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Why I don't play mobile games on my smartphone (voidnill.gitlab.io)
112 points by void_nill 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 135 comments

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve played a lot less games. Some of it is time, I have less of it and a family who wants it, but some of it is the lack of recommendations.

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.

The last game I "played" was 2048, which is a pretty dry game when you get down to it.

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.

I enjoy gaming though. Some people play sports, some people watch shows, some people build stuff and others read books, because it makes them happy.

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.

> Mobile or not, games are time wasters, for when you have time to spare.

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.

I agree with you, but I don't think it's generally as bad as you paint it. The longest games I've ever played take around a dozen of hours to complete - and there weren't many of them. This of course means that I haven't and probably will never play some popular titles like The Witcher, GTA, RDR etc. that ask for a huge time investment, but there are plenty of really great games that take at most a few hours and which make you feel like after reading a nice book or watching a good movie instead of wasting time.

The best games I've ever played were played with others, and I don't think it was a waste. And not necessarily multi-player games, even playing Zelda with someone, and solving all the puzzles together is a blast. Or Mario Kart. Heck, all of my favourite games are made by Nintendo.

Don't forget that until mid-2000s there were like ten very good games a year, so every magazine had to write about them, and then you had a couple dozen okay games and something like ‘Lula the animated simulator of porn studio management.’ So everyone more-or-less knew the good stuff and not the hundreds of copycat daily-grind business simulators.

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).

Nowadays I usually just check what's on sale on gog.com, sometimes on Steam, but gog.com has less junk games, cleaner UI and, most importantly, better reviews: I found out that users there criticize more, give lesser ratings and don't hesitate to describe bad aspects; on Steam basically every game, if it's not a complete trash, has "overwhelmingly positive" rating, on gog most popular games have pretty bad ratings. And of course it has lots of old games that I didn't had a chance to play in their era, for example I played original X-Com for the first time few weeks ago.

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.

Might be good to know GOG has a Twitch channel with various streamers that play games available on GOG, quite handy to discover lesser-known games (and quite a pleasant community imho): https://www.twitch.tv/gogcom

Also an older gamer.

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.

Spec ops the line is great!

XCOM2 is great. And Eurogamer is a good website. And I don't get paid by either.

Have been planning to get into XCOM2 for a while now. Really liked XCOM:EW even on a mobile device.

Be careful with XCOM2 if you like strategy games... I lost many weekends to that game in college. The expansion pack (War of the Chosen) is well worth the money. Honestly just talking about it now is making me want to reinstall it. I like that game so much that I've actually bought it twice.

You gotta play xcom:ew long war mod. It's amazingly deep and different (and difficult). But the game play is a lot more intense and engaging.

Those PC magazines of your youth were little more than advertisements themselves :)

I remember buying Computer Shopper specifically because it was a giant tome of ads. Whenever it was time to upgrade I poured through it looking for the best deal and ogling all the cool stuff I couldn't justify buying.

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.

And the Lab of Doom and Pepsi Cola. I really miss that magazine, too. It was my newsfeed for the latest computer technologies.

I used to read CustomPC, a magazine in the UK that covers hardware (why I started reading) and games (that it got me into).

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 find Polygon has good content usually, but I've also found many reviews from Polygon that seem to betray a lack of understanding or familiarity with the genre from the reviewer. Also, they have more content that is about gaming (e.g. regurgitating stuff from Reddit, their critical analysis of genres, anything vaguely "gaming culture" related) than they have content that is about games.

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.

There's plenty of gaming publications, blogs and streamers which aren't "advertising". Rock Paper Shotgun is some of the best writing on games right now, and has been for the past several years. Eurogamer is also excellent.

I’ve found the Internet is a pretty good replacement for word-of-mouth-recommendations. Yes, they’re less ‘personal', but the sheer scale more than makes up for that. Reddit, Metacritic, and Twitch are all useful sources.

Back the day I used to binge play games. If I couldn't get myself to do that it was a clear sign I lost interest. Now, older, family and generally less time (or need to sleep ;-)), I stuck half way through Borderlands 2 since more than a year. Last game I really played was Battletech, no idea where I found the time 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...

