There are a lot of folks out there who don't play video games in any form, believe it or not. As the rest of us know, gaming is a wonderful thing and should be experienced by all, but it can feel daunting at first. Most home console games feature complex control schemes, and even mobile games can sometimes seem as if they have too much going on for some people to handle without years of video game brain training.
But we need to try to share with non-gamers the gospel of video games. How do we do that? Well, we start with something simple. If you want your gaming-illiterate friends and family to discover the joy of that thing we love so much, buy them a Google Play card this holiday and force them to download the following games.
Ski Safari ($0.99)
Ski Safari, developed by Defiant, is as simple as games go, as there are no buttons. You simply have a guy who skis down a snowy mountain trying to escape an avalanche, and you tap the screen when you want to make him jump. That's it! Despite its simplicity, Ski Safari is incredibly addictive. Even I, as the kind of person who picks up mobile games at a ridiculous tear, stuck with this one for over a week, and that is quite unusual. I can't really give a better endorsement than that.
Zen Bound 2 ($2.99)
This is one of the more unique options in mobile gaming. In Zen Bound and Zen Bound 2, built by Secret Exit, you wrap a rope around a wooden object by turning it until there is no more rope left. The object is to have the rope touch all of the designated spots on the object before you run out. It sounds silly, but it's quite enthralling and soothing, as the name suggests. It helps that this is a game with no time constraints, and you can take it as slowly or as quickly as you desire.
Where's My Water? ($0.99)
In this Disney puzzler, you must move water from where it sits at the start of the level to a receptacle. You do this by dragging your finger through hard material, cutting holes. Where's My Water? is great for building the sort of critical thinking skills you need to become an active gamer, as it starts off quite simple and grows into something far more complex. The difficulty curve is gradual, so by the time it becomes really challenging you have the skills to take it on.
Bean's Quest ($1.99)
Even most non-gamers will recognize this style of game, as it is a platformer a la Super Mario Bros. In Bean's Quest, developed by Kumobius Games, you're only responsible for making the main character, a bean wearing a sombrero, move left and right, as he jumps on his own, and so you won't have a lot of buttons to keep track of. And it comes with a soundtrack that is quite pleasing.
Cut the Rope ($0.99)
In ZeptoLab’s amazingly popular Cut the Rope, you need to feed your strange little pet pieces of candy tied to ropes above him that you sever with the swipe of a fingertip. Cut the Rope is wonderful at teaching you the mechanics of the game, and, like Where's My Water?, features tiers of difficulty. You can try to make the candy touch the collectible objects in each level, or you can just focus on beating the level, period. Most seasoned gamers will go for all the high scores, but it's good you can accomplish something even if you aren't super skilled.
This casual title from FreshPlanet has grown in popularity significantly since I first reviewed it earlier this year, and it's a good introduction to multiplayer competition. In SongPop, the game will play a clip from a song, and you must identify the song as quickly as possible. Your scores are compared with a challenger and don't just exist in a vacuum. You can pick up and play sessions that last only seconds. You don't have to play a round at the same time as your competitor, too.
Angry Birds ($0.99)
This Rovio title and all its iterations are insanely popular for a reason, because the characters and gameplay concept are extremely accessible. At its heart, the mechanics are simple; you slingshot some birds at some pigs and the destructible buildings on or in which they sit. Rovio is constantly shaking up the formula, too, and so new editions of the game don't get old. This game is also based on trial and error, and while it can take a while to beat a certain level (though I should note each attempt at a level lasts only seconds), it rarely feels frustrating.