Mobile had one hell of a year in 2016. It continued to be an exciting, diverse, amazing place to play games. Smartphone games have long been the king of the commute, but they're now drawing many people's attention away from their consoles at home, with some experiences you just can't get anywhere else. But enough talk; let's dig into the five best mobile games of 2016.
We start with Severed, a game about a one-armed woman called Sasha whose family get taken away from her. This may have the brilliant art of the studio's last game, Guacamelee, but it's a far darker game to play. Part dungeon-crawling RPG, part point-and-click-adventure, part first-person sword sim, Severed is a mish-mash of styles and skills. But somehow, it works. The frantic combat is perfectly balanced by the more calm exploration, itself a welcome change from some genuinely disturbing and affecting moments--violence isn't always fun.
If tales of death and violence are a bit much, then you might prefer the more serene sights and sounds of Mini Metro. Spending your gaming time co-ordinating people on hot, crowded, and uncomfortable trains might not sound like the greatest recreational activity ever--especially after a journey home spent on a hot, crowded, and uncomfortable train--but make no mistake, Mini Metro is amazing. Imagine being the person in charge of designing the London Underground and you're pretty much there. Your network starts off slow, just one line with a couple of stops, but soon becomes a living, breathing, pulsing beast--which you're responsible for. What starts off as relaxing background noise soon becomes a hectic balancing act, juggling trains and bridges and carriages and new lines, all of which are in short supply. It's fantastic.
Snakebird is possibly the best name of any game released this year. Apart from this, it's somewhat reminiscent of Mini Metro in that it fools you into thinking it's just a bit of silly fun. It's got bright colours, a goofy art style and, of course, a strange bird-snake hybrid creature. But underneath is an extremely intelligent and deeply challenging puzzle game. Moving at 90-degree angles like in the Snake games of old, you guide your gravity-ignoring, Darwin-defying Snakebird around spikes and scenery to grab fruit. Fruit makes your body longer, which will help you get to each level's exit--then the next level will tax your brain that little bit more.
Reigns is sort of like Tinder, but only for kings and queens. Unfortunately, it's not quite as entertaining as the prospect of the Queen of England swiping through a bunch of gym lads, but it's still a lot of fun. Your objective is simply to live as long as possible, by keeping four stats from going too low or too high: the Church, the will of the People, your Army, and your Money pot. The swiping is simply how you make decisions in the text adventure parts: do you want to build a new hospital, which will benefit the people but cost you money, or would you rather keep the cash and see illness rise? Careful though--monarchs with too much cash or too big an army can suffer an untimely demise. But to describe Reigns as text adventure Tinder doesn't do its depth justice--there are running gags, hidden secrets, and story arcs that continue across lives, lasting dozens or even hundreds of years, including one about a dog and a dungeon. You'll have to play it yourself to find out more, but just know that it can get weird, and that's why it's so wonderful.
But no mobile game of the year list would be complete without Pokemon Go. Pokemon Go was responsible for the biggest bout of Pokemon fever since the 90s this summer--and what a summer it was. The real world seemed to stop, with everyday worries replaced by how many Pidgeys you'd be forced to look at today, or how much XP it would take to get to level 20.
Pokemon Go was special because it allowed you to carry out your childhood dream of walking round your own neighbourhood to catch Pikachu and battle other monsters. The social element was huge, and a large part of what made Pokemon Go a success: people spoke to random strangers at gyms and PokeStops; when they got to work or school they would compare their catch of the day; they'd even go on Pokemon walks together!
In a year where humanity seemed to pull itself apart, Pokemon Go's biggest success was that it brought people together.
GameSpot's Best Mobile Games of 2016
GameSpot will be unveiling its picks for the best games of the year throughout all of December. Click here to see more.