2016 was a great year for mobile gamers, with tons of great original games coming out and some fantastic ports hitting the platform as well. We truly were spoiled for choice this year, which is why picking my top 10 games of the year was quite tricky. I went into writing this list thinking about the games I’ve played the most and the games that made an impact on the way I see mobile gaming. I do not expect you’ll agree with my list because taste is very subjective, and when you have to deal with literally hundreds of games, consensus becomes even harder. And please feel free to either agree or disagree with my choices in the comments. With no further delay, then, let’s jump into my Best of 2016 list.
Football Manager Touch 2017 ($19.99)
For me, FMT 2017 is a great example of how far mobile devices have come in these few years. The game’s enormous and manages to bring a fully-realized version of the real footballing world to your tablet, and that’s an amazing feat by itself. But that’s not why I liked the game; FMT 2017 was great fun to play, giving me just enough depth to enjoy without overwhelming me like the PC version of Football Manager 2017. I’ve spent too much time on this game, and if I hadn’t been careful, I would have spent so much more.
If you’ve been reading our front page, you’ll know that Crashlands was our Game of the Year, and for very good reasons. Even if you ignore the touching story behind the game’s development, Crashlands was still a fantastic survival/crafting game with some crazy creatures, silly-named armors and weapons, and a vast world to explore and conquer. The game’s mechanics worked perfectly on mobile – despite the game being multi-platform – and helped it avoid the usual frustrations of other crafting games. And the art was fantastic.
Mr. Robot: 1.51exfiltrati0n.ipa ($2.99)
This was the best choose-your-own-adventure game of the year for me, and there were quite a few to choose from. The game managed to create an illusion of real communication that was probably the most believable I’ve ever seen in a game, and I’ve played many games that try to imitate life. To put it simply, fake people talked like real people, and that’s harder to achieve than you would think. And it also had the added bonus of making me much more paranoid about my online privacy than before I played it, so kudos for that too.
Running a Kingdom Tinder-style was much more fun than I originally thought it would be. Reducing the mechanics to a swipe left or swipe right while still having a macro narrative tying your playthroughs together was a brilliant concept, and it worked like a charm. Add to that silly humor and a touch of Game of Thrones, and you had yourself a winner. The game’s supposed to get more cards soon, and I can’t wait.
Super Mario Run (Free)
Say what you want about the game’s content or price point, but the point remains that this year I got to play a Mario game on my phone, and that made me quite happy. I was a Nintendo gamer growing up, so I enjoyed the game simply for the nostalgia if nothing else. The fact that it’s a fun runner with some clever new ideas didn’t hurt at all. Is it amazing? No, it’s not, but it didn’t have to be for me to enjoy quite a bit.
Teeny Titans ($3.99)
Teeny Titans was an incredibly fun game both for its entertaining cast of characters but especially because of how the game imitated a figurine battle competition and sparked the slight obsession to collect them all. Searching through the virtual boxes of figurines in the game’s many stores – flicking them right and left hoping to find a great figurine – was very satisfying and one of the most entertaining experiences in mobile gaming this year. Add to that great battles, tons of content, and all the superheroes one can take, and you had yourself a great game.
Fallen London (Free)
Despite some issues with the app that still hold the game back – like very long load times – I was glad to enjoy the crazy, gothic world of Fallen London on my phone. Navigating the numerous stories, meeting the huge cast of peculiar residents, doing all kinds of crazy quests, and so much more was a treat because this fully-realized world was a pleasure to explore. I do wish the app worked better, but the narrative itself was definitely worth the time investment, and it’s a game I return to quite often.
Heroes of Normandie ($14.99)
Heroes of Normandie was a fantastic tactical game that went with small, intense battles over huge war theaters. The personality of the game – partly stemming from the addition of characters based on classic war movies – makes it stand out from most strategy games where you’re pushing nameless counters around a huge map. Instead, Heroes of Normandie puts you in a position where one wrong move might end up costing the life of your super-powerful Marvin or Clint. The game also came with an abundance of content, scenario editor, and online multiplayer, so I never ran out of things to do.
Pathfinder Adventures (Free)
Obsidian did a great job bringing a relatively-complex card game to mobile and making the app the best way to play the Pathfinder card game – especially with online multiplayer coming in the near future. Pathfinder Adventures brought great writing, great art, and fun – if cliche – plots to mobile, and the constant updates have helped the game remain fresh. I found myself forgetting I was playing a card game and thinking I’m playing a full-on RPG more than a few times, and that’s a pretty good feat by itself.
Minecraft Pocket Edition ($6.99)
I know you’ll think it’s weird I’ve added a game that’s been out for years on my best of 2016 list, but remember that MCPE is finally at version 1.0, and it does feel like a very different game. When the game originally hit the App Store, it was a bare bones experience with barely any of the content from the PC version and lacking all kinds of other features. And now look how far we’ve come. With the End coming to the game, MCPE finally has the full gameplay loop of the PC version. Add to that getting Realms finally working well and giving us the original soundtrack, and it’s easy to see why MCPE feels like a new game at the end of 2016, and a great one too.
Well, that is all for this year. It’s been a great ride for those who enjoy mobile games, and I hope we get even more fantastic games next year. I wonder which games will push the envelope in terms of mechanics, whether juggernauts from 2016 will continue their reign next year, and whether new mobile kings and queens will be crowned. No matter what happens next year – and no matter how bad 2016 was in many other ways – this has been a fantastic year for mobile gaming.