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The Mobile Mavens' Games of the Year 2016

Pokemon GO, Clash Royale, Crashlands and more
The Mobile Mavens' Games of the Year 2016
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Throughout the year, we've tasked our Mobile Mavens with tackling the mobile games industry's hot topics of the day.

From Vivendi's acquisition of Gameloft to Super Mario Run's premium pricing, they have been on hand to share their expertise.

Now, with 2016 drawing to a close, we're giving them the chance to reflect on a memorable year in mobile gaming. Our simple question:

  • What are your favourite mobile games of the year?
Scott Foe

Scott Foe

Chief Product Officer at Ignited Artists

For me, the Mobile Game Of The Year 2016 comes down to two deserving candidates.

In the runner-up spot, Pokemon GO demonstrated beyond-ignorable the power of Entertainment Property, taking a concept ("Location-Based Critter Catcher") which has been around for nearly 15 years and transforming that rusty old saw into a global conversation through the leverage of a synergistic, titanic brand.

And the winner is Clash Royale. Clash Royale demonstrated to every lying-tongued, visionless game executive on the planet that, yes, real-time, hardcore multiplayer can work on mobile.

Supercell also demonstrated why said publishing pretenders could never conceive of such a title-winning the market: a depressing majority of the people working in the games industry know joe s**t about the games industry, much less actually developing games.

Bravo winners! And here's looking forward to 2017!

William D. Volk

William D. Volk

Chief Futurist at Forward Reality

For me, the answer is Pokemon GO.

It single-handedly establishes Augmented Reality as a serous game market.

[people id="231" name="Jon Jordan"]

Given the importance of games-as-a-service, the game I played most in 2016 was EA's squad-based RPG Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes (released November 2015).

“The game I played most in 2016 was EA's squad-based RPG Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.”
Jon Jordan

It demonstrated great medium-term design with the addition of three big updates: adding guilds, mods (an additional character customisation option) and most recently an almost entirely new game with the Ships update.

The game I've enjoyed the most that came out in 2016 is Netmarble's squad RPG Soul King.

It hasn't been a top 10 grossing title like Galaxy of Heroes (although it has done well in Southeast Asia) but it is a brilliant example of almost limitless layering of metagame mechanics.

As for games I've been playing in 2016 that will be released in 2017, The Elder Scrolls: Legends is looking like a neat CCG (and I hate CCGs).

Meanwhile, Zombie Gunship: Survival combines the best of the paid game Zombie Gunship's gameplay and atmosphere with smooth F2P resource collection metagame mechanics.

And a final shout out to NaturalMotion for working through 2015 and most of 2016 to finally release Dawn of Titans.

To me some of the design seemed a bit dated but it certainly stands out as a game proud of its desire to innovate.


Oscar Clark

Oscar Clark

Chief Strategy Officer at Fundamentally Games

For me, this year has been full of great content; the volume of amazing games has literally been astounding. But there are two that have rocked the charts and moved the industry forward.

Scott nailed it - Pokemon GO and Clash Royale.


Both have come in and taken established genres and shaken them up.

I suspect a certain Italian Plumber will come along and change everything again... I know what I'll be playing over Christmas.

And I don't usually like platform games!

Nicolas Godement-Berline

Nicolas Godement-Berline

Head of Operations

Well, my mobile game of the year is certainly Clash Royale, for the reasons already mentionned above.

I'd also like give a shout-out to the awesome Crashlands by Butterscotch Shenanigans, though. It's a mix of survival and RPG with hilarious humour and lots of "depth in simplicity".

I came across it as I was looking for example of survival games on mobile as the genre feels under-represented. I ended up playing it for many, many hours.

Shintaro Kanaoya

Shintaro Kanaoya

CEO at Chorus Worldwide

Clash Royale and Pokemon GO are obviously kings of the year, but I keep getting drawn back to two games in particular: Archery King and Mini Metro.

“I didn’t understand Mini Metro at first, but now I can’t put it down.”
Shintaro Kanaoya

Archery King is a perfect mobile game for me.

Excellent and intuitive core game mechanic wrapped in a always-on multiplayer tournament of ever-increasing stakes, this game has sunk its claws into me so much I’ve started dreaming about it.

Bonus points for reminding me of 180 from the Spectrum days.

I didn’t understand Mini Metro at first, but now I can’t put it down. Beautiful minimalism with deceptively deep gameplay.

I didn’t think I could get so tense joining the dots, waiting for the clock to tick over to Monday.

Honourable mention to That Dragon, Cancer. For a developer to pour their heart, soul, and grief into “just a mobile game” is testament to what can be done if you approach these devices without a mobile game template in mind.

