Mouse, joystick, DualShock: meet your new friend, touch screen.
Cross-platform gaming is no longer limited to being a PC and console player. As mobile continues moving ahead as a prominent gaming platform, players will find more ways to experience the expansive, engaging, and challenging adventures they once found only in their standalone gaming systems. There’s still plenty of work to be done (see: virtual joysticks), but console gamers should find the mobile landscape of today more familiar than ever before, no matter their genre of choice.
Looking for: Ports of console games, for the easiest possible transition
If you’re looking for the most direct path from console to mobile, there are plenty of ports available on iOS. The rest of this list is concerned with mobile originals, but these are their brothers from another mother.
- Bastion – First released as an Xbox LIVE Arcade game in mid-2011, Bastion may be “new to you” for anyone who hasn’t yet played it on XBLA or Steam. Its colorful hand-drawn graphics and straightforward battle mechanics are just as enjoyable on iOS.
- Chrono Trigger – The mascot of the Super Nintendo’s Golden Era of RPGs, Chrono Trigger is slowly being ported to every modern day system. Since it wasn’t created with high-def TVs in mind, little is lost playing it on a handset or tablet, except some menu organization.
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – With an editable control scheme and improved aiming, Vice City is now as playable on the go as it was in the living room ten years ago. Maybe more so, without mom popping in to check on your criminal activities.
Looking for: A good action-RPG/adventure like Secret of Mana or The Legend of Zelda
Even few console games come close to the sheer perfection that is Secret of Mana (which has also been ported to iOS) and its sequel, Seiken Densetsu 3, but we still crave sword-slashing, magic-wielding excitement. When the urge hits, these iOS games will help take the edge off.
- Swordigo –Swordigo pays direct homage to The Legend of Zelda in too many ways to count, from its sword-wielding, green-clad protagonist to enemies like “bush beetles,” which are basically deku scrubs. Offering more platforming and RPG features, Swordigo stands out as its own experience beyond the nostalgic joy Zelda fans will receive from expanding their heart meter.
- Zenonia series – With their colorful sprite graphics and expansive equipment customization, the Zenonia games are an easy draw for gamers who still have a working SNES hooked up. Dungeons filled with enemies that must be button-mashed into oblivion will help any controller-happy player get used to the touch screen quickly.
- Across Age – Borrowing graphics from A Link to the Past, combat from Secret of Mana, and time travel ramifications from Chrono Trigger, Across Age is a retro-RPG fan’s dream. Although the story and length are watered down in comparison to its inspirations’, the solid battle controls and unique two-character system make this a great example of what action RPGs can be on mobile.
Looking for: A Metroidvania, like Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The Metroidvania—a combination of platforming, RPG exploration, and item collection—has become a genre in its own right since Symphony of the Night‘s heyday. Finding a good Metroidvania on iOS is trickier than mastering the double jump, but not impossible.
- Demon Hunter – With its gothic castle setting, extensive cutscenes, and brooding-yet-badass hero, Demon Hunter does little to hide its Castledroid leanings. This is ultimately a good thing, considering the only obviously Castlevania game on iOS is a Puzzle Quest-esque rendition of SoTN, Demon Hunter is a welcome, and truly fun, stand-in.
- Robot Wants Kitty – A smaller world to explore, Robot Wants Kitty presents a mobile-sized Metroidvania with the potential for constant expansion through player-contributed design. The idea and execution of the genre is the same: move the robot through a sprawling set of rooms to collect upgrades like missiles and keys which unlock doors and allow access to previously inaccessible areas, and finally, the much-wanted kitty.
- The Deep – While more of a fetch quest than a kill-a-thon, The Deep takes a lot of inspiration from Metroid with its expansive underwater levels and upgrade system, allowing you to constantly explore farther. Its colorful and cartoony graphics may indicate a kids’ game, but the quest system is much deeper than it first appears.
Looking for: Call of Duty, Battlefield, or any generally over-the-top FPS
Is it your dream to one day finish a match in Call of Duty, unplug your portable-Xbox 360, and play the next round on the go? Until that day arrives, there are a few alternatives available on your actually portable device.
- Trigger Fist – The perfect intro to shooters on mobile, Trigger Fist features a third-person viewpoint with only horizontal aiming in a strictly-multiplayer game. It’s still fast-paced and full of ways to take down an enemy, but streamlines its focus to allow players to do the same.
- Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour – The fourth installation in a series that aims to be the Modern Warfare of mobile, Modern Combat 4 offers a sizable single-player campaign along with a tightly-controlled multiplayer. From its explosive graphics to the long-winded story, everything about this game screams “console!”—except the fact that is plays, and plays well, on mobile.
- N.O.V.A. 3 – Although Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. series is to Halo what its Modern Combat is to Modern Warfare, it can’t be denied that they know how to make shooters on mobile. For those who want a little sci-fi mixed in with their military operation, N.O.V.A. is one of the best—and best looking—options out there.
Looking for: An epic, open-world adventure, like Skyrim
Unfortunately, you simply can’t have that on an iPhone…or can you? As hardware and development capabilities continue to expand, mobile games’ limits are stretched beyond the horizon. More than any other genre, these games demonstrate the true blurring of the line between “console-quality” and “mobile” games.
- Ravensword: Shadowlands – The Ravensword series may be the closest games to The Elder Scrolls on mobile right now, but they certainly won’t be the last. With an open world fantasy setting, totally customizable characters, quest system, in-depth leveling and upgrades, and even (mountable!) dinosaurs, there’s almost too much to do—almost.
- Horn – If Infinity Blade hadn’t come first, it’d be hard to believe Horn could exist on the iPhone. This part action, part puzzle/exploration game is as strikingly beautiful and deep as many console games, at a fraction of the cost.
- Order & Chaos Online – The World of Warcraft of iOS MMOs, Order & Chaos Online is still going strong two years after its release, indicating that mobile may be another potentially stable platform for the genre. Although Gameloft receives flak for “borrowing” heavily from PC/console games for its original mobile offerings, they have created some of the most console-quality titles available to date, including Order & Chaos.
These are just a handful of the myriad games available to draw console players into the mobile gaming fold, or to introduce mobile gamers to genres beyond the platform’s initial bite-sized titles. Feel free to hit pause and share your favorites as well.