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Okay, so there aren't terribly many games designed exclusively with the Android in mind. Most are ports. But that's not the point. The next time your iOS-wielding colleagues waddle up to you, smugly accompanied by the Apple devices, don't let them break your spirit. Remind them that it's not a question of who got there first, it's a matter of which is the better platform. Their puny Apple devices served as a testing bed. Your Android darling? This is the final home for greatness.
.. or, you know, you could just shrug and point out key choices from this list. Totally up to you.
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star
So twee. Much cute. Very awesome. Did I do that right? Star Wars: Tiny Death is irrationally, inappropriately cute. Who would have thought that Darth Vader could be so gosh darned adorable? While the children of the '80s may have been raised to embrace the destruction of the Death Star, those living in contemporary times may tell different tales to their descendants. Star Wars: Tiny Death Star isn't a very hard game. Similar in design to Tiny Towers, it will have you relaying little, pixelated aliens across the structure, pairing them up with their dream jobs and just generally wallowing in all that delicious, delicious fan service.
Witching Hour's Ravenmark: Scourge of the Estellion was, and still is, one of my favorite mobile games. On a platform where casual, free-to-play games rule, Scourge of the Estellion stood out as a turn-based beacon of really bloomin' hard. It was Advance Wars, except with low-fantasy units, an intimidating number of turn hours to juggle and a spread of gameplay ideas thick enough to drown it -- a wonderful specimen, if deeply frustrating. But Scourge of the Estellion had a fault: there were no multiplayer functionalities. Well, that was promptly solved with Ravenmark: Mercenaries, a very similar sort of game that hinges primarily on one-on-one battles and online shennanigans. There are vastly more options for squad-building too, along with a loose progression tree for the stalwart commander.
As the old saying goes, "there's enough never enough good dystopian cyberpunk adventures." Okay, I totally made that up right there but it's still a valid point. Still, all is not lost. Those who have been hankering for a Blade Runner-esque fix may be delighted to know that Joshua Nuernberger's Gemini Rue is a thing on the Android platform. A moody point & click adventure that traded the genre's traditionally whacky sense of humor for more serious undertones, Gemini Rue follows the tribulations of a law enforcer named Azriel Odin and a mysterious prisoner named Delta-Six as they navigate a mafia-controlled universe ruled by a drug called "Juice". Mysteries abound as do undercurrents of the detective noir. What is "Juice"? How did a criminal organization gain not-so-subtle control of the universe? How the heck does everyone intersect? Sounds like a fascinating little piece of work, you say? You have no idea. But you will if you pick this up. So, uh, do.
In some ways, Frogmind's sidescrolling BADLAND is faintly reminiscent of Limbo and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet with its usage of silhouettes. But where the other two might rattle our nerves, BADLAND seems content to remain just eerie. The minimal narrative is a peculiar one. Here, you play as a floating fuzzball who suddenly finds itself burdened with the unenviable task of flapping through an obstacle-riddled forest. Why you're doing this and what the blazes those things staring at you from the background really are naturally goes unexplained. The focus here is on managing our hero's ability to disassemble into a multitude of clones whenever it power-ups and on getting out of this treacherous vegetation alive, activities that are more challenging than they may read.
Man, Ridiculous Fishing. Do I need to tell you about Ridiculous Fishing? Because Ridiculous Fishing is ridiculously good, so much so that it's virtually mandatory to have on every "best of mobile gaming" list. As is often the case with mobile games, Ridiculous Fishing doesn't attempt to pile on unnecessary complexities, seemingly conscious that touchscreens are hardly the most efficient controllers. Vlambeer's masterpiece puts you in control of an obsessive fisherman. Each day, he goes out to sea. Each day, you send his fishing line blazing into the ocean as far as it will go up till the point a fish catches a lure. From there, it becomes a question of snagging as much aquatic life as possible before you fire all of them into the sky and, uh, shoot them. It's really a little odd. But also really, really good. There's an actual storyline, told mostly through the game's fake social media network, to browse through and a ton of upgrades to gradually collect. In short? Everything you need to get hooked for a long time.
Super Hexagon is a nightmare in the best way possible. Brutal as a world war and twice as vicious, Super Hexagon demands the kind of pinpoint accuracy few outside of the pro-gaming circuit can hope to achieve. The idea behind this psychadelilc action-twitch game is simple: you're a triangle that, caught in an endless basejump, must avoid crashing into sides of the various geometrical shapes you encounter. In spite of how rudimentary all that may have sounded, Super Hexagon is, without a doubt, a murderously difficult venture but it's also the kind that teases you into repeated attempts. Best for those without a penchant for wanting to fling electronics at a wall when vexed.
Never Alone Hotline
Never Alone Hotlight is a peculiar one, largely because it isn't the kind of game that strings you along with the promise of more content. Originally made for a Ludum Dare, Never Alone Hotline is an absolutely delightful point & click adventure that has you functioning as Severine, the voice behind Never Alone Hotline. As you may have gathered, weirdness abounds here. And while much of it is hilarious, Never Alone Hotline can also be remarkably heartfelt. It's exquisitely written and free. Get it or I will squint forever at you from across the World Wide Web.
Small World 2
I loved the original Small World to death, largely because anything that involves me using kobolds to dominate all of existence is a-okay in my book. But as a game itself? Small World is still kind of awesome. It's a lot like Risk except with a smaller field of operations and dragons. With Small Worlds 2, the developers avoided re-inventing the wheel. Instead, they expanded on their core offerings, threw in online gameplay, opened up multiplayer possibilities to five-man wars, added even more races and shored up the quirky, stylish artwork. Have I mentioned the pot-bellied dwarves and the mercenary ghouls, the hulking ogres and the poncy elf people? Because you can play those too. Who needs Risk when you can play in a cartoony Lothlorien? Indulge your megalomania. Conquer these Small Worlds (too).
Don't get mad, get punchin'. RocketCat Games and MadGarden's Punch Quest is an absolute joy. On the surface, it resembles an endless runner. Underneath, however, a whole different story lurks. Don't get me wrong. Much of Punch Quest involves a character rushing from the left side of the screen to the right and plenty of punching but it also much, much more than just knuckle sandwiches. Clever usage of your fists can assist your avatar in building up momentum, thereafter leading to a full-scale sprint and fusillade of high-powered thwacks. Sock a skeleton at precisely the correct moment and you'll be rewarded with the sight of his skull shooting across the distances. Best part of all? Punch Quest can and will get even crazier than that.
Ending is a lot of things. It's a puzzle game masquerading as a turn-based, minimalist dungeon crawler. It's also rather awesome. The idea here is really, really simple: get out of the dungeon. Along the way, as is often the case with things like this, you're going to encounter monsters that will attempt to impede your progress. Naturally, you're going to want to avoid allowing them to do so, something that will require learning their individual patterns so you can kill them before they can kill you. Incredibly engrossing for something so ostensibly simple.
While female protagnists that do not subscribe to the usual tropes are rarities, Ittle Dew may be one of the rarest specimens of all: a genuine tomboy too set on adventure to even make pretense at femininity. Which is awesome. But even putting that aside, Ittle Dew remains a snarky, self-aware Zelda-esque game that will have you giggling more than you might initially expect. There's a stronger focus on puzzle-solving in Ittle Dew than action, however, but that shouldn't diminish its tongue-in-cheek gloriousness.
Image credit: Edge Online.