Okay, so you’ve got yourself an Android phone or tablet, the specs are great, it runs smoothly and the OS has all the features you need. You go to the app store to bag yourself a game and it’s a mess of cheap-looking tat. Why do your iPhone-owning friends seem to have all the games? Is there actually anything worth playing on Android devices? We’re here to answer those questions.
The prospect of developers making games for Google’s Android at first seems like a no-brainer, after all, according to a report from analyst IDC the operating system was found on three out of four smartphones shipped in Q3 2012. That’s a pretty hefty share of the market.
Why is it then, that iOS holds the mobile market share when it comes to gaming? Well there are a couple of pretty good reasons: piracy and big development costs (in contrast to iOS development) are a difficult combo.
Making a game for Android devices forces developers to optimize their product for a huge number of devices, each with different specs to contend with. Processing power, RAM and screen resolutions vary wildly device to device. Choose to develop for an iOS gadget, however, and you’re only catering to the specs of a handful of tightly-monitored closed devices. With this taken into account, it’s easy to see why developers have largely chosen to create iOS games.
Things are changing though, and with models such as the Samsung Galaxy SIII and Amazon’s Kindle Fire performing particularly well of late the market is gradually becoming a more worthwhile place to develop for. The more flagship Android devices we get, the more attractive developing for Android becomes.
More and more titles have been getting simultaneous releases for Android and iOS towards the latter part of this year, and companies are beginning to look through their back catalogues to see what can be ported to Google’s incredibly successful operating system. Good. Times.
Enough with the analysis anyways, let’s have a look at the games we think are the best of the bunch.
The Top 10
Creative Assembly are considered the daddies of real-time strategy by many and it’s no surprise; The Total War series have been seminal releases getting better and better as time goes by. While the mobile title mightn’t offer quite the level of tactical depth you’ll find in the major Total War titles it’s certainly worth a shot as RTS actually works pretty well on the go.
No list of great mobile games would be complete without a mention of Angry Birds. Yeah, everyone plays them and they mightn’t get you any cred with your more hardcore gamer friends but the various titles Rovio has put out in the Angry Birds series (Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons, Angry Birds Space, Angry Birds Rio, Angry Birds Star Wars…) are all so very playable. Frustrating, addictive, fun and incredibly rewarding at times (getting three stars feels so good) these games are undeniably good.
A 2004 port of a satirical RPG originally made for Windows that requires 3.5GB of your precious device space and 20-30 hours of your precious time. This title boasts laugh-out-loud dialogue, decent 3D graphics and great gameplay, and all set inside a pretty large world for a mobile game. Worth your time if you a: have a sense of humor or b: enjoy RPGs.
If you haven’t played this great indie game from 2D Boy yet then go out now and at the very least grab the demo as it’s one of the most playable, inventive casual games of the last few years. Gorgeous cartoon graphics with super smooth animation make this title really easy on the eye while the control system is a dream. Gameplay basically consists of building super wobbly towers with the aim of getting cutesy goo balls to a certain height. Sounds odd? Just give it a go, you’ll enjoy it I promise.
I’m guessing you’ve probably lost a good few days to this game already. If you’re about to experience Popcap’s greatest game for the first time then make sure you don’t have any plans for a good few hours. Tower defence at perhaps its most casual, but don’t let that put you off, there’s fun to be had here.
Probably my favourite adventure game of all time and a great addition to the Google Play store, Broken Sword has been updated with new puzzles, new dialogue and even new plot. If you missed it the first time round then this is a must, a great tale full of mystery, romance and suspense with a control system that works a treat.
This classic title was ported by Rockstar to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its release, and it’s aged surprisingly well. Still funny and still fun with a control system that’s shockingly good for a touch screen third person game. Rockstar has managed an impressive technological feat in its packing of this seminal open-world title into a mobile edition.
This fantastic tie-in to the Mass Effect series boasts gameplay similar gameplay to its bigger siblings. Well worth getting your hands on, especially for Mass Effect fans as this tells another great story in the Mass Effect universe.
Probably the scariest mobile game on the market, Dead Space is more or less a straight conversion of the console and PC third person survival horror in space. Boasting a great control system and graphics not to be sniffed at this is one of the most immersive games you’re likely to find on mobile.
This turn-based strategy game deserves every bit of credit thrown at it. With 50 single-player missions, local and online multiplayer and a skirmish mode you really can’t complain about bang for your buck. The game is brilliantly complex in its mechanics but very cleverly paced; new units are gradually introduced as you get further through the campaign as not to overwhelm the player. Well worth a look.
Beat Hazard Ultra –Awesome "twin stick" shooter that creates levels with your music. Great visuals.
Shadowgun – A very playable, great-looking third-person shooter.
Paper Monsters –Excellent, gorgeous platformer with great controls.
Organ Trail: Director’s Cut – A hilarious tribute to Oregon Trail with added zombies.
Game Dev Story –Attempt to earn a living as a games dev in this excellent sim.
Temple Run – Brilliant 3D endless runner.
Minecraft – Pocket Edition – Adaptation of Mojang’s incredibly successful voxel-based world-builder.
Oscura -Dark and pretty platformer with innovative controls.
McPixel - Off the wall WarioWare-like madness.
Penny Arcade's Rain-Slick 3 -A wonderful retro-themed RPG from the Penny Arcade guys that lovingly pokes fun at the genre.
GTA: Vice City – Okay, I’m kinda cheating with this one as it isn’t out yet, but it will be and very soon too. The GTA often considered the best by fans and critics (personally I’m a San Andreas man) is coming to mobile December 6th. Dy-no-mite!