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.
Beautiful endless mountain scenery, amazing day-to-night transitions and a mesmerizing soundtrack (you should definitely wear headphones) make this is a must have on any device.
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.
The sequel to Alto's Adventure is called Alto's Odyssey and -- while the original is still amazing -- the follow-on 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.
OK, *think* this is a good game. Frankly, the "optional" microtransaction-based progression system is a huge turn off. But it's the actual match 3 gameplay and the Sega nostalgia hook that has me so obsessed with it currently.
If you're an old school Sega fan, you really need to try it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Beholder deserves a place of honour alongside brilliant dystopian titles such as Replica, Papers, 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.
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.
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.
The room is a steampunk inspired puzzle game that may just creep you out. Fireproof's The Room series is, everyone can agree, one of the most spectacular puzzle series ever produced on any platform. Now that Old Sins 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.
Like the other games in the series, Old Sins hit that brilliant, elusive spot between mentally challenging and satisfying. In this one, you search the Waldegrave Manor for an elusive artifact after an engineer suddenly goes missing. You'll look in a creepy dollhouse, the attic and more that just may give you the chills.
All games are gorgeously tactile, beautifully designed down to the finest detail. I recommend full immersion: a dark room, a pair of headphones and no other distractions.
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).
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.
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.
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)
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."
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.
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.
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 (iOS | Android) and even the remake of the original, Rayman: Classic (iOS | Android). These games are all very high quality and great to have on your phone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MOBA fans rejoice: Vainglory is an incredibly solid 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.
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.
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.
Helix Jump by Voodoo is a tactile puzzle game that's incredibly deceptive in its simplicity. The goal is to bounce a ball down a labyrinth by falling strategically through the cracks on each level without falling on a red zone. Sounds easy, right? Not so fast. With the fun frustration that came with tap and drag games like Flappy Birds and many others since, Helix Jump will have you screaming at the screen, then coming back for "just one more." The haptic response when the ball bounces is also a nice touch.
This player vs. player mobile game simplifies the classic strategy game we've known for years, making it into a sort of Clash Royale-like game. It harkens back to old build and attack games, but with the cool feature of being able to strategize against real people online. The object of the game is to build units and capture a missile silo while your online opponent does the same. Fully capturing a silo launches a missile at your opponent's base. Once you blow the base up, you win the game. After a win, you collect credits and can unlock new equipment to make your military force stronger for the next opponent.
The graphics are not as good as other top-tier mobile games, but, it really doesn't take away from the fun. The simplicity of the streamlined head-to-head gameplay allows players to concentrate on their next move in the battle, giving the game a more cerebral feel. Perhaps best of all is you can play a game in a relatively short amount of time, making it great for a quick game while you're on the go.
If skateboarding is your jam, or you wish it was, Flip Skater makes it easy to shred on a halfpipe. While skating in real life is complicated, with this game you only need to touch and hold on screen to start your skater rotating as you leave the halfpipe, then let go as you drop back in to align your board for a clean landing. As you progress and earn coins, you'll be able to choose from a few different skaters, boards and several different locations, from Miami Beach to Lake Baikal. You'll also unlock new tricks such as tail grabs and method airs which you can activate with on screen buttons. While it's not a complicated game, Flip Skater is perfect for those times you want to get in, play some games and get out.
Terraria on mobile stays true to the original adventure game on PC and consoles with the same charming graphics, same enormous worlds to explore and same complex crafting system. The randomly generated world means every time you start anew it will be a different experience and will take you hours of gameplay to discover all the map's secrets.
Terraria has since had numerous updates with countless additions to the original core gameplay and the mobile version has all the same features. If you're looking for a deep game that you can really get lost in on a tablet or iPad while on vacation or even on a long flight, Terraria is an excellent choice.
NBA 2K Mobile (iOS only for now -- coming soon to Android) lets you build your dream team and play against the best in 5-on-5 games, challenges and real-time events. To be clear, you won't be picking from NBA teams, but assembling your team with current NBA players. As you rise through the ranks, you can gather a following, use drills to train your players and earn foil cards of better players to boost your game.
The graphics on this one are better than what we've seen in mobile 2K games in the past and it almost feels like playing a console game on your phone.
This mobile roguelike game harkens back to the days of pixelated adventure games of yore, but with a modern twist. It's fast paced and has procedurally generated dungeon levels that make the game different each time you play. And like other roguelike games, when you die, you're dead and you have to start all over again from the beginning.
There are six character classes to choose from, each with their own special abilities, strengths and weaknesses. As you wander through the dungeon, you battle tons of different monsters to solve puzzles and explore the area for secret rooms that might contain better items for your character.
Another great feature is that you can play Wayward Souls without being connected to the internet, giving you a great game to play without using data.
In the game Hole.io you play online with other players as a ravenous black hole who devours everything in sight. Drag your finger to move the hole around a city scene as you consume everyday objects like garbage cans and cars, slowly growing to eat larger and larger items. As two minutes ticks off the clock, you'll go from humans to cars to eventually swallowing entire buildings. All you need to do is drag the hole around the map to dominate. The bigger the items you suck up, the more points you get and the larger your hole will become. Get the most points and you win the game.
Hole.io is easy to pick up and play, which each session only lasting 2 minutes for each game so it's a fun, fast distraction.
Like the other Civilization games, 6 is all about building your empire from the stone age, upgrading your tech trees to move your civilization into the modern age and using strategy to combat your foes. You can play as 20 different historical leaders including Roosevelt for America and Victoria for England, each with various advantages and disadvantages as you lead your empire to victory.
During gameplay, you'll need to make choices about how your civilization will evolve to focus on the tools you'll need to obtain victory while fighting enemies that aim to destroy you. You also can create strategic alliances with other leaders only to turn on them when the time is right to turn the tides in your favor. Civilization, as always, is a strategy game at its core and would be best suited for those who are ready to dive in headfirst and take over the world.