There’s a lot going on right now, and I don’t really feel like trying to write some kind of pithy intro for it. All I’ll say is lots of people have been coming together and helping each other in small ways, and I’m choosing to focus on that as I try to stay safe myself.
One of the ways folks are trying to help are by making their games more affordable, or even free, during this time. Check out my top picks below of some great mobile titles that have gone on sale recently:
Games marked with an asterisk(*) denote that the entire developer/publisher’s catalog is discounted, despite the fact that all of their games may not be listed here.
Final Fantasy VII is probably the most revered JRPG of all time, and its long-awaited remake has tons of folks anxiously awaiting the chance to see the reimagining of a classic. I’m sure its release will be met with equal parts fanfare and outrage, as is usually the case when a high-profile work is revisited.
Apple Arcade made a splash when it first launched, granting access to over 50 games as soon as it became available. Of those titles, the one that seemed to grab most people’s attention was Grindstone, a matching puzzle game from Capy Games.
In order to enjoy Grindstone though, you have to activate an Apple Arcade subscription, which—even now—doesn’t quite feel like a quality value proposition for most people. Luckily, there are some great games on the regular old App Store that share some DNA with Grindstone. I’d even go so far as to say over half the games on this list are better than Grindstone, though I know that’s probably not a statement most folks will agree with.
Patch notes have been removed and have been replaced with (NEW) designation for the games most recently added or updated on this list.
*UPDATE:* As the pace of Apple Arcade has slowed, old games will also be re-evaluated based on reader feedback and content updates. Recently re-evaluated titles will be designated with (UPDATE) next to the title name.
Games marked with an asterisk(*) are games that suffer in rank due to technical problems.
All current rankings are listed below. More titles will be added frequently until the list is complete.
Frogger in Toy Town takes the basic tenets of the classic Frogger arcade game and turns it into a sort of collection-based physics platformer. You control a frog and wander through various household environments, avoiding things like toy cars and pens as you climb over toy blocks and books to rescue baby frogs and collect jelly beans.
The physics aspect of Frogger in Toy Town make this game both an interesting and frustrating experience. On the one hand, it’s neat to experience what it’s like to disrupt the classic Frogger experience by suddenly being able to block cars from moving by moving a block into the road to stop them. On the other, it can feel like you’re constantly fighting tons of variables in Frogger in Toy Town just to do simple tasks like jump up on top of something. This can lead to a lot of times where you die or miss an objective, and it doesn’t really feel like there’s a whole lot you could have done differently to prevent that from happening. When everything’s working as intended though, Frogger in Toy Town is a fun new take on classic Frogger.
Assemble With Care is a narrative puzzle game about a young girl named Maria who repairs things. As she fixes objects for the people of Bellariva—a town she is just passing through—she learns a lot about them and their lives. The gameplay here mostly consists of poking and prodding at broken objects with virtual tools to get them in working order again. Every time you fix an object, you then get a small dose of story that leads you to the next puzzle.
I’m starting to think there’s something I’m missing when I play ustwo games. I love the attention-to-detail in games like Monument Valley and Assemble With Care, but I don’t find the overall experience all that compelling. It probably doesn’t help that Assemble With Care doesn’t really give itself room to develop its ideas. On the plus side, this is an easy title to burn through if you’re using a free trial of Apple Arcade.
Sociable Soccer is an arcade soccer game where you build a dream team of footballers to try and take down other players’ teams. Along the way, you pick up other players to add to your roster, which you can use to create alternate lineups or feed to your other players to upgrade their stats. The whole thing feels a lot like a gacha game, except you can't spend any money on it.
I’m very frustrated by Sociable Soccer. It constantly teases you with gestures at good ideas, but they all turn out to be empty. The arcade soccer is so simplistic that it feels kind of random. Collecting and upgrading players is a ridiculously long grind (especially since the game limits how many times you can play matches). Managing your team involves arranging formations of players, and... nothing else. This is to say that Sociable Soccer has set up a bunch of great structures for creating a fun sports game with rpg elements, but said structures aren’t filled with anything satisfying.
Way of the Turtle is a very conventional platformer starring two turtles. These turtles may walk automatically, but you choose when they jump or when they use their different shell powers that they accumulate over the course of the game.
There’s nothing wrong with Way of the Turtle’s concept per se, but it also doesn’t feel all that special. It’s just very expected. This is the kind of game that may be satisfying at times, but is rarely surprising.
It’s also worth noting that Way of the Turtle bugged out a few times loading into the game on a couple occasions, and I had to restart it to get it working properly again.
