Over the last eight months, I’ve spent nearly every day playing Pokémon Picross. This free-to-start Nintendo 3DS release from 2015 has become a part of my daily routine. If I’m not playing a few missions, I’m completing the daily challenge and earning Picrites (the in-game currency) so I can (eventually) unlock the next part of the game. But this post isn’t really about that game. Instead, I’m here to show my appreciation for this kind of puzzle game that we may never see again.
First, let’s get you up to speed
If you’ve never heard of Picross, then you’ve been missing out. Picross, also known as nonogram, are logic puzzles that use require users to use number clues to fill out grids. The numbers along each column and row tell you how many boxes need filling.
Let’s use a 10×10 board as an example. If the top row has 10, then you know that every box needs to be filled in since the board has 10 boxes per row. But if a row only has a “2”, then you know that a group of two boxes require filling. How you determine which two of those ten possible boxes get filled in requires some effort.
Of course, you can’t just guess and hope for the best. So, you move around the grid trying to solve what you can, then deducing the rest until you’ve completed the puzzle. Once complete, you reveal a picture or a representation of something. It’s pretty straightforward but incredibly addictive once you get the hang of it.
The Picross series is my go-to puzzle game
There are plenty of nonogram-type games out there. You can find tons on PC, Mobile, and even on Nintendo’s Switch console. These types of games have been around for over 30 years, and we’ll see more over the years. But in my opinion, the best era of nonogram-style games were those released on the Nintendo 3DS and prior to that, the Nintendo DS.
The reason is simple – the stylus! Yes, you can play Picross with a control pad. But, this is a fill-in-the-box puzzle game, and using a stylus to fill those slots is just so satisfying. It doesn’t have the same feel on consoles. Believe me, I love playing Mario’s Picross 2 on my Game Boy, but I’ve made plenty of mistakes scrolling with the control pad. On mobile, using your finger is a bit better, but the tactile feel of a stylus still works best.
Nintendo first attempted to bring Picross games to some popularity in the early 90s with Mario’s Picross. It flopped, and its sequel never officially made its way to North America (you can easily import it for less than $20 CDN on eBay). They tried again in 2007 with Picross DS and that’s where I first learned of the series and instantly fell in love. Since then, when a new Picross game comes out, I pay attention.
Currently, there are 14 picross-type games to choose from on 3DS
If you search “Picross” in the 3DS eShop, 14 games show up. All but two are developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo. Most of them are part of the Picross e series, which consists of eight games. After that, you have the Virtual Console version of Mario’s Picross. Then there is the aforementioned Pokémon Picross, Sanrio characters Picross (yes, that’s the name of the game), and Picross 3D Round 2.
The two other games which aren’t developed by Jupiter or published by Nintendo are nonogram-style games but aren’t quite the same as Picross. So, even if you only view it as 11 standard Picross games and one Picross 3D game (which is quite a bit different from traditional Picross), that’s still a pretty solid lineup.
Pokemon Picross is free-to-start, and you can essentially unlock everything without spending a dime. If you go that route, it will take you at least eight months. I actually did spend some money (less than $10 CDN) and I have yet to unlock every aspect of the game (did complete the Normal mode, though). The Picross e games are less than $10 each. It’s only Picross 3D Round 2 that’s a full-priced game.
In actuality, there is another Picross game on the 3DS, but you can’t get it through the Nintendo eShop. If you have 1000 My Nintendo Platinum Points, then you can redeem them for a copy of My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. These are Picross puzzles based on the popular adventure series. I played through it last year and was hooked.
The Future of Picross games
As I’ve mentioned, there are Picross games on Switch. They’re fine, but they just don’t invoke the same addictive gameplay that the 3DS versions do. While they recently released a Sega-themed Picross, I wish there was a Nintendo-themed one as well. If you have a Nintendo Switch Online membership, the Super Famicom version of Mario’s Picross is playable. At the same time, I strongly urge people that if they have a 3DS to pick up at least Pokemon Picross. It doesn’t cost anything to get, and it’s very easy to get into. After that, I’m certain you’ll see the charm.