The year 2020 proved that bad things come in threes. It’s easy to forget after the 12 months we’ve all had, but 2019 and 2018 weren’t too great for a lot of people either.
Of course, the luckier ones among us have had the privilege of sitting on our backsides and playing games throughout 2020. Even more than usual, I mean.
Thankfully, the developers more than met the increased demand, with a raft of brilliant portable games scattered throughout the year.
Here are the five mobile games I’ve been playing the most in 2020. There are cards, guns and swords. Overall, there’s just a whole bunch of adventure and escapism in here, which was just what the doctor ordered.
Slay the Spire
We knew this was going to be good. Any by golly, we were right.
Slay the Spire was already being talked about in a reverential tones well before it arrived on iOS. This is a roguelike card battler of uncommon balance and depth, with a bewildering array of tactical possibilities.
The mobile version didn’t arrive in perfect nick, with a UI that didn’t seem as well attuned as it should be. But still, if this isn’t the finest game of its kind on mobile, I don’t know what is.
Publisher: Image & Form
Genre: Card battler
You know I just said “if this isn’t the finest game of its kind on mobile, I don’t know what is” about Slay the Spire? That was true right up until the second week of December, when SteamWorld Quest landed on iOS.
I’m not sure that it’s actually better than Slay the Spire, but thankfully Image & Form’s card battler is different enough that I don’t have to make that call. The two complement one another wonderfully.
Here the tactical card battling is married to a more traditional, fleshed out RPG structure. Oh, and I&F’s wonderful cartoon-steampunk presentation, of course.
Genre: Action, Multiplayer
With all that in-depth card battling taking up my time, not to mention lashings of existential dread, I found myself pining for some lighthearted relief at various points in 2020.
Gumslinger was on hand to provide just the tonic I needed. Its rubbery, shiny, tactile showdowns are hilarious to behold and oh-so-moreish to play.
You simply haven’t lived until you’ve poleaxed a jelly-cowboy with a pinpoint bullet, let me tell you.
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
If I were to describe a game that’s a twisted sci-fi take on classic Zelda, with the action quotient ramped up and stunningly stylised pixel-art graphics, you might think I’m talking about Hyper Light Drifter.
But here at the end of 2020, Songbringer is giving me those vibes. It actually doesn’t play all the much like Hyper Light Drifter, with weightier, slower-paced combat and a more exploratory edge.
It’s also even weirder, with an off-kilter sense of humour and disorientating procedurally generated levels that spawn from the word you ascribe to it. This one’s deeply trippy, not to mention endlessly replayable.
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
There were games that I played way more than Reventure in 2020 (see above for details), and plenty of games that I found to be more fun (ditto). But Reventure was the one that gave me the most “huh, that’s cool” moments.
At first glance it’s a pretty typical platform-adventure set in a compact semi-open environment, and with a somewhat overly familiar retro aesthetic.
But start prodding at the seams and you’ll realise there’s some real ambition here. There are 100 possible endings to this pocket Groundhog Day adventure, demanding an experimental approach to exploration, and resulting in plenty of cheap yucks.