Another year in the books, friends, and another giant pile of great games that I can’t seem to find enough time to play enough of. The year 2015 saw a lot of long-awaited returns for classic iOS franchises, but as usual, many of the biggest games of the year kind of came out of nowhere. Given my role at TouchArcade, I’ve probably played more RPGs and fewer non-RPGs than the rest of the crew, so I hope you’ll forgive me if there are some cool things missing from my list. As an RPG fan, I can say that I was quite satisfied with what 2015 had to offer, and I’m already excited for next year thanks to a few games slipping past their intended 2015 release dates. In no particular order, here are my top ten iOS games of this year.
Downwell, $2.99 Downwell is one of those games that I doubt will ever leave my device. It offers just about a perfect balance of complexity and pick-up-and-play appeal. The game also does a great job of evoking a certain feel that brings me back to my younger years sitting on the floor in front of a NES, playing games like Metroid and Kid Icarus for hours. I can understand the case for playing this on PC instead, but it’s a game I really like to have in my pocket, too.
Implosion - Never Lose Hope, $9.99 Let’s face it, friends: high-quality, original, stylish action games on iOS are few and far between. Implosion is not the kind of game I expect to see on iOS in 2015, and especially not as a paid game with no IAPs. With tons of content, some great unlockables, and hectic, thrilling gameplay, this is a no-brainer for anyone looking for a console-quality experience on their mobile device.
DRAGON QUEST V, $14.99 When one of my favorite games of all-time comes to iOS, you’d best believe it’s going to be in my top ten for the year. Dragon Quest 5 is an amazing game that I’ve already written thousands of words about on TouchArcade, so I won’t bore you with too many more. If you’re looking for a story-driven JRPG, this is the one you’re looking for. Its unique angle on the Legendary Hero trope is fantastic, but what really makes the game memorable is just how well it handles its more quiet, human moments. This is the best Dragon Quest game, and the iOS port is the best English version Square Enix has ever released.
CHAOS RINGS Ⅲ, $19.99 If you’re looking for an iOS-original JRPG, however, Chaos Rings 3 will serve you well. In a lot of ways, it’s the most traditional game in the series, but in other ways, it’s wildly experimental. The lighter tone of the visuals hides a story full of the dark twists and turns the series is known for, and the amount of things to do and see in the game is absolutely staggering. It feels like a game that has learned from the F2P social RPG boom in Japan and carried over what works from those games to a premium format. That could have been disastrous, but Chaos Rings 3 somehow pulls it off. I’m not sure if we’ll see a Chaos Rings 4, but if this is how the series goes out, no one can say it didn’t do it with a bang.
You Must Build A Boat, $2.99 There were a lot of great puzzle games released this year, but You Must Build A Boat is easily my favorite. 10000000 completely caught me off-guard with its compelling gameplay that had me always going for one more try. The sequel didn’t surprise me in the same way, but it had a very similar effect. I couldn’t stop playing YMBAB until I had done everything there was to do, and with its recent update adding some crucial replayability, I suspect I’ll be playing this for a long time to come.
Dust: An Elysian Tail, $5.99 Dust is one of those rare combinations of a game that plays as good as it looks, and friend, does it look good. Offering involved combat, enjoyable exploration, stunning production values, and a character who is just plain fun to control, Dust is the exploratory platformer to beat on iOS, in my opinion.
Legend of Grimrock, $4.99 I honestly had my doubts about how well The Legend Of Grimrock would port to iOS, but it turned out I needn’t have worried. This is a fantastic way to play Grimrock. It’s an awesome callback to and modernization of classics like Dungeon Master and Eye Of The Beholder, and should provide plenty of pure chewing satisfaction for any RPG fan. The developers even pulled off the miracle of making it work on the smaller iPhone screen.
Galactic Keep, $3.99 With most of the games on this list, I either expected to love them or fell for them right after I started playing. Galactic Keep, on the other hand, was a very different experience. When I first started playing the game, I didn’t care for it at all. It took me a little while to get what it was going for, but once it got its hooks into me, it was all I could think about until I finished the currently-available content. Very few games this year grabbed me as completely as Galactic Keep did, and none of them quite so surprisingly.
Sproggiwood, $1.99 Sproggiwood was another game that surprised me, albeit in a very different way. I enjoyed the game almost immediately, but initially had it pegged as a relatively light roguelike that I would likely put down in a week or two and move on from. Then, I tried the game on Savage difficulty, and found the true nature of Sproggiwood. This is a friendly roguelike, to be sure, but it has a lot more depth than it appears to at first. When it finally shows its teeth, you’ll agonize over every single move, and the variety of character types means you can do it again and again.
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved, $9.99 It was another great year for shoot-em-ups on iOS, but my favorite of the lot has to be Geometry Wars 3. Like many people, when I first got an Xbox 360, the game I played most wasn’t one of the gorgeous, expensive AAA launch titles, but rather a humble little Xbox Live Arcade twin-stick shooter. I’ve been in love with Geometry Wars ever since, and was worried that the death of Bizarre Creations would mean the end of the series. Luckily, Activision not only wants to keep it around, but have done really well by it. Geometry Wars 3 offers the same fun gameplay from the older games combined with a few advancements from games that followed in its predecessor’s wake and some new ideas of its own.
As in previous years, this was an enormously difficult list to make due to how many excellent games came out this year. I’ve already got my eyes on things I know will be coming next year, so I suspect we’re in for another good one. I think it’s easy to look around at the deluge of games that don’t connect with us from week to week and lose sight of the ones that do, but when you really stop and take a look at everything that comes out in a year, it’s kind of remarkable how many tastes are well-served these days. Here’s to another fine year, friends, and may it find you in good health and happiness!