GameCentral looks back at the best mobile games of the year, as the Netflix and Apple Arcade subscription services prove their worth.
2022 has been a great year for video games in general and no less so when it comes to mobile, even if many of the best apps are ports of existing console and PC titles. That doesn’t take anything away from the likes of Vampire Survivors and Into The Breach but there were also plenty of other excellent mobile-only titles, including the surprisingly good Marvel Snap and the best version of Kingdom Rush so far.
iOS & Android, Free (poncle)
Vampire Survivors may be free and shamelessly ugly, but it’s also brilliantly conceived and savagely addictive. Especially if you’re a Castlevania fan and get a kick out of the ruthless cribbing for the graphics and music.
Choosing one of a range of vampire hunters, you build up your powers by killing enemies to level up, while avoiding the continually shifting and evolving horde, in this dual-stick shooter without the dual sticks.
The strength and density of the enemies vs. the growing power of your current weapon set creates a magic that’s very hard to describe, but that we urge you to try for yourself. Considering it’s free you’ve got nothing to lose.
iOS & Android, included with Netflix subscription (Netflix)
Mechanically, Immortality is just a more polished version of Her Story and Telling Lies, designer Sam Barlow’s previous two games, both of which required you to watch and link together seemingly disparate video clips.
It’s a fascinating process in which you assemble the story in your own mind, even though you experience it in myriad tiny non-sequential pieces.
It makes you feel as though you’re making discoveries in real-time, and it’s also fair to say that no two players will experience it in quite the same way. It’s already a classic on home formats, but it works even better on touchscreen.
iOS, £8.99 (10Tons)
Although for most people the post-apocalypse would be a terrifying hellscape, for gamers it’s comfortably familiar: looting, crafting, and shooting zombies is at this point practically second nature.
And that’s exactly what you do in Dysmantle. Set on a sprawling map with a freezing north and baking south, you gradually unlock more land mass as you smash absolutely everything in sight for crafting components.
Originally released on PC, its heritage means it has an unusually massive scope for a mobile game, and leaves you to break stuff and explore entirely at your own pace.
iOS, Free (Jeffrey Taniguchi)
Word games are easy to come by on mobile, but few are as tactile or as satisfying to play as Sparrows, which presents you with a set of rounded mah-jong style tiles on which to test your spelling and vocabulary.
Using letter tiles to make words causes the layer of tiles underneath to become available, while making longer words creates score multiplying tiles, which are essential in the pursuit of high scores.
There are paid game modes if you want more options, but the majority of the game’s pleasures are free and without a single forced video ad in sight.
iOS and Android, Free (Nuverse)
Far from being just another tawdry film license, Marvel Snap is a deck builder with real character and graphical panache.
Taking place across three separate skirmishes on the same board, your choices are partly about predicting what your opponent will do, and partly doing your best to give them a nasty surprise or two.
Free to play, but with a generous economy that’s far from punishing non-spenders, Marvel Snap made a richly deserved splash when it arrived in October.
Please, Touch the Artwork
iOS, £4.49 (Mainen Studio)
Please, Touch the Artwork gets you to recreate famous works by the artist Mondrian using your phone as a canvas.
Starting out by simply adding colors, you’re soon set more challenging challenges, along with interludes where you discover a little more about the artist whose work you’re copying.
Mellow, subtle, and perfect for touchscreen, Please, Touch the Artwork is a pleasing and unusual way of passing a few hours while incidentally learning something about art.
Into The Breach
iOS and Android, included with Netflix subscription (Netflix)
Turn-based strategy games translate very elegantly to touchscreen, and none more so than the outstanding Into The Breach, which arrives via Netflix with all its DLC.
Once again, you’ll be defending Earth from kaiju invasion using a team of three mechs, each of which is upgradable, provided you do well enough in preventing damage to cities and their populations.
Deep, fascinating, and enjoyably challenging, its simplistic interface and animation never get in the way of the extraordinary mental flow it demands. One of the best strategy games ever made and essentially free if you already have Netflix.
Legend Of Kingdom Rush Vengeance TD+
iOS, included with Apple Arcade subscription (Ironhide)
Kingdom Rush is the world’s best tower defense franchise, standing head and shoulders above its closest competitors both in terms of graphical polish and the ease with which you can sink hours into its glorious looking maps.
Although this was originally developer Ironhide’s first foray into freemium, its Apple Arcade iteration gets rid of all that, re-balancing its ecosystem around steady progress rather than milking you for cash.
It’s a big improvement, and while you can easily get by without using the full panoply of available turrets and heroes its great fun experimenting without continuously feeling as though someone’s stealthily trying to pick your pockets.
iOS & Android, £4.49 (Terry Cavanagh)
It’s not often you play as the die itself, but in Dicey Dungeons you’re a heroic adventurer attempting to outplay the cruel whims of Lady Luck.
Each turn you roll a set of dice that let you trigger special moves that either strengthen your own attack or hamstring your opponent, usually by setting their dice on fire – forcing them to choose between either not using them for a turn or taking damage.
You’ll also find many abilities interact with each other, making for some interesting and unpredictable tactical effects that work well to offset the game’s random elements.
iOS & Android, £12.99 (Feral Interactive)
With headphones on and preferably using an iPad, Alien Isolation remains a nerve-fraying experience even on a small screen.
Creeping down air ducts and crouching behind computers as the alien menacingly patrols the corridors is a process enhanced by the game’s incredible recreation of Ridley Scott’s retro futuristic interiors and the hugely evocative clicks and whines that accompany them.
It comes with all its DLC, and while the alien itself is pretty dim-witted, it’s still terrifying when you stumble across it unexpectedly.
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