One of the most popular puzzles in the world is Sudoku. It is a number puzzle game composed of a grid with numbers 1-9 and is solved by filling in all the empty squares so that each row, column, and 3×3 box contains all the digits from 1-9 without repeating it in their placement of row, column, and 3×3 box.

The history of Sudoku is as fun and exciting as it was. Various countries, personalities, challenges, and development were encountered before it became the Sudoku game we know now. So let’s trace back its extraordinary historical evolution in this blog post.

What Sudoku means?

Sudoku is a famous number puzzle game based on logical number combinations. The word “Sudoku” comes from the Japanese term “Su” which means number, and “Dokushin” which means unmarried person. So, to put things together, it means numbers that are used only once. Initially, it was “ji wa dokushin ni kagiru” but it was shortened into Sudoku instead.

Sudoku is a trademark in Japan alone. So, when someone says “Sudoku”, they are pertaining to the famous number puzzle game. As the name itself implies, the general rule to play this one is to use your logical skills to place a number in a specific position without duplicating it.

Sudoku is composed of 3×3 large squares to which each square is in 9×9 parts.

Now, you need to put numbers 1-9 in those squares without reaching each number in their classified areas. These classified areas are the columns, rows, and large square.

But there’s a catch in this puzzle; there are numbers placed already in some part of it. So it is for you to analyze which numbers to be put in and what area they should be. It’s a test of patience and logic that makes you hooked up on playing.

When was Sudoku first made?

The Japanese trademark “Sudoku” was first made in Japan in 1984 by Maki Kaji. He was known as the “Godfather of Sudoku,” for he dedicated his life and puzzle company, Nikoli, to the said puzzle game. However, the actual origins of the game itself were traced back around 2000 BC.

Sudoku puzzle game has a great historical evolution that only a few know. Based on historical findings, Chinese people first used it around 2000 BC, but it wasn’t the Sudoku game that we know now. Instead, it was a different one named “Magic square.”

Magic Square is a 3×3 square where all numbers are equal to 15 when you add them horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.

They say, there’s a magical association in the magic square that’s why it was called as such. In fact, it was used in divination and some astrological readings in those times.

One main difference between magic square and Sudoku is that mathematical computation is needed in the magic square while Sudoku only needs some logic to finish it. Since then, it evolved into many forms of number puzzles that we know today. In fact, this was also used in schools to help students build their mathematical and critical thinking skills.

Another historical finding of the evolution of Sudoku is the Dürer’s Magic Square by a German artist named, Albrecht Durer. He is a well-known artist in Europe where most of his works are engravings.

In 1514, he created an artwork named, Melencolia I. In this engraving, a mythical winged human-like creature is seated with various objects around her such as the Durer’s Magic Square.

Durer’s Magic Square is somehow similar to that of the Chinese’s Magic square, it’s just that it is a 4×4 square where numbers from 1-16 are used. These numbers are equal to 34 when added up vertically, horizontally, and diagonally.

Image retrieved from:

The evolution of this number puzzle doesn’t stop here.

After several years, a mathematician named Leonhard Euler from Switzerland created the number puzzle game that is somehow similar to the Sudoku game we know now. It is called Latin squares or Graeco-Roman Squares.

Latin squares or Graeco-Roman squares is 4×4 square where letters A-D of the Roman and Greek alphabet were used arranged the way that that they will not be repeated in their column and row placement. The player’s logic will play a big role in how he/she will arrange them without repetition as shown below.

Image retrieved from Wikimedia commons

Fast forward to the 1890s.

Some newspapers in France have published a number puzzle game somehow similar to the magic square of the Chinese. The twist is that some of the numbers are already given in place and the player will be the one to put the remaining numbers to finish.

Even though that was introduced to the public, it didn’t get so much attention and faded after some time.

When Howard Garns entered the scene, it marked the birth of the modern Sudoku we know today.

Howard Garns is an American architect who has a passion for puzzles. He invented the Number Place by having a 9×9 square that is divided into 3×3 sub-squares. The rule is to place numbers 1-9 in the sub-squares provided that it won’t be repeated in their column, rows, and sub-square placement.

Number place was published by Dell Puzzle Magazine in America however, it only gained its well-deserved fame around the world after 15 years. Unfortunately, Garns wasn’t able to witness that because he died.

This Number place puzzle game gained its success in Japan when Nobuhiko Kanamoto of the Nikoli company, made some small improvements. From then on, it was renamed to Sudoku we know now.

Nikoli puzzle manufacturer was headed by Maki Kaji. He is known as the Godfather of Sudoku in Japan because of his strategies in making Sudoku popular. Unfortunately, he died on August 10, 2021, because of bile duct cancer.

The Sudoku craze didn’t stop in Japan only, in fact, its popularity was re-introduced in the Western World by Wayne Gould. Wayne Gould created a computer program to create more Sudoku puzzles for everyone to play with. From then on, the Sudoku craze became unstoppable.

Sudoku sample

Evolution of Sudoku

2000 BCChinaChineseMagic Square
1514EuropeAlbrecht DurerDürer’s Magic Square
1783SwitzerlandLeonhard EulerLatin squares/ Graeco-Roman Squares
Indiana, USA
Dell Puzzle Magazine
Howard Garns Number Place
1984JapanNobuhiko Kanamoto, Maki KajiSudoku
1997USA (The Conway Daily Sun- New Hampshire), Europe (The Times of London)Wayne GouldSudoku (computer program)

Who really invented Sudoku?

Sudoku is a trademark in Japan made by the Nikoli Company owned by Maki Kaji. So, He is the real inventor of the game if we consider its trademark rights. But if we traced back how Sudoku came about, maybe we can say a lot of names for their remarkable contributions to its development.

Based on the Sudoku timeline, many mathematicians made their contributions to its development. It’s just that, it didn’t get its well-deserved attention until it was fully refined to play with by anyone.

Originally, this number game should include some basic arithmetic skills in order to be solved but its refined version only need basic logic to finish. With that, any player of any age who understands its rule will definitely enjoy it.

Where did Sudoku originate from?

The word Sudoku is a trademark of the Nikoli Company in Japan. Therefore, if we considered its trademark rights, then it is Japan. But if we go into its historical evolution, we may say that it came from China.

Based on the Sudoku evolution timeline, it started in China and then Europe, the USA, Japan, and then back to the Western World again.

Its rise and fall of interest and popularity in public make this puzzle game really interesting aside from its fun nature when you play with it.

The main reason why Sudoku became popular is that it tickles the mind of every player without having the pressure of being an expert in Math. Also, numbers are universal. Any nationality can distinguish it. This erases any language barrier among countries making it more inclusive for more people around the world.


Sudoku encountered different challenges and development all these years. Thanks to the great minds and efforts of notable people that we can now enjoy it anytime, anywhere.

With these, it didn’t only bring up fun in finishing it but also helped the world of Mathematics to be understood by many.

What about you? Do you enjoy playing Sudoku? Share it in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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