Most of my recommendations come from the handful of YouTube streamers I follow these days. The best of them are entertaining, and give you something like a demo and quick analysis in thirty minutes while you do something else. I rather like manyatruenerd.

>I’m not sure if it’s just me, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve played a lot less games

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".

I have bought some games on my iPhone and some are good, but most aren't. They usually are at the level of a nice proof of concept, but lack depth and have very little replay value.

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.

What amazes me is how mobile games are almost all just the same game with different art and slightly different features but they almost always fall in to the category of loading bars that get longer as the game goes on and a second currency to skip the loading bars. They don't seem to have changed much at all since I had the original iPad.

> how mobile games are almost all just the same game

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.

> ideal for strategic games and builder games like Anno, Settlers

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 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.

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.

Angry birds was kind of the Worms of the 2010s for me!

Interesting, I'd expected games like Settlers to be bad to play on a tablet because RTS with your hand constantly in the way of the screen would seem bad for me.

X4 games, on the other hand, are pre-destined for tablet.

There’s an element of that, of course - and, bear in mind, I am talking about several years ago - but I found the easy scrolling and pinch-to-zoom counteracted any problems caused by obstruction.

Problems with games on smartphones are hardware specs. Up until the latest years (maybe around 2015) there can only do simple apps, such as angry birds. Now there are some popular pc game ports, such as stardew valley and terraria (and battle royale fps games). Hopefully in several years there will be mobile first game.

However gaming in mobile doesn't feel good. The control feels inferior compared to keyboard + mouse, or joysticks.

I don't agree. Something like Pokémon from the GameBoy era would run great on a phone, even if it was upgraded with modern graphics[0]. But nobody wants to pay $50 for a mobile game, and I expect Nintendo won't allow it because it would sabotage hardware sales.

[0] Pokémon Go doesn't count.

The Siralim games are some that capture some of what Pokemon is for mobile (although the controls aren't really optimised for touch with on-screen D-pad and virtual A/B buttons), although I suppose it's more like some of the old Monster Hunter games (capture, breeding as well as a bunch of other mechanics too).

Have you tried using emulator for that? I've tried and don't like the touch control (physical joystick has better feel). And playing on phone can easily be interrupted, notif or calls for example.

Then imo people don't want to spend 50$ because switch > mobile for gaming.

I went through a phase of playing pay-to-win games to see how far I could get without paying but really they're not games at all. They're psychological habit forming devices designed simply to get you to play every day to farm your wheat or bomb your neighbour or whatever. I haven't played one in years and don't expect to play one ever again. They are a scourge.

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.

> Non-PTW games seem to be largely dead

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 can second Through the Ages, the phone port is reasonably good.

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.

> On the smartphone, people don't know it any differently and maybe it's because of the mentality of the Android users, because as far as I could read from other experiences it's different on Apple products. Even there good games cost money and you get a regular product.

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.

At the end of the day the audience have voted with their wallets - since 2011 (3 years after the introduction of the app store & 7 years ago) f2p revenue have surpassed "premium" game revenue & the situation has only gotten more and more in favor of f2p since then.

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.

I've done a couple mobile games. One I had priced at 99 cents. Got 200 downloads. A couple years later, I change the price to free. Hundreds of thousands of downloads, no change to the game.

Then you put ads into the free version and an in app purchase that gets rid of the ads for 99 cents.

I think the platforms have a part to play in this. They would be more incentivised to promote a F2P game with in app purchases (of which they get a 30% cut) over a game that doesn't include them but might ask for a few bucks up front.

They still get a 30% cut on sales afaik, so if someone spends $10 on a F2P game or $10 on a premium game, the platform gets the same cut. What actually happens is that more people play the F2P game, and some people spend a lot on those microotransactions, so the company gets more money out of a F2P game model than a premium game.

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.

but they also get 30% cut on the initial price of a premium game, so they're only incentivised to push f2p cause customers are more willing to spend & (on average) spend more on them.

Indeed. There’s a few proper games that trickle out now and then, and the App Store editors do try to highlight them, but they’re still few and far between and buried under crap. And now days even paid games aren’t immune to gambling and pay to win scams either.

