Well, 2017 has been yet another incredible year of mobile game releases, and just like always when I sit down to pick out my own personal favorites of the year I had a really hard time keeping it to just ten. For this list I focused mostly on the games that made the biggest impact on me this year as well as the ones I spent the most time playing. That said, this list could easily be ten times the size and there are a lot of fantastic games that I enjoyed in 2017 that I had to make the tough decision to omit. Heck, our 100 Best Games of the Year list actually IS ten times this size, and there’s dozens of games that I wish we could have included on it still. I think we just have to get used to the fact that there’s an overwhelming amount of great content on mobile, truly something for everybody if you’re willing to search through all the crap to find it. That’s really why TouchArcade exists in the first place, and we busted our collective butts this year to bring you as many great games as possible, and we plan on working even harder in 2018 to continue that tradition.
Beat Street, Free - Being an ’80s and ’90s arcade rat, one of my very favorite genres is the side-scrolling beat ’em up. Despite being a somewhat shallow type of game, it’s surprisingly hard to get the formula just right, which explains why there’s a zillion beat ’em ups out there but only a very few great ones. It’s why the classics hold up so well decades later. Lucky Kat’s Beat Street has found that special sauce that makes a beat ’em up fun, and has added some very smart modern touches that have made it a daily habit for me. The most important elements of a great beat ’em up are the combat and the enemy AI, both of which need to be complex enough to still be engaging but simple enough to be approachable. Beat Street nails those aspects perfectly. Then layered on top is a LENGTHY campaign mode (rare for this genre) and a character unlocking and upgrading system that ensures you’ve always got something to shoot for when you play.
Cat Quest, $4.99 - I have a hard time getting into most RPGs usually because I can’t handle the scope. Rather than hundred-hour affairs with deep, complex storylines I’d much prefer something breezier that gets to the point and focuses on what makes the genre so fun. It feels like Cat Quest was made for someone like me. There’s not loads of text to bog down the action, but the main storyline and side quests are still filled with entertaining tales and colorful characters. There’s equipment upgrading and character progression, but it’s just enough to be manageable while still allowing you to tailor your character to your style. The combat and magic system are similarly diverse enough to be interesting but not overwhelming, and it’s tailored so well to the touchscreen it makes the real-time battling tons of fun. Cat Quest is like a concentrated dose of action RPG and cat puns, and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had gaming in 2017.
Darts of Fury, Free - Yes, it’s the year 2017 and I’m picking a darts game of all things for my top 10 of the year. I’m just as surprised as you. The funny thing is, despite there being dozens if not hundreds of darts games on mobile over the years, none have been especially great, which is a shame as flicking your finger on a touchscreen is a great way to represent throwing a dart. Well, I’m here to tell you that Darts of Fury gets it right. The physics are totally on point, and reward solid flicking mechanics and aim just like the real thing. Aside from a couple (admittedly fun) training mini-games, Darts of Fury is an online PvP game, and with good matchmaking and a great leveling system it’s a blast to rise the ranks and face off against other players. There’s plenty that could be improved here, namely the inclusion of more modes and dart game types and especially the ability to play against friends instead of just randoms, but the dart throwing is so much fun that it hasn’t stopped me from playing this one each day since its release.
Death Road to Canada, $14.99 - There’s something about Rocketcat’s games that just push all the right buttons for me. They tend to create games that reward skill and insist you actually learn the details of the game rather than just brute force your way through. Our 2014 Game of the Year Wayward Souls was an excellent example of that. And now Death Road to Canada, made in conjunction with authentic Canadian developer Madgarden, is another. Your goal is pretty simple on paper: Escape the zombie apocalypse by road tripping from Florida to the safety of The Great White North. In practice it’s not quite so easy. I’ve always loved roguelike games because of their ability to let you create your own adventures rather than the one the developer envisioned for you, and in that sense Death Road is like a storytelling machine. The sheer variety of what can happen to you in any given road trip is sure to create some lasting memories, and with careful resource management, some nimble fingers, and a whole lot of luck it’s chock full of extremely rewarding gameplay too.
Flipflop Solitaire, Free - I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I have thousands of hours invested in playing Solitaire over the years. It was a big reason my parents bought a computer when I was a kid! With such an enduring design, you’d think a classic like Solitaire would be impossible to improve on, but developer Zach Gage somehow pulls it off with Flipflop Solitaire. Just a few rule changes have created an entirely new experience, and unlike Solitaire where you’ll often find yourself in a dead end situation nearly all games in Flipflop Solitaire can be won. Because of that each game feels almost like a puzzle that you can solve, and with so much extra flexibility in the rules compared to the traditional game, I’ve been surprised with how many times I think I’ve been stumped only to discover a string of crazy moves I can make to get me out of a stuck situation. It’s SO satisfying.
