Sixty-Second Gems – 10 Best short burst mobile games that are great for the commute

(Image credit: Andreas Illiger)

Commuting can be quite the ordeal. Your train may be delayed, the seats are probably full, buses take forever to get anywhere and for heaven’s sake, don’t look anyone in the eye or they might talk to you (*shudders*).

That’s when your mobile swoops in to save the day. There are loads of fantastic short burst mobile games available on smartphones these days, but the trick is knowing where to look. As such, we’ve put together a list of the best short burst mobile games to keep you smiling on your way to work or school. They’re ideal for keeping you distracted on those short, horrible journeys where you’re squashed up against the window or someone’s armpit.

Ridiculous Fishing – A Tale of Redemption 

(Image credit: Vlambeer)

Available on: iOS
Price: £2.99 / $2.99
Developer: Vlambeer

A fishing game, you say? Hold your derision, friend. The name isn’t an exaggeration. This is comfortably the silliest, most absurd fishing game there has ever been – and it’s bloody excellent. Firstly, the mechanics are hugely tactile and satisfying. Guide your line’s hook as deep as possible via motion control, but avoid all sea-life along the way. Once you hit a fish, your line will careen back to the surface. This is your cue to scoop up as many fish as you can. They’ll then burst out of the waves and into the air… where you’ll shoot them into pixelly giblets with the weapon of your choice. Kills give you money, and bigger catches provide the biggest payouts… though they also take the longest to destroy, so they’ll escape into the depths again if you’re not quick.

That sweet, sweet cash can of course be used to upgrade your rod, weapons, or add a chainsaw to your hook and avoid getting snagged early. It’s wonderfully daft.

Fallout Shelter

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Available on: Pretty much everything, ever
Price: Free
Developer: Bethesda

Most Fallout games encourage you to emerge and recolonise a broken world. Fallout Shelter does precisely the opposite – it gives you a wasteland’s worth of reasons to stay tucked underground, thank you very much. A free-to-play management sim that tasks you with building and maintaining your own Vault, it’s charming and engrossing in some very unexpected ways. You’ll obviously tackle resource management and room upgrades, but then there’s crafting, raider attacks, questing, and disasters to contend with too. Mole-Rats may dig into and spread through your complex like an ankle-biting plague, for instance. 

When combined with a wicked sense of humour and a structure suited to short journeys, this makes Fallout Shelter the perfect companion for any commute.

Heroes of Dragon Age

(Image credit: EA)

Available On: iOS, Android
Price: Free
Developer: EA Swiss Sarl

Endless runners seem to have had their day; now it’s all about team-tactic RPGs. Although these dime-a-dozen games are represented by everything from DC to Star Wars, it’s Heroes of Dragon Age that stands out from the crowd with its deep tactics, infusion system, a memorable setting, and fierce online competitive play. The characters you use and where you place them in your line-up is crucial, too; some attack faster, others take on entire rows, a few are designed to soak up damage or heal you team, and many are super-effective when combined in a squad. That’s a lot of variables to juggle, making this a satisfying investment you can dip into during your morning commutes.

Additionally, it nudges the lore into some interesting places by showing off elements of the Dragon Age world we’ve not seen before. Throw in music from Dragon Age: Origins and you’re onto a winner.

Tiny Wings

(Image credit: Andreas Illiger)

Available on: iOS
Price: £1.99 / $1.99
Developer: Andreas Illiger

There’s something mesmerising about the upbeat simplicity of Tiny Wings. Armed with nothing more than a one-tap control system and very cute visuals, this game steals your heart with minimal effort. It also knows how to make a little go a long way: tap to send your bird sliding down hills and release to let them shoot skyward. Gather points along the way and get as far as possible before nightfall. The challenge? Keeping up your momentum by judging when to drop back down to earth. Time it wrong and you’ll come to a screeching halt, ruining all your good work. 

Procedurally generated levels, a VS-mode against AI, and a straightforward but deeply satisfying gameplay loop maker this a wonderful pick-me-up when on the go.

World of Goo

(Image credit: 2D Boy)

Available On: iOS, Android
Price: £4.99 / $4.99
Developer: 2D Boy

Despite being 10 years old (it originally launched on the Wii in 2008), World of Goo remains one of mobile gaming’s top titles. Kooky and clever in equal measure, it’s the marriage of a Danny Elfman-esque soundtrack with tricky physics-based gameplay. Using tiny balls of sentient, googly-eyed goo (just go with it), players must build bridges to reach the end-of-level pipe. Unfortunately, gravity is working against you – create a top-heavy structure and it’ll all come tumbling down. 

