There are two things that I am relatively passionate about in life: video games and mobile technology. I’ve loved both since I was very young, and I’m quite pleased that technology has evolved to the point where I can actually use my smartphone to play video games with.
The mobile gaming market has expanded greatly since the rise of smartphones. From the early days of playing Snake or Tetris on basic cell phones to now, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. Mobile games might not always have the depth of console or PC games, but I find that mobile games are better tailored for quick and casual gameplay anyway.
I’ve spent the past couple of months looking for casual games to help pass an otherwise boring time, and I’m surprised at the various ways developers are able to create games that are not only short and convenient, but also fun. So without further ado, here are my top 10 picks for casual (and fun) mobile games.
I mentioned Tiny Tower several months ago in an article I wrote concerning my “must have” apps for Android. Tiny Tower was my first experience with a game that was short, sweet, and ultimately had you working towards something even when you weren’t actively playing the game. I ended up building 34 floors in my tiny tower over the period of about 2 months. There are options to spend real money to add fancier additions or more floors, but I decided not to spend any money at first. If I really like a game, I will usually purchase something as a “donation”. Eventually I did spend some money on Tiny Tower because I really enjoyed the game for its mechanics and humor.
From the same makers of Tiny Tower (NimbleBit) comes a similarly casual yet very different game, Disco Zoo. It feels a little complex starting out, but the mechanics basically boil down to rescuing animals through a Minesweeper-like mini game to place in your zoo. Eventually you have the ability to start a Disco Party, which wakes your sleeping animals up and generates more coins. You use the coins to rescue more animals, expand, and decorate your zoo. Like Tiny Tower, there’s very little that money can buy you other than faster progress and vanity – this appears to be a common feature of NimbleBit games in general, which is probably why I like their games so much. They're fun, but not pay-to-win.
I recently found this game, and I’m hooked. You start with a trio of heroes, and you go “dungeon crawling” through short 20-second dungeons in order to save a princess… several times. To kill monsters, you simply tap the screen quickly. You collect coins and diamonds in these dungeons, which can be used to upgrade your weapons and purchase/level up allies that can greatly help you.
Apparently this one has been pretty popular for awhile, but it was only after my son found it on the Amazon App store that I was aware of its existence. It’s a rhythm-based game that I find to be extremely fun and satisfying. Not only are you becoming more culturally aware of classical music (and their names – I’ve learned a lot of names of classical songs that I had previously heard but did not know the name of) but it’s good brain exercise following the patterns.
Merchant is about as casual as they come, and quite charming with retro graphics and medieval music. If you enjoy RPGs where you form parties of heroes, craft items, run a store and manage stats, Merchant is a great game to do so passively. You start with one hero, send him out to kill monsters, gain levels, and gather materials for crafting. You can then craft items to increase your skills in various crafts such as alchemy, blacksmithing, woodworking, etc. Use these to either help your heroes, or sell in your shop to earn money to buy more heroes. It can be a little grindy later, but overall it’s good for playing in short bursts while still progressing.
So, I’ve always been turned off by the idea of mobile slots. They’re just like the slots at the casino, except there zero chance of winning any real money – which, I figured, took the thrill out of even trying. Yet, slots are undoubtedly my guilty pleasure on the rare occasion that I find myself at the casino (yes, I know they’re probably the worst way to gamble, but I still enjoy them). As it turns out, playing mobile slots isn’t so pointless after all. In fact, I actually quite enjoy it. I may not be winning any real money, but I’m also not losing real money, either… which is typically what happens in a real casino. I live to experience the bonus rounds at slot machines, so the fact that I can experience this aspect on my phone without spending any money makes it oddly satisfying. There are a ton of slot apps out there. They're pretty much clones of each other with different visuals, so pick and choose what appeals to you.
Have you ever wanted to plant a garden, but don’t trust yourself to keep up with it? Why not try a virtual plant on your smartphone? Viridi is a quirky little app that allows you to grow your own virtual plants in a pot in real time. You can water them too much and also too little. You choose the pot you want to grow your plants in, and watch a snail move around the edge of your pot while your tiny plants grow into a big, beautiful garden. Ambient music and very little time requirements make this the most casual and relaxing game on this list.
An oldie but goodie, Soda Dungeon is a pretty fun (and humorous) game where you hire patrons of a nearby “soda” tavern to help you progress through an ominous castle just up the road from the tavern. You use your spoils from the dungeon to spruce up the soda tavern, which brings in more powerful patrons to the tavern to help you fight those pesky monsters in the dungeon. Everybody wins!
Hearthstone isn’t as casual or quick as the other games on the list, but it’s quick and casual enough. Hearthstone is a card game created by Blizzard, and in my opinion one of the easiest ones to get into. Hearthstone is easy to learn, and Blizzard makes it easy to get free card packs by simply playing the game. There are various modes that one can play, including playing against other (real) people in ranked and non-ranked matches, playing against NPCs, or going through “Dungeon” modes. You can craft more powerful decks tailored to your favorite heroes by deconstructing other cards that you won’t use. As somebody who was never into card games of any type, I can say that Hearthstone has been the exception for me.
I went through a good amount of casual games before coming across Good Pizza, Great Pizza. I actually didn’t have high hopes for this game, either, but the humor in the game is pretty good, and the gameplay is super simple. In a Bob’s Burgers-esque universe, you’re a pizza shop that plans to participate in a town flavor festival. You also have a rival pizza business across the street, whose owner just happens to be your first customer and the guy who teaches you the ropes (rudely). Between him, your die-hard customers, and the local news channel that’s completely dedicated to all things pizza, Good Pizza, Great Pizza is an excellent casual game to pick up.
Readers, do you play games on your smartphone? If so, which games or genres are your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!