We say this about every year but it continues to be true: 2019 was a hell of a year for great iOS games. There was the usual slate of mobile original titles, but this year seemed to be particularly heavy in terms of high-profile ports of console and PC games too. And let’s not forget that this was the year that subscription gaming came into its own, mostly thanks to Apple leading the charge with Apple Arcade. Apple’s gaming service offers up TONS of excellent mobile-exclusive new games, but on the other side of the coin we had GameClub launch this year which is a similar gaming subscription but one that (for now) focuses on bringing back the App Store’s best classic games that have been lost to time. Both services compliment each other well and both offer a ridiculous amount of content for their price.
So for this year’s Best Mobile Games of 2019 list we’ve combined our favorite mobile originals and ports into one large list, and picked our favorites for Apple Arcade and GameClub in their own separate lists. We’ve also highlighted our favorite updates of the year since there were a lot of existing games that received either significant content updates that were noteworthy or were simply updated after a long time to make them playable again for a new audience, which is also worth celebrating. So please check out our picks below, but first…
Some hard truths about the future of TouchArcade.
As you probably already know if you’re a regular around here, we’ve had financial difficulties for several years now. Traditional web advertising has entirely tanked, obnoxious in-your-face advertising is something we don’t want to do, Apple killed the affiliate program that drove a good chunk of our income, and mobile games moving into free to play has almost entirely destroyed the need for traditional game reviews which have been our bread and butter for the past decade plus. We started up a Patreon back in 2015 when some of this writing started appearing on the wall, and it continues to be our primary source of income to keep TouchArcade running. We figured we’d be comfortable if we could get $5,000 a month from it, but set our goal at $10,000 just as a “pie in the sky" dream goal and were blown away and completely humbled when we almost hit that 10K mark.
As you can see, however, our Patreon support has been dwindling ever since, hitting an all-time low this month. A lot of this is on us as we’ve struggled to come up with interesting ways to add value to being a Patreon other than simply allowing us to continue existing. The most successful Patreons are ones whose creators are able to engage with the community and put together different rewards and bonuses for those who support them. As a two man show, we simply didn’t have the bandwidth to do that sort of thing, and we felt kind of icky locking any of our content behind a Patreon paywall. It’s something I’d love to rectify in 2020, and I would love to hear from any of our readers the types of things they’d want to see in terms of benefits for being a Patreon supporter.
Anyway, the truth is that at around this time last year we only had a couple of months left. We were planning on how to wind down the site and the type of “goodbye" content we were going to do. Then Eli, our former Editor in Chief and the OTHER half of TouchArcade, took a job with GameClub, and being able to take his salary off the books suddenly gave us a bit more runway to operate. So TouchArcade, against all odds, continued to exist through the rest of 2019, but I don’t see it lasting very long unless something changes pretty drastically in the next couple of months. If you value what we do in any way, please consider supporting us through the following means:
- You can join our Patreon, and with as little as $1 a month you’ll get a video version of our podcast and hopefully some other cool bonuses soon.
- If you shop on Amazon, first visit toucharcade.com/amazon. Anything you buy after clicking through our affiliate link we get a (very) small percentage of, at no cost to you. An easy way to do this is to change our link to your regular Amazon bookmark, then you never even have to think about it!
- We stream on Twitch, though not as much so lately (perhaps more in 2020) and you can subscribe to us over there. Additionally, if you have Amazon Prime you can subscribe for free.
- Not into the subscription thing or don’t shop on Amazon? You can send one-time contributions via PayPal.
- Or, if you really want to get weird, you can sign up for Coinbase and send Bitcoin to 1Bodu89YrJKBLwS8y8tVF4XyQ5b2dR2cnK.
I hate having to bring this sort of thing up, and indeed another reason our Patreon has been slipping is because we don’t really pimp it like we should be. I hate having to worry about this sort of stuff and instead would like to spend my time seeking out cool games to post about rather than spending it trying to keep the lights on. Such is life though, and hopefully we’ll be around to do yet another Best Games round-up at the end of 2020.
So with that out of the way, let’s move on to the main feature. Below is the Best Mobile Games comprised of original titles and ports, followed by the Best Updates, Best Apple Arcade, and Best GameClub. All in alphabetical order and there was no number quota I was going for, i.e. no Top 50 or Top 100. There will inevitably be games you think should be included in this list that aren’t, so feel free to let us know those games in the comment section below. Also look to the bottom of this post for links to our year-end Nintendo Switch coverage as well as links to our previous Games of the Year lists going all the way back to 2008.
The Best Mobile Games of 2019
Alien: Blackout, $0.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Alien: Isolation is one of the most beloved games based on the Alien franchise, and fans have been clamoring for a sequel for years. So when a semi-sequel spinoff was announced exclusively for mobile devices, it… didn’t go over so well. However, if you look at what Alien: Blackout is rather than what it isn’t, it’s a tremendously atmospheric extension of the Amanda Ripley timeline and a super enjoyable piece of fan service. Sure, it apes the Five Nights at Freddy’s formula, but that’s actually a perfect fit for an Alien game. Maybe a true sequel to Isolation will arrive someday, but until that time don’t deprive yourself of experiencing Alien: Blackout. -JN
Battle Chasers: Nightwar, $9.99 – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – Based on the Battle Chasers comic book series which ran during the late ’90s and into the early 2000s, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a turn-based RPG that originally launched on console and PC a couple of years ago. But as with many mobile ports, the game actually feels most at home on the touchscreen, and as someone who doesn’t love turn-based RPGs I can’t believe how much I enjoyed playing through this when it hit the App Store over the summer. No knowledge of the comic books is necessary to enjoy the characters and story here either, and even knowing it’s a port of an existing game it’s hard not to be impressed playing a game with this amount of depth and such a high level of quality on a mobile device. -JN
Bullet Hell Monday Black, Free – [Forum Thread] – There are some really great bullet hell games on iOS now thanks to the likes of Bullet Hell Monday and Danmaku Unlimited 3 that are built for mobile. While ports are always welcome, the bullet hell games built for touch are always more fun to play on iOS and that’s where Bullet Hell Monday Black from Masayuki Ito comes into the picture. This is a remixed take on the original that offers a much greater challenge. The vertical scrolling bullet hell experience looks gorgeous and plays brilliantly on iOS. It is free to try and while the original game is probably a better option if you’re new to the genre, this is exactly the kind of experience we need more of on iOS. -MM
Call of DutyÂ®: Mobile, Free – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – Call of Duty is arguably the biggest gaming IP in the world, and it’s been no stranger to mobile platforms over the years. But Activision and development partner TiMi Studios/Tencent Games really decided to go the extra mile with Call of Duty: Mobile and try to make something designed explicitly for the mobile platform. That means controls with touchscreens in mind, quick access to game modes that can be played in short or long sessions, and of course a drip feed of cool items to unlock and things to upgrade and customize that will keep you coming back each day and maybe even dipping into your wallet once in a while. The crazy thing is that it all works incredibly well and Call of Duty: Mobile is an absolute blast whether you ever spend a dime on it or not. -JN
