Mobile gaming has exploded ever since the smartphone became a must-have piece of technology. Suddenly, games on the go weren’t just for young kids trying to catch ’em all with their Nintendo hand-helds. With the rise of the iPhone and multiple Android devices (LG, Samsung, and HTC among the most popular brands), your average adult with zero interest in playing the latest Call of Duty or Madden installments has been unwittingly turned into a gamer, often without even realizing.
But if you’re sick of the Angry Birds, Clash of Clans, or Cut The Ropes of the App Store (or their various clones), then we have the perfect list for you. We guarantee that you will have never heard of at least one or two games on this list (and maybe more), which is a shame, because they are all fantastic ways to kill time the next time you’re fiddling around with your phone.
Note: All of these games are available on iOS, and most of them are also available on Android devices.
9. Surf Attack
The genre of “endless runner” type of games isn’t necessarily a new one, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun as hell. There are an endless amount of different themed games to choose from (plus the now defunct original “Flappy Bird” version that went viral), but we prefer this particular stylized effort. After all, who doesn’t love the sand, surf, and the occasional shark attack? Surf Attack brings new charm to the old concept of “endless runner” by having you surf up and down a gnarly wave in an attempt to avoid obstacles and snag a new high score. Hang ten! Simple and addicting.
8. Zen Bound 2
Compared to Surf Attack, this game slows things right down. An amazingly simple concept that is expertly done, Zen Bound 2 (and the it’s original predecessor) requires you to wrap a rope around differently shaped wooden objects, trying to get as much coverage as possible. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. As you progress through the game, it becomes harder to form a solid strategy and the amount of rope you have gets shorter. This game is half a relaxation exercise, half a mind bending puzzle game. With no time limit or fast action sequences, it’s also great for kids.
This is one you’ve probably heard of before, or had your friends complain about. The concept is really simple: push two squares with the same number together in order to create a new square with double the value. Keep doubling up those squares until you get to 2048 (and beyond). But it’s a lot harder than it looks. This is the kind of game that makes you say to yourself, “just one more try…” despite the fact that it’s 3:00 a.m. and you have to work in the morning. Oh, that’s just us? Nevermind.
Want a game changing tip for this one? Never swipe up. You’re welcome.
6. Tiny Wings
Back to the action games, but with a unique twist. In Tiny Wings you play a bird who doesn’t fly very well (because of your tiny wings… get it?). In order to get significant airtime, you need to nose dive into the valleys of the land below in order to rocket back up the hillsides into the sky. It’s a game with a simple concept that is easy to learn, but hard to master. The fantastic artwork and dynamic levels mean that you’re never really playing the same game twice. It also comes with mini challenges that you can use to increase your score multiplier, as you battle to top the leaderboards.
5. Field Runners
There are a ton of great tower defense games out there to try, but Field Runners is our favorite. It doesn’t get overly complicated, but maintains a steady increase in difficulty. Unfortunately its sequel, Field Runners 2, fell into the all-too common trap of having annoying microtransactions (no, we really don’t want to buy 200,000 coins for $139.99. Thanks anyway). The much more pure original version does feature some additional content you can buy, but in the forms of new map expansion packs instead of worthless in-game currency. In this case, skip the sequel.
Originally a browser Flash game that was introduced in 2015, this game made the transfer over to mobile devices pretty quickly. Originally created by 19-year-old Brazilian developer Matheus Valadares, the game involves controlling a tiny cell and attempting to grow that cell by absorbing those smaller than you, while avoiding being consumed by any cell larger than you. The best of Agar.io is that all the other cells are human controlled, putting in the middle of an intense multiplayer battle for cell supremacy. Game mechanics such as splitting your cells, or offering a small piece of yourself in exchange for mercy (or perhaps to form a partnership) mean there are plenty of different ways to play. It’s the kind of game that will make you want to throw your phone in anger when you eventually lose, only to pick it up again so you can start over.
Perhaps our favorite puzzle game in the entire App Store, Trainyard is a hidden gem. The concept is simple enough, as you need to get the trains into the stations that match their colors. Indeed, the first few levels are very simple and introduce the concept with ease. Then things get a bit tougher. The game adds numerous mechanics, such as paint stations, combining colors (remember, red + blue = purple!), and the need to actually merge trains together in order to make it all work. The levels get incredibly hard, but not in a frustrating way. When you do finally figure out some of the more complicated solutions, you’ll be saying to yourself, “Of course! How did I not see that earlier?”
2. Smash Hit
This game doubles as a stress reliever. That is, if you find smashing endless panes of glass with little metal balls to be comforting. This game requires you to throw balls are glass obstacles that are in your way, splintering them to pieces as you make your way forward on a track through different themed levels. What’s the catch? You have a limited supply of balls, so use them wisely. There are plenty of ways to earn more, by hitting special glass pieces within the levels. But if you don’t break that window in front of you before you hit it? You’ll be penalized some of your precious ammo.
Limbo was ported over to mobile (and basically everything else) after originally becoming a hit as an Xbox Live Arcade game on the Xbox 360. However, unlike other games that have followed that path, Limbo really works well as a mobile game. The simplistic, yet eerie, art style of the game creates a genuinely spooky atmosphere, as you play a young boy looking for his sister in a world filled with danger (PSA: Watch out for spiders). You will die in this game. A lot. But that’s okay, because it’s genuinely fun and engaging to work your way through the puzzles and obstacles that the game designers created. With an ambiguous story that invokes questions of philosophy, death, and religion, Limbo is a game that keeps us coming back for more.