• arrow
    LOG IN 
    • Log in using an option below.
      Forgot password?
      Login with Facebook
      Sign in with Twitter

Shop Contact Us Submit Videos Who Are We? Hall Of Fame Advertising With PG Games Archive
Best games on iPhone Best games on iPad Best games on Apple Watch Best games on Android
Best free games on iPhone Best free games on iPad Best free games on Apple Watch Best free games on Android Competitions
iPhone game sales iPad game sales Apple Watch game sales Android game sales
Latest iPhone game updates Latest iPad game updates Latest Apple Watch game updates Latest Android game updates
New iPhone games New iPad games New Apple Watch games New Android games
PG.biz PG FRANCE PG GERMANY PG Game Guides PG GameHubs PG Connects
AppSpy 148 Apps Android Rundown iPhone Quality Index iPad Quality Index Android Quality Index Swipe Magazine Best App Ever Awards
Pocket Gamer on NewsNow
UK Mobile Pages Directory
Skinflint Price Comparison

Pocket Gamer's Top 25 Mobile Indie Developers

A celebration of smaller developers
Product: Pocket Gamer | Publisher: Steel Media Ltd | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad
Pocket Gamer iPhone, thumbnail 1
It's indie month at Pocket Gamer, a time when we wanted to celebrate indie developers and games in general for being simply superb in every way.

And what better way to celebrate those developers who go the extra mile than by creating a list of our top 25 indie developers, shining a light on both the games and the studios behind them.

We tried to include a bit of everything in here - some names you might instantly recognise, some which you'll take a little while to remember, and some which may surprise you.

But each developer included in this list has rightfully earned its place in our hearts and minds, and will no doubt be providing wonderful experiences for years to come.

So without further ado, it's time to reveal Pocket Gamer's top 25 indie developers!

#25: Noodlecake

Notable Works: Super Stickman Golf, Porting games to Android

Point at just about any brilliant indie game you can think of and chances are Noodlecake has had a hand in bringing it to Android.

The studio may have started out as a developer of games like Super Stickman Golf, but it made a name for itself by publishing the likes of Alto's Adventure, FRAMED, Death Road to Canada, and many, many more. Heck, a whole bunch of developers on the list are on Android thanks to this team.

That said, we had to debate their status as an "indie" a little, since they did get bought out by Chinese developer ZPlay around a year ago.

But it's still an indie studio at heart, and you can see that from its continued commitment to bringing some of the biggest indie hits to a wider audience.

#24: Ravenous Games

Notable Works: Tiny Rogue, Journey Below

Ravenous Games is one of those studios you can count on to produce a quality game that will easily kill a few minutes at a time.

You can tell you're playing something from Ravenous usually because of its chunky pixel graphics and the fact that it's a super-simple take on a genre that can be quite massive.

Take its most recent games, like Tiny Rogue, Pug's Quest, and Journey Below. Each is miniature rogue-like with a different twist to the action, and each one offers up different challenges, enemies, and ways to play. But they're all mighty good fun - earning Bronze Awards from us across the board.

The studio has tackled plenty of other genres over the years, and it's got even more titles in the works - we don't expect them to go away anytime soon, and we're pretty chuffed about that fact.

#23: Zach Gage

Notable Works: SpellTower, Really Bad Chess

You may not know Zach Gage's name, but you've almost definitely experienced his work - he helped bring the amazing Ridiculous Fishing to mobile, for one.

But more recently he's given us clever and bizarre puzzle games like SpellTower and Really Bad Chess, which picked up Gold and Silver awards from us respectively for their inventiveness and for being just so darn fun.

Really Bad Chess is a particular stand-out - it's chess, but every time you load a game the board is full of random pieces, and you just have to make do and try to win with what you have.

It's brilliantly stupid in all the right ways, and a perfect example of the kind of silliness you can expect from Gage in any of his creations.

#22: Ndemic

Notable Works: Plague Inc.

Plague Inc. is a stone cold classic, and there's really not much else you can say about it. Launching back in 2012, we gave it a Gold Award right from the off, and it's only improved since then with numerous updates and ports to other consoles. It's even got a board game these days.

If you've no idea what it is, Plague Inc. sees you becoming a horrible illness and attempting to spread yourself to every single human being in the world, with the overall goal of killing as many people as possible. It's grim stuff when you think about it, but you can bring levity to it all by calling your germ "Steve" and watching news reports go wild about Steve wreaking havoc through Madagascar, right before it closes its only port.

