There is a sea of terrible games, and that’s especially true on mobile, and in my experience it’s impossible to find the ones I like.
When I was younger, my friend group had time to try a lot of games to find the good ones. Once you found a good one, you’d recommend it to other people, and they would do the same to you.
That’s how I found the original Fallout. I played all the demos that came with a PC magazine of the time, and one of those demos was Fallout. I found x-com ufo enemy unknown because my cousin played it at my grandparents house. Dune 2 because it was installed in my youth club. Diablo because it was the hottest game at a Net-cafe.
With age I’ve lost that recommendation zone. I don’t have time to try games and neither do my friends, so we don’t. Once in a while something will blow up so large that you can’t avoid hearing about it. But finding the gems? How do you even do that? I mean, I guess you could turn to gaming-“journalism”, but that is mainly just advertising.
Actually, Universal Paperclips is the most recent "game" I've tried, although in some respects I wouldn't call it a game as much as, perhaps, a technology demonstration.
The last true "video game" I played, ever, in the clasic sense of the word, would be GTA: Vice City. That's the last time I had a console, bought a title, and immersed myself in the game play, to beat the game, as intended by the producers of the game. I also revisited it, when they re-released it as a mobile app, and played it on a tablet.
After that experience, the deep dive of investing maybe 80 hours of zombie-like effort into beating a richly developed video game, while being mildly entertained by the story arc of the game, I washed my hands of video games. It had eaten up about a month of my life, and had amounted to pretty much nothing in return. I gained a new variant of button mashing skills, while vegetating at home on the couch.
Mobile or not, games are time wasters, for when you have time to spare. As I've gotten older, I resist getting sucked into media that tries to engulf me and swallow up weeks of time, to unravel a yarn of riddles attached to a gaming environment. (or whatever)
I've seen all the newer games, and they're interesting for sure, but to sit inside and play a video game like it's a job feels like erasing whole sections of your life, when you come up for air. You ask yourself: What the fuck am I doing with my life?
I don't really care about all of the new, emerging technology and advancements. It's kind of a sad joke at this point. Graphics cards, consoles, downloadable content, live streaming speed runs, e-sports celebrities and fame? I just... I just don't care anymore.
If something makes you happy, you should do it. It is not a waste of time if you enjoy it. Also, I find listening to people a waste of time. Work is a waste of time. To be honest everything in a sense is a waste of time.
Oh, they good 'ol waste of time argument in a sauce of nostalgia and regret. Been there, done that.
Games do not have to be time wasters! There are good games which you can play casually. An example is Wordfeud (a Scrabble clone) which only takes about 5 minutes every 3 days if you want it to be. Its great to play whilst traveling or on the toilet.
Puzzle elements and competitive elements can be a useful aid. Even hand eye coordination has uses. Doing so in a playful manner can be constructive. I've seen games which even learn a toddler programming basics. Even the social element of a game such as a pen & pencil RPG or an MMORPG (why travel IRL for RPG) is worth something.
> You ask yourself: What the fuck am I doing with my life?
This is a good question to ask for people who get sucked into time sinks of gaming. What I've observed is that people who do those grindy games need to get their mind of their RL issues. You can call it avoiding reality, or trying to cope with reality.
In ~five years between 2006-11 we went to full onslaught of indie games with the markets barely distinguishable from the olde Flash game sites. Everyone can make an ‘indie game’ now―they're not even called that anymore, I think. IPhone and Android happened in the same time.
BTW, it sorta helps to have ‘queues’ of stuff you want to read, watch, listen to, or play. I've gathered some titles just from seeing each mentioned twenty times on the web―many are classics by now, of course (especially since my games queue doesn't move much anyway).
For a while, I also watched Twitch, but seems that everyone except most promoted streamers got tired and there's nothing except streams of Fortnite. I discovered few games from there, at the times when it was interesting.
My friends are mostly playing AAA games on Playstation nowadays, so unfortunately I lost this way of discovery too.
I don't read much about the latest games, and my rig needs a serious upgrade as well...
However, when I do read articles about game development and such, some games get mentioned more than others. For their gameplay, story line, art, etc..
So those games get added to my wishlist, and when they go on sale (such as Spec Ops: The Line, which looks to be a morally ambiguous experience), I pick them up. It helps that years old titles (like the remastered BioShock series) run OK on my rig.
