Android games and apps for gamers

It’s pretty old at this point, the notion that iOS has all of the games while Android’s Play Store (recently changed from the Market) wallows in a ghetto. No one denies that Apple’s app ecosystem is more robust in its offerings, but that fact alone doesn’t really matter to people who only have an Android device. It’s pointless to tell someone with the Galaxy Nexus, Android’s latest flagship handset, that the iPhone 4S has Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, and the Nexus doesn’t. That’s about as helpful as teasing a diabetic about the best donuts at Krispy Kreme. Not that owning an Android should be compared to losing the ability to process sugar….

Google’s mobile platform has a lot to offer people who love games. Pinball Arcade and Angry Birds Space are great, but the operating system also has excellent supplemental apps for game-distribution service Steam, rental program GameFly, and news. So no more teasing, just straightforward advice to help everyone squeeze the most out of their Android phones or tablets:

10 must-have Android games:

Let’s start here. After installing Facebook and Twitter, a lot of people are going to look into downloading something fun. Well here’s 10 of them to get you started.

Scramble with Friends for Android10. Scramble with Friends

This is Zynga’s take on the classic word game Boggle. The company applied its own Words with Friends treatment to create another excellent asynchronous multiplayer experience. Only unlike that Scrabble-clone, Scramble doesn’t suffer from an epidemic of cheaters. Special moves that freeze the clock or twist the playing field help maintain parity between differently skilled players. Scramble with Friends is available for free or an ad-free version for $.99. (download)

9. ChuChu Rocket!

The old Sega Dreamcast puzzler lives on with touch controls. Direct your mice to their rocket ships (it makes less sense today then it did then) by placing arrow markers on the map with a swipe of your finger. Setting up a perfectly arranged path of arrows and watching the level unfurl exactly as predicted is always satisfying. It has all the content it did back then with hundreds of different levels and several modes. ChuChu Rocket! is available for $.99. (download)

8. Triple Town

This addictive spin on the match-three puzzle game slows things down to a more strategic pace. Instead of manipulating pieces falling from the sky, the player can choose what to introduce onto the field on a turn-by-turn basis. Oh, and it has dead bears that turn into churches. Can’t argue with that science. Triple Town is available for free. (download)

7. Zookeeper DX

Bejeweled clones are plentiful, so choosing between them comes down to taste. For me, the colorful Zookeeper DX is tops. It has two different modes designed around combining three monkeys or hippos or pandas, and yes, it’s as adorable as it sounds. Zookeeper DX is available for $.99. (download)

6. Epic Astro Story

Developer Kairosoft has made a fortune developing its Story lineup of games, but Epic Astro Story is one of its best. It’s a game all about colonizing space with characters like James Turk and Jean Vicard. It probably could have earned this spot simply with its Star Trek references, but this digital crack will eat up two days of your life and make it feel like five minutes. Epic Astro Story is available in a Lite version for free while the full version is $4.99. (download)

Epic Astro Story Android

5. World of Goo

This indie-gaming favorite has gotten around. Developer 2D Boy has released a version of its weird bridge-building simulator for PC, Mac, Wii, iOS, and now Android. The structure-building mechanics work beautifully with the touch-screen controls, and the gorgeous visuals didn’t lose a pixel in the translation to the smaller screen. It’s also one of those titles that is best experienced with headphones thanks to the exquisite soundtrack. A World of Goo demo is available for free while the full version will run you $4.99. (download)

4. Temple Run

Temple Run adds some complexity to the endless-running style of game (think Canabalt) while maintaining a simple control mechanic. Instead of tapping, players swipe left or right to turn, up to jump, and down to slide. The game also utilizes the gyroscope so that players can swerve while running and collect coins. Plus it gets really intense thanks to the gang of apes chasing you to the beats of ceaselessly thumping drums. Temple Run is available for free. (download)

Pinball Arcade for Android3. Peggle

The hit pachinko knockoff from PopCap is fun and easy to play, which makes it perfect for your phone. Shooting a tiny ball into a sea of pegs and watching it bounce around is satisfying. Although, everyone who’s played it knows that few things are as exhilarating as hitting the 100,000 point bonus at the end of each stage while Ode to Joy plays you off. Peggle is available for $2.99. (download)

2. Pinball Arcade

Farsight Studios combined accurate real-world physics with officially licensed pinball machines to create a worthy collection of digital tables. This package is filled with machines that you probably only vaguely remember from smoke-filled bars in the ’90s. Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Ye Olde Medieval Madness, and Theater of Magic are just some of playable licensed games in Pinball Arcade. Of course, who cares about pinball if you can’t brag about your high score to friends? Wisely, the leaderboard is tied to your Facebook account, so you can keep tabs on your friends who’re playing on iOS or Xbox Live Arcade as well. Pinball Arcade is available for free. The first pack of four tables costs $9.99 while the second, which comes with two tables, costs $4.99. Alternatively, each table can be purchased individually for $2.99. (download)

1. Plants vs. Zombies

PopCap’s tower-defense game teaches an important skill: gardening in the face of the zombie apocalypse. Players must utilize a variety of offensive and defensive plants in the course of fighting off wave after wave of zombies. It’s a ridiculous premise but a charming one. And when a game is this much fun, it can be about whatever it wants. The PC controls have obviously translated well to the touch screen, and the game just got an update with some bonus content. (download)

Streaming PC games to your Android with OnLive

Peggle on a phone is cute, but what if you could play current-generation hits like Rockstar’s L.A. Noire or THQ’s Darksiders with no loss in graphical quality? OnLive is the service that streams full-featured games to less-powerful hardware using a similar technology to Netflix. It works well most of the time, although latency can sometimes dampen the experience.