Over the past eight years – since the launch of the App Store in 2008 – I have played more than 1,000 mobile games. I’ve spent time with all of the top grossing titles, all of Apple’s Editor’s Choice titles, and everything in between.
My biggest takeaway: The App Store is second only to the Steam Store in offering a wide range of fantastic premium gameplay experiences.
My second-biggest takeaway: The games I like the most are all spend-capped.
With that in mind, this blog series will celebrate the best spend-capped mobile games on the market. Every week, I will highlight a worthwhile new release (having come out in 2016), as well as a classic (something that launched in 2015 or earlier).
Some titles will be premium, some will be free-to-start… all will be spend-capped!
Fresh Pick – Mr. Crab 2
Release Date: May 19, 2016
Spend Cap: $20.92
Monetization Model: Free-to-start. You get an about an hour of totally free play. If you want to continue, $6.99 will unlock every level. You can also buy seven different skins for $1.99 each.
Are there Ads? Yes, there are opt-in ads that you can watch to unlock extra cosmetic items. They are not tied directly to the gameplay.
Who made it? Illusion Labs, the folks behind Nono Islands and Touchgrind Skate 2.
Content: Nine beautiful, hand-crafted worlds.
Awesome Innovation: The rotating stages are easy for the eye to read, and provide enough challenge to give gamers a worthy skill-based challenge. The portrait layout lets you one-hand the game, which is great when you’re in transit.
For core gamers who love: Super Mario Bros., Runner 2
Thoughts: Don’t be put off by the silly title and the less-than-charming characters. Mr. Crab 2 proves that intricate level design and finite stage progression is still the best way to deliver a platformer, regardless of hardware. Once I started, I found it hard to play for less than 25 minutes at a time. Individual stages are very short – about two minutes long – but they’re so joyful that you’ll always want to continue on. Playing this reminded me of the golden era of mobile gaming, when every week we’d get a novel new experience to try – Angry Birds, Flight Control, Doodle Jump, Where’s My Water?, etc. It’s a slick product built by one of the most talented teams in the industry. Since the first hour is free, you owe it to yourself to try it.
Legendary Pick – Lara Croft Go
Release Date: August 27, 2015
Spend Cap: $11.97
Monetization Model: Premium. The complete game is $4.99. You can also purchase all of the puzzle solutions for an additional $4.99 (don’t worry, you won’t need them), or a costume set for $1.99.
Are there Ads? No.
Who made it? Square Enix, the publisher who released the also-awesome Hitman Go.
Content: Five worlds and 101 puzzles.
Awesome Innovation: Lara Croft Go builds upon the pure puzzle mechanics of Hitman Go, adding platforming and shooting. Everything works beautifully with touch – you’ll never miss having a stick and buttons.
For core gamers who love: Tomb Raider, Uncharted, Monument Valley
Thoughts: This is the best mobile game I’ve ever played. On the day it came out, I was jumping up and down, telling anybody who would listen that they needed to play it. Later in the year, Apple gave it their Game of the Year award, as did IGN (in the mobile games category). In a perfect world, developers would be chasing the success of this game instead of Game of War, aiming to one-up each other in the realms of puzzles and ambience instead of monetization. If you haven’t tried Lara Croft Go yet, it may well be the best $5.00 you can spend on a video game. The developers have managed the impossible task of providing an experience that feels uniquely suited for mobile while remaining faithful to the spirit and tone of the Tomb Raider franchise. It doesn’t get any better than this.