I can't believe how quickly this year has flown by, as it seems like it wasn't even that long ago when we were obsessive over how to distill thousands of great games down into a Game of the Year, 25 best, and my personal ten favorites. But, here we are. This year I spent a lot of time getting involved in playing free to play games, and a lot of iOS ports of games I hadn't played before on other platforms. Here's ten games that I thought deserved an extra special nod somewhere in our year end coverage, oh and these are just in alphabetical order so don't try to divine any special meaning beyond that:

Bitcoin Billionaire, Free - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Ever since the explosion of Cookie Clicker and similar browser games, many developers have tried their hands at duplicating the whole "mindlessly wait to increment a number" gameplay formula. What's weird about Bitcoin Billionaire is never has that goal of simply increasing a number neen more clear and self aware- To the point that you realize how stupid it is, but you can't help but keep playing. I know it's dumb, but this game absorbed my life for weeks. I even love how punishing the game can be through its wacky use of in-game ads. It's so bad it's good.

Candy Crush Soda Saga, Free - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - The amount of crap I have received for legitimately enjoying this game has been legendary, but I don't even care. The original Candy Crush was great, and Soda Saga has succeeded in sucking me in even further. I'm currently on level 135, and have yet to spend a single cent on the game. The game is balanced in a way that completing it without paying requires playing the game more like chess than a simple match three. You can't look at the match you're making now, but rather the matches that match will allow you to make in the future. Seriously, I can't get enough.

FTL: Faster Than Light, $9.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - We often talk about games that are so good that you just totally lose yourself in them, and it's hard to come up with a way to better describe FTL. I've played this game until my iPad ran out of batteries on international flights, stopping only to go to the bathroom. I'm not even sure I've actually even beat the game on normal more than once, but it doesn't even matter. In randomized permadeath games, crazy things happen, and those crazy things always keep me coming back for more.

Hearthstone, Free - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - This seems like an obvious inclusion, but, man, Hearthstone is great. As my life has just generally gotten busier I've had less time to play paper Magic the Gathering, and Hearthstone has been fantastic at filling that void. What's rad too is it's also truly free to play, and I know people who have spent nothing who are super competitive. Personally? I feel like I'm putting someone at Blizzard's kids through college.

HodappyBird, Free - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - I feel like Flappy Bird needs some kind of mention here, but since it's not on the App Store anymore the best I can do is link to my own game. Madgarden did me a solid and turned what was a joke at GDC into an actual game... And a good one at that, as far as Flappy clones are concerned. It also made a lot of people really mad, which is an interesting side effect to releasing a video game in 2014.

Magic 2015, Free - [Game of the Week] - [Forum Thread] - As mentioned previously, I just don't have the time I used to for playing the paper version of Magic. Magic 2015 is the latest and greatest iteration of the iPad game, and after a reworking of how the IAP works is the strongest release so far. I still wish it was a full-fledged iOS Magic Online client, but with each year that only feels more and more inevitable.

RETRY, Free - [Release] - [Forum Thread] - Flappy Bird spawned zillions of ultra-difficult insta-death games, and I really think Retry is the best of the best. It's published by Rovio, controls well, has a great payment model that doesn't interfere with the game at all, and potentially one of the coolest title screens on iOS. Seriously, don't miss this one, I don't care how much you hate Flapp-likes.

Smarter Than You, Free - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - While I'm pretty sure everyone just wanted more 10000000, I'm glad that 10000000 guy decided to take a break from working on You Must Build a Boat to release Smarter Than You. The game feels experimental in every sense of the word, both in the gameplay itself as well as the totally crazy and optional payment model. The online guessing game had its fair share of detractors, but trying to outwit your opponent is a ton of fun.

Tales from the Borderlands, Free - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - I've played all the recent Telltale adventure games, and none of them even begin to compared with Tales from the Borderlands. The Borderlands universe makes for a flawless setting to a game filled with action, hilarious moments, and writing that actually makes me incredibly excited to see what comes next. Only the first episode is out as of this writing, but I really can't see how it can't get even better from here.