Now that I think of it, it's sorta weird that despite ads being such an omnipresent nuisance these days there's not a website equivalent of that today.
I don't any more, but I believe it's still published. It never really felt like advertising, of course they were sent free copies to review, but there were plenty of negative reviews.
If you can apply a mental 'Fortnite filter' (or want to read about Fortnite) then Polygon is good too.
I'm ashamed that I forgot about it in my other comment, but Rock Paper Shotgun is my other favourite gaming site. I've never gotten any whiffs of shilling from there, but I may not have the nose for it.
Ehat really stopped was the recurring hardware upgrades ever two or three years. The last one was more than 5 years ago I think...
Me too. Reminds me of this quote: "we don't stop playing game because we get old, we get old because we stop playing games".
The games that I avoid like the plague are the in-app purchase games, especially the ones that are just about buying in-game currency. These games are never good.
The sad thing is that the mobile platform should, in theory, be ideal for strategic games and builder games like Anno, Settlers, etc. All implementations of this genre however rely on, after a few hours of playing, increasing build-times of buildings to multiple hours, or days, but allowing you to finish the building instantly with in-game currency. Which is, of course, a crap gaming experience and I am sure the creators know this. It does seem to be a good way to make lots of money, seeing as all games do this now.
That is because they ARE.
Once upon a time (2011) there was a long article called "Who killed video games? (a ghost story)". It has now been blown away by mists of time, with only stale links referencing the detailed, cruel and flat-out cynical - but oh so true - treatise into how mobile games are essentially built on top of mathematically optimised engagement wheels making use of the anticipation/disappointment cycle. I wish I could find a working link...
In only slightly unrelated tangent: a university mate was an aspiring game designer. I remember how he once, off-handedly, mentioned how he experiments with mechanics and rules until he finds a set that works. We actually got to playtest some of his work-in-progress experiments, and while I never got to try anything really good, others in the group did.
But right, back to the topic: once the abstract rules of the game itself were ready and sufficiently balanced, he picked a theme and genre most likely to expose the game to the biggest possible (welcoming) segment. It's easy to extrapolate that once a working game design has been found, the creators would fit the same engine with various other skins and themes to target as many lucrative markets as possible.
One can find the same approach everywhere, really. Cookie-cutter reality TV show formats; talent shows; sequels of upon sequels, be that films or TV show seasons; ...
A really cynical view of all this could be that mobile gaming is now a properly mature market. Innovation is unreliable and expensive, so why bother?
Haven't read it yet and not too sure how to use the Internet Archive but this seems to be it's first capture of the story.
You'd think so, wouldn't you?
The final nail in the coffin, so I am not even willing to look any more came with Dungeon Keeper. Dungeon Keeper turned out to be astonishingly cynical crap from an incredibly strong heritage. Micro-transaction and freemium abuse destroying everything they touch isn't solely on mobile of course, yet it seems far harder to avoid there.
My games money now goes to independents on PC only - the mistakes and dull failures are more than compensated for by the occasional Factorio or Pillars of Eternity.
On mobile? I won't even look or try any more - they thoroughly poisoned the well treating everyone as there to be milked.
The version of Settlers I played on the iPad a few years ago is absolutely nothing like that. It was almost a straight port, and the touch screen actually made for a great experience.
X4 games, on the other hand, are pre-destined for tablet.
However gaming in mobile doesn't feel good. The control feels inferior compared to keyboard + mouse, or joysticks.
 Pokémon Go doesn't count.
Then imo people don't want to spend 50$ because switch > mobile for gaming.
So I'm an avid boardgamer (as in Euro games aka boardgamegeek.com) and, for me, the phone and tablet have been an absolute boon as some of those have high quality ports. You'll typically pay $5-10 for them but it's totally worth it if this is your thing. Honestly I want more of this so I'll basically buy any quality implementation of a board game just to encourage more of this.
Here are some of the better ones:
- Through the Ages (totally playable on a phone)
- Agricola (this one probably needs a tablet)
- Race for the Galaxy
These are of course the usual suspects there too like Settlers of Catan, Carcasonne, Ticket to Ride, Splendor, etc for games on the lighter end.
The only IAPs with these are expansions, which I'm totally fine with.
