• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

15-puzzle magical

The "fifteen puzzle" or "slide puzzle" is a sort of Stock Puzzle where one has to arrange a set of scrambled numbers so that they are all shown in ascending order. One spot is always open, allowing pieces to be moved around, but it is designed in such a way that no piece can ever be removed from the board. More sadistic versions will be bigger than fifteen squares; these larger versions are called "n-puzzles", where n is the number of scrambled numbers (always a square number minus one).

A more general version of the "sliding puzzle" will have the player try to put together an image in the same manner as above. The picture you're trying to reassemble is usually printed on the back of the box to minimize frustration.

The puzzle traces back at least to Noyes Palmer Chapman in 1874; later on, Sam Loyd claimed to have invented it.

Examples of Fifteen Puzzle include:


  • The Dream Park novel The California Voodoo Game throws out one of these in a timed situation. The trick is that it's a word-version and there are two R's: "RATE, YOUR, MIND, PAL". Put them in the wrong place and the puzzle is uncrackable.

Live Action Television

Video Games

  • Showed up as a hidden Mini Game in Final Fantasy I and all of its remakes. Accessing the puzzle required you to Get on the Boat and hold down one button while mashing another. Completing the puzzle gave your party extra money, but just how much depended on which version of the game you played.
  • Also a mini-game in The Simpsons: Bart vs. the World, where pictures of the Simpsons cast were shown, and you would have to slide the puzzle around to make it look normal.
  • Beyond the Beyond had a smaller sliding puzzle, which one had to complete to gain access to a church early in the game.
  • Such a puzzle also appears in the Lethal Lava Land course of Super Mario 64. It solves and scrambles itself, though. Whenever it reaches the solution, coins pop out of all the panels. Oh, did we mention that the puzzle was the only thing standing between Mario and hot molten lava?
  • Some level 3 clues in RuneScape require the player to solve a 5x5 sliding puzzle to advance the quest.
    • That's a clue. A quest which has one of those is Monkey Madness. People were getting so desperate, they paid vast sums of ingame money to an NPC to not have to solve it! A Void Dance also has a 3x3 version.
    • There's also the infamous puzzle in Elemental Workshop III. A three-dimensional, multi-story sliding tile puzzle, which you have to work multiple times to complete, with an irritating interface, a limited amount of moves, and no way to fix even the smallest mistake.
  • Appears in a library in a minigame in Xenosaga II. Particularly annoying as it's timed, but at least it's not required to advance the plot.
  • The door to the Hall of Records in The Neverhood opens only when you solve an 8-puzzle which depicts the letter 'H'.
  • Another Code (known in the United States as Trace Memory) had such a sliding puzzle. Each time the puzzle was activated, the pieces would be ordered differently: Meaning that some combinations were trivial, and some were face-meltingly tough. Perhaps the only sticking point in the game if one is going for a new time record.
  • Appears as a minigame in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker. Link is explicitly told that solving it gives no reward beyond Money for Nothing, so that saves some wasted time.
    • Aha, but that's what the doorman wants you to think...
  • Resident Evil 4 had a 3×3 version. Once the picture was oriented properly, you had to use a key item to fill in the empty space to open the door.
    • Made easier than most because you're able to slide two pieces at one time.
  • Professor Layton and the Curious Village has a version of this puzzle with an interesting twist: Two pieces whose positions cannot be swapped are identical.
  • The PC game Secrets of Da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript has one of these; after you've sketched a copy of the Mona Lisa, you have to slide the different parts of the drawing around until they are in the correct placement. In terms of the story, this is the most illogical puzzle in the entire game, as there is no plausible reason why you would have drawn it that way in the first place. (It's also one of the most difficult puzzles in the entire game, and many players have taken advantage of a glitch which forces the game to solve it for you.)
  • Found in Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden for a very cheap reward.
  • Return to Zork has a puzzle that's close (a 3×4 "12" puzzle with the same basic mechanics). Trivially, solving it causes important items to suddenly appear where the puzzle was found. Guide Dang It ensues when trying to figure out where each tile goes (it uses words as opposed to, say, numbers or a picture).
  • The game for Finding Nemo completely overloaded on these. This troper was actually driven insane and stopped playing because there were so damn many.
  • There's one in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, but you don't really have to "solve" it; instead, each piece represents a room in a 16-square area, and arranging the pieces into a path allows you to traverse it. Each room can only be reached in one to three directions depending on the piece.
  • Silent Hill adores these things. Silent Hill Homecoming has a fiendishly difficult one with irregularly sized blocks.
  • This is the premise of the minigame "Puzzle", which shipped with early versions of Apple Macintosh from the original to System 7. Later revisions of Mac OS replaced "Puzzle" with a jigsaw puzzle.

  Puzzle: (upon completion) "Ta-da!"

  • The 11th Hour includes this puzzle as rearranging the surface of a mirror to its previous state. However, since the missing tile is always randomized, it's possible for this puzzle to be set in a way that leaves it unsolvable by the player, forcing him to refresh the puzzle.
  • Castle of Doctor Brain has one of these in the Maths hallway early in the game. Depending on the difficulty it will be 3×3 or 4×4 with numbers or 5×5 with an image.
  • A variation in Safecracker has no open space, but instead allows sets of four adjacent pieces to be rotated around their point of intersection. Also, the picture you need to reconstruct is shown only on the game's menu page.
  • Certain Metalize tablets in Avalon Code reveal sliding puzzles that must be solved before you get the recipe.
  • Forced upon you early on in Final Fight Streetwise in order to progress and get some clues or something, then playable afterwards whenever you go back to the building and feel like playing it.
  • The Genesis version of Action 52 has this.
  • In Wario Ware D.I.Y., Orbulon's boss stage is a 3x3 variant of this.
  • In the second game of Drakensang there's such a puzzle in the depths of the old Efferdian Temple on the Forgotten Island. You have to move the blocks in order to form the picture of a water nymph, but all the tiles are numbered. You also need the sixteenth tile from the Water Dragon's lair to complete the puzzle and reach the innermost chamber.
  • The strange cube item in Kingdom of Loathing is a sliding puzzle with a twist. If you solve it the normal and obvious way you get a minor reward but if you solve it in another way hinted at nowhere in the game you get a better reward.
  • Freddi Fish 2: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse has one of these on the ceiling above a statue, with three difficulty settings: one normal puzzle, one with a rectangular piece, and one with two rectangular pieces. Solving it is completely optional--the only requirement is to get the empty square directly above the trident the statue is holding, which you will then be able to remove.
  • With the recent trend to mix Hidden Object Games with puzzle-solving, and the Fifteen Puzzle being a very obvious go-to puzzle, many casual games today feature this type of puzzle at least once per playthrough. The lower-quality games may be Unwinnable if the Random Number God is not suitably appeased beforehand.
  • The flash game Continuity is pretty much exactly this puzzle combined with a Platform Game (ie. you can change the level by moving screens about in the style of sliding blocks).
  • Tomodachi Life features a slide puzzle as one of the items the player can give to Miis. Doing so gives the player the possibility to solve a 3×3 puzzle with a picture which includes a random Mii.

Real Life

  • These are given out all the time in party favor bags and the like.
  • Sam Loyd, who claimed (probably falsely) to have invented the puzzle in the 19th century, offered a $1,000 reward. The puzzle conserves parity and cannot be solved if the numbers 14 and 15 are swapped, which was the configuration he provided it in. Rumor has it that Loyd couldn't patent the puzzle because it was unsolvable, though "because he didn't invent it" is another plausible reason.
    • Perplex City has a card based on Loyd's version of the puzzle.