Last week, I wrote an feature-cum-impassioned rant about how I perceived that the history of the App Store was slowly dying, owing to how certain titles were slowly being eradicated by iterative iOS firmware upgrades, which caused a lot of older titles that many hold dear to be cast into the depths of App Store oblivion. While I sadly argued that a lot of this is out of our control (at least in the immediate future), I called upon the earnest and enthusiastic mobile gaming community to share their fondest iPhone gaming memories. This was for two reasons: to emphasise that it was imperative to make the most of many of the fascinating, unique and inspiring experiences that can only be found on mobile devices before they fade into the ether, but also to reinforce the history of many of the smaller releases that may be exclusively shared with only a few individuals, and to reminisce in the past of iOS gaming as a legitimate platform that has its own complete and comprehensive history that is equivalent to other consoles that many look back on with nostalgic glee. The response I received was incredible – not only was the breadth and depth of many niche games that our forum remembers detailed truly stunning, but such exhaustive accounts evoked many powerful memories of titles I played many years ago that were lost in the App Store noise. If our community is anything to go by, the history of mobile gaming may be inevitably compromised, but the future is relentlessly bright.
In the forum thread I posted asking for the community’s fondest iOS gaming memories, there was an extremely eclectic mix of responses, which emphasises the variety of experiences available on the App Store. OrangutanKungfu exemplifies one common theme throughout the topic, as they describe how experiencing a console classic from their childhood – in this case, Final Fantasy ($7.99) – was a true ‘watershed moment’, and a gateway into the world of mobile gaming. RHess00 shared similar sentiments regarding Square Enix’s landmark title, with Final Fantasy demonstrating the assets of the App Store, and defining the difference between being ‘happy with [their] flip phone’, and understanding the potential of the smartphone. While Neca and Exact-Psience illustrate, through the examples of Super Monkey Ball and Monster Hunter Freedom Unite ($14.99) respectively, that this trend is as prevalent as ever even in the modern day App Store, it was the peculiar example of Sonic CD (Free) from Vectorarchitekt that stood out to me. My own personal experience of seeing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on the App Store is similar to that of the aforementioned user – while not perhaps demonstrating the true extent of the iPhone’s potential, being able to play classics from the past on an entirely touch screen device on the go was a breakthrough moment that many amongst the community share.
That being said, there were a number of members who cited the more graphically intense games as those that stunned them into taking mobile gaming seriously. D4rkwolf and colmulhall77 both emphasised their love for the Gameloft N.O.V.A. series, with Adams Immersive sharing that the game on the iPad ‘did sell [them] on the idea that FPS controls/aiming can work great on a touchscreen’. In a similar vein, Exact-Psience names the first Infinity Blade ($5.99) and EPOCH. ($0.99) as ones they ‘couldn’t believe were on mobile’, not only for their graphical prowess, but also because of their touch-centric control schemes that distinguished them from traditional console peers.
However, the most universally relatable iOS gaming memory was one that Dankrio sums up perfectly by saying that, because of the ease of publication on the App Store, ‘we got a lot of experimental stuff that would never, otherwise, be available on consoles’. Experimental isn’t solely exclusive to titles such as Device 6 ($3.99) and The Room ($0.99), but also those smaller games like Temple Run (Free) and Jetpack Joyride (Free) that simply would have been too eccentric for other platforms, or too quirky to be given a chance outside of mobile gaming. Whether that was something as obscure as HaraKiri82‘s suggestion of Clickie Zoo (Free), or more cult classics like Pocket God ($0.99), Rolando, GeoDefense ($1.99) and Soosiz (Free) as highlighted by Kenan2000, HelperMonkey and GiHubb, or even Orangeknickers‘s love of the genre-defining Kairosoft releases, the sheer variety of titles exemplifies the App Store as a home of both games that push the medium of video gaming to its very limit, but also one that allows for unique and memorable experiences that are entirely unique to the platform.
While I may have missed out a few fantastic contributions from some of our members – I’d implore anyone remotely invested in iOS as a platform to give the thread a read – the underlying feeling was that without the accessibility of the App Store, many of these extremely memorable games would have never existed. I remember so many of the aforementioned titles so vividly, and honestly hold them up to many of the more traditional games I have been fortunate enough to experience over the years. Irrespective of whether many of these releases are still playable in ten years (or even a few months if current trends are upheld), if the App Store didn’t exist there would be a significantly sized gaping hole in a large part of my younger years. If the App Store was never a thing, many developers who had always dreamed to create a game of their own likely wouldn’t have been able to have that chance to release a title of their own on a serious gaming platform. Many major forces in the industry, whether that’s Rovio, King, Supercell, or anyone in between, likely wouldn’t have found the platform to reach such astronomical audiences through the medium of video games. Landmark console developments such as the Switch may not have even have existed, at least in their current guise, if the success of the App Store hadn’t necessitated gaming to adapt to a more globalised and open environment.
While many traditional media outlets and self-proclaimed ‘hardcore’ gamers may disagree, the iPhone is a serious and vitally important part of the history of video games. It’s our imperative, as the mobile gaming community and enthusiasts of the platform, to ensure that those oft-forgotten titles that led to such success for iOS aren’t neglected from the narrative, and to also propagate the praise of current App Store classics to ensure the history of iPhone gaming isn’t a mere bullet point in a greater industry narrative, but an intricate, inclusive, and in-depth story of unique experiences and unforgettable moments that simply could not have been discovered elsewhere.