Let's kick off this list of the best Android games with a NimbleBit jam.
If you’ve played Tiny Tower or Pocket Planes, chances are you’ve already run away screaming, or let out a resigned sigh and dutifully trudged over to the Google Play store. Here, you get a few turns to peck through tiles to uncover hidden animals to cart off to your zoo -- think Battleship, with woodland critters.
The animals will earn you a few coins per minute, but they occasionally fall asleep so you’ll need to tap those slackers to keep the funds rolling in. Or, you can spend some premium "discobux" to throw a dance party that’ll get your entire menagerie partying, waking them up and earning you more coin. No, I don’t understand it either. But here I am, tapping and grooving away.
It's a good thing I've always subscribed to the "if it sits (still), it fits" school of construction, or this particular take on Tetris would be the end of me. As it stands (or doesn't), the towers I've constructed are only likely to be the end of anyone inside or around them. You're tasked with with stacking Tetris blocks as tall as you possibly can, arranging them on a narrow foundation in order to build a majestic wizard's tower. But nothing is ever so easy: you'll learn all manner of spells along the way, and battle the finicky laws of physics (and jealous adversaries) on your quest to learn all you can about tower construction.
One of the best sports games on mobile devices, FIFA 14 comes free on Android with tons of additions and even more refined controls than the 2013 version of the game. In all, FIFA 14 lets you choose from 600 licensed teams, 16,000 players, 33 leagues, and 34 different stadiums. With upgraded game play and a new freemium model that shouldn't get under your skin, this standout soccer title definitely deserves its Editors' Choice Award.
Admittedly, there are many people out there who just don't get the point of this mega-popular building, mining, and survival game. But it is a fun and addictive classic, nonetheless. Just open it up, and go to town creating your home base, crafting tools, and mining the depths. But be sure to watch out for monsters when traveling at night.
Calling Terraria a 2D Minecraft is an apt, albeit unfair, description. You’ll dig through dirt and stone, mine ore and harvest lumber, and build elaborate structures. Monsters will be slain, caverns will be spelunked, and you’ll venture with (or fight against) like-minded friends. But where Minecraft is grounded in some semblance of reality, Terraria is a bit more concerned with the fantastical: think rocket boots, magic weapons, and boss battles against giant floating eyeballs. And all the action is made palatable by solid, versatile touch controls. Better still, there’s a free trial that offers up a good taste of what’s in store.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown means horror. Well, not literally, as it’s technically a turn-based strategy game. But when your veteran sniper is casually eviscerated by a chittering mass of claws and teeth you will know fear: death is permanent, and you aren’t winning many fights with a squad full of terrified rookies. This port of the stellar PC and console game has finally made its way to Android with nary a compromise, and it’s well worth the $10 cost of entry. Just remember, careful planning and a hefty dose of luck will ensure that everyone makes it home.
Contra: Evolution may not have the best graphics or tightest gameplay on this list, but it doesn't matter because it is exceptionally fun. Whether you're a fan of the original Contra game (arcade or NES) or you're just getting around to the series now, Contra: Evolution should provide you with a good dose of platform-jumping, bullet-spraying action. Faithful to the original, this game brings the same weapons power-ups, enemies, and frustrating levels that you remember from over a decade ago.
If you’ve never played the original Deus Ex, drop what you’re doing, find a PC or Mac, and get started. Once you’re back, go away again and play Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the next-generation prequel.
All caught up? Good. You’ll need all of those lessons learned in subterfuge, backstabbing (literal and figurative), and shaky morality to see your way through this fun first-person shooter. A keen eye for the man-sized air ducts that are apparently de rigueur in the near future won’t hurt, as it remains the series’ go-to method of sneaking about.
This one is only tangentially related to SNK's King Of Fighters series, but that's fine. It's also a bit bizarre, but I like to think that's part of its charm: you'll tap and swipe along to the rhythm of music from arcade classics like Fatal Fury and Metal Slug. If you can keep the beat you'll trounce your foes, but missteps will see you laid flat. You'll also gain experience points as you fight, unlocking new challenges down the road.
Getting a little sick of tower defense games? That’s fair; planting towers to spit death upon wave after wave of mindless minions can get a bit stale. But Anomaly 2 switches things up: your squad of war machines are the minions, and you’ll guide them through a maze of treacherous turrets. Plan your route, gather power-ups and toggle special superpowers to fight or flee from the (mostly stationary) alien menace.
Hey, maybe you’re not sick of tower defense -- that’s fine too! Fieldrunners 2 is a bit long in the tooth but still one of the best of the bunch. The enemies are relentless, but they’ll still charge heedlessly into the death mazes you construct out of your varied arsenal of towers. And just when you think you’ve got them corralled, armored zeppelins or zippy biplanes glide right over your intricately laid hellscape, and it’s game over. Again. Ugh.
Some might cry foul when I say that I prefer Ruzzle to Scramble With Friends, and I respect that. But the fact is I am a huge fan of the original (analog) version of Boggle, and this is much closer to it than Zynga's offering. There are no power-ups or coins. It's just you, a four-by-four board of letters, and that menacing 2-minute timer -- just the way it was meant to be.