Dead Cells, $8.99 – [Review] – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – A few years back words like “roguelike" or “Metroidvania" would send me into a frothy frenzy. But to be honest games that trade on the elements of those descriptors have released in abundance in recent years, and the quality varies widely from game to game. So when people were buzzing over a new roguelike Metroidvania called Dead Cells that released on consoles and PC in 2018, I didn’t exactly go out of my way to check it out. I figured it was “just another one of those" games. Boy am I an idiot. Dead Cells is everything it’s cracked up to be and more, with truly skill-based gameplay and a nearly endless supply of items and abilities that change up the way you play each time. It’s easy to see why this is such a critical hit on other platforms, but what’s truly impressive is how with just a few tweaks the folks at Playdigious have brought a version of Dead Cells to iOS that plays phenomenally on the touchscreen, and actually fits into the bite-sized nature of mobile perfectly. -JN
Figment: Journey Into the Mind, Free – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – With its astoundingly good voice acting, painterly environments, and item-based puzzle solving, you might think that Figment: Journey Into the Mind is an old-school point-and-click adventure game. And you wouldn’t be far off, except all of those fantastic elements have been molded into something more akin to an action RPG. It really is a nice blend of both genres in terms of gameplay, but taken as an overall package Figment is bursting with personality and an interesting world to explore, and has a level of polish that you don’t typically find on mobile. That’s probably due to Figment making its mark as a PC and console game first, but the mobile port sacrifices nothing and feels right at home on the go. -JN
Flappy Fighter, Free – [First Impressions] – [Forum Thread] – Sadly Flappy Fighter is currently not available on the App Store due to receiving an official complain from “somebody" and Apple removing it. The developers are working on rectifying the situation, but as of right now this is the only game on our Best of 2019 list that you can’t currently download. Still, it felt right to include it because of the expert way in which Flappy Fighter took the essence of fighting game mechanics and adapted them for the touchscreen. Instead of worrying about complicated button inputs to pull off moves, everything is mapped to just 4 large buttons meaning you can focus on your timing and quick reactions rather than hoping to pull off the right moves with unreliable touch inputs. The community at large has really embraced Flappy Fighter by constantly coming up with bigger and more elaborate combos, and before the takedown there was a constant drip feed of new updates for the game with many more planned. Perhaps they flew a bit TOO close to the sun in terms of being an homage to Street Fighter, but with such promising mechanics I hope Flappy Fighter makes its way back someday so it can reach its full potential. -JN
Golf Blitz, Free – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – Noodlecake’s Stickman Golf series has been a popular title for many years now, with each new entry being bigger and more feature-laden than the last. Their brand of 2D side-scrolling golf made for a great mobile game for casual and hardcore gamers alike, but it was several years ago when the online multiplayer mode in particular went somewhat viral and for a while it seemed everybody was battling each other in Super Stickman Golf. Well Noodlecake embraced that and decided to create a game that was entirely built around online multiplayer, and thus Golf Blitz was born. You can really tell how long they spend poring over the details to ensure that Golf Blitz both played phenomenally well on a mobile device but also had the legs to keep fans engaged for many years to come. -JN
GRIS, $4.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Devolver Digital rarely disappoints when it comes to published games and GRIS is easily one of their best games. The Nomada Studio developed exploration puzzle platformer hybrid has some of the most gorgeous visuals in gaming with a soundtrack to match. You play as Gris who is a young girl dealing with the various stages of grief and slowly coming to acceptance through adding more colours to the world. GRIS is one of those games where every screenshot you take is wallpaper worthy. I originally played it on Switch and it was phenomenal experiencing it again on both iPhone and iPad a little while ago. This is easily one of the best games you can play on iOS. Considering it launched only on PC and Nintendo Switch, I was pretty surprised to see it hit iOS before PS4 but that’s what happened and the iOS version includes all the content at a fraction of the price which makes this an even better deal. -MM
Hyper Light Drifter, $4.99 – [Review] – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – The last few years have been great for ports of indie games that were previously only available on consoles and PC that finally arrived on mobile, but 2019 was even better. I never thought I’d see Hyper Light Drifter hit iOS but here we are. Abylight Studios and Heart Machine brought over the game with all the Nintendo Switch exclusive content in a port that plays great almost all the way. If you’ve not played it before, the game feels like a hybrid between an older Zelda game and Sword and Sworcery. It has gorgeous pixel art. Hyper Light Drifter looks superb and plays well regardless of the iOS device I tested on and they even managed taking care of the aspect ratios well. The haptic feedback deserves a special mention because I haven’t played a game that implemented it as well as this yet. -MM
Immortal Rogue, $4.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – There’s nothing that gets my motor humming more than a developer who takes a tried and true genre from the console and PC world and comes up with controls that are tailor made for the touchscreen. That is exactly what developer Kyle Barrett has done with the hack ‘n slash action RPG genre and his mobile take on it called Immortal Rogue. The gesture controls are fluid and make you feel like whirling bad ass of destruction, but beyond that the open-ended nature of how you choose to approach or recruit the enemies you come across as well as a structure that is designed to be played and replayed over and over again makes Immortal Rogue a “hardcore" kind of game but one that is fit perfectly for mobile. -JN
Journey, $4.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – When Annapurna Interactive and thatgamecompany brought Flower to iOS, I was pretty surprised. This was the first time that game was available on non PlayStation systems and I was hoping that Journey would eventually follow. A few years later and we now have a superb version of Journey on iOS that has all the content from the PlayStation versions, including multiplayer, with a few extra bells and whistles to boot. On iOS, you can even tweak the visuals and frame rate and run the game at a much higher fidelity than the PS3 original, and even play with a controller. Journey is a must play on any platform and I’m glad it finally released on iOS this year. -MM
THE LAST REMNANT Remastered, $19.99 – [News Story] – [Forum Thread] – Not only did Square Enix surprise everyone by releasing a port of this previous Xbox 360 exclusive RPG on mobile with absolutely no warning, but I think they surprised everyone by choosing this game for remastering at all. The Last Remnant received middling reviews on its original run, and with all the games fans usually DO clamor for from Square Enix, I don’t think there was anybody asking for this one. That said, with a decade now in between the original release and the remaster, I think it’s easier to appreciate The Last Remnant for what it does well. This is especially true on mobile as with the ability to save anywhere and the overall structure of the game it can easily fit into bite-sized chunks of play. It’s not often that we get games of this breadth on mobile, so if you can stomach the massive 8.5 gig size and the expensive-for-mobile price tag, The Last Remnant Remastered is a real treat for mobile RPG fans. -JN
