We did it everyone, we made it to the end of 2021! Remember when 2020 was ending and it was such an awful year and we were all looking forward to 2021 being way better? Well, that… didn’t exactly go to plan. But what I said for 2020 rings true for 2021 as well: There were A LOT of really good video games released this year. With social activities cut and many pandemic restrictions still in place, it sure is nice to cozy up and play some video games. I’m talking about all gaming platforms, but of course our emphasis here at TouchArcade is on mobile and Switch, and so as we do every year we’ve put together our big list of all the Best Mobile Games of 2021. (Check out our Game of the Year 2021 post as well!)
Also as we do every year I take this time to talk about the health of our dear website here, and allow me to simply repeat what I said in last year’s post: “As many long-time readers are aware of already, our financial situation hasn’t been the greatest for the past several years. A lot of factors have contributed to this, such as traditional online advertising tanking and Apple killing their affiliate program a few years back, but the bottom line is that a straightforward blog-style gaming website like ours just isn’t really in fashion anymore. There just aren’t all that many people anymore who are looking to read news and reviews about mobile games, and instead look to YouTubers, social media, or will just download and try out a game for themselves seeing as how most everything is free to play nowadays.
However, there definitely are people who appreciate a website like ours and appreciate someone putting in the work to surface the great gaming experiences on mobile. Though that group of people is smaller, they’re also by far the most passionate about mobile gaming, and so since 2015 TouchArcade has been primarily supported by way of our backers on Patreon. If you aren’t familiar with Patreon, it essentially allows you to subscribe monthly to various creators at a variety of different financial levels. I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say that the only reason TouchArcade is still around is because of our Patreon backers. There are truly no words I could say that could adequately express how thankful we are for that.
That being said, our Patreon has also been in a steady decline since we started it in 2015. Here is a lifetime snapshot to show you what I mean.
While this is by no means a great situation, we have miraculously found a way to continue existing through 2021. You may have noticed an increased frequency of Sponsored Articles which has helped a great deal in keeping things afloat. Beyond that though, I’ve noticed that there’s been an increased interest in people wanting to find quality mobile games. And trust me, we want nothing more than to continue bringing you the news and reviews about quality mobile games. The reality though is that we won’t be able to keep doing what we love with our revenue continuing to decline. So, with all that said, if you like and enjoy what we do here at TouchArcade and want to help us in our eternal struggle to let the world know that mobile gaming isn’t all garbage, then please consider supporting us via one or more of these methods:
- Support us through Patreon – As I said this is our main source of income, and we liken it to subscribing to your favorite gaming magazine, but for as little as $1 a month, and with new content every weekday instead of just once a month. Patreon backers get an exclusive video version of our weekly podcast, The TouchArcade Show, and possibly some more special benefits if I can ever think of any cool ideas (suggestions are extremely welcome!).
- Shop on Amazon through our affiliate link – Amazon has an affiliate program where if you’re referred to their site by way of our link and then buy some stuff, we’ll get a tiny slice of the money that you spend, without costing you anything extra at all. We used to do product reviews for mobile gaming-centric stuff like battery packs, controllers, and the like, but sort of ran out of stuff to review. Hopefully we can start doing more of that stuff in the new year. However, if you just change your normal Amazon bookmark to the link above, then you’ll always ensure you’re helping support us when you buy stuff on Amazon, and again, it costs nothing extra for you to do so.
- Send us a one-time payment through PayPal – We’ve heard over the years that some people don’t like doing recurring monthly charges through Patreon, or don’t do any shopping through Amazon, but still would like to help us out. For those people we’ve set up a PayPal account where you can send us a financial contribution that is not recurring and is not a subscription. So whenever you feel like or are able to send some support our way, you can do it through this method without signing up for any additional accounts or payment methods.
- Tell your friends! – Yes, the simplest and most wallet-friendly way you can help us out is by simply telling people that TouchArcade exists. Please liberally share articles like this one or anything else we do to help spread the good word of quality mobile games.
Again, I sincerely, sincerely want to say thank you to anyone and everyone who has helped support TouchArcade by any of the above methods in 2021, or in years past. We have never wanted to go the route of having obnoxious advertising, posting clickbait articles, or doing any of the other scummy things that are an unfortunate necessary evil of running a website nowadays. Thanks to our readers, and especially our Patreon supporters, we’ve been able to remain the largest, entirely independent mobile gaming website around, and I’d love nothing more than to keep it that way.
Ok, with all that business out of the way, let’s get to the real reason you’re here: The Best Mobile Games of 2021! Just as we did last year, we’ve split up our gigantic list of the best games into 4 different categories, which are as follows:
- Mobile Originals: Games that are (mostly) exclusive to mobile and designed primarily with mobile devices in mind.
