Welcome to the Future
Everybody has that one friend. You know, the one who insists that they dont want to get one of those newfangled touch-screen smart phones. You try to tell how much more useful a smartphone is and they put it off with their excuses. But one day, they will join us in the future and when that day comes, they will ask you what games they should play on their new phones.
Yes, this list is for the latecomers. The ones who loved their mid-2000s flip-phone so much they missed out on the Next Big Thing in gaming. So, the next time you hear a smart-phone neophyte ask what games are worth their time and money, just point them at this feature--maybe they can even read it on their new hardware!
Puzzle Quest 2
Come on, you knew there was going to be a Bejeweled clone in here. PopCaps brilliantly simple match-3 game is such a natural fit for touch screens that its easy to forget Bejewled debuted years before the first iPhone. In the years since, weve seen hundreds of imitators and derivatives--including a certain candy-themed life-destroyer--but my favorite has always been Puzzle Quest 2.
PQ2 takes the tried-and-true gem-matching minigame and turns it into the combat engine of a traditional fantasy RPG. Like any RPG worth its salt, players can choose classes, gain experience, and unleash new powers when they level up. During combat players match up colored gems to generate mana, deal damage, gain experience, and so on. Once youve collected enough mana, you can cast spells that drastically change the board--eliminate all red gems, for example--or even steal turns from your enemies. Matches only last a few minutes, making PQ2 great for the average Joe killing a few minutes at the bus stop.
Angry Birds is one of those games. You know the kind: played out, and youre sick of hearing about it. Well, youre not entirely wrong--developer Rovio Entertainment has franchised Angry Birds to death. Youve got Angry Birds candies, youve got Angry Birds toys, even an Angry Birds movie, for goodness sake. But heres the thing about Angry Birds: its insanely popular because its a damn good mobile game
Rovio didnt invent Angry Birds bird-throwing, pig-slaughtering gameplay--the fundamental ideas in Angry Birds were apparently lifted from Crush the Castle, but Rovio deserves some credit for adding a few new twists and giving everything a cohesive, whimsical identity. Individual levels might take less than a minute to try, so Angry Birds is perfect for quick spurts of gameplay.
If you miss the feeling of sitting around playing local co-op with your buddies, Spaceteam has you covered. The game puts and your friends in command of the most finicky spaceship to ever sail between the stars. Every few seconds the crew gets orders to Engage the Photon Stabilizer or Deactivate the Starbeam Drive, and its up to each crew member to communicate their instructions to the other players. Sounds easy in theory, right? Youd think so, but play for more than a few minutes and youll soon find yourself desperately shouting nonsense technobabble.
What really makes it work is the sheer spontenaity of it. Spaceteam is the perfect game for a group of friends out on the town. Standing in line at a club or waiting for food at a restaurant? Youve got enough time for a round of Spaceteam.
Jetpack Joyride is a must-play for anybody trying to figure out smartphone gaming. On the surface, its a classic endless runner. Your character races to the right, and its up to you to guide him through a randomized set of obstacles. The further you get, the higher your score. Its a simple formula thats served very well by Jetpack Joyrides endearing sprite art.
Its the details that make Jetpack Joyride a must play, though. Every few moments youre given wacky superpowers that completely change the way your character controls. You might command a suit that changes the games gravity, pilot a flying robot dragon, or ride a suit of power armor. Best of all, its a free-to-play game that doesnt impose artificial limits on your ability to play, but rewards you for sticking with it.
X-COM: Enemy Unknown
Given how natural touch-based controls can be for turn-based strategy games, it shouldnt surprise anybody to find at least one on this list. There are many excellent TBS games on mobile, but X-COM: Enemy Unknown might just be the best of the bunch. Essentially a direct port of the PC version, X-COM brings 2012s best strategy game to your phone.
Unlike the other games on this list, X-COM is not something you can pick up and play in short bursts. Resisting an alien invasion takes time and patience--individual fights might take half an hour, and a full campaign might run longer than 30 hours. X-COM isnt the traditional pick-up/put-down mobile game, but its perfect for a serious gamer with a shiny new smartphone.
Another title for a hardcore gamer looking to see what her new smartphone can do, Dead Space brings EAs popular action-horror franchise to your pocket. Dead Space was always a looker on PC and consoles, and it doesnt disappoint on mobile. Ironmonkey Studios clearly took some time and effort to bring the Dead Space vibe--youll want to play with headphones to get the most out of the games killer sound design.
You might think controls would be an issue for Dead Space--on console and PC, the Dead Space franchise is essentially designed around the use of a twin-stick gamepad--but the developers make the touch controls work. The player simply uses their thumbs as though they were sticks--the game itself is very good at interpreting your intent. Its a win for fans of the franchise and for gamers looking to test out their new hardware.
This is just the tip of the iceberg--a meager sampling of the opportunities available on mobile. Now that youve got a magical pocket computer, you need never fear boredom again!
Want to know what the biggest recent mobile games are? Check out our monthly new releases column, Pocket This!