"Soup cans" is a derisive term for bizarre and disconnected elements included in a game purely to serve as an obstacle to the player. The thematic equivalent of Fake Difficulty, and the nonviolent equivalent of Everything Trying to Kill You.
In a game which includes puzzles, often, anything at all can be a puzzle. Using a Mastermind game as the electronic lock on your door might seem like a dumb thing to do, but at least the one is associated with the other. To reach the true height of Solve The Soup Cans, it's not merely the case that the puzzle seems like a contrived way to bar the player's progress: it doesn't even make sense that the puzzle should be an obstacle.
It's like this. You walk into a room. There's a chessboard in the middle, and an exit at the opposite end. It seems like you ought to be able to just walk right past the chessboard and exit via the opposite door. But you can't. The chessboard is a puzzle, and, like vampires and running water, the player can not cross the path of an unsolved puzzle.
Less egregiously, the puzzle may have a direct effect on the game world (when solved, you are given some key item, or prompt a response from some NPC), but the connection between cause and effect is not conveyed beforehand, nor is the effect something that follows naturally from solving the puzzle. Needing to Solve The Soup Cans reverses normal puzzle-solving logic: it's not that you want to accomplish some goal, and have to solve the puzzle to get to that goal, but rather, you've got to solve the puzzle because the puzzle is there, and that's what puzzles are for, and the fact that you end up closer to your goal is, at least in terms of the storyline, more or less coincidental.
Used poorly, Solve The Soup Cans reduce the player to The Fool, just purposelessly blundering forward solving puzzles at random, hoping something good will happen. When this occurs in Edutainment Games, it's a case of Alphabet Soup Cans.
This class of puzzle ran amok in the middle-era Adventure Game, and can sometimes still be seen in the Action Adventure genre, especially during the non-action-oriented scenes of Survival Horror.
Named for a particular puzzle in The 7th Guest where the player must spell out a message by rearranging cans of soup. Soup cans whose only vowel is Y.
A really bizarre form of Only Smart People May Pass with even less justification. See also I Can't Reach It when the playing character is unable to accomplish a normally-possible physical act, just for gameplay reasons.
When it's the "how" rather than the "why" that's inexplicable, this is Already Undone for You. When it's the solution rather than the puzzle that's inexplicable, that's a Moon Logic Puzzle (which may overlap with this trope in the stranger cases). If it's a musical password, see Songs in the Key of Lock.
open/close all folders
The Radix: Carl Jung's castle is full of ridiculously complex puzzles.
S.D. Perry had way too much fun with Resident Evil's soup can puzzles in her novelizations, throwing Hand Waves and Lampshades every which way that often fall into an affectionate Take That. For example, in the game you had to push a button to open a glass cover and take the MacGuffin, but if you didn't cover the air vents with moveable statues first the room flooded with deadly gas. In the book Jill considers all the terrible things that pushing that button could do, and just says "Screw it" and busts the glass with her gun.
She even threw soup can puzzles into Caliban Cove and Underworld, two original works that weren't based on games, just because "Resident Evil needs silly puzzles".
The trope namer, The 7th Guest is particularly egregious: You have a lot of letters, the only vowel you're given is "y", and must rearrange them into a sentence. That sentence? "Shy gypsy, slyly, spryly, tryst by my crypt". Oh, and it only makes any sense in retrospect, as, up to that point, you didn't know the house had a crypt. Or, if you're really unlucky, what a tryst isnote By far the worst part about the puzzle, though, is that all the letters start together. So all the Ys are together, all the Ss are together, etc. The only hint you are given is that the cans are arranged in the correct spread (so the first word is three letters long). And that's it. You have to use the clue book three times to even get a hint as to what words you should be writing, and even then, you'll be breaking out the thesaurus..
In addition to the Trope Namer soup cans, The 7th Guest and its sequel The 11th Hour will also throw puzzles at you in the form of crypts, chess pieces, bathroom tiles, chess piecesonbathroom tiles, decorative carpets and bedspreads, microscopes, pianos and cakes.
