You know those bouncing ball games you’ve seen loads of annoying, in-your-face ads for? Well, Holedown is like those games, only better: polished, free of microtransactions, and dripping with personality, from the trippy soundtrack to the little worm that lives at the bottom of your screen, admiring your work. You must clear your screen of blocks, and you do that by taking aim and firing bouncing balls in a stream. Initially, they’ll follow each other, but as they hit and burst blocks they’ll ricochet at unexpected angles, colliding with other blocks with a brilliant ‘plop’ sound effect.
It’s made by grapefrukt games, who also made rymdkapsel (which appears much higher up this list), so you know it’s good. There’s nothing deep about it: it’s just a well-made, polished puzzler that’s hard to stop playing, and ideal for playing in short spurts.
A minimalistic, slick puzzler about a momma cat preparing bento boxes for her kitten’s lunch. Each box is a grid, and each piece of food – rice, lemon, fish – takes up a single square. You must rearrange the boxes to match the instructions in your recipe book using the command blocks at the bottom of the screen: some will swap squares, others push ingredients up or down one place, and some let you remove food from the box to put back elsewhere.
It’s simple, but the puzzles are tough enough to make you think. Sometimes you’ll need to perform several moves in exactly the right order to match the recipe – and then, with a loving paw, you place the lid on, ready to make the next meal. Cute, right?
58. Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition
Price: $19.99/£19.99 for all chapters
(First chapter free, other chapters unlock individually: $0.09/£0.99 for chapters 2 and 3, $3.99/£3.99 for later chapters)
If you’re cynical, you might think Final Fantasy 15’s mobile version is an attempt to wring evermore money from one of Square Enix’s best-loved games. And perhaps you’d be right – but at least the developer has gone to the effort of changing it almost wholesale for the small screen, rather than being content with a lazy port. The Pocket Edition, which goes for a completely different art style (it’s still gorgeous, as you can see in the trailer above), condenses Prince Noctis’s 50-hour journey into a dozen or less. Inevitably, you miss out on some story beats and side characters, but the main plot points are there, as it, most importantly, the camaraderie that develops between Noctis and his companions during a road trip, where he must drive between the burial sites of ancient kings and obtain their power to defeat the Empire, which has attacked his homeland.
Every element of the game has been tweaked for touchscreens: a lot of the movement happens automatically, but when you get full control, the camera is isometric, which makes it easier to direct your characters around. Combat, too, is pretty hands off, but you still have to intervene to dodge, heal and co-ordinate special attacks at the right moment. If you’ve been put off by the enormous scope of Final Fantasy 15, then this is the perfect route in – and if you’re a long-time fan looking for one more excuse to relive Noctis’s journey, this is it.
If you’re after a fully-fledged Final Fantasy game, try Final Fantasy 7 instead.
57. Choice of Robots
More an interactive sci-fi novel than a game, but this is our list, damnit, so it makes the cut. It’s one of the most ambitious gamebooks you could ever hope to read: 300,000 words of sprawling prose covering the life and times of your character – a graduate robot designer – and the robot you create at the beginning of the book. The choices come thick and fast, starting with the characteristics of your robot, and they don’t let up until the very last word. Your decisions affect the 30-year story, which sees you through graduation, love, fame, and, if you want it, war between robots and humanity.
The UI looks messy, and there are no pictures to speak of, which makes it seem intimidating. But once your eyes get used to it, it’s easy to navigate, and the bars down the left-hand side of the screen track your relationships, making it easy to see the impact of your choices. Not every story arc hits all the right notes, but the novelty of guiding the narrative never wears off.
One of the original darlings of the Xbox Live Arcade, platformer LIMBO remains a tense, atmospheric and irresistibly dark game. The visuals and sound design still create a sense of foreboding, even on a small screen, and with headphones in it’s genuinely unnerving.
Its hostile world of bear traps and giant spiders is oppressive and unwelcoming, which makes it easy to get inside the head of the scared young boy you’re controlling. Touchscreen isn’t the ideal control scheme to solve some of its puzzles, but the interactions are fairly simple, and working out the solutions remains satisfying enough to keep you rolling towards its finale, the meaning of which is still being debated to this day.
55. Hitman Go
As long as you’re not expecting a fully-fledged assassin sim, Hitman GO will delight. It’s a stylish puzzle game where you slide Agent 47 around tiny levels that look like they belong on an expensive tabletop: enemies are figurines with circular bases, and when you stab one in the back — knocking into them like a bishop would a knight — they wobble and topple, and are whisked from the board.
It doesn’t have many mechanics, but levels can get tricky. Guards move every time you do, so you have to learn their patterns before plotting a silent route. Simply completing a level never feels tough, but earning extra stars for doing it in the least possible number of moves, or for collecting optional briefcases of intel, will appeal to the perfectionist in you. It’s not as good as Lara Croft GO, which you’ll see later in this list, but it’s a sleek, pop-up version of Hitman.
54. Marching Order
Marching Order does just one thing, and does it flawlessly. As a marching band of rhinos, ducks, lions and elephants stomp across your screen tooting their instruments, you’re presented with a set of rules, and you have to re-order the band so that all the rules are fulfilled. Perhaps a rhino wants to stand directly in front of a duck. Perhaps a parrot wants to stand between two animals with fur. Perhaps an elephant wants to be somewhere behind the clarinet. And so on. It’s a series of logic puzzles, basically, dressed up in adorable outfits.
The puzzles keep getting harder as you progress, adding more band members and rules. Despite the cute animals and catchy music, some of them are real headscratchers, especially if you want to finish in the fewest possible moves to net a bonus. If you’re feeling sadistic you can play hard mode, which gives you a 60-second timer for each puzzle. Good luck.
53. Simon Tatham's Puzzles
If the only games you want on your phone are easily-understood puzzles to play whenever you have a spare minute, then Simon Tatham's Puzzles is pretty much the only app you’ll ever need. It’s a completely free collection of 39 different games from Sudoku to Signpost, where you align arrows to point towards a goal. Every puzzle is generated on-demand and you can set both the size of your grids and their difficulty, effectively creating an infinite number of puzzles to play.
We love its simplicity, the controls always work, and you can even use NFC to beam a puzzle to your friend's phone. Put down your crossword and pick this up.
52. Call of Duty: Mobile
Genre: First-person shooter
A fully-fledged Call of Duty multiplayer game with flexible controls and a huge number of modes. Maps are plucked from the franchise’s greatest hits — Nuketown is back, baby — and Battle Royale is consistently fun, with helicopters to fly and plenty of airdrops to claim.
The touchscreen shooting works surprisingly well, and after an hour you’ll be hitting headshots with no trouble. Online connection is consistently good, and there’s always enough players online to fill lobbies. When one round finishes, the next starts almost instantly, and the only reason to quit is to attach the new scope you unlocked for your sniper.
51. Love You to Bits
Intergalactic explorer Kosmo has seen his robot girlfriend blown to bits in front of his eyes, and he won't rest until he's gathered her body parts from outer space and bolted her back together. It’s a cute premise for an adorable point-and-click with a lot of heart, and although the puzzles can feel a little random, the wonderful animations and colorful levels will keep you tapping on.
Each level is short and sweet, so it's ideal to play in five-minute burst. It's not afraid to take risks, either: the third level in the entire game is set on a small planet that you can walk around the entire circumference of, experiencing all four seasons in 30 seconds. Don't worry too much about solving the puzzles — just click on everything you see and enjoy the surprising interactions. Eventually, you'll find the solution.
If you enjoy it, check out developer Alike Studio's other game, Bring You Home.
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