LEGOÂ® Tower, Free – [Friend Code Sharing] – [Forum Thread] – Nimblebit’s original Tiny Tower is an absolute classic in the mobile realm, and if you were going to compile a lit of the top ten games that defined the platform I’d easily include it in that group. They’ve also branched out a couple of times over the years with Tiny Tower spinoffs, one set in Vegas and one ill-fated Star Wars spinoff that wasn’t developed by Nimblebit themselves and ultimately suffered for it. So there was a sense of trepidation when LEGO Tower was originally announced. The world’s favorite building brick is a brand on par with something like Star Wars, so would this new entry suffer from the same stumbles and untimely death as Tiny Death Star? Happily the answer is no, as LEGO Tower is not only a solid take on the Tiny Tower formula with some additional new features that make it the best version of this brand of simulator, but it’s also an excellent celebration of all things LEGO and its extensive history. -JN
Lovecraft's Untold Stories, $9.99 – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – We live in a world where roguelike dungeon crawlers with RPG elements are so bountiful that they tend to blend together, and while it’s among my favorite genre of games, it’s hard to get excited for each and every new kid that arrives on the block. So I can appreciate when new entries in this genre not only nail all the things you’d expect, but also set themselves apart with unique aspects and mechanics. Lovecraft’s Untold Stories does this first and foremost with a clever “sanity" mechanic that can see your character losing their grip on reality the more they’re confronted with eldritch horrors. This is Lovecraft-themed after all. It’s not the first game to implement a mechanic like this, but with its multiple playable characters that all feel quite distinct from one another and it’s emphasis on exploration, it really does serve to enhance an already great entry in the dungeon crawler genre. -JN
Minit, $4.99 – [Review] – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – It may have garnered attention for the all-star cast of indie developers who collaborated on it, and it really made the majority of its waves when it launched on consoles and PC last year, but if ever there was a game that felt like it had the soul of a mobile game it would have to be Minit. As the title suggests, Minit is an action adventure that you play 60 seconds at a time. During each of those minute intervals you’ll explore a bit more of the world, find useful items, solve various puzzles, and meet a host of interesting characters. Once your minute is up though, it’s back to the beginning for you. Luckily your knowledge and actions carry over in a way that allows you to get just a bit further each time, and Minit truly pulls off the impossible by fitting a fairly large and incredibly enjoyable adventure into tiny one minute chunks. -JN
P1 Select, $2.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – If this is your first experience with one of his games you may or may not believe me, but this is a kinder, gentler Brough game. It’s not as complex as Imbroglio, nor is it as hard to come to grips with initially as 868-HACK. As such, it’s a great introduction into the wild world of Brough’s creations. If you’re a veteran, don’t worry. There’s still plenty here to chew on, even if it may not quite have the longevity of some of his other titles. Your aim in P1 Select is to make your way through nine procedurally-generated stages, gathering as many Pontos as you can along the way. You’ll get one Ponto for every floor you clear, but you can earn extra Pontos by defeating enemies in a particular way. Whether you make it to the end of the nine stages or perish along the way, the number of Pontos you collect is tallied up and recorded. A single good run isn’t enough, however, as P1 Select keeps track of your average score across 20 sessions, and that’s what the leaderboard rankings are based on. -SM
Photographs - Puzzle Stories, $3.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Luca Redwood aka EightyEight Games is no stranger to best games lists with the furiously fast-paced matching RPGs 10000000 and You Must Build a Boat under his belt, and that’s part of what made his latest game Photographs such a surprise. This is a puzzler, sure, and it features some fantastic pixel art from Octavi Navarro of Thimbleweed Park fame. But Photographs is so much more than a puzzle game, it’s actually a very heavy narrative game disguised as a puzzler. You’ll play through five different scenarios, uncovering bits and pieces by completing puzzles. Each scenario has its own unique type of puzzle game to play, and the stories that come forth are gut wrenching. It’s certainly not the sort of thing you’d expect by just seeing some screens of Photographs, but that’s sort of the best part about it. This is a game that can tell compelling stories through gameplay and perhaps even trick people who don’t typically enjoy narrative experiences into feeling something. -JN
Layton: Diabolical Box in HD, $9.99 – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – The Nintendo DS is the most popular handheld gaming system of all time, and for many it was their introduction to the touchscreen. An extremely finicky touchscreen that required a stylus, but a touchscreen nonetheless. So it makes a lot of sense that when smartphones exploded on the scene several years later and introduced us to the wonder of capacitive touchscreens that touch-centric games from the Nintendo DS era would make a great fit on smartphones. The Professor Layton series is perhaps the best example of this, as its high production values and touch-based puzzle solving are a perfect fit for mobile. Diabolical Box is the second game in the Layton series, joining the original game Curious Village which arrived on mobile last year, and both titles feature high resolution graphics and look leaps and bounds better than they did on their original Nintendo DS hardware. -JN
Rogue Legacy, $3.99 – [Review] – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – It feels sort of odd including Rogue Legacy in our 2019 list because the game actually originally launched way back in 2013. However, that doesn’t make it any less fun and many people had been hoping to see the game arrive on mobile at some point. This year was the year and boy what a treat Rogue Legacy is on mobile. The core action platforming is perfectly tuned and has the exact right “feel" that a platformer should have, but where Rogue Legacy truly shines is in its variety of equipment and abilities that you can upgrade from game to game and of course the wacky traits that each of your characters will pass down to their heirs upon perishing. The progression system is extremely satisfying and the character trait system keeps things fun and fresh playthrough after playthrough. -JN
Rolando: Royal Edition, $0.99 – [Review] – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – Back in the very early days of the App Store, you saw a lot of simplistic, experimental stuff as developers toyed around with and explored what Apple’s new iPhone device was capable of. What you didn’t see a lot of was developers pouring time and effort into making meaty, wholly original games for the iPhone that were built specifically to suit the device’s unique capabilities. Rolando was one such game. Sadly, the 2008 original was lost to time, but thankfully developer HandCircus couldn’t stand their classic meeting such a fate so they set out to completely rebuild the game from the ground up in remastered fashion. Enter Rolando: Royal Edition. The same colorful world and characters that you remember, but bigger and better looking in every way. Whether you’re a fan of the original or missed out on it the first time around, Rolando: Royal Edition is a staple in mobile gaming’s history and should be experienced by everyone. -JN
Romancing SaGa 3, $27.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – This game originally launched on the Super Famicom in 1995, which was right around the same time Square put out Front Mission, Trials of Mana, and Chrono Trigger ($4.99). The year before that it had put out Final Fantasy VI ($6.99) and Live A Live. In short, this was one of Square’s finest eras, a period where the talented developers at the company were cranking out amazing hit after hit in the RPG genre. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Romancing SaGa 3 is the best game from that time, but it easily hangs with that crowd. But while most of Square’s RPGs were headed down the path of being easier and more friendly to the player, Romancing SaGa 3 is quite happy to beat the stuffing out of anyone who underestimates it. -SM
Rush Rally 3, $4.99 – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – There aren’t a whole lot of mobile original racing games out there, but the Rush Rally series has been the best of the bunch for several years now. This year marked the third entry in the series with Rush Rally 3, and it maintained the super satisfying balance of arcade and simulation while giving players enough stuff to do to keep them busy for years to come. It truly is a fully-featured racing game, and the fact that it’s largely the work of just one person makes it all that more impressive. -JN
