Maybe it’s just because I live in a Northern climate, but I’m having a hard time believing that 2015 is already more than half over. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was shovelling snow from my driveway and contemplating our Best of 2014 lists — but a full six months has come and gone since then, and we’ve played a lot of games at Gamezebo.
If you’re wondering which games have really stuck out for us, consider the follow a cheat sheet to the best iOS and Android games of 2015 — so far.
Adventures of Poco Eco – Lost Sounds
Have you ever found yourself lost in an album? Poco Eco takes that concept literally, setting players loose in a musically-empowered world, driven entirely by the sounds of iamyank’s latest album, Lost Sounds. It’s a mellow, ethereal experience. If we were forced to draw comparisons, we’d probably call it “this year’s Monument Valley,” though really — such comparisons do both games a disservice.
The creators of TripleTown explored the world of word games this year, and they brought a whole new genus of bears with them. A uniquely strategic word game, players need to use tiles before their numbers tick down to zero and they turn to stone. Lucky for you, there are plenty of bears to help boost your score and keep you on the right track.
Blockwick 2 is exactly what a sequel should be. It’s familiar, sure — but it’s also so evolutionary that the original Blockwick looks downright primitive by comparison — and the original Blockwick was good. If you’re looking for a sliding puzzle that pushes your brain to its very limit, this is it. And if you’re not? There’s always Blockwick 2 Basics.
If Alphabear is one of the best single player word games we’ve seen so far, then Capitals earns as a spot as one of the best for multiplayer. Again, strategy is the name of the game. You don’t just want to spell big words — you want to spell words that will help you dominate the board, cutting off the progress of your enemy. However you want to spell it, this game is made of W-I-N.
Chaos Rings III
If you don’t think console-quality games are being made exclusively for mobile, you’re just not looking in the right places. Chaos Rings III looks and feels like a classic JRPG straight out of Square Enix’s catalog, but you’ll only find it on mobile devices. It’s gigantic, engaging — and most importantly, fun. If you’re longing for a charmingly melodramatic mobile RPG in the well-loved Japanese tradition, you’re not going to find any better.
Every developer and their sister has been busy over the last 18 months trying to crank out a “unique” take on Clash of Clans, but few studios managed to get it right. Big Huge Games are the exception, combining elements of Civilization and Clash of Clans together to create a wonderful outing that might just be the best in the genre.
Final Fantasy Record Keeper
There have been some real stumbles when it comes to Final Fantasy and free-to-play. All the Bravest was an abomination, and the early reviews of the (thus far) Japan-only Mobius Final Fantasy have been kind, but not glowing. Yet in between those two releases is a title that so perfectly nails what we wanted from a free Final Fantasy that it’s proven impossible to put down. Final Fantasy Record Keeper lets players gather heroes from across the series’ many games and create their own party to revisit the franchise’s many memorable moments.
Geomoetry Wars 3: Dimensions
Geometry Wars has frequently been hailed as the modern champion of twin stick shooters, but by the third installment we were convinced there simply wouldn’t be anything new to bring to the table. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong before. The mobile version is a straight adaptation of what you might have played on consoles last fall, and it’s as complete and perfect a mobile action experience as you could ever hope for.
If you were to to reduce gaming to its most basic and cast some largely unfair judgements, you might say there are only two types of games: those that make you think, and those that give you guns. Gunbrick, however, does both, putting players in the drivers seat of a vehicle that uses its weapon as both offense and propulsion.
A turn-based strategy game that lets players collect a huge variety of heroes while vying for control of a 7×3 grid, Heavenstrike Rivals is everything SRPG fans love distilled into tiny chunks. And it doesn’t hurt that the story is pretty captivating too.
As playful as it is beautiful, Heroki is a modern mobile twist on sidescrolling platformers of old. You’ll control the titual Heroki as he flies through the environment in search of treasure, enemies — and switches that will unlock new paths to both (often with a little backtracking).
Early 2015 is when gamers learned a surprising lesson — full-motion video doesn’t actually suck. The FMV games that briefly dominated the landscape in the early 90’s were all laughably bad, so no one had every really given the genre a fair shake again. Her Story, however, has shown us how wrong we are. A riveting mystery that you’ll assemble by watching a variety of police interviews, Her Story offers a unique narrative experience unlike anything else on the market today.