We just wish we could see more of what Ndemic Creations has up its sleeves. Six years of Plague Inc. is a remarkable thing, but with all that experience under its belt, we can't wait to see what comes next.

#21: Terry Cavanagh

Notable Works: Super Hexagon, VVVVVV

Terry Cavanagh is a bit of an evil genius, and we mean that in a nice way. Both his games on mobile - platformer VVVVVV and rhythm game Super Hexagon - are known for being as deviously difficult as they are ridiculously fun, and for good reason.

Take Super Hexagon, for example. The controls are simple - you hold the left of the screen to spin around to the left, and the right side of the screen to go the other way.

All you need to do is avoid getting trapped by the incoming lines, but through a mixture of pounding chiptune beats and weird visual effects, it suddenly becomes the hardest thing you'll ever experience.

Surviving sixty seconds in these hellscapes may sound simple, but you'll be high-fiving nearby strangers if you manage to crack just ten seconds.

But it, and VVVVVV, are so enjoyable and so accessible that you won't mind your constant failures - it's all part of the fun in the end. Terry Cavanagh may be an evil genius, but it's not because his games are hard - it's because you won't want to stop playing them.

#20: Playsport

Notable Works: Motorsport Manager series

Playsport is known exclusively for its Motorsport Manager series, but there are far worse things to be known for - the simulation games are some of the absolute best you can play on mobile.

Each entry in the series has earned a Gold Award from us, and each one adds more and more to the formula without taking anything away. They're not for everyone, of course - it helps if you're already a fan of racing, for a start - but there's no denying the quality on show in each game.

Motorsport Manager 3 is arguably the best entry so far, throwing you into a low-level team and adding in even more depth than before, so hardcore fans can expect a serious challenge, while newcomers will appreciate the clean presentation and smart but not overbearing tutorials which let you run free and learn things at your own pace.

#19: Senri

Notable Works: Leo's Fortune, Oddmar

Senri isn't the most recogniseable name in mobile games, but its titles are among the best platformers out there - namely Leo's Fortune and Oddmar.

Leo's Fortune is a classic in every sense of the word. Released four years ago on iOS, it's since been ported to just about every console there is and has gained critical acclaim across the board. We gave it our Bronze Award - not the highest score the game received, but certainly high praise from us.

This year's Oddmar, however, earned a Gold Award from us thanks to its beautiful presentation, smooth gameplay, and expertly designed levels. If you've not played it yet, you really should.

We're sure we haven't seen the last of Senri yet, and if its previous platformers are anything to go by, the next game from the studio will be another stone cold classic.

#18: Maciej Targoni

Notable Works: Up Left Down, Klocki, HOOK

We love a good minimal puzzle game at Pocket Gamer, and Maciej Targoni is one of the best for making them. Think Klocki, HOOK, Up Left Out... the list goes on, and they're all glorious.

Up Left Out is the developer's most recent effort, and sees you sliding tiles around to complete grids. But it gets more difficult than just sliding the odd block around - in due time you'll be pushing switches, opening gates, and facing bigger and harder puzzles.

But it's perfectly designed to ease you in, and it'll tax your brain in a very satisfying way. Which is a nice description of basically every game from Maciej Targoni, really. If you've not checked out his games before, you absolutely should.

#17: Neutronized Games

Notable Works: Super Cat Tales

Neutronized Games has been kicking around for a while now, bringing us games like Lost Yeti and Drop Wizard, but it's the studio's last game, Super Cat Tales, that has essentially earned them its place on this list.

Super Cat Tales is a truly excellent platformer, built with mobile firmly in mind and using a handful of simple controls to create a wonderful experience. It's beautiful and colourful, it's tricky without being frustrating, and it's full of cats to boot.

Better yet, the team is working on Super Cat Tales 2, which we sincerely hope sees the light of day - sole full-time developer Gionathan has run into some financial trouble during development, and has now set up a Patreon to help get the game to completion.

#16: Risky Lab

Notable Works: Warbits

Risky Lab may only have one mobile game out there, but when your game is as good as Warbits, then you definitely deserve to be heaped with praise.

Take Advance Wars-style gameplay and graphics and fine-tune it for mobile, and you essentially have Warbits. It's fast-paced, wonderfully balanced, and rewards clever strategy rather than overwhelming numbers. If you go in without a plan, you're basically screwed.

It's not a dumbing down of the strategy genre at all - just a reshaping to fit your device. And that's exactly the kind of games we as mobile fans are screaming for. Hopefully Risky Lab will be back soon with another excellent strategy game, or maybe something else entirely.