Alfred Hitchcock's The Final Cut had a puzzle based around cooking Apple Crumble for the sake of advancing your serial killer investigation. Of course, the puzzle was less a "test of wits and intelligence" and more a tedious instruction following exercise.
The 2008 Alone in the Dark has you take breaks from the main plot to burn "Roots of Evil". Some of these devolve into downright silly physics puzzles; one in particular requires you to wrap a molotov cocktail in double-sided tape, toss it onto a rotating girder on a conveyor belt, and stop it next to a root before it explodes to douse it in fire. Fortunately, you don't need to burn them all (unless you want all the achievements), and most are in wide open spaces, so you can skip the dumber ones if you wish.
To say nothing of having to throw another taped molotov time bomb on the back of an enemy to get it to burn its own nest and open a path. This one is actually required to advance in the game.
At one point in the early PlayStation RPG Beyond The Beyond, you are being pursued, and hide behind a church, where you are confronted with a sliding tile puzzle. Trying to leave the screen except through the exit unlocked by the puzzle results in the Big Bad showing up and killing you.
Blue Dragon uses this Trope excessively, adding little puzzles (usually of the action command variety). They are usually simple enough that you are not forced to repeat them. Completing them perfectly often unlocks 360 achievements.
Dare To Dream, a shareware adventure, featured a door that wouldn't open to any key, but would open if you stuck a dead herring in the keyhole. The absurdity is lampshaded by the game, although it is Justified in that the game is a dream.
Devil May Cry 4 has a blatant example of this when Nero must play a standard move-from-start-to-finish board-game built into a room, where the piece is a statue of Nero, he must roll a large, demonic die cube by smacking it with his sword or shooting it, and different circles may spawn enemies, spawn orbs, or send you back. It's worth accepting it as part of the game just for Dante's reaction to the puzzle; he just slices the huge die in half and the room, apparently unable to cope, lets him through.
Eternal Darkness has a couple of these; lighting candles to open a locked drawer is probably the most obvious. However, the theme of insanity flows through this game very strongly, so it basically boils down to just fucking with the player.
The Fatal Frame series does this a lot, but at least they tried to tie it in to the story. During one part of Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly, the story deals with haunted dolls, and one puzzle requires the player to find the head and arms of a doll standing on a locking mechanism. This is soon found to be insufficient, however, because the head is missing its eyes.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game on the Wii has a few of these. One required the player to match dancing skeletons in order to open a gate. Though the game does have soirees into the "ghost world" where reality is muddled, this part was not one of them, making it a particularly odd task.
Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail Of It has many examples, due to the Dream Logic inherent in its concept.
In Hotel Dusk: Room 215, you have to solve a matchstick puzzle and a coin puzzle before you can get vital information from one character.
The Institute - this adventure game was almost nothing but Solve The Soup Cans. And yet, the game actually worked well, because most of the soup cans were inside dreams, giving them an excuse to dispense with real world logic completely. So Tropes Are Not Bad. Even when you weren't, maybe your sanity (or possible lack thereof) is to blame?
Killer7 was made primarily of these. One puzzle forces the player to light the candles in a candle holder in the correct order. The effect of this? A locked cabinet opens.
Lampshaded in King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow: after Prince Alexander manages to overcome the three magical barriers on the Isle of the Beast, the Beast approaches him and asks him why he did it. Alexander's response: "I suppose it is simply my nature to break through magical barriers." Turns out, they were for his own protection, rather than the Beast's - and by breaking through them he was cursed. Oops.
In The Legend of Zelda games, Link very frequently must kill all of the monsters in a room for a door to unlock, a ladder to fall into place, etc. even though he can often just run past enemies to the next room at other times. Of the hundreds of dungeon puzzles Link must solve throughout his adventures, maybe five of them make any logical sense...especially since the reward for completing many of them is a treasure chest that appears out of thin air for no discernible reason.
