The Rubik's Cube is a fascinating toy. Since its invention, it's spawned clubs, competitions, and derivatives. However, it's not always intuitive, and in a lot of cases, those encountering it for the first time may be taken aback.
Occasionally, a character will discover the cube and fiddle around with it a bit, perplexed by the mysteries of its multicolored faces. This usually occurs in settings that take place on alien worlds or After the End, where novelty is less important than survival or the person who finds it is of a different mindset. Sometimes this produces a childlike sense of wonder, while other times it results in frustration and obsession. Discovering the intended "use" doesn't always correct things — it may cause the individual to become even more determined to solve it, and then finding out nothing happens could be... upsetting.
This is not simply a character finding or playing with a puzzle cube toy, but actually seeing one for the first time and not understanding it. If the Rubik's cube is used to show how smart the character solving it is, then it's Rubik's Cube International Genius Symbol.
- In Overlord, Zesshi Zetsumei owns a Rubik's Cube, which is considered to be a divine artifact as it was brought into the New World by an YGGDRASIL player long ago. She fiddles with it often and comments that she can never seem to get more than one side solved.
- There's a Touhou fan 4koma (NSFW warning, it's Danbooru) that has this as the first plot arc. While Reimu is completely enjoying solving the Rubik's Cube, Marisa has no clue about what it is and accidentally breaks it. After getting Nitori to fix it, Marisa gives it to Reimu, who stares at the modified cube in awe.
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Spider-Man Noir is fascinated by the colors on a Rubik's Cube, since he comes from a Deliberately Monochrome universe where such colors do not exist. In the end, he brings it back to his home dimension.
- In WALLE, the titular robot finds a Rubik's Cube in the wastes of the city. When he shows it to EVE, she solves it rather quickly.
- Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian: A form of this occurs where Larry tricks Kahmunrah by telling him he's missing "the Cube of Rubik". Kahmunrah demands to be given this "artifact", allowing Larry to lure him to a box holding a giant octopus.
- A 1632 Side story concerns a Masque Composed by Ben Johnson for and with those exiled from the English Court. The Masque opens with the author contemplating a Rubik's Cube.
- In the adventure game Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge, Roger Wilco comes face-to-face with a fierce Labion Terror Beast, and the only way to save him is have him throw a "Cubix Rube" at the monster, whose efforts to try and solve it distract the beast enough for Roger to get past.
- Stellaris: One of the anomalies you can discover is a box, its description being obviously a Rubik's cube. You can task your scientist to solve it, which he may eventually do, granting you the treasure inside... or he may get frustrated and saw it open with a laser cutter, in which event you gain nothing.
- In Zeno Clash, the Golem has a Rubik's cube that he fiddles with throughout the game, finally solving it at the end. In the sequel, it's revealed that there are more Golems, each with their own favorite puzzle. The presence of these real-world toys is an early indicator that the setting was Earth All Along.
- In the Polder Animation short film Scrambled, a living Rubik's cube encourages a woman to solve it.
- In an odd variation, on Gilligan's Planet (a sequel to the animated adaptation of Gilligan's Island) they find a "mysterious cube" on the planet. The Professor notices that if you get one side all one color, it sends off a ray that enlarges. A side of a different color emits a reducing ray. So, a Rubik's Cube that DOES something when solved.