Ranking 30 games from my recent iOS game binge

These past few months I had a huge desire to find good iOS games. This is partially due to my first iPhone in March, and partially due to being on-the-go (more phone, less computer). I played all these anywhere from 1 (finish onboarding) to ~20 hours (starting the grind), and here is my “ranking” of all my recent iOS games!

Bolded games cost money, but have fewer pay to play elements.
(*) means that there is a beginning and an end
(**) means that there is a beginning and an end, and I finished the game 

  1. Dawn of Titans (Strategy Battleground)
  2. 80 Days (Around the World) (Strategy/Decisions, Story)**
  3. Banner Saga (Strategy Grid, Story)**
  4. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius (RPG, Turn-based)
  5. Device 6 (Puzzle, Mystery)**
  6. Madden NFL Mobile (Sports)
  7. Ticket to Earth (Strategy Grid, Story)**
  8. Clash Royale (Strategy, Battleground)
  9. Reigns (Strategy/Decisions)
  10. Mini Metro (Strategy Other)
  11. Lara Croft GO (Grid Puzzle)**
  12. Clash of Clans (Strategy)
  13. Injustice 2 (Fighting)
  14. Framed (Puzzle)**
  15. Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes (RPG, Turn-based)
  16. Severed (RPG, Slashing)
  17. Infinity Blade III (Slashing)*
  18. Plague, Inc. (Strategy Other)
  19. Fire Emblem Heroes (Strategy Grid)
  20. Asphalt 8 (Racing)
  21. Real Racing 3 (Racing)
  22. Sniper 3D (Shooter)
  23. Unkilled (Shooter)
  24. Monument Valley (Puzzles)*
    –don’t recommend under this list —
  25. Legacy of Discord (Hack & Slash)
  26. NBA Live (Sports)
  27. Polytopia (Strategy, Civilization)
  28. Food Street (Resources)
  29. Typeshift (Word Puzzle)
    —- below this is uninstall after 10 min —-
  30. Dynasty Warriors Unleashed (Hack & Slash)
  31. Flight Alert (Simulation)
  32. Game of War (Strategy War)
  33. War Dragons (Point and Click)

General thoughts

In the game binge, I optimized for variety (sports, rpg, racing, puzzle, etc.), and found that I really liked strategy and RPG games on mobile. The asynchronous on and off nature of mobile games meant that you have to easily start where you ended, and it has to be easy to regain context. My list leans heavily fantasy & sports (not fantasy sports) with few others scattered in between.

  • It would be super interesting to do demographic segmentation of who plays what types of games (fantasy, sports, shooting), ad tolerance (some games had so many ads), and onboarding handholding.
  • Certain games are better in different environments, and I had a smattering of each. Some categories are:
    • some great bathroom/waiting-in-line games (10 min, async) – i.e. titans, ffbe, madden, 
    • some great walking/public-transit games (50% focus, longer game, turnbased, forgiving) i.e. reigns, mini-metro, lara-croft GO
    • some good treadmill games (70% focus, longer game, can be live), i.e mini-metro, injustice 2, dawn of titans
    • some good home/plane games (100% focus, unforgiving, can be hours on end), i.e. 80 days, device 6
  • If mobile gaming wants to take over the world, it still has a long road to go. I’m excited for what it has to offer and will be on the lookout for some great stuff.

On to the reviews

1. Dawn of Titans

Lots of components of this game are shit, but what makes it special is its the first that doesn’t feel like a mobile game. It feels like a legit Total War game. Graphically intense components were built from the ground up. This might not be the

Unfortunately, its matchmaking, clan dynamics, and probably its late game whale strategy (didn’t get that far) are not up to par. However, Dawn of Titans is absolutely worth a play if you enjoyed games like Rome: Total War and one of the few I think are way, way ahead of its time. (~20 hours logged)

2. 80 Days around the world

Based on the book by Jules Verne (and the movie with Jackie Chan), 80 days is an adventure around the world in the late 19th century. In the book, there is one path. In the game, you can navigate the world in any path you want!

