Improving your memory really is all fun and games.

Multiple studies over the years have discovered that games can enhance memory and cognitive skills for seniors. As players strategize and solve problems, the brain remains active and strengthens, similar to how exercise keeps muscles strong.

Forgetfulness is a normal part of aging. As we grow older, there is a steady decline in the number of neural synapses in the brain. These synapses are the building blocks of memory and cognitive function in our brains. Memory games stimulate your brain and slow down the aging process by building neural connections even as they break down.

A study performed by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus revealed that games can promote the growth of new neurons in multiple parts of the brain, including the parts involved in memory formation. Another study from Cambridge University discovered that some video games can help improve brain function and episodic memory, which is used for daily routines and activities. The researchers in the study also found that games may reduce the risk of dementia.

How and Why Do Memory Games Work?

Memory games keep your brain sharp, but how do they work?

Games can help the brain form new neural networks. This is especially true for games that encourage learning. As seniors learn new skills, the brain must form new neural pathways. These neural connections make the brain work faster and more efficiently when it comes time to remember information. Neural connections are built when people are challenged by learning something unfamiliar because the brain is forced to work.

Memory games also help the brain build up what is called “cognitive reserve.” Cognitive reserve lets the brain find alternative ways to complete a task, and it can be tapped into when someone needs to think quickly. The reserve is built up over time, and it can hold off the symptoms from age-related memory loss and dementia. When seniors play memory games and exercise their bodies, they can build up their cognitive reserve.

If you want to maintain a healthy brain and strong memory — or help your loved one improve their memory — there are many types of games they can play. Check out this list of the 15 best memory games for seniors.

15. Catan

Price: $55

Where to Play:

About the Game: As the tagline says, this game includes trading, building, and settling a new land. Players collect natural resources so they can quickly build settlements before other players do. This fun game is competitive and challenging, because no two games are the same. The game can be played in a traditional board game style or online with an app.

Memory Exercise Score: 4/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: Players need to constantly plan ahead while taking into account the resources they have and need. It requires players to process information quickly and to learn and remember rules, which supports short-term memory growth.

You or a loved one can strengthen your brain and your memory with these fun online games.

14. Ticket to Ride

Price: $44.57

Where to Purchase: Days of Wonder Boardgames

About the Game: In this game, players collect and play train cards to build railway routes and connect cities throughout the U.S. The map contains real places, and players must strategically plot the best routes and block other players.

Memory Exercise Score: 3/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: Players must track their cards and make strategic decisions. Plus, since the game uses real locations, it may spark memories about those places. This game is good for short-term memory.

13. Sudoku

Price: Free – $10

Where to Play:

About the Game: Sudoku is a fun, challenging game that exercises short-term memory. The game is played by planning and quick mathematics. Players can access an almost countless amount of puzzles online or in the app. They are available in easy, medium, and hard levels. Sudoku can be played online with this free app, or in a Sudoku book purchased at any book store.

Memory Exercise Score: 4/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: Players have to look ahead and remember which numbers they have already placed. This improves short-term memory and concentration.

12. Eidetic

Price: Free

Where to Play: Eidetic App

About the Game: There are three games available in the Eidetic app — a memory challenge, picture challenge, and survival challenge. These games are all fun and simple to play while still boosting basic memory skills.

Memory Exercise Score: 3/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: Games on the Eidetic app focus on visual memory, since the player must match and move icons and images around. The player must also recall vividness and detail of images.

11. HAPPYneuron

Price: Free 7-day trial, various subscription levels

Where to Play:

About the Game: HAPPYneuron provides personalized training and online games to boost the five main cognitive functions, including memory. Its program is based on cognitive science, and it is personalized to each individual. There are 17 unique memory games with real-world applications. In one game, players can see how their memory stands up to those of waiters, while another asks them to match an image of a bird with their particular song.

10. Peak App

Price: Free, $4.99 for Peak Pro

Where to Play:

About the Game: The Peak app works with academic researchers to develop games that help with everyday skills. There are more than 40 unique games that support memory, problem-solving, focus, and more. An in-app “coach” customizes which challenges and games the user should be working on depending on their current abilities and goals.

Memory Exercise Score: 5/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: The Peak app challenges the brain to strengthen various aspects of memory, including visual short-term memory and contextual memory. It targets specific cognitive skills.