How much fun can you find in a single level? In Hitman: Sniper, the answer is “a lot.” Giving players just a single, sprawling mansion to target, Agent 47’s latest assignment proves that with enough variety mission after mission, you don’t need fresh level design to find a seemingly endless amount of satisfying gameplay.
Games that play with narrative are always fascinating to us here at Gamezebo, and Lifeline is one of the most fascinating of the year. Rather than offering a “play at your own pace” experience, Lifeline is played in real time as you chat with a deserted astronaut, guiding them towards certain tasks and receiving text messages when they need to know more. Fictional characters have never felt so real.
Mayday! Deep Space
…or maybe they have! In a similar (yet starkly different experience) to Lifeline, Mayday! Deep Space has players shouting into their phone to guide a little blip on a spaceship. That little blip is your new best friend, and you need to chat with him to see him safely to the game’s end.
We’ll always be suckers for a good Metroidvania here at Gamezebo. Heck, Traps n’ Gemstones was our iPhone game of the year in 2014. Nubs’ Adventure is the latest great entry in the genre on mobile, providing players with plenty of great platforming action and reasons to revisit old areas. You won’t be unlocking new skills as you go, but finding the keys you need to unlock past areas manages to be just as satisfying an experience.
Odd Bot Out
Randy Newman once sang a song about short people, and the same might be said of short robots. Odd, for example, was rejected in quality control and left to rust away in a recycling pile. But with your help, this tiny little guy can climb to exit-after-exit as he tries to make his escape. Odd Bot Out is a physics puzzle game about helping a little robot reach big new heights. What’s not to love about that?
If you like rhythm games, catchy music, and absurd visuals, Planet Quest is an absolute must. The game feels like a lost chapter from Nintendo’s Rhythm Heaven series (think WarioWare with music), and is as delightful on the ears as it is on your finger. Help beam a bunch of furry cosplayers onto your waiting spacecraft with some well timed taps on the screen.
When you were a kid, you were scared of the dark. It’s ok — we all were. And the scariest part? The shadow of a monster in the corner of your room! Don’t worry though, it’s really just the shadow of a pencil sharpener sitting on the chest of your Skeletor doll. Shadowmatic is a game that plays with this notion, tasking you to rotate and combine objects in a way that their shadow produces a wildly different thing.
Sid Meier’s Starships
Considering the poor critical reception Starships has seen elsewhere, this might be the most controversial entry to appear on this list. And that’s a damned shame, because it’s a great space strategy game that everybody should play at least once. A spin-off of the desktop game Civilization: Beyond Earth, Starships tasks players to travel the stars in search of alliances to make (and, much more often, enemies to squish under the heel of your moon boots). Fleet vs fleet combat makes up the bulk of the experience here, and it manages to strike that perfect balance between being casually accessible and strategically satisfying.
“Roguelike” is a term that tends to paint a picture of grim dungeons and grimmer characters — so why is this one so darned cute? Sproggiwood takes a charming, sometimes comical approach to the genre, while at the same time never failing to deliver what fans of roguelikes love.
Gamebooks have been given a new lease on life thanks to mobile gaming, and few would dispute that inkle are kings of the modern page. The series that first helped put them on the map, Steve Jackson’s Sorcery!, saw its third incarnation this year. Is it better than last year’s 80 Days? That’s up for debate — play it and decide for yourself.
Super Awesome Quest
What if Minesweeper was an RPG? That’s the sort of question that Super Awesome Quest sets out to answer, giving players a variety of combat choices that only open up once you’ve selected a previous tile on the board. Puzzles/RPG hybrids are fairly common nowadays, but few developers are making bold moves to try anything different with the formula. Kudos to Boomzap for doing so.
The government is listening to everything word you type or speak — and that’s ok. They have to keep everyone safe, after all. TouchTone is a puzzle game, but it’s also a brilliant commentary on the modern dilemma of privacy vs. security. The puzzles themselves are engaging and challenging, and with every few completed, you’re treated to a riveting narrative as you monitor communications for Big Brother as a vigilant citizen.
You Must Build a Boat
Games that combine match-3 puzzles with RPG elements are so overdone at this point that they make our heads hurt — but when the latest is a sequel to 10000000, you’d better believe we jumped in at our earliest opportunity. Favoring speed over patience, You Must Build A Boat takes everything that made its predecessor great and improves it. BONUS: as the title suggests, you’ll get to build a boat full of unique characters in between bouts of matching and adventuring.