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 ANDROID FEATURE
Pocket Gamer's Top 10 Games of the Year 2012 - Android Edition
Year of the 'droid
 
Top 10 Android charts Android, thumbnail 1
It's true - we won't look back on 2012 as the year in which Android gaming achieved platform parity with iOS. But we may well look on it as the tipping point towards that goal.

This year we saw a number of the biggest releases arriving more or less simultaneously on iOS and Android. For a number of the bigger developers like Rovio, Gameloft and Glu, a joint launch (or as near as possible) is now standard practice.

Make no mistake, the gap - which has been closing for years - shrunk more in 2012 than in any other year.

So download the following 10 games onto any half-decent Android phone and we guarantee you won't be feeling particularly social this festive period.

Rayman Jungle Run 
By Pastagames - buy on Android



Rayman Jungle Run is one of the most widely loved games among the Pocket Gamer team. It gives you a beautifully detailed and challenging 2D platformer, but with controls that don't completely suck.

The key to this is the removal of any ghastly virtual joystick nonsense, and the clever employment of a single jump button. Rayman runs from left to right - it's up to you to jump, hover and wall-bounce at the appropriate points.

Draw Something
by OMGPOP - buy on Android



Don't pretend you haven't been playing it. Draw Something became such a cross-over hit with non-gamers earlier in the year that it almost became a kind of guilty pleasure for dedicated gamers.

It's alright, you can come out now. We're all friends here. We gave Draw Something a Gold Award, you know, and we stand by it. This beautifully simple game of online charades has you exchanging pictorial clues with your buddies. Its creative nature and asynchronous style makes it the multiplayer game that fits in anywhere, any time.

New Star Soccer 
By New Star Games - buy on Android



EA came out with the Manchester City of mobile FIFA games in 2012, with all the licenses and modes that money could buy. The trouble is, New Star Soccer is the Borussia Dortmund - tighter, more focused and more aware of how to make the most of its strengths.

Like Rayman Jungle Run, New Star Soccer succeeds by rethinking how you interact with a game that doesn't typically sit well on a touch-only device.

Instead of full-on footy, you take part in matches only when a key pass or shot is there to be made, and fills the rest out with a delightfully involving RPG-lite experience.

Plague Inc. 
By Miniclip - buy on Android



Many games encourage antisocial behaviour. Few task you with wiping out the entire human race. Plague Inc. is such a benign game to play that the results of your gentle probing and strategising are almost comical.

Ah, I've just wiped out the population of Iceland. That's good. Oh, an airplane has just transported my flesh-eating virus to the American mainland. Good-oh. What horrible traits should I breed into it next?

All of these thoughts and more will go through your head whilst playing Plague Inc., along with 'I really should put this down and eat something' and 'I'm a horrible person.'

Triple Town 
By Spry Fox - buy on Android



You know how we tend to bleat on about wanting to see something new in the match-three puzzler genre? None of us has any idea what that something should be. But Spry Fox did, and it created Triple Town as a compelling proof of concept.

While the goal here is still to match three objects of the same type - trees, houses, churches and more - in a simple grid, Triple Town makes you think way beyond that. Each match creates a single upgraded element (bushes become trees, gravestones become churches), which in turn can be matched to create something even bigger and more rewarding.

It's bewitching stuff.

Angry Birds Star Wars 
By Rovio - buy on Android



The Angry Birds series continues to defy doom-laden predictions of backlash and over-saturation by being annoyingly good. There are those who could smell blood when news of a Star Wars tie-in emerged, but it turned out to be far from the cynical cash-in that many had feared/hoped for.

Yes, you're still flinging birds at pigs. But when those birds wield lightsabers and the level design skillfully incorporates all the best bits of the other Angry Birds games, it would be useless to resist. It is... our dessstiny.

Need For Speed: Most Wanted 
By Firemonkeys - buy on Android



We don't know how they found out or who told them, but the developers Firemonkeys know the recipe for making a console-standard racer for smartphones. After Real Racing 2 nailed the serious simulation side of things, Need For Speed: Most Wanted brings it home for the latent boy racer in every petrol head.

There's nothing inherently new here - you drive really fast through a bunch of gently twisting city scapes, trashing opponents and cops and hitting the nitro button every now and then. Somehow, though, these ordinary ingredients have been put together in a different way to anything else on the Google Play store.

Splice  
By Cipher Prime Studios - buy on Android



We still don't quite know what to make of Splice. Is it a game? Yes. Probably. It's also a freeform plaything, but with levels and goals. Oh, I don't know. Can't you ask someone else?

The aim here is to play around with molecule strings, slotting loose sections into the right place to make them grow. What really makes this concept sing is the elegant visuals that make you feel like you're actually playing with these molecules through a microscope.

Curiosity 
By 22 Cans - buy on Android



As many people hate Curiosity as love it, we'd wager. We'd also bet that a large proportion of those same haters are still plugging away at it. Peter Molyneux's extravagant social experiment does strange things to you, as our own Curiosity diary shows.

The aim here is to find out what's inside a giant cube by slowly - oh so slowly - chipping away at the millions of smaller blocks that make it up. Everyone else is chipping away at the same cube, and only one player will learn the ultimate truth of what lies within.

Maddening, pointless, shallow, cynical... unputdownable.

