While it’s been around for almost as long as Apple’s App Store, the Android Market really came into its own in 2011. This is the year when Android gaming went from “it’s all iOS ports and crap games no one wants” to “it’s all iOS ports and… hey, some of these are actually pretty good!” It’s also the year that we started covering Android gaming here at Gamezebo, so you know that has to mean something special.
As we look back at the last year, it’s hard to avoid the fact that most of the top Android games are still ports of popular iPhone games. But in coming up with this list, we tried our best to avoid it – which is why the top 5 games you’ll see here are either Android exclusives, or games that started life Android exclusives before later being ported to iOS. In other words, these are all games that Android gamers should be proud to call their own.
#5 – Carcassonne
When Coding Monkeys released their adaptation of Carcassonne on iOS last year, people were wowed. In fact, it was so good that most reviewers felt it set the standard for board game adaptations. So when the game’s original publishers decided to bring the game to Android this year, it was something of a shock that they didn’t just port the iOS version over. But at the end of the day, we’re glad they didn’t.
Carcassonne on Android is a delightfully different experience from the iOS version, and while it lack some of the bells and whistles of its iPhone counterpart, the development team at exozet games put their own unique spin on the title, with plenty of charm, character, and challenging AI opponents. If you own both an iOS device and an Android device, this one isn’t quite a replacement for the other – but you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t play both.
#4 – Greedy Spiders
Spiders, like the rest of us, get hungry. But to eat, they need to catch some tasty flying food. But try and look at it from the insect’s perspective – who wants to be dinner for a spider?
Greedy Spiders is a neat little puzzle game that debuted on Android earlier this year (now on iOS, too!) in which players will tap on sections of a spider’s web to make them disappear. The entire experience is a turn-based affair, so for every piece of the web you remove, the spider will get a chance to move closer to his prey. If you want to save everyone, you’ll really need to think hard about the puzzles that are placed in front of you to cut that spider off from his din-din.
#3 – World Cruise Story
Kairosoft is a strange little company. Over the last year, they’ve churned out unique simulation after unique simulation, but they’re often games that simulate some of life’s most mundane jobs. Like running a spa retreat. Or managing a mall. And while they release games in both the Android Market and the iOS App Store, Kairosoft has a number of games that seem to remain exclusive to each.
World Cruise Story is their latest Android-exclusive, taking players from port to port as they attempt to entertain passengers on the high seas. Of the two styles of simulations they produce – business sim and team management sim – Kairosoft’s business sims have generally not sat too well with us. But after a few real duds, each of their business titles managed to be better than the last. And World Cruise Story is easily the best of the bunch, not only turning us around on the genre, but making us hungry for more.
#2 – Apparatus
Whether we’re talking about Casey’s Contraptions or The Incredible Machine, Rube Goldberg devices made something of a return to gaming this year after a surprisingly lengthy absence. One of the best examples of this, however, was Bithack’s Apparatus for Android.
Players will build all kinds of equipment, or “apparatuses,” to move a ball into a goal area – and what you choose to build is only limited by your creativity. Unlike most games of this sort that simply task you to put existing things in a working order, Apparatus is all about creation. Heck – you can even create your own levels to share with other users! If you’re the type of gamer that loves to play around in the sandbox and see what craziness they can build next, Apparatus should absolutely be your next download.
#1 – Grand Prix Story
Remember how we mentioned that Kairosoft makes two kinds of simulation games? Grand Prix Story belongs to that other kind, team management – and it’s the king of team management games.
Another game to make its debut on Android (but later make the jump to iPhone too), Grand Prix Story puts players in charge of a racing team as they try to reach the finish line season after season. You’ll build cars, research tech, upgrade parts, and more as you try and turn your starting lap pit crew into victory lap champions. Every tweak and change you make will impact your drivers, and you’ll get to see just how as you watch the races unfold before your eyes.
Kairosoft has released plenty of games over the last year, and Grand Prix Story isn’t just the best of them – it’s also our pick for best Android game of the year.