Endless runner games like Super Mario Run and Crossy Road fit amazingly well into the five to 10 minutes of time killing that we get throughout the day. Sure, you could listen to music, watch a video,more
Endless runner games like Super Mario Run and Crossy Road fit amazingly well into the five to 10 minutes of time killing that we get throughout the day. Sure, you could listen to music, watch a video, check the news, text your peeps, or take a selfie -- but your phone and tablet can do much heavier lifting than that. However, the Apple App Store doesn't have a category just for this subgenre, so spotting the winners can be time-consuming and tedious. Luckily, we're here to save the day with the best runners like Subway Surfers that we can find, with a minimum of ads and in-app transactions.
While Subway Surfers does an over-the-shoulder camera in a 3D world, Alto's Adventure is a 2D side-scroller, but what it lacks in fancy tech it makes up for in minimalist polish -- and a softer sell on in-app transactions. In this game, you play a downhill skier who must collect llamas that have escaped from their pens. As you make your way down this endless snowy mountain, you'll need to dodge boulders, jump across gaps, grind some rails, and collect coins. If you can avoid obstacles for long enough, you'll pick up some serious speed, which helps with jumps and point scoring but also gives you less reaction time.
The game is free to play with optional ads, which you can remove permanently for $4.99, which also gives you a sizeable amount of in-game currency. You cannot buy the currency by itself, but you can pay $3.99 for a permanent in-game item that earns you a total of two coins for each coin that you collect. The coins can be used to buy upgrades that improve your jumps or double the number of coins you collect.
It's impossible to play Crossy Road without being reminded of Frogger, but the former stands on its own, thanks to some charming pixel art, immersive sound effects, and a gentle handling of in-app transactions. You'll start out with a chicken who squawks comically with every step, and there's a staggering number of other creatures to unlock, all of whom have their own set of sound effects and animations, and some of whom change the look of the level.
They're unlocked in a variety of ways; primarily, you'll earn coins by collecting them in-game, and 100 coins buys you a loot box that usually contains a new creature but sometimes has more coins. You'll periodically get offered a free loot box if you agree to watch a short video ad (30 seconds or less). These free boxes can contain "T" coins, which can be used to unlock a special set of characters. There are also daily challenges that can give you temporary access to creatures you don't have yet, which helps to keep things fresh. If you don't want to collect coins to unlock characters, you can buy a lot of them for 99 cents each. The game itself is free to play, so you have little to lose by downloading it and checking it out for yourself.
Flipping Legend is over-the-shoulder 3D like Subway Surfers, but instead of running straight down one of three lanes, you hop (flip) diagonally left and right. Also, knocking into bad guys is a good thing here -- in fact, you need a steady supply of them to keep your health meter up. Some enemies will hurl objects at you or chase you, though, so you have to be quick on your virtual feet. As you progress through your runs, your character will level up, which will give you points to spend on skill upgrades. You'll also collect coins, which you can use to unlock other characters, and each one has a special ability. The ninja, for example, can leap straight backwards periodically, which can let you hit some bad guys or treasure chests that you'd otherwise miss.
Flipping Legend is free to play, with in-app purchases and optional ads. You get a free loot chest periodically, which you can unlock by watching an ad; the chest may contain cosmetics, experience point boosts, or coins. You can pay $4 to remove ads completely, so you can skip them when opening the free chests. There's a set of characters with different abilities, but none of them can be purchased -- they must be unlocked by completing various challenges, or with in-game currency, which cannot be bought with real money. Overall, Flipping Legend does a good job of balancing commerce and content.
As its name implies, Super Mario Run is a runner game set in a 2D side-scrolling world with levels in the style of the classic Super Mario platformers of the '80s and '90s. And it's actually free to try. The full game has a $10 price tag, but you have no ads or other in-app transactions, and it's actually a great runner game in its own right; Mario's movement speed is slower than usual, benefiting people who don't have gamer reflexes; he'll automatically jump over low obstacles; every level has a series of checkpoints, so you're not reset to the beginning if you fail; and each level has an actual end, which can give you a greater sense of accomplishment than an endless runner, where success is measured only by distance.
As you progress through Super Mario Run, you'll collect coins and other currency that you can use to unlock more content. When you go to the in-game shop, it will tell you what resources you need to gather for each unlock. There aren't any real-money ways to buy resources, either -- you gotta earn it.
Temple Run 1 and 2 are some of the most imitated games on the App Store; you'd think that their developer Imangi had made dozens of these, judging by the names and artwork of their copycats, but only these two are official. It plays very similarly to Subway Surfers, but there are key differences: One, you'll frequently have to negotiate a hard 90-degree turn; two, instead of changing lanes, you lean left and right. (Temple Run's obstacle courses are narrower overall than the ones in Subway Surfers.) Leaning is usually necessary to collect coins, but it's primarily your tool to dodge obstacles that can't be jumped over.
Coins can be used to upgrade your character's abilities, like extending the duration of a shield or a coin magnet. You can also buy coins with real money and gems. Gems are used to unlock additional obstacle courses. You also get a free loot chest every four hours. These can contain gems and coins. Chests cannot be bought directly, but you can sometimes find them in an obstacle course.