Whale Trail 
By ustwo - buy on Android



We're really not sure why Whale Trail wasn't a bigger hit in 2012. It has a cute-yet-unorthodox lead (a flying whale), visuals to die for and the single catchiest theme tune of any game released this year. Heck, it even had its own hilarious music video starring UK indie-rock royalty.

Okay, so Whale Trail isn't the most original game on Google Play, but swooping through the clouds, pulling off loop de loops and entering the brief indestructible mode is a constant joy that's easily the match of any other game of this kind. Now it's even available for free as Whale Trail Frenzy.
 

Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy 27 December 2012
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Show: Latest | Oldest
Joined:
Sep 2012
Post count:
2
@grundo | 21:11 - 19 January 2013
triple town is a greed game and unbuyable they are not in my list
Joined:
Apr 2010
Post count:
203
jeffyg3 | 12:52 - 6 January 2013
Well if you're looking for a mobile phone device to play the best games on, then should have gotten an iPhone. Android gaming isn't on par with what u get on iOS devices
Joined:
Dec 2012
Post count:
4
@ZephGrey | 10:03 - 29 December 2012
Wow. If these are the top 10 games Android has to offer, I know I made the wrong choice in buying one.
Joined:
Dec 2012
Post count:
6
Tom Moris | 14:27 - 28 December 2012
If you are looking for good game try streetquest - run is a game. Its really good game-like application for runners with many unique quests and events that will change your running experience into game ;)
Joined:
Mar 2011
Post count:
106
funkyflychicken | 23:10 - 27 December 2012
Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Bard's Tale have seen the most play from me than any other game recently. Need for Speed: Most Wanted beats all other racers, hands down. The damage modeling, ability to cause cops and adversaries to crash spectacularly is very nice.

My daughter is very much enjoying Granny Smith and Squids (not a new one, though).

I am enjoying Zombiewood for the most part (hoping on the Nexus it won't crash and never load again without deleting/reinstalling and losing all progress). Angry Birds Star Wars is ok in short bursts, but not something I will go back to once I've finished it. I never sit down with the tablet and think, "Oh man, I can't wait to play Angry Birds!"

But I'm on my THIRD playthrough of Bard's Tale. Still working my way through first playthrough of NFS:MW. Very much enjoying Dark Meadow (Tegra 3 only) too.

And since I have all new installs on the Nexus 7, am going back through Rayman again, as well as starting over in Guns and Guts. I normally try to avoid Freemium games, but Zombiewood and Guns and Guts would both have been solid 7-8 dollar games, imo. At least, Zombiewood would be if it didn't have the crash and never load again issue.
Joined:
Dec 2012
Post count:
84
@Jongjungbu | 22:06 - 27 December 2012
No Bard's Tale? I think Google picked right by including it as one of it's best games of 2012.
Joined:
Nov 2012
Post count:
25
rodgerrodger | 19:57 - 27 December 2012
A solid list. I loved Splice. I had a lot of fun with Rayman and even Angry Birds Star Wars (after not playing any previous AB). Plague Inc. is a much better version of Pandemic 2.

But to answer your question on why Whale Trail wasn't a bigger hit. It just isn't very good. There's nothing special about it once the cute look quickly wares off. Like it states there are numerous games out there, and much better ones too. I think Ski Safari would be a much better choice for this type of game.
Joined:
Dec 2012
Post count:
105
Eriatarka | 17:20 - 27 December 2012
Steven Seagal - "Lots of big-name developers have made a noted effort in bringing their games to Android this year - releases from Square Enix, Sega and Rockstar have almost mirrored iOS ones. Kairosoft releases even come out on Android before iOS :) "

Thats true however games from big studies like these are usually just third rate versions of console games (FIFA, Grand Theft Auto, etc). The majority of really innovative and exciting mobile games come from indie developers not the big studios, and indies generally dont port to Android due to the development costs (and piracy, as you say). If you look at the PocketGamer "Best Games" list, there are about 60 games that got a score of 9 or higher in the last 12 months, of which only around a quarter have been ported to android (and these have mainly been the big studio games).

Joined:
Dec 2012
Post count:
105
Eriatarka | 17:16 - 27 December 2012
I dont get the hype behind most of these games: Plague Inc is a fun concept but once youve played it once (which takes about 30 mins) there isnt much point playing again. New Star Soccer gets old really quickly; the seasons last for ages and youre just doing the same thing over and over again. Curiosity is terrible, and Draw Something was destroyed by Zynga greed, althoguh it was fun when it first came out.

While Android has nowhere near the same quality of games as iOS, it still has more good titles than this list represents. Dungeon Village and Epic Astro Story from Kairosoft for example
Joined:
Apr 2011
Post count:
48
Steven Seagal | 17:10 - 27 December 2012
Lots of big-name developers have made a noted effort in bringing their games to Android this year - releases from Square Enix, Sega and Rockstar have almost mirrored iOS ones. Kairosoft releases even come out on Android before iOS :) But if we want real parity between the platforms the piracy on Android needs to be dealt with. It must be quite discouraging for developers that I can simply search for an APK on Google and sideload their game for free, just like that (not that I do!)

But in any case smartphone gaming is only getting more and more exciting, and I can't wait to see what happens next year :)
JOIN THE DISCUSSION: 12 comments >>
 
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