The recent tenth anniversary of the App Store offered a clear reminder of how much mobile games have changed in the last decade. Mobile games today are very diverse and often more ambitious than in the past, not to mention that they are dramatically more polished on average. And, my God, there are many of them on iOS and Android.
It’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest, with the constant stream of new touch-screen games, but there are some extraordinary and fascinating experiences in the midst of the flood. With that in mind, we’re highlighting our absolute favorite mobile games, each of which is ready to entertain if you’re on the move, curled up in bed or just eager to kill a few minutes.
Some of these are newer releases that had an immediate impact, while others are modern classics that still deserve attention today. In any case, all are highly recommended. Be sure to keep up with this list in the future, as we will update from time to time with selections for new essential experiences.
For a relatively small indie, exclusively for mobile devices, Holedown got a lot of word of mouth attention when it was released, and also for a good reason. Starting with Grapefrukt Games, the studio behind Rymdkapsel and Twofold Inc., also of great strength, Holedown riffs in the classic formula of breaking bricks with some new ideas and an addictive progression system.
Here, you will throw balls into a tunnel instead of the sky, and everything will be an effort to clear the obstacles that lie between you and the core of the planet. And not only will you shoot a ball and try to keep it bouncing. Instead, through gradual upgrades, you’ll eventually get the ability to fire up to 99 balls at a time, filling each cavern full of blocks with frantic, zigzag projectiles.
Even with that kind of enviable firepower, Holedown remains convincing thanks to the strategy required to clear certain types of blocks before they reach the final line of the game. I’ve been going back to endless unlockable mode for months, and I still have not found a good reason to get this game out of my main home screen.
As adorable as they are, raccoons are a problem, and that is definitely the case in Donut County, though not in a traditional way. In this wonderfully unconventional indie, the raccoons have taken over the donut shop … and for some reason, there are holes that swallow all the buildings, objects and living creatures in the city. Weird, huh?
Little by little you will learn what happened from the bottom of the pit below the city, since the human Mira, her hateful friend BK raccoon and other animal animals remember their encounters with the hole. And then you will control the hole itself, solving clever puzzles and sliding on the ground as it grows and grows with each object it consumes.
Donut County is one of the most delightful games of recent memory. Reviewer Ashley Oh called it “the hole in my heart that I never want to fill.” And it plays as well with a finger on your iPhone or iPad as you would with a driver elsewhere, with the full experience included in iOS at a fraction of the console and the cost of the PC. Better yet, small missions are great for quick sessions on the go.
Asphalt 9: Legends
The Gameloft Burnout-esque racing series reached a new peak with the 2013 Asphalt 8: Airborne, which finally rose above the mere state of copy of the console to be a truly refined and entertaining mobile experience. Asphalt 9: Legends does not make another big leap after five years, but adds even more polish and options to what is undoubtedly the best street racer in mobile gaming.
Asphalt 9 is all brightness and speed, allowing you to lose more than 50 licensed tours while traveling dozens of tracks loaded with weather hazards, massive jumps and curved ramps that allow you to turn your car into the air. As in the inspiration of your console, you can attack your rivals to knock them down who also fill your impulse gauge, rewarding (intelligent) aggression as you move towards the finish line. Single-player racing is a lot of fun, but Asphalt 9 is at its best in frantic online eight-player games.
Anyone with a sensitive spot for freemium models could be frustrated with the car’s refuel meter, not to mention the currency of the game used for updates. But as with its predecessor, you can fully enjoy Asphalt 9 without spending anything, assuming you can tolerate those elements.