- Ports: Games that have existed on other platforms in previous years, but made their way to mobile in 2021.
- Multiplatform: Games that either launched simultaneously on other platforms including mobile at the same time, or within the year of 2021.
- Apple Arcade: What we thought were the best releases for Apple’s paid gaming subscription service this year.
Obviously lists like this are entirely subjective, and there will no doubt be games that aren’t listed here that you feel should have been, and likewise games that made it to these lists that you feel probably didn’t deserve it. I can say personally that there are lots of good games that I would have liked to include here, and this already gargantuan list could have been twice as big, but we just don’t have the time or resources to include everything and sometimes you just have to draw the line somewhere. So with that said please chime in in the comments section what your favorite mobile games of 2021 were, whether they’re included in our list or not.
This section is reserved for games that you can (mostly) only find and play on mobile devices. This often also means that the controls were built specifically with touchscreens in mind, and the game’s structure was built around it being a game you can easily pick up or put down at a moment’s notice. That doesn’t JUST mean quickie arcade-style games though, as there are also some extremely in-depth and “console-like" games on this list that were built exclusively for mobile.
Blast Waves ($3.99) – [Announcement Story] – [Forum Discussion] – A tactical shooter with roguelike elements where time only moves as you move, with tons of weapons and equipment to deck your player out with. From the maker of the excellent Immortal Rogue with a very similar vibe. -JN
Bomb Club (Free) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – An extremely cool logic puzzler built around the idea of creating a chain reaction of explosions using a variety of different bomb types. -JN
Box It Up! Inc. (Free) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – The spiritual successor to on of our old favorites Tape It Up!, this is a fast-paced arcade game with hints of classic color-matching and block-building mechanics. It feels great to play with TONS of unlockables, including unlockable cats!? -JN
Builderment (Free) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – This is one of those idle factory-building games that’s all the rage, but built specifically with mobile in mind. Build an efficient layout, research new items, and watch progress bars fill up in the most satisfying way. -JN
Dungeons & Miners ($2.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – This was long in development and took on several iterations during that course, but the final form is a winning combination of 2D digging and mining game blended with roguelike action adventure. Yes, somehow those things all fit together in a great way. -JN
Froglike: The Frog Roguelike (Free) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – Not just a clever name, this answers the question of “What if Frogger was a roguelike?" and that answer is something extremely awesome. Avoid all manner of deadly obstacles while making your way to a special lily pad to move on to the next level, all tied together with a robust progression system. -JN
Ice League Hockey (Free) – [Release Round-Up] – [Forum Discussion] – Pretty much all you’d have to tell me is that the maker of the excellent mobile boxing game Prizefighters 2 was doing his spin on an arcade hockey game, and I’d be fully sold. And that’s exactly what we have here which is why it’s on this list! -JN
Indies’ Lies (Free) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – Another in a long line of Slay the Spire-likes, but this time with some very clever wrinkles that make it stand on its own two feet. Like an emphasis on positioning your team and the ability to pull off cool combos by playing certain cards in a certain order. -JN
Jump Jerboa (Free) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – There are a lot of minimalist one-button platformers out there, but when you strip a genre down to its bare essentials like that, you really need to nail the design to have something worth playing. Jump Jerboa nails it and then some. -JN
Knights of San Francisco ($2.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – A gamebook that utilizes a really interesting dynamic combat system and Natural Language Generation software to provide a nearly limitless number of crazy experiences in terms of how each playthrough goes down. We also love the setting of a very believable alternate future version of the iconic city of San Francisco. -JN
League of Legends: Wild Rift (Free) – [Preview] – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – Following a long soft launch, League of Legends: Wild Rift finally arrived in North America in 2021 bringing a super-polished League of Legends experience to mobile. The core gameplay was already strong, but the visuals and controls elevate this above what everyone expected. This really is League of Legends on mobile and it is well worth playing.-MM