SaGa SCARLET GRACE : AMBITIONS, $29.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – I could go on and on about SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions. The more I think about it, the more I want to excitedly blather on about it. It feels like an RPG made for people who love RPGs, a confident and well-paced stab at the genre from a team of people who understand perfectly well how each part would affect the others. SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions is the first game in the series that I feel like I can safely recommend to RPG fans in general. It has all of the things that make SaGa games so appealing and very little of the opacity that normally turns people away. It’s absolutely brilliant. -SM
Sky: Children of the Light, Free – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – While Flow and Flower made some waves in their early years, Journey is the game that put Thatgamecompany firmly on the map back in 2012. And if you’ve played Journey before (which you have no excuse not to since it’s on iOS too and in fact is part of this same list) then it’s easy to see how Sky: Children of the Light is like a spiritual successor in many ways. The exploring of a huge world, the flying, the stylistic visuals. Everything about Sky has Journey’s fingerprints all over it. However, Sky tries to push some of the concepts of Journey even further, including the social component that is central to the entire game. It’s remarkable how Thatgamecompany was able to create a massive adventure that you can essentially play with a single thumb and just how well it suits mobile play. -JN
Song of Bloom, $1.99 – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – I love games that are so interesting and unique that they’re almost impossible to describe. Which is weird because it’s literally my job to describe video games! Anyway, developer Philipp Stollenmayer has created a ton of awesome games over the years, but Song of Bloom is easily his most ambitious one yet. It’s a narrative driven puzzle game if you had to fit it into a genre, and you’ll discover the path forward by poking and prodding at various types of puzzles that utilize you device in interesting ways and span all sorts of different graphical styles. Playing Song of Bloom makes me feel like I’m on drugs, and I mean that in the best way possible. -JN
The Swords of Ditto, $5.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – It’s pretty unlikely that we’ll ever get a full-blown The Legend of Zelda game on mobile, but thankfully there are plenty of indie developers out there looking to create Zelda-like action RPGs of their own. And in some cases those games even make their way to the mobile platform. Such is the case with The Swords of Ditto which first made its mark on consoles and PC before arriving on iOS and Android this fall. In reality it didn’t win many gamers over until a free expansion called Momo’s Curse was released for all platforms alongside the Nintendo Switch version’s launch, and thankfully that’s also the version we’ve received on mobile. While the action and exploration have a heavy Zelda vibe, The Swords of Ditto is more of a roguelike and is designed to be played in cycles with one of the highlights being able to see how the world changes from generation to generation. -JN
TheoTown, Free – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – City builders are a dime a dozen on all platforms but premium city builders are pretty rare in the world of mobile. With the likes of Pocket City on mobile platforms satiating the demand for a premium city builder, it was good to see TheoTown finally hit iOS this year as well. The game offers most of what you’d want in a portable city builder with a great visual style that offers more depth than others on the system. If you’ve found yourself looking for a bit more meat in your city builders on mobile, this is it. TheoTown has some excellent animations as well. Both Pocket City and TheoTown are now must haves on iOS for those looking for city builders. -MM
Total Party Kill, Free – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – I love everything developer Jussi Simpanen has been putting out over the years, but a few of his games stand out as my very favorites, and this year’s Total Party Kill is definitely one of them. It’s a puzzle platformer with a clever and humorous premise. You play a party of three characters–a knight, a mage, and a ranger–who each have their own unique abilities. The morbid twist here is that in order to utilize each of these characters unique abilities and make your way through all of the game’s various challenges, you’ll need to literally sacrifice your party members in various ways. Need to make it up a high wall? Use the ranger to blast an arrow into one of your crew and stick them to the wall to create a makeshift platform. Crossing some dangerous spikes? Use the mage and freeze a buddy into a cold block of ice you can use to traverse that danger. It’s pretty messed up stuff, and also a ton of fun. -JN
Undead Horde, $5.99 – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – Developer 10tons is no stranger to our annual best games lists, but typically they show up due to one of their awesome top-down shooters. This year it’s a bit different as they’ve brought their action RPG/strategy-ish game Undead Horde from consoles and PC over to mobile. Here you play as a necromancer who is able to raise the dead, and you’ll do this in order to amass a small army of minions to run around doing your bidding. And your bidding generally involves wreaking havoc to all living things. The coolest part is that those hapless individuals who die at your hand are the very same who can be resurrected to join your traveling army. Undead Horde is primarily a hack ‘n slash action game, but the added RTS-like minion management elevates it into something really special. -JN
Void Tyrant, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – What would you get if you blended a deck-building card game, a roguelike dungeon crawler, and combat based loosely around the rules of blackjack? Well, if you’re reading this then chances are you already know the anser… you get Void Tyrant, obviously. The crazy thing is just how well that blend of odd mechanics works into something that is easy to play in tiny bursts but is also hard to put down and can be played for long stretches of time. As someone who doesn’t really love deck builders, the deck building in Void Tyrant is just the right blend of simplicity and depth, and the exploration and light RPG elements are right up my alley. The real cherry on top though is that blackjack-esque combat, which is based around both strategy and luck and can be a rollercoaster of highs and lows, just like real blackjack! -JN
Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap, $7.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – When I was a kid I was the odd man out amongst my friends because I had a Sega Master System while everyone and their brother had an NES. I eventually got an NES too, but I have a lot of fond memories of games I enjoyed on the plucky little system that America considered the ugly stepchild. One of my favorite Master System games was Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap, and up until Lizardcube and Dotemu announced they’d be remastering and re-releasing the game for modern consoles, I always thought it was some obscure game only I knew about. How wrong I was! The remastered version with gorgeous, entirely redrawn artwork and animations is an absolute treat to play through, and if you need a nostalgia hit you can flip on the original pixel graphics with the tap of a button. It’s truly the benchmark for how retro revivals should be done, and fans of exploratory action platformers should make sure this is part of their library. -JN
The Best Game Updates of 2019
For several years now I’ve wanted to do something during our year-end Best of coverage to celebrate older games that continue to receive new updates and new content. More and more games are becoming these things that aren’t just released and then forgotten about, but things that developers continue to nurture and add on to for sometimes years into the future. Or there are older games that end up not being playable anymore or outdated in one way or another, and when a developer takes time to update those titles so they work again and can continue living on that’s also worth celebrating.