I’ve never been exposed to so many places I haven’t heard of (Muscat, Ridyah, Bandar Abbas) that really inspires the travel bug. Also a beautifully smooth reading experience that I simply couldn’t down for the 4 hours of my first run through around the world. (~4 hours total)

3. Banner Saga

Banner Saga is a beautiful game. The drawings are beautiful. The map is beautiful. The story is beautiful. And the gameplay is great (solid top down grid strategy). Decisions you make during the game are actually really relevant, and you will inevitably get slammed with tearjerkers along the way. (~10 hours to finish)

4. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius

FFBE is a great fully fledged game, with great gameplay, and designed for the power player in mind. It promotes the ‘auto attack’ feature, which quickly plays optimal moves and takes some of the tedium of grinding. It has a lot of little hidden trinkets and its cities are pleasant to walk through. Has the graphics of like FF4, but doesn’t detract from gameplay at all. In the end, you still need some good rolls to get good characters, but free play can take you all the way.

5. Device 6

Device 6 is a “puzzle hunt” style game that is a bit creepy, but has extremely innovative use of sound, phone orientation, and scrolling to create a story that keeps you asking questions. Its a short play (~6 hours) but absolutely worth it.

6. Madden NFL Mobile

Madden is THE perfect sports game for mobile. Think about it – when you are on console, all you do is hold turbo when running, and pass the ball when you are QB. This is the same on mobile, and now it’s even harder to pass to the wrong receiver (“SHIT i meant to pass to the post not the flat!@$#!”)

The PvP mode is brilliant, where you only play offensive drives against each other and ignore the tedium of defense. The mini-games are solid too. I’m not too familiar with auction houses in general but countless hours were spent flushing out my team there. (~20-30 hours)

7. Ticket to Earth 

This is a beautiful, playful grid strategy game that has you busting bugs, robots and bad guys in a world thrown into chaos. I loved the innovative gameplay and was hooked from beginning to end. A somewhat short game, but absolutely worth a play.

8. Clash Royale

Clash Royale is one of the biggest moneymakers from Supercell, and it makes money because its fucking good and matchmaking is FAST (<5 seconds for a 3 min minigame). If Clash of Clans is starcraft macro, then this is it’s micro equivalent. This game throws you to the wolves early (minimal onboarding) and has a very rewarding skill curve.(20-30 hrs)

9. Reigns

Reigns is a super fun swipey game where you are presented with absurd choices, magical results, and lots of dying from peasant revolts. You get infinite lives to try to live as long as possible in a crazy, weird world. I’ve lived to age 72, but usually die at like… age 20, GoT style.

10. Mini Metro

A cute little indie logistics game where you have to build train lines between a constantly growing number of stations. You lose when a single station becomes too packed. Sounds easy but actually pretty complex and has lots of strategy.

11. Lara Croft GO

This one ranks very high on the FUN scale. This is a turn-based puzzle game where every turn matters, whether you be trying to avoid monsters, big collapsing rocks, or other obstacles of the sort. An amazing commute or bathroom game.

12. Clash of Clans

Yet another base building game. But one where your base organization actually matters – enemies attack your base directly. You can easily spend lotsa time optimizing your base layout, which dulls the pain of waiting for new buildings and upgrades. Brilliantly balanced and an enjoyable daily checkin game.

13. Injustice 2

A pretty solid fighting game with great onboarding, simple controls, and fun destruction of your enemies. The story mode is pretty light but fun to watch DC Hero characters smash each other. Super addicting but don’t play it much these days

14. Framed

Framed is a cute little puzzle game where you re-arrange frames for some people running across a ‘comic’ to escape policemen. Its actually pretty fucking ingenious, but the gameplay is pretty simple. It is definitely worth a play, but won’t leave you amazed.

15. Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes

SWGOH is a pretty fun, grind-y RPG game that has all of your favorite Star Wars characters, both good and evil. There’s not much of a story, but some fun gameplay and somewhat well balanced characters. The onboarding bonuses can keep you going for 5-10 hours of pure gameplay, but then it starts to fall off.

16. Severed

Severed is a pretty fun dungeon crawler puzzle that involves slashing of monsters that have tricky abilities, and fighting multiple monsters at once. Its mechanic is a ‘slash’ game, kind of like fruit ninja. I haven’t finished the game yet but so far its been solid. No grinding and pure adventure/puzzle.

17. Infinity Blade III

Also a slasher, this game has beautiful graphics and very satisfying fighting animation (almost like God of War/Ryse-esque). Enemies have different attack patterns that you have to parry or dodge, making it pretty fun and difficult. I think the items economy is kind of broken but other than that solid game.

18. Asphalt 8

A super fun driving game similar to need for speed. You drive by tilting your phone sideways, and there are only two buttons: drift and boost (obviously the most important). It gets a bit ad-heavy which is annoying, but can be dealt with. Lots of speed, drifts and jumps make it a fun weekend evening or waiting game.

19. Plague, Inc.

Here you try to plague-out the world with virus elements . Couldn’t get too into it though, so haven’t played after a few games.

20. Fire Emblem Heroes

The biggest thing about mobile friendly versions of your favorite games is that they are vertical! Standard FE, a good amount of grinding, and the onboarding on this one is super annoying (since it refuses to download the first 500mb update asynchronously).

21. Real Racing 3

A slightly more realistic racing map than Asphalt, Real Racing gives eventual options to do gear shifting, etc. etc. That being said, it simply hasn’t been as fun.

22. Sniper 3D

This has an insanely high rating on the App store, and I admit it is a surprisingly fun game. Insane number of ads as well. Its a great game for when you don’t want to think at all and just shoot at things.

23. Unkilled

Shooters seem notoriously hard for mobile games, but Unkilled does a great zombie shooter. Basically its autofire once the crosshairs hover over an available target. Lots of fun mowing zombies to the ground, and probably lots of skill required as I progress.

24. Monument Valley

This probably doesn’t deserve the lowest ‘ok’ ranking, but basically I really didn’t buy the hype for monument valley. Its a pretty cute and beautiful puzzle game, but so far has been super simplistic and doesn’t make me *really want to play it*. Maybe after beating the game I will like it more, but so far so meh.

There were some other games that I just can’t recommend – the experience wasn’t great.

  1. Legacy of Discord (Hack & Slash). I actually played this one a LOT. And
  2. NBA Live (Sports) – basketball isn’t too good on the phone.
  3. Polytopia (Strategy, Civilization) – cute game, didn’t feel like there was much of a point to it
  4. Food Street (Resources) – actually kind of fun but this is back to the tedious farmville style games
  5. Typeshift (Word Puzzle) – an OK word puzzle but not too stimulating or fun.
  6. The Trail (Adventure) – this game looked nice and indie but a bit slow to start and so far very simplistic. hopefully it gets better but not sure if i’ll get there

Then there were games that were just bad: (Dynasty Warriors Unleashed (Hack & Slash), Flight Alert (Simulation), Game of War (Strategy War), War Dragons (Point and Click)). They had reasonable ratings but the gameplay turned me off so early that it was immediate shut down.

As for “what’s next”, it’s back to books for now. But I have a nice queue when I return, and excited for some new things in the game world!

  • Banner Saga 2 (Grid Strategy)
  • Framed 2 (Puzzle)
  • Final Fantasy Tactics (Grid Strategy)
  • XCOM (Strategy)
  • Prune (Puzzle)
  • Hitman Go, Deus Ex Go (Grid Puzzle)
  • Her Story (Mystery)
  • KOTOR (RPG, Turn-based)*
  • Final Fantasy VII (RPG,Turn-based)*

I’d love some more game suggestions and hope some of these could help you!