Thomas Was Alone, $4.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - I really didn't know much about Thomas Was Alone before I downloaded it beyond knowing it as another one of those indie games you just know is good because everyone has been talking about it for so long. I had no idea how good it would be, as games with this level of plot and character development are undeniably rare on the App Store. As the credits rolled, I've never felt more compelled to just stand up and clap after playing a video game.

  • C. Stubb

    HodappyBird, eh...seems legit!

    • Kenan2000

      I don't understand why did he put candy crush in the list...

      • Leydz Boomshaka-Irwin

        Read the article you chop.

      • korossyl

        Freemium games are garbage, and they are destroying gaming. I'm one of THOSE gamers. And yet... I think believing that should disqualify me from heading up a site like Touch Arcade. There's room for us cranky traditionalists at place like Pocket Tactics, but there are so many worthy games that fall outside of their mandate that I still want to know about, even if not play. If premium pricing WILL lose the monetizing war to freemium, then evolution must occur within the freemium model. For that we need open-minded but level-headed reviewers, like Mr. Hodapp. I disagree with this particular opinion, but gaming's a big tent. It takes all kinds.

      • Kenan2000

        "Premium cannot exist without freemium and freemium cannot exist without premium.Period."

      • curtneedsaride

        On mobile, a few premium titles did well before IAPs were even on the App Store. And then there was video gaming and handheld gaming from then back to the 70's. Premium existed just fine during that period. The discovery of freemium is solely a new way for people to make money, and not to give the gamer a better experience. The trick for these developers and marketers is finding the balance between just a money making tapping app and cloaking the pay model with a somewhat enjoyable game. In my opinion, though, every game could be better enjoyed by the gamer as a premium experience. And I really wish the freemium games I play were premium, like the good old days of gaming.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I'd argue the mom playing Candy Crush every day who discovered gaming because she got an iPhone and someone suggested she downloaded it for free is having a pretty awesome experience. There's a whole range of gaming and gamers that fall outside of the incredibly myopic traditional view of what a "real" game or gamer is.

        My experience is similarly pretty awesome, I actually enjoy Candy Crush more because of the life system. Games with the abusive monetization schemes everyone likes to point out in these arguments don't do well. Every game on the top grossing is monetized fairly, with no tricks. Of course that doesn't fit well into the whole "Freemium is ruining gaming" agenda but, hey, whatever.

      • curtneedsaride

        "Every game on the top grossing is monetized fairly, with no tricks." So, you don't think those games would be more enjoyable if we had the choice to just play them without IAPs/timers/energy? I definitely recognize that my opinion of gaming isn't the same as everyone, especially moms playing Candy Crush. But if Candy Crush was premium and only cost $0.99, I bet that mom playing it would still be having a fun experience. Maybe even a better one. I just think that finding gimmicky ways to monetize something that doesn't NEED to be monetized that way is taking away from the enjoyment. However, finding new ways to make money is probably a pretty fun game for developers and publishers.

      • dancj

        Saying "period" after talking crap doesn't make the crap true.

      • xGama

        Fair enough, but if you want to dispute a statement attacking the wording doesn't really justify it's wrong

      • dancj

        Okay. As has been pointed out already, premium existed just fine without freemium. I can't think of any reason why either particularly benefits from the existence of the other. If you have some reason why each one needs the other I'd be interested to hear it.

      • God's Grundle

        What does this even mean? The only difference between "premium" and "freemium" is how you pay. Are you trying to make some weird argument along the lines of "All you can eat buffets were doing just fine before a la carte restaurants came along?" What point are you trying to prove?

      • dancj

        That premium can exist without freemium and freemium can exist without premium.

  • Luciano1084

    Only game I like/love from your list is FTL.. Thomas is alone is pretty good but I wouldn't put it anywhere near the top of my list ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Luciano1084

      Thomas WAS alone.. Oops ๐Ÿ™‚ BTW happy holidays guys

  • bones boy

    Level 135? I can't even fathom that. I'm stuck in frosting hell.

  • Jake7905

    Hearthstone finally makes it's appearance. Everyone happy?

    • brantov


  • RenTin850

    Nice list Eli I'll have to check some of these games out.

  • RenTin850

    From the looks of it, I'm not sure if this list is ranking the games from best to least. Can't be, there's no way candy crush is on top of FTL...I don't know.

