The classic Rubik’s cube has been studied and practiced so much that the world record for solving it is down to less than four seconds. But it’s also evolved a lot over the past several decades, and now come in a bunch of varieties and shapes if you want an additional challenge (or just a more satisfying fidget toy).
I got started solving Rubik’s cubes over a decade ago, and my first cube was the official one (now owned by Hasbro). It’s the one you can find in any toy story. It’s also not very good by modern standards. If you’re a cube connoisseur like I unfortunately became, you’ll start to notice some problems. It’s stiff, it doesn’t rotate well, it gets caught. If you just want something to fiddle with, this is a fine, cheap option. But you can do better.
Speed cubes, like this one from Roxenda, are exactly what they sound like. They’re Rubik’s cubes, but faster. These cubes are designed to move as smoothly as possible so that, once you have the movements down, you can flick through them with deft precision. They also allow for an advanced technique known as corner-cutting, which lets you turn a side of the cube without fully aligning it. You can even pop off the center pieces and manually adjust the tightness with a screwdriver so it feels right for you.
Many of these traits and techniques apply to speed versions of other puzzles, so when we refer to any of the following puzzles as “speed” versions, you can expect corner cutting, adjustable stiffness, and other features that make them super easy to use.
Once you’ve mastered the regular Rubik’s cube (or at least solved it once), the next logical step to build on the challenge is to get a few more layers on that thing. The official Rubik’s Cube comes in 4x4x4 and 5x5x5 flavors, though in this case, the official ones can be even more expensive than speed cube versions like this 4x4x4 speed cube or this 5x5x5 speed cube.
One of my favorites recently has been this dodecahedron puzzle. It’s just like a Rubik’s cube, except with twelve faces instead of six. You know, easy. At this point, we’re way past anything officially made with the Rubik’s brand, so they’re often referred to as “twisty puzzles,” generally. The 12-sided puzzle is also called the Megaminx. It even has a bigger brother with five rows on each of its twelve sides, technically making it a 5x5x5x5x5 rubik’s dodecahedron. But you can call it the Gigaminx for short. Which sounds less like a puzzle and more like a Power Rangers villain.
Did you think your puzzle nightmare stopped at adding more rows or faces to a puzzle? How about this “Twisty Skewb” that looks like a rectangle deformed in a 3D modeling program? Or these regular cubes with asymmetrical, chaotic rows that don’t really line up with anything? Here’s one that kind of looks like a dragon egg called a Pyramorphix, which I really don’t think is a word.
If you’re not familiar with how to solve a Rubik’s Cube—or you’re just a stats nerd, on top of being a puzzle nerd—the GoCube can help you learn. This cube connects to your smartphone and can tell exactly where every piece of the puzzle is at all times. That means it can follow what you’re doing and give you instructions on how to solve it no matter how mixed up it is. It can even automatically track your time, number of moves, and which part of the solving phase you spend the most time on.
The app also lets you compete with others around the world to solve it as fast as possible, and even comes with bonus games you can play to learn how the puzzle works. This is easily the most expensive cube on the list at $100 (and you have to order through IndieGogo), but it’s versatile enough that it can appeal to new solvers and veterans alike.