Agent A: A puzzle in disguise, $1.99 – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – Originally launched more than four years ago in the fall of 2015, Agent A: A Puzzle in Disguise was a classic adventure game with a stylish spy theme. We loved it a lot back then but unfortunately it was designed to be episodic, and that all-too-brief first episode ended on a major cliffhanger with no word on when future episodes would come. It took a good long while but 2019 was the year that the fifth and final chapter was finally released for Agent A, thus completing the story and making for one of the most enjoyable adventure games on mobile. -JN
Blackmoor 2, Free – [Update Story 1] – [Update Story 2] – [Forum Thread] – While Blackmoor 2 most recently received a huge expansion called Hallowed Knight (see Update Story 2), what I REALLY want to talk about is the huge update before that one. The Super Pub Fighter update back in April literally added an entire one-on-one fighting game into the mix that could easily have been its own separate game. Who does that?? As anyone who has played Blackmoor or its sequel knows, the combat in the game is heavily inspired by Street Fighter 2, and so it made a good deal of sense to create a mode that was an actual fighting game. What’s really remarkable is just how playable it is, and just how right developer Four Fats gets all the little details to make Super Pub Fighter feel like a true homage to the game that spawned the fighting game genre decades ago. -JN
Hearthstone, Free – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – I used to play Hearthstone daily for years. Ever since it hit iPad, it was a part of my daily routine but I slowly stopped playing around the time “One Night in Karazhan" released. Since then, I’ve been playing on and off but never as much as I did around the first year. With Battlegrounds, I think I’m back. The new autochess like mode for Hearthstone debuted around BlizzCon this year and it is excellent. The team has also been fixing issues and improving the mode quite a bit since it launched. As an update, the new ones have been great but I still hope Blizzard can get the team to allow for split view on iPad so people can play Hearthstone and have something else running side by side. Hopefully 2020 is a better year for the iOS version specifically since it needs some work on iPad. -MM
Lost Echo, $3.99 – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – Way back in 2013 developer Kickback Studios launched an ambitious sci-fi mystery adventure game called Lost Echo that flew under the radar for the most part but grew a small but loyal base of fans who really enjoyed the experience. It’s the sort of game that there just wasn’t a lot of in the world of mobile. Sadly the game sat dormant in the App Store for nearly 3 years until this past February when Kickback basically rebuilt the game for the ground up and released an update bringing the iOS game up to modern standards and remastering the entire experience. They’re still working on a follow up title too called Lost Echo: Resonance, but I absolutely love when developers put in the work to ensure their awesome mobile games continue working for future generations. -JN
Marathon 1, Free – [Update Story 1] – [Update Story 2] – [Forum Thread] – Bringing Bungie’s classic first-person shooter trilogy Marathon to the iOS platform way back in 2011/2012 was a labor of love from a community of fans and a handful of dedicated developers. The games played surprisingly well on the touchscreen, and revisiting this historic series again was a real treat. Sadly, the developer responsible for the iOS ports wasn’t able to continue maintaining the mobile versions, so they remained outdated for quite a few years. However, another member of the Marathon community jumped in, updated all three games for modern devices, and released those updates this past January, once again giving life to the Marathon trilogy on iOS. That developer is still actively working on the games too, adding features and fixes as requested by players, and just this month released a hefty update for the original game to celebrate its 25th anniversary. -JN
Minecraft, $6.99 – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – Minecraft is something a lot of people forget as one of the first big games to push for cross platform play and progression. Mojang and Microsoft brought cross platform to Minecraft a while ago with the bedrock update, but this year has been a bigger year for people who play on or with people on other systems. Sony finally got into the Minecraft cross play bandwagon and now every system that has the newest version of Minecraft can play together. In addition to that, the game has gotten a lot of content like revamped villages, foxes, bees, and more. Hopefully Mojang can bring Minecraft Dungeons to iOS at some point for another true cross platform experience. -MM
QuestLord, $3.99 – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – So many amazing games were lost in the Great Appocalypse of 2017 when Apple began requiring all apps to be 64-bit compliant, but one of the ones that stung me most was Eric Kinkead’s QuestLord. As someone who always wanted to love first-person dungeon crawlers but could never quite get into them, QuestLord was like the Dungeon Crawler 101 class that I needed. Big enough to feel like you’re actually exploring a rich fantasy world, but streamlined enough that you never found yourself getting lost or stuck for very long. While Kinkead continues to plug away at a long-awaited sequel, this year he also brought a long overdue compatibility update to the original QuestLord bringing it back to life again, and I couldn’t be happier or more thankful for that. -JN
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, $4.99 – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – While a couple of the updates technically came out last year, the vast majority of Rockstar’s iOS library was updated over the course of 2019 to support modern features and devices. I’ve specifically chosen Grand Theft Auto: Vice City since it’s my personal favorite out of the bunch, but really this is meant to acknowledge our appreciation for Rockstar putting in the effort to keep ALL of their iOS offerings maintained over the years. Some of these games are pushing 20 years old, but the GTA games especially still have a tremendous amount of depth and any of them could keep you busy for weeks on end. They play surprisingly well on touchscreen too but also support controllers, and I hope that if Rockstar is done releasing anything new on iOS that they at least continue to ensure these treasures keep working well into the future. -JN
ROME: Total War - Alexander, $4.99 – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – Originally released on iOS through the iPad version back in 2017, Rome: Total War – Alexander was updated this year to go universal, hit Android, and get loads of improvements across the board to the iPad version. Alexander is an expansion to Rome: Total War that is all about Alexander’s campaign to take over the Persian Empire. It is set before the events of the main campaign for Rome: Total War. Feral Interactive ports are like the gold standard for mobile ports of PC games anyway, and they continue to improve the ports over time. With this, the whole Rome: Total War collection is available on iPhone and iPad and is a must buy for any strategy fan. -MM
