Mobile games are a $50 billion dollar industry with over 2.1 billion players worldwide, and both those numbers are growing every single year. How do you serve a market that huge? Lots and lots of games.It wasn’t easy picking the best mobile games of all time. With over 500 new games submitted to the App Store daily and a fantastic backlog of hard-earned classics and hidden gems already out there, that’s a whole lot to wade through.
For the purposes of our Top 4, we decided to focus on the most original and creative experiences possible on mobile devices. While there are notable exceptions, we generally leaned away from games based on existing IPs and we tried to keep it to games that originally launched on mobile. That’s partially why PUBG and Fortnite are missing – while both are undeniably massive games, we don’t think mobile is the best way to play either.
Threes is a near-flawless puzzler. It’s easy to pick up: all you need to know how to do is swipe in four directions and pair numbers. Bright ones and twos come together to make three, and from there, increasingly high multiples of three, as you work to clear the ever-crowding grid of tiles. A pleasing combo of charming visuals, satisfying sounds, and friendly accessibility makes it a joy to play casually. But its simple numbers-matching mechanic stretches far, making more strategic, long-term games a compelling possibility for even the most hardcore puzzle fans. But whether you’re coming at it as a fun way to pass the time or to boost your personal high score, Threes will have you promising yourself “just one more game” like no other.
It’s hard to beat Minecraft’s legacy no matter what platform it ports to. For so much of its younger playerbase, mobile is increasingly the way to play when it comes to Mojang’s highly successful block-based sandbox adventure game. Pocket Edition was the noble first-step towards bringing the open-ended creativity to phones and tablets. Sandbox-focused and with smaller maps, Pocket Edition brought the joy of Minecraft to phones, albeit simplified for smaller screens. But with the Better Together Update consolidating all versions into one and adding cross-platform multiplayer, Minecraft is better than it’s ever been on the go.
You wouldn’t expect to call a puzzle game chill, but Monument Valley is just that. A serene series of perspective puzzles you have to navigate through, Ustwo Games’ puzzler is never overtly challenging. It instead is so much more about the process of discovery, of watching its world come together and break apart, than it is throwing obtuse or tough scenarios at you. Its series of MC Escher-esque puzzles only make one demand of you — rethinking how you look at its world. And taking that moment to reconsider things leads to a consistently calming, beautiful experience.
Pokémon GO is a rare good example of a huge franchise coming to mobile with a game perfectly suited to the platform. Inserting the exploration of Pokémon into a real world, mobile-driven setting brought a light, accessible version of the elements that make the main series great. With the addition of AR and constant waves of new updates and features, it’s no surprise it became a global phenomenon and continues to thrive.