As the reader of a site that celebrates the entrepreneuring eccentrics and the technologically deviant, you know this list won’t have your usual suspects like the frustratingly repetitive Angry Birds, a generic racer like Asphalt or any of those simply awful movie based games! And don’t take the “free” label as a gospel truth since most games these days implement in-app purchases (IAP).
Alright, let’s talk games! Parents say it is destroying future citizens while Tabloid publications alternatively hail its reflex improving qualities one week and agree with parents the next! The glorious history and cultural impact of video games is a topic for another article, but the shift in perception of mobile gaming has certainly been surprising. I used be one of those purists for whom playing games on an under-powered gizmo with a smallish screen and lack of physical controls used to be an abomination. But now, we have smartphones with graphical prowess that match previous generation consoles; screen size has become embarrassingly abundant; and game designers have made a compelling case out of touchscreens with intriguing premise and ingenious gameplay that works better with taps and swipes than button mashes and keyboard combos.
From 2D side-scrollers and intelligent puzzlers to high detail 3D shooters and adrenaline pumping racers, there’s a glut of games to cover! Commencing countdown…
#1. Sector Strike – Space Invaders Redux
I used to play Space Invaders for hours at the local arcade machine and later on in this article you’ll learn how to play such retro classics on your mobile device but those of you who prefer anti-aliased polygons over naked, outlined pixels, Sector Strike has all the right ingredients to rekindle your space saving fantasies.
- Awesome weapons and colorful explosions
- Treacherous level design to stress test your flying skills
- Epic boss battles
- Old-school soundtrack from Boneyard Audio
- Paid upgrades doesn’t affect your chances much (yay!)
#2. The Walking Dead – Game of Cutscenes
You won’t find Rick, Shane or Carl from the popular TV show but the game is every bit as entertaining. Based on the comic book by Robert Kirkman, it proves that immersive gameplay doesn’t need complicated controls. The Walking Dead is a point-and-click adventure game that plays out like an interactive TV show with seasons and episodes and the choices you make alters how the game progresses so there’s a lot of replay potential. Two seasons are out each with 5 episodes (first one is free).
#3. World of Goo (Demo) – More to it than Goo!
A puzzle game that tests your civil engineering skills and has a good enough plot – now that’s a productive waste of time! Use the slimy, adorable goo balls (but don’t use too many!) to build towers and bridges and reach the pipes laid by the mysterious World of Goo Corporation. The free version gets you the first chapter with 12 levels and after a one-time purchase you get the whole game without any pesky IAPs.
#4. BADLAND – A Bird Game
Well, it’s more like a bat or rather a dark indestructible fluff ball with wings! You have to fly this thing around, clearing obstacles (don’t get stuck!) in a beautifully designed side-scrolling world as you unravel the why of this game. It has both single and multiplayer modes.
#5. Cut the Rope – Never Gets Old
Doesn’t Om Nom remind you of Stitch from Lilo & Stitch? It’s alien, has a big mouth (literally) and talks in adorable gibberish! Three sequels and many updates later, the game still remains great fun. The puzzles are fresh and the IAPs are thankfully optional. Watch out for the Ads though, it’s the price of freedom!
#6. Bad Piggies – Leonardo da Piggy
Now you know why the birds are so angry! The green pigs from the mega popular Angry Birds franchise are having some serious fun on this physics-heavy puzzler where you get to create some really awesome machines – from soda powered multi-wheelers with springs to crazy flying thingamajig! Best part is the lack of ads or forced IAP but on really tricky levels–and there are lots–you can purchase help…if you are a wuss!
#7. Turbo FAST – Wait, Snail Racing?
I know I said no movie based games but this one’s different; just don’t mind the weird name! If you have played the awesome (and difficult) Trackmania Nations on PC, this would seem like a familiar and more accessible version of it. The tracks get pretty crazy and the seemingly simple controls becomes challenging and a lot of fun as you progress.
#8. Shadow Fight 2 – Finish Him!
Classic fighting games like Tekken and Mortal Kombat were a button mashers’ wet dream. Most of the time you didn’t realize what triggered that special power but it looked so awesome (and gory) that you didn’t complain! My point is that accuracy of controls is secondary in fighting games; there has to be some control rigging for smooth character animation. It all boils down to your reflexes – when to block and when to strike. Shadow Fight gets it mostly right if you look past the IAP niggles where you have to pay for upgrades to win harder fights.
#9. Plants vs. Zombies – Deep Rooted Defense
I have never been a fan of strategy games: the top-down look makes me nauseous! Plants vs. Zombies is a more accessible RTS with the objective of stopping the undead from intruding your home by enlisting super-plants to take them out! Ah, the unhinged creativity of games! The standard drill of paid upgrades applies but with little elbow grease, you can play through the entire game without paying anything.
#10. Swing Copters – Used to be a Bird Game
If you haven’t heard of Flappy Bird then you’ve got to watch this video that aptly describes the fragile state of mind that results from prolong exposure to the game! It was so popular in early 2014 that it’s creator was earning $50,000 per day from ads before the solo developer from Vietnam got overwhelmed and ceased development. Long story short, he came back and created a new game that keeps the retro visual design and adds minor tweaks to the gameplay which stays just as hard and addictive. You will most probably hate me for introducing you to this game!
So there you go, we listed the 10 (mostly) free games that you should play as a mobile gamer looking for fresh ways to improve hand-eye co-ordination (wink). I have intentionally left out popular 3D shooters like N.O.V.A and Dead Trigger because I think directly porting PC-style gameplay over to touchscreen is a tacky approach. You have to move with a virtual joystick on one side of the screen, modify your view and aim with your other thumb, and fire using a virtual button on the same side of the screen. It works, but it’ll never feel comfortable…except when you are playing retro games that works more because of the nostalgia factor than anything else.
Desktop classics like GTA: Sans Andreas and Portal have officially made it to the Play Store (thanks to Moore’s law) but they cost money and have strict hardware requirements. If playing old games for free is your thing, then use emulators you must young Padawan! Using emulators and a game ROM that you can easily find (don’t ask where), you can play those nostalgic 8-bit 2D games like Mario, Contra, Donkey Kong, Bomberman…
Start by installing an all-in-one emulator like Retro Arch or MAME4droid and then try out dedicated ones like MyGBA for Nintendo Game Boy or PPSSPP for Sony Playstation Portable games. A bluetooth gamepad is recommended but honestly, if you are that much into playing ported/emulated games, get the proper gear.
Before wrapping up, let me rundown some other cool games. Lumosity claims to be a brain trainer – find out for yourself if it works! Blindscape does a free spin on the popular iOS game Papa Sangre, where the entire gameplay is based on binaural audio; there are no visuals and headphones are required. And finally, Monument Valley – it is a paid puzzler and I haven’t had so much fun in a long time. Enough said!
Game on, Dopers!