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Holy Kris Kringle! You just unrwapped an Nexus 9, an Nvidia Shield tablet, or some other kind of big-screen Android slate. You must now spend the rest of the day installing games.
We’ve gone into the Google Play store with the purpose of finding you games that will work great on your new tablet, and we’ve come back with 30 apps that you’re going to really like. And while many of the games on this list are “free,” most of these do offer in-app purchases for gear, cosmetic items, and more.
Let’s get right to it.
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Bad Piggies (Free)
Rovio makes more than just Angry Birds. Bad Piggies takes the villains from that company’s hit franchise and has them star in their own game about physics and engineering. Each stage gives you several obstacles to overcome, and you can only do that by building vehicles from a variety of odd parts. It’s a great time for people who like to tinker and see the immediate results of their most minor design changes.
Minecraft: Pocket Edition ($7)
Developer Mojang’s massively popular block-building game has you building fortresses, castles, and more while you explore a huge world filled with possibility. It’s a great way to spend time, and the tablet version works well because it’s comfortable to control with two thumbs as well as the larger screen.
Simple Rockets ($2)
One of the most interesting games on PC right now is Kerbal Space Program. It’s a simulated take on something like NASA, and Simple Rockets takes that concept and makes it work in two dimensions and on a touchscreen. It’s up to you to build your spacecraft and guide them into orbit and onto other worlds.
Simple Planes ($5)
Simple Planes takes the Simple Rockets concept and applies it to aircraft, only this version actually has you flying craft in three dimensions. All of the realistic physics and intricate design tools from the developers rocket-flying games work in this one as well.
Five Nights at Freddy’s ($3)
You wouldn’t think that horror games would work on a mobile operating system, but Five Nights at Freddy’s is absolutely terrifying. You play a security guard who must keep an eye on a Chuck E. Cheese’s-style restaurant over night. Naturally, the animatronic characters that star in Freddy’s main attraction come to life in the dark and try to kill you. The whole thing is very lo-fi with minimal animation, but Fine Nights at Freddy’s is all the scarier because of it.
Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 ($3)
Just a few months after Five Nights at Freddy’s, the developer released a sequel that built on the original. It’s just as scary while adding new enemies and capabilities.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath ($6)
In 2005, developer Oddworld Inhabitants released the last game in its Oddworld franchise. The shooter, subtitled Stranger’s Wrath, was critically acclaimed, but it didn’t really find an audience on Microsoft’s original Xbox console. Now, you have another chance to try out one of the most inventive shooter games from the last decade.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown ($13)
Tablets are a fantastic platform for strategy games, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a great example of that. The turn-based skirmish simulator pits your band of highly trained alien killers against an invading force of extraterrestrials. You must use cover, clever tactics, and your special abilities to come out of every fight — and when you lose a character, there’s no bringing them back.
Civilization: Revolution 2 ($15)
Civilization: Revolution 2 is another example a beloved strategy franchise making the move from PC or console to tablet. Just like in Civ proper, Revolution 2 has you guiding a clan of people from the beginning of recorded history through all epochs of humanity and into the future. All the while, you must gather resources and fight off competing nations. It’s one of those games that you need to peel yourself away from to get some sleep, and now you can even play it in bed as well.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City ($5)
Action games don’t always make sense on touchscreen devices, but developer Rockstar Games did a fine job of making its Grand Theft Auto games work. And that makes it worth going back and rediscovering a classic like Vice City. In a fictionalized Miami in the 1980s, you can rock your Don Johnson look while getting into the intricate story or just while you waste some time messing around in the city itself.
The Room 2 ($1)
One of the advantages of a having a big-screen device is that you do not need to squint to make out details. That’s important for something like The Room 2, which is overflowing with tiny little things that you need to notice to advance. This puzzle game has you trying to unlock a box that is covered in dozens of brainteasers. To unlock the mystery of the box, you’ll need to crack all of its mind-bending puzzles.
Android isn’t running short on physics-based games like Angry Birds, but Super Stickman Golf 2 might have them all beat. The 2D side-perspective golf game has players trying to whack their way through difficult courses with skill and the wise use of powerups.
SimCity BuildIt (Free)
SimCity is one of EA’s bigger franchises, but it’s had a rough few years thanks to the most recent PC release fizzling out with fans due to certain design choices and online issues. But the publisher isn’t going to let SimCity die out without giving it another shot. SimCity BuildIt is a free-to-play version of the game. You design and manage your metropolis from the ground up, and you must deal with the ramifications of growing urban area.
Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP ($5)
Superbrothers is a stylish adventure game with beautiful music and amazing pixel art. Armed with a sword, you must explore a mystical world and do battle with enemies. You’ll also come across puzzles that will require you to use your “sworcery.” If you’re looking for something different, this is probably it.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out (Free)
This is all about giving you god-like control over The Simpsons‘ hometown of Springfield. You must build up and design the town to your liking. You can build schools, bars, and theme parks like Krustyland. Your goal is to complete task to earn donuts. You can also help reunite Homer with the rest of his friends, family, and Ned Flanders.