A stock puzzle is "light all the torches" to open a door or make a treasure chest appear. This is lampshaded in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess as a "not very subtle" way of opening a cellar.
In one dungeon in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, you must kill the three monsters in one room in a specific order in order to proceed, and while the game gives you a hint (located halfway across the dungeon), you have to know the names of the monsters in question to interpret the hint correctly (or even have the faintest idea what it refers to). And the names aren't in the manual - they're to be found only in the manual of a different game for a different console. Though there are only six possible combinations, part of the problem is even recognizing that the order matters at all since this is the only time it ever does. And before you think you might stumble on the answer out of luck, the enemies need to be killed in an order that is highly counter to what you'd do without thinking about it. Specifically, the one hit point wonder monster needs to go down last and the completely harmless monster stuck behind blocks needs to go down first (which is to say, no one would go for the most harmless monster out of the three, and take the time to open the path to it while the other two are chewing on their ankles out of sheer whim).
The LEGO series of video games are full of this trope.
In LEGO Batman, for instance, to enter a factory you need to climb a ramp and pull a lever to make a giant ice cream cone turn from blue to yellow, then another lever to turn it from yellow to red. Then you need to pull each lever again to make it turn back to blue, at which point the door opens.
The Nintendo DS versions of Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Lego Indiana Jones: Mainly in Free Play mode, if one tries to use a specific character on a wall panel to unlock a door, he/she must solve a puzzle as fast as possible to open the door and get bonus studs.
In The Lost Crown: A Ghosthunting Adventure, the first puzzle involves finding the pieces of a sign and placing them back together. It's somewhat justifiable as a tutorial, but you have to align the pieces perfectly before you can carry on. When you get it right, the boy blocking the path to Saxton disappears.
A door that opens when all of the grass patch nearby is fully grown, for example. And you make the grass grow by walking over it.
There's also a similar puzzle where the door won't open until all nine patches of grass are cut and you fail if it overgrows. The grass grows back every time you take a step. You can't even make it to the exit doorway before the grass overgrows - unless you solve the puzzle perfectly.
A puzzle where you need to walk a specific way through a small room's grid. May not sound like much, but the problem comes that there is a grid of plants nearby and, with every step you take, some of them begin to grow. And if one of them grows enough to puff some smoke out, you have to redo the room.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for Sega CD. Your progress out of the first room is blocked by a pile of electric eels. The solution? Pour a bottle of acid on them to dissolve them, of course.
Myst had several rather irrational ways of getting at the various Linking Books; the in-game explanation was that the characters in question were paranoid (quite reasonably so, as it turned out) about having their books destroyed. The sequels were, generally, more reasonable about how and why things were where they were.
The sequel Riven, generally considered the best of the series, is also usually considered the game with the best-integrated puzzles — although it does suffer occasionally from one of the two sides taunting each other with clues.
Exile, on the other hand, forces the player through what was, according to the backstory, originally designed as an interuniversal obstacle course meant to teach children about how different Ages come together. Several of the puzzles have been sabotaged by Saavedro, but (as Saavedro intended) in a way that leaves them solvable, though more difficult.
In Revelation, the puzzles are either security against jungle creaturesnote although one ground-level gate was apparently installed to obstruct creatures that can fly, manipulating creatures to perform a task, or operating machinery left behind by someone else.
In End of Ages, the whole setting is a kind of testing ground put together by... someone... in order to prove your worth to obtain the MacGuffin. Interestingly, it's only possible to pass the test by taking advantage of the cheating done by previous testers who had failed for moral reasons.
At the end of the Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned For Danger adventure game, Nancy has to open a door (to save herself from the culprit of the murders) by pushing several buttons on a panel in a certain order. With no clues given. Pure Trial-and-Error Gameplay. With a short time limit.