My Friend Pedro: Ripe for Revenge (Free) – [Game of the Week] – [Update Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – This takes all of the stylish, violent, acrobatic, bullet-time action of the original My Friend Pedro on other platforms and downsizes much of it to be more suitable for mobile play. While the visuals may be toned down, the controls are built perfectly for the touchscreen and this mobile take retains all of the fun of the big boy version. -JN
PAKO 3 (Free) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – The PAKO games are no strangers to our Best of the Year lists, and while PAKO 2 was a pretty big departure from the original game, PAKO 3 gets back to the series’ roots with isometric gameplay in small-ish arenas and non-stop chaos. -JN
Queen: Rock Tour (Free) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – What could have been some quickie cash-in mobile game based around the legendary band Queen actually turned out to be an extremely thoughtful trip through the band’s history by way of a very top-notch rhythm game. Oh, and it’s a premium game! One of the best surprises of the year, for sure. -JN
Rocket League Sideswipe (Free) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – For years fans have been clamoring for Rocket League on mobile, and this year it finally happened. But not in the way most people probably thought. Sideswipe is a made-for-mobile version that streamlines the original formula in smart ways that make it play perfectly on the touchscreen but without losing any of that Rocket League magic. -JN
Shattered Pixel Dungeon ($4.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – The open-sourced fan-favorite roguelike Pixel Dungeon has a vibrant community surrounding it, and many have released their own spins on the original game. Shattered Pixel Dungeon is one of the more high-profile iterations that has been in the works for nearly a decade, and that effort shows in one of the most polished and deep dungeon crawlers on mobile. -JN
Sliding Seas (Free) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – I’m always onboard for a genre mashup, and this takes the match-and-merge gameplay of classics like Triple Town and Threes! and blends it together with some city-building mechanics. The result is something extraordinary, and with a constant stream of updates containing new levels and features Sliding Seas has been in constant rotation since its launch this summer. -JN
Super Boxing Championship! (Free) – [Release Round-Up] – [Forum Discussion] – If you’re thinking that you’ve never even heard of this one, that’s because it has flown extremely under the radar. Don’t be fooled though, this game is awesome. It’s a 2D take on boxing that is heavily physics-based, but it’s not as silly as most physics-based sports games tend to be and is in fact a really compelling take on the sport. -JN
Vita Fighters (Free) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – What started as a hobbyist side project blossomed into one of the better fighting games built for mobile. Vita Fighters features a huge roster of characters, many of which are not-so-subtle winks and nods to some famous characters, and gameplay that has been streamlined for mobile touchscreen play but still retains plenty of depth and nuance. -JN
Vortexika (Free) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – This was the first game in a LONG time from the maker of the legendary Only One, a longtime favorite of ours. Vortexika is a fast-paced space shooter using a rotating movement system that calls back to the classic Gyruss and it features a really cool progression system that’s sort of a hybrid between an endless game and a level-based game. -JN
The Way Home (Free) – [Release Round-Up] – [Forum Discussion] – With no shortage of excellent roguelike dungeon crawlers on mobile, The Way Home doesn’t necessarily offer anything you wouldn’t expect. Randomly generated worlds, tons of loot, crafting, upgrading, a bunch of wacky enemies, and even some city building. What it does though is put all those things together in such a perfect manner, and in a way that feels just perfect on a mobile device, and that makes for a game that’s very difficult to put down once it gets its hooks into you. -JN
Wonderputt Forever (Free) – [Release Round-Up] – [Forum Discussion] – Nearly a decade ago the popular Flash game Wonderputt made its way to the iPad, and at long last a follow-up has been released as part of Netflix’s video game offerings. This new entry features all the crazy shape-shifting levels and whimsy of the original game, and beyond being a fun little game of mini-golf it’s also a bonafide work of art. -JN
Yankai’s Diamond ($2.99) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – We are huge fans of Kenny Sun’s work around these parts, with a collection of games that often feel like little digital toys that you can poke and prod at to your heart’s content. That is true once again with Yankai’s Diamond, which offers up a puzzler that has you trying to match up the points of diamonds and is far trickier than it might seem on the surface. -JN
Mobile gets its fair share of original titles, as we’ve highlighted above, but I’d argue that one of the major reasons to game on your mobile device is due to the ability to play an absolute truckload of amazing games that originated on other platforms. Whether that’s a decades-old classic or just a great release from within the past few years, the amount of amazing games from years past that you can now experience on your mobile device is staggering.
