As 2014 draws to a close, Gamezebo is taking a look back at the games that really wowed us on Android devices this year. And you know what? There were a lot.
Sifting through the stacks, we managed to nail down the ten that were our absolute favorite. But these might not be your favorite, so we want to hear from you. Let us know what the best Android game of 2014 was in the comments, or hit us up on Twitter with your thoughts!
When Microsoft bought Mojang, there was a lot of nervousness about what this might mean for the (then) upcoming tablet edition of Scrolls, a card-based strategy game that had been enjoyed by early adopters on desktops for more than a year. But at the tail end of 2014, that tablet edition made its debut on Android, and it’s every bit as brain-achingly good as we were hoping.
Players play cards that correspond with figures on a board, moving those figures into attack position in an attempt to conquer their opponent turn-after-turn. It’s more Magic the Gathering than it is Chess, but regardless, it’s a hybrid we very much approve of.
9. Kingdom Rush Origins
For a genre that we had largely thought exhausted, 2014 was a fantastic year for tower defense games. And Kingdom Rush Origins? It was their king. Then again, fans of the previous Kingdom Rush games would expect nothing less. While the game stayed close to its roots, brilliantly constructed levels and a fun new nature-based elf theme made us fall in love with the Kingdom Rush formula all over again.
8. Leo’s Fortune
…well, maybe not “simple.”
Accessible would probably be a better word. Or maybe “user-friendly.” However you describe it, the game is a joy to play. With top notch level design and jaw-dropping visuals, Leo’s Fortune became a fan favorite when it first launched this past summer and has remained on the tip of our tongues ever since.
7. 80 Days
Want to see the world? Sometimes all it takes is a good book. In 1873, that book was Around the World in 80 Days. And while it was great for the time (no offense, Jules Verne), a journey is much more fun when you’re the one planning it.
With that in mind, I give you 80 Days: the latest interactive fiction masterpiece from inkle. If you’re a gamer and a reader, this is a game you absolutely have to read. And how does it turn out? Decide for yourself.
6. The Banner Saga
Part tactical RPG, part interactive story, The Banner Saga blew us away with its tight gameplay and (occassionally) user-controlled narrative. Like Fire Emblem, characters can die permanently; but here it’s based on the story choices you’ve made.
When your poor choices kill your favorite Varl for the first time, be prepared for utter heartbreak.
5. Skylanders Trap Team
Here’s a fun fact: 2014 is the first year that Android gamers saw a full console game appear on their touch screen devices day and date with other versions. And it worked. Flawlessly.
You may not have realized this though, because while Skylanders Trap Team is a free download on Google Play, the real experience requires you to pop into a retailer and buy a starter kit. And if you’re willing to make the investment? It’s totally worth it.
The Skylanders franchise has been praised by gamers and critics alike for years now as one of the top franchises for kid-friendly fun. That said, I’m 34 and I still sneak in sessions while my children are at school. So… Yeah. Buy this thing.
4. Monument Valley
If you’re on the hunt for a hauntingly beautiful experience, Monument Valley is an absolute must play. It’s been viewed as a strong contender for Game of the Year by a lot of mobile gamers, and with good reason.
Developer ustwo created an experience akin to a playable painting with a slight M.C. Escher influence. You’ll need to twist and slide the environment to help your hero find their way – and yet the puzzle elements are never frustrating.
It’s a joy to play; the only downside is that it has to eventually end.
Mark our words: Threes! is this generation’s Tetris.
2. Traps n’ Gemstones
Great platformers are common enough on any platform. Even – contrary to what some might say – touch screen devices. But platformers that give us an eerie feeling of nostalgia? Platformers that feel straight out of 1994? They’re not as common as we’d like.
Traps n’ Gemstones not only manages to capture that feeling, but it does so by providing Metroidvania-style backtracking in stages clearly designed with modern mobile gamers in mind. Rooms are small, important items are plentiful, and you’re never more than a minute or two from your next destination — even if it’s on the other side of the map.
Traps n’ Gemstones is beautifully designed, paying homage to a variety of gaming tropes. And this beautiful design is made even better thanks to the developer’s respect for the quickplay needs of mobile gamers.
It may have waited until the wee final days of 2014 to make its way to Android tablets, but better late than never! Arriving in mid-December on Google Play, Blizzard’s unique spin on CCG’s strikes a perfect balance between accessible and deep. Anyone can learn the mechanics in a few short games, but mastering your deck and strategies will take a serious commitment.
I suppose that’s why there are casual fans (like me) and players who compete on a tournament level. At the end of the day, though, we’re all after the same great cards.
If you’ve never managed to find the appeal in games like Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone should help remedy that. As a free-to-play game that doesn’t put up any real roadblocks and offers cross-platform play (so you’ll be able to duel iPad and desktop gamers alike), Hearthstone has no shortage of competition or fun.
It may only be available on Android tablets (sorry, phonesters!), but considering how many hours you can sink into this one without growing tired of it, Hearthstone was a shoe-in for our Android Game of the Year.