Best Mobile Indie Games of 2019
It was something of a renaissance year for indie mobile games as Google Play grew up a little more and Apple decided out of the blue to launch Apple Arcade, making dozens of indie games – some exclusives – available for one low monthly price.
The tabletop board game explosion also led to interesting digitalization, hybrids and genre-benders. Meanwhile Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence also matured and moved much closer to the mainstream.
While some of these titles are also available for desktop, we chose to move them to the mobile list because they excelled in that context and elevated the platform.
All told, it was a fascinating year for mobile games, and indies led the charge. Here are:
IGR’s Top 10 Indie Games for Mobile Devices in 2019:
10. AI Dungeon/AI Dungeon 2
by Nick Walton
“Imagine a world that you could explore infinitely, continually finding an endless amount of entirely new content and adventures. What if you could also choose any action you could think of instead of being limited by the imagination of the developers who created the game?
This is AI Dungeon. Any action you take, anything you choose to say, anywhere you choose to go, in any time period you want to play – there’s an infinite number of adventures waiting. AI Dungeon is the first limitless text adventure game of its kind built with extremely advanced artificial intelligence using a massive deep neural network at its core.”
That’s the sales pitch, and amazingly, for the most part, it is true. Though far from perfect – (is anything ever? – we can trust that the AI will get faster, smarter, better.
by Die Gute Fabrik
At first blush, this illustrative 2D side-scroller feels like a tribute or imitation of Oxenfree – you are on a boat heading to a strange island populated by mysterious mystical characters.
It’s a very clicky adventure game, and its paper-cut-out cut-scenes aren’t skippable, but if you are willing to slow down and go for the ride, you’re in for an emotional and memorable journey filled with exotic new characters, flora, locations and tales capable of pulling at your heart-strings and taking you on a strange and novel journey. The beautifully designed score by Alessandro Coronas subtly draws you into its unique currents.
Interestingly, Mutazione‘s deliberate pacing is implicit in its design – it wants you to take time as function, to exist within its emotional beats. It’s quite a thing to bang against it with attention deficit, recognize what we have become, and learn to listen just a little more for new information. Rated N: Not for Everyone.
8. Cat Quest II: The Lupus Empire
by The Gentlebros
Cat puns and RPG action return in Cat Quest II, but on top of the obvious charm and jokes, the sequel offers more quests, more spells, more weapons and more action. More importantly, it manages to simplify a fairly robust action RPG system – complete with spells, dodging, ranged and melee weapons, armor upgrades and even on-the-fly character-switching – into a control scheme that works smoothly using only touch commands (though it also includes controller support, a necessity for local co-op play). A PURRific follow-up.
7. Spring Falls
Spring Falls is almost the Platonic ideal of a relaxing mobile game. Better on the couch or even in bed than during a commute, it elevates a simple concept – lowering hexagons of land to allow water to spread, touch neighboring hexagons and bring seedlings into bloom – with a soothing, seasonal aesthetic, all gentle wind and rain against lonely, weather-beaten cliffs.
by Rogue Games
An elegant, excellently designed puzzler that uses a very straightforward mechanism to carve a new approach to marble-rolling games. In Hexaflip, you are flipping a hexagon along any of its facets to arrive at the goal. Along the way, you will skip over spaces, avoid traps and race for the finish line. It is a chunky and seamless experience that is a joy to play on iOS tablets.
by Devolver Digital
As a witch transformed into a flying eye, this colorful “platformer” has you navigating levels by swiping across the screen to control your flight. Part Arkanoid and part Kirby’s Canvas Curse, each level has enemy battles and hidden treasures aplenty, where the real challenge is being both quick to respond and keeping your flight paths smooth.
Like just about everything Devolver Digital puts out, the package is rounded out by a catchy soundtrack and tons of charm, making this one of the most simply addictive games to come out this year.
4. Dear Reader
by Local No. 12
Imagine an action puzzler that has you guessing and parsing classic works of fiction. It starts out simply enough; just fill in the obvious completion of a phrase from a famous passage of a novel. You have context, scope, style…make your guess.
But things escalate, and as you begin to second guess, you are also processing the amazing works of fiction that form the levels of this fascinating title.
3. What the Golf?
This is the wacky game of the year that no one could see coming and has proven a runaway hit. What the Golf? starts simply enough; putt the ball into the hole on what appears to be a miniature golf course.
But before you know it, the very world is the ball, maybe you are the ball, maybe the world is the hole, or the objective is something that you can’t even imagine. With every level, the game becomes more Dada-ist and wonderfully creative, leading to much laughing-out-loud and epiphanies as you figure out how to get the job done. Brilliant and super fun to play on a tablet.
by Capybara Games
A flawlessly executed match-3 tile puzzler/action game with perfect cartoon graphics in the vein of anything on Cartoon Network – a sort of mash-up of Max Fleischer and The Regular Show – complete with perfect squash-and-stretch animation that enhances your moves before you commit to them.
But what is most satisfying about Grindstone is the way combos, chains and progression are done – head-scratching, push-your-luck maps that may knock you out and have you running back to the pub for healing, drinks, potions and upgrades as you make your way up the mountain to recover riches to pay for your family. A very tough game to put down.
1. Neo Cab
by Chance Agency
As one of the last human ride-share service drivers, you are heading back to a parallel dimension Los Angeles – more akin to San Junipero from Black Mirror – to meet your ex-girlfriend.
She is flaky as ever and gifts you a special mood band that displays your current emotional temperature with a high degree of granularity. Your passengers can see it, too, and will react in kind. As you make your way from ride to ride, conversation to conversation, the nature of the world you inhabit is fleshed out, representing a cautionary tale and one of hope for a future we will soon meet.
Supported by its cyberwave-colored palette, hand-drawn illustrative style, and obfusc‘s evocative and brilliant minimalist electro score, Neo Cab was without question the most compelling game we played on mobile this year.
What were YOUR favorite indie mobile games in 2019? What did you think of our list? Let us know via the comments section!