Getting Over It, $4.99 - I love weird physics-based games, mostly because they’re purposely silly and somewhat shallow and don’t take themselves too seriously. Getting Over It shares the silly and weird part, but it most definitely takes itself seriously. This is a game that’s built to abuse you over and over while simultaneously talking you through the emotional damage it’s causing you. Your job is to climb a mountain while sitting in a cauldron using nothing but a sledge hammer to push and fling yourself around. It’s totally absurd, but there’s something incredibly satisfying about overcoming such adversity… right up to the point where you make a wrong move and go plummeting down to the bottom, losing possibly hours of progress in the process. Yes, that happens a lot. But somehow you just want to come back for more.
Gorogoa, $4.99 - This has to count as the biggest surprise of the year for me, as Gorogoa only came out a couple of weeks ago but in all honesty it only took a couple of minutes before I knew this would be one of my favorites of 2017. It’s something of a hybrid of a point and click adventure game and one of those tile-sliding picture puzzles, but that description doesn’t nearly do this masterpiece justice. You’ll zoom in and out of many beautiful illustrated scenes, and also slide different layers off of the environment to manipulate and interact with various elements in the pictures. Gosh, it’s SO hard to explain, but that’s what’s so amazing about Gorogoa. It’s unlike any game I’ve ever played, and it will constantly be blowing your mind with how inventive it is and how it can create these rich, interconnected environments. The best part is that Gorogoa tells an interesting story and creates an interesting universe to explore and it does it entirely without text. It’s so stunningly brilliant that the only bad thing I can say is that the game ends at all, as I could easily poke and prod my way around this fascinating world for eternity.
GRIDâ„¢ Autosport, $9.99 - I don’t get into racing games very often, and even when I do they tend to be the more unrealistic, arcade-style games. I did have a love affair with the original two Gran Turismo games back in the day but as technology advanced the series just got too difficult for a car noob like me, and I’ve pretty much avoided hardcore racing sims ever since. Which sucks because I WANT to like them, you know? I just couldn’t. Then GRID Autosport arrived on iOS and basically provided my dream racing game. It’s simulation-focused but not overly so, and it has so many dang options you can pretty much tailor the game to suit your style no matter what your experience or enthusiasm towards racing is. Then there’s the staggering amount of event and race types that are connected to a rich career mode that is always waiting to give you something satisfying to accomplish. Throw in the best visuals we’ve ever seen in a mobile game to date and there’s no better way to spend your money than GRID Autosport for both hardcore and casual racing fans on the go.
Pigeon Wings, $1.99 - Side-scrolling cave flyer games are a staple of the mobile platform, as they’re typically one or two button affairs that lend themselves incredibly well to the touchscreen. Because of that we’ve been inundated with these types of games for years, and it’s become increasingly difficult for new ones to stand out. Pigeon Wings may look like your average cave flyer, but it’s actually one of the finest racing games on mobile and stands out in a number of ways. First, it’s level-based, and each level is a finely-crafted course that will reward your quick reflexes and taking advantage of subtle strategies like drafting behind the racers ahead of you. There’s also some shooting elements thrown in and even boss fights, and each level is bite-sized enough that it’s easy to squeeze in a game here and there as well as go back and repeat a course over and over trying for a better time. This formula has brought me back to Pigeon Wings constantly since its release, but a recent endless mode addition pretty much ensures I’ll never stop playing this one.
Steredenn, $3.99 - I love shoot ’em ups, and I love roguelikes, so it stands to reason that I’d love a roguelike shoot ’em up and the brilliant Steredenn is proof of that. It’s a horizontally-scrolling shooter that has you playing through a set of semi-randomized levels each capped off with an epic boss battle. Upon completion of each level you’re given the choice of a number of weapons or power-ups to equip, meaning you only get more bad ass the further you get in the game. It’s also designed so that you can beat all levels and loop back around to continue on, going until you die, and like most great shooters it’s not merely designed to be “beaten" but mastered and replayed over and over. A special shoutout goes to the excellent touch controls implemented into this mobile version of Steredenn that creates a crosshair sort of thing whenever your ship might be hidden by your thumb, which is just ingenious and should be standard on all mobile shooters from now on.