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14 indie classics you can play on your smartphone

Let's hear it for the little guys
Product: Big Indie Pitch | Publisher: Steel Media Ltd | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad
It's indie month here on Pocket Gamer. Over the next 30 days or so we'll be celebrating all things small scale and carefully crafted in the world of portable gaming.

To kick things off, here's a little list of some of the undisputed indie classics you can currently play on your smartphone. If you're fairly new to this smartphone gaming lark, you might well be surprised that some of the entries are available in this form.

We'll be running through some of the indie classics that are conspicuous by their absence on mobile in the not too distant future, so feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.

For now, though, let's celebrate the fact that these 14 gems can be downloaded and played on your humble mobile phone. What a time to be alive, eh?

#1 The Witness

Product: The WitnessFormats: iPhone, iPadDeveloper: Thekla Inc.Genres: Puzzle

The Witness
If they were to start handing out 'Indie Legend' gongs, then Jonathan Blow would surely be in contention for the first round of awards. The Witness shows why. It's a truly fresh first person puzzler set on a hauntingly beautiful island.

#2 Inside

Product: InsideFormats: iPhone, iPad, SwitchPublisher: PlaydeadGenres: Platform, Puzzle

Inside is a platform-puzzler of uncommon sophistication, packed full of ingenious environmental teasers as it is. Where the game really sets itself apart from the crowd - indie or otherwise - is in the sheer emotional wallop it manages to pack.

#3 FTL: Faster Than Light

Product: FTL: Faster Than LightFormats: Android, iPad, SteamDeveloper: Subset GamesPublisher: Subset GamesGenres: Strategy

FTL: Faster Than Light
Only a handful of games have really tried to emulate FTL's unique blend of spaceship management and choose-your-own adventure narrative. None of those have managed to match it. It's a modern indie classic in every way, and it works impeccably on iPad.

#4 Game Dev Tycoon

Product: Game Dev TycoonFormats: Android, iPhone, iPadGenres: Simulation

Game Dev Tycoon
In a distinctly meta twist, Game Dev Tycoon is an indie game all about making indie games. Whoah. It's also an ingenious little simulation game that feels like it's native to mobile.

#5 Papers, Please

Product: Papers, PleaseFormats: iPadDeveloper: Lucas PopePublisher: Lucas PopeGenres: Simulation, Time management

Papers, Please
Papers, Please is five years old now, but its hard-hitting narrative feels more relevant than ever. You play as a border guard for an authoritarian regime, and it's up to you to weed out dissidents and undesirables - with plenty of agonising moral quandaries along the way.

#6 World of Goo

Product: World of GooFormats: Android, iPhone, iPad, SteamDeveloper: 2D BoyGenres: Casual, Puzzle

World of Goo
Can you believe that World of Goo is a decade old? It's even harder to grasp when you place this mobile port, which remains a startlingly vibrant physics puzzler with an uncommonly sharp emotional edge.

#7 This War of Mine

Product: This War of MineFormats: Android, iPad, SteamPublisher: 11 bit studiosGenres: Action, Simulation

This War of Mine
If we're talking about indie games with the potential to move you, then This War of Mine is surely right out there with the front runners. It's both a finely poised stealth-survival game and an unflinching look at the real effects of war.

#8 Death Road to Canada

Product: Death Road to CanadaFormats: iPhone, iPadDeveloper: MadgardenPublisher: RocketCat GamesGenres: Action, Adventure, RPG

Death Road to Canada
Death Road to Canada built up a cult following in its original PC form, and almost all of the game's quirky appeal has made its way across to mobile. This is a charming dungeon crawling RPG with a modern zombie apocalypse twist - and a little smidgen of choose-your-own-adventure magic.

#9 Bastion

Product: BastionFormats: iPhone, iPad, SteamDeveloper: Supergiant GamesPublisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentGenres: Action, RPG

Bastion really hasn't aged a day in the six years since it landed on mobile. Besides its vibrant isometric world and crunchy action-RPG combat, Bastion's real time narrator continues to feel startlingly fresh.

#10 The Talos Principle

Product: The Talos PrincipleFormats: Android, iPhone, iPadDeveloper: CroteamGenres: Puzzle

The Talos Principle
As if we weren't spoilt enough having The Witness on mobile, here's another beloved indie first person puzzler that you can play on the loo. The Talos Principle is arguably less of a tight fit on mobile, but clunky controls aside it retains its dizzying one-two punch to the gut and brain.


Product: VVVVVVFormats: Android, iPhone, iPad, 3DS, PS Vita, SteamDeveloper: DistractionwareGenres: Adventure, Conversion, Platform

Terry Cavanagh is another indie champ, so we were rather excited when his highly regarded platformer VVVVVV hit mobile in 2014. This is a brilliant platformer that switches out boring old jumping in favour of the ability to flip gravity in the opposite direction.

#12 The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (iOS)

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (iOS)
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth isn't the finest port on the App Store, as it was clearly made with physical controls in mind. Still, the fact remains that you can play one of the most beloved indie games of all time on your phone. It's scarily easy to lose yourself in this macabre roguelike shooter.

#13 Fez

Product: FezFormats: iPhone, PS Vita, SteamDeveloper: Polytron CorporationGenres: 3D, Adventure, Conversion, Platform, Puzzle

Like The Binding of Isaac, Fez makes this list not because it's perfectly suited to mobile. It's not. Rather, it deserves its place because of its status as indie royalty. There are still few games out there that manage to twist your perceptions as much as Fez. That you can play this strange, ambitious 2D(ish) platformer on mobile is a wonderful thing indeed.

#14 Thomas Was Alone

Product: Thomas Was AloneFormats: Android, iPhone, iPad, PS Vita, SteamDeveloper: Bossa StudiosPublisher: Bossa StudiosGenres: Platform, Puzzle

Thomas Was Alone
This Bafta-winning platform-puzzler stole plenty of hearts when it initially launched on PC in 2012. It hit iOS and Android a couple of years later, where its simple controls and movingly narrated story found a fresh audience.


Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy 9 August 2018
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