Mobile gaming is widely dismissed by most gamers. Despite having the largest audience, mobile games tend to have much less effort, time, and money put into them than most games on PC and consoles. Mobile games have garnered the reputation of being cheap, riddled with ads, and pay-to-win. While none of these criticisms are necessarily untrue, they don’t apply to every game.
Mobile games are of course played on mobile devices. The medium of a cell phone brings a lot of restraints for games. Phones are generally small, so every mobile game needs to have large and obvious things so they can be seen. The issue of a small screen is made even worse by the fact that a portion of the screen will be covered by the players’ fingers when they control games with their touch screens. Controls also need to be simple. With no dedicated buttons on a smartphone, developers need to be clever with their controls. Making a virtual joystick or button means less screen space and will always be less comfortable than a controller, so motions like tapping and sliding can go a long way to help user interface. Most importantly of all, mobile games need to be fun to play for a short amount of time on the go. People are rarely going to play mobile games for a significant period of time, and will almost never have their volume on.
In the wake of people making memes about awful ads for mobile games, I want to highlight some gems of mobile games that are incredibly fun and clearly have a ton of passion put into them. Here are my personal favorite top 10 mobile games to play that aren’t Mafia City.
Pocket Mine 2 (Free)
Pocket Mine 2 is a small game about digging. You start at the top of the screen and dig towards the bottom as far as you can to avoid the camera panning down until the game ends once your character is pushed off-screen. There are thousands of endless runner games like this for your phone, but Pocket Mine 2 is my personal favorite. The gameplay is fun and simple and never lasts longer than 5 minutes. Digging is intuitive and satisfying, and with a dozen power-ups never gets monotonous. You can also pause at any time and can resume right where you left off hours or even days later.
The game has an in-depth upgrade system, and each run lets you mulligan cards that give you abilities and buffs to use in the mine. Pocket Mine 2 has a huge amount of content and regularly adds more so that you never run out of stuff to do. You have the option to pay to progress faster, but it’s hidden so that you never feel pressured to spend any money.
Honkai Impact 3rd (Free)
Honkai Impact 3rd is your stereotypical anime gacha game but has some truly fantastic gameplay that makes it stand out. The graphics, controls, and story are all exceptional for a mobile game and rival many console games. There is a long campaign mode with an exciting story full of fleshed out characters with personalities and motivations for you to dig into.
Honkai Impact 3rd has regular updates full of new levels, cosmetics, and characters to play. You will need to spend money or play for a long time to get some of the rarest characters, but you can play it without spending a penny and still get a fantastic experience at a quality rivaling console games.
Space Team (Free)
Space Team is quite an odd game and is probably unlike anything you’ve seen before. You play the game with other people nearby who also have the game downloaded on their phone. Each player is then given a bunch of knobs, switches, and other doodads with instructions telling them how to use them. The catch is that the instructions each player gets are for another player.
Every time I play this game my friends and I quickly devolve from a calm team of space pilots to a bunch of screaming idiots desperately yelling out instructions hoping someone will hear them. Each player needs to both give their instructions to their teammates and follow others’ instructions. As the game progresses, players’ ships will fall apart, get covered in goo, and instructions will make less and less sense. Space Team delivers an intense environment full of friends shouting gibberish at each other that you never see anywhere else.
Meteorfall is a rogue-like deck building game that simply requires you to swipe left or right on cards, similarly to Tinder. Rather than deciding whether or not you want to date someone though, you decide whether or not you want to play a card. Amazingly the Meteorfall has a lot of depth beneath its simple controls. The gameplay is fast, the huge amount of cards, monsters, and events is diverse, and the art is adorable.
Unfortunately, Meteorfall is not free. You will need to pay $3 to buy it. However, by having a cost the game has no ads, free updates, and will always be playable without an internet connection. The price is a little steep for a mobile game, but you will certainly be satisfied with the dozens of hours of content Meteorfall provides.
There are dozens of collectible card games on the market. Many are very well polished and fun to play, however, Shadowverse is my personal favorite. Shadowverse boasts a wide variety of cards, deep and strategic turn-based multiplayer, and millions of possible decks to build. Where Shadowverse shines above the rest is through its incredible art and generosity.
The card arts in the game are beautiful. Even common cards look absolutely gorgeous and rival legendary cards in other games.
