This is not a game where you actually steal cards. It’s actually something much more interesting: A strategy-stealth title where you must take as much treasure as you can from a castle without being caught by the guards. Everything is represented by a card on a board, though, and the order in which you play, move or remove cards from that board means the difference between escaping a wealthy person or spending your last days in the clink.
Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days is a classic adventure novel that inspired quite a few real life trips to circumnavigate the globe. As you’re probably never going to get the opportunity to follow in Phileas Fogg and Passepartout’s footsteps, this interactive fiction version from Inkle is the next best thing. You can try to replicate their journey exactly or forge your own path across a globe populated with steampunk wonders. Each route you take has its own unique story content, meaning you can play this again and again and never have the same adventure twice.
Lots of games use an anime style in their art, but Forgotton Anne is one of the few that really captures the feel of playing through one. The setting, a place populated by sentient lost objects, is charming and quirky, and the gameplay varies between puzzler and platformer. The controls have been simplified for mobile and, while the puzzles start out very easy, a lack of complexity feels a lot less like a negative when you’re playing on a smaller screen in your spare moments.
The Gardens Between
Two best friends find themselves stranded on a series of mysterious, magical islands littered with objects from home. To find their way back to where they came from, they must light a beacon at the top of each isle. To solve the puzzles it’s not space you must manipulate, but time: When you interact with objects on the island, you can rewind back to a point where they would be more useful. On mobile the game has been specifically designed for a vertical orientation, making this a game you can casually play with just your thumb on the screen.
Take Puzzle Bobble and cross it with Breakout and you’ll only scratch the surface of describing Holedown. This puzzle game takes you to various asteroids and planetoids, asking you to dig deeper and deeper by bouncing balls off various blocks that stand in your way. Each block has a number on it indicating how many times it needs to be hit before it disappears, and you have a limited amount of shots, so you’ll need to employ some strategy and physics to get down to the core. There is also a ghost. It is very cute.
If you enjoyed the retro ‘80s glam rock aesthetic of Thor: Ragnarok and you also like chucking spears at things, Lichtspeer is the game for you. You’re a future warrior tasked with killing zombies, giants and sorcerers for your god, who is always lurking just above and will judge you hard in pseudo-German when you miss. The synth music is bombastic and the graphics wouldn’t look out of place on the front of a Trapper Keeper, so if you were the kind of kid who adored the laser background on school picture day, this is definitely up your alley.
If you’ve ever dreamed of designing and running your own subway system, Mini Metro can scratch that itch. Part train simulation and part puzzle game, you’re presented with busy stations that you must connect with train lines across various world cities like London, Hong Kong and Barcelona. All you need to do is keep stations from overcrowding — a goal complicated by limits on how many lines you can run, trains you own and tunnels you can build.
Reigns: Her Majesty
It’s tough to be a king — or in this case, queen. Reigns: Her Majesty places you on a throne constantly being visited by various supplicants asking for more money, resources and time. Each decision you make has an effect on your finances as well as favor with the peasants, nobility and clergy. Keep them all in balance and you might have a long, fruitful reign. If you don’t, well, there’s always the guillotine. But you’ll be back on the throne in no time, thanks to the game’s quick card swipe-based gameplay and a story that wants you to die to be resurrected again and again.
This visual novel takes advantage of the fact that it is on a mobile device, presenting all of its dialogue and images in a chat format. But the people you’re chatting with aren’t your friends, not yet anyway — they can be your allies, but they may also end up as your victims, as the currently dead protagonist is promised a new chance at life only at the expense of someone else’s. It’s ultimately up to you to decide, but only after getting to know each and every one of them, making the decision a lot harder.
This farming/village life simulator may have started life as a PC title, but it’s on mobile devices where it’s really hit its stride, especially thanks to refined controls designed for your phone. You inherit a farm from your grandfather and are tasked with cultivating the land, raising animals, expanding your home and befriending (and romancing) villagers. Combat can be a little frustrating with touch controls, but overall it’s as peaceful — or stressful — as you make it. The perfect game for passing time on a long commute or fiddling with during your latest Netflix binge.