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Alto's Adventure

Snowboarding at high speed has never been as relaxing as it is in Alto's Adventure. Very simple one-touch controls let you guide Alto (and several other unlockable characters) down the mountain while getting big air, grinding edges and performing multiple backflips. 

With beautiful endless mountain scenery, amazing day-to-night transitions and a mesmerizing soundtrack (you should definitely wear headphones), this is a must have on any device.

You can read our original Alto's Adventure review here.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $5 | AU$8 | £5 (iOS); Free (Android)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Alto's Odyssey

The recently released sequel to Alto's Adventure is called Alto's Odyssey and -- while the original is still amazing -- it might be even better. You get a new trick to add to your arsenal with wall rides, making it possible to have more control over your combos. There are new environments to explore and you can you play a Zen Mode that lets you just take in the sights and sounds of the game.

If there is any game you download from this list, Alto's Odyssey is extremely easy to recommend.

Trailer

Platforms: iOS only (for now)

Price: $5 | AU$8 | £5

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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PUBG Mobile

PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds (PUBG) for mobile is a free survival shooter that lets you experience what it's like to be dropped on an island with 99 other players to see who will ultimately survive. But what's great about the mobile version of this extremely popular game on PCs is that it seems to run even better on a smartphone. In other words, this is one heck of a port. 

Just like the original, you'll parachute in, loot buildings to gear up, and do your best to survive all the way to the end. You can go it solo, or create a squad of up to four players if you want to try out a team effort. Be careful though, this game is incredibly addicting.   

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android  

Price: Free

Published:Caption:
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battlelands

Want to get your battle royale gaming fix without all the complexity? Battlelands Royale is the game for you. Pick your drop point on the island map beforehand, then parachute in to find weapons and shields. You also can chase down weapon drops for more advanced weapons like rocket launchers. From there, you can hide out in buildings and shrubbery as you lay in wait for opponents to step into your path.

What's particularly great about this simple dual-stick survival shooter is that a game rarely lasts more than 10 minutes. This free game is fun on its own, but you can also use in-app purchases to buy new skins and it even has a Battle Pass (a la Fortnite) you can buy to earn cosmetic items as you play.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: Free

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Shadowgun Legends

You can't really play a console-level quality Destiny game on your iPhone, but with Shadowgun Legends, it's about as close as you can get. This first-person shooter might be the best in all the app stores, with a base camp (it's more of a city) where you can hit up shops to buy weapons and armor, a place to gamble for more in-game currency, a black market for new items, and so much more. There are tons of in-app purchases here, to be sure, but you can easily avoid them.

The gameplay itself is excellent as you plow through story missions, unlock puzzles and blast your way through enemies in order to achieve greater and greater fame. Find new weapons as you play with unique exotics and other firearms that will remind you of Destiny. Though it's a whole different setting, Shadowgun Legends is basically Destiny for your phone and it will definitely surprise you with its depth.

Trailer

Platfrom: iOS | Android

Price: Free

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Riptide GP: Renegade

Riptide GP: Renegade is one of those games that seems like it would be impossible on mobile, the graphics are just so jaw-droppingly gorgeous. A jetski-style racing video, it sees you, a disgraced former champion, competing against other racers, performing stunts and defeating bosses for a chance to reclaim your former glory. It's built on the developer's own engine, and honestly plays like a dream.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $3 | AU$4.50 | £3 (Both)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Hearthstone

The mobile format is perfect for digitizing card games, and if you're looking for the best collectible card game experience, you can't go past Hearthstone, produced with all the polish and shine Blizzard can muster. 

The game is based on World of Warcraft, and each of the nine classes has a deck based on its WoW equivalent, which allows for a variety of play styles. There are also meaty options for both single-player and competitive multiplayer, and it's perfect whether you want a quick play or something more in-depth. In short, it's extremely versatile and you can play it however you like. It's hard to imagine a more perfect digital CCG experience.

The latest expansion, The Witchwood is coming on April 9.