Many of the subsequent Nancy Drew games also utilize the "find the arbitrary secret arrangement" puzzles in the form of, for instance, making the water level in a series of eight pipes the same by turning valves that each randomly change levels in one or more pipes. Madness!
Obs Cure: You need to align two arrows so they point to coordinates on a map so the safe behind it will open.
Almost all the puzzles of Phantasmagoria 2 evolve naturally from the story, while exceptionally lame and usually based around some variation of "Just click at random and something good might happen". The most blatant exception to this is a pattern-matching tile puzzle which locks a door—in a bondage club.
The Professor Layton series of games is damn near the Platonic ideal of this trope. Literally every single person in the game, as well as a number of animals and inanimate objects will set you puzzles that have nothing to do with the game world. The first game justified it as a plot point (all of the townspeople are robots created for the baron's daughter; the puzzles they ask you are to prove your worth as a protector for her. Now, why they think that someone who's good at answering puzzles would be a good guardian for Flora...), the next two gave handwaves, but the fourth finally gave up trying to explain it. The out-of-setting reason for this, incidentally, is that the game is actually inspired by a series of puzzle books... you might have read that sort of book as a kid, they typically have a puzzle a page with (sometimes) a loose plot linking them together, or a few sentences of humorous framing text. For the 'genre', this is expected.
Resident Evil 2: There's a chess puzzle in the police station. Statues to be moved around until they click on special switches, too. And a whole lot of other senseless puzzles. There's typically a lame attempt at justification for this in the form of a letter lying around that will note that the person who designed the place was insane, but why the person was hired to design a secret high-tech laboratory isn't addressed.
Resident Evil 0 has an emergency brake system on a train that can only be activated... By solving a math puzzle. On a pair of terminals found on opposite ends of the train. Don't, just don't, think too much about that one.
Okay, so the mansion was passed off in REmake as George Trevor being specifically asked to build a hideout with traps and puzzles. But what about Raccoon City itself? What in the blazing hell were the engineers thinking? City planner: "Okay, I got an idea. If someone wants to get downtown, they need a key to go through a door. But the key is in a box surrounded by electricity, so they'll have to shut it off by messing with the city's power grid. Oh, oh, oh, but they need three emblems to get into it. We'll make sure they need a valve wheel to get one, though!" Mayor: "...I LOVE IT!"
The cocoa recipe. An answering machine tells you of a recipe for a cocoa blend. With the ingredients at hand, you naturally try to make it, for no conceivable reason. Once you do, your companion is reminded of a spell of his he developed while drinking this, and teaches it to you.
Subverted in Brog's quest. Brog is incredibly stupid, and the final thing to do in his subquest is to get a skull out of a cage. Surrounding the cage are three circular chess boards. Clicking them just causes a pawn to go back and forth. The solution is to bash the cage open with a plank of wood.
Shivers is particularly bad about this. The hero (that is, you) has no in-game reason to actually do anything other than sit by the door until morning. Even if he's just curious, most of the "puzzles" have no reason to be solved, nor is there any reason to suspect they have solutions — other than the fact that the game focuses in on them!
In a recording the museum's creator, Professor Windlenot, even lampshades how the puzzles become annoyances when there are real emergencies going on (like Ixupi on the loose).
Silent Hill is built on Chaos Architecture, and things tend to have have some relationship to where they are, such as putting the right pill in the right creepy-doll that corresponds to the right insane asylum patient. Other times, the puzzle makes much less sense, to put it lightly. In either case, Silent Hill does it for dramatic effect. Questions like 'what's wrong with this town?' and 'what brought me here?' seem to go beautifully with 'why is this tin can full of light bulbs?' On harder difficulties, this goes straight into Moon Logic Puzzle territory.
The reason why gamers let such things slide more than in the other examples is because it actually adds to the gaming experience, giving the impression that the town itself hates you in a passive-aggressive way, which is arguably the scariest thing about the games.
