Conventional wisdom would have it that smartphones aren’t suitable for serious gamers, and that if you want to get your hardcore gaming fix on the move you need a dedicated portable console, like a 3DS or a PSP. But conventional wisdom happens to be talking complete nonsense, because there are plenty of titles to keep the most committed enthusiasts busy. With the world’s biggest publishers continuing to broaden their mobile output, the list of quality gaming experiences on smartphones is rising by the week – so we’ve picked out eight of the best. If you consider yourself a serious gamer, here are some of the titles you should download as soon as possible.
Dead Space (iPhone/iPad, £4.99)
The popular horror franchise might not seem like an ideal fit for the smaller screen, but this original iOS tale – taking place between the first and second games – is a remarkably accomplished shocker. Played late at night with headphones turned up (all the better for appreciating some stunning sound design) it’s capable of delivering a few jolts, and the touch controls are surprisingly effective as you dismember alien nasties with your fingertips. With superb graphics, two new weapons and the thrillingly intense Survival Mode, it’s as close to the console experience on a portable device as you could reasonably wish for.
Some might balk at that price point – uncommonly high in this era of 69p downloads and ‘freemium’ titles – but DoDonPachi Resurrection is worth every penny. It comes courtesy of Japanese developer Cave, and is a perfect port of the original: essentially the innards of a large arcade cabinet squeezed into a device not much larger than a credit card. This fearsomely tough 2D shooter fills the screen with colourful bullets that must be dodged with perfect timing. It’s difficult, but scrupulously fair, with immaculate touchscreen controls that allow you to weave between these swarms of projectiles with absolute precision. As hardcore as it gets and all the better for it.
At over 1GB in size, you might struggle to squeeze this latest edition of the perennially popular football franchise onto your iDevice, but it’s well worth making room for. Previous mobile soccer games have compared poorly to their console equivalents, but EA Sports has made every effort to recreate the traditional FIFA experience in portable form – and it shows. There’s an enviable level of polish, a remarkable array of options and features, a terrific Daily Challenge feature, and an extensive Manager mode for wannabe coaches on the commute. And with 500 licensed teams and more than 15,000 players in total, it’s almost as comprehensive as its console cousins.
Hydro Thunder GO
(Windows Phone 7, £3.99)
Real Racing might have the simulation racer genre sewn up, but anyone looking for an action-packed arcade racer will find plenty to enjoy in this portable spin-off of this summer’s Xbox Live cracker Hydro Thunder Hurricane. Production values are excellent, with some of the finest visuals we’ve seen on Windows Phone 7, and superb water physics that capture every splash as you speed through the nine spectacular courses. The tilt-based controls are supremely responsive, and there are 12 different vehicles to unlock. Hydro Thunder GO offers hours of pure, unadulterated arcade fun, making it terrific value for money at less than £4.
Minecraft: Pocket Edition
(Xperia Play, £4.29)
The sandbox PC phenomenon hits Android Phones – and it arrives with all its key features intact. As with the original, it’s all about creation – you have a collection of blocks with which to build any structure you want, in a world designed to encourage curious exploration. The only real restriction is your own imagination, and while it’s a game that’s accessible to all, such is the time and effort required to really make the most of Minecraft’s world that only the most dedicated gamers need apply. Optimised for the slide-out controls of Xperia Play, it’s the perfect way to play this remarkable game on the move.
Real Racing 2 HD
Featuring a level of content and polish that puts most home console games to shame – let alone their handheld equivalents – Real Racing HD is an absolute must-own for driving fans. Its Career Mode alone overs upwards of 10 hours of races in a variety of disciplines, offering a selection of 15 tracks to drive on, and twice that number of licensed cars, represented in impressive detail. Those who prefer human competition can take part in 16-player online races, and there’s even YouTube support so you can upload your best replays and watch them over and over again. Precision gyroscopic controls are the icing on an already tasty cake. Essential.
This third-person shooter would almost be worth recommending for its technical achievements alone – its fast-paced and silky smooth action is all the more remarkable given the astounding visual fidelity. But it’s also a remarkably accomplished blaster, with intelligent enemies providing a real test of your gaming nous. Talented developer Madfinger Games weaves a surprisingly compelling (if pulpy) story around the intense gunplay, and with sequels already in the offing, this looks like the start of a major mobile franchise. It’s certainly the closest thing you can get to Gears of War on your smartphone for the foreseeable future – that fact alone should convince many to take the plunge.
The Zenonia series harks back to a time before mobile games, with a style akin to the earlier Legend of Zelda titles, albeit with more of a focus on action. Its old-fashioned approach will be popular with retro lovers, though the remarkable number of quests to complete and the wealth of locations to visit bring it in line with more modern titles. The art style is characterful and charming, and it plays particularly well on the Xperia Play, with physical controls proving a welcome replacement for the virtual d-pad. Best of all, it’s absolutely free – and with dozens of hours’ worth of missions to complete, it’s one of the biggest bargains on the Android Market.