You can read our analysis of what makes it so great here.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: Free

Published:Caption:Photo:Blizzard Entertainment
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Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP first launched on 24 March 2011, and it still stands out today as one of the highest points of mobile gaming. It's a strange, beautiful, sad, experimental adventure game about a warrior on a mysterious quest. Its pixellated art style, gorgeous soundtrack and unique gameplay mechanics spawned a thousand imitators, but nothing has ever come close to the wonder of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $8 | AU$10 | £8 (iOS); $5 | AU$8 | £5 (Android)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Plague, Inc.

This game marked the first time in my life I found myself saying, "Heck yeah, necrosis!" It's a fantastic concept for a game. You control an epidemic, and your aim is to spread it throughout the world and kill everyone before humanity can develop a cure. 

You have a variety of tools at your disposal to mutate your virus: the ability to add symptoms, including fatal ones; methods of communicability, including animal-borne, airborne and body fluids; and resistances. Each of these can be built up in trees that interconnect, making your virus strong. And, as your virus spreads, you gain DNA points that you can spend on more abilities. It's tremendously exciting, especially when your virus grows strong enough to mutate on its own, as you race against the development of a cure.

Destroying all humans has never been so much fun.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $1 | AU$1.50 | £1 (iOS); Free (Android) 

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Pumped BMX series

If you like the idea of going off sick jumps on BMX bike, the Pumped BMX series is probably the best in its class. You use the pump button to speed up, the left joystick to choose a trick as you get air, then hit the spin button, tilt your iPhone or both to pull off insane tricks. Be warned, if it's not clear already, the controls can be complex, but after some practice, landing that big air trick is definitely satisfying.

Before you download Pumped BMX 3 (link below), it's important to note that in Pumped BMX 1 and 2, the tracks are a bit more forgiving, so if you want to ease into these games, maybe try one of the earlier ones first. They're all good.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: Various

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Dandara

Dandara is a platformer that has you flinging yourself from surface to surface as you explore a vast world. It's a multiplatform title you can also get on consoles, which probably explains why it's quite a bit pricier than most games for your phone.

If you can get past the price, though, Dandara has a giant world to explore with cool-looking graphics, tons of mystical creatures and an excellent soundtrack as you try to save the world of Salt. Platformer gaming fans should definitely pick this one up or watch for price drops in the future, because it's a great game to have on your phone.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $15 | AU$23 | £15 (Both)

Published:Caption:
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Finger Driver

Some of the best phone games are the ones you can pick up and play for a couple of minutes at a time, whether you're on your commute or just waiting in line at the bank. Finger Driver is one of those games. You have a little steering wheel at the bottom of the screen, and you simply steer a car down a track, trying to go for distance.

The game has missions such as "gather four coins three times in a row" or "drive 400m three times," which give you a coin payout once you complete them. Then you use your coins to unlock more car styles. It's a really simple game, but one that I keep coming back to for its relaxing qualities. 

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $1 | AU$1.50 | £1 (iOS); Free (Android)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Beholder

Beholder deserves a place of honour alongside brilliant dystopian titles such as ReplicaPapers, Please and This War of Mine. As landlord over a block of apartments in a totalitarian state, you oversee the tenants -- quite literally your job is to spy on them for the government. You can choose to play by the government's rules or covertly help the people under your care, but at great risk. Every action has consequences, with high stakes and multiple endings to unlock.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $5 | AU$8 | £5 (both)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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The Room series

Fireproof's The Room series is, everyone can agree, one of the most spectacular puzzle series ever produced on any platform. Now that the third game is out, I can confidently say that they have been growing in both scope and complexity as the series progresses. The basic format remains the same throughout: Solve a series of puzzle objects to progress onto the next puzzle and the next small piece of the story.

