The Essential iOS/Android List

by Jeff Cork on Apr 20, 2012 at 10:16 AM

This week, we’ve examined the major gaming platforms and recommended the essential titles for each one. Today, we cover the best games for iOS and Android devices.

Whether your allegiance is with Apple or Google, both platforms offer thousands of games. It’s definitely true that iOS is the lead platform for the majority of mobile game releases, but that doesn’t mean Android users are being ignored. Many of the top-tier games find their way onto Android devices, even though those ports may come months after their initial iOS release.

For our list, we tried to compile a mix of well-known titles and a few relative obscurities. There’s a reason that many of these games are household names, and there are still more that deserve a larger audience. Take a look at our selections, and then tell us what you think in the comments below.

Angry Birds Space (Android, iOS)
Developer: Rovio Mobile
Price: $.99

In many ways, Rovio’s Angry Birds is synonymous with mobile gaming. When it came time to develop a full-on sequel to the popular structure-smashing game, the Finnish studio did the only sensible thing: blast it into space. The addition of zero-gravity environments and planets’ gravitational pull breathe new life into a game that still felt fresh. Giving those annoying pigs their comeuppance is even sweeter in the vastness of space.

Infinity Blade 2 (iOS)
Developer: Chair Entertainment Group
Price: $6.99

Whenever the term “triple-A game development” pops up in the world of iOS games, it’s nearly always spoken in the same breath as Infinity Blade. Chair’s fantasy/action game is a high benchmark for mobile gaming, particularly on the iPad’s larger screen. Infinity Blade 2 picks up where the original left off, but adds a slick new social element with community-driven challenges. If you’ve picked up the new iPad and want to justify the purchase, download this one immediately.

Flick Home Run! (iOS)
Developer: Infinity Pocket
Price: $.99

Flick Home Run! plays like an evolved version of that old Flash game Penguin Launch, which is a great starting point. This time you’re hitting baseballs, which is slightly more appropriate. You need to consistently whack the balls past the bleachers to keep playing, and there’s an assortment of sneaky variants (sliders, sinkers, etc.) to keep things interesting. A skill-upgrade system adds to its “just one more game” appeal.

Dungeon Village (Android)
Developer: Kairosoft
Price: $4.99

You may know Kairosoft from its excellent Game Dev Story, which was released on both iOS and Android a while back. The Android exclusive Dungeon Village has much of its predecessor’s addicting team-boosting gameplay, only this time you’re managing a town that’s a destination for monster-slaying adventurers. Your town grows over time, which attracts bigger heroes (and better loot). It’s a satisfying cycle that you’ll return to over and over again.

Jetpack Joyride (iOS)
Developer: Halfbrick Studios
Price: Free

Barry has stolen a jetpack from a science facility, and now all he needs to do is escape. The game offers a surprising amount of variety, considering it’s all controlled with a single touch of the screen. Tap and hold your screen, and the jetpack (and Gatling guns) blast into action. Release it, and Barry arcs back down. Now comes the tricky part – avoiding obstacles and trying not to waste your entire day completing missions.

Osmos HD (Android, iOS)
Developer: Hemisphere Games
Price: $2.99/$4.99

Don’t be fooled by Osmos’ laid-back, ambient soundtrack: relax too much, and your game is as good as over. Players control a tiny mote through a variety of challenges. Some are as simple as trying to get bigger by absorbing smaller objects. Others have you competing against AI versions of yourself. The experience is beautiful and relaxing, even if you’re biting your lower lip through much of it.

Battleheart (Android, iOS)
Developer: Mika Mobile
Price: $2.99

You’ll be forgiven if you download this and think, “This is it?” after playing a level or two. Battleheart’s heroes are directed by drawing lines to their goals, meaning fighters will thwack orcs or clerics will heal their targets. A few missions into it, and the screen fills with enemies and you have to juggle healing and damage dealing while trying to keep your team alive. Suddenly, there’s a lot more to Battleheart than drawing lines and waiting.

Tiny Tower (Android, iOS)
Developer: NimbleBit 
Price: Free

Tiny Tower isn’t as game-y as most of the titles on this list, but we wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has a smartphone and some time to kill. You’re in charge of a tower, and it’s up to you to determine what kinds of floors will be added and where its residents will work. You’re also responsible for operating the elevator and making sure that stores don’t run out of inventory. Everything happens in real time, which means you’ll have an excuse to check on your tower during work hours. If you can keep a straight face while interacting with this adorable 8-bit-inspired world, co-workers will think you’re doing important multitasking during boring meetings.