Alien: Isolation ($14.99) – [Review] – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – The survival horror classic Alien: Isolation recently hit iOS thanks to Feral Interactive and it is one of the most feature-complete ports yet on the platform. Feral Interactive went above here with an experience that excels over all console versions on modern iOS devices. Grab a good set of headphones and get this as soon as you can if you’re a fan of the genre.-MM
Arcane Golf ($1.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – This is a fine example of a game making its way over from another platform but actually being better on mobile. Arcane Golf is an action mini-golf game, which means you’re putting your way through levels filled with crazy hazards and enemies. Its main gimmick that sets it apart is your ability to literally stop the ball in mid-air during your shot and then shoot again from that spot. The game is largely built around this mechanic adding a puzzle element to all the magical golfing action. -JN
Axis & Allies 1942 Online ($9.99) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – Digital adaptations of board games usually feel right at home on iOS and Axis & Allies 1942 Online from Beamdog has been fantastic to play on iPad and more recently iPhone. The turn based strategy boardgame with a WWII theme also has full cross platform support across mobile and PC.-MM
Baba Is You ($6.99) – [Review] – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – Baba Is You is one of the best puzzle games in years with how it manages to push the envelope and confuse you. You will be thinking about these puzzles for a long time. It also helps that the iOS port is excellent making Baba Is You is a joy to play on the go on iPhone and iPad.-MM
Collection of SaGa: Final Fantasy Legend ($19.99) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – It seems strange that for as long as Square Enix has been putting games on mobile that they hadn’t opted to bring the original on-the-go RPG series, the Final Fantasy Legend series from the Game Boy, to iOS or Android devices. Well, this year was the year and it was well worth the wait, with all 3 titles in one package called the Collection of SaGa. These games have some quirks due to the time they were originally created, but overall this is a lot of RPG goodness on the go and a very interesting trilogy from a historical perspective. -JN
Cube Escape Collection (Free) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – We are huge fans of developer Rusty Lake, who has been putting out extremely interesting (and extremely twisted) escape-style adventure games for what feels like forever. The Cube Escape series has long been available on mobile, but this special collection features the first 9 of them all in one package, and if you’ve been sleeping on this fantastic series up until this point then this is an easy way to finally dive right into the disturbing Rusty Lake universe. -JN
Divinity: Original Sin 2 ($24.99) – [Review] – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – Ever since it was revealed for iPad back at WWDC last year, Divinity: Original Sin 2 had us all excited. The massive RPG had already been brought over brilliantly to consoles following PC, but the iPad version might just be the best way to play it alongside PC thanks to the full game and updates included, multiple control options that all work great, and cross save support. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a new bar for iPad gaming.-MM
Evan’s Remains ($3.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – This is actually a very engaging visual novel that deals with some pretty heavy topics, but dressed up as a puzzle platformer with incredible pixel art and a killer soundtrack. The mashup works great, and the puzzle platforming is done very well, but first and foremost this is all about the story and characters, which is filled with all sorts of mysteries and twists. -JN
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered ($20.99) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – Over the years, we’ve had multiple Final Fantasy games hit mobile platforms including some exclusives and even classic games only re-released on mobile like Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions. The one we were all missing was Final Fantasy VIII Remastered and thankfully, it hit mobile this year with a very good conversion on par with the console versions. If you’ve never played Final Fantasy VIII, this is a great way to fix that.-MM
Foregone ($4.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – If you loved the idea of Dead Cells, but didn’t enjoy the idea of it being a roguelike meant to be played through over and over again, then Foregone is for you. It’s basically an homage to Dead Cells in terms of style, but it’s a more traditional linear action platformer rather than a roguelike. Its loot, weapons, and gear game is just as on point as Dead Cells though, making this one of the very best action platforming games now available on mobile. -JN
Huntdown ($6.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – Amazingly, this was originally announced as a mobile game half a decade ago, but ended up staying in development for a long time before finally releasing as a console and PC title. However, in 2021 Huntdown made its way back to its originally intended platform, honed to a sheen due to its lengthy development cycle, and offers some of the best over-the-top ’80s movie-inspired action around. -JN
My Time at Portia ($7.99) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – Many PC games have seen less than great ports to consoles and the initial release of My Time at Portia was exactly that. The Switch version of the excellent life-sim in particular wasn’t good, but it has been brought over beautifully to mobile. The iOS version on even relatively recent devices is much better than the console versions and a must-play if you enjoy the likes of Stardew Valley or Story of Seasons and have wanted something new to check out.-MM
Nauticrawl ($4.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – You are an escaped prisoner in a dystopian future, and your only chance to escape the totalitarian government that is hunting after you is to hop into a gigantic metal vehicle called a Nauticrawl. The only problem is you have NO IDEA how to drive this crazy thing. That’s the premise in this clever escape-style game where you need to manipulate a massive dashboard of levers and dials in hopes of getting the behemoth vehicle moving and exploring the land around you looking for a way to escape capture. -JN
Night in the Woods ($5.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – Night in the Woods from Finji is a very special game. It is rare for a game to make you feel nostalgic for a city you never lived in, but that’s exactly what Night in the Woods did with its cozy aesthetic, atmosphere, and memorable characters. The adventure experience is mostly great on mobile as well. Hopefully it gets the few improvements it needs to truly shine on mobile in 2022, but it remains well worth experiencing on iOS.-MM.
