Among other things, 2016 will forever be remembered as the year when Nintendo finally cast their lot towards mobile development (thus ending their decades long tradition of only ever creating games for their own platforms). Pokémon also finally came to the mobile scene as well — via Pokémon Go — but, despite what most people think, Nintendo didn’t actually have anything to do with Pikachu’s cell phone debut. Of course there were plenty of other stellar games — beyond Super Mario Run — that released on iPhones during 2016, and now we’re going to run through my personal top-ten picks.
Thankfully — if nothing else — absolutely none of these games should make you cry like an anime fan on prom night, which is a position reserved exclusively for Keiji Inafune’s massively disappointing Mighty No 9.
Numerous people have tried to make minimalistic Roguelikes for iOS, but very few of them ever succeed quite as much as Skipmore’s predominantly ad-supported 1-Bit Rogue (our review). From the same developer as Fairune (our review), this game has you taking control of a purely black-and-white protagonist — from one of various possible classes — as they strive to successfully descend through a randomly generated dungeon. Although the controls are extremely simple, players will frequently be faced with difficult decisions — should they wish to emerge victorious — as they deal with their rapidly decaying weaponry (coupled with the uncertainty of when they might find more).
Furthermore — should players not appreciate the game’s ultra-limited aesthetic — there’s also a 3-Bit Mode, unlocked after a one-time fee of $2.99 (which is amusingly labeled in-game as ‘Tip the Developer a Beer’). However, other than the game’s 3-Bit Mode — which I personally thought looked rather nice — there are no Coercive-IAPs to be found within 1-Bit Rogue whatsoever (a common trend in Skipmore’s releases). Rather than using IAPs to empower your chances, you’ll instead — via the gold you collect on each and every trip — slowly give your low-res heroes a permanent edge going forward.
Finally — if you do enjoy 1-Bit Rogue — then you really should check out Fairune as well, a brilliant retro action rpg that unfortunately never made our top-ten lists due to a late discovery.
Whereas 1-Bit Rogue succeeds beautifully at being an ultra-streamlined Roguelike experience, Butterscotch Shenanigan’s Crashlands (our review) seems quite content to take things in the exact opposite direction. While not exactly a game about things like Perma Death, Players must build/craft their way through a vast randomly generated world — as Flux Dabes — in order to eventually escape and complete their vital deliveries. Unfortunately, a rather cantankerous sort — known as Hewgodooko, the last of his kind — seems quite content to get in Flux’s way, and it’s quite likely she’ll save the entire universe by the time she’s finally found a way off this wretched backwater planet.
One would easily be forgiven for thinking a game of Crashland’s near infinite IAP unfettered complexity would only be attempted on the PC market, although you can certainly play Crashlands on your PC as well! In fact, one of my favorite features regarding Crashlands is that — should you have both versions — you’ll never need to halt your progress through this massive critter smacking resource gathering action rpg! Crashland’s save-file — which is always saved on Butterscotch Shenanigan’s sever — is fully compatible with both versions, meaning you can rapidly switch between the two versions as much as you like (and the PC version even includes controller support).
Those whom enjoy this stellar — and whimsical — experience should also consider checking out other releases by Butterscotch Shenanigans, such as Quadropus Rampage (our review), especially since their various games all unlock features in each-other.
PewDiePie’s Tuber Simulator
While simulator games — featuring celebrity endorsements — aren’t exactly a new thing on the mobile marketplace, PewDiePie’s Tuber Simulator (our review) certainly puts the others to shame with its combined quality and self awareness towards the covered topic. Born from PewDiePie’s own personal frustration with other games tackling the topic of YouTube Stars, Tuber Simulator features your goal to rise to Tuber Stardom via shamelessly copying every fad — fronting your non-existent cred — and grabbing eagles. This added self aware spark alone goes a long distance towards breathing more life into Tuber Simulator than you’d normally find, but the further fact that their app — although containing IAPs — isn’t aggressively coercing players certainly doesn’t hurt any either.
Odds are that you’ll enjoy this app, which allows online interactivity between iOS and Android, even if you aren’t yourself a fan of PewDiePie (which I most certainly wasn’t when I took the plunge). Beyond the aforementioned simulator mechanics of creating videos — leveling stats — and grabbing eagles (seriously), the true heart of Tuber Simulator lies in decor, which should appeal to fans of games like Animal Crossing. Every item you acquire (for the aforementioned purpose of making people believe you know what you’re talking about) can then be used — however you wish — to decorate your very own room, which can furthermore be seen by anyone on your in-game friends-list.