Things become yet more complicated when devious hazards come into play (hello, chainsaws) or if you try and collect lost blobs of goo from around the environment. In many ways, this game is a call-back to the 1990’s Lemmings.

Marvel: Contest of Champions

(Image credit: Kabam)

Available On: iOS, Android
Price: Free
Developer: Kabam

Until a certain web-slinger dropped in on PS4, this classic fighter was probably the biggest deal in Marvel’s gaming arsenal. And honestly, it’s easy to see why; accessible, handsome, and satisfying in a way that keeps you itching for more, Contest of Champions is popular for a reason. It’s thankfully easy to play, too. Tap or swipe on the screen’s right-hand side to deliver blows or hold down on the left to block. That’s it – there are no irritating digital buttons to grapple with. 

What’s more, it makes smart use of Marvel’s extensive (and frequently bizarre) canon. Set in the cosmic playground of Battleworld, it draws inspiration from the Secret Wars series in which characters from across the universe are captured and forced to beat each other up for our amusement. Contest of Champions lives up to its name as a result: it has a roster bursting with fighters you’ll want to collect.

Rayman Jungle Run

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Available On: iOS, Android
Price: £2.79 / $2.99 (Android), £2.99 / $2.99 (iOS)
Developer: Pastagames

Ubisoft’s limbless wonder had conquered mobile long before Mario made the jump over to phones. Much like its console counterpart (Rayman Origins/Legends), Jungle Run is a fast-paced blend of brilliant design and drop-dead gorgeous visuals. Our hero runs automatically, so all you need to do is press the screen and make him jump at the right moment. He’ll do the rest. That doesn’t mean there’s no difficulty, though. Despite its simplicity, this is a more robust system than you’d think. The hard bit is jumping at the right moment to collect each stage’s Lums. Because Rayman won’t turn back, you have to make every movement count.


(Image credit: Frogmind)

Available On: iOS, Android
Price: £0.79p / $0.99 (iOS), Free on Android
Developer: Frogmind

Video games make you fall in love with the weirdest things: never before have we been so protective over a ball of winged fluff. 

Combining stunning backdrops with ingenious mechanics, Badland tasks you with shepherding its silhouette monster through a gauntlet of increasingly nasty traps. Intelligent twists on its own formula make this a must-have game; things start simple with you tapping the screen to make your creature fly higher, and they end with you growing or shrinking in size, splitting into multiple monsters that fill the screen, or changing shape entirely.


(Image credit: Inkle)

Available On: iOS, Android
Price: £3.99 / $4.99 (Android), £4.99 / $4.99 (iOS)
Developer: Inkle

Remember those pen-and-paper role-playing games from the 1990s? Inkle certainly does, and they’ve immortalised one of the best on mobile. Although it uses art from the original book, this modern update wraps it in a user-friendly UI that makes for a streamlined, good-looking RPG. An interactive map to explore and avatars for combat ground this swashbuckling tale of derring-do as well, while its famously brutal choice-system mean that every decision might be your last.

Because these choices come in short doses, it’s easy to pick Sorcery! up for five minutes and put it down again. The only downside? It’s a bit expensive and split into multiple parts, but the investment is arguably worth it.

Monument Valley 

(Image credit: ustwo games)

Available On: Android, iOS
Price: £2.99 / $3.99 (Android), £3.99 / $3.99 (iOS)
Developer: Ustwo Games

Hauntingly beautiful in a way we haven’t seen since Journey or Limbo, Monument Valley and its sequel are love-letters to MC Escher and his mind-bending art. The puzzler’s short levels make brilliant use of perspective as a gameplay tool to keep you scratching your head and doing things that should be physically impossible. Spin a lever and a staircase may suddenly be able to connect two floors above where it started, for example. This results in a tremendously clever game where you just have to reach a square a few metres away… but doing so is anything but simple.

For more mobile gaming goodness, check out our roundups of the best Android games, the best iPhone games, the best offline Android games for play anywhere, and also the best relaxing mobile games

Benjamin Abbott
Tabletop & Merch Editor

As the site's Tabletop & Merch Editor, you'll find my grubby paws on everything from board game reviews to lists of the very best Lego. I've also been writing about games in one form or another since 2012, and can normally be found cackling over some evil plan I've cooked up for my group's next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.