Niffelheim ($4.99) – [Release Round-Up] – [Forum Discussion] – This Norse mythology-themed survival game has earned quite a following on PC, and it’s the type of game that translates just about perfectly to the mobile platform. Explore, fight, craft, build, and dungeon dive your way to Valhalla. If you enjoyed games like Kingdom: Two Crowns but wished there was more Viking stuff, this will do the trick. -JN
Northgard ($7.99) – [Release Announcement] – [Multiplayer Update] – [Forum Discussion] – Following a warm reception on PC back in 2018, this Viking-themed strategy game has found a comfortable spot on mobile devices. A slick blend of real-time strategy, city-building, and old-fashioned Norse storytelling, Northgard was a wonderful experience on the touchscreen, and only got better with the inclusion of multiplayer in a post-release update. -JN
Pinstripe ($1.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – This is technically a puzzle platformer, and indeed it is filled with all sorts of platforming tests and puzzles to solve. But even more than that this is an engaging narrative adventure about a father trying to rescue his daughter from an evil entity known as Pinstripe. Come for the puzzle platforming but stay for the surreal and haunting world you can explore, as well as the compelling story. -JN
Shaolin vs Wutang ($1.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – This has long been a fan-favorite fighting game on Steam, and is a love letter to fighting games created by one of the genre’s biggest fans. And someone who is also a major fan of kung-fu movies. It all comes together perfectly in Shaolin vs Wutang, which is a highly approachable fighting game but not one that is lacking in depth. -JN
Sparklite ($6.99) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – Sparklite is another great Playdigious mobile conversion that brought the action adventure roguelite to iOS and Android. Sparklite stood out for its colorful aesthetic and great animations. It feels like a great companion to Moonlighter that I enjoyed on mobile as well.-MM
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated! ($5.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated! is a full remake of the 2002 original that was brought to PC and consoles a little while before it hit iOS with almost all features and content included at a budget price. This is an excellent conversion and has been a joy to experience on modern iOS devices with touch or button controls. If you’re a fan of SpongeBob and want a great premium experience, this is it.-MM
Tesla Force ($5.99) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – A spin-off of the excellent Tesla vs. Lovecraft, Tesla Force retains all of the over-the-top science-fiction style and crazy weaponry but places it in a roguelike setting with an expanded cast of playable characters. If you loved the level-based original and wish it could have just kept on going, this is pretty much what you’re looking for. -JN
Trials of Mana ($23.99) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – While mobile is no stranger to the Mana series, Trials of Mana didn’t seem like it would make the jump to the platform with its large scale and near full-priced release on consoles and PC before. While prior Mana remakes have not strayed too far from the original when it comes to visuals and scope, Trials of Mana felt like the big budget push the series needed in modern times and is a great fit for mobile.-MM
Unruly Heroes ($1.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – This is a platformer loosely based on Chinese literary classic Journey to the West where you have the ability to switch between 4 characters on the fly. It comes from some of the key people who made the Rayman Origins and Legends games, and that is quite apparent from the game’s absolutely gorgeous visuals and silky smooth animations. -JN
What Remains of Edith Finch ($4.99) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – Annapurna Interactive’s What Remains of Edith Finch made its way to iOS this year following a release on PC and consoles before in an excellent conversion. It is one of the best walking simulator games out there with its brilliant story, great visuals, and amazing music. If it looked interesting to you, it is a no brainer at the low asking price on mobile as well.-MM
While there are a number of games released exclusively for mobile, and a number of older games from other platforms that eventually make their way to mobile, there are an increasing number of games that include a mobile release alongside their releases on other platforms. Or at least in a somewhat close proximity to launching on other platforms. If the launch on other platforms and the launch on mobile both happened during 2021, we consider that a multiplatform release and not a port. Increasingly though, mobile is shedding its status as being an afterthought platform, and as developers want to increase how many potential players they can reach they’re including mobile often day-and-date with the games they release on other platforms.
