In the last few years, mobile gaming has exploded. From crazes like Angry Birds and Clash of Clans to fully realized RPGs like Bastion and Fallout Shelter, mobile games have come a long way.
But what really brought mobile into the spotlight was Pokemon Go. It was a fun mobile game that did something really different for the Pokemon franchise and the mobile market as a whole.
Pokemon Go proved to us that good, fun games can in fact be made on smart phones -- and not just boring connect-four and tapping games. Real, challenging games have been given the chance to shine on mobile and show that it's not just a realm for the casual gamer.
But Pokemon Go has gotten a little played out, and gamer are looking for a new mobile adventure. So we've put together a list of games for real, hardcore gamers. Whatever your genre of preference is, we've found great mobile games for you to play on Android and iPhone. All the titles ahead are ones that real gamers would actually enjoy. Enough with the casual games, give us a challenge!
For Hardcore Builder Fans
Minecraft Pocket Edition
Yes, we started this list with Minecraft Pocket Edition. Everyone knows it exists, and many Minecraft purists probably think it's not as great as the PC version. But we're talking about quality mobile games.
Imagine we're in a parallel universe where Minecraft is only available on Android and iOS devices. This game is actually pretty feature packed for a mobile game! It would be a disservice not to take this game for its own merits apart from its PC big brother.
Minecraft Pocket Edition was picked because not only is it a classic example of a real building/survival game on a smartphone, but it also takes concentration, mastery, and knowledge of Minecraft to play.
For Harcore Survival Fans
Don't Starve Pocket Edition
Don't Starve is from the lovely developers over at Klei Entertainment. It's a survival game -- not a builder game, not a tower defense game, just a survival game. Players start off as Wilson, the inventor, who has been plopped down in the middle of the wilderness. His objective? Don't starve.
Don't Starve Pocket Edition is the same premise: survive the wilderness, eat food, collect things, create inventions to make the previous tasks easier, and find your way out of the wilderness. But this time...it's on an Android or iOS phone. It also doesn't have the newest DLCs like the rest of the versions, but it's still relatively new and functions nearly identically to its home-bound counterparts.
The art style is very reminiscent of Tim Burton, and the game is actually quite difficult, making the evocation of Tim Burton almost ironic in a way. It's another type of game where dying is just part of the process. Inventions discovered throughout a previous attempt to not starve will carry over to the next run, all that's needed is its ingredients. So this game is very susceptible to a mobile-friendly "just one more try" addiction.
For Hardcore Deck Building Fans
Originally a physical card deck-building game, Star Realms lends itself to the mobile market pretty easily. The font is ever-so-slightly hard to read, but the cards actually represent the real-life cards accurately. The Star Realms card game is a bunch of fun, so it only makes sense that the mobile game be fun as well -- especially with an easy-to-use multiplayer mode. The art on the cards is also really interesting, and it's available on Android and iOS. To top it all off, the game is also cross-platform -- so you can face your Android friend with your iPhone!
Star Realms was an easy choice for this list. It takes strategy and forethought to play. It's also a competitive game, lending to many gamers' competitive nature.
However, according to many of our writers and editors, Animation Throwdown is equally as worthy of this genre's crown.
For Hardcore Party Game Fans
Some may read the description of Spaceteam and wonder how it's "hardcore". Well, even hardcore gamers have friends that come over on occasion, and Spaceteam is a great pick-up-and-play party game that takes a bit more than just rapid tapping on the screen to win.
Spaceteam is a hilarious and absolutely fun multiplayer game. All you need is a few friends, Android or iOS smartphones or tablets, and a place where you can be loud.
Once the game boots up and everyone gets in, instructions start reading out on one of your party member's screens. They must read these instructions out loud. For example: "Set phasers to stun!" Only one person has the phaser dial on their screen, so the person who has it must do as they're told with a dial/switch/button/etc. and let everyone know they're doing it. This gets very hectic when the time bar proceeds to drain faster and faster with each instruction.
It may be a mobile game, but it's also very much an in-person party game and definitely worth a try at a get-together now that it's cross-platform. It was chosen for this list for its requirement of teamwork. It also has a humor to it that takes a certain amount of pop culture knowledge to appreciate.
