Jetpack Joyride (Free)
This is easily one of my top games of 2012, but it also happens to be a massively entertaining and accessible game which is also free, making this the perfect place to start your mobile gaming career. It’s an auto-scrolling endless runner full of random fun. Proof? You play as a disgruntled evil lab employee who steals a machine gun propelled jetpack. That’s to say nothing of all the vehicles, costumes, and accessories you’ll see as you progress through the ranks. This game was developed by Halfbrick Studios, who also brought us the Fruit Ninja games. You can feel safe starting with pretty much any game from this studio.
Similar Games to Download: The psychedelic Whale Trail offers a similar if more colorful take on the genre, while Off the Leash gives us a similar experience from a top down perspective. Also, it has puppies!
Tower Defense (Lost Earth) (Free)
Not so long ago, it felt like we were all drowning in an ocean of towers and creeps with all the tower defense games around. The genre isn’t the unstoppable force it once was, but there are still plenty of gems to enjoy. This little ditty from Com2Us is bright, colorful, and is very well balanced with a whole lot of variety to the missions and modes. Com2Us is one of those developers that has a representative for pretty much every genre. Though not all their games are top notch, this one is definitely worth your time.
Similar Games to Download: Sentinel 3: Homeworld and Fieldrunners make up two of the other best tower defense games on mobile, but if you’re really hardcore, check out the superb reverse tower defense game, Anomaly: Warzone Earth.
Angry Birds Star Wars (Free)
I know literally all of you have probably heard of or played Angry Birds by now, but I still think they deserve a mention on this list. Developer Rovio had a fantastic 2012, introducing gravity mechanics and a sci-fi aesthetic in Angry Birds Space, and then refining and mixing those elements with the glory of the original Star Wars trilogy. Star Wars-inspired locations, level designs, characters, and powers make a good game into a great one, and there’s no prequel stuff to be found anywhere! No Jar Jar Binks, no midi-chlorians. Feel free to check out Rovio’s other titles, Amazing Alex and Bad Piggies for more puzzle fun.
Similar Games to Download: If you’d like to continue your physics-based fun, Where’s My Water? from Disney and Cut the Rope from ZeptoLab are both completely fantastic, and each have totally adorable mascots!
Great Big War Game ($2.99)
Going back to the strategy side of gaming, Great Big War Game is the biggest and best turn based strategy title in the series from Rubicon Development. The previous games, Great Little War Game and GLWG: All Out War, are also excellent titles, but GBWB is the most polished and balanced. It involves the military antics of a character simply called The Generalissimo. The hexagon tiled battlefields of this world seem simple at first, but there is striking depth and complexity. With loads of unit types and maps with a functioning fog of war, this game is sure to keep your tactical side happy. Also, there is a free lite version to try.
Similar Games to Download: A more innovative and novel hex-tiled turn based strategy game is the very intelligent Greed Corp. However, I’ve got to recommend the far more casual yet delightfully sadistic Plague Inc.
Rayman Jungle Run ($2.99)
Apple named this title from Ubisoft the 2012 game of the year, and I completely agree, but I was totally praising this game before it was cool! Based on the utterly brilliant Rayman: Origins (a platformer to rival even Mario), this auto-scrolling runner manages to keep all the creativity and bizarre charm of its predecessor, but with bite-sized levels and half of the controls removed! Seriously though, they stripped ‘Origins’ down to its core for this simple game, but it’s just as fun and the visuals are just as jaw-droppingly crisp and vibrant as ever. It’s a bit more challenging than other runners, but do not skip this one.
Similar Games to Download: This is one of a kind, but some other platformers to enjoy include the stylistic and unique Jazz: Trump’s Journey, or the adorable arts and crafts world of Paper Monsters.
Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour ($6.99)
My dear readers, we have finally arrived. The more hardcore among you have likely been wondering where all the gunplay and violence realistically rendered in 3D have been hiding in regards to this list. Look no further. Just released a couple weeks ago, Modern Combat 4 continues the Call of Duty-style mobile gaming saga. Modern Combat 3 dropped the ball with its Android port, with tons of bugs and glitches, but Modern Combat 4 is more polished, even if the single player campaign is a bit more repetitive. All the other games on this list are simple, so it might take some more practice and experience to get used to the complex touch controls offered here, but if you want more action packed, console-esque games on your device, this is an explosive place to start.
Similar Games to Download: Gameloft’s sci-fi FPS N.O.V.A. 3 and its predecessors are also excellent. Meanwhile, games like Shadowgun from Madfinger and Call of Duty Black Ops Zombies from Glu Mobile can help round out that trigger finger itch.