Walking through a child cancer ward on a device as intimate as a smartphone or tablet is a deeply moving experience.

I’d love to see more personal stories and experiences realised in games - especially on mobile, where the gap between author and player is almost non-existent.

[people id="11" name="Brian Baglow"]

The big games are going to get a lot of love and nominations, but there are a lot of smaller games which I think did much to advance mobile gaming (and which were just plain flat out fun...)

  • Rodeo Stampede

This should be handed to students as an example of excellent game design.

The rewards for watching ads (and the simple, obvious decision to show them after the player is revived and plays the rest of the level should be mandatory).

Animals, hats, a flying zoo. This is my game of the year...

  • PinOut 

A distance game (my favourite) mashed up with Pinball. Oh dear god, the hours I've lost to this.

Even starting from the beginning doesn't bug me because it's fun. And the mini games break it up just enough to keep me trying. Plus, 80s neon is just so right now...

  • Geometry Race

A(nother) distance game - what can I say, I've found my niche!

Simple, compelling, fun. Again, it's not just one more try, it's about eight more tries. The gacha and ads aren't utilised quite as well as they should be, but damn the core mechanic, controls and graphics are fabulous.


John Ozimek

John Ozimek

Co-founder at Big Games Machine

Whilst I acknowledge the two games most people have mentioned as significant performers, it once again shows (to me) the dichotomy of games which are successful financially and as a business in themselves, and games I personally find fun to play.

So my personal highlights from the year have included:

  • Tiki Taka Soccer

Just really fun to play, and much deeper than it looks. Brilliant for playing in short bursts, and with bags of character. Give me this over FIFA any day.

I love the little touches like having a playable menu screen; it shows how much thought and passion has gone into it. I've actually not tried the multiplayer version yet.

  • Steamworld Heist

Some people have compared this to the Oddworld games.

But while it certainly doesn't achieve the brilliance of those Playstation classics, it's a beautiful looking game which blends turn-based combat with a perfectly judged difficulty curve and plenty of customisation options which let you try different approaches.

Steamworld Heist blends turn-based combat with a perfectly judged difficulty curve.”
John Ozimek

The graphics and the fact the levels are procedurally generated makes it just that bit different from other games I've played. Also, you get hours of play for your money.

If you asked me this a week ago, I would have included The Trail, as at that point I was several hours into it and loving it.

The graphics and art style absolutely made the game, and it made the progression through the wilderness something I actively wanted to experience and explore.

However, once I reached the town that the game points you towards at the start, the game quickly becomes a secondary loop to grind to build and upgrade and trade and it totally turned me off.

I don't know if that's a question of balance, or whether I needed to push on - the game itself could do much more to encourage you to keep playing if it's the latter.

Jared Steffes

Jared Steffes

Co-founder at Muxy

I had to take some time and reflect on what I still had on my mobile phone.

There is so much content that comes out each year that it is easy to forget what I was playing last January. So, I broke it down into games I played a lot and maybe spent money on.

Started off the year playing a lot of Scopely's The Walking Dead: Road to Survival. It came out late in 2015 if I recall, but it really picked up in 2016.


I enjoyed the story, mechanics and depth of the guilds. I decided to stop playing when I could not get a character type I needed, a green class, to continue on.

I believe this is a key failure of the gacha mechanics that have highly engaged casual players in many games.

Clash Royale was a lot of fun. I started a clan war at work and I produced a weekly newsletter for about a month until the late game grind and 50/50 matchmaking win rate kicked in and burned a lot of us out.

“We had a clan war in Clash Royale until the late game grind burned a lot of us out.”
Jared Steffes

Reigns was a lot of fun for a brief spurt of time. It was quirky enough to get myself and many others to purchase it at launch bringing it into the top paid chart on Google Play USA for a while.

I also really enjoyed the audio design in this game.

Tinker Island has been the mobile game I've been enjoying lately. I did something that is rare for me: I purchased a $7 IAP bundle on the second play.

There are a lot of design changes I would have made but the simple grind/resource mechanics make it easy to jump in and out of.

Having the game take over audio playing at launch is usually an "app killer" to me, but I turned off the game's audio and it solved the issue.

Nick Malaperiman

Nick Malaperiman

Head of Marketing at TopHouse Media

I'll judge this as a marketer and businessman (aspirational) rather than a gamer.

Quite simply: Clash Royale. This is the perfect game, in every way.

Their retention numbers are phenomenal, and obviously they know how to turn it into hard cash. Genius.