With Christmas come and gone, there’s a distinct possibility that many of you are reading this from the comfort of a new phone or tablet. Exciting, right? But now that you’ve gained access to a new platform, chances are you’re anxious to discover the best possible games for it. Worry not, dear reader; this article has you covered.
With thousands upon thousands of games available on iPhone, iPad, and Android, we couldn’t possibly form a list that mentioned all of the great ones. With that in mind, we encourage any and all seasoned mobile gamers to recommend your favorite titles to new adopters in the comments below. It’s what Santa would want.
Best iPhone Games
Angry Birds – It’s only been downloaded by five people, but Angry Birds is a physics-puzzler you simply can’t miss. You fly birds through the air in an attempt to knock down the pigs who stole your precious eggs, which we’re pretty sure is developer Rovio’s way of condoning extreme revenge against those who wronged you. We’d reach out to them to clarify, but no one downloaded this game and they subsequently went out of business.*
Tiny Wings – Whenever I meet someone who just purchased an iPhone or iPad, I always tell them to download Tiny Wings. It’s easy to understand, plays perfectly on a touch screen, and is nothing short of a delightful experience. It also has what is probably the catchiest song of any iOS game ever. Seriously, just check out this piano cover of it.
Super Hexagon – Literally all you do in this game is move a tiny cursor out of the way of an endless swarm of lines and hexagon-shaped obstacles. You’d think such a simple concept would wear out its welcome pretty quick, but we’ll be darned if it isn’t one of the most addicting iOS games around. Seriously, just try and play for less than a half hour in one sitting. We dare you.
Cut the Rope – Cut the Rope plays to the strengths of the iPhone’s touch-screen interface in a pretty brilliant way. More than that, though, it’s one of the cleverest puzzle games available for mobile. It starts out simple enough, but gradually becomes more difficult by way of new mechanics and trickier puzzle design.
Rayman Jungle Run – Rayman Origins was one of the best 2D platformers we’d seen in years, and so it was hard to imagine Ubisoft pulling off a follow-up that delivered the same level of enjoyment—and on the iPhone, no less. But with the excellent Rayman Jungle Run, they pulled it off brilliantly. It’s a near-perfect experience, but if we could change just one thing about the game, it would be its finite amount of levels.
Best iPad Games
Horn – Like the rest of the games on this list, Horn is also playable on the iPhone. But it’s an adventure that feels a little more at home on the iPad’s larger screen, what with the large-scale fantasy setting and action-adventure gameplay. Its price tag is a little bit steep at $6.99, but trust us when we say that it’s worth both your time and money. As our reviewer puts it, the game is “what Ico would look like if Peter Molyneux made it (after an all night Infinity Blade/Zelda binge).” Intriguing, no?
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP – I can count on my two hands the number of iOS games whose visuals have caused my jaw to physically drop. Some may say I’m just jaded, but it’s actually because I’ve been spoiled by Sword & Sworcery‘s brilliant art direction and awe-inspiring scenery. Mind you, it’s more than just a looker: if you fancy yourself even a casual fan of the adventure genre, you’ll be hooked on this game’s story and point-and-tap gameplay in a matter of minutes.
Plants vs. Zombies – Much like Wonder Bread (RIP) and apple pie, Plants vs. Zombies is one of those things so engrained in our cultural zeitgeist that it’s hard to imagine there are people out there who haven’t experienced it. But it’s a moot point, really; even if you’ve played it on another platform, this game really shines when played on the iPad. In terms of gameplay, at least. It doesn’t literally shine, or anything.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – From the man who brought us the also-excellent Phoenix Wright series comes Ghost Trick, an adventure game filled with supernatural puzzles, brilliant writing, and an arsenal of clever gameplay mechanics known as “Ghost Tricks.” Like Horn it’s a little on the pricier side ($9.99 for all chapters), but that’s still a small price to pay for an awesome iOS port of one of the most underrated DS games of all time.
The Room – I’m sorry to say it, but this game has nothing to do with the film “The Room.” I hope I didn’t get your hopes up, Tommy Wiseau fans. If it’s any consolation, this is one of the best puzzle games available on the iPad, despite almost all of its gameplay revolving around opening a box slathered in tricky puzzles and challenges.
Best Android Games
The Pyraplex – For those unaware, Kairosoft, developers of The Pyraplex, have a pretty incredible track record. They’re probably best known as the folks behind Game Dev Story (which you should also play if you haven’t), although just about every game they’ve released is worth your time. The Pyraplex is their latest, and it’s a game about building the biggest pyramid you possibly can. It isn’t just any old pyramid, though: it’s filled with shops and other businesses. You know, because Egyptians love nothing more than mass consumerism.
Final Fantasy III – Okay, so this game is available on iOS as well. But that’s a big part of why we’re including it! Many of the best games offered on iPhone and iPad eventually (and sometimes even beforehand) make their way to Android. Final Fantasy III is a fine example, not to mention an RPG you desperately need to play if you haven’t had the pleasure yet.
Puzzle Forge – Think you have what it takes to construct a castle made up entirely of puzzles? No worries if you don’t, because that isn’t what Puzzle Forge is about at all. It’s actually a game where you create weapons for heroes by way of match-3 puzzles. Think Triple Town meets Puzzle Quest.
Mr Legs – What’s the point of owning a new phone or tablet if you aren’t going to play profoundly weird games on it? Not that Mr Legs is weird or anything. I mean, it’s an endless runner featuring a guy who’s trying to become the best cherry picker in all of London. What could be more normal than that?
Apparatus – Building things in real life can require both time and expensive resources. Apparatus removes both of these barriers and offers players a chance to build elaborate constructions like rockets, monster trucks, and other such things, all from the comfort of their own Android device. As a bonus, you may even walk away from the game with a stronger understanding of the laws of classical mechanics!
* Okay, so it’s actually the most popular mobile game on the planet. We like making things up.