It wasn't that long ago that pundits were lamenting the future of gaming, claiming that mindless mobile games would saturate the market, dooming both handheld gaming and console gaming alike.
Thankfully, they were all wrong.
The mobile gaming landscape is incredibly varied, offering -- quite literally -- something for everybody. Perhaps most impressively, multiplayer is no longer just limited to seeing if you can beat your friend's high score on the leaderboards. There are plenty of Android games that offer a deep and engrossing multiplayer experience.
One of the challenges with multiplayer games on mobile platforms is that data networks offer wildly different speeds depending on your provider and location. A great way to get around that is to make your game card-based.
You likely don't need me to tell you what makes Hearthstone so great, but in case you missed the boat on it when it came out, Hearthstone is a card-based game, slightly similar to Magic: The Gathering, but much simpler. It's easy to pick up but hard to master. Once you do, however, it's incredibly satisfying to cut a swath through your friends' decks and demolish your foes online.
Now, of course, paying for the in-app purchases nets you better cards, sure, but many classes don't really need those types of cards to succeed, relying instead on combos and sly tricks with common cards. Premium cards are never absolutely necessary, and that's a nice touch.
Spaceteam might not only be one of the best multiplayer Android games I've ever played, it might be one of the best multiplayer games I've ever played in general. The gist is this: you and 3 friends are piloting a spacecraft, and instructions are sent to your phone telling you what to do, what knobs to turn, what levers to pull, what switches to switch.
The twist is that all players have different panels, so communication is key. Players must work together as a Spaceteam to ensure the ship's flight is smooth, and when the game adds in gameplay modifiers like replacing all the text with symbols, or flipping everything upside down, things can get pretty crazy.
Generally, Spaceteam sessions consist of 4 friends in the same room yelling things like "Flush the Grax Senneler" at each other for about 5 minutes. It's a great time. And hey, the in-app purchases aren't necessary either-- they just add cosmetic effects to the game and unlock various modifiers and extras. Definitely give this one a look.
So Pokemon GO isn't out yet, and therefore I can't really include it on a list. But what is out is Pokemon GO's spiritual predecessor, Ingress. This game offers an incredibly unique multiplayer experience in the physical world, requiring travel and exploration for success.
In general, the game is about joining factions and exploring real world environments to claim landmarks for your team, gather items, and gain experience. What makes Ingress so great is that its community is so huge and welcoming. In most cities worldwide, there are groups to join that play the game together and coordinate their actions to help their team operate more successfully. It really is a completely different multiplayer experience, and it's worth checking out, especially if you need some fresh air.
You guys remember Worms, right? Well, lucky for us, Team 17, the series's developer, has re-released most of the Worms games on Android.
Worms 4 is the most recent entry in the series, and it comes complete with synchronous online multiplayer, so that you can blow up your pals online. For those of you who aren't familiar with the series, it's a tongue-in-cheek turn-based strategy/warfare type game, where you are given control of a squad of a few motley worms with the goal of wiping out the opposing team. The real draw here is for the madcap fun of each match, fun that is compounded by ridiculous pun-based (and referential) weapons like Hailey's Comet, a weapon that launches a small child at your enemies. It's hilarious, and above all, it's just plain fun.
You guys remember that episode of Adventure Time where Finn and Jake play a card game? Well, it's a real card game now. And it's also a pretty sweet mobile game.
Like Hearthstone, Card Wars plays a lot like a simplified version of Magic: The Gathering, the Pokemon Trading Card Game, or any other creature based card game. Card Wars, however, is easier to learn and master than a game like Hearthstone. It's ideal for the mobile landscape, and there's a surprising amount of content here even before you count the expansions that have been released since the game came out. Again, turn-based games like this are absolutely ideal for Android, so do yourself a favor and floop your pig online.
If you missed it when it came out, NBA JAM: On Fire Edition was a worthy successor to/remake of the arcade game we all know and love. It featured updated rosters, new game modes, and the over-the-top gameplay that captured our hearts back in the '90s.
And now it's on Android. The most recent update added local and online multiplayer, so that you can slam with your friends both in the same room and across the country. It runs smoothly-- especially if you are linked up with your opponent via bluetooth or a local wi-fi connection.
Also, on a personal level, I just love that they got the original announcer from the first game to do voice overs for the game. Boomshakalaka!
If you missed out on its wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, Exploding Kittens is a card game kind of like Russian Roulette. The idea is that you get a whole bunch of ridiculous cards with rules and actions on them, and in an effort to ensure that you don't draw an exploding kitten and get knocked out of the game, you play them. It's a great party game if you have the physical cards, but now it's on Google Play as well.
The game is the brainchild of Matthew Inman (of The Oatmeal), so if you're a fan of the webcomic, this one is a no brainer. As games go on, they get intense, frantic, and ridiculous, especially if you're playing with people in the same room as you. Highly recommended.
My editors would probably be unhappy with me if I just ended this slide by saying "It's Hydro Thunder but on your phone", so I'll offer a bit more explanation. As you might expect, Riptide GP2 is a futuristic jet-ski racer. It features a surprisingly deep and lengthy single player campaign, as well as some impressive visuals for a mobile game.
Riptide GP2's multiplayer is top notch as well, offering both "VR Challenges" that allow you to race your friends' ghosts in time trials, as well as more traditional head to head action. If you're a racing fan, there are few games that are this responsive, tight, and fleshed out, especially at this price point.
What are some of your favorite multiplayer games on Android? Please sound off in the comments and let us know of any we might have missed, besides the Jackbox Party Packs because even though you play those on your phones, that totally doesn't count.