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8 best hard jigsaw puzzles for adults that are (almost) impossible

Think you’ve got what it takes? Let the games begin...

Martha Alexander
Tuesday 08 June 2021 16:09 BST
Brace yourself for brain-twisting patterns, oddly shaped pieces and maybe even a riddle to two to keep you on your toes
Brace yourself for brain-twisting patterns, oddly shaped pieces and maybe even a riddle to two to keep you on your toes (iStock/The Independent)
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The jigsaw puzzle’s comeback has been major, with some retailers even struggling to meet demand.

But whether you’re a toddler puzzling over nine pieces or are used to crunching through 1,000 without incident, that brilliant feeling after completing a jigsaw remains the same.

However, there are some puzzles out there that are designed to be almost impossible to begin, let alone complete.

Usually made up of around 1,000 pieces or more, they feature very similar colours or – terrifyingly – just one colour, as well as small, repeating patterns. Some might even contain untraditionally shaped pieces, to throw you off guard.

The best difficult puzzles should look overwhelming when you examine the design on the box. You should feel a sense of awe, horror and relish. And you should know from the start it’s going to take days, and the kitchen table will not be available for anything other than puzzle pondering during that time.

How we tested

All of the puzzles in this round-up fit the bill as described. We tested them over a period of one month: the same two adults did most of the work with the help of an ever-changing cast of visitors who were welcome to take five minutes (or in one case three hours) helping us.

The best hard jigsaw puzzles for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Ravensburger krypt gold impossible puzzle: £14.98,
  • Best for those who like to strategise – Cloudberries gradient: £24.99,
  • Best for style – John Derian Paper Goods painter’s palette 1,000-piece puzzle: £14.72,
  • Best game and puzzle in one – Big Potato Games night at the movies: £15,
  • Best complex pattern – Cloudberries metropolis jigsaw puzzle: £24.99,
  • Best for astronomy buffs – Ravensburger map of the universe: £15.29,
  • Best quality – Wentworth Puzzles almond blossom: From £9.50,
  • Best for people who love tidying – Pick Me Up Jigsaw Puzzle houseplants 1000 pieces: £18,

Ravensburger krypt gold impossible puzzle

Ravensburger krypt gold impossible puzzle indybest.jpeg
  • Best: Overall
  • Ages: 12+
  • Pieces: 654
  • Level: Intermediate

If you want to know what low-key struggle looks like it’s this – an entirely one-tone gold puzzle (69cm x 51cm) with 631 pieces to fit together. No piece offers anything different to the other, except its shape. Unlike traditional puzzles, this is designed with a central spiral, which adds to the test. Even with the image to guide us, we felt like we’d never see this completed. And we have to admit that we haven’t finished it yet, so, unfortunately, it is still impossible for us. One for those with lots of patience.

  1. £14 from
Prices may vary
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Cloudberries gradient

Cloudberries gradient indybest.jpeg
  • Best: For those who like to strategise
  • Ages: 12+
  • Pieces: 2,000
  • Level: Beginner

Comprised of 2,000 pieces, this is a supersized version of one of cloudberries enduringly popular puzzles – “gradient”. Who knew a group of acid bright colours fading in and out of one another could cause so much shock and awe? You just see a spectrum of colourful nothingness and know it’s going to be a real challenge.

First of all – you’ll need a lot of space for this one – it measures 98cm x 68.6cm when complete. Our strategy was edges followed by colour grouping, then a whole lot of patience. There is a full-size poster included which does make things loads easier. Masochists need not refer to it.

We love Cloudberries because the brand’s pieces fit smoothly and are beautifully made from paper that never peels.

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John Derian Paper Goods painter’s palette

  • Best: For style
  • Ages: Not specified
  • Pieces: 1,000
  • Level: Not specified

This 1,000-piece puzzle (67cm x 47.9cm) is beautiful and stylish as well as tricky. Depicting an art student’s paint palette – a real study of colour – this is such a pleasure to work on, even if it requires plenty of patience and determination.

