Mobile games are fantastic. Over the years the mobile gaming industry has grown to the point where it has both the technology and the base market to provide a wonderful mix of titles. Whether you like light, time filler experiences or fully fledged, engrossing titles, there’s bound to be something for you!
In this series I aim to provide you with a list detailing some of my favourite mobile games. Whether they are short experiences that stand out or longer ones that provide ongoing replay value, I’ll be including a range of titles I enjoy here. As my “short list” includes over 30 titles I will be spliting this article into four segments. They won’t be ranked based on preference, as I believe that would be unfair;you can’t compare a light puzzle game with something like a simulation racer. For the final article, I will be sharing my favourite games I was unable to categorise into a particular genre – and also the ones that came close but didn’t quite make the cut.
What constitutes a “good” or “bad” game anyway? I’ve been playing mobile games a long time on all three major platforms (Android, iOS, and Windows). When determining whether a game is “good” there are a few things I take into consideration. Click “Show spoiler” below for details.
Now that is out of the way, let’s get started!
by Captain Games
iOS : $2.99 | ANDROID : $2.11
Games don’t get any simpler than Desert Golfing. With a minimalistic art style, no menu, no HUD, and no instructions, you’d think the enjoyment would wear thin fast. I’m not sure why, but this has never been the case for me. There’s something incredibly soothing about playing a game that requires so little from you – drag your finger on the screen to determine the angle and velocity of your hit, then try to get the ball in the hole – that’s it. If you succeed, the screen pans right to reveal the next hole; if not, you just try again. You are given a running total at the top of the screen; however, a lack of in game leaderboards or goals means it’s really just there for your interest. Even if there were leaderboards they would be a pretty useless measure, as holes are randomly generated. The layouts vary from ridiculously easy to incredibly tricky, but are never impossible enough that the game feels frustrating or unfair.
It’s hard to pinpoint just what makes this game so enjoyable – is it the well-implemented physics? The minamilistic art? The joy when, at hole 513, the barren landscape presents you with a cactus? Or is it just that the entire package makes for a relaxing, enjoyable experience? Whatever it is, Desert Golfing is well worth your time and money.
by Bandai Namco Entertainment
iOS : N/A | ANDROID : $2.11 | WINDOWS : $3.69
NOTE: This game is no longer available on the iTunes store. I’m not sure why, but it was only $2.11 for Android so I didn’t mind rebuying it.
Flight Control is another example of a game that executes a simple mechanic perfectly to ensure an engaging and well rounded experience. The concept is simple; direct aircraft to their designated landing zones by drawing a flight path on screen. Just drag your finger from an aircraft to a destination and the aircraft will follow that path without fail… even if that path leads it into another plane! While the concept is simple it’s the attention to detail that elevates Flight Control from a simple fun/addictive game to one that has a secure place on this essential games list. Using aids like coloured visual cues to inform you of the correct landing zone (or changing an aircraft to white when they are safely en route) and audible proximity warnings to notify of an impending crash, Flight Control feels committed to ensuring that players receive a fair experience. You’ll never feel that you’ve lost a game due to poor controls or missing an important piece of information – it’s always because the game just escalated to a point that was too hard.
Flight Control comes loaded with achievements that are well designed to help players experience all the game has to offer. It also comes with a number of different airfields, each with their own unique game changing conditions, to help provide variety if the default map feels like it’s growing stale. With no in game purchases, Flight Control is very much a “what you see is what you get” purchase and an absolute essential title. If you grab a copy, let me know your top scores in the comments below – My Android copy is brand new and I’m keen for a challenge!
Angry Birds Epic
iOS : Free | ANDROID : Free | WINDOWS : Free
Angry Birds Epic blends simplistic controls with light RPG mechanics to create a title that’s easy and fun to play, yet still “meaty” enough to provide an extensive experience. Combat focused, you’ll not spend time traversing a map, speaking to villagers, or picking up side quests – instead you’ll travel along a linear Super Mario World-style map, engaging in a series of turn-based battles, with birds packing a whopping three moves each. Every bird has its own unique set of moves, all of which are activated by simply tapping or dragging the required bird to its target. This simple interface masks a rather complex back-end, with a mix of equipment, enemy types, equipment crafting, and game modes giving players a lot more than they may first realise.
Navigation outside combat can be a little frustrating, as menus are somewhat obtuse – using interactive images in lieu of icons or words to navigate around. That said, the entire experience has a very “Angry Birds feel”, which should be familiar for those who have played other games in the series. While micro transactions are never forced, the game does get quite difficult a couple of hours in. At this point, players can choose to pay to carry on after losing a fight or spend a bit of time learning the crafting system, gathering items, and strengthening their team.
Angry Birds Epic is a magnificent looking game – the animations are perfect and it encompasses the unique “look and feel” that Rovio has become renowned for. With a wealth of additional content and account linking to share progress across devices, this is a game well worth checking out.
iOS : Free-ish | ANDROID : Free-ish
Tiny Thief is a “point-and-click” puzzle adventure game unlike many you may have played. I say this because it’s focused less on the story and mostly on delivering intriguing puzzles. Touch screen controls are utilised perfectly to make the game easy to navigate, while clever puzzle design means that most solutions are logical and fun to figure out. The visuals and animated interactions are “cute” and so full of charm it’s hard not to become enamoured. This shouldn’t lull you into thinking this is a game for children, however. Puzzles aren’t particularly complex; however, they’re no cakewalk either.