Non-PTW games seem to be largely dead, which is sad. Think Waking Mars. But the market has spoken as there's way more money in PTW. But I actually really enjoyed playing the earlier Asphalt games (like 6/7 whereas later they went free and heavily upsell you on buying in-game stuff). I've put more hours than I'd care to admit into Bejeweled HD (the Diamond Mine variant). Years ago I also played a lot of Angry Birds but even those went heavily PTW.
I'll close by saying this to game developers out there: games can be free that are PTW, have ads or both or they can be non-free with no ads and no IAPs other than purchasing more content. Nothing annoys me more than a game that tries to charge to buy and then you find out it's actually PTW or (worse) it started off non-PTW but then they bolt on PTW or ads or they just nag you to death.
Strongly disagree. The microtransaction games are flooding the market, but there's still a substantial number of quality games which have a purchase once model. More have been released this year alone than I'll ever have time for.
pockettactics.com is a good place to start for seeing what quality games are out there and what the new releases are.
I used to play mobile games quite often, but it's been getting harder and harder to find games that don't require an insane amount of grinding or a pay to win model. I like strategy games, but when looking for games on the genre, I keptwszz finding recommendations for games like Clash of Clans, and that's precisely the opposite of what I want (it looks relevant, and the intro feels like what I want, but after a couple of hours of playing, I realize it's a waste of time).
Unfortunately, it seems games for desktop are also trying to go that direction, but with DLC and cosmetics instead of more direct pay to win. I really don't understand why people stand for this crap, but the fact that it's becoming more popular means that it works.
I miss the days when buying a game meant you got a good experience out of the box and you weren't hassled to pay more for the same game. Companies would sometimes sell an expansion or two, but those were almost like sequels, not missing features from the base game.
The situation is pretty much the same on the App Store for most games. There's a few high-quality games with an upfront price, but the majority are free-to-play with ads or in app purchases.
You will occasionally find someone online saying "I'd have bought it as a $10 premium game" but in reality trying to pay salaries with premium games is almost impossible.
Yes, there are the rare outliers like monument valley but there are orders of magnitude more people making a living working on f2p games.
People just don't seem willing to commit on mobile, while they are on desktop. It's weird, but I feel like $10 is cheap for a desktop game, but expensive for a mobile game, so I expect a lot more out of a mobile game than a desktop game at the same price. Perhaps it's a graphics thing, IDK.
Unfortunately, that model seems to be getting quite popular on desktop as well, with tons of games offering "loot boxes" and cosmetics using in game currencies. I avoid those games like I avoid that model on mobile, but for some reason people are choosing that model on desktop as well.
It is sort of surreal how little the needle has moved since the F2P boom. I bought the first gen iPad, and back then there was a ton of excitement about gaming possibilities on the platform, and some good stuff came out.
I left with the 2nd gen and hadn’t touched one since but a couple years ago I got a new current gen iPad on sale, and was surprised to find that basically, a lot of the best games were still just the same ones that were out back then for the iPad 2. And then the switch to 64-bit happened and we lost a ton of those older games entirely that never got updated.
It’s really depressing. I don’t really even try to find mobile games anymore either.
That’s funny, because I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the App Store.
The one function I’ve been waiting for, both directly as a customer and as a parental control, is to be able to have the app store search filter out results with in-app purchases.
Right now there is no way to effectively -find- real premium games, let alone purchase them. Of course they’re going to die under the flood of freemium garbage.
And in-app purchases can be done well (e.g. pay to remove ads functions basically like a free trial for me), but they've become predatory since they've started influencing game design.
Oh, I agree - which is why I don’t buy the idea that the App Store editors try to highlight “premium” games. Making them easily discoverable would be trivial - but cuts against their profit motive.
It used to be a common tactic with older PC games when the shareware model was popular. Games by id, Sierra, Sirtech to name a few. Also most installers had ads before Steam emerged and made the installing step less visible. GOG still does this in their installers.
I browse HN on mobile 95% of the time, most of the time I'll just back straight out of a site like that, but I was interested in his take on the mobile game grind fest.
I also don't play games on mobile except PoGo which is perfectly suited to the platform.
I spend plenty of money on mobile-non-games so it's not a blanket "I don't spend money on mobile".
On the flip side, how are you a mobile power user that doesn't use some sort of reader mode.
Edit: I regret this comment. I was an ass.
What is important is that the author is giving an opinion on mobile gaming, while showing very little regard to mobile readers with the site design, it changes the narrative of the article as a whole.