Starship Titanic. After being wowed by the fancy animation and pseudo-AI, you soon realize that you're just wandering around aimlessly pointing your mouse at everything trying to find an object you can interact with/pick up/break/fix/manipulate.
You need a long stick to push something out of a tree. You find a long stick behind glass you need to break with a hammer. You find a hammer dispenser with a button 10 feet up in the air you need a long stick to press! Of course, you find another stick being used as a bird perch and get the hammer with that, after an even stranger puzzle. Of course, it's a game by Douglas Adams, so maybe not making sense makes sense.
The music lounge presents the player with a dozen knobs, sliders, and controls for half a dozen robotic musicians and are told to reset them to play a particular song...one you've never heard before. Each consistently changes something like the pitch, key, or speed of a part, but due to the nature of music, making adjustments with a critical ear can sometimes create a listenable variation instead of the intended composition. The solution? If you didn't spot the correct configuration represented in the fabric pattern of a chair tucked in the other end of the room, an unlabeled screenshot of the controls set correctly is in the last page of the instruction manual..
Getting back home: all you have is a 3D star map and a photo of the night sky from your back yard. No further instructions are given. The goal is to match three bright stars in the picture to the representation of them in the 3D starmap. There are hundreds of stars to choose from.
Then there's The Bomb. You find it, not doing anything, with a giant red button labeled "Disarm." Pressing it in fact arms the bomb, and it begins counting down from 1000. Its ok though, it has an AI too, and you can talk to it and confuse it and get it to reset its count. Unfortunately you'd never know this unless you'd read the book first.
Reading the book is a must, actually. The plot of the game makes no sense otherwise. Like why a corpse shows up in the message tube system...
In the graphical adventure Still Life, you have at one point to bake cookies for the player character's father. For some reason, you can't go forward with your serial killing investigation without doing this first. The ingredients in the recipe have all been replaced with codewords (like "love" and "compassion") based on their colors and no hint to what each codeword means. With a general idea about cookie recipes you can figure it out... after hours and hours of trial and error.
Another puzzle involves the protagonist's ancestor picking the lock of the door of the suspect's art gallery. Too bad that said door has what seems to be the most complex tumbler lock ever built...
One needs to find the Ymir Fruit in Ymir Forest before being able to reach Heimdall. This evidently necessitates the painfully tedious process of making the fruit drop into the water, and then getting the little fishies to guide the floating fruit all around the forest before one can obtain the item. Apparently, eight people cannot try anything else other than this — like summoning Undine, using their various weapons to try knocking it somewhere closer by (although it drops into the water reasonably close to the player anyway), asking the party member with * wings* to fly up and grab it, or best of all, just reaching down and grabbing the freaking item (something about "dangerous-looking fish in the water"). "Dangerous-looking fish" is made all the more pointless when you realize that the party contains a Messianic Archetype, a pair of incredibly powerful magicians, and an angel. Over the course of the game they've dealt with bunnies more intimidating than the "dangerous-looking fish" Lloyd is bitching about. Genis even poked fun at Lloyd for "squaring off" against the fish.
To top the whole shenanigan off, an optional skit features Lloyd expressing interest in trying a Ymir fruit for himself. Now, up until this point, anytime you make a mistake in the overly-tedious series of maneuvers required to get the fruit into a position where anyone's willing to expend the effort to reach over and grab it, you could knock a new one into the water and try again. But once you finally nab one, it is apparently the last one in the world ever (those cocksucker fish took all the rest), because everyone gets on Lloyd's case for wanting to eat it when a sick woman needs it as medicine.
You have to solve a puzzle to open a door. It's not particularly weirder than any other puzzle, except it happens in a facility in which people work and walk around all day. It gets Lampshaded by the two goons that show you how to solve the said puzzle:
Desian 1: Oh yeah. This room has a special mechanism.
Desian 2: It's really annoying that you always have to electrify and push the onto the switches to open the doors.