The reason I listed the game’s price as “free-ish” is because of the way micro transactions are used. The game is divided into six worlds – each of which contains five levels. You can download the game for free; however, this only gives you the first world – which is more of a tutorial than anything else (although it does give a very good impression of what the other levels are like). Each world feels distinct from the rest with its own unique goals and secrets to discover. All in all, most levels boil down to the same general tasks; however, the variety in method and evolving arching story make for an extremely entertaining and worthwhile experience. Tiny Thief is a game I enjoy over and over again – even after completing it numerous times, I find myself going back to play again.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
This section is for games that I feel should have made my list, but for various reasons were lacking that “something extra” to make them stand out.
MotionX Poker Quest
MotionX Poker Quest is still probably my favourite mobile dice game. So why isn’t it on the list? That’s easy – MotionX decided to concentrate on other applications and drop out of gaming, and removed it from the store. Poker Quest was unique in that it offered an enjoyable game, with a beautiful interface, loads of achievements, objective-based rewards, and a single-player campaign. I realise this is nothing new in today’s market, but back then it was the first game I played to offer such a complete package without ads or in-game purchases. The attention to detail was amazing – from the shadows the dice cast down to the way you could shake your phone to roll – it felt and played wonderfully! The game was essentially a dice-based set builder, with players making the best combo they could from three rolls. Scoring was based on Poker hands, and matches were decided on a best-of-three-games system.
I still love this game. Others have been released that replicate components, but none have the same “feel” or attention to detail as this original.
iOS : Free | ANDROID : Free
Here it is! You were wondering when I was going to list a tile-matching game weren’t you? I’m not in general a fan of tile-matching games, as I always find they quickly become repetitive – only gaining longevity from social interaction and/or carrot/stick type incentives. Occasionally, some come along that break the mould – Puzzle Quest and Gems of War spring to mind, but for the most part they’re all very similar. Cavemania is one such game that takes this mechanic and surrounds it with a fun game.
Most levels require you to defeat a certain number of opponents. This is achieved by simply positioning warriors beside an enemy and then allowing them to auto attack each turn. Rounds are progressed by matching similarly styled “tiles” on the board. As matches are made, you gather the associated resources (food, wood, stone, etc.), which may then be spent to summon additional tribe members or to construct buildings. Tribe members each come with their own perks, which can be used to expedite progress – a warrior, for example, can attack multiple enemies at once, while villagers are able to clear hazards or collect bulk resources in a single shot. Buildings offer similar perks and you must discern the best combination to beat each level.
So why isn’t this glorious game on the list? That’s dead easy – intrusive micro transactions. Players are given a number of turns with which to complete objectives, which coupled with a poor random board generator means that strategy doesn’t play as strong a part as it should. I’ve reached a point where, without purchasing additional turns or boosters, there’s almost no way I can win a level in the number of turns allocated! And I’m only at level 21 out of around 130! Sure these boosters can be purchased with in-game gold, but it makes success feel cheap and means I need to grind for gold in order to have a chance at the higher levels – and this, in my opinion, makes for a poor experience.
iOS : Free | ANDROID : Free
Welcome to a world of extortionate micro-transactions! Ok, it’s not so bad, but it’s hard not to mention micro transactions when upon opening the game for the first time you’re presented with an advertisement for a free set of dice skins with every purchase of a $99 bonus roll pack. These bonus rolls really push the “acceptable monetization” boundary for me. If you’re familiar with Yahtzee, you’ll know that you are given three rolls with which to make the best scoring hand you can. In the digital version, players are given one free roll per game – meaning, for one round, you could actually have four rolls instead of three. My issue with Yahtzee stems from the fact that players can purchase bonus rolls. They’re still restricted to a maximum of four rolls per turn, but that does mean that Yahtzee is geared to provide a competitive advantage to those who pay.
If you can make it past all the advertising and prompting, then Yahtzee is actually a really well-designed and fun game. It’s all done in a “pass & play” fashion, meaning you don’t have to stare at your screen waiting your turn – just wait for a notification to pop. If you don’t have anyone to play with (or don’t want to synch with social media), you can choose to be randomly allocated an opponent or play against the game’s AI (once per 24-hour period). Outside versus matches, Yahtzee offers dice towers (daily challenges against themed AI), global tournaments, an extensive achievement system, and fantastic statistics for almost everything you can do in the game. All in all, it’s a great game, but if you play, be prepared for micro transaction prompts, potential “pay for advantage”, and mountains of in-game advertising.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on my suggestions and would be keen to try out any suggestions you may have. Did I miss any of your favourite strategy, tower defence or runner games? Let me know in the comments below, or on the forums. Just because I didn’t mention it doesn’t mean it didn’t make my top list; maybe I just haven’t played it yet…