Actraiser Renaissance ($19.99) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – The original Actraiser was a quirky mashup of action platformer and city builder way back on the Super Nintendo. That quirkiness has led to a cult classic status for the game, and after decades of the IP being dormant this high-definition remaster just sort of dropped out of nowhere. Not just a visual update, Renaissance also adds to the original game’s formula in such a way that this feels more like a true sequel than the actual sequel did back in the ’90s. -JN
Behind the Frame ($3.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – Lots of games say they’re “Studio Ghibli-inspired" but far fewer are actually able to pull something off that even approaches something from the legendary animation studio. Well, Behind the Frame gets about as close as I’ve ever seen with its moving storyline and attention to the minute details of daily life, all captured in a gorgeous setting and starring a cast of interesting characters. -JN
Day Repeat Day ($4.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – A rather brilliant match-3 game that’s actually a commentary on the match-3 genre itself, and at the same time an incredibly poignant look at life, relationships, mental health, and more. Yes, this is actually a quality interactive fiction dressed up as a extremely banal match-3 game, and it works wonderfully. -JN
Dungeon and Puzzles ($2.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – This is a unique take on a block-sliding puzzler that utilizes mechanics from dungeon crawlers, and somehow those two things work extremely well together as a mashup. I was blown away at how much strategy is involved in solving each of the game’s levels, and how clever the usage of dungeon crawler tropes was in creating the puzzles in the game. -JN
Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters – FF1 ($11.99) [Review – Forum] – FF2 ($11.99) [Review – Forum] – FF3 ($17.99) [Review – Forum] – FF4 ($17.99) [Review – Forum] – FF5 ($17.99) [Review – Forum] – Yes, I’m lumping all 5 of these Pixel Remasters in as one entry. Square Enix’s remastering work has been inconsistent over the years, but they’ve done a pretty bang up job remastering the first 5 (and early next year, the 6th) games in their most famous RPG series. There are nits to pick to be sure, but these newest versions are an excellent way to experience a historic franchise in gaming, and hopefully this new foundation they’re built on will ensure they can continue to maintain these games across all platforms for many years to come. -JN
Legend of Mana ($27.99) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – The fourth game in the legendary Mana series first released on the Playstation 1 just before the turn of the millennium, and in a lot of ways it was a bit of an odd duck compared to the mega-successful Secret of Mana that so many of us played on the SNES way back when. That it’s a bit experimental is part of the reason so many fans love it so, and also why so many fans don’t. Whatever camp you’re in, this iOS version is a great way to experience this classic. -JN
Machinika Museum (Free) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – Whenever we think of puzzle box escape room-style games, we think of The Room series, and indeed Machinika Museum does have a heavy The Room vibe. However, there’s also a really cool alien twist which means all the complex puzzle boxes you’ll be tinkering with have a really out of this world feel to them, which is a lot of fun. -JN
Moncage ($4.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – Perspective-shifting puzzlers have graced mobile devices before, but I’ve never quite seen one like Moncage. It features a cube with various scenes on its sides, but those scenes are actually fully 3D little environments that you’ll need to explore and eventually line up with the other sides of the cube to solve puzzles. -JN
Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX – MR1 ($15.99) – MR2 ($22.99) – [Review] – [MR 1 Forum Discussion] – [MR 2 Forum Discussion] – Having old console classics brought to modern platforms is always great especially if the new release introduces more people to a franchise they had never heard of before. That’s what happened with Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX which feels like the new release was built for mobile from the start with its interface and controls. While the asking price is high for a mobile release, there’s a lot of depth and charm here if the monster raising aspect appeals to you.-MM
One Hand Clapping ($9.99) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – This might win an award solely on how unique its premise is. This is a 2D platformer but it is controlled by the sound of your voice as you sing into the microphone. That sounds like a gimmick that you would have found in any number of Nintendo DS games, but it actually works really well, and it’s fun to see just how good (or bad) you can be at singing. -JN
Overboard! ($5.99) – [Review] – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – Everybody loves a good murder mystery, but what about a murder mystery where you’re the murderer and your job is to convince a cruise ship full of people that you aren’t while also pinning the crime on some hapless idiot. That’s the premise with Inkle’s latest project and it’s every bit as fun and charming (and frankly pretty messed up) as you’d expect from this talented developer. -JN
The Ramp (Free) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – The Ramp is a great example of a no nonsense experience that just lets you pass some time doing some tricks while skateboarding. There are no goals or anything here. This is all about just experimenting with tricks, grinding, and more in a polished experience that controls great on mobile.-MM
