When it comes to my top games of 2016, my criteria is fairly simple. The games listed below are the titles that I’ve willingly put the most time into simply because of how much fun they were. Thus, you’ll see a lot of RPGs and Ports, but there’s also a freemium title or two that made the list as well simply because of how well they worked.
Bully Anniversary Edition ($6.99) – Bully is one of my most favorite old-school Rockstar games, and I was pretty happy when it finally hit iOS this year. What I wasn’t expecting was how well this port actually performed. Heightened visuals, great framerate, and decent controls join the hilarious story of Jimmy Hopkins as he gets sent to Bullworth Academy. The contained open-world nature of Bully, combined with the ability to attend classes as well as a plethora of mini-games just really appealed to me and actually makes for a pretty good mobile title.
RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic ($5.99) – Old school simulation titles are pretty awesome and the RollerCoaster Tycoon series has been one of the coolest. The biggest issue we’ve had with other RCT titles has been the freemium rejiggering of the game, which was a big disappointment to fans of the classic titles. With RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic, we’ve finally gotten what we wanted: a well-done port that combines the best of the older RCT titles without any freemium systems in place.
Teeny Titans ($3.99) – There are many mobile titles that try to replicate the pure enjoyment of finding and leveling up characters that Pokemon is so good at. Teeny Titans, with its figurine collection/battling system is probably the game that comes closest to that feeling. The game’s real-time battle system with an emphasis on status ailments is an interesting take on fights that gets fairly deep the further you get into the game. Add in the awesome visuals, amazing music and an overall presentation that’s oozing with style, Teeny Titans simply does an amazing job leveraging the Teen Titans IP while creating an excellent RPG that stands on its own.
Crashlands ($6.99) – Out of all the games on my list, Crashlands is the title I’ve played the most. There’s a good reason for that as Crashlands simply nails every single facet of the game. The visuals are amazing and full of inventive enemy designs. The crafting system is one of the deepest I’ve seen on iOS. The game’s upgrade system does an excellent job of slowly doling out crafting recipes that allow you to advance to the next part of the story. The narrative itself is full of that Butterscotch Shenanigan charm but still has a knack for getting serious and eliciting real emotion when necessary. The battle system is simple and streamlined for mobile, yet has the potential for pulling off complex victories. There’s also a large amount of optional recipes to find and craft and the ability to basically build anything anywhere provides a certain amount of Minecraft lure that gives it near infinite replayability. Simply put, Crashlands is the best.
Avadon 3: The Warborn ($9.99) – The latest RPG from Spiderweb Software to hit the iPad, Avadon 3 is an excellent conclusion to the Avadon series. Boasting a streamlined character customization system, plenty of open-ended quests and an excellent narrative, Avadon 3 is everything you’ve come to expect in a Spiderweb Software RPG but simply more refined. With dozens of hours of content, it’s also an RPG that requires a significant (and worthwhile) investment. While I highly recommend that folks check out the first two before playing this title, it’s certainly not required in order to enjoy the game.
Adventures of Mana ($13.99) – I’m a huge fan of the classic Final Fantasy Adventure for the Game Boy, so when Square Enix saw fit to release a completely redone version of the game for iOS I was excited. Adventure of Mana is an amazing remake that does a great job of capturing everything that made the original awesome. It still shows its age in some of the gameplay mechanics, but that’s what makes this action-RPG title worth checking out.
Pianista (Free) – While there have been plenty of games this year that did a great job of incorporating rhythm/music elements into other genres, the traditional music genre has been a bit sparse this year. Thankfully Pianista rectified that with an excellent entry that focuses entirely on playing the piano pieces of classical composers such as Bach and Beethoven. Sure, the game’s freemium system is a bit unusual for the genre, but if you don’t mind not being able to specifically play any song whenever you want, then it’s a system that you can work with. Besides, with its impressive music category, there’s very little here not to love.
Lumines Puzzle and Music ($2.99) – If you had a PSP back in the day, odds are you probably had Lumines. To this day, it’s probably the best example of combining basic puzzle mechanics with excellent music in the sense that the beat of each song directly impacted your potential scores. Lumines Puzzle and Music brings back the classic tracks from that era along with a bunch of new ones. The gameplay remains the same and while the virtual controls aren’t as smooth as having a controller, it works good enough to make it a must-play for any fans of the series.
Guild of Dungeoneering ($5.99) – Originally a steam title, Guild of Dungeoneering made a successful entrance onto iOS with its turn-based RPG battle system that combines with its card-playing dungeon creation elements. There’s a deceptively large amount of strategy involved with creating a dungeon for your hero to go through and the challenging difficulty works well in its favor. Also, the game features some of the funniest music tracks I’ve heard in awhile and the art style also reflects a load of humor.
Disney Magic Kingdoms (Free) – Freemium city-builder games are my guilty pleasure even though I pretty much burn out on them within the first month or two. Disney Magic Kingdoms holds the record for keeping me interested for almost a whole year by now. There’s something really cool about building iconic Disney park attractions and unlocking characters, all while listening to snippets of nostalgia-filled Disney (and Pixar!) tracks. If you have any love for Disney IP in general or if you’re an annual pass holder that enjoys the parks on a regular basis, I’d recommend checking this out.