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9 best jigsaw puzzles for adults that provide hours of infuriatingly good fun

Whether you prefer cinematic masterpieces or baffling patterns, these challenges will keep your brain busy

Siobhan Grogan
Monday 06 June 2022 10:46 BST
Puzzles can challenge our hand-eye coordination, improve our memory and encourage mindfulness
Puzzles can challenge our hand-eye coordination, improve our memory and encourage mindfulness (The Independent)

Jigsaw puzzles are definitely having a moment. When boxset boredom set in during the first lockdown, we all turned to more wholesome pursuits, searching for activities to fill unusually empty weekends and distract our racing brains.

In 2020, sales of jigsaws in the UK alone rocketed by 38 per cent compared to the previous year.

Even though life is back to normal now, our new found jigsaw habit has lingered. We’ve realised taking time over a puzzle is the perfect way to destress after a busy week, achieve a real sense of accomplishment and escape depressing news headlines. Plus, it costs very little for hours – if not weeks – of entertainment that anyone can join in with.

There are other benefits to jigsaws too. They challenge our hand-eye coordination, improve our memory and give our problem-solving skills a workout, as well as being the ultimate form of mindfulness as we’re forced to focus entirely on the pieces laid out before us.

Best of all, jigsaws require no planning, equipment or particular talent either – all you need is a decent-sized table and a lot of patience.

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How we tested

We cleared a space and got puzzling to find the most entertaining, unique and infuriatingly brilliant jigsaws. We tackled all these on our own – with occasional help from passing friends and family members who just couldn’t resist placing a piece or two. For each, we considered how involved we were in the challenge, how well the jigsaw was made and fitted together and if we couldn’t help ourselves looking for just one more piece when it was time to go to bed.

The best jigsaw puzzles for adults in 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Big Potato Games day at the festival: £14.99, Bigpotato.co.uk
  • Best for Disney devotees – Disney dreams puzzle 2000 piece: £19.95, Booghe.co.uk
  • Best for movie buffs – Winning Moves James Bond movie poster 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle: £12.99, Winningmoves.co.uk
  • Best for a nostalgia fix – Gibsons sweet memories of the 80s 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle: £5, Ryman.co.uk
  • Best jigsaw with a twist – University Games classic mystery The Orient Express murder mystery jigsaw puzzle: £11.95, Iwantoneofthose.com
  • Best to make you weep with frustration – Paul Lamond Games the world’s most difficult jigsaw puzzle, dalmatians: £9.99, Zavvi.com
  • Best quirky jigsaw – Exploding Kittens cats playing chess, 1000 pcs: £12.99, Explodingkittens.com
  • Best British brand – Jigsaw Avenue digital detox flower puzzle collection, 1000 piece puzzle for adults: £21.99, Jigsawavenue.co
  • Best for attention to detail – Clementoni Marvel Avengers impossible 1000 piece puzzle: £9.99, Bargainmax.co.uk

Big Potato Games day at the festival

Big Potato Games day at the festival indybest.jpg

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Sounding the death knell for boring jigsaws everywhere, this thoroughly modern example brings puzzles into the 21st century. It comes from Big Potato Games, who were formed by three friends in London in 2013 and have since sold over 10 million games in 28 markets.

Entirely plastic free and with smooth, tactile pieces that fit together like a dream, it features a clear, humorous drawing of a festival main stage crammed with people. Lots of quirky details make it really fun to put together and not so taxing you’ll be in tears within an hour. But that’s only the start.

Once it’s all in place – though we couldn’t help ourselves as we went along either – you can then solve all 101 music-based riddles within the picture. Every clue reveals the name of a superstar band or artist that really would make this the festival of a lifetime. There’s a checklist inside the box to tick off each one and we reckon it would be even better competing against friends to see who worked out the most names first. A fantastic buy, even if you think you hate jigsaws.

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Disney dreams puzzle 2000 piece

Disney dreams puzzle 2000 piece indybest.jpg

Best: For Disney devotees

Rating: 8/10

When only Disney will do, this gorgeous jigsaw will get you all warm and fuzzy inside. It features a beautiful collage of some of Disney’s best-loved characters including the Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Cinderella and is painted by acclaimed artist Thomas Kinkade, nicknamed The Painter of The Light.

Luckily, the quality matches the artwork as the jigsaw is made of extra thick 2.25mm thick cardboard pieces that fit together snugly and don’t spring apart if the table’s jolted. It even has a special matte varnish to ensure there are no annoying reflections on the final image so you can look smugly on your masterpiece without a glare.

Though there’s a whopping 2000 pieces (clear the diary), there is so much detail crammed into this puzzle that it’s fairly straightforward to do, so you’ll always feel like you’re making progress. We guarantee you’ll have the urge to binge on Disney films when you’re done.

  1. £19 from Booghe.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Winning Moves James Bond movie poster 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle

Winning Moves James Bond movie poster 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle indybest.jpg

Best: For movie buffs

Rating: 8/10

Hate spending hours getting nowhere with a jigsaw? This stylish 1000-piece puzzle is one of the easiest we tackled so we made progress quickly and kept coming back for more. It features 25 classic James Bond movie posters – one for every appearance of the suave spy – including Die Another Day, Skyfall and You Only Love Twice. There’s so much variety between them all, it’s simple to tackle one at a time rather than trying to work out the entire picture in one swoop, which makes this jigsaw a great option for family and friends to join in with. You could even put a Bond film on in the background, whip up some Martinis and make an evening of it.

