Well, this was quite a year, wasn’t it, friends? Pokemon lit the mobile world on fire, Nintendo jumped in feet-first, headphone jacks courageously became a thing of the past, and the real world gave us a whole lot of reasons to escape to our hobbies. As usual, many of the biggest games of the year kind of came out of nowhere, but we saw a lot of established franchises make the rounds as well. 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. This was another satisfying year of releases all around, with a wide spread of indie gems and excellent ports to keep our fingers busy. Here’s hoping 2017 will be just as great for gaming. In no particular order, here are my top ten iOS games of this year.
FINAL FANTASY â…¨, $20.99 I could have filled almost half of my list with Square Enix’s offerings this year, but I decided to limit myself to just one. While Adventures of Mana and Romancing SaGa 2 are both great games in their own right, I have to give the nod to Final Fantasy 9. It’s an outstanding port of an excellent game, going miles beyond the comparatively shabby job done on Final Fantasy 7. For me, this game represented the end of an era, so it’s great to have such an excellent version of it on my mobile phone. Now, bring on Final Fantasy 8!
Crashlands, $6.99 When I reviewed this game at the beginning of the year, I called it one of the best iOS games I had ever played. It would have taken a miracle for Crashlands not to be on my list for this year, and sure enough, here it is. Though the game goes on a bit too long for some, I found it impossible to put down for any length of time. The core mechanics are enticing, and the amount of content on offer here is uncommonly large for a mobile offering. It’s a stark contrast to most of the other arcade-focused games Butterscotch Shenanigans has released, but if they were out of their element, they didn’t show it at all.
Teeny Titans - Teen Titans Go!, $3.99 I didn’t expect to love Teeny Titans as much as I did. While I have an appreciation for the characters, I’m not a big fan of the Go! incarnation of the series. Before the game released, I was sure it was just going to be another social RPG-style game. I was thrilled to instead get a game that captures the joyous feeling of collecting better than almost any other game I’ve played. Running around from shop to shop, diving through the stock to try and find something cool in the back, asking around for information on rare figures and where to get them all help capture that authentic, obsessive experience that we all probably have experienced in some form. How can you not hunt down all of the Teeny Titans? If Robin and Raven both caved, you’re certainly not going to do any better.
STEINS;GATE EN (ENGLISH), $23.99 Other platforms got this in English well before mobile gamers did, but at least it was worth the wait. This is a game that feels like it was designed to be played on a phone, what with that being the main character’s primary means of interacting with the story. And what a story it is. It gets a little silly in places and certainly requires suspension of disbelief here and there, but it’s surprisingly consistent for a time-travel yarn. Following along with the main character’s state of mind through his narcissistic beginnings, excited feelings of discovery, the thrills of experimentation, and the realization of the awful consequences he helped bring onto the world is a trip any fan of story-based games should take.
YANKAI'S TRIANGLE, $2.99 Yankai’s Triangle is a bizarre game as far as its style goes. While the gameplay mechanics start off innocently enough, asking you to rotate triangles to match the colors of their tips, the game eventually starts to throw in some serious twists. I still haven’t found the end of this game, and I’m not sure if it has one. I’m not sure if I want it to have one. All I know is that it holds a similar appeal to a Rubik’s Cube for me. I just want to open it up, fidget with it, and see if I can gain any ground. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. But I always come back.
Sky Force Reloaded, Free Choosing between this and Bullet Hell Monday was not easy. Originally, I was going to put both of them on here, but I felt I had to choose one. I went with Sky Force Reloaded simply because it always seemed to have something for me to come back and do. The post-release support on this game has been excellent, and if that has to be the deciding line between two exceptional shoot-em-ups, so be it. Sky Force Reloaded looks gorgeous, plays like a dream, and is packed with content. It’s a grind, to be sure, but so long as you enjoy the ride, a grind isn’t always a bad thing.
Guns of Infinity, $4.99 I’ve gotten into ChoiceScript games in a major way over the last couple of years, and at the very least, I can certainly say that they cover a wide variety of tastes. Some of my favorites seem to be one-offs from writers whose names haven’t popped up again, unfortunately. One author who has done at least a few of these is Paul Wang, and his works are easily among the best in the line-up. Guns of Infinity is a follow-up to Sabres of Infinity, but it increases the stakes impressively. This is a thoughtful examination of war that doesn’t shy away from the tough questions, and no matter what your feelings are on the subject, you’re likely to find a few things to make you think. The action scenes are fantastic, chaotic affairs, and the unit management gives you gameplay mechanics to work with beyond making narrative choices.
SteamWorld Heist, $4.99 SteamWorld Heist was one of my favorite games of 2015 on the Nintendo 3DS. Some might say I’m cheating by picking it again this year on another platform, but what you may call cheating, I call being fortunate. The game takes incredibly well to the platform. The port has been handled with care, and the base game is obviously excellent to start with. Strategy fans won’t want to miss out on this one. It’s like XCOM meets Worms, with robot cowboys and collectible hats a-plenty.
Imbroglio, $3.99 Like almost all of Michael Brough’s games, Imbroglio only seems to get better the more time you put into it. While I had initially found the game to be a bit too similar to 868-HACK, the game has a lot of interesting quirks that add up to a very different experience. I can’t stop tinkering around with various board set-ups across the game’s mix of characters. Ultimately, it’s the perfect companion piece to 868-HACK, both for what it shares with that game but also in the ways it goes in its own superb direction.
Rush Rally 2, $0.99 If I live to be 100 years old, I’ll never understand how a little indie developer like Brownmonster so thoroughly outclassed the big dogs of the racing genre on iOS. Rush Rally 2 is the rally racer I’ve been waiting for on mobile, offering up some great tracks, a variety of cars to mess around with, and a sensational driving experience that perfectly rides the line between arcade and simulation. If you loved games like V-Rally or SEGA Rally Championship, you have to have this game. That’s not even mentioning the outstanding post-release support the game has seen. An amazing game from an excellent developer.
As in previous years, this was an enormously difficult list to make. There were so many excellent games released this year, and I really feel like there was a little something for everyone. Even as the larger mobile market marches to the beat of the free-to-play drum, I still feel like I was drowning in great games almost every week. We’ll see if 2017 can offer the same, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time covering the mobile market, it’s that you should never doubt that plenty of good stuff is on the way. Here’s to another fine year, friends, and may it find you in good health and happiness!