If you want a one-stop shop where you can find epic games, innovative indies, casual time-wasters, and ports of classic games, a smartphone is all you need. The mobile gaming space might not get the latest Call of Duty, but it gets just about everything else. So it’s time to take a look at some of the most interesting things happening in that space right now. Here are some of the must-play mobile games you might have missed.
Who would’ve thought a dating app could contribute an innovative new way to play a game? That’s what happened with the makers of Reigns, a game that’s based on the left-right swiping mechanic from Tinder. In Reigns, you’re the king of the realm, which means you have to deal with all the issues that come up in your kingdom. To that end, your advisers approach you with situations, and you have to decide how to respond.
For instance, when a nearby nation begins amassing a large army, you can swipe left to send troops or swipe right to ignore it. As in life, your decisions have consequences, often unintended ones. Reigns starts off like the regular old king simulator you might expect, but soon it veers deep into strange territory. To say more would be to spoil an incredible game you should play for yourself.
2. Desert Golfing
Sometimes you just need to find your Zen place. When that happens, you don’t want to play an action game or anything that might raise your blood pressure. You want to relax. When that mood hits, Desert Golfing is the game for you.
It’s a low-key golfing game that asks nothing of you but to hit a ball into a hole. To do that, you simply slide your finger back and release it, just like launching a bird in Angry Birds. There’s no par listed for the holes. There’s no way to fail a level. You just keep trying until you sink the ball in the hole.
The game doesn’t even end. It just keeps creating randomized levels forever, as the environment gradually changes color. It doesn’t sound thrilling, but it’s oddly compelling. Who needs thrills, anyway?
3. Final Fantasy IX
While you’ve probably heard of the Final Fantasy series, you might not have heard that one of its best installments is out on mobile. And even if you have, you might not have heard that it’s the definitive version of the game.
Role-playing games don’t get much more epic than Final Fantasy IX, a game that’s set in a war-torn world and explores themes like identity, justice, and what happens when everything you think you know turns out to be a lie. It has depth galore, thanks to its wealth of items and abilities you can craft and acquire. It has swashbuckling adventures, airships, destroyed cities, and just about everything you’d want in an epic tale.
Not only does this port contain everything in the original game (that’s four PlayStation discs’ worth of content), but it also has some quality-of-life additions, like a high-speed mode and the ability to skip random battles entirely. If you like this game, you can also check out the many other Final Fantasy games on mobile.
What do you get when you cross a dungeon crawler with Fruit Ninja? You get Severed, a game that takes an old genre and spices it up with a fun (and deceptively deep) slashing mechanic. You swipe the screen to slash at enemies, but you’re usually surrounded by various foes. That means you have to keep an eye on each enemy’s timer to know when you should turn your attention to the others. The result is kind of like a rhythmic fighting puzzle game that’s extremely satisfying if you can get in the groove.
In case you haven’t experienced the terror of interstellar travel before, FTL will get you up to speed on the dozens of things you need to worry about. In this iPad game, you’re in charge of all the systems on your ship, including oxygen, fuel, weapons, shields, and personnel.
As you travel through space, you’ll come upon combative aliens who want nothing more than to exterminate you. Any encounter could be your last, so it’s up to you to identify their weaknesses, formulate a plan of action, and carry it out — hopefully before they wreck your ship, stranding you in space. The game is also available on PC, but it works so much better on the iPad’s touchscreen.
6. Rodeo Stampede: Sky Zoo Safari
The most casual-friendly game on this list, Rodeo Stampede has appealing blocky graphics and easy-to-understand gameplay. Basically, safari animals are running down a valley, and your job is to ride them while avoiding obstacles. But as you ride, they get angry, so it often behooves you to jump from animal to animal. It might not sound like much, but the game finds exactly the right groove of being easy to play but difficult to master. Throw in a distance leaderboard and an animal collection , and you’re looking at one of the most addictive games around.
7. SteamWorld Heist
In SteamWorld Heist, you play as Captain Piper, a man tasked with using a team of robots to scavenge a ruined world. If you’ve played other turn-based strategy games like XCOM or Fire Emblem, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect here. You move your team through the world, wiping out enemies and using points you earn to improve your troops between battles. The only difference is that SteamWorld Heist takes place from a side-scrolling perspective, making it feel fresh. And thanks to the turn-based gameplay, it’s also a great fit for mobile.