What we say: Beautiful puzzler Monument Valley won bags of critical acclaim in 2014, deservedly.
1. Monument Valley
It’s a surreal shape-shifting game that sees you guiding a mysterious princess through a series of impossible-architecture levels by tapping and swiping. Short, but wonderfully sweet.
2. The Room Two
What we say: The original The Room was one of the best puzzlers on Android, and its sequel The Room Two continued the quality. “A physical puzzler, wrapped in a mystery game, inside a beautifully tactile 3D world,” as its developer put it, this was carefully-crafted 3D puzzling with plenty of head-scratching challenge.
3. Clumsy Ninja
What we say: Clumsy Ninja was the best new character in an Android game this year, thanks partly to spiffing animation. His game is all about training the little guy to be a lot less hapless, from popping balloons and trampolining to playing basketball – with Clumsy as the ball. Joyful.
4. The Walking Dead
What we say: Telltale Games’ Walking Dead games are gripping, polished adventure titles that adopt a TV-style episodic format to tell their stories. You’ll want to binge-play them just as you might binge-watch the zombie-apocalyptic show that they’re based on. And while I’ve chosen Season One for this roundup, Season Two follows on perfectly.
What we say: Threes! might have been the most moreish Android game of 2014: a puzzler so simple in theory you wondered why no one had thought of it before. As it turned out, lots of people thought of it afterwards: there are hundreds of Threes! clones. But the original, adding 1s and 2s together, then 3s and upwards, remains the most addictive.
6. 80 Days
What we say: 80 Days sits in between books and games as a piece of work: a retelling of Phileas Fogg’s journey around the world in 80 days, with an added layer of steampunk culture and technology. There’s plenty of reading, but also plenty of decision-making as you plot a route and explore the cities along the way.
7. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
What we say: Right at the end of 2015, already-classic card-battler Hearthstone made its way from iPad to Android tablets. It’s a deep, engrossing strategy game, but perhaps the best thing about it is the way it makes the genre accessible for newcomers too, with a well-designed tutorial.
8. Leo’s Fortune
What we say: Leo’s Fortune won a design award from Apple this year, and its Android version was every bit as good as on iOS. A lush platform game with excellent level design, controls and visuals – and bags of charm too.
9. Surgeon Simulator
What we say: Surgeon Simulator was of the goriest games on Android this year, even though (in theory) you were trying to avoid the bloody bits. This port of the popular PC game saw you operating on “the world’s unluckiest patient”, transplanting teeth, eyes and double-kidneys with some... unorthodox equipment.
What we say: Dots was brilliant. Its sequel, TwoDots, was brilliant too. An ideal pick-up-and-play puzzler, as you connected coloured dots over 135 levels, challenging friends as you went. Some purists still prefer Dots’ more open-ended formula, but TwoDots was sufficiently different to pick up its own fans.
11. Best Fiends
What we say: Released right at the end of 2014, Best Fiends is a polished puzzler that sees you matching coloured items to battle slugs, upgrading your own critters as you progress from level to level. And yes, the difficulty level starts getting genuinely... fiendish once you’re into the thirties and fourties, level-wise.
12. Boom Beach
What we say: Boom Beach was the third game from Supercell, the developer that’s enjoyed huge success with Clash of Clans and Hay Day. It was more like the former with its mix of base-building, defence and attack, except with a military theme rather than the fantasy characters of Clash of Clans.
13. Thomas Was Alone
What we say: Already a hit on browsers, PCs, PS3 / PS Vita and iOS, Thomas Was Alone brought its solitude to Android this year too. And while a platform game where you play a rectangle called Thomas might not sound appetising, this is a lovely piece of work.
14. Fish Out Of Water!
What we say: Developer Halfbrick made its name with Fruit Ninja, but Fish Out Of Water! deserves to sit alongside that casual classic. It sees you skipping a group of colourful fish across the waves, each with their own bouncing pattern. Your job is to make them go as far as possible, while being scored by crab judges. Sounds weird, plays excellently.
15. Twisty Hollow
What we say: In an app store stuffed with match-three puzzlers, Twisty Hollow was a breath of fresh air: a puzzle game involving rotating circles to match different items and characters, creating goods for a fictional town. It had originality and verve in spades.
16. Skylanders Trap Team
What we say: It needed a pretty powerful Android tablet and lots of space – 2.5GB – but Skylanders Trap Team was stretching the platform to good effect. A proper, full-blown Skylanders game to match the console version, complete with its own joypad and portal stand so that kids could use their physical Skylanders toys.
17. Candy Crush Soda Saga
What we say: Yes, the Candy Crush games have plenty of haters. But they have even more fans playing on the sofa, on the train, in the loos at work... For them, Candy Crush Soda Saga was a sequel worth playing: the same sweet-swapping action, but with new touches (rising soda and hidden bears, for example) to provide new appeal.
18. Football Manager Handheld 2015
What we say: Still the top football management franchise in the world, on smartphones and tablets as on computers. Football Manager Handheld 2015 was well worth paying for even if you owned the last version, with its revamped match engine, tweaked scouting system and an in-game data editor for players who can’t resist the urge to give themselves some artificial assistance.
19. XCOM: Enemy Within
What we say: XCOM: Enemy Within was expensive at just under a tenner, but you got plenty of value for money from this mobile port of the engrossing sci-fi strategy game. Tooling up your cyber-soldiers was part of the fun, but careful tactical planning – i.e. not just blundering around shooting – was key to getting the most out of it.
20. Game of Thrones
What we say: What a year for developer Telltale Games, whose Walking Dead games (see earlier) were accompanied by Game of Thrones, an official adventure based on the TV show. For fans, it was an absorbing chance to play within the world without just rehashing the plot. And for newcomers to GoT, it was an excellent introduction too.
21. Kingdom Rush Origins
What we say: It’s traditional to talk about fending off hordes of enemies in tower defence games, but it’s fair to say Android gamers are also used to facing hordes of tower defence games on the Google Play store. Kingdom Rush Origins is one of the very best, though: fun and challenging in equal measure.
22. Angry Birds Transformers
What we say: Can Angry Birds have a hit with games that don’t play like the traditional Angry Birds games? Rovio tried hard in 2014, although the jury’s still out on its performance. But quality-wise, Angry Birds Transformers was great: stompy robots (in disguise) shooting merry hell out of blocks and bots.
What we say: République was one of a number of games in 2014 proving that Android – and mobile in general – is perfectly capable of delivering rich, console-style games as well as casual fare. This stealth-action-puzzler featured a beautifully-realised world, and lots of originality.
24. World of Warriors
What we say: World of Warriors is the work of Mind Candy, the company behind children’s virtual world Moshi Monsters. This game was for an all-ages audience, though, as you collect and train warriors from various historical periods, then send them out to fight. Well-crafted and very playable.
25. World of Tanks Blitz
What we say: World of Tanks has been very popular on PC, but this year the multiplayer tank-battler crossed over to Android as World of Tanks Blitz. It’s very much focused on that multiplayer aspect too, with seven-on-seven tank battles and a big battalion of vehicles to choose from, according to military taste.
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