Many CCGs force players to spend money or grind to get even a few competitive decks, but Shadowverse showers the player in new cards. After only a week I was able to build top tier decks and play on the competitive ladder. Getting new character skins, card arts, and animated copies of cards will require you to spend real money. However, these are cosmetic only and grant no gameplay advantages. As a side bonus Shadowverse has regular tie-ins with popular anime for all my fellow weebs out there.
Battleheart: Legacy ($4.99)
Battleheart: Legacy takes the 3rd person ARPG we all know and love from Diablo and beautifully brings it to mobile devices. The controls are amazing, the UI is clear and unobtrusive, and the characters pop out against the environment. The gameplay is fast-paced and exciting, and thanks to clear visual cues never confusing. There are dozens of spells and abilities to choose from, and you can mix and match them to make your character unique.
Battleheart: Legacy costs a hefty $5, but the price is well worth your money. The game contains a long story in which you can see your character grow through skill trees and loot you will collect. You are free to make new characters to try different classes and there’s even a fun end-game arena to sink your teeth into.
Swordigo is a 2d action platforming game fans of the genre know as a Metroidvania. This means that Swordigo has a massive maze-like map with tons of monsters to kill and hidden treasure to collect. The story is a simple one about a young boy who takes up a sword to save a princess, but there are lots of platforms to jump past and monsters to slay in order to get to her. Swordigo is very linear, but the experience is full of upgrades to find and secrets to unlock. Combat is relatively simple but still manages to stay engaging all the way until you read the end of the game.
Swordigo is a solid entry in the Metroidvania genre that is well worth the time it takes to play it. This remarkably high-quality game is completely free, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
Dream Quest ($9.99)
Dreamquest certainly isn’t for everyone. The game is completely drawn in Microsoft Paint, monsters will destroy you with no warning, and it takes trial and error to figure out what many things do. Those brave enough to sink their teeth into Dreamquest, however, will find one of the deepest deckbuilding games on the market with an astronomical amount of things to learn. The game is a rogue-like, which means each playthrough is different than the one before it and no two runs will ever be the same. With 13 classes that all play significantly different from one another and dozens of monsters that will kill you in different ways, Dreamquest has tons to discover, learn, and master.
Dreamquest is the most expensive game on this list, but well worth it for those who are interested. Dreamquest provides hundreds of hours of content that is unlike anything before it. Peter Whalen, the maker of the game, was later hired by Blizzard to work on Hearthstone’s single-player adventure mode.
Downwell is an action platformer in which you will try to fall down as far as you can before you die. The levels are generated at random which provides a new challenge every time you press play. The player is equipped with gunboots that will shoot downwards when you jump and reload when you land. The game gives bonuses for killing enemies without touching the ground, collecting gems, and playing quickly. The controls are simple, but with only a left, right, and jump button Downwell provides some of the most adrenaline-fueled gameplay you can find on a phone.
Downwell is a hard game to pitch. It has simple gameplay, simple art design and costs three dollars to boot. However, Downwell’s gameplay will have you keep jumping back into the well over and over again. Downwell has intense heart-pumping action that can be so hard to find in singleplayer games. Downwell is an absolute must-buy for any hardcore gamers out there.
Vainglory isn’t just my favorite mobile game, it fights for the title of being my favorite game of all time. Vainglory is a competitive multiplayer MOBA that has depth and skill required to master on par with its PC and console counterparts. The graphics are stunningly beautiful, the controls are fluid, and the gameplay is the best thing I’ve ever played. No matter how much you play this game, you will always have room to improve. Rather than trying to make virtual controllers like many mobile MOBAs, Vainglory took advantage of the touchscreen and made the best controls I have ever used.
Vainglory is free-to-play but has many optional skins you can pay for. You may also pay money to get characters faster than normal, but each hero is balanced and fun to use so that you will be content with the characters you have. The game is constantly being worked on with weekly balance updates, regular new characters and skins, and even an active esports scene. Vainglory can be played for hundreds of hours and still feel fresh every game. I highly recommend Vainglory to everyone looking for their new favorite game.
Did we miss your favorite mobile game? What would have liked to have seen on this list? Let us know in the comments and, in the meantime, enjoy this thirty five minute compilation of Mafia City ads.