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.

> and the App Store editors do try to highlight them,

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.

They'd probably lose a ton of money if they allowed you to filter those out. People seem to pay more with in-app purchases than up front purchases, so it makes little sense for them to offer such a feature.

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.

> They'd probably lose a ton of money if they allowed you to filter those out.

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.

Hopefully things get better with the Apple Game subscription this fall that will not have ads or in app purchases.

The worst is the old games (even ones that I paid for) that have now added all the ads.

pockettactics.com is a good place to start. They highlight the quality games, frequently put out "best-of" lists, and avoid F2P games unless a F2P game is particularly exceptional.

>What a game developer would never try with a PC player would be to display an ad for another game.

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've seen that happen lately, for example in the main menu. But it's an effective ad that I don't mind at all, if it's just another game from the same developer/publisher.

I suspect the author doesn’t read his own website on mobile either...

That was quite painful to read. I have a feeling the author just doesn't use, or doesn't care about mobile the way the rest of us do.

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".

> That was quite painful to read. I browse HN on mobile 95% of the time, most of the time I'll just back straight out of a site like that,

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.

That's not the point, you lose the nuance of someone's site with reader mode. My site is as readable on mobile as it is on desktop, and that's important to me, because I want them to experience it as I designed it.

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.

On iOS, on an iPhone 8 Plus, reader mode cuts off part of the text of the article.

Most browsers have 'reader view' or something like it. I use it on most websites, even ones that have put some effort into being mobile-friendly.

I use HN through an app, and articles use the embedded browser, which strips the chrome so reader mode isn't available. I can open the link in my regular browser (Firefox), and from that I can use reader mode, but that's a couple of extra steps.

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...

Firefox's Reader View doesn't fully reflow text in <pre> elements (it only wraps the individual lines to fit), so it looks bad even on desktop.

It looks bad (even on desktop), but the good thing is that it does not try to break my browser proactively, unlike, say, all news websites. Shockingly, there's no javascript at all!

It’s not too awful with Reader Mode.

Somehow the page is written in such a way that Safari does not allow triggering the reader mode. I had to pass through Instapaper to read this.

Safari’s Reader Mode trigger is nondeterministic. I’ve sometimes gotten it to work if I reload the page or wait a while.

Safari suggests Reader for me. You on iOS or macOS?

On iOS

I mean, it looks terrible on my iMac, too. Even a 5K Retina display can't save the site from the tiny font and non-contrasting colours.

Maybe I’m extreme in my view. But I look at most companies that produce games skewed towards IAP/DLC/P2W as ethically corrupt.

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.

I wish I had the resources to do this. Nintendo should make a smartphone Switch - with the smartphone price, hardware, and their games. (There’d be some serious technical hurdles for them to be comfortable with it.) They’re the perfect actor to revamp mobile gaming. They’ve got history making popular handheld gaming systems and IP millions love.

I wish Nintendo treated mobile like a first-class platform. Unfortunately, I only know of one good game that they made (Super Mario Run), and they've allowed their other IPs to be poisoned by pay-to-win garbage (Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Fire Emblem, Pokemon Go).

I mean, I know why Nintendo doesn't treat mobile as a first-class platform: it isn't their hardware.

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.

Do you have references on their Super MARIO run revenue? It was definitely my favorite game of theirs in a while. Still play it because it’s so simple.

Here's an article on it: https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/31/16580976/super-mario-run...

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’ve played tens of thousands of games at various stages of development. The only mobile game I consistently play and still enjoy is The Battle of Polytopia (aka Super Tribes). That’s about it.

Yeah, I really enjoyed that game, and I really wish the 4x genre was more represented on mobile.

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.

I enjoy the lack of depth. The medium of mobile is designed for casual play. You can pickup and drop a turn based game too. The profit model is smart like most Norwegian and Swedish projects. No ads makes the game inviting. You play it because it’s fun. DLC is optional. There’s a kind of dignity to it.

Strongly agree. Another VERY similar game is Hexonia.

I remember buying an iPad 1 and then buying a couple games. Back then you paid upfront and they were enjoyable.

