If ever there was a year where we needed some entertaining escapes 2016 was it. It was another strong year for iOS gaming, and once again it was tough to narrow my list down to the inevitable top ten.

Now obviously, I did not play EVERY single new iOS game released in 2016 (apparently there were 233,000 of them), but I certainly played more than the average mobile gamer so I had quite a few games to choose from.

In 2016, we continued to see quite a few really high-quality PC ports come to iOS. In my beloved point and click adventure genre Infamous MachineDay of the Tentacle RemasteredSamarost 3 and Primordia captivated and entertained us as did original mobile adventures like Rusty Lake RootsIsoland and The Forgotten Room. Other amazing ports included Human Resource MachineParty HardMini MetroSolitairicaSteamWorld HeistThe Westport Independent and Road Not Taken.

Digital board games continued to flourish with great adaptations of Colt ExpressLanterns: The Harvest FestivalPatchwork The GamePaperback: The GameSushi Go!TsuroForbidden DesertCthulhu Realms and Qwixx, just to name a few. That doesn’t even include originals like One Man Left’s Space Food Truck, ColePowered Games’s Concrete Jungle and Cartoon Network’s Teeny Titans – Teen Titans Go! Figure Battles and Card Wars Kingdom.

There are plenty of exciting new digital board gaming experiences slated for 2017 including Mysterium, Potion Explosion and Spot it! Dobble Challenges from Asmodee and other rumored titles include Smash Up!, 7 Wonders (maybe), King of Tokyo, Codenames, Through The Ages, Spot It!, Terra Mystica and lots more, plus the iOS client for the Tabletopia platform.

Storytelling was big in 2016. Telltale continued to entertain mobile gamers with exciting new franchises like Batman and more adventures in the Walking Dead universe with The Walking Dead: Michonne – A Telltale Miniseries and The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. 2017 looks good for the studio with a Guardians of the Galaxy series planned as well as Game of Thrones: Season 2 and more. Warner Bros. and TT Games released awesome iOS ports of LEGO® Star Wars™: The Force Awakens and LEGO® Jurassic World™. Inkle completed the Sorcery! series, iClassics brought numerous literary classics to life, the interactive film Late Shift let viewers control the story and Replica brought a whole new level of immersion to narrative iPhone gaming.

High-profile titles like Pokémon GO and Super Mario Run got mainstream media’s attention, excited many and disappointed others.

All in all, it was a great year for iOS gaming.

Before I get into my list, I just wanted to highlight my 9 year-old daughter Emily and 7 year-old daughter Claire’s favorite new titles of the year. As you can see they liked a lot of imaginative play and Disney apps!

My Daughters’ Top iOS Games of 2016

*or really ANY of the other new Toca Life titles.
**or really ANY of the other new My Town titles.

My top 10 favorite iOS gaming experiences of 2016

01. Patchwork The Game

Released on February 24, 2016

 Patchwork: The Game is a super fun easy to learn, yet strategic game with loads of replayability. Two players are competing to build the best quilt in their 9×9 play area. To do so you and your opponent must purchase oddly shaped pieces of fabric and fit them into your quilts, trying not to leave any gaps (which will be worth negative points at the end). The game employs a neat turn order mechanic, where the player who is further back on the movement board continues to take turns until he or she takes the lead. This can lead to some nice decisions as you try to decide what pieces to purchase and which pieces to leave for your opponent and how many pieces you can purchase before your turn is over. You don’t have to have any interest in quilting to enjoy this game, you just need to enjoy puzzly strategy games. If you are a fan of Tetris, you are going to love this game. DIGIDICED continues to do amazing work with their top-notch two player board game ports. Despite the game having been released early last year, this is one title from last year that I continue to play today. I cannot recommend this game enough, with local, AI and online asynchronous play, it is easy to find a match anytime and anywhere. I own both the physical and digital game and this is a perfect port, I simply cannot recommend this game enough and that’s why it earns my top pick of 2016. The studio is taking a slight departure from their usual Two-Player Uwe Rosenburg ports and is currently working on a digital adaptation of Terra Mystica, due out later this year.

