Top 10 Best Mobile Indie Games 2015
Mobile games continued to proliferate from indie development spectrum in 2015. Though we stills saw more than our share of the dumping ground of quick-buck, shovelware arcade and puzzle games, the handheld market offered up some quality experiences for gamers on the go in 2015. Here are our favorites:
10. Card Crawl
by Arnold Rauers
2015 was the year of the deck-building/RPG mashup and every variation under the stars thereof. This is why it surprised me that Card Crawl – a casual 4-card dungeon crawler – shoved its way past so many other games and landed on the top 10 of the year.
Card Crawl has you sitting across from an Orcish dealer with a donations/sales box on one side and a nasty deck of magic cards of the other. At the start, he deals you four cards, of which you must play three before he deals again. This is where you can donate items or coin purses to the donation box to clear a space. Cards reveal items, abilities and monsters. You must survive all 50 cards by managing risk, through clever strategy and card counting to win.
Each adventure is guaranteed to be unique. Clean illustrations and meticulous sound design pull this together into a charming package for some fun RPG-like solitaire with bonuses, trophies and other unlockables for hours of fun. I would love to play the real analog version of this. With an Orc.
by RareSloth LLC
A deliciously forward-urging, sadistic and winsome puzzle action game. With 140+ levels, this topdown title has you thinking fast on your feet (thumbs) as you circumnavigate the many ways to die en route to your goal at the end of each level, collecting gold carats (heh) along the way.
Come for the art, stay for the finger-twitching, fast-thinking, puzzle-solving glee.
by Joel McDonald
Prune was at IndieCade 2015 and it looked nice. Then everyone was also talking about it as their fave of the year. and that was fine. I didn’t pay it much attention at first. My few moments with it had me feeling like I was playing a slow-mo re-skinned version of Cut the Rope. But I decided to go deeper and gulped down a few levels before I understood the magic.
You plant a seed, pull out the germinated tree, and then prune the branches so as to coax the blossoming end to reach the light. Sometimes, however, there are two levels of light to reach, for, sometimes more.
The brilliant stroke of engineering here, though, is that you have a finite mass of tree, and thus every little bit you snip adds back somewhere else. Thus, you may find you are very carefully and meticulously trimming the most delicate little part, just to coax those blossoms a little closer to the sun. And so the experience becomes a credible analog to the Zen meditative practice of bonsai. Lovely and effective.
7. Alto’s Adventure
Smooth, easy and fun. Though it is not as groundbreaking as Linerider or immersive as Rayman’s Jungle Run, Alto is a wonderfully illustrated and design casual endless runner in a wintery theme with procedurally generated levels and persistent day/night and weather cycles, wherein you recapture your escaped llamas while scoring points for awesome downhill tricks.
Think Canabalt meets SSX where you can really felt the wind rushing through your hair, but then add the exhilaration of zipping through a Thomas Kincaid village at night while the rain whips your face as you struggle to make out the rocks jutting out of the moonlit icy snow zipping past beneath your skies. This game has the power to evoke all those feels and more.
Plus, all the llamas!
by Laser Dog
A shiny twitch puzzle-runner in space for the post-dubstep generation. Once you get into the swing of things, you feel like you are flying. But the fast pace requires good ergonomic positioning, or you will miss it.
Also, this merciless bastard sends you to the start of the level if you fail. I guess that’s better than permadeath, though Roguelike masochists would probably disagree.
5. Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon
by Tiger Style Games
From the makers of Waking Mars comes this amazing and contemplative sequel to 2009’s Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor. You play the spider, with various forms of movement that include crawling along walls, jumping and clinging from surface to surface and making webs to catch insects while you explore a castle that holds esoteric secrets.
At first blush, it may appear like something between Botanicula and a hidden objects adventure. but it’s neither…and it’s great.
4. Story Warriors: Fairy Tales
by Thumbstar Games
A very cool novel (pun intended) mechanic involving literally (yes, again) drawing (cough) the solutions to obstacles right out of the text below your feet, or the writing on the wall, as case case may be. Hundreds of little animations emerge as you make your across the text, solving the quandaries of logic to reach their final period.
Shifting between your favorite fairy tales like Red Riding Hood to Snow White and more, in unexpected ways, InfinityWaltz also chose this as one of his IndieCade 2015 festival picks.
3. Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville
by Northway Games
Sarah Northway (and friends’) amazing 4X zombie-themed survival game part 3 got a massive content update and very stylish HD graphics overhaul. The game works beautifully on my iPad Air 2 and its ever-changing storylines, a huge list of characters, and dozens of missions and backstories, always lead to hours lost to this little desperate post-apocalyptic world.
I think the story aspect really adds to help this title standout from all the other time and resource management games on the market. It’s depth is quite surprising. I played the first one on my Android, and this one on my iPad. It is good on both.
2. Her Story
by Sam Barlow
What can we say about Sam Barlow’s masterpiece that hasn’t been said except that it plays really well on an iPad, where it was released in the same year as its desktop counterpart. Though the game plays under the pretense that you are using an antiquated Windows computer, somehow, having the power of that video archive in the palms of your hands is even more impressive. So we moved it from our proper PC GOTY list to the mobile version.