#15: Grapefrukt

Notable Works: rymdkapsel, Holedown, twofold inc

Grapefrukt makes weird, weird games. You can probably tell just from the names alone that you're in for an off-piste time - Rymdkapsel being the best example, though Holedown is a bit of an odd one too.

The latter is a magnificent casual puzzle game in which you fire sentient ball creatures at blocks to smash them and dig deeper into a space object's surface. It's simple, addictive, and damn good fun, and we gave it our Silver Award as a result.

But Rymdkapsel is the one everyone remembers. A minimalist strategy game first seen on PlayStation Mobile before being ported to iOS and Android, it captured our hearts and minds with its simple but challenging gameplay and gorgeous graphics.

You never know what's coming next from Grapefrukt, but you can rest assured that it'll be weird, wacky, and as minimal as things get - and darn good fun to boot.

#14: Bithell Games

Notable Works: Thomas Was Alone, Subsurface Circular

No top indies list would be complete without mentioning UK indie darling Mike Bithell and the team at Bithell Games, a developer you may remember from rectangle-focused puzzle-platformer Thomas Was Alone.

The studio has moved way beyond simple sad shapes, however. The wonderful, philosophical visual novel Subsurface Circular is about as far removed from Thomas Was Alone as you can get, featuring a fully 3D cast of robots, text-based puzzles, and a stellar soundtrack from electronic artist Dan Le Sac.

It scored a Silver Award from us - as did Thomas Was Alone, as it happens - and we can't wait to see what else the team has in store as it continues to evolve and expand.

#13: Joel McDonald

Notable Works: Prune

Joel McDonald has made just one game, but Prune remains one of the finest mobile games ever made.

If you've not played it, it's a contemplative puzzler with incredibly simple mechanics - you need to grow a small tree so that its branches hit a ball of light, cutting away stray offshoots to help the other strands grow longer.

It's beautiful, calming, and much deeper than it first seems, and rightly earned a very rare Platinum Award from us. Seriously, if you've never tried it, you absolutely need to check it out right now.

We hope Joel McDonald returns to mobile soon - we'd love to see what other ideas he has.

#12: Perchang

Notable Works: Warhammer Quest series, Perchang

A rose by any other name smells as sweet, to completely butcher a Shakespeare quote, and Perchang is just a good a developer as the studio it was born from, Rodeo Games.

The Ben Murch-helmed developer is best known for its Warhammer Quest series, which features the oft-used license in a top-down strategy RPG setting that requires careful planning and positioning as much as it does grinding out levels.

The first and second games scored Silver and Gold awards from us respectively, so if a third one ever rolls around then we bet it'll be nigh-on perfect.

It's not all strategy games though. Perchang's first game under its current name, also titled Perchang, is a Rube Goldberg machine-esque puzzler that we actually liked quite a bit, thanks to its simple controls and clever puzzling action.

And it just goes to show that Perchang (the developer, not the game) has plenty to offer outside of the areas it's known for. We can't wait to see what comes next from the studio.

#11: RocketCat Games

Notable Works: Wayward Souls, Death Road to Canada, Punch Quest

If RocketCat stopped making iOS games right this second, turned its back on the mobile world entirely and never looked back, it'd still deserve an entire chapter when the history of portable gaming is written.

That's thanks in no small part to Wayward Souls. It's one of a handful of games that's ever been awarded PG's Platinum Award for a perfect review score. It's not just the best action RPG on mobile, it's one of the best on any platform.

And then there's Punch Quest, a brawler that understands the shape of portable play so well that it rendered an entire newsroom of mobile gaming journalists useless while they tried to beat each other's high scores.

We haven't even mentioned Death Road to Canada yet, either. RocketCat just makes really, really good games. And you should play them all.

#10: Asher Vollmer

Notable Works: Threes, Puzzlejuice

You must have played Threes. You simply must have. If not, then you've more than likely played its big name rip-off 2048, which took the formula and made it simpler. But you really should have played Threes, because it's so much better.

Asher Vollmer's simple game of matching numbered tiles was the spark that lit the fire of one of the biggest clone markets out there, and while it's a shame that 2048 and its many, many variants have somewhat overshadowed the original game, it's important to remember Threes for its brilliant gameplay, adorable artwork, and just how addictive it can be.

But hey, we're cool - we liked Vollmer before Threes. Just see our Puzzlejuice review, which we gave a Bronze Award but complained it wasn't hard enough. The developer even went back and added in a harder mode just because of that review. Now that's journalism, folks.