02. Solitairica

Released on August 24, 2016

The brilliantly thematic Solitairica livens up the classic card game solitaire by putting an RPG/Roguelike spin on it. Players choose a deck, each of which is a champion based on a standard RPG archetype (ie. Warrior, Wizard, Rogue, Monk and Bard). Each of these decks have been tailored toward two of the game’s four different energy types: Agility, Willpower, Attack and Defense. You must then attempt to battle your way through 18 different competitors, each of which has unique attacks and style of play.
The game plays just like golf solitaire in that you have a deck of cards which is used to remove cards from the play area which are either one higher or one lower than the current card on the top of your deck. If you are able to remove all of the cards before your deck runs out of cards, you win the battle. The neat twist is that Solitairica is also a turn-based strategy game and there is an opponent who is trying to take you out by attacking your health. You take turns flipping cards and each time you flip or remove a card, you gain 1 energy of that type. At the start of the game you are given a basic set of spells (based on your deck) which can be triggered using earned energy. These special spells can help your remove cards, stun your opponent, heal yourself and much more. There are also ‘items’ which are triggered at the start of a battle and give you certain amounts of energy, increase your total health, etc.. Unlike most solitaire games, even when luck isn’t on your side, in Solitairica you are always earning energy or a special ability even when a flipped card doesn’t help you clear out any other cards, so you never have that feeling of a “wasted” turn. Between battles you can use coins to purchase new spells and items. There is so much replayability due to the randomness of how the spells show up and you can purchase permanent upgrades which increase your item count, or change your deck to give the Ace, King and/or Queen cards special buffs and abilities to help you make it further in your next go around. A much more engaging and fun take on solitaire!

03. Love You To Bits

Released on February 25, 2016

In Love You To Bits, you follow the epic love story of clumsy astronaut named Kosmo as he tries to recover pieces of his robot girlfriend Nova which have been scattered across the universe when she was blown to bits. This point and click puzzle game utilized a similar style to that of Tiny Thief (the developers previously worked on that title as well), however this feels more refined and polished than it’s predecessor. For starters, the world feels more expansive, with loads of multi-screen levels and hours of enticing gameplay. In each level you must collect items and use them in the correct order to eventually retrieve the missing piece of Nova. There are time loops, disappearing platforms, rotating platforms and all sorts of interesting gameplay elements that will keep you on your toes. Several bonus ‘memory items’ are also hidden in each level and are usually trickier to find. Discovering these will unlock short animations which show you why these items mean so much to Nova and/or Kosmo and how they tie into this unusual couple’s love story. My 9 year-old daughter and I absolutely LOVED this game (to bits) and it is on her ‘best of the year’ list as well. We played the entire game (plus update w/ additional levels) side by side, each on our own devices helping each other out when necessary. Utterly captivating with its touching wordless narrative, charming animations, lovable characters, and great pop-culture references Love You To Bits is an absolute delight and easily a MUST-HAVE puzzle game for anyone’s iOS collection. Hopefully in 2017 we’ll see either more levels for the existing game or a sequel.

04. Mini Metro

Released on October 17, 2016

Finally, that brings us to the highly anticipated, Mini Metro. Ever since a co-worker first introduced me to the browser-based version of Dinosaur Polo Club’s clever subway building / time management game, I was completely hooked. With its crisp minimalistic art style and adrenaline-pumping management gameplay, the simplicity of Mini Metro’s gameplay as you try to route and re-route a subway map that is in a constant state of flux, rekindled memories of some of my fondest and earliest iOS experiences when games like Harbor Master and Flight Control (since removed by EA) reigned supreme on the App Store. Despite having its roots on the PC, the game feels so natural and fluid on a touch-based device and the resulting one-of a kind subway map is a beautiful piece of art. A winning and addictive formula, Mini Metro deserves a spot on everyone’s mobile devices.

05. SteamWorld Heist

Released on November 09, 2016

 SteamWorld Heist is a stellar turn-based strategy game with loads of character and is set in a unique steampunk universe where you command a crew of robotic space pirates. Each mission requires you to carefully move and position your crew-member(s) throughout an enemy ship to collect goods, take out enemy crew and complete a variety of goals. Either through collected loot or by visiting space merchants, you can unlock a variety of new weapons, each with their own unique stats (even the possibility of friendly fire) as well as armor, shoes that let you move further and more. During battle, one of the fun little touches is the ability to literally shoot the hat right off your enemy’s head and then collect it from their fallen pile of junk for your own crew members to wear. As you navigate the enemy craft, you need to strategically position yourself behind barrels and other items for cover. Firing upon enemies is easy, simply drag you aiming reticle where you want to fire and then tap it at the right moment, sometime banking shots off walls and other obstacles to reach your target. Along the way, you’ll hire new crew-members, each of whom will earn experience while on missions which will let them level up, unlocking new abilities and skills. One of the highlights of PAX East for me last year, SteamWorld Heist is quite a charming and engaging strategy game.

06. Concrete Jungle

Released on September 28, 2016

 Concrete Jungle is one of those titles that seemingly came out of nowhere and just hit all the right triggers for me. What at first glance looked to be a city building simulation game, turned out to be this fantastic blend of digital board game, puzzle and strategy. As the city planner, you are presented with a 5×5 grid of squares and are tasked with place tiles on these squares to plan and build a city. The various tiles represent various types of buildings and places and their placement will either increase or decrease the value of some or all of the other spaces immediately surrounding them. The goal is to construct buildings in each column of the grid which have a total worth meeting or exceeding the target number of that column. When the left-most column meets its goal, it is cleared and a fresh column appears on the right-hand side. Whether challenging another player or taking on the lengthy single-player campaign, Concrete Jungle is brimming with strategy. With over 200 types of tiles revealed as you progress through the game, there are always elements to keep things fresh and interesting. A real treat this one should appeal to anyone who likes logic puzzles and/or digital board games.