Hero Academy (iOS)
Developer: Robot Entertainment
Price: Free

Hero Academy is a wonderful, turn-based way to ruin friendships. Just when you think your team has manipulated its randomly assigned loadout to take the strategic edge, your opponent’s grenadier lobs a few bombs and destroys your crystals. Game over. Rematch? Fine. It’s a testament to Robot Entertainment that they’ve managed to create teams that are so different, yet so equally balanced.

Triple Town (Android, iOS)
Developer: Spry Fox
Price: Free

At first, you think you have Triple Town figured out. You’re placing bushes, trees, and grass on the randomly generated layouts without any problems, watching as your burgeoning town expands. Then the bears come, and your plan goes to hell. And just when you think you’ve solved that problem, the ninja bears spring into action. Even when those furry jerks paint you in a corner, salvation is only a new game away.

King of Dragon Pass (iOS)
Developer: A Sharp
Price: $9.99

King of Dragon Pass plays like a classic Choose Your Own Adventure book, combined with a strategy game. As the titular ruler, it’s up to you to keep your community thriving while fending off enemy threats and managing resources. Of course, everyone wants everything, which means you’ll be required to make some tough decisions. ProTip: Don’t upset the duck people. They may not look tough, but they hold a mean grudge.

Scribblenauts Remix (iOS)
Developer: Warner Bros.
Price: $.99

The DS hit successfully made the transition to iOS with this remixed version. Players help Maxwell collect stars by adding objects into his world. Part of the fun comes from trying to stump the game’s huge object database. If you can type it (or tell it to Siri on iPhone), chances are, it’s in the game. That includes tie-dyed apes, stinky books, and countless other adjective-noun combinations.

Stair Dismount (Android, iOS)
Developer: Secret Exit
Price: Free

Stair Dismount should be a mandatory download for anyone who has ever watched YouTube clips of people slipping on ice or getting hit in the crotch. The setup is simple: Mark a point on a dummy, choose your velocity, and then give it a shove. Then you can marvel as your victim ragdolls its way down a variety of imaginative setpieces, such as an escalator or airport security checkpoint. A recent update even added stages based on classic games like Donkey Kong and Frogger. Oof.

Dungeon Raid (Android, iOS)
Developer: Fireflame Games
Price: $3.11/$2.99

Puzzle Quest made waves a few years back by combining gem-matching and RPG elements. Dungeon Raid take a similar approach, only this time you have to line up matching symbols while contending with a Rogue-like challenge. To succeed, you’ll need to balance offense and defense as you work through hordes of monsters and collect loot and upgrades. Of course, success here means you made it a tiny bit further than last time before your inevitable demise.

Draw Something (Android, iOS)
Developer: OMGPOP
Price: $.99

Sure, it’s basically Pictionary, but Draw Something became the sensation that it is for a few key reasons. First, it’s easy to set up games with your friends. When it’s your turn to guess what your friends have submitted, you submit your answer by rearranging tiles than typing in your response. It’s simple, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s clear why Zynga scooped up the dev team as soon as Draw Something hit it big.

Cut the Rope (Android, iOS)
Developer: Chillingo 
Price: $.99

Om Nom is hungry, and only you can feed him candy by…cutting the rope. The game’s initial gravity-based puzzles quickly give way to brain-twisting tests that combine momentum and bubbles. The game’s iOS version was downloaded 1 million times in a record-breaking nine days back in 2010, and the game’s fan base remains strong. 

Blast Monkeys (Android, iOS)
Developer: Yobonja!
Price: Free

Blast Monkeys is a clever puzzle game requiring players to launch a monkey into a goal by shooting it out of a cannon. You’ll try to pick up bananas along the way, and must avoid a cornucopia of deadly obstacles. Each set of 25 levels introduces new gameplay mechanics, and can be unlocked with the virtual currency you receive from acing levels.  It’s a great gravity-based puzzle game, but frankly, if you weren’t sold by the concept of shooting a monkey out of a cannon, we’re done talking to you.

Super Stickman Golf (Android, iOS)
Developer: Noodlecake Studios
Price: Free/$.99

Even gamers who think real golf is slow and boring will get a kick out of Noodle Cake Studios’ lighthearted take on the sport. Super Stickman Golf has players hitting balls through dozens of creative courses, while taking advantage of a handful of insane, unlockable power-ups to get under par. Later courses become devilishly tough, but they only make the hole-in-one shots that much sweeter.

Fruit Ninja (AndroidiOS)
Developer: Halfbrick Studios
Price: $1.26/$.99

There’s a reason you’ve probably heard of, played, or even already downloaded Fruit Ninja: It’s a great showcase for mobile gaming. Your sensei has a thing for tossing fruit into the air, and it’s up to you to slash it apart before it hits the floor. Fruit Ninja’s swiping input was an early example of how the iPhone’s lack of buttons didn’t mean it couldn’t be a gaming destination.