Mobile gaming has a certain appeal. Most of this appeal can be attributed to the simple pick up and play design of the games, but the fact that high quality phone games are always cheap, if not free, is also a major factor. This year saw an exponential rise in power on handheld devices, ranging from smartphones to tablets. All that power has to be used in some way, right? And so, gaming on mobile devices has become more hardcore with prettier visuals and more engaging and exciting gameplay. This year has been especially epic for mobile gaming, with the advent of the Unreal Engine for Android and iOS. Let’s take a look at some of the best mobile games the year brought us, shall we?
Mobile Game of the Year: Infinity Blade II
Infinity Blade II was the sequel to, you guessed it, Infinity Blade. It was developed by Chair Entertainment and Epic Games for iOS. While the first game was one of the first few mobile games that showed us how truly hardcore mobile games can be, the second one took it a step further with much improved graphics and building up on the already rich lore of the world with better writing, as well as actual voice acting. It also added more variety in the gameplay by offering you a greater choice with weapons, as it added two-handed weapons and dual-wielding. While some may find the gameplay to get stale after a while, this is still a definite must-buy because of the gorgeous visuals.
Beautiful visuals combined with greater emphasis on the story
First Runner Up: Angry Birds Star Wars
You thought you’d get bored of using slingshots to fling birds at pigs that live in questionable structures. You thought that after flinging at them through green pastures, different seasons, through the cartoonish depiction of Rio de Janeiro, and you even thought you’d be bored with the damn birds after you made them boldly go where no bird had gone before – space. Think again! Rovio has brought the franchise back with a bang by partnering up with Lucas Arts to mix the game with one of the most well-loved franchises ever created – Star Wars. What is arguably the best thing about the newest Angry Birds game is that it doesn’t follow the story of the god-awful prequel trilogy. Instead, it focuses on the original trilogy, with Luke Skywalker and co. You get birds with lightsabers, rogueish birds who have the hots for a certain princess and birds that are Sith lords, along with all the twists and turns that come with it.
You thought you'd be bored of them by now
Second Runner Up: Wild Blood
Another game that uses the Unreal Engine to bring amazing visual fidelity to mobile games, Wild Blood was developed by Gameloft. While the game does have its problems with some of the controls, and the awful first person sequences with the gigantic crossbow, it’s still an accomplishment in itself that Gameloft managed to give us an experience few other developers have managed. This game is easily the closest we’ll be getting any time soon to something like Fable or Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning on our phones and tablets. Another minor gripe we had with the game was Gameloft’s puzzling inclusion of micro-transactions in a game that isn’t even free. Despite all this though, it is still a great game – one of the best we have gotten for phones and tablets this year.
Think Fable, but for your phone
Mobile games are in the best position they’ve ever been in, combining increasingly better visual fidelity, engaging gameplay and a very low price point. While we did manage to pick three of the best mobile games of the year, here are some of the games we wish we could include, but for one reason or another, couldn’t.
Asphalt 7: Heat
There is no lack of racing games when it comes to mobiles, and the latest game in the Asphalt franchise may just be the crème de la crème. It offers challenging gameplay and a fun multiplayer mode coupled with very impressive visuals. Asphalt 7 has everything you might want in an arcadey racing game, from easy-to-understand car modification to race tracks set in varied environments. This game is easily one of the best racing games that mobile phones have ever seen. This game beats EA's Need For Speed: Most Wanted mostly because of the lack of challenge in the latter.
Definitely one of the best racing games on mobile
N.O.V.A. 3 - Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance
Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance aka N.O.V.A. comprises an elite squad of intergalactic commandos equipped with all kinds of hi-tech gear to save the earth and its survivors (of the inevitable apocalypse) against the evil Volterites and any other scum of the universe. While not exactly the most original plot you may have heard of, it still gave a decent enough reason to go around shooting aliens in the face. While the game has hammy voice acting and a clichéd plot, it’s still one of the best first person romps you can find on a mobile so far with a decent single player campaign and tight multiplayer game modes.
It's like Halo, but it's not
While the Angry Birds franchise isn’t exactly known for its deep and compelling plot, it did spawn a great spin-off game—Bad Piggies. The game brought a big twist in the classic Angry Birds gameplay by basically scrapping all of it except for the physics engine and letting you use that to make weird contraptions. The aim of the game is to get your piggies to the finish line in one piece. The main challenge comes in the form of having to design the perfect vehicle for your pig using as few parts as possible. It retains the Angry Birds’ sense of humour and lets you play the bad guys for a change. When it comes to physics engines, it also beats out Amazing Alex, where while the premise was interesting and the ideas were fun, the physics engine itself wasn’t as good as it is in Bad Piggies.
Look at how happy that pig looks
That’s our G.O.T.Y 2012 for mobile games. Do let us know what iOS, Android and Windows Phone games made it to your list. We’d love to know just which of 2012’s big launches left their impression on you.
Compliments of the seasons to all of you. We hope you’ve had a great year and wish you all the very best for 2013.
Check out our other G.O.T.Y 2012 award lists here.