Asher Vollmer hasn't been too active on mobile since Threes - his last app with new studio Sirvo was an AR experience called Housecraft. But his legacy will live on for years to come, in the hearts and minds of the people, and the 2048 clones that litter the App Store even today.

#9: Crescent Moon Games

Notable Works: Morphite, Axe.io, Reed

Throw a dart at the App Store and not only will you crack your screen, you'll probably land on a Crescent Moon-published game. They've got loads, you see, and a lot of them are solid gold.

Take Morphite, for example - a 3D FPS space exploration game with gorgeous blocky graphics and tons to do, which drew some easy comparisons to No Man's Sky and scored a Gold Award from us.

Or how about Axe.io, a surprisingly fun multiplayer game where you have to throw axes into your opponents' heads before they get the chance to do the same to you. It's simple, clean fun, and it got a Bronze Award from us, which is impressive given its super-casual gameplay.

Need more? How about Reed, the bite-sized nightmare puzzler which tasks you with completing seemingly tiny rooms packed to the brim with obstacles designed to kill you? It's ridiculously hard and also ridiculously fun, and nabbed a Silver Award in our review.

We could go on, and on, and on. But you get the picture. Crescent Moon Games only works with the best, and when you see their name attached to something, you know it's going to be good. And that's a mark of quality you want in this industry.

#8: New Star Games

Notable Works: New Star Soccer, New Star Soccer Manager

There's nothing more addictive than success. Except maybe for the energy drinks you need to give your players in the New Star series of slightly off-kilter sporting sims.

Where the original New Star Soccer distilled the sim into tiny, often ridiculous bites, its follow up, New Star Soccer Manager, takes the genre and splices it with mobile sensibilities. The end result is essentially Football Manager without so much of the spreadsheet juggling that makes that series so intimidating.

New Star Games has proven that it doesn't just understand what makes sports gamers tick, it understands how to deliver the rhythm that sucks so many of them into management sims while still making them perfect for mobile play.

#7: Butterscotch Shenanigans

Butterscotch Shenanigans feels like one of those developers that should be a household name, but just hasn't managed to break out into the limelight - despite having one of the most impressive mobile games on this list.

Crashlands, the aforementioned game, is a huge, cartoony survival game which sees you slashing up enemies for their skin, crafting weapons and armour, building settlements, and all that other good stuff.

It's also steeped in silly humour, bright colours, and huge monsters - and perhaps most impressively, it was developed by a core team of three while one of the guys was battling cancer. That's dedication right there.

But even before the team was looking into enormous survival games, its earlier titles were bringing us similar levels of joy. Flop Rocket and Quadropus Rampage may not have the same scope as Crashlands, but they still scored a Bronze and Silver award from us respectively, so it's safe to say that they're pretty darn good.

Butterscotch Shenanigans is still knocking about, and its next game - Levelhead, a riff on Super Mario Maker coming to the Switch in the near future - looks just as ambitious and stupid as Crashlands. We can't wait to check it out.

#6: Colin Lane

Notable Works: Wrassling, Battle Golf, Touchdowners

Colin Lane makes more great mobile games than one could shake a stick at, and we're honestly not sure how he manages to keep the pace.

From wrestling titles like Wrassling and Rowdy Wrestling to golf games such as Golf is Hard and Battle Golf (and the recently released Golfin' Around), Lane takes super simple mechanics and funky graphics and mixes them together into casual masterpieces to kill a few minutes of your time with when you're bored.

Touchdowners, a take on American Football, is our highest-scoring of the games, nabbing a Gold Award when it launched last year. It's exactly the kind of stupid nonsense fun you'd expect from a Colin Lane game, with cute cartoony graphics and a bunch of big lads smacking into each other in short, silly rounds.

But Wrassling, with its blocky Commodore 64-inspired art style and daft control scheme, will always be the game we most fondly remember. It's sort of the grandfather of all the silliest sports games that Colin Lane has made, and it's well worth a look if you haven't already checked it out.

And what will he make next? Who knows, but you can be almost certain that it'll be sporty, stupid, and launching by the end of this year.

#5: Ironhide Game Studio

Notable Works:Kingdom Rush, Iron Marines

Ironhide is perhaps best known for its Kingdom Rush series, a collection of tower defence games that rise above the rest thanks to smart design decisions and clever twists on the formula.

But it's also the developer behind Iron Marines, which is perhaps one of the finest real-time strategy games you'll ever play on a mobile device.

It's slightly scaled-back compared to RTS' on other platforms, but the gameplay - taking inspiration from Kingdom Rush - is perfectly built for mobile, and it's the type of game that will make you ease back in your chair, exhale, and wonder where it's been all your life.

