The 50 Best Mobile Games of the 2010s

Games Lists Best of the Decade
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40. Dandara

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Long Hat House’s first game might play fast and loose with history—its hero, Dandara, is a real-life figure from Brazilian history—but its Metroid-style design and unique approach to motion make it compulsively playable. It’s part myth, part dream, all wrapped up in an occasionally psychedelic sci-fi action game heavily indebted to the aesthetics of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and one of the best new games of the last few years.—Garrett Martin


39. Card of Darkness

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Zach Gage and Adventure Time’s Pendleton Ward teamed up for this surreal RPG-styled card game, which is one of the most visually arresting games in recent memory. It’s another game where you have to fight your way through the floors of multi-story dungeons, but instead of pinball it’s a card game built on a 5 by 5 grid. Each square has a deck of cards on it, with only the top cards on the bottom row being face up at first. As you get to the bottom of one square’s deck, the top cards on the decks on adjacent squares will be flipped over. There are five main types of cards: weapons, gold, spells, health potions, and, most commonly, enemies. The monsters all have different skills, which sometimes play off of each other to make them even deadlier. The goal is to make it from the bottom of the grid to whichever square on the top row has the exit (it changes randomly every time you play). Weapons work on an even-odd system—every enemy card has a number on it representing its strength, and weapons have a corresponding number. If the weapon’s number is higher than the enemy’s, it’ll kill them without you taking any damage; if the weapon’s number is lower, you’ll kill the enemy and remove their card from play but the difference in numbers will be inflicted upon your character as damage. If you use a weapon card with an even number on an enemy with an odd number (or vice versa), you’ll still kill the enemy, but it’ll permanently break your weapon. You don’t have to pick up every card on the grid, but once you start pulling cards from a deck you have to turn over every card in that deck in order to exit the floor. This might sound confusing, and, frankly, it is the first few times you play, but once you get everything down you’ll be returning to this one whenever you have free time and staying up late every night playing just one more dungeon. The only real drawback with the game is its difficulty, which is heavily lucked-based; sometimes cards will be distributed fairly evenly, with swords and health potions popping up almost as often as monsters. Other times, though, you’ll find yourself pulling up nothing but bad guys at the top of every deck, leading to a quick and unavoidable death. That random distribution of cards is a major part of the game’s structure and appeal, but it also can make everything a little too frustrating at times. Still, with its whimsical artwork and novel approach to dungeon crawling, Card of Darkness is a game that’s hard to put down.—Garrett Martin



38. Grayout

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Prepare to have your mind BLOWN. Billed by its creators as a “prequel” to 2013’s Blackbar—itself a dark, dystopian look at censorship and thought-policing—Grayout is both mechanically and thematically veeeery similar to its excellent predecessor. Without giving anything else away: It’s also better, richer, more intuitive. We’ve already said too much! Watch for it.—Jenn Frank


37. Beat Sneak Bandit

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Rhythmically-challenged players beware: Beat Sneak Bandit‘s environmental puzzles bounce to the beat of the music and you can only move by tapping the screen correctly on beat. Beat Sneak Bandit is another refined achievement from Simogo and perhaps their most successful game yet. It’s intelligently designed and it works marvelously with the iOS interface. Most importantly, though, Beat Sneak Bandit has cured me of my habit of cringing at the sound of the phrase “rhythmic puzzler,” which is saying a lot.—Luke Larsen



36. Hitman Go

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Hitman Go transposes Hitman to the context of a board game, and in doing so makes every aspect it touches smarter. Guns and weapons are no longer tools of reckless aggression, but board tactics for puzzle solving and path opening, used only in careful consideration of cutting through the ranks of the other player’s men. People have always been pieces, and Hitman has always been about manipulating them to accomplish a grisly deed. Go focuses more on the former than the latter, to the effect of not burying itself in needless pulp.—Matt Akers


35. Donut County

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Donut County is entirely about holes and the destruction they can wreak upon a southwestern community when deployed with malice by a clan of scheming raccoons. If you’ve ever wanted to swallow up a pastel desert town full of blocky, adorable animals with sass and quirks aplenty, Donut County is the game for you. Other than the art style and character designs, the best thing about Donut County is the writing. It’s snappy and succinct, quickly establishing the unique personalities of a dozen or so characters, and legitimately funny without trying too hard or being obviously impressed by itself. As cute and surprising as the levels are, I found myself sometimes rushing through them in order to get back underground for the next bit of dialogue and the next character introduction. Like donuts themselves, Donut County will give you a quick, buzzy high, and taste great as you’re chewing on it, but isn’t all that filling.—Garrett Martin



34. Alphabear

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By all outward appearances a gentle spell-it-out word game in the mold of Bookworm, twee Alphabear bares its teeth early on. This is not an easy game, and its steep challenge-curve may frustrate some players. Some of the game’s more obtuse free-to-play gimmickry (‘hibernating’ bears? It’s clever, but man is it obnoxious) also dampen the otherwise-exquisite joy of playing. Still, it’s easy to get hooked, and the game’s cheery attitude and reassuring pastels go a long way in maintaining players’ goodwill. Alphabear’s fresh new take on “tiled word games” also forgives a lot of minor sins. It’s a new classic, for sure.—Jenn Frank


33. Prune

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Prune is unabashedly an ‘art’ game, but it has zero pretensions: At its core, it’s a gorgeous, solid puzzle game. In it, you shear a lone tree’s branches (by swiping at the touch screen), carving away at the tree so that its limbs will grow around numerous obstacles and curl toward the sunlight. Apparently, the game itself was inspired by the practice of trimming bonsai, which might make Prune sound like a slow, contemplative, perhaps even arduous game experience. It isn’t. Because the tree grows so quickly, Prune often tends more toward an ‘action’ pace: You can usually brute-force your way to level’s end by beating back vines as fast as you can—which is to say, there isn’t a ‘right’ way to play Prune. It’s graceful, sophisticated, and wholly gratifying to play.—Jenn Frank



32. Super Mario Run

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Super Mario Run arrived just in time for Christmas, releasing on Dec. 15 to rave review. While the game doesn’t do anything particularly new or interesting, it’s a stellar Mario title-and that’s more than enough. Besides: who can get enough of the plumber and his obsession with mashing Goombas?

Apparently, not us. Run beat Pokemon Go in day-one downloads.
Super Mario Run has all the hallmarks of Nintendo’s quality craftsmanship, and feels just as good when you’re entrenched in the throes of a difficult level. Every stage you complete feels like a triumph, and there’s very little bad to say about the game. Mobile gaming might be growing at a rapid pace, but there’s still a lot of vaporware out there-that’s why this new Mario adventure feels so right-it’s a true diamond in the rough.—Jacob Saylor


31. Infinity Blade II

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Infinity Blade II doesn’t fundamentally alter the formula that made its predecessor so successful, but it does add some welcome refinements like new weapon sets, an expanded story, and varied enemies. Its stunning visuals and responsive controls make it one of the best-looking and best-playing games on iOS, even if its repetitive structure isn’t entirely compelling over the long haul. In a franchise based on iterative gameplay, this sequel is an interesting study in iterative design.—J. P. Grant


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