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Gibsons sweet memories of the 80s 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle

Gibsons sweet memories of the 80s 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle indybest.jpg

Best: For a nostalgia fix

Rating: 7/10

This would make a great present for anyone old enough to remember the delights of a 1980’s sweet shop. Featuring 1,000 pieces made with 100 per cent recycled board, it features all sorts of retro Eighties brands so you can relive your childhood and reminisce about how Opal Fruits were far superior to Starburst. You can also spot the fact a Crunchie used to be a bargain 15p while a Milky Way – the sweet Eighties ad fans will know is the one you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite – was just 8p.

Though our attention did wane a little towards the end of this jigsaw, it was fairly quick to put together, making this puzzle perfect for weekend de-stressing.

  1. £5 from Ryman.co.uk
Prices may vary
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University Games classic mystery The Orient Express murder mystery jigsaw puzzle

University Games classic mystery The Orient Express murder mystery jigsaw puzzle indybest.jpg

Best: Jigsaw with a twist

Rating: 9/10

If you’re a dab-hand at jigsaws but feel like you’ve seen them all before, this is the puzzle for you. There’s no poring over the picture on the front of the box for a start. Instead, you first need to read the enclosed book about Detective Hercule Poirot’s voyage to Istanbul and the suspicious death of a fellow passenger on the way. Only then can you start to put together the 1,000-piece puzzle to uncover hidden clues.

Figure out the evidence concealed within the corridors and cabins of the Orient Express to reveal the murderer and solve the crime. But be warned, the picture on the completed puzzle is not the one on the box so you’ll need all your initiative to get to the end.

We can’t lie, we were absolutely baffled when we first started this one and came very close to giving up, but stuck with it and felt ridiculously chuffed with ourselves when we finished. A very clever alternative to a bog-standard jigsaw.

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Paul Lamond Games the world’s most difficult jigsaw puzzle, dalmatians

Paul Lamond Games the world’s most difficult jigsaw puzzle, dalmatians indybest.jpg

Best: To make you weep with frustration

Rating: 7/10

We nearly tore our hair out attempting to complete this absolutely impossible jigsaw. Though there’s just 513 thick pieces, even the box claims it will feel more like 4,000 and it certainly brought us close to tears (and, okay, a few choice swear words). The entire puzzle is packed with hundreds of pictures of black and white dalmatians without anything to tell one apart from the other. Think that sounds nightmarish enough? The exact same picture is also printed on both sides to really drive you to distraction. Expert jigsaw builders would relish the challenge but it definitely got the better of us and – major fail – we had to give up before finishing. Truly impossible.

  1. £9 from Zavvi.com
Prices may vary
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Exploding Kittens cats playing chess, 1000 pcs

Exploding Kittens’ cats playing chess, 1000 pcs indybest.jpg

Best: Quirky jigsaw

Rating: 8/10

Described as a “kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette”, the Exploding Kittens card game has become a huge worldwide hit since it launched in 2015. The company behind it is now the most backed project in Kickstarter history and has sold over 11-million games including Throw Throw Burrito. It’s also launched a range of jigsaws featuring its distinctive feline characters and this one shows the cats playing in a chess tournament because, why not?

There’s 1,000 pieces to puzzle over and all are made of 100 per cent recycled materials printed with vegetable or soy-based ink. They snap satisfyingly together so there’s no doubt whether you’ve chosen the right piece, and there’s a helpful full colour reference sheet included to make the whole thing easier. And when you’re finished, there are 13 hidden Exploding Kittens characters to find too. You can’t help but be charmed.

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Jigsaw Avenue digital detox flower puzzle collection, 1000 piece puzzle for adults

Jigsaw Avenue digital detox flower puzzle collection, 1000 piece puzzle for adults indybest.jpg

Best: British brand

Rating: 8/10

We love the small Brit brand Jigsaw Avenue, whose founder spent weekends puzzling but found she couldn’t find jigsaws with attractive, contemporary designs. She went on to create designs that are more akin to a piece of modern art than a traditional jigsaw and teamed up with a local UK manufacturer to put her ideas into practice, and make each finished product as sustainable as possible.

This jigsaw is made of recycled cardboard pieces with no plastic and a matt finish to ensure they have no glare. It’s not easy to complete, but worth the effort with vivid colours and a soothing, yet tongue-in-cheek pattern that requires full concentration to make sense of it all. And if you really love the finished product? There’s a full-size poster included to put on your wall afterwards.

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Clementoni Marvel Avengers impossible 1000 piece puzzle

Clementoni Marvel Avengers impossible 1000 piece puzzle indybest.jpg

Best: For attention to detail

Rating: 8/10

This 1,000-piece puzzle is packed with so much intricate detail – we gave ourselves a sore back craning over it to see every millimetre. Though we’re no superhero fan, its mix of Marvel Avengers characters makes for a brightly coloured and fiendishly complicated jigsaw that needs close studying to know exactly what goes where. Despite its difficulty, it’s still possible to make progress once you find each new character so it’s not entirely disheartening. The quality’s good too, with precise cut-outs that fit smoothly together and decent printing to make the colours really pop. But be warned: it’s definitely trickier than it looks.

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The verdict: Jigsaws

The day at the festival puzzle by Big Potato Games was our hands-down winner for its fantastic image, modern subject matter and clever hidden game. If you really fancy a challenge, we also loved the Classic Mystery – The Orient Express murder mystery jigsaw puzzle for its brain-teasing detective demands and the immense satisfaction we felt once we’d completed it.

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Fancy more of a challenge? Why not try your hand at the hardest puzzles we could find

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