For Hardcore Story-based/Narrative Fans
Any Mobile Telltale Game
This may seem like a cheap answer, but Telltale makes good story-based games, and picking one just doesn't prove that point enough. Most of their big name titles are on both Android and iOS, but not all of them.
The Walking Dead, Minecraft: Story Mode, and Game of Thrones come to mind immediately as games that Telltale knocked out of the park, and their mobile versions are the same games, one-to-one, with better controls for touch screen. Often times, games that are one-to-one from a home device to mobile are clunky and feel like they're not made for a smartphone. Telltale makes sure that isn't the case with their ports.
If that wasn't enough to herald them as the best story-based games to play on mobile, then maybe the tradition of Telltale making the first episode of a completed series completely free to serve as a demo will convince a point-and-click adventurers to check out one of the many series they've got.
For Hardcore Puzzler Fans
Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery
This game is trippy. While it is available on Steam as well, but it was built to be a mobile game. It's on both Android and iOS and plays mostly like a point and click adventure. (Or should we call it a poke and prod adventure because of the touchscreen?) Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery is about a warrior girl trying to complete a task set upon her by a higher being.
When I say "this game is trippy", I mean it feels like an audio and visual-induced fever dream. It looks a bit like a Super Nintendo game, but it's got a bunch of strange particle effects and music that is guaranteed to send players into a trance. Jim Guthrie, an experimental musician from Canada, did the soundtrack, which really brings the game to life. It should most definitely be played with headphones and the sound cranked up.
Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery was chosen because it requires you to think. The music itself may caress the ear tenderly, but the puzzle solving grabs the player's attention by the horns.
For Hardcore Turn-Based Strategy Fans
Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle
This one came as a surprise. Not because it's Dragon Ball Z, but because it looks like a simple match-the-tiles game. But don't be fooled, Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle is a very complex mobile game. There's far more strategy to it than "match the blue orbs with blue characters".
There's a map to traverse across with tiles that do different things, kind of like a board game. Then there are battles where the player must find what orbs will do the most damage with any of the characters, play the orbs in order, and then take the enemy's color type into consideration as well, as certain colors are weaker or stronger against others. (It's a bit like Pokemon types.)
Collecting different characters and items and training your party are all part of the strategy as well. While the actual battles are simple to execute, mastering them takes actual strategy -- something absolutely not apparent at first glance.
Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle snuck its way to the top of this genre with the beneath-the-surface depth it hides. It's available on both Android and iOS and is guaranteed to get many hours out of fans of strategy.
For Hardcore Action RPG Fans
Crashlands is a silly game. But silly doesn't mean not hardcore. I mean, just listen to that announcer in the trailer:
In Crashlands, players murder evil critters, collect items, craft things, make epic weapons and armor, and can even build their own homes! It's controls are similar to Diablo, as you click where you want to go/what you want to murder.
The best part about Crashlands is the fact that it's cross-platform. Play at home on your PC, save, go to work, play it on your phone when you should be doing something else. (Don't tell them we told you to do that though). Is it cheating that literally the same game and same instance can be played on both PC and mobile? Hopefully not, because they play exactly the same, so it's hard to say which is superior.
Like always, it's available on Android and iOS, and the PC version is available on Steam and GOG!
For Hardcore Fighting Game Fans
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Warner Bros. teams up with DC to bring us their giant roster of superheroes into a fighting game...for mobile? With the news of Injustice 2 flying around lately, the predecessor's mobile version takes a very different approach to the series -- and surprisingly enough it works.
The mobile version of Injustice: Gods Among Us is technically a collectible card game where the player builds a roster of heroes/antiheroes/villains and fights another team in 3-on-3 action. Instead of traditional fighting game controls, moves are executed with a series of taps and swipes.
With cross-platform multiplayer so iOS and Android players can fight, a huge roster to collect, and levels/gear to customize the characters, Injustice: Gods Among Us sits right up there with Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle in terms of strategy, even if the core gameplay is different.
Mobile gaming has come a long way
At first, we had games like Snake. Then someone thought it would be a good idea to model every game after Farmville and Candy Crush Saga. Thankfully, the mobile market has diversified tremendously since, and we think these examples are the best of their genre.
If there's any you think we missed or should check out for the genres mentioned, let us know!