After Way of the Turtle got a new content update, so I decided to give it another shot, and it wasn’t pretty. For whatever reason, Way of the Turtle had not saved any of my previous progress when I came back to it. It also decided that each time I came back to the game it would keep my progress (good), but always start me back at the beginning of the game map some reason (not good). This, plus the fact that Way of the Turtle has a confusingly poor frame rate on iPad drove me away from the game faster than it did when I first tried it.
You like Starfox? Well, Redout: Space Assault is kind of like that, which is to say it’s an on-rails space shooter. Your ship fires automatically and follows a set path, but you have to fine-tune the maneuvering of your ship to shoot at enemies, avoid obstacles, and shake heat-seeking missiles off your tail.
Redout: Space Assault scores poorly because of how generic it is. There’s almost nothing about the game that makes it special. Even the graphics, which I guess arguably are technically “good,” don’t really read as impressive, nor do they enhance the experience all that much.
In a lot of ways, turn-based strategy games are an ideal fit for mobile. Their menu-heavy navigation and slow pace mesh better with touch input than just about any other control scheme.
Unsurprisingly, this means there are a lot of strategy games to choose from on mobile, but not all of them are worth your time (or money). Take, for example, War of the Visions: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. For all its flashy visuals and pedigree, it’s a shameless gacha game that capitalizes on your fondness for Chocobos and older, better games while locking up its strategic depth behind a dizzying amount of monetized systems.
If you’re new to this genre and wondering where to start, I can’t recommend The Battle of Polytopia highly enough. It’s free, matches are short, and it does a great job of teaching you the fundamentals of strategy games without feeling overly complicated.
It’s also one of the most convenient strategy games there is, as it plays well in portrait mode and auto-saves constantly. Once you feel ready, you can also spend as little as $ 0.99 to unlock a new tribe that will also give you the ability to play with others online.
Last week’s release of Call of Duty: Warzone on PC and consoles renewed a lot of people’s interest in the battle royale genre. Once a red-hot game mode a couple years ago, battle royales have maintained their prominence despite finding more competition with other popular genres like autochess and more traditional multiplayer shooters, particularly on mobile.
Flappy Royale is probably the purest, most mobile-friendly battle royale game there is. Yes, it lifts the gameplay from the viral and divisive Flappy Bird, but then throws in a bus for 100 birds to launch out of so they can all compete to see who can fly through the most pipes.
What makes the game so satisfying is how imminently replayable it is. There is practically zero wait time between matches, and the rounds themselves are just a minute or two at the longest. It may not be as shooty as other battle royale games, but that’s what makes it so perfect for mobile.
If you still want a mobile-friendly pick but need guns and opponents to shoot them at, surviv.io is your best bet. It may look a little crude, but the top-down action of this battle royale is fast and surprisingly deep.
This pick behaves almost exactly like other battle royales out there. You spawn on a big battle map, run around looting buildings for weapons and gear, and then run into other players that you get into firefights with. The great thing about surviv.io is that—like Flappy Royale—there is almost no time spent waiting for matches to start.
This list would not be complete without a mention of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). The PC release of PUBG in 2017 is what catapulted battle royale games into gaming prominence, and PUBG Mobile takes the original game’s winning formula and tunes it for touch.
As far as conventional battle royales on mobile go, PUBG Mobile is probably the most accessible. The shooting model is tweaked to make shots hit more quickly and initial matches are populated with bots so you can feel good about your performance as you get your bearings in the game.
Although not strictly a battle royale game, Call of Duty Mobile has its own gameplay mode dedicated to the genre, and it’s a pretty darn good one at that. In lieu of having a mobile version of Apex Legends (and it’s only a matter of time before we have one of those), Call of Duty Mobile’s battle royale mode delivers more mobility options and unique character customization than other titles on this list.
My only word of warning about Call of Duty Mobile as a battle royale game is that you can’t just play that mode immediately. There are a lot of multiplayer modes in this game, and you have to play quite a few matches of more traditional shooter match types before you can unlock the ability to play its battle royale mode.
All of the other games on this list make some compromise in bringing the battle royale genre to mobile. If you want a truly console or PC-style experience though—whether it’s because you think your touch screen skills are up to the task or you have a bluetooth controller handy—Fortnite is basically your only option.
The version of Fortnite you download off the App Store is the practically exact same game as the PC and console versions, to the point that you even play against players using these different platforms. Fortnite also features its unique crafting/building mechanic that allows players to construct cover and other structures as they run-and-gun to be the last person standing.