Your smartphone is one of your most powerful gaming machines. Maybe it’s not as powerful as a console in raw graphics and processing, but in how many hours of entertainment it can provide, mobile devices go toe-to-toe. There are many, many games on these platforms that are impossible to put down, where you can’t resist playing just one more round.
Whatever platform you’re rocking on the go, here are some of the greatest and most addicting mobile games. Download at your own risk.
10. Alphabear (Free)
In this mobile game, the signature art style of Spry Fox is applied to the realm of spelling and language. But such an educational-sounding premise rarely turns out to be so compelling and so gosh darn adorable. Seriously, there’s a bear in a Darth Vader costume and a bear that looks like a Sega handheld. You just can’t say no to cuteness like this. The tricksy vocabulary gameplay is pretty great too. From the quest to level up all your bears to getting ever higher scores to challenging your friends in the Verses mode, there’s always something to keep you hooked.
9. Downwell ($2.99)
Sometimes, addictive games are really just ways for you to torture yourself. Rogue-like arcade shooter Downwell falls into that category. It’s really hard. But with that high difficulty ceiling comes the mindset of “just one more try” after each round, because surely you can do better next time. Because you’ll tap faster, you’ll react quicker, you’ll grab that jetpack and become unstoppable. But of course you won’t, so it’s rinse and repeat until suddenly an hour has passed but you got a new high score, so it’s all good.
8. Swap Sword ($2.99)
Strategy and match-three games seem like an odd pairing, but Swap Sword proves it can be a match made in heaven. This game is about resource management: you need to farm as many points as you can in each level before the grim specter of Death appears. The addictive quality stems from dying in a situation that could have been avoided (that monster with the diagonal attack is a real jerk). But in this no risk, no reward game, you have to put your little avatar’s life on the line to get that elusive, ever-higher score. Plus, with the randomized roster of power-ups in each play-through, there’s always a new way to approach the levels.
7. Two Dots (Free)
Here’s another sequel that took a good premise and made it great. All you have to do is draw a line to connect adjacent dots of the same color. Two Dots features additional challenges such as fire dots and flower dots and electricity. The game is all set to a beautifully zen soundtrack; we’d play it just to bliss out with the pretty music.
Should you get bored working through the hundreds of levels in Two Dots, then take a gander at the third installment of this series: Dots & Co.
6. Pokemon Go (Free)
The initial frenzy over catching them all has cooled somewhat, but Pokemon Go is still a huge hit for fans of the franchise. The cultural phenomenon of huge crowds converging at local landmarks to catch a rare was one of those unforgettable moments that brought the gaming world together. Expect to get back to the hardcore monster hunt when the weather warms up.
5. Mini Metro ($4.99)
This is the ultimate game to play on a public transit commute, partially because it’s so calming and partially because you realize just how difficult building a functional system is. Somehow, the peaceful and the frantic come together in perfect harmony with this elegant creation. Mini Metro has you build train or subway systems based on those in real cities around the world. The daily challenges let you compete against other players, but the real appeal is the battle with yourself to stay cool under the pressure of crowded trains and new stops appearing on the outskirts of town. Something about that yin-and-yang sensation makes this game hard to put down.
4. Fire Emblem Heroes (Free)
At long last, there’s a mobile version of the popular Nintendo RPG. Fire Emblem Heroes is a more streamlined take on the game, but it’s still proven addictive enough to merit a spot in this list. This is a universe you want to get lost in in, and getting to battle Princess Veronica’s hordes alongside these delightful characters makes the grind for orbs a little less painful. If this is your first foray into the Fire Emblem series, it’s probably going to get you hooked.
3. You Must Build a Boat ($2.99)
Matching games have long set the standard for addictive mobile experiences. You Must Build a Boat elevates the style with a charming approach that’s impossible to put down. The matching is used for your attacks, defense, and keys as you run through a dungeon full of bad guys and treasure chests. As you progress, you meet more people for your boat’s crew and unlock expansions to the vessel.
Even if you finish the campaign, the experience is so much fun that you’ll probably keep the app on your phone for a repeat run or five. And there are the daily challenges, which unlock new looks for your companions.
2. Alto’s Adventure ($4.99)
Snowboarding and llamas. We didn’t know how badly we needed this unusual combination in our lives until the arrival of Alto’s Adventure. It’s a different take on the endless runner subgenre where you’re skiing or snowboarding down a mountain, coasting through quaint towns and quiet forests. There’s much to praise about this game, but its most impressive feat is how good the gameplay feels. All you’re doing is tapping to jump or perform tricks, but somehow that captures the rush and freedom of being out on the powder.
And there are llamas. ‘Nuff said.
1. Threes! ($2.99)
This is the ultimate thinking-person’s mobile game. All you have to do is smoosh together tiles with the same number without filling up the entire board. It’s the sort of easy-to-learn, impossible-to-master game where the second a round finishes, it takes a massive act of willpower to not immediately start another. It’s also just a brilliant example of good mobile game design. Threes! has spawned a vast number of imitators and knock-offs, but without question, the original is the best.