07. Party Hard Go

Released on November 09, 2016

In a way it feels so wrong to like Party Hard Go so much, but it is just so good! A crazy game of stealth revenge, the game feels like a video game mashup of Dexter, American Psycho and Neighbors. You are the sadistic, self-justified serial killer on a quest to restore order to the universe. It is 3am and your neighbors are having a loud party and you just want to get some sleep. Instead of calling the police like any sane person, you decide to take matters into your own, murderous hands. Trying to blend in, you must your way through the intoxicated party guests, killing them all off, disposing of bodies (when convenient) and hopefully avoiding the attention of the party goers and evading the police when they show up to collect discovered bodies. Tense and challenging, successfully committing a mass murder takes patience, timing and a little luck. With its strange, disturbing and dark, yet undeniably unique theme, great 8-bit art and an awesome soundtrack Party Hard Go is was one of the most unnervingly satisfying guilty pleasures of last year.

08. Super Stickman Golf 3

Released on July 07, 2016

 Noodlecake had a strong and fruitful 2016 with quite a few entertaining games, highlighted by titles like Chameleon Run, href=”https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-bug-butcher/id1090552213?mt=8&at=11l4Bt” target=”_blank”>The Bug Butcher and Island Delta. However, one of their releases Super Stickman Golf 3, continued to evolve and improve one of my absolute favorite mobile game series. This third entry in the series introduces an awesome new game mechanism…SPIN! Now players can put clockwise or counter-clockwise spin on the ball adding a whole new level of finesse and strategy, allowing players to pull off some impressive shots without even needing to even dip into their bag of special power-up balls. In fact the special balls start to take a bit of a back seat, giving the game a cleaner feel which makes for a completely fresh experience even on courses that may seem somewhat familiar to long-time fans of the series. The whole hat and prize machine system of SSG2 has been completely streamlined, with players earning or buying packs of cards which can award them with XP, help unlock new ball types, unlock purely cosmetic suits or ball trails and unlock special ability hats. Improvements and additions have been made to the multiplayer experience as well, with new race variants and daily races with rewards. Free to play, with an optional IAP, there is no excuse not to have this on your iOS devices.

09. Tsuro – The Game of the Path

Released on February 03, 2016

Setting new standards in skeuomorphism when it comes to digital board games, Thunderbox Entertainment’s gorgeous digital adaptation of Calliope Games’ hit tile laying game Tsuro was an early 2016 release. From the opening of the game box, to sand parting when a tile is laid, despite it being an app, the game still has an almost tactile feel. A game of Tsuro begins with each player placing a stone at different edges of the 6×6 gridded board. Then players take turns placing tiles on the board. These tiles depict various path segments, and once placed, any stones touching this tile follow the path in front of them until it comes either to the edge of the board or to an empty square. The goal is to be the last player standing. The app includes two additional game modes which completely change up the basic strategy. With a comprehensive tutorial, options for up to 8 players, 3 levels of AI, online play and local pass and play, this game has so much replayability. Games are quick, yet strategic and players of any age or skill level can easily pick up and play this with very little instruction. Tsuro is a a game that should be in every iOS gamer’s digital board game collection. I can wait to see what board game(s) Thunderbox brings to mobile devices in the coming year.

10. Disney Crossy Road

Released on April 06, 2016

Finally that brings us to number 10. Another sequel, Disney Crossy Road could have easily just been a simple re-skin of the uber-popular Crossy Road, but instead Disney and HIPSTER WHALE took the time to craft a better and (arguably) more fun road crossing experience for the sequel. After numerous updates throughout the year, the game now features 17 unique and distinctive new worlds (Finding Dory, Wreck It Ralph, Zootopia, Moana and more). Each contains many of your favorite characters from these Disney franchises and creative new game-changing mechanics which keep things fresh and add interesting new challenges to the basic gameplay. There are so many charming little details to discover and uncover as you play through the game and it is fun to unlock new characters. Whether you are still a die-hard Crossy Road fan, or have left your road crossing days behind you, this version of the game is likely to re-spark your interest. While unlocking characters from the prize machine is still random, there is a great new secondary prize machine which you earn money toward (based on rarity) when the main prize machine rewards you with a character that you’ve already previously unlocked. This makes you feel like your prize spin is never wasted. Both of my daughters LOVE this game and continue to play it regularly.

Honorable Mentions

These titles very nearly made it into my top ten and are worth mentioning as they represent some of the finest iOS gaming experiences of last year.