How Many Sudoku Puzzles are There?
If you love doing Sudoku puzzles, you’ve probably noticed how there seems to be an endless number of Sudoku combinations on all difficulty levels, keeping you engaged and preventing you from figuring out a pattern. And there’s a reason why the Sudoku number combinations are so diverse and unique.
Truthfully, you could spend multiple lifetimes going through the number of possible Sudoku puzzles that can be generated and not even get close to running into a combination for a second time.
But how many Sudoku puzzles are there? And how did the game develop to have so many different combinations? Let’s explore what Sudoku is, how it came to be, the types of Sudoku puzzles, and answer the question of how many possible Sudoku puzzles you could encounter.
What is Sudoku?
Sudoku, also known as Su Doku, is a very popular numbers game with a rich history. In its most basic form, Sudoku consists of a 9x9 grid, with numbers randomly dispersed to fill some of the fields. The number of fields that are filled initially depends on the difficulty level since the more information is available initially, the easier it is to figure out what the remaining numbers in the Sudoku puzzle should be.
The game’s objective is to fill out each grid so that the numbers one through nine are used in each one. At the same time, those numbers must also be featured only once in the rows and columns.
Even though the game involves numbers, the only calculation you need to make is to spot the patterns of which numbers have already been used and strategize where the missing numbers might fit. By starting with the grids that are already more filled out, you can slowly begin to put together a logical sequence of numbers that align together in all three ways.
The key to the game is not to have any numbers repeating where they shouldn’t. And one of the most common mistakes beginners make is missing one or two numbers that are repeated, which throws off their entire sequence of numbers. You might not realize this until the very end of the game.
History of Sudoku
Before we answer the question, “how many possible Sudoku puzzles are there?” it’s a good idea to dig deeper into the game’s history. The truth is that Sudoku has a fairly recent but very fascinating history, becoming one of the most recognized games around the globe in a matter of decades.
Even though it may seem like a game that’s been around for centuries, you may be surprised to know that Sudoku was actually invented in 1979. Some variations of a similar game circulated in French newspapers back in the 19th century, but the puzzle first appeared in puzzle books in 1979 and was called Number Place. In 1986, the game was published by a Japanese puzzle company called Nikoli, which gave it the name Sudoku (meaning single number).
Then, the game was picked up by newspapers across the United States, the United Kingdom, and other places worldwide, propelling it to a globally-recognized status. With the rise of digital games, Sudoku became accessible to millions more, and now multiple game variations exist for people to enjoy based on their skill level and preferences.
Types of Sudoku Puzzles
Sudoku games can vary in numerous ways. On the one hand, you can choose from different difficulty levels, starting from beginner games that are manageable even for someone with no prior experience to expert-level games that are incredibly challenging and require a lot of experience to tackle. You can experiment with various challenge levels to see how much you’ve progressed in your abilities.
At the same time, some Sudoku game types put an exciting spin on the game itself and challenge you to discover patterns in new and surprising ways.
To help you familiarize yourself with the seemingly endless number of possible Sudoku combinations and types, let’s look at some of the Sudoku puzzles you should know.
The most common type of Sudoku you are likely to encounter is the numbers Sudoku. It’s the original version introduced in 1979 and remains the option most opt for when they want a good mental challenge.
As mentioned before, this type of Sudoku game requires players to arrange sets of numbers from one to nine in grids, as well as in columns and rows. Since numbers are a familiar and easily recognizable symbol, they make it easier to spot patterns and notice what numbers are missing, which makes the original Sudoku type a great option to consider for beginners.
When figuring out how many Sudoku puzzles are there, you will find that the variations on the original Sudoku can make the number virtually infinite. A great example of the creative ways that Sudoku can be reimagined is the Color Sudoku, which uses colors instead of numbers to create a more visually appealing way of solving the same puzzle.
Each square must have a specific color in this type of puzzle. Your goal is to arrange the nine different colors in grids, rows, and columns so that each contains the correct nine-color sequence without any color repeating more than once.
If you have an easier time recognizing letter symbols instead of numerals, you may find the letter version of Sudoku more enjoyable. Even though the principle is the same, having nine letters instead of numbers can help some spot the patterns more effectively, allowing them to take on more challenging Sudoku games and solve the puzzles faster.
What’s more, some Letter Sudoku games have a twist, requiring you to fill specific fields with a predesignated letter and forcing you to work around the limitation to find a viable solution.
A more recent Sudoku puzzle type is the image or symbol Sudoku, which utilizes various visuals (usually following a theme). You need to group just as you would numbers, letters, or colors.
As with any Sudoku game, you start with the typical 9x9 grid of spaces, some already filled with symbols. After analyzing and identifying the nine available symbols, you can start looking for opportunities to fill them in, gradually completing the entire puzzle while ensuring that each grid, column, and row contains each symbol only once.
Samurai Sudoku is a type of game that takes the initial premise of Sudoku and adds an interesting twist to the way it is solved.
You start with the 9x9 grid as usual, but instead of being filled with individual numbers, each grid is filled with nine smaller grids of 9x9 numbers. This means you’re effectively solving multiple Sudoku puzzles simultaneously while ensuring they match up.
Not all Sudoku variations rely on different symbols to provide a fresh playing experience. Some, such as the Jigsaw Sudoku puzzle, actually shift the entire game structure, providing you with a new type of challenge once you want a break from the regular Sudoku you are used to.
In the Jigsaw Sudoku puzzle, you have to fill in irregular-shaped jigsaw grids, which adds a new layer of difficulty and prevents you from relying on a familiar structure to solve the puzzle easier. Some Jigsaw puzzle variations will even fill out the numbers you put in for you, which makes your goal not as much filling out the number but more figuring out how they should be divided into grids.
Just as there are different Sudoku game types, there are also different Sudoku grids, which can also play into the number of Sudoku possible combinations.
There are a few common grid variants besides the original 9x9 grid, providing a different type of challenge and requiring the player to develop new methods of perceiving the board and its options.
The most popular alternative grid variants are 4x4, 6x6, and 16x16, but other variants such as 8x8 and many others are also used and can be incredibly fun. Somewhat counter-intuitively, smaller grid sizes can be much more challenging, as they offer fewer initial starting points and thus can be harder to figure out for less experienced players.
How Many Sudoku Combinations are There?
As you can probably guess by now, there’s virtually no risk of you ever running out of new Sudoku combinations to try out. But how many Sudoku puzzles are out there?
Well, according to some estimates, there are as many as 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960 unique possible Sudoku grids . But when you consider the numerous variations discussed in the previous sections, it becomes clear that the number could be much higher.
Even if every person on earth spent their entire day solving Sudoku puzzles, it would take millions of years for all of humanity to go through the available combinations and find one that is repeated.
Discover the Wonderful World of Sudoku with Arkadium
Sudoku is one of the most fascinating and engaging games you can play today. There is a reason why so many people make the game part of their daily routine. It not only stimulates your mind but is also very fun and rewarding once you really get into it. The game provides endless ways to challenge yourself and spot patterns that allow you to solve the puzzles according to the rules. It also helps people feel like they’ve gained a sense of mastery, especially after they’ve put a lot of time, energy, and effort into the game.
At Arkadium, you will find a range of Sudoku games designed for various skill levels and preferences. Start playing right now