Desian 1: Lord Botta likes it a little bit complicated...
Tales of Legendia was even worse than its predecessor, Symphonia. There were puzzle rooms placed randomly throughout some dungeons which required you to push blocks and shoot crystals. There was never any storyline explanation for why these rooms were there; you just had to solve them. Actually, you didn't have to solve them... if you wanted, at any time, you could just skip all of them. Completing every puzzle without using any help with earn you a fancy title for Senel, and nothing else.
In Tomb Raider Anniversary, at the beginning of Sanctuary of the Scion you must rotate four columns to match the arrangement of symbols on the walls surrounding them. The problem is, moving one column moves the other three with it, causing the puzzle to be extremely awkward and similar to a Rubik's Cube. Thankfully, it can be bypassed simply by moving the northwest and southeast ones in one direction once and the northeast and southwest ones in the other direction.
Lampshaded in the white chamber, in which random human body parts lie throughout the space station, just enough for a single complete body. If the player collects them all and assembles them on a bed in the medical room, the protagonist wonders why she did that in the first place. At the end of the game (the proper end, not the dozen-odd ways to kill yourself) you're given the suggestion to replay the game and input a code before the character actually learns it.
XenoSaga games are full of these. Random puzzles are everywhere, and have no possible bearing on getting where you want to go.
The superhero adventure game, Noctropolis, is full of these. To enter a cathedral guarded by a lethal, flying gargoyle, the player must A) locate the couple pixels representative of the only loose bar in the iron-wrought fence, B) open utility panel of a nearby streetlight, C) attach fifty-pounds worth of cable to connect the fence post to an arbitrary lead, and d.) throw the bar, like a spear, some 20-yards so that it lands upon the fountain on which the beast occasionally perches so that it is electrocuted the following time it does. This puzzle was one of the first in the game and significantly simpler that later examples.
A very common trait in online "get out of the locked room" games. One required you to feed cactus-flavored roasted peanuts to a parrot to get the key. Aside from the moon-logic procedure to make said nuts (including the combination-locked fireplace), there was no indication that this brand of nuts was required (since the bird ate everything else you fed it, with no visible response) or even that the key was in the cage in the first place. And if you knew the key was there (perhaps by mentioning that when you looked at the bird, instead of telling the obvious "it's a parrot in a cage"), wouldn't a sensible person have wanted to open the cage and just grab it?
Possibly one of the worst offenders in this regard is Tesshi-e's "Escape from the Living Room." A key you need is hidden under a couch, all the way back against the wall. A sensible person would move the couch away from the wall. Here, on the other hand, you have to combine a cell phone, a straw and stick you've cut in half, some corks, some tape, and a piece of string to make a little car that you can roll at the key so that the tape sticks to it, then pull back with the string. Nothing at the game even remotely hints at this being either the solutionnote and the only hint that this is even doable is the fact that many of Tesshi-e's games feature similar construction projects... mostly because the game, like so many higher-quality room escapes, is entirely in Japanese.
Hitman: Blood Money has two levels set in Viva Las Vegas. The first takes place in a hotel/casino, in which you not only need a specific keycard to get into each hotel room (happens all the time in real life), you also need a special keycard to access any given floor (less likely to happen in real life). And if you, say, hide on top of an elevator as it's ridden to the floor you want, then get out and exit onto that floor, the hotel has guards posted at every elevator to make sure no one gets off without the proper keycard (never happens in real life). The purpose of all this? To make a perfect rating basically unobtainable without climbing around on the ledges outside the hotel.
Unless of course, you wait on top of the elevator box for targets with the corresponding floor keycard to enter the elevator, then strangle them. This makes perfect logical sense in the context of the Hitman series.
Fur Fighters has a lot of these, it being a mix of shooting and platforming it can be quite jarring. One actually involved making a special soup in a jungle with an elongated fetch-quest to boot.
