The release of Returnal has caused me to revisit this list of the best run-based games on mobile. For the most part, run-based games are really great for mobile, because they provide a lot of depth and satisfying gameplay in a relatively bite-sized package that’s purposely designed for you to play over and over and over again.
Although you might not be able to play Returnal on your phone or tablet (nor would you want to), there are still a bunch of great run-based games on iOS to play. Check out our picks for the best run-based games below:
Slay the Spire is almost single-handedly responsible for popularizing deck-based roguelikes. You choose a character with a base set of abilities and cards and then fight against increasingly difficult creatures, honing your deck and powers all along the way.
The magic of Slay the Spire comes from just how flexible your customization options are. You can find create card combinations that feel overpowered, but still be struck down by making one false move or underestimating your opposition. If you haven’t played this gem yet, correct this as soon as possible.
Void Tyrant is a sci-fi dungeon-crawler where your mission is to battle through the galaxy to slay the eponymous villain. The battles you complete along the way let you outfit your character with increasingly better gear, but your success in battle ultimately revolves around pushing your luck to try and establish a higher attack number than your opponent without going over a specified number ceiling.
I’d be surprised if Void Tyrant wasn’t at least partially inspired by Slay the Spire, but its unique blend of Blackjack mechanics with the deck customizing of collectible card games makes it a standout run-based game in its own right.
Blast away mutant fruits using the needler from Halo, a Steam wallet that shoots money, a vacuum cleaner, or a good old fashioned gun. Juicy Realm is a quirky and colorful run-based shooter where your ultimate goal is to build up a formidable arsenal capable of taking down the “bad seed.”
The only action-based game on this list earns its spot because it has controls and game-length that feel perfectly tuned for mobile. A full run of Juicy Realm takes less than an hour, and the game changes its auto-aim settings depending on whether you’re playing on touch or with a controller so you never feel like you’re making the game harder for yourself just because you’re controlling it differently.
Invisible, Inc. is a turn-based strategy game set in a dystopian future full of megacorps and rogue AI. You control a small band of operators who must rely on stealth to gain an upper-hand while taking on well resourced armies of private security guards.
Although it’s iPad only (and unfortunately not full-screen on modern devices), Invisible, Inc. still feels like the pinnacle of strategic run-based games. Although there’s a high degree of variability in terms of your operatives, building layouts, and abilities, there’s no mystery or randomness when it comes to your moves and their consequences, which makes each run feel like a high-stakes heist that you get to be the leader of.
The third card-based roguelike to grace this list has its own distinct take on the format. In Krumit’s Tale, your deck is mixed up alongside enemy cards and arranged as tiles on a grid that represents the dungeon you’re questing through. In order to use your cards, you must defeat enemies and earn gold to buy the privilege to use them.
It’s a system that can feel a little restrictive at first, but it adds a huge amount of depth to a game that bursts with variety. Don’t sleep on Krumit’s Tale.