All three games in the series hit that brilliant, elusive spot between mentally challenging and satisfying. And they're gorgeously tactile, beautifully designed down to the finest detail. I recommend full immersion: a dark room, a pair of headphones and no other distractions.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: Various

Published:Caption:Photo:Fireproof Games
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Monument Valley

Escher-inspired puzzle game Monument Valley is a strange, lovely, deeply rewarding rabbit hole of an experience. You control the tiny Princess Ida on a mysterious mission in a place called Monument Valley, made up of non-Euclidean structures populated by belligerent black birds. The nature of her mission is part of the splendid discovery experience built into the game as you guide Ida around the monuments, twisting and sliding to shift perspectives in order to make your way through the levels.

So much care has been put into every single aspect of the game to make it a wonderful experience for players, and you'd be very hard-pressed not to fall head over heels in love with it. If you do, you'll probably also want to check out Monument Valley 2 (iOS | Android).

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $4 | AU$6 | £4 (Both)

Published:Caption:Photo:ustwo
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Hero Hunters

This third-person shooter lets you use cover as you battle raiders and bandits in a post-apocalyptic cityscape. You can play single player in the campaign or get your friends into the action in co-op mode. 

What's really cool about this game in single player is you can command a team of heroes, each of which you'll collect as you play (there are 40 different unique heroes to collect). So, for example, you can play as one hero, then touch a button on screen to select another person in your party to use that persons unique skills. This all happens in real time, so switching to the right players for the job at hand is part of the fun.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: Free (both)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Limbo

Limbo is another of those games that sparked the imagination so much that imitators proliferated like baby rabbits. It's the side-scrolling puzzle adventures of a nameless boy looking for his lost sister, which in itself isn't particularly original. But the game is stylish in a eerie, monochromatic, minimalist way reminiscent of old films and creepy children's books. It's this style that has made one of the games one of the most beloved indie titles released in recent years. The spiritual sequel, Inside is available on the Xbox One. 

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $4 | AU$6 | £4 (iOS); $5 | AU$8 | £5 (Android)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Kingdom Rush series

The tower defense market on mobile, one could argue, is fairly glutted. But if you have just one TD game (or game series) on your device, it's really hard to look past the three games in the Kingdom Rush series. They're a few years old now, but they're still about as good as the genre gets. 

The first game, just called Kingdom Rush, is free, so you can test the waters before diving all the way in with Kingdom Rush: Frontiers (iOS | Android) and Kingdom Rush: Origins (iOS | Android)

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: Free

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Threes

In the first half of 2014, a free flash game on the web turned into a viral craze. It was called 2048, and here's the thing: it was a clone of a much more thoughtful game released a month earlier called Threes!

The premise of Threes! is pretty simple: Pair matching numbers, starting with threes. Your base units are ones and twos, which you can push together to create a three. From there, you have to place matching numbers next to each other, then push them together to create a single, doubled number.

The idea is to get the number higher and higher, until you hit the highest number achievable in the game -- 6144 -- on a 4-by-4 grid. It seems simple, but the gameplay has been very carefully balanced to provide a challenge and progression, capturing that elusive "... just one more go."

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $3 | AU$4.50 | £3

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Bowmasters

Bowmasters is easy to learn, tough to master and hilarious all the way through. The basic premise is to take turns aiming and firing a ranged weapon at a single enemy until one of you dies. But there are several different characters to play and tons of unique enemies, each with different weapons that produce different results with a successful hit. 

It's all done with a cartoon-like art style, but don't let the cuteness fool you. The deaths can be pretty gory. Still, an excellent and funny time waster.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price:  $1 | AU$1.50 | £1 (iOS); Free (Android)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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The Battle of Polytopia

This turn-based strategy game shares some similarities with Civilization, but simplifies the concept into a great mobile game. Pick from several different races with different strengths and weaknesses and then slowly take over the world as you upgrade your technologies, unlock new units, and bring your opponents to their knees. The game comes with a few races to choose from, but you can get more through in-app purchases.

