The free mobile gaming landscape is a jungle. New games are released seemingly everyday and for every good game that comes out for mobile platforms, there seems to be at least 10 bad games. It can be frustrating trying to find a game that is actually worth your time in the deluge of games being released these days. Well, lucky for you, dedicated reader of The Gamer, I have waded through the swamp of free mobile games and produced a list of 15 free mobile games you absolutely need to be playing right now. I've tried to include a little bit of everything for all types of gamers. If you aren't interested in one game I mention, hopefully the next will pique your interest.
To be clear, all these games are free to download initially. This list doesn't exclude games that have some kind of payment options within them, including a few games that require a purchase after playing a few levels. In those cases, I've only included games that I thought were fun up until the point where payment was required. If you want to go beyond that and give the developers some money, I'm sure they wouldn't complain.
Let's get started.
15 Pokémon Go
For those few people that haven't played the game already, Pokémon Go is a game in which people wander around the real world, using the camera on their phone to locate Pokémon to capture and battle with. It's a great way to get out exploring your city, finding new landmarks, and generally just having a good time trying to catch 'em all. It's especially fun when you get a group of friends to join you or something fun to do with your kids.
I know what the rest of you are saying right about now, 'I already played that game last summer. It was fun for a while, but now I'm over it.' I completely understand that, but since last summer's explosion of Pokéfever, developer Niantic has continued to update the game, adding new 80 Pokémon, improving basic UI functions, and made minor cosmetic changes. We may never reach the level of Pokéfever we experienced last summer again, but in the mean time, the game is still very much worth the download and a place in your phone’s game library.
14 Sword Of Xolan
Sword of Xolan is an old-school 2D platformer/action adventure game that captures the feel of those old games in the best ways. There is little to no story here, just your hero, a big, burly medieval looking man who swings a sword and shoots fireballs at enemies. The objective is simple: make it to the end of each level, rescuing trapped people along the way if possible.
The levels are relatively short, especially if you ignore trying to find and rescue all the people, but that doesn’t mean they aren't challenging. The enemies here range from your basic zombie to slime balls and flame-shooting bat creatures. At the end of each stage is a boss battle that will surely challenge even the most experience gamer. The controls, which can sometimes be a problem in mobile platformers, are simple and easy to use. Anyone craving old-school action on their mobile device does not want to miss this great title.
13 Alto’s Adventure
Alto’s Adventure is yet another endless runner game. There are so many of these titles available for mobile platforms these days, they have their own subcategory. Gameplay here is what you’d expect. You play as Alto, racing down a mountain on a snowboard trying to collect different items or complete certain challenges. There are small trick mechanics including grinding and backflips, but not much beyond that.
But what makes Alto stand out, and the reason you should download it, are its graphics. They have a simple, almost construction paper look to them and are among the most beautiful I have seen on mobile devices. The developers clearly know this. They have even included a ‘Zen Mode’ in which the player’s avatar just sits down where he is and the player can enjoy the wonderful environment.
It’s not the deepest game you will play on mobile, but it is one of the prettiest.
12 Sky Force 2014
Sky Force is another throw-back game which pays homage to older games like Galaga with its top down scrolling action. You play as a fighter pilot controlling a futuristic plane. Like a lot of those older games, Sky Force’s difficulty can be brutal as you duck, dodge, and weave through enemy fire all while firing constantly trying to take out as many enemies as possible.
The graphics in this game are, again, spectacular. The water effects, in particular, stand out. The forests, mountains, and enemies all look great in this game too. Controls are handled with your finger, guiding the plane across the screen which makes it easy to avoid enemy fire. It’s a fun game, but, be warned, it does get extremely difficult which can lead to a lot of frustrating deaths.
11 PewDiePie’s Tuber Simulator
Love him or hate him, PewDiePie is one of the biggest names in the YouTube community right now. With the most subscribers ever and no one coming even close to reaching his level, PewDiePie seems like someone who is going to be around for a while.
His Tuber Simulator is his first attempt at a mobile game and, for the most part, it succeeds in being a fun game for casual gamers. You follow in the footsteps of the original ‘bro,’ starting your own Tuber Channel (so named to avoid copyright issues), making videos, gaining subscribers and views, and decking out your room in the process. In terms of gameplay, there isn’t much actual gameplay. You’re mostly navigating menus, choosing which videos to produce or which products to buy, but there is a weird satisfaction in decorating your room with all the crazy items available in the game. If you’re a fan of PewDiePie this is definitely one to check out.
10 Opus: The Day We Found Earth
Opus: The Day We Found Earth is an interesting game and unlike almost any game I’ve ever played.
It takes place many years in the future. Humanity has long since moved off of planet Earth. Through dialogue with the few remaining human survivors, you learn that somehow along our journey amongst the stars, we have lost the position of planet Earth. You play as a robot, Emeth, on his quest to find Earth.
The gameplay here is pretty light. You are mostly looking around the sky, scanning stars in hopes of finding Earth and learning more about what has happened to humanity. This is not a game you come to if you’re looking for fun, inventive gameplay. However, if you are looking for a great sci-fi story accompanied by beautiful graphics, then this is a game to check out.