InfinityWaltz: “Full motion video makes its triumphant return with this unusual murder mystery from Sam Barlow (of Silent Hill: Origins fame). Use keyword searches to bring up interrogation videos – wonderfully portrayed by first-time video game actress Viva Seifert – and see if you can piece the story together. ”
1. Lumino City
by State of Play
This is a dream for adventure game lovers. Full of whimsical, visceral dioramas and Escher-esque set pieces, this project – the results of years of experimentation reaching back to their paper cut-out title Lume – has succeeded in transferring all the joyful curiosity of a day locked outside to play in the garden with whatever odds and ends and curiosities you might find hidden in the grass before the shed.
The free making-of companion app shows how much love and attention went into its creation and the in-game help guide is a really excellent bit of reading. I wish I owned the book in the meatverse.
Best Indie Mobile Games 2015 – Honorable Mentions
You Must Build A Boat
This sometimes-exasperating, quirky title mashes up RPG elements with match 3 and endless runner mechanics as you unlock challenges to expand your boat so as to get to safe harbor. Weapons upgrades, quests and character unlocks add variety, but it isn’t as random or intuitive as one would hope, which is what kept it off the top 10 list. Regardless, it is good enough to mention out of the thousands of games released alongside it in 2015.
Some fine twin-stick tactical shootin’ for yer touchscreen. Add an ever-growing arsenal of weapons and gear, bosses, side quests and other per-stage objectives and you got yerself a whole mess of action tah deal with. Featuring a slick and intuitive UI and clean top-down 3D graphics you could expect to find on a console and there’s not much to argue with. It only doesn’t make our main list, because, well, it never quite leaves the ranch we grew up knowin’ so well.
Tilt: Quill’s Quandary
by Noah Rosenfield
Perhaps the first truly great tilt game. I have always found these games as single-players to be tedious and inaccurate. I am not talking about local co-op games and such. Quill’s Quandary goes beyond the mere gimmick of the accelerometer and gyrometer and actually presents some real thought-provoking physics puzzles while always remaining accessible, adorable and maintaining a smooth gameplay experience.
by Luftlinie Produktion UG (haftungsbeschraenkt)
This wonderful sleeper title crept in just under the clock in 2015. Though you will find it under the “books” category on the iTunes app store, it is very much an interactive experience, perhaps aimed at a much younger audience than myself, but I found it had me laughing out loud more than almost anything else I played this year.
After a long day, you are meant to go home to your mother, but you find a mysterious pair of glasses that, when pulled down over the scene in front of you, change everything into the “I Am the Walrus” version of things. Suddenly you can poke at anything in the scene and watch its comedic alter-dimensional counterpart do something truly strange.
I really enjoyed dragging the Wunderglasses up and down over the hand-painted children’s illustrations and had to mention to anyone who may be interested in pop-up books and science centers.
by TRIADA Studio
Like origami for your brain, Shadowmatic takes you back to those childhood sleepovers where you made shadow puppets on the wall with your hands and a flashlight, except on a whole other level. Turning abstract objects in the light, you will eventually find the angle at which its shadow matches the recognizable target image to complete the level.
Outstanding Games Released in Previous Years on Other Platforms Making Their Mobile Debut in 2015
80 Days (Hispanola Update)
Though 80 Days topped our list last year (and TIME Magazine’s) the recent and free massive Hispanola update offers so much new adventure, characters, places, facts and intoxicatingly worldly imagination that we had to include it again.
Now you can travel to space or Atlantis or a bevvy of esoteric, secret locations. Dangerously addictive and highly memorable experience-making.
Dungeon of the Endless
by Amplitude Studios
Some say that Dungeon of the Endless is even better on tablets. I don’t necessarily agree. It’s a very fidgety little game with lots of details and a tiny UI to begin with. I like and need the precision of keyboard and mouse to navigate through this once the shit hits proverbial fan.
That said, I am so stoked that I can now lay this heart-stopping masterpiece Roguelike/tower defense/RPG hybrid puzzler on my portable device. Looks just like the real thing. You should play it.
by QCF Design
Almost as much a math logic game as it is an RMG, I once said Desktop Dungeons is more addictive than crack. Now I can carry crack around in my pocket. And it might make me smarter.
by Super Giant Games
The game that took our top spot for 2014 made its way to iOS devices, bringing with it the same strategic tech-enhanced combat. While you may want to make use of a gamepad, it isn’t essential; the touchscreen controls are fully capable of handling quick strikes and plotted time-attacks.
The same gripping future noir story is intact, as delivered with the caramel gravel tones of Logan Cunningham. Guide the mute Red and her bizarre blade on a quest to discover who is behind a tragedy that has befallen the ultimate democratic Utopia.
Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition
by Klei Entertainment
I have sunken over 320 hours into Don’t Starve on my Steam PC account. The only sadness about the amazing iPad port is that it doesn’t sync up with my Steam account in any way. When you have survived 160 days on your tablet, you are gonna wish you could report that to your PC and its auxiliaries.
That said, the app does feature an easy to use built in video capture feature natively, which is rad. Best Edward Gorey-styled survival game on the market. Ever.
Very special thanks to Adam Fimio and InfinityWaltz for contributing to this article
What do you think about our choices? What were YOUR favorite mobile indie games of 2015? Please let us know in the comments below!