Don't worry to much about learning curve because the game helps you learn the ropes as you play, but you'll soon figure out the best way to capture territory and go for the highest scores. You can play alone against the AI or against your friends. One of the best things about the game is you can play a single player game in under 30 minutes. Overall, the Battle of Polytopia is simply a great way to get your strategy gaming fix on mobile.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android  

Price: Free

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Rayman Adventures

The Rayman games throughout the years have all been an eye-popping explosion of gorgeous colors -- and really fun-to-play arcade titles in their own right. In all the games, Rayman runs automatically, and you control what he does by tapping or holding the screen using one-touch controls. The objective in each level is to collect Lums -- not as simple a prospect as it sounds -- in order to unlock new levels, new characters, and artwork, so there's actually incentive to collect a perfect score. This will mean you'll revisit levels a few times to get it right, but it's fun to master them.

Once you get hooked, be sure to check out Rayman: Fiesta Run (iOS | Android), Rayman: Jungle Run (iOSAndroid) and even the remake of the original, Rayman: Classic (iOSAndroid). These games are all very high quality and great to have on your phone.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: Free

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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The Escapists

In this game, you're stuck in prison serving hard time. But as you go about your daily routines, you slowly realize that with the right tools, a good plan and an opportunity, you can break out. 

The Escapists uses old-school graphics, but that doesn't take away from the game's complexity as you try to piece together the best way to escape from several different prisons. You'll acquire tools by stealing utensils from the mess hall, paying prisoners who know how to get stuff from the outside and doing inside jobs to raise money to pay for it all.

On its face, it looks simplistic, but The Escapists is a fun and challenging time-waster that's great for anyone who likes solving puzzles.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $4 | AU$6 | £4 (both)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Tiny Wings

German developer Andreas Illiger only ever released one game for mobile, but what a game it is. You have to have heard of 2011's Tiny Wings, a one-touch game that saw you racing a tiny bird across procedurally generated islands to get as far as possible before nightfall. In the intervening years, Illiger has continued to maintain and update the game, and it remains a beloved favorite for its lovely setting and streamlined gameplay -- an early example of how to make a mobile game just right.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $3 | AU$4.50 | £3 (iOS); Free (Android)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Lifeline

Lifeline is a text adventure, but one with a serious difference and much higher stakes than you might be used to. You're not the protagonist of the story... and your decisions could get the protagonist killed.

Taylor is the sole survivor of the crash of the Varia, on a barren moon somewhere in the vicinity of Tau Ceti. Reaching out on comms, Taylor is able to find a single person, a single lifeline. You. As Taylor sets about exploring the inhospitable environment, you'll help make decisions on what to do next. The troubling part is that none of the decisions are good ones and one wrong move could land Taylor in serious trouble.

The mechanics are what set Lifeline apart. It plays out in real time, notifying you via your phone's alerts, through which you can also respond to and interact with Taylor, making this the first mobile game that I know of that can be played via the lock screen. It's also compatible with the Apple Watch, where you can receive notifications when Taylor is ready to talk.

And it's surprisingly heart-wrenching as you start to develop a connection with Taylor, knowing that hope for survival is, at best, slim.

If you manage not to kill Taylor, the adventure continues in Lifeline: Silent Night and Lifeline: Halfway to Infinity.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $2 | AU$3 | £2 (both)

Published:Caption:Photo:3 Minute Games
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Hero Academy 2

I was a big fan of the original Hero Academy when it came out a few years ago because you could choose between uniquely different armies and go to battle with your friends in asynchronous turn-based combat.

Hero Academy 2 improves upon the original with more polished animations and graphics, new challenges that keep gameplay interesting and new "decks" you can earn or buy to try out different armies. I've only just started to explore the game, but it's already tons of fun, just like the original.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: Free

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Xenowerk

Xenowerk is a top-down, dual-stick shooter that has you blowing away mutants in the aftermath of a science experiment gone horribly wrong. You'll need to go deeper and deeper into multiple levels of an underground science facility as you shoot your way to objectives, grab new weapons and make your way to the exit. You also have a number of extra skills that do things like freeze your enemies to slow them down and heal yourself when the heat gets to be too much.

The eerie soundtrack and dark levels -- with only your flashlight to guide you -- make this game scarier than most, but the lighting effects and near constant action make it perfect for action gaming fans. 

