Mobile games aren’t limited to addictive puzzlers like Candy Crush and Angry Birds. Developers are putting more time and thought into these games as devices become better suited to handle them. As of this writing, flagship Android tablets and the iPad are easily able to handle games that originally shipped for the Xbox and Playstation 2, and some of that console generation’s best are available as downloadable apps. Others are unique to the platform, and serve as solid foundations for new franchises. Here are a few of the best.
The Dark Meadow: Pact
A mixture of horror and mystery, The Dark Meadows is a visually stunning game with a deep story and innovative combat controls. A mysterious voice for an intercom guides players through a run-down hospital, and it’s not long before they are furiously swiping at hideous monsters while trying to figure out what’s going on and why they’re there. Developer Phosphor Games borrows the control scheme from its other console-quality title, Horn, and it works well on mobile devices. Combat is simple, as attacks are swipe based while blocking and dodging are relegated to onscreen buttons. Dark Meadows does not support controllers, but a system like this works great on the touchscreen.
Where Dark Meadow excels is its witty dialogue and stunning visuals. The voice acting is brilliant and the dialogue is both surprisingly funny considering the setting. It’s also immersive, more so than most other mobile games. The visuals make exploration as much fun as combat, and it’s evident developers put a lot of time into the shadow detail, making the constant threat of a sudden monster strike surprisingly tense.
Need for Speed No Limits
Need for Speed No Limits is a successful console racing franchise that translates well to mobile devices. There’s not much story here, just a narrative to deliver an increasingly-difficult AI and incremental car upgrades. It’s simple, but Need for Speed’s longevity across multiple console generations speaks to its success
Racing controls are also simple, and this is another title that does not feature controller support. Acceleration is automatic, while screen taps become turns. Winning the race is the primary goal, but police add a wrinkle as they look to take down any unlawful speeders.
While the Need for Speed visuals won’t win any awards, it still has some solid landscapes and details that keep things fresh. Overall, the racing and tone are true to the console versions, and the similarity will please fans of the series.
Assassin’s Creed: Pirates
Many Assassin’s Creed fans agree that Black Flag is one of the best in the series. So they’ll be pleased to find the mobile spinoff offers some of the same gameplay. However, this title eschews the series stealth and assassinations for life on the sea, attacking other ships to for loot and upgrades, similar to the Black Flag mini game, Kenway’s Fleet.
Through fingerswipes and taps, players aim and shoot cannons, as well as dodge enemy attacks. External controllers are not supported, and that’s ok. Combat is fun and balanced as the game progresses. There are also mini games to keep players busy in between battles, and plenty of free roaming.
The Caribbean setting looks great, and it more than makes up for the clichéd dialogue and narrative that follows a pirate up through the buccaneer ranks.
N.O.V.A. 3: Freedom Edition
Developer Gameloft specializes in mobile clones of popular franchises, and produces some great games as a result. N.O.V.A is Gameloft’s answer to Halo, and it’s much more than just a ripoff. It’s a very well made series of first-person shooters that all stand on their own merits.The third in the franchise finds the super-soldier hero Kal Wardin searching for artifacts on the deserted planet Earth.
Shooters are always a bit tricky on mobile as running, looking around and shooting are tough to work into a touchscreen control scheme. N.O.V.A. handles this better than most other games, but players will wish for external controller support more than once. Unfortunately, it’s not supported.
That aside, this one has all the necessary components for a great game. The campaign has a lot of depth, a compelling story, solid character growth, and even funny dialogue.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Amazon Underground (Free)
Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) is one of the best Star Wars video games ever made. The RPG first came out for consoles in 2003 and was met with gushing reviews and several game-of-the-year awards. Knowing better than to mess with a classic, developer Aspyr keeps what made the console version so loved, including controller support.
Set thousands of years before the events of the cinematic Star Wars, KOTOR features plenty of familiar droids, creatures, and places, but an entirely new cast of characters and one of the best videogame narratives of all time (including an ingenious twist that completely upends the story).
The turn-based combat, as well as the deep menu and inventory system are tough to manage through taps alone, so an external controller goes a long way to enjoying the game. Otherwise, this game is about as epic as it gets on mobile, and it’s well worth the price tag.
Grand Theft Auto Series
Android/iOS ($4.99 – $6.99)
Good news GTA fans, Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas($6.99), are all available for the iPad and Android tablets. In addition, the excellent Chinatown Wars, which serves as a throw-back to the old top-down perspective of the original GTA and its sequel, is also available. The games are all true to the originals, and all include controller support.
What more can be said about this venerable franchise? If you never experienced what are three of the most influential titles in console history, in addition to the great spinoff, you owe it to yourself to try them out. Causing havoc in the open-world sandbox of the GTA universe is possibly the most entertaining way to kill time on a tablet. Good news iPad owners, Apple bundles the three console title together for $11.99.
The combined app stores literally have more than half a million games. Here are a few more that rise well above the fluff:
Final Fantasy VI
Square Enix has a bunch of Final Fantasy games on both app stores (and Chrono Trigger, which just missed the cut on our list), and this is the best. Critics complain about the remastered visuals, stiff controls, and high price, but this is a mostly faithful port of one of the best games ever made.
This list could entirely be populated with Telltale’s point-and-click adventures. While we also love Jurassic Park, this one has the best story of the bunch, and it fits right in with the Back to the Future mythology. Fans of the movie series need to check it out.
Civilization Revolution 2
Sid Meier’s Civilization series is tough on newbies, thanks to its deep and involved gameplay. This version serves as the perfect entry point, but is as deep and involved as anything else on mobile.