More so than any other kind of games, mobile titles feel like they slot into our lives in a very specific way. For me, the mobile game I still play every day is Sirvo’s numbers-based puzzler Threes — especially after I found out that it really actually does have an end and doesn’t simply continue ad infinitum.
We’ve seen a lot of excellent games this year, whether it’s new expansions like Hearthstone’s addictive single-player campaign Kobolds and Catacombs or Loveshack Entertainment’s film noir comic book puzzler sequel Framed 2. Some titles, like Lyorah Studios’ The Girl Who Sold the World are interesting audio-only adventures; others like Shelly Alon’s Glitchskier are stylish retro-bullet hell fun. And I spent way too much time flinging potatoes into the sun in Jake Hollands’ minimalist Spaceplan.
A staggering number of mobile games are in the Apple App Store right now — a little over 796,000, according to Pocket Gamer. Here are five that I think you should check out on iOS or Android.
5. Monument Valley 2
Developer: Ustwo Games
Publisher: Ustwo Games
Ustwo Games’s Monument Valley is gorgeous, and its sequel doesn’t disappoint. Its colors are striking — rich violets and cloud-pale pinks that are truly visually spectacular. Its puzzles continue to bend space and defy physics, taking a perspective-skewing page from M.C. Escher’s brain-busting illustrations. They make you feel clever even though they’re not terribly difficult.
Monument Valley 2 isn’t anything notably different from the first game, but that doesn’t feel boring. Instead, it’s a memorable experience that asks you to again traverse a dreamscape that’s filled with impossible geometry and beauty.
Developer: Brett Taylor Interactive, My Dog Zorro
Publisher: My Dog Zorro
Linelight is a seamless and elegant puzzler with minimalist visuals that are reminiscent of circuit boards. Its mechanics are intuitive, and it never requires any kind of heavy onboarding. You simply zip along glowing paths, new challenges appearing before you out of the interstellar gloam.
With no story or real reason to what you’re doing, it’s an easy pick-up-and-play kind of experience. It’s meditative and relaxing, and you can quickly retry each puzzle if you fail the first time.
Developer: Ko-op Mode
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Platforms: iOS, PlayStation 4
Ko-op Mode’s Gnog is tactile and pulsating with neon lights, presenting each puzzle to you as a kind of virtual toy that you’ll have to spin and poke and prod to figure out. There aren’t any words, and it seems to delight in being cryptic.
Though Gnog is also available on the PlayStation 4, it’s ideal as a mobile experience. You can hunker down with your headphones and embark on a zany musical adventure, and being able to interact with the objects using touch feels natural and satisfying.
2. Reigns: Her Majesty
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Nerial’s Reigns was a revelation: a kingdom simulator that uses the swiping mechanism from dating apps like Tinder. Reigns: Her Majesty introduces new game elements, investigates new ideas and incorporates cheeky modern touches that are perfect on a mobile phone. And it still has that swiping mechanic that feels so natural when you’re playing a game on your iPhone or Android device.
What makes Her Majesty such a fantastic sequel is how different it feels from the first. It builds on Reigns’s core concept, but brings its own unique twist. It’s got tons of Easter eggs and secrets, it’s playful yet thoughtful, and its many endings, deaths, and events will keep you playing to discover them all.
1. Bury Me, My Love
Developer: The Pixel Hunt, Figs
Bury Me, My Love is a can’t-miss title. It’s an intimate game where you eavesdrop on the text conversations between Nour and Majd, a couple who’s separated by the Syrian Civil War. Nour sets off on a daring journey to safety in Europe, while Majd must stay behind in their hometown. Occasionally, you must help Majd advise Nour on what to do — whether she can afford to spend her precious funds on motion sickness pills, for instance, or if she should risk a shorter route or take a longer one.
The genius of the game is how real it feels. It mimics the interface of a chat app, lets you help Majd take selfies, and pings you with a notification when Nour sends you a new message. It’s a heartbreaking, addictive game that reflects the real stories of Syrian refugees who are fleeing death and danger. And because of the clever writing and mechanics, it doesn’t take long before you feel genuine worry for the characters, as though they’re really friends who are texting you.