It's really incredible to me just how much mobile games continue to improve over the years, having been in the driver's seat of our various "best of" features since 2009. This year, more than any other, I feel like mobile gaming really broke into the mainstream with the release of Pokemon Go, and it's been neat seeing the halo effect of people getting into other mobile games since then. We've exhaustively covered all of the best games of the year, both through our best 100 article as well as everyone's own personal lists. It's wild to think that you could basically play a total different incredibly high quality game on your phone every day this year, and still be missing out on great games. Hell, it's our job to play rad mobile games, and still we even manage to miss out on some.

Anyway, here's some of my favorites of the year-

Hearthstone, Free WHAT THE?! Hearthstone came out in 2014! Yes, it did, but it doesn't feel right to not include it in my best games list again. It's hard to think of any other game I played on my iPhone and iPad more this year than Hearthstone. The addition of card rotation, as well as some seriously great adventures and card set releases has kept me totally engrossed in this card game for another year. I love everything about this game, from working with the awesome Hearthstone team at Blizzard to following the rad stuff the Hearthstone community is up to. It's also neat seeing favorite Magic the Gathering pros of mine switching gears to streaming Hearthstone. I'm excited to see the metagame shift again with the next card rotation in 2017, so, don't be surprised if you see this game again in my best-of list next year.

Pokémon GO, Free Living in the suburbs, the novelty of Pokemon Go wore off quickly for me, but the first few weeks the game launched was like nothing else I've experienced in the world of gaming. If you shoulder surf someone out in public playing a mobile game, you might spot Candy Crush or Clash of Clans, but it felt like everyone was playing Pokemon Go. I even went to a few different Pokemon Go events with anywhere between hundreds to thousands of people in attendance. It's too bad that Niantic wasn't a little more prepared for how popular the game would be, but, it seems to be getting consistently better with updates.

Super Mario Run, Free Easily among the most controversial releases of 2016 in our community, it was really fun covering all the excitement related to Super Mario Run. Nintendo's first "real" iOS game release is a ton of fun, and seeing the level of effort that went into Super Mario Run has me really excited for Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem eventually hitting the App Store. I still think Nintendo would have been better off releasing Super Mario Run as a more traditional free to play game, but, we'll see if they learn that lesson for their next mobile release.

Return of the Zombie King, $2.99 As far as clever gameplay elements that evolve through unlocking, Return of the Zombie King blew me away. You start the game with no ears, eyes, or even legs and so you're pretty much limited to moving to the right. You eventually unlock the ability to jump through buying legs, the game gets sound when you buy ears, and the world changes to color when you unlock eyes. Eventually you unlock more "real" upgrades, and there's a really cool feeling of gaining power as you play. The game has also improved greatly through updates, and is totally worth checking out.

Crashlands, $6.99 I love any game that gets people into gaming, and I was really surprised by the number of non-gamers I was able to get playing Crashlands. Crafting games are inherently complicated, as (for instance) someone who might only play Hay Day has zero experience with all sorts of various inventory management and RPG subsystems that often power these games. In Crashlands, all the annoying stuff is handled automagically to really just allow anyone, regardless of how much or how little they know about crafting games, to dive right in. That level of simplicity while still making a game that feels complex is seriously masterful game design... And really, the only thing that worries me about Crashlands is Butterscotch Shenanigans has a lot to live up to with their next game release.

Dashy Crashy, Free Yes, damn it, this is another game that technically didn't come out in 2016, but I completely missed it in the shuffle of the onslaught of holiday game releases of 2015. We didn't actually post a review of it until late January when it popped up on my radar, and Dashy Crashy has consistently been my go-to "I'm standing in line or waiting for a couple minutes what should I play" game. There's a surprising amount of complexity between the different vehicles you can unlock, as well as how you handle your driving, in what initially seems like a very simple lane-based driving game. Also, it's one of those games that's way better when you turn the sound on, so definitely do that.

War Tortoise, Free I'm getting tired of clickers, as they all feel really same-y, but what I spent a lot of time doing in 2016 was playing different releases that experiment with somewhat similar idle gameplay but in new ways that aren't just frantically tapping. War Tortoise is an idle shooter, which seems like a contradiction, but the way it all works is really cool. Additionally, the game has a prestige system which has you constantly starting over with more powerful upgrades, and it's really fun seeing how quickly you can quickly obliterate the early game with your totally tricked out turtle.

Really Bad Chess, Free I've always liked the idea of playing chess, but I've been bad at it my entire life. There's been oodles of different asynchronous chess games on the App Store, and I always download them, start a bunch of games, lose, and then just kind of get bored. I love how Really Bad Chess takes the basic ruleset of chess, but mixes things up completely so it isn't about memorizing chess formations and strategy, instead it's about making due with what pieces you have and figuring out how to beat your opponent's similarly crazy pieces. The level of variety in the different daily challenges has me always coming back for more.

