Throughout 2016 we've asked our Indie Mavens a bunch of tough questions about the mobile gaming market and what it's like for indie developers.
But as we approach the end of the year, we wanted to ask them to reflect back on one simple question:
- What are your favourite mobile games of the year and why?
I've enjoyed so many iOS games over the last 12 months. Pathfinder, Crashlands, the new Hearthstone expansions… it's been a really strong year for mobile!
However, there's one title that towers above all else...
I've not seen anything like that level of crazy in years. Players in the thousands headed to the streets to fling their Pokeballs around. My walk to the gym (an actual gym, not one filled with monsters), started to take twice as long thanks to all the Eevees and Caterpies.
And it wasn't just gamers who played. People who'd never played a mobile title before were eager to take part in the craze. It was madness.
It's rare that you can combine gaming and exercise, so I started to incorporate Go into my runs. Travelling from village to village, stop to stop in the Surrey countryside.
One of my favourite gaming memories from the year involved chasing a Pikachu across a field, at 12km into an already tiring run. The desire to collect just kept me going.
For me, gaming is at its best when you have those moments, and Pokemon Go sure was full of them.
Not necessarily ones that were launched this year, but there's a few games I've been either catching up on or been exposed to and played constantly on my iPhone.
Hitman Go/Hitman Sniper: I was really impressed with the puzzle mechanics of the Go game and Hitman Sniper was a really clever use of a single game scene but with a lot of different level/challenge permutations in it.
This balanced the game more towards honing skills (and levelling up of course) vs exploration, but there was still a lot of exploration, especially early on as you were looking for various targets or items that could help in particular missions (sort of like a hidden object game almost).
Motorsport Manager by Christian West: I'm a big F1 fan, so this game was a lot of fun for me. He’s just teamed up with Sega to release a desktop Mac/PC version now too, which is even more fun :) All the fun of motorsports but without having to actually drive anything. Just boss everyone around!
Cinemoji by Manup Time Games: Essentially it's "Guess the film/game/TV series" but you can only use emoji to describe it (either the title or the plot). It's harder than it sounds and a lot of fun. I'm proud to say I actually managed to write a program listing in emoji to describe one film :)
Faily Brakes made me laugh a lot. It's a really fun and enjoyable game with cool physics and gameplay. I spent a lot of time on this!
I also discovered Freak Racing recently. It's a very simple but efficient arcade racing game which provides instant fun.
Finally, I think I played too much Clash Royale. Supercell definitely knows how to make addictive games, and Clash Royale is really awesome.
My votes for mobile games of the year go for Super Cat Tales, Pokemon Go and Reigns.
Reigns was, in my opinion, the best new game idea of the year, and Pokemon was the best new way to use the technology we carry around with us every day.
I love retro platform games and I think Super Cat Tales was one of the best mobile takes I have seen on that.
I would honestly put our Leap Day game there too as I still play my own game every day (very sad) but obviously I am biased on that one!
What I wouldn’t consider for game of the year sadly, given that I am a huge Nintendo fan, is Super Mario Run.
Having spent a few hours with the game it is fun but it feels a pretty lacklustre effort compared to what it could have been. I do like the game so it may seem harsh but I feel it is bound to get so many game of the year nominations when, in my opinion, it will rob from others that are more worthy.
Reigns! Lovely, evocative, elegant, witty. I know so many designers that found it intriguing that I would bet money we will see clearly Reigns-inspired storytelling systems in 2017 (mobile) and 2018 (Steam).
It has to be Pokémon Go for me. Not because it's a very good game, I'm still frustrated by the decisions being made and the potential not yet realised, but my goodness what a phenomenon it was!
No other game this year had people talking like Pokémon Go, my whole summer was spent chasing Magikarps and sharing knowing looks with other parents at the park (many thanks to those keeping them lured up!).
My little lady Willow would tell you Toca Dance was the best game of the year, she has spent a lot of time dressing up the dancers and making routines. I can still hear the music...
And a shout out to Mini Metro. The only reason I've not downloaded it yet is I spent a lot of time playing this on PC so having a portable version may be too dangerous! Such a wonderful, beautiful, mellifluous time vampire.
So other than my staples of Downwell (still playing!) and Hearthstone (whose ever-broken-fixed-repeat meta I find as entertaining as the game), Tracky Train is probably the most played game on my phone this year… although not by me.
In terms of stuff that's had a real impact on me personally, it’s hard to ignore what’s been happening with mobile gaming this year, in particular the arrival of Nintendo on mobile.
The initial potential and wonder of Miitomo gave way to disappointment as it revealed itself to be little more than a fancy wrapper for my My Nintendo account and a bit of a data-vampire in Mii's clothing.
But we did play a LOT in those initial weeks and I still check up on Mii from time-to-time, so here's hoping Nintendo pull across the apartment-life hijinx that made Tomodachi Life so compelling and viral.
Pokemon GO remains an absolute delight with some of my favourite gaming moments of this year, on any platform; Bruce losing his mind seeing a Squirtle in our living room, summertime reccy's with the boy around familiar and not-so-familiar places, evenings comparing catches of the day, street corner chats with people defending gyms - everyone who plays Pokemon GO has their own stories to tell, it's a genuine magic that feels bigger than 'video games' and I'm fascinated to see it grow.
And now Super Mario Run has me hooked in a way most pocket games this year haven't, its Coin Challenges have me hitting Restart for hours (!) as I try to perfectly orchestrate a delicate ballet through deviously remixed stages.
As a mobile product there's plenty to scrutinise, but as a game it perfectly demonstrates Nintendo's design genius in a new form; one-handed play, bite-sized sections, packed with control depth and tricks - forced bubbles! - the skill required to execute upon a stages timeline coupled with varied character 'handling' has created the most competitive score attack game of the year, and we're heatedly trying to squeeze the most coin out of a single stage for bragging rights (1-1 : 262 coins, let's go!).
Honourable mentions; the opening hours of Clash Royale (its level playing field, match brevity and charm), the daily concept of Leap Day (certainly something I’m keen to do), the dumb-physics-fun of Steppy Pants (its simple but clever progression system), Really Bad Chess was fascinating to someone who is actually really bad at chess and Snakebird was a living-hell on iPhone, and I loved it.
But ultimately it was the big-budget sure-fire hits that held my attention this year, which should probably be a growing concern for smaller developers like us, but I'll mull on that next year.