Cutting-edge consoles like the Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo 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 the 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 from you 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 January 2018:
“The Room: Old Sins”
Few iOS releases are as eagerly anticipated as a new “The Room” game, and for good reason: Fireproof Games’ challenging puzzle series is consistently among the platform’s best. Once again, you’ll need patience and an eye for detail as you twist, turn, prod, and pull all kinds of levers and gadgets as you suss out the secrets of a creepy dollhouse mansion. “The Room” series has always been a graphical showpiece, and “Old Sins” is no different: this is a stunningly beautiful game that shines brightest on larger screens.
“Hero Academy 2”
(iOS, Android | Free)
The iPhone 5 was the freshest phone on the block when mobile gamers first fell for the fast-paced tactical strategy game, “Hero Academy.” A great deal has changed in six years, however, and that’s all reflected in this smart, gorgeous sequel. Now real-time, “Hero Academy 2” takes a cue from “Hearthstone” by tying a collectible card mechanic to its tactical board game vibe. Well worth a look, though you’ll definitely want to play it on something faster than an iPhone 5 this time around.
“Thumper: Pocket Edition”
(iOS | $4.99)
One of the best console games of 2016 thumped its way to iOS devices this month, and the result is absolutely unmissable. Players guide a metal-plated scarab down a Lovecraftian rhythm highway, slamming around turns to the beat of unsettling noise rock. The mobile version’s tilt controls aren’t quite as tight as a gamepad, but it’s just as gripping an experience.
(iOS, Android | $4.99)
Sneak, steal and stab your way through the Victorian underworld in this devious turn-based strategy game. “Antihero” has you burgling homes, hiring thugs and sabotaging businesses as you try to take over a city and defeat an opposing crook. Its colorful, cartoonish graphics belie a great deal of strategic depth. Offering both a single-player campaign and various multiplayer modes, it’s a must-play for digital board game geeks.
“Rusty Lake Paradise”
(iOS, Android | $2.99)
The third entry in the delightfully morbid “Rusty Lake” series has you exploring an island in an attempt to rid your family of ten plagues. Mostly that involves solving increasingly difficult inventory puzzles, but what really sticks is the game’s “Twin Peaks”-meets-“The Wicker Man” sense of dreadful foreboding.
“It’s Full of Sparks”
(iOS | Free)
Another quirky freebie from prolific publisher Noodlecake, “It’s Full of Sparks” lets you play as a firecracker attempting to fling itself into a pool before the fuse on its head turns it into a depressing light show. That means quickly solving puzzles while running for the water. That’s easier said than done; you’ll soon run out of firecrackers, which can be replenished by waiting a bit or dropping a couple bucks for an infinite supply. Either way, you’ll have a blast.
“Marshawn Lynch Pro Football”
While the Raiders are sitting around waiting for the Big Game just like the rest of us, their beast of a back is still picking up yards…on your phone, at least. This rushing-focused football game lets you juke, truck and, yes, Beast Mode downfield in pursuit of high scores. It’s nowhere near as deep as other iOS sports games like “Madden” or “NBA 2K,” but solid controls and simple gameplay will scratch that NFL gaming itch for just a few bucks.
Trendy gaming buzzwords “rogue-like” and “collectable car game” combine in this polished, um, rogue-like collectible card game. “Meteorfall” takes a cue from the excellent “Reigns” games (or Tinder, even) by letting you swipe left or right to pick fights, cast spells and trade iron. The longer you last, the higher the score. Smooth, fast and eminently replayable, it punches well above its weight.
“Four Last Things”
Renaissance paintings come to life in this absurd point-and-click adventure. Your goal: commit the seven deadly sins and receive absolution by puzzling your way through what looks like a smartly written Monty Python animation. A solid catch if you dig art, adventure or dry British humor; perfect if you dig all three.
(iOS | $4.99)
There’s certainly no shortage of twin-stick shooters on the App Store, so you might not be in the market for a new one. But “Jydge” (*pronounced “judge,” apparently) is a pretty good one, letting players customize their very own totally-not-Judge Dredd supercop and blast criminals to oblivion. Also available for consoles, “Jydge” is generally best played with a controller, though the touch screen controls will do in a pynch. Punch. Pinch.
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