Hitman Go ($1)
This is one of the more interesting releases for this year. Hitman Go has you taking on the role of an assassin who must take out his targets. Except unlike the console versions of the Hitman games, you play on a board game-like field. The gameplay is turn-based, and every time you move your characters, everyone else gets to move as well. The idea is to find the best route to take out the targets without getting caught, and it’s a concept that works really well on something like a tablet.
Leo’s Fortune ($1)
In Leo’s Fortune, you guide the titular Leopold on his quest to reclaim his fortune from the thief that stole it. To accomplish that, you use the abilities of Leo, who is round ball of fluff. These include bouncing to jump over obstacles as well puffing up to float over wide gaps. This is one good-looking game, and its beautiful visuals translate well to the large screen of a tablet.
Nutty Fluffies Rollercoaster (Free)
The developer responsible for the Trials games on console brought its expertise in physics to mobile with this theme-park game. In Nutty Fluffies Rollercoaster, you must take to the tracks of massive rides with the goal of collecting hearts. To do that, you use the touch controls to get enough speed to get air and leave the rails. It’s very basic, but it’s also very fun.
Castle Doombad ($3)
It’s time to play as the bad guy. Publisher Adult Swim Games is giving us that chance with Castle Doombad. You play as an evil scientist who must protect his castle lair from heroes that are trying to rescue the princess you’ve kidnapped. Don’t worry. You have a good reason for kidnapping her since her screams power your castle.
Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time (Free)
Human history has plenty of amazing rivalries. Michigan and Ohio State. Ali and Fraizer. Plants and zombies. Thankfully, developer PopCap is still making games to help us understand the battle between vegetation and the walking dead. In Plants vs. Zombies 2, you must grow a garden of sentient plants that all have abilities to help fight off waves of the undead.
Words With Friends (Free)
It’s Scrabble, but it’s online. That’s the basic description for Words With Friends. But the online part is really important. This vocabulary game is one of the better multiplayer games for portable devices since it’s so easy to start games with your friends and the asynchronous play means you can take your turn whenever you have a spare moment.
Pocket League Story 2 (Free)
Pocket League Story 2 is a team-managmenet simulator from developer Kairosoft. As the manager, it’s up to you to find players and coaches to make your team the best it can possibly be. You’ll decide the tactics and formations that will help your club rise from a small, local league all the way to international play.
Retry is one of the toughest and most satisfying new mobile games of 2014. It’s from one of the new teams at Angry Birds publisher Rovio. You fly a plane that is only capable of going in loops. It’s up to you to figure out how to guide the erratic plane through narrow courses that require finesse to finish.
Peggle Blast (Free)
Peggle is all about finding the order in chaos. You fire a ball into a field of pegs to make them disappear, and it’s difficult to predict where the ball will bounce and how everything will react. But Peggle’s accurate physics reward players for having patience and trying to find the best shot, and that’s more important than ever in Peggle Blast.
Ascension is a physical card game that is now available digitally on Google Play. Instead of collecting cards and building your own custom deck that you use for every game, Ascension is a deck-building game where you start from scratch and select from a common pool at the start of each match. This creates interesting battles every time, and online play means that you’ll have an easier time finding partners to play with.
Plague Inc. (Free)
In Plague Inc., your goal is to design a super-disease that will wipe out everyone on the planet. It sounds dark, but the game is so well thought-out that you’re not really thinking about the dark implications most of the time. Plague Inc. gives you options to evolve your virus or bacteria, and it’s up to you to figure out the best balance between how fatal your disease is and how contagious it is. This is one of the most interesting strategy games of the last few years, and you should totally spend Christmas Day giving it a try.
A tablet is the kind of thing that you can carry with you everywhere, and that’s why a game like SolForge makes so much sense on those kinds of devices. SolForge is a collectible card game where you put together your deck to take on other human opponents or computer-controlled characters. It’s still in beta, but that won’t stop you from spending hours collecting cards and deck-building. SolForge has a unique conceit that sets it apart from Hearthstone or other games — your cards level up as you go, adding a new strategic layer to how you play.
Smash Hit (Free)
I believe it was the poet Fred Durst who first said that “if my day keeps going this way, I just might break something tonight.” Well, it’s too bad that Limp Bizkit wasn’t aware of the game Smash Hit, which is all about breaking windows. In this game, you glide through a world filled with windows that you must break by tossing out steel balls as you fly by. It requires you to have good aim and an appreciation for the sound of breaking glass.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Free)
One of the best games of 2014 isn’t some action blockbuster or first-person shooter — it’s the collectible card game Hearthstone. Publisher Blizzard’s card battler is all about putting together interesting decks and fighting against other real people online. Since this game isn’t an adaptation of something physical, it is overflowing with cards that have strange capabilities — like spawning new cards from out of nowhere. With matches between 5 to 10 minutes and intuitive touch controls, Hearthstone is one of those apps that you can spend hours with or a 15-minute break with.
Pinball Arcade (Free)
The ear of the physical pinball arcade is over, but developer Farsight Studios is trying to rescue it digitally. Pinball Arcade collects and emulates several dozen real-world pinball tables. That includes beloved classics like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Twilight Zone, and Bride of Pin-Bot. You can try every table for free, and then you can buy them individually or in bundles if you want to unlock them for unlimited play. This is one game where a tablet is the ideal platform since you need the larger screen and you want to hover right over the playfield just like you would if you were playing for real.
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