You’re probably asking yourself “Do I need to buy yet another copy of a role-playing game released in 1998?” I was like you, once. But this is Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition we’re talking about, one of the greatest games ever made. Better still, this rather solid port of the recently released “enhanced” PC version serves up new content, quality of life improvements (hooray for higher resolutions!), and a touch-friendly interface. You can also copy your saved games between the Android and Windows versions and literally never stop playing; 13-year-old me is swooning so hard right now.
And when you’re ready to take a break from the Baldur’s Gate’s world of magic, intrigue and elves, feel free to step into Shadowrun Returns, which is...well, much of the same actually. But in the future! Shadowrun’s gritty cyberpunk setting has been captivating folks for years, and its return to video game form on the PC was nothing short of stunning -- the mobile version is pretty great too. Sure, you’re missing out all of the brilliant user-created content that’s coming to the PC, but being able to wander its intricately detailed world and fight heady turn based battles on a mobile device is pretty awesome. Be forewarned: while the game will likely run on your phone, you’re going to have a really squinty time navigating the interface -- best to stick to tablets.
I'm not convinced that my latent fear of numbers is solely to blame for my ineptitude at Threes, but it helps. Despite all appearances, this isn't so much a math game as a puzzler that toys with space and sums. It starts with the numbers one and two, which add up to the eponymous three. From there your goal is to pair identical numbers into ever increasing sums by swiping them across your screen. Every swipe moves the tiles on the board one space, but also tacks a new tile onto the board. Once the board is filled, the jig is up, points are tallied, and you'll see how much better you are at this than me. Because I'm pretty awful.
Racing games are kind of a sore subject on mobile devices. Nowadays they look pretty and motion controls don’t feel nearly as silly anymore, but the games are generally crippled by overzealous in-app purchases. GT Racing 2 drifts along a fine line here: a barrage of popups will suggest you spend a bit of premium currency to get an edge on your next race, but you’re mostly left to your own devices. Better still, temporary speed boosts and the like are only available during the single-player campaign, leaving your race to the top of the leaderboards largely dependent on your own skill.
You’ll want to pick this one up for the gorgeous visuals and the fast, clever endless-runner gameplay. You’re running from Point A to Point B and dodging hazards along the way, all the while collecting little golden pixies to free Rayman’s capture comrades. But the real star here is the soundtrack. Nothing complements “Holy cow, did I just do that!?” dexterity better than Fiesta’s fun, frenetic tunes. The brilliant, bite-sized levels are the proverbial icing on the cake -- just the perfect thing for a bus ride or especially lengthy meeting, as you’ll be mashing the retry button in the hopes of getting that mythical flawless run.
I’m as sick of the endless Star Wars tie-ins as the next gamer, but…come on. LEGO. This one is a shoot-em-up in the vein of Space Invaders or Ikagura: drag your vessel around the screen blasting away Rebel (or Imperial) scum, and then scoop up the pieces. The PC and console LEGO Star Wars games have generally been nothing short of awesome, and while Microfighters is a little light on substance, it delivers on the crucial "couple of minutes to kill" scale of fun-ness that makes it well worth a buck. It can also be a bit of a challenge, for a game that’s so kid-friendly.
I won’t pretend to know anything at all about the sport, but I’d probably watch a lot more golf if it involved magnets, gravity defying courses, sticky pink mystery goo, and collectible hats. I’m a sucker for hats. I suppose you could think of Super Stickman Golf 2 as mini-golf with a whole lot of verticality; get the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible, though that’s far harder than it sounds. If you’re feeling especially confident there’s also plenty of fun to be had in the online multiplayer modes, too.
NBA Jam isn’t a completely accurate sports simulation -- though you’ve got to admit, basketball games would be much more exciting with inexplicable explosions and cameos by heads of state. What it is, however, is a brilliant arcade basketball game distilled into pocketable form, with tight controls and fast, fun match-ups.
Who says gaming can’t teach you anything useful? During my stint as a humanity-eradicating pathogen, for example, I discovered that Madagascar will likely shut down all manner of transport and global trade, should one of its citizens catch so much as a cold. I’ll need to keep that in mind in the likely event of a zombie apocalypse…
Anyhow, Plague Inc. is all about wiping out humanity by designing the perfect communicable ailment, and ensuring it evolves and thrives as scientists struggle to fight it. Quite fun, if a bit morbid -- and you’ll never look at folks coughing and sneezing on the bus in the same way again!
I mean honestly, who steals from inflatable, roving mustaches? And so ineptly too, leaving bits of treasure scattered about winding caverns, treacherous deserts, and all matter of spooky locales? Don't worry Leo, we'll find your fortune. I suppose it helps that it is a rather lovely adventure, with physics puzzles that are coupled with platforming reminiscent of classic Sonic the Hedgehog games.
Your task: strap engines to fuel tanks and send them hurtling in the general direction of "up" in an attempt to reach the stars. That’s the idea anyway. You’ll mostly be exploding, as the immutable laws of physics frown on your shenanigans and send your metal monstrosities hurtling towards the ground. Fret not: if Kerbal Space Program has taught us anything, any rocket science conundrum can probably be solved by adding a few more rockets.