Skullgirls: Fighting RPG, Free – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – The mobile version of popular fighter Skullgirls has been around for a few years now, and to be honest the team at developer Hidden Variable who are responsible for this version are constantly releasing updates and adding new features and fixes to the game. However, this year they finally reached a goal they’ve been working towards since a mobile Skullgirls was first conceived by releasing an update with real-time online multiplayer. Playing real human opponents is the core essence of fighting games, and while it’s not like there’s a lack of stuff to do as a solo player in Skullgirls, there’s nothing better than duking it out with real people from across the globe. -JN
Spiral Episode 1, Free – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – Back in 2013 developer Pixel Hero Games had huge ambitions when they first released their new sci-fi action adventure game Spiral onto the App Store. This was a made from the ground up for mobile 3D action adventure that utilized some very clever touch-based controls, and also offered a compelling story, characters, and universe to explore. It had a small but dedicated fan base, but unfortunately it was designed as an episodic game and Pixel Hero was forced to shut its doors before finishing the story. Even with the company defunct though, the people behind the game still cared for it and in their spare time worked on an update that would bring the game to modern standards and make it playable again. It was a wonderful treat for existing fans and a way for a new generation to experience a really interesting game from the App Store’s past. And word on the street is that a new episode in the Spiral universe might still become a reality someday. -JN
Star Warsâ„¢: KOTOR, $9.99 – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – Aspyr Media brought Bioware’s classic 2003 Star Wars RPG Knights of the Old Republic to the iPad way back in May of 2013, and by that December they updated it with iPhone support. The following spring they added iCloud and controller support, and released the occasional bug fix update for the next couple of years. But Star Wars: KOTOR hadn’t received any updates since early 2016, and for what is arguably still the best Star Wars game ever made, that just doesn’t cut it. So we were extremely excited when Aspyr released an update this past March which brought support for all the different iOS devices that have launched in the past few years. That includes full-screen support for notched iPhones as well as full screen support for the iPad Pro. -JN
Terraria, $4.99 – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – Re-Logic brought their critically acclaimed action platformer crafting adventure Terraria to mobile devices in the summer of 2013, and although it lagged behind the flagship desktop version in terms of content, it still brought an excellent Terraria experience to those with mobile devices. Over the next few years there were some pretty big content updates released for the mobile version, though it still lagged behind the console and PC versions. And then it all just kind of… stopped. Mobile Terraria languished for a long time, but eventually Re-Logic was able to get a third party studio to devote themselves entirely to fixing up and maintaining the mobile version of the game, and so this year version 1.3 of Terraria made its way to mobile bringing support for modern devices and a metric ton of new content, including online multiplayer. -JN
Ticket to Earth, $4.99 – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – The inaugural episode of Robot Circus’s Ticket to Earth launched in the spring of 2017, and offered one of the cleverest genre blends we’ve ever seen. It’s a tactical turn-based strategy RPG, but it takes place on a grid of colored squares and all of your actions are dictated by the “drag to make as long a match as possible" matching mechanic similar to games like Dungeon Raid. It made for one of the most satisfying and surprising mash ups, but of course it being an episodic game left those early players wanting more. Thankfully it didn’t take as long as some other episodic games to release new episodes, with the second episode coming in August 2017, the third in December 2018, and the fourth and final episode launching this past October, thus completing the story and making one of mobile’s most interesting strategy games a complete experience at last. -JN
Tropico, $11.99 – [Update Story] – [Forum Thread] – Just like Rome: Total War – Alexander, Tropico is a PC classic that was finally brought to iOS through an iPad port. Tropico has you managing your own island as a ruler and it is full of loads of great humor and tons to do. The iPad port was very impressive already, but the iPhone version is shockingly good. The UI has been adapted brilliantly to the point where I don’t even need to play it on PC ever again. Tropico hit iPhone through a free update back in April and it is one of the best PC to mobile conversions out there. Hopefully Feral Interactive can bring more of the franchise to mobile in the future. -MM
The Best Apple Arcade Games of 2019
Just when it seemed like the entire gaming universe was uneasy about the prospect of games moving more towards subscription models, Apple went and launched their own gaming subscription service and the response to it was… wildly positive? I did not see that coming. While the buzz seems to have died down in the months since its launch, and I have absolutely no idea of the long-term viability of this service, one thing that you can’t deny is the astounding value you get for your five dollars a month. There are far more amazing games in Apple Arcade than what’s listed here, this just happens to be our favorites, and I sincerely hope that the service does end up thriving and providing even more awesome games for a long time to come.
Assemble with Care, – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – For a lot of people, Ustwo is a name associated forever with Monument Valley. While the original was fantastic, the sequel was even better for some but the real best experience Ustwo have released on iOS is easily Assemble With Care. Ustwo doing an Apple Arcade game was going to be very good but I didn’t think it would be this good. The game is probably one of the most perfect built for mobile games out there. It has an excellent story, great voice acting, superlative controls (that are complemented by haptic feedback), and it is perfect for playing across multiple sessions. Maria’s tale is one you will not forget for a while and I can’t wait to see what Ustwo does next. The bar has been raised quite a bit thanks to Assemble With Care -MM
Bleak Sword, – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – A long time ago, I played a game called Sword and Sworcery which introduced me to Jim Guthrie. A few years later, I played Hotline Miami and discovered Devolver Digital. Fast forward to 2019 and multiple games involving both parties, Bleak Sword launched with Apple Arcade and it brings together both Devolver Digital and Jim Guthrie once again. I’m willing to play anything involving either of them but when both are involved, I know I’m in for a good time. Bleak Sword from more8bit is an excellent take on combat on touchscreens. It is an action game that perfectly suits single or two thumbed gameplay on touchscreens with some gorgeous diorama visuals. -MM
Card of Darkness, – [Forum Thread] – Developer Zach Gage has earned an astounding reputation over the last decade or so by creating some of the best mobile games around. Games like Spelltower, Bit Pilot, and FlipFlop Solitiare as well as collaborations on such hits as Ridiculous Fishing and the iOS port of Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy. So when you couple his game design skills with the art of Adventure Time’s Pendleton Ward, that is a recipe for something special. Card of Darkness is that something special, and it’s a cute, lighthearted adventure based around a simple but engaging card game mechanic. This is yet another example that Mr. Gage can do no wrong. -JN