The Core series of Flash games. In the installment "Tower Core" this is especially egregious because the framing device is that you have to power up the defense system to fend off an impending meteor strike, or something like that. Since this appears to be the only purpose of the titular towers, one would expect actual human security to be the better option, instead of wasting time trying to solve random puzzles.
Schizm II: Chameleon had an absolutely perfect example of this. Through various cunning methods, the player finally gains access to an elevator. The elevator promptly takes them down to a single room, which contains nothing but a code panel. Finally switching the symbols around correctly... gives a cutscene of NPCs finding you there, and so advancing the story. The act of solving the puzzle does nothing in the game world.
The company that made it, Detalion, only made one more game - Sentinel: Descendants In Time - and that fared even worse with puzzles that repeated themselves. After that, Detalion went bankrupt.
The entire game of Alundra is based around this. Every dungeon is full of puzzles that yield random switches that open gates; the gates won't open without hitting all the switches in a particular order, for example, or lighting all the torches. Most of the dungeons are inside dreams, so make a little bit of sense - but many aren't.
The Wild ARMs games have examples set in in temples and ruins.
This happens a lot in the Frogwares Sherlock Holmes games, complete with sliding puzzles, using the Kabbalah to open a safe in a Jewish club, measuring out exactly 478cc of gunpowder with three different receptacles of different sizes...the list goes on. Increasingly averted with each game, thankfully — Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper has a deductions system replacing random quizzes, for one.
Sherlock Holmes And The Secret Of The Silver Earring - Holmes has to visit the home of one character in the game in order to acquire some intel, and the whole house is full of puzzles that he has to solve in order to continue. The game justifies it by claiming the character is a big fan of toys and puzzles.
Final Fantasy VIII gives you a clock pattern on the floor and a bunch of paintings with Latin names, and you have to combine three Latin names for the answer.
Final Fantasy X gets a pass for its ridiculous Cloister puzzles because they were designed as tests of persistence. Final Fantasy X-2, however, has a final dungeon that forces you to repeatedly find contrived ways to play the same sequence of notes using the objects around you. You can just skip the puzzles — if you don't mind facing a long, difficult boss each time.
The Interactive Fiction game Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina is better than it sounds — but includes more than one pointless puzzle nailed to the wall. The worst example is a Magic Fifteen puzzle that spells out the words of a song. Hope you know the song ...
Wild ARMs 2 is full of these. Every single dungeon/new area has at minimum 3 and up to 10 puzzles placed in your way which must be completed in order to unlock a door, reveal a passage, or reveal/open a treasure chest. Sometimes, the puzzle you needed to complete in order to open the door/activate the machine/etc. is actually 2-3 rooms back.
In Puzzle Agent the protagonist, Nelson Tethers, is from the FBI's Puzzle Research Division, and is as such obsessed with puzzles. However the town he's sent to investigate is equally obsessed with them with everyone having puzzles for you to do and everything you need to do being a puzzle. The in game explanation is that most of them are in a cult that worships gnomes who communicate through puzzles... Because that totally makes sense.
The first half of King's Quest V is spent walking around in Serenia, solving puzzles and collecting a lot of items that will admittedly come in handy later. But we're given absolutely no indication why King Graham should be bothering with all this, considering he needs to journey through the mountains to save his family. It's just aimless wandering about. All because of what's preventing him from just going up into the mountains right off the bat: a single snake. And instead of just beating it with any number of things that end up in your inventory (like a hammer) or just walking around it, you instead have to wander all over hell and back until you get a tambourine to scare it away with.