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $1 | AU$1.50 | £1 (iOS); Free (Android)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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ARK Survival Evolved

This one is quite a bit more involved than some of the other games here, but it's a great survival game that challenges you to start with nothing, then slowly uncover the secrets of a land inhabited by dinosaurs. 

You'll learn how to build a fire for warmth, how to hunt for food and eventually craft weapons and clothing to increase your chances of survival. A deep, tiered crafting system lets you work your way up to better clothing and weapons, and you can build more advanced structures to try to stay alive amidst dangers from the elements, dinosaurs and more. 

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: Free

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Baseball Boy

This free baseball hitting game is another one of those simple games that are perfect for when you only have a few minutes to kill. You use one touch controls to line up your hit, then take a swing at the ball to see how far you can hit it. 

That would be simple enough, but here's what's interesting: you win money with every hit, which you can then spend on attributes to make you hit the ball further. After a few upgrades, suddenly you're hitting it 1,500 feet and it looks really cool to see your ball launched over the rooftops of the city.

To be clear, this game is a little bit like those clicking games where there's no limit to how high you can go, and there's not much skill involved. It's also ad-supported and you'll need to pay $3 to get rid of them. But with that said, it's still a fun way to pass a little time and it's extremely easy to learn how to play.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: Free (both)

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Iron Marines

If you like the style of tower defense the Kingdom Rush series does so well, you'll definitely like Iron Marines. This game is a newer effort from the same people, Ironhide Game Studio, and takes much of the same great action into the future. Instead of knights and archers, you'll be playing with futuristic soldiers and snipers. Fight aliens and mechas as you strategize the best way to beat the level at hand. But what's cool about this version, is there is even more focus on special characters -- individual heroes with unique abilities you can bring along for the fight with your other units.

If you've always wished you could play Starcraft on your iPhone or iPad, Iron Marines is your best bet.

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: $5 | AU$8 | £5

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Vainglory

MOBA fans rejoice: Vainglory is an incredibly solid 5v5 battle arena game for your phone. It's great for both beginning and expert players of MOBAs because it has cool characters with heavy hitting abilities, plenty of strategies to master and it comes with a detailed tutorial to spell out how it all works for you. 

I should note that this is a game you need to commit to playing because you have to play through the full match (about 20 minutes) just so you don't let down your teammates.

With that said, just like games like DoTA 2 and League of Legends, Vainglory has you start fresh every game, slowly progress through character levels and then return to base to buy items to modify your abilities. When it's all said and done and you finally see the enemy team's base explode, it's enormously satisfying.   

Trailer

Platform: iOS | Android

Price: Free 

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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PAKO 2

This driving game has you play as the getaway driver in a continuous crime spree as you drive your criminal cohorts to freedom. The only problem is, the cops are coming and they will not stop chasing you until your car explodes.

PAKO 2 has easy touch-screen controls to drive your car as you dodge tons of cops trying to take you down. Each "job" helps you earn money so you can buy bigger and better cars that will help you last longer -- and pull off more heists.

Overall, it's just a delightfully chaotic game that gets your heart pumping as you try to make your getaway.

PAKO 2 is a recent release and is not yet available for Android. Android users should check out the original PAKO Car Chase Simulator.

Trailer

Platform: iOS 

Price: $2 | AU$3 | £2

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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The End of the World

This is sort of a unique selection in that the gaming elements of The End of the World are not why we're adding it to this list. In fact, you can play through the entire game in one sitting. Instead, this addition is really more of an interactive art piece that explores the pain of loss and shows how games can be a great way to dissect even the most serious of narratives.

Set in Newcastle, England, you assume the role of a sad man whose world has been turned upside down by the loss of the love of his life. Simple controls let you explore the beautifully designed (albeit small) world.  

It was free when we downloaded it, but it appears the developers are changing the price frequently. At the time this was published, the game cost $1, £1 or AU$1.50.

Trailer

iTunes Link

Price: $1 | AU$1.50 | £1

Published:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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