Cat Quest II, – [Forum Thread] – The original Cat Quest is one of the most enjoyable RPGs on the App Store, and we liked it so much we picked it as our runner up for Game of the Year back in 2017. We were anticipating the sequel for quite a long time after it was announced, and as it turns out Cat Quest II ended up launching as part of Apple Arcade back in September. What it offers is an entirely new adventure that feels very familiar to the first game, but this time around dogs have entered the picture and you’ll actually need to team up with them in order to save the land. This creates a dual-hero setup where you’re able to switch back and forth between your cat hero and your dog hero on the fly, and although it doesn’t deviate from the formula of the original too much, Cat Quest II is still another great adventure worth taking. -JN
EarthNight, – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – We loved the look of EarthNight way WAY back in 2012 when it was simply called Dragon Runner, and to be honest there were several years there where I was certain the project would never come to light. As it turns out those years were used to make the game bigger and better looking in every way, and also to release it on more platforms. On mobile though Apple Arcade is the only place to play EarthNight. It is indeed a dragon runner where you’ll run across the backs of massive flying dragons, using their undulations to fly ever higher into the air and eventually reach the head of the dragon where you’ll try to take it down. EarthNight has an epic feel as you soar from the air from dragon to dragon and proves there’s still some life left in the auto runner genre. -JN
Exit the Gungeon, – [Forum Thread] – A few years ago Enter the Gungeon arrived on the scene and became one of the more popular top-down roguelike shooters. It also featured lots and lots and lots of guns. I don’t think anybody had any idea a follow-up was in the works, which made its appearance alongside the Apple Arcade launch a really fun surprise. Exit the Gungeon is pretty much what it says on the tin: You’re now trying to make your way out of the Gungeon that you dove into in the first game, except this time you’re doing it by way of vertical 2D platforming. It’s a really cool twist on the formula of the original, but still features the over the top style, incredible pixel art, and bullet-riddled gameplay we’ve come to know and love. Oh, and also lots of guns. -JN
Grindstone, – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Grindstone from Capybara Games wasn’t really hyped up much around Apple Arcade’s launch but it has slowly started grinding up everyone’s best of 2019 lists. It is a match three like puzzle game that has a ton of depth and a great risk reward system in place. As you clear levels, the difficulty ramps up and you unlock newer abilities. Every move is like a puzzle and since it has been developed by Capybara Games, you already know the visuals and audio design are superlative. It was event recently updated to add some nice quality of life fixes and some holiday cheer. While a lot of people are likely playing Sayonara Wild Hearts and other games, Grindstone is one of the best Apple Arcade games and one of the best iOS games right now. -MM
Oceanhorn 2, – [Forum Thread] – The original Oceanhorn was one of the most popular games on the App Store back when it launched back in 2013, and offered a decidedly Zelda-like experience for all of us mobile gamers that likely never will have a proper Zelda on iOS. For the sequel, which had been in production for several years, the folks at developer Cornfox wanted to up the ante in a big way and rather than a top-down affair they went for a fully 3D open world style game. There just plain isn’t many original mobile games that go this route, and while Oceanhorn 2 will likely end up on other platforms eventually just as the first game did, this is really a stunning adventure that still feels like magic running on a little touchscreen computer you can stick in your pocket. -JN
Sayonara Wild Hearts, – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Sayonara Wild Hearts from Simogo and Annapurna Interactive has been a showcase game for Apple Arcade, but it has been interesting seeing everything about the game from its original reveal for Nintendo Switch to the Apple Arcade trailer. Sayonara Wild Hearts blends rhythm games, platformers, endless runners, and more together with gorgeous visuals and slick animations. All of this is accompanied by one of the best pop albums of the year. Sayonara Wild Hearts is an essential for Apple Arcade or just about any platform it is available on. This is easily Simogo’s best work yet and one of the best experiences I’ve had in gaming in 2019. -MM
Shinsekai Into the Depths, – [Forum Thread] – There were quite a few surprises when Apple Arcade launched this year, but perhaps the biggest one for me was Capcom launching Shinsekai Into the Depths. This is an underwater exploration action adventure game that features some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen in a mobile game. No graphics aren’t everything, and thankfully there’s much more to Shinsekai Into the Depths than just its looks, but still, there are some incredibly jaw-dropping moments and set pieces in this game. It’s sort of a tricky game to come to grips with at first, but once you get it down the whole thing opens up and becomes this incredibly compelling experience. I feel like not that many people seem to be talking about Shinsekai Into the Depths all that much, which means people might be sleeping on one of the best games in the entire Apple Arcade library. Don’t be one of those people. Oh, and Capcom: Please make more super unique and creative titles like this one please. -JN
Where Cards Fall, – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – We had actually been following Where Cards Fall’s development for a few years by the time it finally released as part of Apple Arcade, and absolutely fell in love with how the game was designed around this incredibly clever mechanic about building houses of cards. It really is satisfying popping buildings up and plopping them down again, but Where Cards Fall also offers a rich world to experience and a coming of age story that really hits home. It reminds me a lot of Monument Valley in that both games are technically about solving puzzles, but there’s a special sauce hidden in there too that gives each game its soul, and elevates it beyond something that’s just entertainment into something that’s actually a piece of art. -JN
The Best GameClub Games of 2019
The other big gaming subscription service to launch this year was GameClub. What’s so interesting about it is that they’ve taken almost the exact opposite approach as Apple by digging into the history of gaming on the App Store and resurrecting some of the best games to ever be released on the platform. Digital gaming as a whole but mobile gaming especially isn’t really set up from a preservation perspective, and many of the titles GameClub has brought back this year are games that flat out didn’t work on current iOS hardware anymore. Being able to continue playing a large portion of mobile gaming’s history is fantastic, but what has been even more fun is seeing how much fun so many of these old games still are even today, as well as seeing a whole new audience who missed out on them the first time around get to experience some seriously great mobile games.