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.

It’s a real shame. There are some great pay-once games out there. XCOM, Monument Valley, Crashlands, Ittle Dew, but then you get some like Kingdom Rush that concert to P2W and get ruined. There’s no way to revert to an earlier better version either. So frustrating.

I remember when EA bought PopCap and converted my Bejeweled to free to play... support did give me some kind of code to convert my version back to the paid one but it only worked on one device. RIP PopCap.

As others have mentioned, as I grow older I play less games. However, I recently purchased an adventure games bundle [0] for the iPad and I've been playing for a couple of hours every night for the past few weeks. There's no IAP or ads in those games, just good old one time payment for content thing. I have nothing against playing mobile games, unless it's the cancerous ads plus ridiculous IAP business model.

[0] https://itunes.apple.com/us/app-bundle/dark-futures-bundle/i...

I'm an avid gamer on PC and console (both retro and modern), but not mobile. Mobile games aren't games, they're thiny veiled clones of addicting progress bars designed to annoy you into buying in app purchases.

I tend to avoid mobile games for all these reasons in the article and some in the comments. I am explicitly a Nintendo fanboy, unapologetically, because their raison d'être seems to be making fun, positive, memorable experiences wrapped up in games — not just idle distractions (or at least not primarily).

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.

The cost of mobile gaming has driven me away, which is sad since it would be nice to sit back and relax rather than being stuck in front of a computer.

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.

Stuff like resource gathering stretch gameplay, and things like in app purchases are designed to give you immediate pleasure, so spending money feels good. Do you want to wait a day for X to finish building, or finish it now for $1 and start your war today!

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.

> I'm willing to pay $10 or so per quality DLC if I'm enjoying the base game.

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.

Open world games and resource gathering shouldn't feel like a grind. There are plenty of ways to make resource gathering more fun than just making tiers of resources. Minecraft is a good example where instead of making the grind slower, it gets faster and with more variety as you progress in the game. That in turns allows you to build and do more stuff than before.

Can anyone recommend a good mobile strategy game that doesn't rely on in-app purchases?

That depends on interpretation of 'good' and 'strategy'.

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.

Was gonna say the Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun ports are pretty good (Dragonfall and Returns) but can't seem to find them on the Play Store now. Weird.

There's also the XCOM: Enemy Within port for Android. I loved these.

Shadow run was never recompiled to 64bit sadly.

XCom is a fantastic mobile port of a truly great game. Depending how far you want to stretch the definition of strategy there’s also Stardew Valley.

Rebel Inc.: https://www.ndemiccreations.com/en/51-rebel-inc

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.

I have bought Rebel Inc and played it for a few days. I unlocked all the normal maps and found the whole game very shallow and I never felt the need to keep playing. So not a great hit in my book. Sadly so, because it looked very promising. Thanks for the tip though!

If you like board games at all, there are a ton of board game adaptations. The unique thing about board game apps is they seem to be one of the few categories of games that can still get away with charging money up front for their audience, and not having any free to play garbage in them. They're about the only apps I still get for mobile platforms, nowadays.

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: https://www.pockettactics.com/reviews/review-pandemic-board-...

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

Thanks for the great tips. Right now most of these have a pretty big price tag, but I will look into them after some further study.

Board game apps are one of the few categories of apps people are still willing to pay more than a couple of bucks for (probably because it's still a lot cheaper than buying the physical game), but they do go on sale from time to time. Keep an eye out and they'll probably go on sale for at least 50% off at some point.

DEFINITELY not for everyone but Girls Frontline is a less idly idle game. There are dailies which you can do to get items, and logging in every day gives you stuff. There are microtransactions to get the stuff you need fast, but even with all the money in the world you still need some grinding to beat the game.

Here's a starting point:

The Best Offline Strategy Games For Android & iOS: https://www.pockettactics.com/guides/offline-strategy-games-...

Not sure if this fits within your definition of strategy, but Mini Metro is a great example of a game that "works" on mobile.


I liked Hoplite [0] for some time.


[0]: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hoplite/id782438457?mt=8

I also enjoyed that for a while. The replay value is not very high though, then again, at least when I bought it, the price wasn't high either.

