It’s the end of 2015 and time to say goodbye to what was another crazy year of iOS gaming. As I’ve mentioned in years past, I hate doing these “best of" things because I’m terrible at making concise lists. There’s far too many great games released in any given year, and I have an absolutely awful time cutting any of my favorites from a list in an effort to get it down to just ten. After putting together and writing our Game of the Year and Best Games of 2015 post, many of my own personal favorites found their way onto that list anyway, so in a way it’s kind of like I get some bonus picks in my personal list here as I’m not going to be listing any repeats. Hooray! So, while looking through this list, keep that other list in mind too as all but a very few would also have been in contention for my personal picks this year. Oh, and much like last year, despite these “bonus picks" I still couldn’t keep this list down to ten, so enjoy my *ahem* fourteen favorite iOS games of 2015. Have a Happy New Year and here’s to yet another great year of iOS gaming in 2016!
Card Crawl, $4.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – When Card Crawl initially launched back in March it was a very nifty Solitaire-like card game built around the mechanics of a turn-based dungeon crawler. It was super clever, but had a lot of rough edges. With two major content updates and lots of smaller nip and tuck updates during the year, Card Crawl has really come into its own and become a daily obsession that won’t be leaving my device anytime soon.
Dashy Crashy, Free – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – Despite its extremely recent release, Dashy Crashy has charmed the pants off me and earned a spot in my top games list. It’s a simple game on the surface, boring-sounding even: It’s a lane-based behind-the-back runner at its core. However, crisp, colorful visuals, an incredible sense of speed, and layers of hidden depth like a clever combo system and multi-touch swiping maneuvers elevate Dashy Crashy beyond “just another endless runner" and brings a smile to my face every time with its over-the-top arcade sensibilities.
Hero Emblems, $2.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – The classic Puzzle Quest proved how well match-3 could blend with RPG mechanics, but in the years since the genre has been overrun with mediocre “me too" matching RPGs. Hero Emblems is the first game in a long time that actually held my attention and made a matching RPG feel like a meaningful endeavor with its cast of likable characters, an engaging story, and strong blending of matching and RPG mechanics.
Last Horizon, $2.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Last Horizon is a surprisingly simple game, but executed oh so well. Blasting from planet to planet restocking on fuel and collecting resources to take to your new home planet is fun in and of itself due to the Asteroids-like inertial physics in the game, but Last Horizon also does a great job at creating a moody atmosphere that actually makes you feel like a lone space pilot flinging around in the vastness of the universe. It’s also a very challenging game with both structured levels and an endless mode, meaning it will keep you busy for some time.
Mos Speedrun 2
Mos Speedrun 2, $0.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Mos Speedrun is one of my all-time favorite platformers on any game system, and I waited four long years for the sequel. It was absolutely worth the wait. Bigger levels to explore, more abilities for Mos to utilize, better visuals and impeccable design make this a platformer that exceeds its predecessor in just about every way. If all that new stuff doesn’t interest you though, Mos Speedrun 2 is still built around a nearly flawless speedrunning system that will test even the most skilled gamers.
OPERATION DRACULA, $2.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – The arcade era in the late ’80s and into the ’90s was filled with over-the-top, borderline obnoxious games that were basically yelling at you as you walked by trying to get your attention over the hundreds of other games begging to be played. This is Operation Dracula in a nutshell. A nonsensical storyline, a blaring and kick ass rock soundtrack, huge explosions, massive boss fights, obnoxious announcer voice… It’s all here. I love all these things, and it’s rare to find them all in one game nowadays, let alone with satisfying, tough-as-nails shooter gameplay included too.
PARTICLE MACE, $2.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – One of the most unique games I’ve ever experienced, Particle Mace is a space shooter without the shooting. Instead, bungie-like tentacle extend from the back of your ship like tin cans tied to a newlywed’s car, and you must maneuver around in order to swing the weights at the ends of the tentacle into enemies and asteroids. It sounds strange but is strangely satisfying to play, and translates especially well to the portrait orientation and touchscreen of the iPhone.
PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist
PewDiePie: Legend of Brofist, $4.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – I can’t say I’m the biggest PewDiePie fan, but I respect the hell out of his rise to fame these past couple of years. Being one of the biggest YouTube celebrities on the planet, I figured there was no way Legend of the Brofist wouldn’t be some crappy cash-in game. Boy was I glad to be wrong. Legend of the Brofist is a wonderful love letter to some of the great platformers of the past, with varied gameplay, great level design, whimsical environments and characters. Besides the mostly terrible voice acting, this is (surprisingly) one of the best platformers I’ve played on the App Store.
Sage Solitaire, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – I love playing poker, but I’ve grown pretty tired of most of the poker games on the App Store. You’re either playing against mediocre AI, or online against people who aren’t really taking it seriously, since the money is fake. Sage Solitaire is the solution to this, as it allows me to play a card game and put together the best poker hands that I can but confines it to a game of solitaire, which is really just you playing against the deck of cards and luck. The results are incredibly compelling and make for a great fit on mobile.
Samurai Blitz, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – It’s easy to grow tired of side-scrolling endless runners, but every once in a while one will come along that still manages to wow me. Samurai Blitz doesn’t necessarily break the mold, but it has a great “feel" in terms of its running and jumping and the ability to create combos by attacking airborne enemies in succession. Throw in incredibly gorgeous pixel art, fantastic animation, wonderful chip-tunes, and tons of upgradeable items and abilities to chase after and this turned out to be one of my all-time favorite runners.
Shooting Stars!, $2.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Ok, so it’s no surprise I like shoot’em ups, but Shooting Stars struck me as a really unique take on the genre. I like its “roguelike" influence in that it’s a series of randomly generated levels strung together, making it a perfect game to simply pick up and play without having to put too much thought into the matter. I also really enjoyed all the celebrity parodies and the crazy humor. Plus, any game where you get to shoot rainbow lasers out of a cat at Carter Dotson earns an automatic spot on any “best games" list I’ll ever do.
Skiing Yeti Mountain
Skiing Yeti Mountain, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Downhill slalom skiing games are surprisingly popular on mobile, and the awesome Dudeski made my top games list in 2014. Now its brother-from-a-different-mother Skiing Yeti Mountain has done the same. The biggest standout for me is how well this game nails the one-thumb controls, allowing me to maneuver my little slalomer with incredible granularity by using just subtle movement. Throw in some wacky characters, a mysterious storyline, and literally hundreds(!) of levels, and it’s hard not to like just about everything Skiing Yeti Mountain has to offer.
Super Boys – The Big Fight
Super Boys - The Big Fight, Free – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – Developer Mooff has been making iOS games for years, and as such have amassed a gigantic roster of quirky characters across their library of titles. They decided to take those characters and throw them into one giant fighting game in a similar vein to Smash Bros. and the results are fan-freaking-tastic. There are a surprising number of great fighters on iOS, but Super Boys has punch and kicked its way to the top of my list of favorites.
Sword of Xolan
Sword Of Xolan, $0.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Speaking of brothers from different mothers, Sword of Xolan is very much like a distant relative to one of our Best Games of 2014, Goblin Sword. I always feel that platformers live and die by the “feel" of their physics and the character’s movement and jumping, and this is something Sword of Xolan completely nails, making it simply a fun game to play. Having interesting levels that are a joy to explore, colorful enemies and bosses, and fantastic pixel art are the things that push Xolan over the top from “good" to “absolutely fantastic".