June 16, 2010 7:37 PM   Subscribe

What's the best-crafted mobile game you've ever played?

Special clarification: I don't necessarily mean "best game", or even "favorite game". I'm thinking about games from a design perspective. No pixel wasted. No gameplay mechanic that wasn't needed. Clever, deceptively simple gameplay.

I just got an iPhone, and I'm looking for games — but I'm also thinking about the games I'm playing. Games like Horror Vacui, which is an 8-bit card game that's easy to learn and looks gorgeous, or Jason Rohrer's Primrose, which is a casual game that's surprisingly contemplative. And so I'm not just interested in iPhone games. I'm interested in any game that's been designed for a non-game-centric handheld, like a cell phone or a Palm Pilot. (Though of course iPhone games are welcome.)

What games have struck you with the intelligence of their design? What in particular made those games stand out among their brethren?
posted by Rory Marinich to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Robot Unicorn Attack (iPhone) is simple (two things you can do, at all) and has totally sucked me in. Great to grab up and have a run at it and then put it back down (perfect for an iphone really). Note: the sound, I won't ruin it for you, but it's distinctive. So . .headphones or not on the train the first time around.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:53 PM on June 16, 2010

Fruit Ninja
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:57 PM on June 16, 2010

Best answer: Canabalt
posted by Behemoth at 7:59 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Edge.
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:04 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I LOVE Robot Unicorn Attack, but it's not a terribly polished game. It's very funny, but compare it to Canabalt with its incredibly tight graphic style. Canabalt's absolutely the kind of game I'm looking for here.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:08 PM on June 16, 2010

Angry Birds. Not an especially unique idea (see every "crash the castle" type game out there) but fuckin' a, they did it extremely well.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:25 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've always been shockingly impressed with Plants vs. Zombies, for computer AND for iPhone. Maybe even more for iPhone, considering how brilliantly they used the space they had.
posted by schema at 8:35 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: eboy fix pix. not much of a *game,* persay, but no pixel wasted for sure.
posted by prior at 8:53 PM on June 16, 2010

In a similar style to Plants vs. Zombies, I love Creeps for the iPhone - there are some great level designs that really pose a challenge for a basic tower defense game. DodgeDot is another iPhone game based around an extremely simple idea that really gets your heart pumping.
posted by Jimbob at 8:53 PM on June 16, 2010

100 Rogues. Rogue-likes are notoriously hard to get into because of their control schemes and graphics, but in this game, all you have to do is tap to move, tap to attack, and tap to pick up loot. From that and positioning and the shapes of the rooms, though, some very meaty gameplay emerges.
posted by ignignokt at 9:53 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Angry Birds

The entire output of PopCap games.

I was quite impressed by the iPhone version of Carcassone for a bit, but it gets a bit samey after a while.
posted by Artw at 9:53 PM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Doodle Jump, in classic mode. You just need to tilt the phone. You can shoot if you want but it's not necessary.
posted by chairface at 9:58 PM on June 16, 2010

Best answer: Orbital, from Bitforge. Kipes the mechanic from a great Flash game called Gimme Friction Baby and runs with it.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:13 PM on June 16, 2010

Best answer: Zen Bound (wrapping things in painted rope, sounds bizarre, utterly compelling). Eliss - incredible, beautiful game, very difficult.

Oh, and Auditorium. All of these games are visually stunning and pixel-perfect, while also incorporating really interesting and unusual gameplay.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:19 AM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hook Champ is the most replayable, polished adventure game I've ever played on the iPhone, and it might be my favorite on any platform.

Spiritual sequel Super Quickhook just came out today - loving what little I've had time to play so far.
posted by CRM114 at 4:34 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Drop7?
posted by aparrish at 5:11 AM on June 17, 2010

Best answer: The game isn't released yet, but you might be interested in the blog for Shaun Inman's Mimeo and the Kleptopus King. Nice insight into developing a game that looks like it'll meet your requirements when it's finally released.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:18 AM on June 17, 2010

Best answer: Similar to Doodle Jump, Tilt to Live uses the gyroscope as its lone input, and executes it very cleanly.

Strategery is a Risk-like game that has an excellent, completely intuitive interface.
posted by mkultra at 7:01 AM on June 17, 2010

N.O.V.A. is incredible.
posted by jbickers at 7:17 AM on June 17, 2010

Response by poster: Mimeo and the Kleptopus King is made by the same guy who made Horror Vacui. Shaun Inman is one of the good guys.

Some of these games look marvelous. I'm downloading me a LOT of free apps today.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:00 AM on June 17, 2010

Thanks so much to everyone that has contributed - I've found a lot of things with which I'll be spending my spare time.

As for my recommendation, I keep going back to Ragdoll Blaster (the original, not 2, which has many faults in my opinion). It's simple yet challenging, and satisfying, and one of those games where eventually you know its mechanics so well you can look at a level and think, "I'm going to have to touch the screen exactly here" because you ... yeah, well, I guess with any game you get good eventually, but you know what I'm saying. It's satisfying.

Eventually I started to live for the 'level complete' sound.
posted by komara at 8:42 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can safely say that the only game I kept playing on the Nintendo DS was Tetris. And that was a with a 'jailbreak' R4 card, so out of hundreds of other games.

The thing about mobile games, IMO, is that they have to be puzzle games, or otherwise made so you can put it away and pick it up without any bother. Long-winded stories or RPG-type 'advancement' games tend to work better if you want to play them for extended periods. But they aren't suited for a quick game or 2 on the train.
posted by Harry at 9:31 AM on June 17, 2010

Best answer: Sword & Sworcery EP hasn't come out yet, but it seems to have a lot of great mobile-gaming design choices. It's the first iPhone game I'm actually eager to play.
posted by achompas at 10:30 AM on June 17, 2010

GeoDefense Swarm. It's is one of my favorite games, but I think it meets your definition. Graphics are simple (everything is just a single-colored glowing polygon). You only get 5 different towers you can place. There are only a handful of enemy types. Yet the game has a surprising amount of depth. Every level feels completely different from a strategy standpoint. And it's engaging, and HARD. I had to play some of the tougher levels 100 times before finally finishing them.
posted by Vorteks at 11:22 AM on June 17, 2010

posted by Deor at 1:49 PM on June 18, 2010

Best answer: I can't believe nobody has mentioned Flight Control yet. It is the most addictive game i've played yet, but is so simple, smooth, and polished it is incredibly hard to put down.
posted by kev23f at 5:51 AM on June 21, 2010

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