XBLA indie game Decay subverts this in Part 2 - the game is a point and click horror, so players are already in the puzzle seeking mindset, and the game is obliging with a steady supply of actually very logical puzzles. When the player is confronted with a soup can in the form of a Breakout game on a computer, it seems odd, but the player gets right down to business... only to be confronted with the reflection of the game's Creepy Doll staring at you in the screen, its horrible glowing eyes demanding why you are wasting time on something so silly when you were given specific instructions to HURRY UP...I'm sorry, Lisey, I'm sorry, oh god please don't stare at me like that... *whimper*
In Pilot Brothers: Theft of the striped elephant, the main characters fail to just open the door to pursue the criminal, and must instead open the fridge. Said fridge is locked on a large hang lock (with the key guarded by a crocodile) and the infamous hardest puzzle in the game. When the fridge is opened, a cat walks out of the fridge and easily opens the door (by pushing it, the characters were knocking and pulling).
Played with in the ZeroEscape series. While a lot of puzzles seem arbitrary (i.e. putting dice in the correct order), others are symbolic and foreshadows the entire plot (i.e. arranging a mannequin will trigger a discussion on the Ship of Theseus, which is actually important).
Though in the first game the puzzles' existence is justified, since in the first Nonary Game, solving a puzzle granted a moment of "epiphany" that was hypothesized to boost a telepathic signal.
In Parasite Eve 2, there is a gate under the small New Mexico town of Dryfield that can only be opened with a puzzle that relates to the stages of the moon. There is absolutely no logical reason for the puzzle to even be there. You can skip it, but if you do, you won't get the game's Golden Ending.
NetHack has an optional Sokoban sidequest, with pits blocking your path that must be filled by inconveniently-placed boulders. The presence of four Block Puzzles in the middle of a monster-infested dungeon is jarring, to say the least. There are quite a few ways to cheat—smashing boulders, summoning boulders, levitating over the pits—but doing so will severely damage your Luck Stat, because...magic.
In Rana Rama, fighting monsters involves rearranging the letters of the game's title into the proper order as the "life force" counter ticks down.
Heroine's Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok generally avoids these sorts of puzzles, but one in particular stands out: The slide puzzle in Andvari's shop. There's nothing in the game that says you need to do it, and no indication of what it even does. It opens passages to where Loki is bound, and to a Marathon Level where you can fight a number of monsters and attempt to beat your best time.
1912 Titanic Mystery is an entire game built out of Solve the Soup Cans. The game has you trying to discover a bomb that has been placed aboard the ship by locating pages of a diary that the bomber has scattered for you. How do you do this, you ask? By visiting 30 rooms aboard the titanic and playing about 100 rounds of "find twelve randomly selected photoshopped images in this picture."
In addition, the first time you visit a room you have to solve a special puzzle. Puzzles such as placing chess queens on a board so that they can't attack one another, solving slide-puzzles of the Titanic, and paying Othello. You are given no context for any of these puzzles, and only three (arguably four) have ANY relevance to the story of tracking down the bomb.
The Mystery Case Files series invokes this trope several times, although it's something other than soup cans you have to solve.
Parodied in Problem Sleuth, where all sorts of "weird puzzle shit" blocks your path. The solution is typically either giving up and checking GAMEFAQS for a cheat code, or activating a switch halfway across the building. Eventually the character encounters a puzzle so mend-bendingly obtuse that they reload the game from a save state made after it was solved. Of course, this still leaves the question of who solved it in the first place. A time traveling Pickle Inspector, as it turns out.
An episode of Phineas and Ferb had the brothers use a computer to generate a complicated maze, and several doors were locked out with various puzzles, including but not limited to a chessboard, a jar of jellybeans with a numeric pad asking the number in the jar, and a room with the "Idol Switching" scene from Indiana Jones. They even had the jacket and hat on the wall.
A textbook for 8th grade Spanish class tried to frame the lessons with a very loose narrative. You, the reader/student, were a secret agent airlifted onto a Spanish-speaking island somewhere and repeatedly had to rendezvous with other agents. Invariably, your contacts would always give you twenty pages of silly Spanish exercises to work on (learning how to say useful phrases like "Oh, it's the king who used to play funeral chants on the drum.") to prove your identity. The exact same narrative existed in the same grade-level class for French, Italian, and probably some other languages, too.