Cutting-edge consoles like Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox One, Sony’s (SNE) PS4 and Nintendo’s (NTDOY) Switch might score more headlines and pump out flashier games, but when it comes to sheer size, no gaming platform on the planet can compete with that smartphone in your pocket.
With an astonishing 6 billion mobile devices expected to be circulating worldwide by 2020, there’s an exceedingly good chance you have a smart something or other a few yards away right now. That also means you have access to the largest – and fastest-growing – segment of the gaming market.
But with hordes of mobile games arriving with little fanfare on a weekly basis, trying to figure out what, exactly, you should be playing on your iPhone or Android device is a daunting task. Still mindlessly crushing candy? Tired of catching ‘em all? Then put your thumbs to good use and try something new.
Here are the 10 coolest mobile games of March 2018:
“Fortnite” (iOS | Free)
How big is “Fortnite?” Big enough that the mobile app, which initially only worked if you had an invite from Epic Games, quickly shot to the top of the App Store even though most people who downloaded it couldn’t actually play. That’s since changed – it’s now widely available – and that’s great news for its millions of fans. “Fortnite” mobile is identical to its big brother, which is available for PC and consoles, and features the same 100-player Battle Royale mode, weapons, building materials and map. While the controls aren’t as accurate as a gamepad or mouse, it works well enough to keep your habit up and running on the go.
“PUBG Mobile” (iOS, Android | Free)
As if one massive Battle Royale game weren’t enough, here’s another. The mobile version of “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” better known as “PUBG,” also launched in March, one-upping “Fortnite” by being available on both iOS and Android at launch. It’s a legit version of the hugely popular game, neatly packing “PUBG’s” particularly brutal brand of online gameplay into a phone or tablet, chicken dinners and all.
“Part-Time UFO” (iOS, Android | $3.99)
Fans of Nintendo’s many home consoles – and oh, we are legion – will fall hard for this throwback gem crafted by longtime Nintendo developer, HAL Laboratory. “Part-Time UFO” looks like a typical HAL game (ie. cute and stylish) and has the simple but satisfying gameplay to back up its visuals. It’s a bit like the claw game you might find at an arcade, if that claw was attached to an adorable UFO trying to earn some cash by performing odd jobs.
“Umiro” (iOS, Android | $2.99)
Classmates Huey and Satura are lost in a mysterious world, and it’s up to you to draw them out of it. Literally: you draw paths to help the two friends avoid obstacles and reach each level’s exit. “Umiro” does wonderfully smart things with this puzzle mechanic; couple that with the game’s beautiful look and smooth performance on devices old and new, and you get a mobile game well worth getting lost in.
“Shadowgun Legends” (iOS, Android | Free)
If those Battle Royale shooters are too trendy for you, try something a little more traditional. Think of “Shadowgun Legends” as “Destiny” Lite, with loads of loot, solo and co-op missions and some of the best graphics yet seen in a mobile first-person shooter. Its free-to-play model isn’t punitive, either: while you’re occasionally nudged to spend money, you can get by just fine fragging for free.
“Marvel Strike Force” (iOS, Android | Free)
Marvel’s mightiest must defend Earth from Ultimus in this turn-based strategy game. Taking a page from the immensely popular “Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes,” “Strike Force” has more than 60 characters that players can mix and match heroes to form potent squads. Spidey, Luke Cage and Groot, together at last! Beautifully animated and extremely deep, it’s an easy win for comic book fans with an eye for strategy, though dealing with the game’s stingy resource drip requires superhuman patience (or a superpowered wallet.)
“Pacific Rim: Breach Wars” (iOS, Android | Free)
Giant robots aren’t just protecting theaters this month — they’re also storming your mobile device courtesy of this match-3 game based on the Pacific Rim films. “Breach Wars” is surprisingly robust, offering solid gem-matching gameplay and loads of Jaegars to collect and upgrade. If you can look past its somewhat confusing interface, you’ll find a monster of a puzzle game.
“The Sims Mobile” (iOS, Android | Free)
EA’s (EA) tiny people are knocking on your phone’s door, and this time it might be worth letting them in. “The Sims Mobile” does an excellent job letting you nurture your little avatar from a new kid on the block to a social butterfly with a really cool kitchen. Thanks to a generous energy system and gameplay designed to be played in short bursts, it’s also easy to play without forking over any real-world Simoleans.
“The Bonfire: Forsaken Lands” (iOS | $3.99)
You arrive in a strange land, build a fire and try to not get eaten by wolves in this moody, challenging survival game. You’ll also have to manage other wanderers who join your growing camp by giving them jobs and trying to ensure they don’t get eaten by wolves, either. Mysterious and compelling, “The Bonfire” looks great, though its glacial pace might not be for everyone.
“MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2018” (iOS, Android | Free)
The 2018 MLB season has arrived, and with it, the first officially licensed mobile baseball game. You won’t find any pitcher duels here, however. That’s because “Tap Sports Baseball” is all about swinging some wood. Every MLB team and player is represented and looks the part, plus you can build your own major leaguer with a new create-a-player option. But fair warning: you may need to renegotiate your real-world salary if you want to keep up with all the resources to manage.
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Email Daniel Howley at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.