This one is a bit of a cheat, admittedly. The Room, from Fireproof Studios, was originally conceived for mobile, and its gameplay is entirely built around a touchscreen interface.
The success of the series and its notably high production values made it inevitable that it would appear on other platforms, but mobile is still by far the best way to experience this modern classic – though the VR version gives mobile a run for its money.
Stardew Valley is one of the most beloved games of all time. It’s a straight-up feelgood factory, with a cast of loveable characters and a gentle, addictive gameplay loop that sees you making friends, exploring your new home, and building up a stonking great bankroll from farming, mining, and trading.
The mobile port comes with a couple of caveats: the text is quite small, and the 1.5 update still hasn’t appeared on the game’s smartphone versions yet.
Hearthstone came to mobile and PC more or less at the same time, all the way back in 2014, though the Android version trailed iOS by a few months. It was, and is, an absolute smash, taking the long-established Warcraft universe and filling it with an impossibly addictive, impeccably polished, endlessly refined card-battler.
Cook, Serve, Delicious!!
Time-management is another genre that works perfectly on touchscreen devices. When you’ve got to move a lot of things around the screen quickly, nothing beats the tactile immediacy of the evolutionary miracle that is your fingertip.
The Plants vs Zombies Series
Tower defense is another genre that tends to work at least as well, if not better, on mobile than on its big screen counterparts. That’s thanks to the fact that your input is restricted to taps, which can be done more quickly with a finger than with a cursor. And the Plants vs Zombies games illustrate this perfectly.
The Professor Layton Series
Layton: Unwound Future HD arrived on the Google Play Store fairly recently, rounding out the trilogy of ports that began with Layton: Curious Village HD. Level-5’s distinction puzzle adventure series is charming, engaging, and pretty much unique, and the games all work perfectly on mobile.
There are definitely pros and cons to this one. Adrian de Jong’s highly acclaimed hidden object game is full of charm and stunning to behold, whatever kind of screen you’re seeing it on. However, for practical reasons we have to admit that a PC screen may lend itself better to the game’s sprawling levels and minute details.
Another card game, but not a particular deep or sophisticated one in this case. Exploding Kittens is the brainchild of the dudes behind humorous website The Oatmeal.
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Don’t worry: no more card games after this. Cultist Simulator, from developer Weather Factory, is a card-based strategy roguelike in which you have to build up a cult by making card-based choices. It cleverly boils a sophisticated premise involving social manipulation on an epic scale down to a few binary inputs. It’s got a dark, compelling, Lovecraftian aesthetic, too.
As ever, our reason for including it on this list is that card games just work better on a touchscreen, where the interface is more immediate and intuitive.
You Must Build a Boat
You Must Build a Boat is the perfect follow-up to Luca Redwood’s cult indie hit 10000000. Released in 2015, it sees you alternately running around on a boat visiting your various crew members and engaging in frantic, addictive match-three puzzle mini-games. The overall aim, of course, is to build a bigger boat and effect your escape.
It came to PC and mobile at the same time, but as far as we’re concerned mobile is absolutely the defector home of match-three games owing to the swipe-friendly interface of a touchscreen.
Human Resource Machine
As far as we can tell, Human Resource Machine is pretty much unique among puzzle games. Casting you as an employee in a giant corporation, the game tasks you with devising sequences of commands in order to execute processes across two conveyor belts.
What makes Human Resource Machine unique is that it somehow manages to entertain while also imparting the basic principles of computer programming. And, once again, it works best of all on mobile because of that intuitive touchscreen interface, which allows you to drag and drop commands with your finger.
Once you’ve played Mini Metro on a touchscreen, it’s difficult to understand why anybody would play it on anything else, and more difficult still to understand why it came to PC first. This remarkably finger-friendly game sees you dragging nodes around to build subway routes.
The challenge lies in creating efficient, logical routes under various practical restrictions. It’s an ingenious yet remarkably simple concept, enhanced no end by a graphical style inspired by the famously elegant London Underground route map.
One of the most widely acclaimed games of 2014 on any platform, 80 Days was a triumph for the mobile platform and one of the titles that helped to legitimize mobile gaming in the eyes of a skeptical games media.
The GO Series
Square Fenix Montreal pleasantly surprised us when it released Hitman GO back in 2014. Lara Croft GO (2015) and Deus Ex GO (2016) were less surprising, but no less pleasant. This achingly clever series took three action-heavy AAA franchises and reimagined them as boardgamey-style casual puzzlers.
The GO series came to PC and consoles later, but you really don’t need to bother with those versions. These are mobile games through and through, and absolutely essential ones at that.