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.
Touch screens and action-oriented gameplay don't typically mix, but over the course of pondering the best platformers on mobile, I found myself having a really hard time picking just five. Quite a few developers have found really creative ways to make games that require quick reflexes and precision feel perfectly enjoyable on your phone or tablet.
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.
Game ranking updates for 7/28:
Jenny LeClue (#11)
King's League 2 (#44)
The Lullaby of Life (NEW) (#45)
Secret Oops (#125)
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.
Where Cards Fall is a mysterious puzzle game that’s difficult to explain. It’s a traversal puzzle game, but you need to move your character from point A to point B by folding and unfolding card structures for him to walk over or around. In between these puzzles, you watch vignettes that unfold a somewhat vague story about the character you’re controlling.
This game currently sits at the bottom of the list because it is very buggy. The game occasionally doesn’t boot up at all. When it does, it’s possible that it will start you over at the beginning of the game. Once these things get cleared up, I could see Where Cards Fall moving a few rungs up the list (because there is some cool stuff going on here), but I don’t want to touch it again until it gets updated, and neither should you.
Update 10/15: Now that Where Cards Fall doesn’t eat your saves, it has jumped up quite a few spots in the rankings. Folding and unfolding houses of cards looks and feels great, plus there’s some ingenious ways the game combines different kinds of houses with other environmental mechanics to create unique puzzles. It could move even further up the ranks if the game’s movement controls didn’t feel so sluggish. Also, the game stitches cutscenes between the puzzles and they’re all pretty uninteresting and/or unintelligble. No matter though, the puzzling here is still great.
Bleak Sword challenges you with combat encounters that are encased in little monochromatic diorama scenes. There’s a story here, but the main focus is: Enter arena, kill enemies, get loot, level up, and repeat.
It’s really hard to get action-based combat right on touchscreens, but Bleak Sword kind of nails it (and in portrait mode no less!). The controls are simple and responsive without feeling limiting. If you want micro doses of really stylish-yet-minimal action combat, this is the way to go.
Bleak Sword limits its appeal by being so reaction-based, not to mention super hard. Dying also comes with some hefty penalties that might make you want to put it down rather than digging in and mastering it.
Update: I’m a little bummed to have discovered that Bleak Sword apparently doesn’t keep a local save file. It’s always accessing iCloud, meaning you can’t continue your progress in the game unless you’re connected to data.
The Last of Us Part II is set to come out this week, but review scores have already been rolling in to pump up excitement for the latest entry in Naughty Dog’s expensive-looking apocalyptic survival horror series. Generally speaking, the game has already received near universal praise for its technical prowess, it’s a little less clear whether its story and tone will be as successful.
Some of this is due to the review embargo Naughty Dog has put in place around The Last of Us Part II, which has restricted critics from writing about the game in its entirety. Outside of that, there has been also heavy discussion among writers about how the game’s tone feels overly brutal and needlessly bleak, particularly since these aspects are seemingly being used in order to raise the same tired questions about player agency and violence that have been explored repeatedly in over a decade’s worth of “prestige” games.
Real-time strategy games feel like they’d be a perfect fit for mobile, but they’re trickier to pull off that you might think. The traditional mold of base-building and micro management can work on touch screens, but needs to be carefully honed so that it doesn’t end up too overwhelming.
With KartRider Rush+ making a splash this past week, we figured it was high time we updated our list of the best mobile racing games out there. From realistic racing sims to futuristic arcade racers (and even racing management games!), check out our top picks for the absolute best games for those with a need for speed.
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.
I spent part of my weekend playing Valorant, the new multiplayer shooter from Riot Games. While I was waiting to get into the beta, though, I was trying to see if I could find anything else like it, particularly on mobile. Perhaps this is unsurprising to say, but: This was hard to do.
For those not familiar, Valorant is a 5v5 multiplayer shooter that’s more-or-less Counter-Strike with hero characters. It’s pretty fun, but requires a lot of focus and teamwork. Few mobile games really fall into this camp, so I decided instead to go for just good multiplayer shooters in general.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been cooped up in your house for weeks and the novelty of making video calls is starting to wear off. You need something else to do with your friends and loved ones, but it needs to be something everyone can do together and with minimal setup and no cost.
Forget trying to get everyone on board with Call of Duty Warzone or anything else so intense. Try these fun, free, and easy activities that just about anyone can pick up and enjoy.
AI Dungeon is a game where you collaboratively create a story with the help of an AI chatbot. Of course, this is something you could do completely on your own, but wouldn’t it be more fun to see what kinds of absurd (or maybe even impressive) adventures you could go on with friends?
There's no escaping the fact that everyone loves Dark Souls. If you've not heard of it, it's a super tough action RPG that punished your every mistake with swift retribution. It's the sort of game where you die a lot, and it can be pretty intimidating trying to get on board with the systems it throws at you.
But you can't play it on your iPhone. Well, there's Slashy Souls, but to be honest the less said about that the better. If you're looking to get some Souls-style action on the go though, there are plenty of options waiting for you on the App Store.
Rather than leaving you to find all of them for yourself though, we thought we'd do a list and round-up what we think are the five best games like Dark Souls for iOS. If you think we're wrong, or you've got your own suggestions to chuck into the mix, let us know in the comments at the bottom of the article.
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.
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.
Looking forward to Animal Crossing: New Horizons? We know the feeling. We can't wait to start delivering fish and butterflies to our cute fuzzy friends, despite the fact that at times it can feel more like a vocation than a game.
But what if you're looking for a mobile game to try and ensure you get your cuteness fix in the meantime? Well, there's Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, but we reckon we can do better than that. Which is why we've created this list of the five best games like Animal Crossing for iOS.