I'm, if you're writing an article about mobile games, the website should be usable on mobile without reader mode. That shouldn't even require saying...
They’re just wasting the talent of game creators to produce these games to pad the revenue of these businesses with no regard for the well-being of players (I’m not one to harp on the whole “only drug dealers call their customers users” thing, but it’s very apt here).
I’m hoping sooner-rather-than-later that the ratio of good vs. evil games is skewed towards the former. Unfortunately by that time a lot of execs will have already ran away with the money while leaving a pile of burnt-out developers and players.
More than that, though, I think Nintendo doesn't like to make sacrifices to realise their ideas, both in terms of having to support multiple hardware profiles (as opposed to three for the 3DS line [normal, large, no 2D] or the single supported home console), multiple operating systems, loss of control in terms of what content is considered appropriate, loss of control over distribution, etc.
The sacrifices you have to make on mobile is subscribe to the pay-to-win model, garbage though it is, because people just won't pay a reasonable amount for a good game — Nintendo knows this all too well because of how poorly Super Mario Run did after the first month, and how few players actually paid for the game relative to the download base.
Mobile is between a rock and a hard place for Nintendo whose innovation is somewhat contingent on a level of control of which most mobile developers could only dream.
I love it, too, and I think it's well worth the money. But I'm sure Nintendo became aware all too quickly that their traditional fan base is happy to pay any amount for Mario; most mobile users, particularly children, are either unwilling or unable.
I think Polytopia's profit model was completely reasonable and it feels very similar to DLC. I like that it's completely optional, but still expands the player experience. I don't play it anymore because there wasn't all that much depth to it, but I feel it was really well designed and recommend it to everyone.
Then everything became a free to play borefest so now I have almost no games on my mobile devices.
What's worse, I don't even try to discover mobile games worth playing any more. There probably are a few, especially on iOS, but the time needed to wade through the piles of free to play manure to find the occasional game where you pay upfront makes it simply not worth it.
This is something I find hard to communicate to people who would rather more games at a cheaper price (Steam, PSN sales) rather than a few games at a higher price (Nintendo, basically).
Not that there aren't gems on Steam and the App Store/Play Store, but hardly enough to call me a fanboy of any such platform.
As the article discusses, there are these pay to win models dominating Android. I recently looked into a Switch where many appealing titles cost CAD$80 and the number of interesting titles below CAD$40 (where I usually draw the line) doesn't justify the cost of the console. I do not think of myself as particularly cheap either, and have spent money on DLC that expand game play.
The article also mentions grinding an incentive to pay to win. While this is undoubtedly true, I also suspect that this reflects a general shift in gaming in general. The shift towards open world games and games that offer a creative element, as well as a shift away from reflexes and puzzle solving as being the source of challenge, has made resource gathering an important element to games. Alas, resource gathering is a lot like leveling up in an RPG: it can be tremendous fun in the beginning, yet it transforms into a slog as the game becomes more challenging. I can understand why mobile gamers are willing to pay real cash to get around grinding, even though the cynic in me refuses to understand why they don't see it as manipulative.
Yes, it's absolutely manipulative, but it's also pleasurable, so people accept it. However, I reject it because I don't want to feel like Pavlov's dog.
The DLC model isn't that much different. Instead of getting an immediate pleasure reaction at the time of purchase, they extend the pleasure over a bit longer period. Instead of, "I'm glad I sped up that building", it's "I'm glad I bought this DLC, mechanic X is so nice". Both try to get you to spend more, and both try to reward you for doing so. Instead of being Pavlov's simple dog, I'm Pavlov's sophisticated dog.
Unfortunately, microtransactions are getting more popular in the form of loot boxes and cosmetics. Fortunately, they seem to separate purchases from gameplay, and hopefully that doesn't change anytime soon.
But I'm definitely with you. $40 is usually my upper bound for a quality title, and I'm willing to pay $10 or so per quality DLC if I'm enjoying the base game.
I recently got EU4 for $40 (bundled with a few DLC), and I'm likely to buy some DLC when the next sale comes around so they end up in my preferred spending range. Waiting for a sale for a reasonable price is stupid and EU4 walks the line between a reasonable DLC policy and a predatory one, but it's a good game so I give it some slack.