Rush Rally Origins ($4.99) – [Release Date Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – Sole developer Brownmonster has owned the rally racing corner of the App Store with both Rush Rally 2 and 3, but for this latest release he’s gone back to the original game’s top-down perspective in an effort to create the best top-down racing game around. And he’s pretty much succeeded at that, adding all the features you’d expect from those 2nd and 3rd games in a robust top-down racer package. -JN
SaGa Frontier Remastered ($24.99) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – This had the unfortunate luck to launch in the West just after Final Fantasy 7 took the world by storm back in the Playstation days. Being a SaGa game it was already going to be about as far from a traditional JRPG as you could get, but those still high on Final Fantasy 7’s fumes who were looking for more did NOT take kindly to this one back in the day, at least here in the US. It’s easier to appreciate all these years later with a lot more context, but SaGa Frontier is still strictly in “not for everyone" territory. That said, this remastered version is top shelf and fits comfortably on a mobile device. -JN
Say No! More ($5.99) – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Discussion] – This is a power fantasy adventure about being on the bottom rung of the corporate ladder and deciding to stand up for yourself by telling people “NO!" more. It’s right there in the title, say “NO!" more. It’s extremely basic from a game mechanics standpoint, and you can’t really lose, but that’s not the point of this one. The point is more to see this wacky story and all of its colorful characters through, and what a fun ride it is. -JN
SNKRX ($2.99) – [Release Round-Up] – [Forum Discussion] – This is a bananas mashup of top-down shooter, roguelike, the classic game Snake (yes, the ones that were preinstalled on our old Nokia cell phones), and the character progression systems of Auto Chess. And yeah, somehow all of that stuff fit together perfectly to make one of the more compelling, and brutally difficult, games released this year. -JN
Tender: Creature Comforts ($3.99) – [Announcement Story] – [Forum Discussion] – We’ve already mentioned we love developer Kenny Sun, but this is something decidedly different from him. A play on the Tinder dating app, but instead of dating humans you’re dating all sorts of crazy creatures. And let me tell you, it really nails the whole vibe of app-based dating and all the highs and lows that can come from that. A literal universe of crazy personalities to meet and try to form a love connection with. -JN
Townscaper ($4.99) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – Townscaper always felt like an interactive experience that would be perfect for mobile ever since it hit PC and eventually consoles. You build a town and different structures by just tapping and getting instant visual and audio feedback while seeing your structures come to life. It is gorgeous and perfect on iOS.-MM
Apple’s gaming subscription service celebrated its 2nd birthday in 2021, and during the spring they introduced a major pivot to the strategy that they’d been using since launching in the fall of 2019. In early April they introduced App Store Greats and Timeless Classics in addition to the service’s original releases, now officially dubbed Arcade Originals. Timeless Classics are previously released mobile games based around timeless game types, like Checkers, Chess, or Sudoku. App Store Greats are also previously released games but from a wider spectrum of genres, and these have included tons of incredible games including many of our own Game of the Year and Best Games picks. Since our Best Games list focuses on new releases, only Arcade Originals that were released this year were considered.
Angry Birds Reloaded (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – With the way the mobile gaming market evolved, many classics from the early years of the App Store have either been delisted or changed to go free to play making it hard to experience the originals as they were meant to be played. Angry Birds Reloaded feels a lot like what I wanted from a new Angry Birds game without having to deal with any of the modern free to play shenanigans. If you enjoyed the original, this is definitely worth checking out on Apple Arcade.-MM
Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Developer Interview] – [Forum Discussion] – Originally a free to play mobile-exclusive entry in the Castlevania series never made it past the soft launch phase, Grimoire of Souls found new life as an Apple Arcade title. It’s sort of a “best of" game featuring a number of playable characters from throughout the Castlevania series, and more bite-sized gameplay along with a staggering number of systems to explore and upgrade. -JN
Clap Hanz Golf (Get) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – When Apple Arcade changed scope earlier in 2021, one of the biggest surprises was Clap Hanz Golf not only for it being an excellent golf game, but also for it being the first game from the studio outside PlayStation platforms. Clap Hanz Golf captures almost everything great about the classic Hot Shot’s Golf series and adds its own twist to the formula.-MM
Cut the Rope Remastered (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – The original Cut the Rope was one of those surprise hits, and while it maybe didn’t reach the same level as something like Angry Birds, it certainly was hanging around in the same neighborhood. For Apple Arcade Paladin Studios has lovingly remastered the game with adorable 3D visuals, and even all these years later the Cut the Rope formula is still loads of fun. -JN
Detonation Racing (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – Detonation Racing is a Split/Second-like arcade racer that is all about explosions. It feels great to control with drifting, and brings a lovely arcade racing experience to Apple Arcade with cross play across iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and macOS.-MM
