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Sudoku vs. Kakuro: 14 Things To Consider (Differences, Similarities,…)

Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Classic large grid kakuro puzzle

Sudoku is a logic-based puzzle game that revolves around combinatory number placement, much like Kakuro. Both games are rather simple in their structure but infinitely varied with millions of possible combinations and a wide range of difficulty levels. Regardless, they are both based on simple logical principles in the context of using numbers from one to nine to fill in the blank spaces based on deductive reasoning while never repeating any within a predetermined area. 

The objective of Sudoku is to fill a nine-by-nine grid in such a way that each column, row, and quadrant contains each digit from one to nine without repetition. The puzzle always features several entries (their density and placement depend on the difficulty) to provide the player with something to start with but always has a single solution. 

Kakuro is also a puzzle game that features numbers and employs similar principles, but it varies from Sudoku in several ways. Namely, the grid is usually sixteen by sixteen in size, although this can vary. The top row and the far left column are filled with numbers to serve as clues for solving the puzzle. The goal of Kakuro is to fill the grid with numbers one to zero without repetition in a way to correspond to the clues. 

Both games are widely popular within the puzzle community and often subject to comparison. As such, we have decided to compile a list of things to consider in the Sudoku vs. Kakuro debate.

1. Origin

When it comes to (puzzle) games that originated in Japan but earned global fame, Sudoku is likely the first to come to mind. However, modern Sudoku was created in the US by Howard Garns (as Number Place) but only started gaining popularity once it was published in Japan. On the other hand, Kakuro (known then as Cross Sums) was invented in 1950 by Canadian Jacob E. Funk.

2. Structure

Both games feature a somewhat similar structure – an even grid requiring entrees in the single-digit format within one-to-nine parameters without repetition. However, this is where similarities end. The actual objectives and, therefore, techniques necessary to solve them are widely different. Suppose you’ve only had experience with one of these games. In that case, a similar structure can easily deceive you into attempting to apply the exact mechanisms. Still, you will soon learn that each game requires you to familiarize yourself with the precise way to play it.

3. Popularity

While both games enjoy a similar reputation in the puzzling community, Sudoku is undoubtedly more popular within the general population in the west. However, up until 2004, both games were relatively poorly known, and Kakuro was more popular. Still, around 2005, Western newspapers began regularly featuring Sudoku puzzles in their prints which contributed to its rise in the dominant culture. 

Kakuro remains just as popular in Japan as it doesn’t compete with Sudoku but serves as an alternative to crosswords because the Japanese language does not lend itself to crosswords very well.

4. Difficulty

Puzzle aficionados enjoy arguing over which game is more complicated. The truth is that both can be equally challenging, but the challenge is different. If you utilize only your own brainpower to find the solution, you will likely find Kakuro more challenging. However, take the time to examine and learn the algorithm that Kakuro employs. The game will become easy for you (finding the solution becomes only a matter of time), while Sudoku can remain as hard as ever. 

5. Mathematics vs. Logic

While Sudoku relies upon familiarity and raw logic, Kakuro utilizes some actual mathematics in its gameplay. Namely, Kakuro is mathematically comparable to integer programming and is NP-complete which means one may utilize and apply algorithms to find solutions. Learning algorithms to solve one Kakuro puzzle can be employed to solve them all. Kakuro puzzles feature two kinds of mathematical symmetry: minimum and maximum constraints are duals, as are the missing required values. All sum combinations can be ‘bitmapped’.

math genius in front of blackboard with mathematical problem

6. Focus

Both games require your full attention to reach the solution. For that reason, both games are excellent at training your focus and lengthening your attention span. Additionally, they can be a welcome distraction from everyday stress as they transport you to a simple world within a two-dimensional grid of numbers.

7. Stress-relief

Both Sudoku and Kakuro are engaging, entertaining, and distracting. Suppose you suffer from anxiety or deal with stress generally. In that case, these games can provide a healthy outlet for those feelings as you channel them into solving the puzzle, providing a sense of accomplishment and relief once it’s over.

8. Memory

Both games are excellent for your memory. Even if you don’t memorize the algorithms mentioned above to play Kakuro and only apply raw logic to both games, their overall structure stimulates your brain. This results in flexing its ‘memory muscle’ by continually reviewing the symbols, the rules, and the parameters while playing.

9. Confidence

Human brains love solving problems, which is why they have an in-built reward system that releases dopamine when problem-solving conditions are met. Each time you successfully finish a Sudoku or a Kakuro puzzle, you get a little bit of this temporary boost. However, both games can also have a long-term positive effect in this regard, as the more you play and the better you get at them, the greater sense of accomplishment you’ll get, which can improve your overall confidence and contentment. 

10. Analysis

Both games require healthy analytical ability from their players and help bolster it in turn. Sudoku and Kakuro both require and train their players to quickly and efficiently scan an entire grid within which they are to look for patterns and opportunities. Therefore, both Sudoku and Kakuro players eventually develop well-organized and highly methodical thinking patterns. 

11. Cognitive Skills

Both Sudoku and Kakuro engage several cognitive skills such as memory, matching, pattern recognition, and problem-solving. While Sudoku is measurably simpler in structure than Kakuro, they both engage and improve a complex web of thinking patterns all at once. 

Each game helps stimulate several different areas of your brain and forces them to focus on a ‘single’ thing, the game in front of you, thus promoting their adequate application while simultaneously nourishing their interconnections. In other words, as you focus on utilizing your resources (the grid and numbers) in the most efficient way possible, as dictated by the structure of the game, your brain does the same thing with its own information storage.

12. Unplug

Woman Answering Crossword Puzzle Game on Newspaper

While numerous Sudoku/Kakuro apps are designed for phones, most people still prefer to use newspapers or collection books to play them. If you want to engage in something fun that doesn’t require you to keep your eyes glued to a screen, both Sudoku and Kakuro may just be the solution for you. Once you figure it out and start having fun with it, you will likely prefer it to show binges and other electronic-dependent entertainment.

13. Ease of access

Both Sudoku and Kakuro represent a cheap, accessible, low-entry entertainment option that anyone can get their hands on. Their numerous benefits can help a wide range of people: Children, students, people of all ages to improve or nourish their mental health. No individual, regardless of their age and needs, wouldn’t benefit from at least some of these improvements. 

14. Fun

Both games are undeniably fun, hence their notable popularity. While ‘fun’ can be subjective, when it comes to activities like Sudoku and Kakuro, the more someone plays, the better they get at it, and the more they enjoy it. You are unlikely to meet a person who’s played enough of either of these games to get good at it without falling in love with them along the way. 

Both games may seem to be complex mathematics games, which can deter new and inexperienced players, but really both are much easier than most people think once they know what to do. If you have patience and allow yourself some time to get familiar with them, we can promise you will have found your new favorite hobby.

Last Word

There are many similarities between Sudoku and Kakuro, and almost as many differences. However, most of those differences are grid-deep and a matter of preference, while their shared qualities are things that truly matter. They are both healthy, fun games that provide some meaningful benefits to those who choose to engage with them regularly. If the specifics make you prefer one over the other, have your cup of tea, and don’t worry – there is no wrong choice.

JC Franco

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.