It’s rather popular these days to claim that mobile games are terrible. If you believe the standard arguments, they’re all shallow copies of each other, designed purely to rape your wallet and suck in the unwary casual gamer who isn’t “hardcore” enough to know any better.
Don’t listen to those people. While it’s true that there’s plenty of rubbish to be found on mobile platforms, the same can be said for any gaming platform. The Playstation 2 arguably enjoyed one of the greatest gaming libraries of any console in history, yet it was also home to plenty of crap. Mobile platforms are no different.
Still don’t believe me? Cast your eye over the following…
Mega Dead Pixel
Mega Dead Pixel is evidence that games don’t have to be complex in order to be fun or challenging. With some lovely retro visuals and an insanely catchy chiptune soundtrack, Mega Dead Pixel is a game that you’ll pick up for 30 seconds and still find yourself playing an hour later.
While the goal is simplicity itself – fall as far as you can and destroy or brush up against shapes along the way – there is depth to be found by those who go looking for it. Different hats provide different bonuses and penalties, while different combinations of shapes provide additional score multipliers. Sure, there are in-app purchases on offer, but they’re neither necessary to make progress or obnoxious about demanding you get your wallet out of your trousers.
Intelligent, original and thought-provoking, Device 6 maps out its dystopian world with little more than words and the occasional image. It’s difficult to explain exactly how Device 6 plays, but in simple terms, it’s a cross between a choose-your-own-adventure story and a visual novel. With minimalist visuals and some truly head-scratching puzzles, Device 6 is a game that you can point to when someone tries to argue that mobile games lack depth or originality.
Like Mega Dead Pixel, Vlambeer’s take on weaponized fishing is simple in concept and execution, yet insanely addictive. Ridiculous Fishing challenges you to cast your line into the ocean and, using motion controls, see how far down you can get your hook before it catches on a fish. The deeper you get, the rarer the species you’ll encounter. When you do finally hook something, your line starts its ascent back to the surface and you need to make sure that you grab as many fish as you can along the way, before they’re finally thrown up into the air where you can destroy them with increasingly devastating ordnance. You start out using just a pistol to annihilate your haul, but before long you’ll have earned enough money to upgrade to an Uzi, a minigun and even a devastating laser. With a number of secrets to find, plenty of upgrades to unlock and a gorgeous aesthetic, Ridiculous Fishing may be simple, but it’s also addictive and incredibly good fun.
Ticket to Ride
Digital versions of popular board games are all the rage on mobile devices, and with good reason – it’s far simpler to find and play against opponents over the internet than it is to get a bunch of friends around and spend 45 minutes setting up the game. Ticket to Ride is an example of a popular game that has made the transition to mobile devices intact. It sounds boring on paper – it’s your goal to lay down trains in order to connect two destinations to each other in an unbroken line. But some clever board design ensures that if you want to start winning games with any degree of regularity, you need to think tactically. Do you think you know which destination your opponent is going for? Head them off by blocking their route. Have you got a number of destinations near to each other? See if you can link them all at once and gain the bonus for having the longest unbroken line at the end of the game.
As well as the standard board, you can also purchase a number of additional layouts – each of which bring additional game mechanics into play. With both local and online play as well as some convincing AI, Ticket to Ride is a board game that you’ll keep going back to again and again.
Ok, so it’s not technically a mobile game; it’s a port of a game that was originally released on the DS. But Ghost Trick is still worth your time, and the transition to mobile devices hasn’t harmed it in any way. With a witty script, some attractive pixel art and puzzles which challenge your without ever becoming frustrating, Ghost Trick is an excellent way to pass the time. Essentially, it’s your goal to manipulate objects in a certain sequence to ensure that events unfold how you want them to. This could be by dropping an object on the head of a would-be assassin about to murder someone, or helping someone escape from captivity by opening and closing doors to hide them from the sight-line of patrolling guards. Trust us, it’s more fun than it sounds.
With endearing characters and a silly, yet engaging story, Ghost Trick has managed to pick up a lot of fans. The first chapter of the game is free, with additional chunks unlocked via small cash transactions. It’s also quite a long game as well (at least for a mobile title), so you get plenty of gameplay for your money.
XCom: Enemy Unknown
Another game that has made the transition from other formats largely intact, XCom is quite possibly the deepest, most strategic offering you can find on mobile devices. Some smart reworking of the controls for touch-screens means that the game remains simple to play, yet incredibly difficult to master. You’ll train up your squad, outfitting them with new gear and training them up so they specialize in certain roles. Meanwhile, you need to develop your base, conduct research on the various aliens you kill and try desperately to protect the globe from alien invasion.
Despite the move to smaller devices, amazingly nothing has been lost in the transition. Everything you remember from the console and PC versions has made it over intact, meaning that XCom can easily end up devouring hundreds of hours of your life. And while the price tag is on the high side in a market dominated by $0.99 offerings, XCom certainly justifies the cost.
Rayman Fiesta Run
Rayman Jungle Run was an excellent game, but Rayman Fiesta Run is even better. Employing the same artwork as its bigger console brethren, Rayman Origins, Fiesta Run is never less than stunning to look. While the gameplay mechanics are relatively simple – tap to jump, hold to hover, etc. – and your character runs automatically, it’s incredibly addictive and will suck up plenty of your time. You’ll soon find yourself replaying levels time and time again in order to find the perfect route through a level, or to shave just a few more milliseconds from your record time.
With dozens of levels and loads of extras to unlock, Rayman Fiesta Run is more than worth the pittance that Ubisoft ask for it.
A port of the Ouya original, Knightmare Tower, like so many others on this list, manages to be incredibly simple yet fiendishly addictive.
After being launched into the air by a rocket, you need to dive-bomb onto the heads of your enemies in order to maintain your momentum and ascend to the top of the tower. Along the way you’ll earn money which can be spent on new equipment to increase your chances, and save a number of different princesses – each of which unlocks a new ability after being rescued.
And you’ll need those abilities, because at the very top of the tower is an insanely challenging boss fight that suddenly sees the game transformed into something more akin to a bullet-hell shooter.
Steve Jackson’s Sorcery!
The 4-part Sorcery series was one of the best iterations of the formula he perfected, and now the first two chapters of the story are available on iOS with a modern makeover. Sporting a simple yet attractive artstyle, some subtle sound effects and music, and a few additions in the form of a new spellcasting system, Sorcery! takes the classic story and updates it for the iOS generation.
Despite its age, the prose has lost none of its charm and the result is an experience that manages to be both nostalgic while feeling entirely modern.
At once both haunting and beautiful, Simogo’s fantastic Year Walk is an easy contender for the games-are-art debate. Combining folklore with some interesting puzzles, and clever integration with a companion app that fleshes out the background of the story, Year Walk is something that captivates from beginning to end. It’s hard to explain exactly what makes it such an enticing prospect – it’s a game that truly has to be experienced in order to be understood. But if you want something that you can point to in rebuttal the next time someone tries to tell you mobile games are vapid, disposable money-grabbing exercises, you can’t do much better.
So there you have it, 10 iOS games which don’t suck. There’s plenty more we could have chosen, so we may well do another batch at some point in the near future. Do you agree with our choices here? Is there something we chose which you don’t like? Or is there something you’ve enjoyed, which you’d like to see featured in a follow-up? Let us know.