Hi, How Are You - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Back in the very early days of the App Store Dr. Fun Fun and Smashing Studios released one of the unique mobile titles to date. Mechanically, Hi, How Are You is a third-person platformer that is controlled using the accelerometer of the iPhone. It’s decently fun on its own, but what makes it really stand out as something special is how it’s a celebration of artist and musician Daniel Johnston, and with Johnston’s untimely passing earlier this year, GameClub resurrecting this title is a fantastic way to remember such a fascinating human being. -JN
Hook Champ - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – There’s perhaps not a more “TouchArcadey" game to me personally as Rocketcat’s Hook Champ. It was an absolute obsession in the TA community when it first released, and fierce leaderboard battles were a highlight of my mobile gaming of that time. The design of Hook Champ is remarkable even a decade later, as each level is built in such a way that players can find all sorts of little tricks to shave micro seconds of of their completion times. It’s one of the finest speedrunning games ever made, but it’s also fun just to play through with its humor and lovable characters. With Rocketcat being such a tiny studio I’m incredibly thankful that GameClub swooped in to make this classic playable again. -JN
Incoboto - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – It’s easy to look at Incoboto’s little space man main character and his big, bright, cheery-faced sun companion and think “Boy this sure looks like a happy game!" I can see why you’d think that, but in reality Incoboto is a pretty dark game. Like literally all of the suns in the galaxy have gone out, and it’s your job to light up the planets again by doing some good old fashioned puzzle platforming. It’s a gorgeous game with some strong platforming and puzzle elements, and there’s certainly an eerie vibe permeating the entire experience that makes it a game that sticks with you beyond its collection of mechanics. -JN
Mage Gauntlet - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – After proving their prowess at creating hook-swinging games, everyone wondered what else Rocketcat Games was capable of. As it turns out they also can make a pretty mean 16-bit inspired action RPG. Mage Gauntlet harkens back to some of the greats of the SNES era, and features an interesting story and some of the finest pixel art around. But what really made it sing was its nearly perfect virtual control scheme, which became the benchmark for how we’d recommend to other developers to do virtual controls in their own games. Having Mage Gauntlet updated and playable again was definitely a highlight of 2019. -JN
Minigore - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Similar to Hook Champ, Minigore has a legendary history around TouchArcade. Most people forget it was originally supposed to be a quick project intended to hype up a beefier game from Mountain Sheep called Hardgore (which, amusingly, never actually released). Instead Minigore’s continued delays pushed its hype level into the stratosphere in our community, and when it finally released people debated endlessly on whether it lived up to all that hype or not. Truth be told Minigore is a pretty straightforward dual-stick shooter, but ironically more than ten years later it’s actually a really refreshing experience to play in 2019 where many similar games have either gone the free to play route or are too convoluted for their own good. Minigore is still just pure fun. -JN
Pix n Love Rush - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – First released all the way back in 2010, Pix’n Love Rush is a concentrated burst of joy from the wonderful team at Pasta Games. It’s an arcade style action platforming game where you’ll work your way through a random assortment of bite-sized levels collecting plus coins while avoiding minus coins, and blasting bad guys while avoiding blasting angels. There’s a clever combo system that will shift the graphical theme each time it reaches a new multiplier, and there’s a real Warioware-esque sense of excitement as each new theme and each new level pops in. With original publisher Bulkypix going belly up, I accepted years ago that Pix’n Love Rush would probably be lost forever, but the angels at GameClub have done the impossible and brought it back for existing owners and a whole new generation of players to enjoy. -JN
Plunderland - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – One of the biggest early hits on the iPhone was Pocket God, a game that let you basically torture and murder a bunch of cute islanders in a variety of gruesome ways. It was novel for the way it utilized the touchscreen but felt more like a toy than a full-fledged game. Plunderland took a similar approach where you were able to grab people in the game and fling them around using the touchscreen in very satisfying fashion, but they also created an entire pirate adventure to play through. This included exploring the seas and plundering loot from towns and islands as well as engaging in battles on the open seas. There’s a cool upgrade system where you can trick out your pirate ship with cool new gadgets and the game is stuffed with all sorts of little secrets and details that make it an adventure worth experiencing. -JN
Spider - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – More than a decade ago, we picked Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor as our Game of the Year for 2009. And all these years later it’s really impressive to see how well this game hold up in 2019. You explore a huge mansion as a tiny little spider, using the touchscreen and your spider agility to create webs that will catch a variety of bugs and unlock the path forward. This would be fun all on its own as Spider does such a great job at making you feel like this almost insignificant itsy bitsy spider exploring this vast, detailed mansion, but there’s actually a whole storyline to follow along with that is more compelling than it has any business being. -JN
Space Miner - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Speaking of our Game of the Year picks, Space Miner: Space Ore Bust snagged our 2010 Game of the Year nod nearly a decade ago, and this too is a game that holds up incredibly well in the here and now. The concept was to take the inertia-based space combat of arcade classic Asteroids, but marry it with a pretty robust RPG system and an incredibly entertaining story. The results are outstanding, and Space Miner is probably one of the games I’ve replayed the most over the years since its initial release. Of course its original developer is no longer around so it was in need of some loving, which GameClub promptly came in and gave this classic mobile gem. -JN
Super Crate Box - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Super Crate Box is the game that put developer Vlambeer on the map, and originally released on desktop back in 2010 when the indie game revolution was still in its infancy. The game was a huge sensation on other platforms, but I don’t think anyone ever imagined a version coming to the iPhone as it’s not exactly the type of game that seems conducive to touchscreen controls. Thankfully Vlambeer didn’t listen to the naysayers and hired a third party studio to port the game to iOS in 2012. The game actually controlled phenomenally well, and being able to carry Super Crate Box around in your pocket to play anytime, anywhere was a real treat for the mobile gaming world. -JN
Sword of Fargoal - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – The original Sword of Fargoal launched WAY back in 1982, and was a roguelike dungeon crawler before that descriptor even existed. Nearly 30 years later original creator Jeff McCord teamed up with developer Madgarden to release an enhanced remake for the iPhone. Featuring lovely pixel art and a fantastic color palette, I lost many nights plugging away in this new Sword of Fargoal a decade ago. It’s still a difficult game and due to its random nature won’t hesitate to chew you up and spit you out at the drop of a hat, but there’s also something really approachable about Sword of Fargoal compared to other roguelike games. -JN
Waking Mars - GameClub, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Am I sensing a pattern here? Why yes, this marks yet another game that was our Game of the Year pick in previous years. Waking Mars took home that honor in 2012, and again it’s really impressive to see how well a game that old still holds up today. Waking Mars looks like it would be a Metroidvania type of game, and it sort of is, but more than anything it’s a story-based puzzler with a tremendous atmosphere. Similar to how Spider makes you really feel like this little creature in a big world, Waking Mars makes you feel like this insignificant little speck on an expansive, living, breathing planet. -JN
Our Previous Best of the Year Coverage
We’ve been doing these types of lists since the very beginning of TouchArcade, which even pre-dates the actual App Store by several months. The formats have changed a bit over the years, but it’s actually really fun to go back and look at what were the hottest games of years past. If you want to take a trip down memory lane, here are our previous lists:
SwitchArcade Best of 2019
Thanks again to everyone who read and supported TouchArcade in 2019, our eleventh year in existence. We love mobile gaming and believe strongly in it, and we hope to continue bringing even more coverage and reviews in 2020. We are also huge Nintendo Switch fans, and since it’s technically a mobile gaming platform, it’s been fun including Switch coverage on our site for the past few years. I have to give a shout out to Shaun Musgrave who took over our daily SwitchArcade articles about a year ago, and has worked hard to make TouchArcade a destination to find all the best that Nintendo Switch has to offer. With the help of our other main freelance writer Mikhail Madnani they’ve put together some Best of 2019 coverage for Nintendo Switch, be sure to check these out: