Even though we expanded our top games of the year list to a massive 100 entries, there still were quite a few games that easily could have made the list. It really was a stellar year of mobile games, but with so much quality stuff coming out amongst a sea of dreck it can be too easy for some of the better games to slip through the cracks. While there’s a bunch of games I’d love to have on this list, I’ve kept it trimmed down to the ones that I felt were great and beloved by a small group of people but just didn’t get all that much attention during the year. Hopefully this will bring a couple of under appreciated games to your attention, and I’ll encourage anyone else who has some games they felt were in the same boat this year to list them in the comments section below. See you in 2017!
Tap Tap Fish - AbyssRium, Free - Idle gaming was definitely a big thing in 2016, and I appreciated games that went beyond simple clickers and offered up something unique to the genre. AbyssRium did that by offering a gorgeous 3D “virtual aquarium" as a means to tie together all the typical progression systems found in most idle games. While some of the higher level creatures are locked behind some extreme grinding or even hard paywalls, I still immensely enjoyed spending time in my virtual underwater world with AbyssRium.
Astro Attack, Free - Astro Attack is a game I didn’t get around to trying until well after it was released, and immediately I regretted not checking it out sooner. It’s an homage to Galaga and Space Invaders-style vertical shooters, but done with a really neat voxel style that allows for a really unique (for this genre) 2.5D perspective. The shooting mechanics and especially the how power-ups work make for solid gameplay, but what is really fun about Astro Attack is the multitude of unlockable themes that significantly change up the visuals. This includes an awesome homage to Doom and a rad hidden first-person view mode.
Conduct THIS!, Free - Conduct THIS! launched out of the typical release cycle that we’re used to, and hence I don’t think it got the recognition that it deserved. It takes a similar train management approach that the classic Train Conductor series made by having you manage a train on a line by preventing it from running into cross-traffic while you shuffle a load of passengers to their appropriate stations. If you enjoy frantic management games where you need to handle a multitude of tasks at once, make sure you look into Conduct THIS!
Hammer Bomb - Creepy Dungeon Mazes!, Free - Two genres I never expected to see blended together are old-school first-person dungeon crawlers and classic Pac-Man, but somehow the combination works out beautifully in Hammer Bomb. While most dungeon crawlers like this are turn-based and force you to take your time and plan every move, Hammer Bomb has you running automatically and dealing with enemies and traps on the fly. It’s a very refreshing and satisfyingly frantic take on the classic dungeon crawler, all done with a very neat art style and gameplay suited to short-burst mobile play.
Hyperburner, $2.99 - There are plenty of “tunnel runner" type games on mobile and have been for years, so it takes something special for a new game in the genre to stand out in this day and age. Hyperburner managed to do that with drop-dead gorgeous visuals, a fantastic sense of speed, and one of the most natural-feeling one-thumb control schemes around. I didn’t expect much from Hyperburner when it released, but was surprised by how much I kept returning to it over and over. Another great feature that made it easy to return to was its level-based campaign which tasked you with more defined goals aside from just seeing how far you could make it.
LONEWOLF, Free - Like some other games on this list, Lonewolf is a standout entry in a genre that’s been done to death for years now. It’s a sniper game, but unlike most of the similar titles on the App Store, it features a very interesting story to follow as well as a very unique noir theme. It falls in-between the super simplistick stickman sniper games out there and the ultra high end 3D visuals of sniper games from the bigger developers. In addition, Lonewolf features some really unique level designs that demand a certain level of puzzle solving alongside simply finding and taking out your targets.
Maximum Car, Free - There are plenty of racing games on the App Store, and plenty that are retro-inspired. But there’s really nothing quite like Maximum Car. This is like a racing game with the over-the-top sensebilities of pro wrestling. You ain’t never seen a racing game like this one, brother!! Simple racing mechanics lead way to a tremendous sense of speed as well as a tremendous sense of satisfaction by taking out other racers and watching their spectacular crashes in slo-mo Burnout-style. With a hilariously obnoxious announcer spouting one-liners the whole time, Maximum Car is easily the most maximum racing game around.
Momoka: An Interplanetary Adventure, $6.99 - There are plenty of attempts at Metroidvania-style action platformers, but very few that manage to do the genre justice. Momoka takes the fun of exploring one giant world and slowly unlocking different sections of it as your abilities and items increase, but does so using the different circular planet style used in awesome games like Soosiz or Caterzillar. It’s a really fun feeling hopping in your rocket and blasting around the little solar system exploring new planets, so even though it launched at the beginning of the year and might have slipped by your rader, Momoka is one that’s well worth checking out.
Peter Panic, Free - I can’t think of any video games that are styled after Broadway musicals, which is exactly what Peter Panic is and why it stood out so much to me this year. With the full on production values of an actual musical, complete with an orchestra and full voice cast, there’s really nothing quite like Peter Panic. Of course, it’s not good enough just being a great musical, it also needs to be a GAME, and Peter Panic does this really well too by utilizing a ton of really fun mini-games.
Rule with an Iron Fish, $3.99 - Here is another game on our list that felt like it took a lot of cues from idle clickers in terms of progression, but actually spiced things up by replacing clicking with a very cool fishing mechanic. It wasn’t just about unlocking and upgrading things though, as Rule with an Iron Fish actually had a whole world to explore filled with colorful personalities and quests to complete. For as simplistic as it seemed on the surface, Rule with an Iron Fish was actually a full-fledged RPG and one of the more unique releases of 2016.
Super Phantom Cat - Be a jumping bro., $1.99 - It stands to reason that Super Phantom Cat got overshadowed a bit by the excellent Super Cat Tales in the Catformer category, but fans of cats and platformers definitely don’t want to miss out on this one. It offers very solid Mario-like platforming action, has a bunch of unlockable playable characters, a very pleasing color palette, and has received a ton of post-release content by way of updates. It’s really one of the best and most charming platformers on the App Store, and when you take into account how saturated the genre is, that’s really saying something.
Telepaint, $2.99 - Telepaint is probably one of the most interesting puzzlers I’ve seen in a long time, and given its ultra-cute art style and personality I’m really surprised it didn’t make more of a splash this year. I guess that’s what lists like this one are for though, eh? Telepaint has you wrapping your brain around using portals in order to get your little bucket of paint to the key and then the goal for each level. You’re in control of which portal entrances connect to which exits, making Telepaint a challenging test of working out complicated routes. If you’re a fan of premium puzzlers and this one slipped by you, now’s your chance to rectify that.
Toon Shooters 2 Freelancers, Free - The original Toon Shooters is what put Mooff Games on the map, and fans have been waiting years for a sequel. Toon Shooters 2 delivered everything and more when it hit this year. This horizontal shoot’em up pays homage to the classics like Gradius and R-Type, and like all of Mooff’s games, also pays homage to tons of pop-culture characters. Perhaps most impressive of all is the game’s online cooperative component that sees you teaming up to take on its many challenges. I adore Mooff games and with so much planned for the future of Toon Shooters 2 this simply had to be on the list.
Warcher Defenders, Free - There are few things as satisfying as lining up a shot with your bow and arrow, accounting for the arc it’ll take, and absolutely nailing your target. That’s basically what Warcher Defenders is all about. You’re defending a castle against a variety of crazy enemies using your arrows. Since many enemies have unique speeds and patterns, it really tests out your arrow-lobbing skills. On top of all that is an RPG-like progression system that sees you leveling up your abilities and even unlocking additional playable characters.