Polytopia. Heroes

Is it literally called “Heros”? I can’t find it. There are so many heros games

Antiyoy - or polytopia. Two things that are good for a 5 minuite or 15 minuite game

In addition of what the author said, the ergonomics of playing console or computer desktop games on a smartphone are usually bad. I'll get my Bluetooth controller and then complain that the screen size is too small. Then I'll project the display to my TV somehow and...I might as well be playing on a console.

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.

That's why I'm getting started on game development with mobiles games. It might seem to be an overrun market but the amount of actual games is small and the amount of actual good games is even smaller. I don't know who all these people are that play "pay to upgrade building to level 4" games but there are a lot of people looking for just fun games instead of horrible p2w games.

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.

The fact that Blizzard is rereleasing Classic Wow this Summer should be a strong indicator of where modern games stand, even if it's in the MMORPG genre.

I rather interpret it as argument for "timelessness" of games. People still play 80s games, and it's not because 90s games are worse.

(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 think some of that is just nostalgia though - I mean it will be interesting to see how popular it is.

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.

What about the fact that Blizzard is releasing a mobile Diablo game? What kind of strong indicator is that?

What, you don't have a phone?

Used to play Everquest back in the day. Reinstalled it this last winter in a fit of nostalgia, and was aghast at the graphics and interface/controls. Am I in a different universe?

I've been searching for a decent 4X game on mobile that can be played in portrait mode. Just can't find one. I feel like on mobile, going landscape is a failure of the interface. It's tricky though, as I'm comparing it to more desktop oriented 4X games like Stellaris (which I've been playing recently) and Master of Orion (II III and the more recent remaster)

One of the major problems with the app store model is that we’re entirely dependent on gatekeepers to do anything. It’s bad enough that the stores themselves are roadblocks when it comes to making improvements (like better search to weed out the crap). It’s insane when you consider that the gatekeepers make lots of money when apps do questionable things.

I emulate old console games on my phone quite often. Games actually designed for the phone are mostly a hot pile of shit, which is a shame because there are gems out there like The Room series but it's not worth wading through the garbage to find them.

I did the same, but found the touch screen controls to be lacking. I even tried mapping the buttons to keys on my BlackBerry KeyOne, and it was just not a great experience.

Instead, I installed custom firmware[0] 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.

[0] https://3ds.guide

Oh, touchscreen controls are junk. I always use a Bluetooth gamepad.

There are only two games on my phone, Word with Friends and a port of the first cd-rom game I ever played: The Seventh Guest.

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.

I won't play your mobile game, because a 4-6 inch touch screen is a terrible input device. About the only thing I have found even close to tolerable are turn-based JRPGs, and it's still terrible to not have a real d-pad and buttons.

You can't port Quake to phones, but Gameboy had much worse screen and there were games. Unlike Gameboy, phones have no buttons, but lots of genres don't need fast action and precise pointing. Power consumption might be more serious issue, but some games are okay to redraw screen only on user actions. So it's mostly cultural and market issues.

I really liked Device 6. It’s mostly text-based but takes advantage of some of the phone’s capabilities too. The plot is clever too.

I've found that the touch screen is a near perfect input device for chess. I prefer it to over-the-board play.

I know its silly to say, but I feel like I have much less patience when playing on a touchscreen. It feels much harder to think about the geometry of moves in that way.

That said, I don't think this is the same for everyone, just my observation.

I find the same for Scrabble and Monopoly, though on an iPad rather than a phone. The old version of the Scrabble app used to let you put an iPad on the table for everybody to see, then use the iPhone/iPod as your personal letter rack so people couldn't see each others' letters.

Personal recommendation: Stardew Valley

Paid app, no microtransactions or ads.

Similar to the original Harvest Moon games.

What's with the text in those screen shots? Yikes! I'd pay just to have a nice anti-aliased font!

Reminds me of the 3x5 font from Mike Koss's "The Terminal" emulator on the Apple ][ from 1981.


The low resolution font itself seems fine to me. The problem is that it was scaled up horribly in those screenshots.

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