intelligence and understanding.
It will also track your progress, although you'll get a more comprehensive insight if you opt for a subscription, which at £4.99 per month is one of the cheaper options. And that's not all: there are many other great features to compare with friends and compete with strangers that will keep you coming back again and again.
Support and encourage the brain development in your children with this, quite frankly, astonishingly good educational app. The program has over 100 different games that challenge and stimulate multiple areas of the brain, such as maths, verbal, logic and attention.
Not only that, but there are different levels of games for children as young as two all the way up to adults. They recommend that around 20 minutes per day should fulfil your child's learning needs, plus, unlike other children's applications, this allows you to track progress and compare with their peers – if you wish to do so.
While it is strictly only one game, there are thousands of different versions of it, so if you like sudoku, you're going to love this. It has stages for beginners through to advanced players, so not only does it have something for everyone, but it will also grow with you as you become a more accomplished player.
It has some smart functions too, like the ability to update notes about which numbers you have tried, as well as hints that can help you if you get a little stuck and seasonal and daily challenges that you can play alongside everyone else who uses the platform.
With over 35 different mini-games that you must pit your wits against – focusing on maths, comprehension and other mental skills – Elevate is up there with some of the most acclaimed brain training apps around.
Their sticking point is that they are a touch more encouraging, sending notifications and the like to keep you playing and keep your streaks going. Yes, it can be a little annoying for some, but crucially motivating for others. It also cleverly adapts the gaming level the better you get, so you should always stay engaged.
With this multi-award-winning app that has been downloaded over 8 million times, the heart beats, the guts gurgle and the skin feels. You see, it's all about anatomy, biology and letting kids, young and old, explore the invisible wonders that go on within the human body.
It has eight modes which range from skeletal to muscular, respiratory and more, each with interactive models of the specific areas that function it. This is a brilliant way of learning and engaging the brain for anyone who is perhaps better suited to visual and kinesthetic education.
Whilst the first digital brain training games were mostly on the Nintendo DS, it was Lumosity that kicked the whole genre off on the smartphone. They were the first to mix and match different games and conundrums to set you a daily program and to compile a stat-tracking system, so they know their stuff.
Lumosity has another feature that not many other brain training apps have, and that is the ability to access it from your computer or laptop, which can be much better for those of us who have trouble squinting at tiny screens for hours.
The producers of this app believe that with only 15 minutes of training per day, they can sharpen your concentration and help you achieve a better memory and a quicker thinking time. They manage this by performing a comprehensive analysis of your strengths and potentials, then creating a personalised training program.
The app has over 20 different games and puzzles, and is available on both big marketplaces, allowing it to be utilised by anyone. There are some additional features behind a paywall, though subscriptions aren't bad at around five pounds a month, so if you like it and feel you're getting sharper, you may find it worth the money.
This app for children is a mixture of two renowned educational treasures – puzzles for cognitive development and tools to encourage them to unleash their creativity. There are eight different game modes, 500+ puzzles and so many magic tools that show just how creative children can be.
One of our favourite factors is that it is free to play, with no time limits, and only a couple of cheap in-app purchases. Plus, there's even a big kids mode, so parents don't get to miss out on any of the fun. But don't worry, your scores will be logged separately so you won't get shown up by your little ones!
The formula for this brain trainer is simple – all you have to do is match pairs that are identical to one another. However, there's a twist, because not only do you have to remember where the corresponding cards are, but also the feature that unites them. For example, it could be two sums that equal the same number, but you'll only ever be shown the sums.
There is a more straightforward version which sees you match colours too, but the highlight is the first mode. All the games will be stored after playing, so you can see a table of records and how you're progressing. It's pretty one-dimensional, so some may find it slightly humdrum, but those who like it tend to love it.
No. 2：MentalUP LTD｜MentalUP ｜Educational Games
No. 4：Elevate, Inc.｜Elevate ｜Brain Training
No. 5：Tinybop Inc. ｜The Human Body by Tinybop
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