With a poster for reference, we began by colour sorting. This was a strong start, except there are lots of pinks. And black swatches. And a cream background. Suffice to say this is much more than a pretty face.

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Big Potato Games night at the movies

  • Best: Game and puzzle in one
  • Ages: 12+
  • Pieces: 1,000
  • Level: Not specified

This 1,000-piece jigsaw (26.5cm x 26.5 cm) is much more than just a demanding puzzle. It’s a game too. So, after you’ve toiled to complete this brilliant but frankly hectic scene of an open-air cinema, you have another task – to solve 101 riddles relating to movies that are found in the image.

We absolutely loved doing this puzzle: it is by no means the most taxing in this round-up, but it is sufficiently arduous (it took us the best part of a day). But gathering clues and listing the riddles along the way and after completion adds another dimension to the fun.

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Cloudberries metropolis jigsaw puzzle

  • Best: Complex pattern
  • Ages: 12+
  • Pieces: 2,000
  • Level: Expert

If you have a compulsion to smooth over or organise hectic scenarios, look no further than this bird’s-eye view of a busy city split into 2,000 pieces. Metropolis is intricately detailed and complex, even when looking at the full-size poster that comes in the box to guide you.

It was hard to know where to start – so we went with the edges. After which things became lawless and complicated and we did what we could... bit by hair-tearing bit.

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Ravensburger map of the universe

  • Best: For astronomy buffs
  • Ages: 12+
  • Pieces: 1,500
  • Level: Intermediate

All those dark pieces overlaid by intricate tiny patterns that make up the map of our universe – this 1,500-piece puzzle has all the markings of a tough test and it didn’t disappoint. It is really, really gruelling but the satisfaction of each level of progress – such as completing the bottom left corner of galaxies – is huge.

As is typical with Ravensburger puzzles, the pieces are thick, sturdy and well made – no peeling or fraying at all. But what we loved is that we got a little lesson in astronomy along the way, focusing on the galaxies and solar systems which we all know are there but we rarely stop to consider.

  1. £15 from
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Wentworth Puzzles almond blossom

  • Best: Quality
  • Ages: Not specified
  • Pieces: 40 - 1,500
  • Level: Not specified

Best: Quality

Rating: 9/10

The almond blossom puzzle comes in three sizes, and obviously the 1,000 piece one is the most difficult, but even the 250-piece version is no walk in the park. The amount of blue in Van Gogh’s famous painting promises a decent challenge on the face of it, but once you get down to business it’s the pesky petals that will send you over the edge.

The thing that makes this brand’s puzzles so difficult is that they include irregularly shaped pieces including flowers, bottles and butterflies – which kept us on our toes, to say the least.

Like all puzzles from Wentworth, this is made with wood from sustainable forests and the pieces have been cut with lasers which make for a supremely tactile puzzling experience. When we felt frustrated, we just ran our hands over what we had managed to do and felt soothed by the wood before trying again.

This would be great as a gift – it has its own special cloth bag within the box to protect the pieces, which gives it the edge in terms of quality.

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Pick Me Up Jigsaw Puzzle houseplants

  • Best: For people who love tidying
  • Ages: 10+
  • Pieces: 1,000
  • Level: Not specified

This 1,000-piece puzzle has a beautiful whimsical design of a cluttered interior dominated by houseplants – but don’t let it fool you. It’s really hard. All that green. All those leaves.

It’s not the most difficult of the bunch, but it’s absolutely a head scratcher that will provide plenty for even the most seasoned puzzlers to be getting on with.

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The verdict: Difficult jigsaw puzzles for adults

The Ravensburger krypt gold is the most difficult, as evidenced by the fact we haven’t finished it at the time of writing! It’s all one colour and has a spiral-centred layout to boot – it’s not for the impatient. Both of the Cloudberries puzzles are hugely challenging while the almond blossom in 1,000 pieces will have you wishing you’d never begun (but being supremely satisfied when you finish).

We’ve also rounded up our best family board games that are sure to be instant crowd-pleasers

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