Yet the best part of all just might be that Outermind and Revelmode — the game’s developers — currently show no signs of giving up, meaning that PewDiePie’s Tuber Simulator is likely to become even better as time marches forward!
You’ve probably played a number of great mobile-based Endless Runner games before, and you’ve possibly even played quite a few Pinball Apps as well, but have you ever played a pseudo-merger of Pinball almost-meets Endless Runner? While not exactly randomized, and furthermore featuring an absolute endpoint, PinOut! (our review) is the neon-infused genre blender most of you likely never realized you’ve secretly-wanted. While the game controls pretty much the same as most other Pinball Apps, the big difference in PinOut! is that your goal is to climb — rather than simply avoid falling — all the way to this gargantuan pinball table’s zenith (thus proving yourself a true wizard).
Your primary nemesis in PinOut! will be the ever-draining clock, meaning there’s no time to dawdle in your ever-forward journey to that multi segmented table’s fabled top (and each segment even contains its own theme song, some that even have lyrics as well). While simply hitting the ball might be easy enough, the chief means of climbing this table — and something oft-dreaded even in real-life — are the plethora of ramps placed all around. As such — as players push their way up the neon-infused landscape — they’ll need to collect every last time giving power-up they can, as well as strive for success in the retro-inspired LED-style mini-games that occasionally pop-up.
Perhaps most amazing of all — for fans of Pinball Apps — is that PinOut! is being offered for absolutely free upfront, with the only offered IAP being a one-time $2.99 unlock that allows you to start from the furthest checkpoint reached (rather than just the beginning).
For those of you fretting anxiously in anticipation of Adult Swim’s next season of Rick and Morty, might I suggest — if you’ve not already done so — that you seriously consider spending some quality-time with Pocket Mortys (our review)? When the Council of Ricks confiscate Rick C-137’s portal-gun, he’ll have to set off on a dimension hopping — Morty gathering — adventure to get back what’s rightfully his property. Beyond merely being an obviously licensed clone of Pokémon, Pocket Mortys is — more importantly — an extremely well-made clone of Pokémon (and easily better than the curious Pokémon Go).
The app basically plays as a straight-faced clone of Pokémon all-the-way, except that — rather than collecting various elementally-themed monsters — players are instead grabbing bizarre Morty variants from across the multi-verse (such as: “Super Unicorn Morty”). Furthermore — keeping in line with the original ad’s promises — Pocket Mortys is absolutely not pay-to-win, with the game’s chief IAP Draw being to strive for random Mortys from the Blips and Chitz prize machine (but doing so won’t make things easier). Much like the original Pokémon before it, only vast amounts of grinding — and careful team selection — will ever see Rick C-137 through to the day when he finally gets his portal gun returned.
Even better is that, more than a year later, this amazing Pokémon clone is still receiving constant updates — adding things like new game-modes, and even more Mortys — to constantly improve this Rick-tastic experience!
Perhaps one of the greatest parts about iOS is how the mobile platform allows for developers to easily try seemingly endless off-beat ideas, which otherwise would’ve been quickly buried-and-forgotten over on Steam. In Redungeon (our review) players find themselves exploring an endless dungeon — for no apparent reason — making grid-based movements as they strive to avoid dangerous traps, as well as vicious enemies. Although this would — by itself — sound like the set-up for yet another me-too Roguelike, the catch this time around is that Nitrome’s offering also happens to be an Endless Runner too.
Now you might be wondering what actually classifies Redungeon as a true genre-blender, and not merely an otherwise normal top-down Endless Runner (which just happens to feature a dungeon aesthetic). That’s because in most Endless Runners the only thing tested is the player’s ability to rapid fire dodge the obstacles thrown at them, whereas Redungeon constantly provides players with decisions to quickly make. The end result quickly becomes rather addictive, leading players to feel as though they could finally go one step further — smashing their previous record — if they just played one more round.
Couple that with various unlockable heroes — each featuring wildly game changing perks — and you have an interesting genre-blender filled with infinite replayability, and furthermore not aggressively attacking players with IAPs either.
While clever remixes are certainly all well-and-good, sometimes — as evidenced by Cheetah Technology’s Rolling Sky (our review) — you really just need to be a powerful top-notch execution of something already tried. Perhaps — assuming you’re a long-time reader — you’ll remember how Neon Drive (our review) made our 2015 Top-10, yet were possibly turned off from Fraoula’s neon-infused eighties love letter due to its difficulty. While not exactly a cake walk itself — per se — Cheetah Technology’s challenge of sliding your neon ball back-and-forth through various pre-made obstacle courses, along the way possibly scooping up diamonds, certainly has an initially friendlier learning curve.