Ironhide is currently hard at work on a new entry in the Kingdom Rush series, and we can't wait to see what their return to true tower defence brings.

#4: Nitrome

Notable Works:Silly Sausage, Leap Day, Beneath the Lighthouse

There's a phrase we throw around on Pocket Gamer quite a bit, it seems - "it's a Nitrome game". To us, it says more than you may ever need to hear about a game. And it is always, always a positive.

Nitrome games just have a certain look and feel that is somehow impossible to replicate elsewhere. They're often super simple but deviously tricky, they've got gentle monetisation that relies on ads rather than selling you a bunch of IAPs, and they are tremendous fun.

Beneath the Lighthouse is always a stand-out in my mind. It's a simple "rotate a ball around a maze" game, but it's absolutely gorgeous and stupidly hard, yet you'll never want to put it down when you start playing it.

Then you've got the likes of Silly Sausage and its sequel, both of which earned a Gold Award from us for their delightful presentation and fantastic gameplay.

What else? How about Drop Wizard, Nano Golf, Leap Day, Rust Bucket... we could be here for days talking about the various amazing games Nitrome churns out.

So instead, we'll just say this - go and play some of Nitrome's games. They're wacky, fun, and will bring a smile to your face, no matter which one you choose. And when the next one comes around, hey, it'll be a Nitrome game.

#3: Fireproof Games

Notable Works: The Room

You can't talk about great mobile games without talking about The Room. No, not the amazing Tommy Wiseau disasterpiece. We're talking about the excellent puzzle-box series from Fireproof Games.

Each entry in The Room's four-part (so far!) series tasks you with solving intricate puzzle boxes in dark, gloomy worlds, with a spooky atmosphere permeating every moment of gameplay. It'll tax your brain for sure, but it's also pretty generous with hints, so you never end up stuck for long.

And gosh, they're bloody good games. Every single entry in the series has scored a Gold Award from us for their graphical prowess, clever puzzles, weird and intriguing storylines, and the fact that you'll refuse to stop playing until you've solved every mystery they contain.

It's saying something that six years after the first game launched, we're still excited when a new entry in the series rolls around. They all have the same look and feel, and they all play pretty much the same, but by sticking to its guns, Fireproof has developed a winning formula that will have us hooked for years to come.

Whatever Fireproof does next, be it The Room 5 or something entirely different, you can bet we'll be bolting out of the metaphorical door to get at it.

#2: Team Alto

Notable Works:Alto's Adventure, Alto's Odyssey

Alto's Adventure and Alto's Odyssey are two of the best games on mobile. That may seem a little strong, but that's just how we feel.

Team Alto took the endless runner genre and turned it into a beautiful, meditative experience, combining slick tricks, gorgeous environments, changing weather, tense chases, and enormous gaps to cross into two of the finest titles you can play on your phone or tablet.

While Alto's Adventure laid solid foundations (and was itself a brilliant game), Alto's Odyssey took the whole thing one step further, adding in a couple of new traversal mechanics and upping the quality of the graphics and variety of environments to create a truly breathtaking world you'll never forget.

There's the standard endless runner mode, in which you'll score points and collect coins to unlock upgrades and such, or you can put it into the appropriately titled Zen mode and just ride the mountains or sand at your own pace, with no worries about crashing, restarting, or anything like that.

The Alto games are exceptional in every way, and if you haven't taken the time to play them, you're seriously missing out. They're beautiful, simple experiences that provide a small piece of calm for a short amount of time, and then for about an hour after you initially said you'd stop playing.

#1: ustwo

Notable Works:Monument Valley, Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley changed mobile games, and possibly games in general, forever. That's not an overstatement - you can feel its influence in small puzzle games across the board.

I mean, when your game shows up in one of the most popular Netflix shows of all time, you know you've made it.

And ustwo really has. The original Monument Valley is an absolutely stellar puzzle game, full of innovative solutions, amazing geography, and a beautiful soundtrack. It proved that the iPhone wasn't just for silly little diversions - true pieces of art could appear on the platform too.

And then the studio expanded on their original idea with Monument Valley 2, adding in more story, more puzzles, and more gorgeous art and environments. It scored a rare Platinum award from us, and it's easy to see why. You absolutely need to play it.

Ustwo takes its time with its mobile output, so it could be years before we see another game from the developer. But we're almost certain that their next release will be just as beautiful and atmospheric as everything that came before.


Reviewer photo
Pocket Gamer staff  31 August 2018
Have your say!