Sometimes, there’s nothing like the classics. As we enter the golden age of app gaming, looking back at the games that started it all can be as rewarding as it is entertaining.
But while there are some clones of classic games on mobile that are just as good as (or, dare I say it, even better than) the original, most app gamers don’t need reminding of the chaff that must so often be sifted through before reaching the wheat. That’s where we come in.
A lot of these games have been around longer than mobile as a gaming platform – and some of the modern iterations of old classics might surprise you. So whether it’s for the taste of a good vintage or something to occupy Grandpa, here are ten of the best classic games on mobile, and the best classic app games they spawned.
Best App Game Version: Crossy Road
We all love a game with a decent message, and Frogger is nothing if not a lesson in road safety. That, and the plight of frogs. Or in the modern iteration of of Crossy Road, the plight of chickens, zombies, furniture, and even “Crazy Ol’ Ben”. Among a whopping 272 others.
Frogger has a gameplay loop that has earned it many places atop “best games of all time” lists. So it would be remiss of us to not include a modern-day spin on this bonafide classic – Crossy Road – in our list of the best classic app games. But for Frogger purists, there are always plenty of arcade-like replicas to choose from.
Best App Game Version: Candy Crush Saga
Bejeweled was born in the olden days of the internet when future app gamers would instead rely on browser games to get their casual gaming fix. But little did we know at the time that it would go on to spawn the Match-3 madness that comprises 99% of today’s mobile puzzlers.
Bejeweled tasks players with matching jewels in order to clear the board of jewels. And if that sounds familiar it’s probably because if you switch stones for sweets then you have Candy Crush Saga – arguably one of the “Kings” of all app games. Which is probably a hard pill for Bejeweled creators PopCap Games to swallow. Harder still for the original – Shariki – which never seemed to make it past the 1994 computer stage.
Best App Game Version: Pou
90s kids will remember the thrill of trying – and failing – to keep an amorphous blob alive without the real-world consequences that come tied to it being a real-life animal. To our credit, though, it was made even harder to properly care for a creature when schools jumped on the ban bandwagon (ban-dwagon?) not long after.
But then a new electronic portable device let these digital critters live on in myriad forms, the most notable being the Tamagotchi-clone Pou. And even though Bandai Namco tried to migrate its portable pet to phones with My Tamagotchi Forever in 2018 – the damage was already done, with Pou’s 500 million downloads trouncing MTF’s 5 million in the Google Play store today.
Cut the Rope
Best App Game Version: Cut the Rope
There must be something about candy that drives app gamers wild because ZeptoLab’s Cut the Rope hit the mark as an instant classic upon release in 2010. Plus, say what you will about the unoriginal title, because the puzzle physics-based gameplay mechanics are anything but. Take that, Match-3s.
For millions of players, Cut the Rope will always be one of the best classic app games that can still play with the big dogs (or whatever creature the protagonist, Om Nom, is supposed to be), filling ten-minute breaks and hours-long binges the world over. And that’s why the best modern version of Cut the Rope is still Cut the Rope.
Crush the Castle
Best App Game Version: Angry Birds
Armor Games’ Crush the Castle might not ring any bells for anyone that wasn’t an avid Flash game player in 2009 (even though there are DOZENS of us), but its ornery offspring, Angry Birds, certainly will.
In Crush the Castle, players had to operate a trebuchet in order to lay waste to the inhabitants of a particularly poorly-built castle. The reception to this physics-based puzzle game was generally pretty positive, although there were some that lamented its “lackluster visuals and sounds”.
Well it seems that, despite Crush the Castle not being their game, Rovio took that feedback to heart and spawned the crazy, colorful world of Angry Birds instead. Which sure showed those critics – because Angry Birds was the first app game to enter Hollywood.
Best App Game Version: Trism
Trism – specifically its creator Steve Demeter – is credited with being the first to strike gold and spark the app game goldrush that soon followed. If only Demeter knew that the $250,000 profit in just two months from selling the game at $5 a pop would mark the start of some crazy monetization methods in the app gaming industry that we know and love today.
But we feel that Demeter deserves his title as the father of the modern app game – especially seeing as Trism is still one of the best classic app games we can play to this day. The innovative mechanics saw Trism using the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer. Something we rarely see used (well) in many modern titles.
Best App Game Version: Space Invaders
The impact of Space Invaders on modern video games is hard to overstate. Like Dungeons and Dragons, there are so many ways in which today’s games draw from the mechanics first established in Space Invaders, from the nail-biting difficulty curves to the introduction of characters & avatars. And if you’re thinking “what characters?” – go ahead and tell us you haven’t seen this little guy absolutely everywhere.
It stands to reason that this video game godfather soon made its way to mobile, with too many versions over the years to lay out in just one article about classic games on mobile. But we do feel the need to highlight the fact that it culminated in Square Enix’s augmented reality Space Invaders. Because apparently some people saw Pixels and thought ‘that’s a great idea’.
Best App Game Version: PAC-MAN
Speaking of pixelated celebrities, there’s probably none so famous as the little yellow puck with a penchant for pellets: Pac-Man. Along with his colorful entourage, Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde, Pac-Man wakka-wakka’d his way onto our mobile devices courtesy of its original creator (Namco of Bandai Namco fame) back in 2013.
In doing so, it eliminated all need for a new iteration and stayed true to its original look. Because, as we said at the top of the article, sometimes there’s nothing like the classics.
Although it’s worth pointing out that Google once April Fooled the world into thinking they were creating a Pac-Man AR game. And we know what happened when they did the same thing with Pokémon.
Best App Game Version: Tetris®
Admit it, the song is now in your head. And we’re not even sorry. Somehow this brick-stacking puzzler managed to captivate humanity when it was first created by Alexey Pajitnov in 1984, and it was probably the music. And whether Pajitnov likes it or not, it lives on in many, many guises on mobile devices today.
Whatever your preference, there’s a flavor of Tetris for everyone on mobile. Rest assured that punching ‘Tetris’ into Google Play or the App Store will produce a lot of results. Wish Tetris was more rustic? Try Block Puzzle Wood Blast. Wish that Tetris wasn’t so rigid? Try 99 Bricks Wizard Academy. Obsessed with cats? You bet there’s a Tetris with cats instead of bricks.
Best App Game Version: Slither.io
When thinking of the world’s best classic app games, Snake is probably the first that comes to mind. For anyone who is over the age of 20, that is.
Never have so few pixels been so tail-biting as we attempted to stave off defeat at our own hands, watching helplessly as our “snake” barrelled helplessly into its own elongated body. We guess you had to be there.
Now, of course, there are far sleeker versions like slither.io to provide a more aesthetically pleasing way to devour pellets, and the decomposing bodies of those less fortunate. Sure the contents are a little darker, but it looks great. And with YouTube stars like PewDiePie catapulting it towards 500m+ downloads, it’s a perfect representation of how the best classic app games snaked their way into the modern age.
As long as there are developers with a passion for the old school (or, you know, those wishing to capitalize on its legacy) we’ll always have a wealth of classic games on mobile to choose from. And we look forward to seeing what weird and wonderful ways they’ll morph in the future.
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