Even better is that this game — which can be rather addictive (even when your face is being virtually-destroyed) — is yet another app being offered for absolutely free, while furthermore containing no aggressive IAPs. Beyond letting players watch ads in order to get single use shields each run, one can’t truly buy their way to completion on this often nail-bitingly hard journey through musically tuned landscapes. Although players can pay to unlock later levels early — rather than by manually reaching them — those whom do will quickly learn this: if you weren’t ready for the lower stuff, the later stuff is harder.
Finally — like many other entries on this list — Cheetah Technology is currently hard-at-work providing Rolling Sky with tons of quality-packed updates, meaning — for the insanely skilled — this isn’t one game they’ll likely finish too soon.
Super Dangerous Dungeons
Those of you familiar with our thoughts on Jussi Simpanen — here’s a hint: they’re rather positive — shouldn’t be surprised in the least to see Super Dangerous Dungeons (our review) make this prestigious list, much like Tiny Dangerous Dungeons did previously. This time focusing on isolated single stage levels, rather than the Metroidvania-style interconnected experience seen in Timmy’s previous outing, Super Dangerous Dungeons challenges players to over 50 tricky stages (all filled with plenty of traps and obstacles). This tightly controlling platform-hopping masterpiece — which recreates Timmy’s original flash outing in the style of an SNES classic — features an impressive amount of variety, wherein none of the game’s fifty plus levels feels like mere rehashes.
Even more impressive is that this game — which is already being offered for free upfront — furthermore contains no aggressive IAPs whatsoever, instead merely giving players a single option to permanently abolish ads for just $1.99. Better yet is that Super Dangerous Dungeons, which was already great when it launched, has since been expanded with an extra desert-themed level set on top of everything else. This new area promises to contain challenges beyond anything else Timmy has ever witnessed, and — as such — should likely keep people busy for a while before they’re successfully explored.
Those whom enjoy this game certainly have plenty of other high quality Jussi Simpanen designed apps to further experience, and they should likely keep an eye out for the developer’s soon-upcoming Heart Star as well!
Super Mario Run
Although not necessarily the universally pleasing hit everyone was hoping for, Nintendo’s Super Mario Run (our review) — the first non-educational Mario title to appear outside a Nintendo platform since Hotel Mario — is certainly no slouch either. When Peach is kidnapped yet again, players are tasked — via an ultra simple single-tap control scheme — to command Mario across 24 stages in order to retrieve her, along the way grabbing the various colored coins. While rescuing Peach might be a simple enough task (which also unlocks her for play), players will soon discover just how deep Super Mario Run’s challenge-based rabbit hole goes when they try to collect all of those coins!
Which unfortunately leads us to the biggest over all problem with Super Mario Run: for casual players the game — unlike most other entries in the Mario series — is sadly over all-too-soon, whereas the fun instead keeps chugging ever-onwards for hardcore players. Although casual players might wish to avail themselves of the game’s Kingdom Builder feature, players won’t be able to make much progress with their Kingdoms without first unlocking content via the ultra-competitive online-based Rally Mode. While Super Mario Run recently received updates that slightly take the edge off Rally Mode’s sting, the fact still remains that most of Super Mario Run’s content isn’t exactly casual friendly.
That said — despite those facts — Super Mario Run is still a brilliant mobile offering from Nintendo, but — sadly — one where people would also admittedly do well to consider their past completionist tendencies before purchasing.
Tomb of the Mask
Most often the best mobile games are those which can deliver an intense experience — coupled with tight controls — all within a fairly brief span of time, and Happymagenta’s Tomb of the Mask (our review) certainly managed to deliver on all those points at once! In this game — featuring graphics reminiscent of the ZX Spectrum — players are tasked with climbing ever-upwards through an eternally randomized tomb, always striving to stay one step ahead of the perilous water filling in from below. The catch is that players may only control this action by commanding their gravity defying hero to jump in any of the cardinal directions, after which they’ll keep moving that way until they’ve hit a wall.
While this might initially seem simple enough, players will quickly find themselves facing maze-like segments — avoiding deadly spikes — and dealing with various traps and monsters. Even the coins — which players may use to permanently upgrade assorted attributes — sometimes can’t be trusted, with coin trails often tempting unobservant players directly towards their spike-laced demise. Still — as previously mentioned — despite the fact this intense action will often cause players to die rather quickly, Tomb of the Mask’s addictive nature means you’ll likely bounce back wanting yet another shot.
Although players are rather likely to find themselves enamored with Happymagenta’s Tomb of the Mask, we sadly can’t give the same whole hearted recommendation for the developer’s recent dungeon-crawling experience: Into the Dim (our review).