On the whole, I believe that the ability to buy DLC based upon a player's enjoyment of the game is good for the consumer and developer. Yes, it can be manipulative. On the other hand, game development is risky and businesses that need to turn a profit. Creating a good base game seems like a solid way to assess the market. Expanding it with DLC seems like a good way to entice players to pay for the development of additional content or a more sophisticated game. That being said, there are games that are pretty much guaranteed to succeed in the market. In those cases DLC feels like a way to extract money from consumers for an incomplete title.
EU4, and other titles published through Paradox, are special cases. To outsiders the cost of the game and all DLC is absurd, yet a subset of people will play the games for hundreds or thousands of hours.
Bloons Tower Defence 5 is fairly well known as something you can outright purchase, and complete without IAP. Unfortunately it still has them... And TD doesn't tend to be for beyond casual gamers. (What is good strategy?)
Shattered Pixel Dungeon is a fine rogue, without IAP. Nothing special, nothing terrible.
I found Enchanted Fortress somewhat addictive. No IAP. Somewhat simple premise, but decent execution.
There's also the XCOM: Enemy Within port for Android. I loved these.
It has a few in-app purchases, but they’re just to unlock various maps and characters if you’d prefer not to have to earn them by winning earlier stages first. There’s no grinding, no ads, no “diamonds”, none of the usual mobile-game BS.
Twilight Struggle, for example, is a very thematic and deep board game about the Cold War, that for years was the highest rated game on BoardGameGeek, and they made a great version for mobile. By the way, the board game was designed by Ananda Gupta also designed the video game XCOM: Enemy Within. https://www.pockettactics.com/reviews/review-twilight-strugg...
Through the Ages is another popular and deep strategy board game that's about building up civilizations over time, and it has a really excellent mobile version (so good that a lot of people prefer it to playing the board game version): https://www.throughtheages.com/
Race for the Galaxy is another good one, where you're trying to build up an engine, but faster than your opponents. Has tons of cards with unique properties and yet it plays pretty quickly. https://www.pockettactics.com/reviews/review-race-for-the-ga...
Pandemic is another modern classic game about trying to keep four different viruses contained as well as possible around the planet while searching for a cure. It's a bit lighter than the others I mentioned mechanically, but it can still be a tricky puzzle of efficiency, trade-offs, and pushing your luck, especially at higher difficulty levels:
There's a section on BoardGameGeek for iOS Board Game news (seems to also have Android and Steam in there also) that is my usual go-to to find out what board games are being adapted to mobile. Here's the link: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogcategory/108
The Best Offline Strategy Games For Android & iOS: https://www.pockettactics.com/guides/offline-strategy-games-...
As for the majority smartphone games, I haven't many that don't have sketchy F2P/P2W mechanics. I will quite often try games but then end up deleting them the minute I see them start to introduce timers and other pay-inducing mechanics.
The closest I got to keeping a native smartphone game was Another Eden but I eventually encounters got tough enough where I needed to start paying to get through some encounters or else face a nasty grind.
There are also some good games which use virtual d-pads etc. which i find horrible.
There are enough gameplay mechanics yet to be discovered for touch screens.
(However, Blizzard is degrading, and I find everything that they released after "original" WoW awful: SC2, Diablo 3, Overwatch, countless extensions for WoW, all of this look like developed by noname Chinese shop)
I started playing WoW when it first came out and stopped after a few months, but it seems bizarre to me that people would want to play an older version of the game presumably without all the modern fixes and QoL improvements.
Instead, I installed custom firmware on my Nintendo 3DS, which was just collecting dust. This lets you install any GB, GBA, or DSi game onto the SD card, in addition to the vast 3DS library. (Regular DS games can only be played from cartridges). Notably, this is often used for piracy, but I've mostly been re-playing old GBA games from my youth that I own the cartridges for (I don't condone piracy).
The 3DS is a dedicated player, so it has proper buttons, joy sticks, and a directional pad. It's also pocket-able, unlike the comparatively massive Nintendo Switch.
The Legend of Zelda is my all-time favourite game series, and I can play 10 of the main games natively on my 3DS, which is actually quite amazing. Many of the other I can play on my WiiU.
Most phone games I’ve tried are no more fun than a slot machine or for paid games they don’t have a demo or the demo wasn’t fun.
That said, I don't think this is the same for everyone, just my observation.
Paid app, no microtransactions or ads.
Similar to the original Harvest Moon games.
Reminds me of the 3x5 font from Mike Koss's "The Terminal" emulator on the Apple ][ from 1981.