9. Memory Game from Brain Metrix

Price: Free

Where to Play:

About the Game: This is a basic matching game. Players must click on two squares to uncover them and see the images. Then, they must remember where the image is located so they can match it with its pair later on. This is a simple but fun game.

Memory Exercise Score: 3/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: Match-up memory games help boost visual short-term memory because players must commit each image to memory.

8. Recall

Price: $70

Where to Purchase: Board Game Store

About the Game: Recall is designed to improve the player’s ability to recall information. Players place tiles face down on the game board, then use visual cues to recall which object is on the tile. It can be played alone, or with others in a cooperative or competitive manner.

Memory Exercise Score: 5/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: This game helps improve visual short-term memory and recall.

7. Cognifit Brain Fitness

Price: $19.99/month

Where to Play:

About the Game: Players can access a wide selection of memory games by signing up for CogniFit Brain Fitness. CogniFit uses research to create effective memory games that serve each individual’s unique needs. This program can train different types of memory. It is designed to reduce memory loss and prevent memory problems related with age.

Memory Exercise Score: 5/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: These games adjust based on the user’s specific characteristics. The various games improve short-term memory (auditory and visual), working memory, non-verbal memory, naming, and contextual memory.

6. MemBrain App

Price: Free

Where to Play: Membrain App

About the Game: The MemBrain app is a matching game that requires memory and basic math skills. Players must remember numbers and the location of the correct card, and they can track their progress over time within the app.

Memory Exercise Score: 4.5/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: Like all matching games, MemBrain requires excellent visual memory to remember where the correct card is located. This game is meant to improve short-term and visual memory, as well as concentration and calculation skills.

5. Staying Sharp

Price: Free for AARP members, $35.99/month for non-members

Where to Play:

About the Game: This program is meant to help AARP members build up their brain health. It includes assessments, videos, and challenges, as well as games. The science-based challenges teach practical memory skills and provide fun, interactive digital exercises.

Memory Exercise Score: 4/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: These digital exercises teach about memory skills, and then engage the brain to improve thinking and memory.

4. Scrabble Game

Price: $42.99

Where to Play or Purchase:

About the Game: Scrabble is all about vocabulary. The more words you know, and the quicker you can remember them, the better. When playing Scrabble, players use letter tiles to spell words. Because they must build off the letters already played on the board, players must be creative. Scrabble can be played in the classic board game version, or online with an app.

Memory Exercise Score: 4/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: Players must search their brain for words they haven’t used in a while, and it gives them the chance to learn new words. Expanding vocabulary builds more neural connections.

3. Lumosity

Price: Free for limited access, paid subscriptions vary

Where to Play:

About the Game: Lumosity is a brain training app meant to help strengthen multiple parts of the brain. It has seven memory-specific games in its collection, including one where the player is a bellhop and must deliver the correct luggage to the corresponding hotel guest. In another game, the player has to choose unique treasures from a tide pool. The games are meant to boost recall and memory. Lumosity offers free games, but paid users can access more games and progress monitoring tools to see cognitive skills improve over time.

Memory Exercise Score: 5/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: Memory games from Lumosity exercise working memory, which is used to temporarily store and manipulate information.

2. 399 Games, Puzzles & Trivia Challenges Specially Designed to Keep Your Brain Young

Price: $14.95

Where to Purchase: Book Store

About the Game: This book of games, compiled by Nancy Linde, is full of 399 puzzles, word games, and brainteasers that keep the brain active. The games are divided by difficulty, from “warm-up” to “merciless.”

Memory Exercise Score: 4/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: The games in this book were designed by experts to stimulate the growth of new brain cells. The games help with long-term memory, working memory, executive functioning, attention to detail, multitasking, and processing speed.

1. Boatload Puzzles

Price: Free

Where to Play:

About the Game: Boatload Puzzles has more than 400,000 free crossword puzzles on its platform. Players can access and solve all of the puzzles on their computer, tablet, or phone. No need to make an account or pay a dime. Players can also purchase a book of crossword puzzles.

Memory Exercise Score: 4/5

How This Game Exercises Memory: Studies have found that elderly individuals who regularly play puzzles have increased mental agility. Those who regularly solve crossword puzzles are able to quickly access both verbal and visuospatial parts of their short-term memory.