There's a lot more to mobile games these days than Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. Processing power gets cheaper every year, and now most of us have access to a wide variety of alternatives. If you'remore
There's a lot more to mobile games these days than Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. Processing power gets cheaper every year, and now most of us have access to a wide variety of alternatives. If you're tired of Candy Crush, Million Onion Hotel feels similar but has some refreshingly weird quirks -- and you don't need any in-app purchases. If you prefer something more chill, Thimbleweed Park is a throwback point-and-click adventure game made by some pioneers of the genre. We've selected these games and others as our best of the year, and they're now just a few taps away from running on your favorite Android phone or tablet.
From 's hi-fidelity visuals, music, and sound, to the lite RPG system of upgrades and loot, you can have a lot of fun for the $5 entry fee. Cat Quest takes you on a top-down adventure through an open world to find your kidnapped sister. Along the way, you'll crawl through dungeons, open treasure chests, equip your character with weapons and armor, unlock abilities, and enjoy (or endure) a constant stream of cat-related puns. Cat Quest has no ads or in-app purchases.
In this charmingly retro top-down RPG, your job is simply to explore the underground, bash skeletons and other nasties, drink mystery potions, loot treasure chests, and avoid dying.
Along the way, you'll collect experience points, gold coins, and crystals, all of which you can use to give your guy permanent and temporary upgrades. A lot of these upgrades are available only from blueprints, which you'll discover during the course of your adventure.
Caves is polished, replayable -- and free. You can buy in-game currency, but it's not necessary to avoid grinding. The game also has a few discreet ads on menu screens and after your character dies, but you can eliminate them permanently for $5.
Unfortunately, Caves isn't available for iOS users, but they can get a similar game called Cavern for $3.
This endless runner vaults above the rest with an intuitive diagonal movement style, RPG-like upgrade system, charming retro aesthetics, and mild microtransactions. You tap on the left-hand side of the screen to hop diagonally left, and tap on the right to hop diagonally right. But you can't wait very long to consider your options, because your health is constantly draining, which you can only fix by flipping onto bad guys or the occasional heart.
You start with three different classes to choose from, then there are five more to unlock by completing a variety of challenges. As you progress through the game, you'll unlock portals that give you shortcuts to more distant areas of the game, and daily challenges can keep things fresh.
Flipping Legend is free with ads, which you can pay $4 to remove; you can also pay $1 to $3 to unlock different numbers of loot chests, whose contents are character outfits (which are only cosmetic), in-game currency, and temporary experience point multipliers. You also get a free chest every six minutes, and you can sometimes acquire them in the game world. Real money is not required to unlock the characters, themselves, and the in-app transactions are low-pressure.
Match-3 games are practically their own genre at this point, but Million Onion Hotel offers a neat twist by combining Match-3 with whack-a-mole. Onions pop out of the ground periodically, and you want to whack them in a way that creates a line across the grid. The game highly rewards you for creating lines that intersect each other. But this takes more time to set up, and you're playing against a timer -- and the only way to get more time is to whack lines of onions.
This creates a tense but fun waiting game, which is layered by other things popping out of the ground (or landing on it) that you must deal with. Heck, there are even boss fights. The other major appeal of Million Onion Hotel is its whimsical presentation, with lively pixel art, jazzy music, and silly voices that respond to your actions.
Million Onion is $4, with no ads or in-app transactions.
If you've ever wanted to wander through an M. C. Escher optical illusion, this may be the closest you ever get, short of VR. Like FEZ, the game is presented in two dimensions, but you'll make liberal use of rotating and sliding on multiple axises to change your angle of view and find puzzle solutions. The sequel expands on the original by adding a second character whom you indirectly control, leading to some types of puzzles that we didn't encounter in the first game. The elegantly minimalistic visual design also gets a few subtle upgrades, and there's a new, lush soundtrack that reacts to your character's movements.
Monument Valley 2 is $5, with no ads or in-app transactions. You don't need to play the previous game to enjoy this one, but we recommend checking it out.
This retro Zelda-like adventure game has the quality and quantity that you would expect to pay for, but Stranger Things is free and has no ads. Instead, it's polished promotional material bankrolled by Netflix. In this game, you'll start out playing the town sheriff Jim Hopper; he has to scour the town looking for the kids, who've gone missing.
As you find them, you'll get the option to switch to them as playable characters, giving you access to new abilities and previously inaccessible areas of the game world. And you'll have to work your way through a variety of bad guys and puzzles, both of which may require some creative thinking to defeat.
While the show may not be appropriate for little kids, the game, itself, isn't scary or gory. It would be right at home on a Nintendo console from the '80s or '90s.
If you ever played Monkey Island or Maniac Mansion, you'll understand what kind of game this is. And the resemblance isn't just cosmetic -- Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, and David Fox actually made Thimbleweed Park, instead of just influencing it. This classic adventure game, a time warp right into the late '80s or early '90s, gives you a set of commands like "Open, "Close," and "Talk to;"an inventory you sometimes have to experiment wit;, puzzles to figure out; and a world to wander in at your own pace. The story and tone take inspiration from "The X-Files" while satirizing "Twin Peaks," but the more we say, the less you'll discover on your own.
It's not cheap at $10 -- but like The Witness, you're getting the full experience of the desktop and console versions, with dozens of hours of play if you fully explore the environment, and no in-app transactions, loot boxes, or ads. If you miss LucasArts games like Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, and Day of the Tentacle, Thimbleweed Park feels like an unexpected new chapter in that story.
The Witness is a puzzle game that hearkens back to Myst -- you're on an eerily quiet island dotted with mysterious mechanisms and obscure traces of a science experiment gone wrong. Can you unravel the mystery of what happened, who you are, and how to get back to civilization? The puzzle metaphor is far more straightforward than Myst -- it's always a grid that you must navigate from one end to the other -- but the game will gradually introduce more complex layers to the puzzle, and more complex ways to perceive the puzzle itself.
It costs $10, which is relatively expensive for a mobile game. But again, you get the full experience from the PC and consoles, ported over to a mobile platform, with no ads or in-app transactions. It's also one of the best-looking games on the platform -- not necessarily in terms of visual complexity, but definitely in art design.