Reigns, $2.99 While I spent a ton of time playing Reigns wishing things about it were better (like the way it ends), it's incredibly cool how they managed to build what felt like such a full featured game (and game world) entirely off swiping cards right or left. Reigns has won a ton of awards this year, and it has deserved every single one. I really hope they release followup titles, or expansion packs, or something that utilizes a similar mechanic in a different setting, as I could totally see a sci-fi Reigns working equally well.

Human Resource Machine, $4.99 While there were definitely times that Human Resource Machine made me feel like a total idiot, I loved everything about this game. As someone who doesn't do a lot of programming work anymore, it was really awesome playing a gameified version of low-level programming as it was awakening a portion of my brain that had been laying dormant for years. If you have an iPad, make sure you play it on there, as the game is way better with the additional screen real estate.

I suppose there probably aren't that many surprises in my list, particularly if you listen to our podcast, but damn was 2016 a strong year for mobile games. I can't wait for next year, as I've been playing a bunch of Deathroad to Canada via TestFlight, and it's going to make this list in 2017 a little easier as I really only need to come up with 9 other games to talk about. (Well, 8, because I'm sure Hearthstone will be in there again.)

  • scottsoapbox

    Eli and I have very different tastes. I only play Crashlands and Reigns on his list. But that's OK plenty of great games to go around. Here's to an even better year for mobile games in 2017!

  • Mrbestapps

    Really surprised no one here at touch arcade is a fan of clash royale. Goty for me. Also Reigns is in almost every list, it's clearly a gem.

    • Mrbestapps

      Gonna buy reigns now.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      I burnt out on it in record time, also Hearthstone currently fills my card game niche which Clash Royale sort of occupies as well.

      • eksaint

        Ditto

  • HelperMonkey

    Any idea about a release window for Death Road, Eli?
    (I know. I've got plenty to play considering all the great games you guys have been reminding us of... but, still. I WANT.)

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Basically we just need to endlessly harass Kepa and Paul on Twitter until they get tired of it and release the game.

  • Reignmaker

    Totally get the Hearthstone rational. It'll be interesting to see if Blizz produces another mobile game in the next 1-2 years. They'd be crazy not to. They could dominate this space with their IP. Nintendo...has a way to go.

  • Reignmaker

    Looking up War Tortoise. Missed the initial boat, but it sounds weird...which is promising.

  • Jake7905

    Great list, the only game I can't agree with is Pokémon Go. Though I can understand the importance of it's popularity propelling it onto an IOS game of the year list, I can't understand how it's gameplay contributes to that standing. And nice surprise pick with Hearthstone, I have to admit it's my most played game as well; my day wouldn't be complete without completing my quests. Or at the very least, getting a few ranked games in....

  • jeffy777

    Sadly each expansion makes Hearthstone worse imo, and this is coming from a legend player. It just keeps getting more aggro and luck-based.

    • TheVimFuego

      Yep, way too many games decided on the mulligan, draw and RNG from turn 1 rather than strategic play. I've been playing forever and only do my dailies and get out, not sure why I do it anymore ... Pavlov's dog effect I guess. A shame because the shell mechanics and production is great.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Eh, I think it's always easy to blame RNG for losses, as it's a great scapegoat. I used to see that a lot in the world of magic when the PTQ grinders would always come up with reasons why they lost that never was "My opponent played a better game," instead it was "My deck hates me," "He kept getting lucky top decks," or whatever else. None of this ever explains why the pro players can consistently do so well, as surely everyone is subject to the same levels of RNG in any game like this?

      • jeffy777

        I think the tendency towards making the game more and more aggressive bothers me more than the RNG. Blizz keeps releasing 1 drops that are OP as hell. If you play pirate warrior, you can get 3 minions and a weapon on turn 1 with the coin, while 2 of those minions have charge. That's 4 face damage on turn 1. Not exactly "fun and interactive" for the other player. So you play a Reno deck to counter aggro, but you're dead on turn 5 before you can even play it...so 90% of the people on ladder just try to out-race each other instead of actually using control decks or any decks with any semblance of strategy other than "go face". It is nice to see decks such as Rogue doing well at higher levels, but even that has become more aggressive with "the pirate package". It's a sad state of affairs, imo.

  • Shkrbby

    Not a great list IMHO. I'll publish my top ten after the new year.

  • bhavukjain1

    Nice

  • eksaint

    Nice list. Didn't like Mario and Pokémon personally
    Never heard of return of the zombie king. Just bought it, looking forward to playing.

  • Tallgeese

    "consistently"

  • Shkrbby

    Not sure why my original post was moderated. My post was simply claiming that in my own honest opinion this list was not great and that I'd be providing my own top ten games of 2016 in the new year.

  • http://javatune.co drunk_vader

    Just got Zombie King 👑, plays great. Why did I miss this game the first time around?