9 Pac-Man 256 - Endless Maze
Back to more traditional gameplay, we come to PacMan 256 - Endless Maze. PacMan is one of the games that has been around since the dawn of gaming and the basic premise hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. And I have great news: PacMan 256 doesn’t really change much about the beloved formula. You’re still PacMan, navigating a maze, collecting as many powerups as possible, all while avoiding the ghosts. The big twist to this one is that the maze is endless (shocker, I know, based on the title). This change makes for a really fun mobile game. You can just keep playing for as long as you can survive as the map continues on forever. The graphics here have been spruced up too, with an especially nice death animation for PacMan in which he explodes into a million pixels.
8 Monster Dash
Monster Dash is another endless runner of sorts. You play as Barry, the same character from the game Jetpack Joyride, as he runs and guns various monsters. Vampires, zombies, demons, and more are all on display here.
The graphics are bright and colorful and though they are nothing that will blow you away, they get the job done. The action is fast and frantic. Players have to react quickly to the ever changing environment as Barry races across building tops and walls gunning down monsters with various weapons. It’s good, simple fun with challenges that will keep you coming back to play again and again.
7 RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch
I still remember fondly the days of the original RollerCoaster Tycoon. My brother and I used to spend hours carefully crafting our own theme parks, building as many crazy rides as we could, and watching as the money would start rolling in.
It’s been a while since they released an official RollerCoaster Tycoon game on PC, so for now, we’ll just have to tide ourselves over with the Touch title. Despite being a mobile game, I’m pleased to report that most of what made those original games so great is back. You can still build huge parks with great looking rides and still get frustrated as the ungrateful little customers complain about everything. But that’s half the fun right? They’ve introduced a card pack mechanic here, which I’m not a huge fan of, but it doesn’t ruin the fun. Anyone looking for a good park building sim need look no further.
Hearthstone is a card battling game much in the same vein as Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon TCG, or Yu-Gi-Oh!. The game has been out for a few years now and has developed a large competitive community much like Magic or Pokémon. You, of course, don't have to participate in this side of the game, as there are plenty of casual players out there, but it's there if you want it.
Blizzard recently released an all new card pack called Journey to Un'Goro which, in addition to adding a lot of new cards, has really changed up the ways in which the game can be played. This new update introduces 'Quest' cards, which summons a legendary creature if the player completes every item on the quest. This new addition really changes the way the game can be played, making it an exciting an addition for players who've grown bored with the more traditional strategies available in the game.
5 Crazy Taxi: City Rush
Another throwback game, Crazy Taxi was a great game to play in the arcade or on the Dreamcast if you had one. The same crazy action is back with the player driving a taxi around a fictional city, picking up and dropping off passengers all while trying to beat the time limit.
It’s a fun pick up and play game, one you can put a few minutes into and feel like you’ve made progress. The graphics here are great too. The developer really captures the original look of those games while adding small little stories to the characters you pick up. They don't add much to the original gameplay, but in the case of Crazy Taxi, that's something I'm okay with.
4 Tiny Gladiators
This one gets a spot on the list because it is just plain old fun. You can tell the developers had a good time making this one from the cute art direction to the little details (like the slow motion video that is played when someone is defeated). The story here is simple, but told in a quick and funny way. During a gladiatorial match, your son is killed. You go on a quest to avenge your son. That’s about it and, honestly, that’s all you really need.
Gameplay here is pretty simple too. In a 2D fighting arena, the player faces off against a computer controlled opponent in a battle to the death. The controls are simple and work well and the game features a decent amount of challenge. There is an upgrade system that allows you to get bigger and better weapons and armor. There are also several character designs you can choose from and I chose one that looked suspiciously like everyone’s favorite Witcher.
BLUK is a difficult game to describe. Not so much in the sense that I don’t know how to describe it, but how to describe it in a way that shows how fun the game is. Well, I’ll give it my best shot.
BLUK is a very simple game. You angle a block, much in the same way that you would angle a bird in Angry Birds, to try to land on other blocks, going for streaks as long as you can without missing a block and falling into the abyss. I know it doesn’t sound very fun from that description, but, trust me, give this game a chance. The minimalistic graphics and soundtrack also make this an easy game to recommend.
2 DISTRAINT: Pocket Pixel Horror
You might laugh at the idea of a mobile game being scary. Come on, it's a mobile game after all.
If you are so brave, then please give DISTRAINT: Pocket Pixel Horror a try. You play as a man named Price who is tasked with seizing an old woman's house. As soon as he does, things start to get weird. The pixelated art gives this game a grimy and dirty feel which the developer uses to build tension. The music is also pretty terrifying. I don't want to give away much in terms of story, but DISTRAINT is a great example of storytelling, even in the seemingly limited format of mobile gaming, making it a game everyone should give a try.
1 The End Of The World
What a beautiful game this is. Part adventure game, part interactive story, The End of the World is a game I cannot recommend enough. The story is basically about a guy trying to get over the end of his relationship. While in the present, the world is filled with greys and blues, but as the clock is wound back through a nifty little mechanic, it suddenly becomes filled with reds, golds, and yellows, almost as if the developer is putting on rose-tinted glasses for the player.
The graphics are distinct and stunning, the writing is beautiful, and, by the end of the game, you feel like you’ve experienced something and not just interacted with it.