Since the day smartphones became powerful enough to run games more complex than Snake, developers have attempted to bring all kinds of console classics to mobile, and with mixed results, to be fair.
Given that most high-end tablets and phones are now more powerful than the majority of retro gaming systems, getting these titles to run smoothly isn’t an issue, but some of the more sophisticated games from yesteryear aren’t always a great fit for touchscreen controls.
That said, we shouldn’t dwell on the inevitable misfires as there have been plenty of success stories to shout about, and with them in mind, here are our top 10 console ports on iOS and Android devices.
10. Sonic The Hedgehog 2
When Sega announced that it was working on a top-secret project dubbed ‘Sega Forever’, the early reports suggested a Netflix-style streaming service full of retro games was on its way to mobile devices. It was an anti-climax when it turned out to be an initiative to optimise a bunch of games the studio had released on the app stores once before.
Nevertheless, at least Sega Forever brought us a decent version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, one of the finest platformers of the 16-bit era. New features include save game support, bonus materials and refined controls. The virtual thumbstick doesn’t offer quite as much precision as a Mega Drive D-pad, but this is otherwise the Sonic 2 you know and love.
9. Chrono Trigger
Publisher: Square Enix
Square Enix is the undisputed king of the JRPG and that was certainly the case in the 16-bit era when it was churning out classics like Chrono Trigger. The SNES smash differentiated itself from the early Final Fantasys with a time-bending story and high science fiction elements.
Although the definitive way to experience Chrono Trigger is with an old-school Nintendo controller in hand, the essence of the game found its way to iOS and Android devices intact. The twist-filled story is its lifeblood and the key ingredient that makes it timeless.
8. World of Goo
Publisher: 2D Boy
In World of Goo, players will find themselves stretching sentient balls of gunk into towers and bridges so other balls of gunk can gain safe passage to the end of the level. It sounds utterly bizarre on paper, but it’s actually one of the best and most charming puzzle titles on the app stores. World of Goo hit home consoles first, though the mobile edition is definitive, as the touchscreen controls create the illusion that you’re reaching into the world and manipulating it with your hands.
7. LEGO Batman: DC Super Heroes
Publisher: Warner Bros
It’s a well-known fact that things become infinitely more fun when rendered in LEGO, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to Batman video games. Several entries in the popular LEGO Batman series have found their way to mobile, and DC Super Heroes is arguably the pick of them, since it comes with so many bonus characters.
Whether you’re reducing Darkseid’s minions to a pile of multi-coloured bricks with Superman, or toying around at top speed as the Flash, LEGO Batman: DC Super Heroes provides stacks of fun for all the family.
6. Final Fantasy VI
Publisher: Square Enix
Square Enix has done a fine job bringing its early Final Fantasy titles to iOS and Android devices, and in truth, chapters one through to six were all strong contenders for spots on the list.
Final Fantasy VI, though, is the pick of the pre-PlayStation instalments and it’s still epic in every sense. There are two entire worlds to explore, 14 playable characters to get to grips with, and a storyline that will take you from one edge of the emotional spectrum to the other.
When bringing the SNES original to mobile, Square added welcome spit and polish to the sprites and tailored the controls for touchscreens. FFVII may be superior but it didn’t lend itself as well to touch controls.
5. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Publisher: 505 Games
One of the most beautifully nuanced games ever to debut on the Xbox 360 made its way to mobile devices when 505 Games ported Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons across. This is a story of loyalty, loss, love and friendship, and these themes are the heart of the experience.
What’s more, the innovative dual control stick interface works just fine when said control sticks are of the virtual variety.
4. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants
The Oddworld series put a delightfully dark spin on the platforming genre during the PlayStation era, and it had evolved in all kinds of way by the time Stranger’s Wrath touched down on Xbox in 2005.
This unique mash-up of 3D and 2D gameplay spliced with Western elements, science fiction and fantasy has found its way to mobile in recent years, and while a MFi controller is a luxury, it’s not a necessity thanks to the care that was taken during the porting process.
3. This War of Mine
Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
A survival-platformer which deals with the subject of armed conflict from the perspective of civilians, rather than soldiers, This War of Mine was emotive, brutal and gut-wrenching when it arrived on home consoles and PC in 2014. The iOS and Android edition which followed stealthily in its wake is all of those things and more, as the tap-based control scheme the developers introduced actually improved the game.
2. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Publisher: Rockstar Games
When Rockstar Games took its legendary crime sim Grand Theft Auto back to basics with Chinatown Wars on Nintendo DS and PSP, it did so without sacrificing the scope of the modern instalments. Whether you’re wrapped up in the controversial drug-dealing mini-game or carrying out a story mission for your shady Triad-boss uncle, this was the full-fat GTA experience in the palm of your hand, albeit with graphics more in line with the early 2D entries in the series.
Although Chinatown Wars was a smash hit on handheld consoles, the definitive way to experience it is on an iPad or Android tablet. With more display real estate on its side, the game comes to life like never before, and the top-down viewpoint it uses makes it a good fit for touch controls.
1. Bully: Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Bully was what happened when Rockstar took its Grand Theft Auto template and applied it to a school setting. Firearms made way for slingshots, cops for prefects and the budding-criminal protagonist for a walking ASBO named Jimmy. It was a winning combination that, in some ways, is superior to some of the GTAs of its generation.
When Rockstar brought the Anniversary Edition of the game to iOS and Android, the studio did so with the utmost care. This is a masterclass in the mobile port. The developers didn’t simply slap a virtual stick and an assortment of digital buttons on top of the original game, they spent time optimising and balancing the game on touchscreen hardware.
As a result, Bully lost none of its brilliance and, what’s more, felt like it was made for mobile.