It’s the end of the year and that means we have to have a list. But instead of a The Best list or even The Worst, I’m going to call out the games I played in 2014 that I’m still playing.
I played a lot of games this year, mostly on phone/tablet games. Of all the ones I tried, about a third got reviewed here. Some were good, some were bad and few were great. But what does “great” mean? In this case, due to the nature of mobile games, I consider a great game to be one that continues to bring enjoyment long after the first weekend of play.
I’m sure your routine does’t differ much from mine…you see an app and download it. You can usually tell right away if it’s a game you’ll like, if it is, you keep on playing. Lets say it’s one that keeps you engaged for at least 10 minutes…maybe you come back to it later that day. Great, you’re hooked and now you hit it hard for next several days. Then one of a few things will happen:
a) You’ll complete the game and be done with it, never coming back
b) You’ll get hit a wall and/or get super frustrated so you stop. You don’t hate the game and vow to come back but you don’t
c) Even after you complete the game (or get a high score), it’s still fun to play or even start over and do it again
I’m looking for C. This isn’t to say that games with a definite ending and little replay value aren’t good. Many of them are great fun and very entertaining, but there’s something very unfortunate about completing a game that is a lot of fun and knowing it’s not worth playing anymore…especially when most mobile games are pretty short. Sure, DLC can extend the life of a game but the time between completion and update can kill your enthusiasm.
When I review games I give them a rating that is based on my initial reaction and how much time I invest in playing. Often my first extended experience with a game is great but then I never come back (or the game ends). Even I look back at some of my ratings now and think “why did I get that game an 8?” But then remember that my first reaction was worth that rating.
Replay games of 2014
My criteria for this list is that it was a game I first played in 2014, regardless if the game was released in 2014 or not. After that, it makes the list if I’m still playing the game regularly. All in all, it’s a pretty short list. Like I said, mobile games are pretty fleeting so finding a game that continues to keep my attention for more than a couple weeks is well worth the investment in time and money.
Sky Force 2014
Sky Force is a wonderful shmup shooter that hits the sweet spot of challenge, controls and visuals. The game looks great, it plays great and there is just enough challenge to keep me coming back every now and then to unlock more stuff. Given the iPad space is limited in quality arcade shooters (that aren’t Cave ports), Sky Force continues to scratch the itch.
Okay, so technically I first played Mini Metro in 2013 but that was an alpha version. The version you can now buy on Steam is really quite a bit different and that’s what got reviewed, so to me, that qualifies. Of course, the best thing about Mini Metro is that it’s still getting updated. I’m not sure if it’s out of beta yet but the game continues to keep me engaged. It’s just such a beautiful game that fulfills my need of system design while still looking great. It’s too bad I’m still waiting on the iPad version.
FTL – Faster Than Light
FTL is one of those games that on the surface looked like one I would not enjoy, but it proved me wrong. FTL provides me with just enough micr0-management to feel like I’m in control while giving me enough action to keep me motivated. And FTL is tough. Unlocks and scenarios aren’t very obvious so I’ve had to consult the Internets for challenges (a la Minecraft) and it’s been great. It’s also a bonus to have a game that is sci-fi/outer space themed and not medieval, fantasy or people styled.
Crossy Road is still in somewhat of honeymoon period since it’s a very new game, but that being said, I’m still playing it a ton trying to unlock new characters and high scores. It’s just an incredibly well produced game. It looks good, it’s accessible and the effort-to-reward is near-perfect. I’ve even gotten my wife in on it so we’re competing for high scores daily. Come February, Crossy Road might feel a little stale but I’m hopeful. By all rights, a game as simple as this should have felt weak after a long weekend but it continues to shine through.
Looking ahead to 2015
In the world of mobile gaming, it’s hard to look ahead. With so many “indie” devs putting out great games, it’s almost not worth talking about what’s coming…I just know there will be some great, outstanding games next year. Devices will get better, as will the tools for making games. My only hope is that games rely less and less on in-app purchases and just put out good, solid and complete games. I get the economics of IAPs but they are the easiest way to ruin a game…they can work when used well but that seems all too rare.
On another note, I’m hopeful that I can get back into the console scene a little bit. I don’t know if I’ll dive into next gen consoles just yet but I haven’t really played a AAA title in more than 2-years, so by now those games are in the bargin bin and I can catch up a little bit. Of course, Minecraft is the great equalizer and really the only game I have consistently played for more than 3 years now. Although…now that Microsoft owns Minecraft, it will be interesting to see what they do with it in 2015. Here’s hoping they don’t ruin it.
Otherwise, I hope your 2014 was full of great games and that 2015 will continue that trend.