Fantasian (Get) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – Mistwalker’s Fantasian is a game many had been waiting for from the initial Apple Arcade reveal. It finally debuted earlier this year and saw its conclusion arrive in a major update a few months later. It is a hardcore JRPG with a gorgeous aesthetic and excellent music. You know how some people call certain games system sellers? Fantasian is that for Apple Arcade.-MM
Frenzic: Overtime (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – The developer’s of some of the most beautiful macOS and iOS apps released Frenzic: Overtime on Apple Arcade in 2021 and it brings a lovely puzzle factory where you aim to meet shift goals in Frenzic Industries. Even if you don’t enjoy puzzlers, this is worth checking out for the aesthetic.-MM
Legends of Kingdom Rush (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – The Kingdom Rush series are some of the best tower defense games around, but for this title developer Ironhide Studios has taken that universe and its characters and transformed it into a turn-based role-playing game. Not surprisingly, the world of Kingdom Rush works incredibly well as an RPG. -JN
lumen. (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – Light-reflection puzzlers have been around on mobile for a long time, but Lykke Studios takes them to a whole new level with lumen. A constant flow of new content by way of frequent updates has made this a solid go-to game in the Apple Arcade library. -JN
NBA 2K22 Arcade Edition (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – NBA 2K22 Arcade Edition was a surprise release on the service because we all thought the prior entry would just be updated with the new content and features. NBA 2K22 Arcade Edition has great visuals and brings a fantastic version of 2K’s NBA series to Apple Arcade without any microtransactions. It is definitely worth checking out not just for the visuals, but also if you’re a fan of basketball and wanted a quality game to play on iOS.-MM
Oceanhorn: Chronos Dungeon (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – The long-awaited sequel Oceanhorn 2 finally launched as an Apple Arcade exclusive when Apple’s new gaming subscription service went live in 2019, but little did we know they had a cool spin-off in the works that was geared towards local multiplayer and inspired by 16-bit era dungeon crawlers. This was a fun direction to see the Oceanhorn series dip into. -JN
The Oregon Trail (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – Gameloft’s The Oregon Trail on Apple Arcade is an enhanced re-imagining and follow up to a classic with gorgeous visuals. The Oregon Trail has also gotten a ton of post launch support with new mini-games, modes, journeys, quests, and more. It is a must-play on Apple Arcade.-MM
Solitaire Stories (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – Solitaire Stories is an interesting take on a classic by bringing a story, challenges, themed decks, and more to the classic game of solitaire. There is also a traditional solitaire experience, but the real draw is the visuals, stories, and interactions in Solitaire Stories.-MM
SP!NG (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – SP!NG has you going through hundreds of levels with a single interaction. SP!NG is a great game to launch for a quick few levels before moving on to something else. The core gameplay never gets old, and it gets regular new updates with a ton of things to warrant coming back once you finish what is already available.-MM
Spire Blast (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – Spire Blast has been a great example of what I’d like to see more of in Apple Arcade. Both it and SP!NG are excellent games to jump into for a few minutes with fun core gameplay. Spire Blast has you collapsing different sized and themed towers across unique kingdoms. Without Apple Arcade, I imagine I’d get annoyed with how a game like this would be monetized, so it is great to see an experience like this exist without having to worry about paying to progress.-MM
Taiko no Tatsujin Pop Tap Beat (Get) – [Review] – [Forum Discussion] – Bandai Namco Entertainment’s Taiko no Tatsujin Pop Tap Beat is a brilliant rhythm experience that was a great addition to Apple Arcade when it arrived earlier in 2021. It has since gotten multiple songs through updates and is a superb way to quickly play a song on the go without worrying about long load times like the console versions.-MM
Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – For a lot of people, Apple Arcade has gotten over many games we wouldn’t see on mobile alongside other platforms, but one of the most impressive of the catalogue is Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker. It has a great community and the creation tools have improved a lot over regular updates. Even if you don’t enjoy creating experiences, the ones available in Wonderbox: The Adventure Maker are worth your time.-MM
World of Demons (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – Just like Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, World of Demons on Apple Arcade is a game that initially shut down following a soft launch. The PlatinumGames developed action experience has a lovely aesthetic and interesting progression with some fun hack and slash combat. It also plays very well on touchscreens and is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the developer or Japanese folklore.-MM
Zookeeper World (Get) – [Release Announcement] – [Forum Discussion] – The Zookeeper franchise arrived on Apple Arcade in the form of Zookeeper World letting you solve puzzles to build your own zoo by blending the usual match-3 mechanics on mobile. It has gotten loads of new stages and puzzles through post launch updates making it worth checking out if you’re a fan of match-3 games and have wanted one with no in app purchases.-MM
Previous Best of the Year Round-Ups:
- The Best Games of 2020
- The Best Games of 2019
- The Best Games of 2018
- The Best Games of 2017
- The Best Games of 2016
- The Best Games of 2015
- The Best Games of 2014
- The Best Games of 2013, Part 2
- The Best Games of 2012
- The Best Games of 2011
- The Best Games of 2010
- The Best Games of 2009
- The Best Games of 2008