2017 has been a year of competing extremes in almost every aspect, whether personal, public or within the world of iOS gaming. While so much of it was dominated by the demise of many of my favourite childhood classics with iOS 11 and the 32-bit Appocalypse (being unable to play Dungeon Raid anymore has been a particularly bitter pill to swallow), the release of an unprecedented barrage of high-quality games have made 2017’s struggles slightly easier to take. While phenomenal ports of complete console titles have been fantastic to Witness (no pun intended), and the typically strong showing of innovative indie classics have only further emphasised iOS’s strengths as a serious gaming platform, it has been you – the iOS community – that has been the highlight of my 2017. Whether it’s developers revealing insights into the hottest upcoming games, people sharing their experiences with recent and classic mobile releases, or even heated debate over Taylor Swift and Brawl Stars, the TouchArcade Forums and especially the Discord community have been particularly fantastic points of refuge for not only passionate mobile gamers, but also for a lovely group of friendly people. From both a personal and professional level, my thanks go to everyone who has been actively supporting our community and helping it go from strength to strength over the past twelve months. Alright, enough rambling – here are the top ten iOS games that were particularly memorable for me in 2017, in no particular order:
Linelight, $1.99 It’s going to come up a few times over the course of this list, but there are some games that just feel like they were destined to be on iOS. More than any other game I’ve played this year, Linelight epitomises this natural fit on the iPhone and iPad, and resulted in one of the most natural, immersive and memorable puzzle experiences of the year. The combination of a beautiful soundtrack with hypnotic visuals and intuitive puzzles resulted in Linelight telling a surprisingly engrossing story over its brief lifespan, and being far more than the sum of its parts.
Splitter Critters, $2.99 A push for graphical fidelity is fine, but it’s occasionally the simplest ideas that are the most astonishing. When I first tried out Splitter Critters on an internet demo prior to launch, I was taken aback by how its core gameplay mechanic – of splicing the environment to direct your cute avatar to the goal – just made [em]so much sense[/em]. However, this preview was unable to prepare me fully for the complete release on iPhone, which used this mechanic in such ingenious and innovative ways in every level, in a way that was so effortless and intuitive on the touch screen. Beyond all else, Splitter Critters was just a fantastically fun breath of fresh air in 2017.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, $14.99 When this game dropped on the App Store early in January, you just knew 2018 was going to be a special year for mobile gaming. The Binding of Isaac had obviously made waves on other more sedentary platforms, but the iOS iteration was my first experience of Edmund McMillen’s cult hit – and boy, what an experience it was. Being essentially the full console game, The Binding of Isaac was chock full of strange and eccentric surprises to discover, and its seemingly endless longevity made it a mainstay on my device throughout the entirety of 2017. Being able to just pick up the game and put in five minutes whenever I felt like it really emphasised the qualities of mobile gaming, and with so much to discover, I can see myself playing The Binding of Isaac well into 2018 and beyond.
Cat Quest, $4.99 I’ve been outspoken over my love of cats during my many months writing for TouchArcade, and so it’s an understatement to say the excitement surrounding Cat Quest was palpable in the lead-up to its release. Despite this, I was still blown away upon playing the final product – whether it was the incredibly tight control system, the beautifully detailed world to explore, or the cacophony of feline puns around every corner, Cat Quest was the closest to the purrfect traditional adventure title we’ve been longing for on iOS since the platform’s inception. Cat Quest deserves every accolade it will inevitably receive, and I can’t wait to see what the developers do next.
Game Dev Tycoon, $4.99 I’d love to put the original Game Dev Story ($4.99) on every top 10 list I write, but its release in 2010 sadly makes it a few years too early for this particular poll. However, I don’t even need to refer to the late mobile release of Game Dev Tycoon as ‘the next best thing’, as it is the long-awaited improvement over Kairosoft’s classic simulator that I’ve been waiting so many years for, and truly goes above and beyond its peers. With gameplay that combines the mobile-suited bitesize game development with a deceptive level of depth, Game Dev Tycoon managed to have that same warm feeling of fulfilling childhood dreams that its genre contemporaries have capitalised on for so long, and the attention to detail that the developers included in its mobile iteration only made me question why we haven’t seen the title before now on the App Store. Finally, the spectre of Game Dev Story 2 can rest in peace.
Fowlst, Free Fowlst was a game that sadly slipped under the radar on its release in June, and I can understand why. It’s a bit of a strange concept at heart – especially with its irreverent humor littered throughout the game’s app description – and the screenshot stills simply do not do the exciting action justice. However, give Fowlst and its charming rocket-pooping owl protagonist a chance and you will find one of the tightest and most compelling arcade games of the year, and one that I found myself gravitating towards whenever I had a few minutes spare. Incredibly simple controls, a surprising amount of variation and customisation, and some pretty epic bosses to tackle resulted in something that distilled the compulsive qualities of Downwell ($2.99) into something unique for the mobile platform.
Cally's Caves 4, Free It’s a nice feeling to see an established series – one that originated on the App Store, no less – reach greater and greater heights, and Cally’s Caves 4 managed to surpass my expectations from its predecessors and turn everything up to 11. Whether that’s the sheer amount of content, the variety of weapons, enemies and environments to encounter and explore, or the even more ridiculous bosses that lie in wait at the end of every labyrinthine zone, Cally’s Caves 4 kept me coming back repeatedly just to see what was in store for me next. With the developer being extremely active amongst our Discord server, it felt like I had a lot emotionally invested in Cally’s Caves 4 in the lead up to its release, and I’m glad that the resulting concoction was something that stands incredibly strong on its own merits.
Hidden Folks, $3.99 This is somewhat of a latecomer to my own personal list, as I’ve literally only just joined the exclusive iPad Pro club over the past few days. While the sheer power of the device may suggest games like the excellent GRID Autosport ($9.99) (which sadly just missed the cut) and others would be the best to show off the iPad’s capabilities, it’s been Hidden Folks that has entertained me the most in my early tablet days. The beautiful hand-drawn graphics on the sizeable screen real-estate of the iPad have made looking for the weird and wonderful targets in Hidden Folks a joy, and the game feels like the modern culmination of the Where’s Waldo-esque books that I spent so much time squinting over as a child.
Morphite, $7.99 You can’t have a best of 2017 list for iOS without some mention of Morphite – after what seemed like years of development time, Morphite’s ambitious attempt on the first person adventure genre felt like a glimpse into a utopian future of what mobile gaming could eventually become. Stunning cel-shaded graphics brought alien worlds to life, and exploring planets and scanning the creatures you encounter was both impressive in its scale and immersive in its detail. Despite lofty comparisons to No Man’s Sky and the Metroid series, and some minor control and open-world issues that are inevitable with a game of its scope, Morphite was an astonishingly enjoyable opus for one of the App Store’s best publishers.
Death Road to Canada, $14.99 Zombie games are arguably more dead than their antagonists, but Rocketcat Games did the impossible this year and reinvented a tired genre with so much unbridled wackiness I’m still not entirely sure of the best way to approach a game in Death Road to Canada. The bizarre events, the even more eccentric characters that are encountered, and the brilliantly tense amalgamation of Oregon Trail-esque RPG mechanics with pure zombie-killing action resulted in a title that finally fulfils the tired cliche of ‘no one game is the same’. The typical Rocketcat Games’ support for Death Road to Canada has seen the title grow from strength to strength in the months since its release, and reading the wild stories of attempted runs on our forums has been almost as fun as playing the game itself. I may never have made it to Canada, but I can confidently confirm Rocketcat have made it to my top 10 list yet again.