    • RenTin850

      Okay nevermind I just read it. It's in alphabetical order.

  • bhavukjain1

    Clever Eli.

  • RenTin850

    I really want to try out Hearthstone. I only have a iPhone and hear so much good things about it.

    • Rawk GWJ

      You can also try it on Mac and PC. I love it on the iPad though.

    • curtneedsaride

      I wonder if my old iPad 2 can handle it. I should find out, I guess.

      • Themostunclean

        Had it on mine before I got the Air. Chugs sometimes but it's a card game so doesn't really hurt the experience too much. App Store says ipad 2 or newer BTW.

  • RenTin850

    I feel like the iPhone 6 Plus should be in the same category with the iPad when companies make games and apps. Cause I feel like lots of games that are on the iPad and iPad mini would be played comfortably.

    • garbul

      Please please FTL come to iPhone!

  • clompah

    Hey Eli can we have some hint. Are you gunna stream again? I really missed them

  • dancj

    Is Magic 2015 really the "greatest"? I'm considering buying it, but I've already got 2013 and 2014 - and from what I've played of the free bit of 2015 I'm not seeing any particular reason to pay for it when I can just go back to the previous two whenever I want. Is there any killer feature I'm unaware of to make it stand out?

    • dancj

      (I would have read the TouchArcade review of the game but there isn't one)

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      New card sets are released annually, just like the paper game. If you don't care about that, then no, there won't be a killer feature for you over the previous installments.

      • dancj

        That's what I suspected. Thanks. That new ability where you can use creatures as land is fun, but not enough to stop me skipping a year.

  • Ubisububi

    While Eli's tastes usually run counter to my own, it's pretty darn unfair that he gets krap for liking what he likes. I love these end of year lists because it's clear how hard these guys work at what they do, and how difficult it must be to be honest about games when they know their opinions are often not consistent with their readers'.

  • http://www.silentrocco.com/ Silent Rocco

    Eli likes to provoke ๐Ÿ™‚ Or as South Park, season 18, episode 9 nailed it: "Today, commentary is the content."

    • DeNappa

      Well, he could've put up that family guy game on his list if he wanted to provoke. Or dungeon keeper (that was 2014 too wasn't it?).

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      How am I provoking anyone with a list of games I liked this year? Was getting a jab in this comment thread just too irresistible for you?

  • Lurkingiowan

    Love seeing Thomas Was Alone on here. I was smitten from start to finish with that one.

  • dancj

    One big absentee from all of these lists (and as far as I can tell, the comments) is Bardbarian. That game had me really addicted.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      It was literally my last cut from my top ten. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • LarryWP

    I think it's pretty cool how you each did your own top ten list. Makes good sense to me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Pyroknight

    Still no mention of World of Tanks Blitz, IMO it's one of the best games on iOS right now l

  • Brice.J

    After reading Eli's review of Battleheart Legacy earlier this year & now seeing his top 10, I do wonder if he was being ironic in his foretelling:
    "Battleheart Legacy is easily among the best games I've played this year, and I can't imagine a reality where it isn't still high in the running when we get around to doing all of our game of the year stuff in December."

  • Brice.J

    I just seen Battleheart Legacy on the TA *general* list of best iPhone & iPad games of 2014 so my comment doesn't hold water now..
    Originally, I suppose I just found it pretty clever that Eli covered his bases so to speak & gave a hypothetical future scenario in which B:L might not be included on the year's best of 2014 list in his review & then decided not to include it. I'm relatively new to TA so I was assuming in the quote I posted, Eli was referring to his own future *personal* best of 2014 list. But now I realize there is a *general* TA best of 2014 list as well. So Eli very well must have been referring to TA's future *general* best of 2014 list since B:L is indeed on there. So it's good to know reality hasn't changed much from what he imagined it might be in his review ๐Ÿ™‚

  • nicoper

    Great list you got there Eli! I laughed when I saw HodappyBird on it, best game 2014

  • http://www.onebagtravel.com/ OneBagTravel

    Kinda depressing that this is what iOS has to offer. The only games I currently have installed are Ticket to Ride US and Europe lol. Been playing non facebook style games on my 3DS instead ๐Ÿ˜ฎ