From Flappy Bird clones to console style shooters, virtually every type of game is catered for on the Play Store. But Android gaming is not just limited to rehashes of things we’ve seen before—it’s also full of creativity, with games with beautiful graphics and unique styles, that rethink what gaming on mobile devices should be about.
Here’s our pick of the dozen most beautiful and innovative Android games.
The Silent Age
This defiantly 2D point and click game has a style all of its own thanks to the rare use of a 70s setting in a video game. The playful graphics are matched by a fun yet intriguing storyline with occasionally challenging puzzles, presented across multiple episodes available through in-app purchases. There’s little not to like about The Silent Age, a game not afraid to stand out from the crowd.
Much imitated but never bettered, Threes is the perfect example of how great presentation can breathe life into the simplest ideas. Bright visuals, fun sound effects and a classic ear-worm soundtrack combine with the just-one-more-go gameplay to create a minor masterpiece of mobile gaming.
The arrival of the popular Hitman series onto Android was not in the form of the brutal stealth and slash games seen on the Xbox and Playstation. Instead it’s an innovative rethinking of the concept—you’re still a hitman needing to take out your target, but all presented in the form of an old-school board game. Move your character one square at a time to reach your target and dodge the security guards in the process. Brilliant stuff!
With hindsight it seems amazing that it took so long for a game to be made based on M.C. Escher’s impossible constructions. Monument Valley does it beautifully. With a tone reminiscent of PS2 classic ICO, you must guide your character through a series of optical illusions masquerading as mazes, while trying to figure out the logic behind them. It’s a short game, but an almost unique experience.
The Walking Dead: Season One
The Walking Dead: Season One (and Season Two, for that matter) is one of the most beautifully constructed games ever produced. While the gameplay is slight—it’s more an interactive story than anything—the tone and atmosphere make it a truly immersive experience, even on a five inch phone screen. The visual style matches that of the graphic novels on which the series is based, while the music and voice acting are a notch above what we have become accustomed to in gaming.
The Room Two
The Room games may have an old world look but are an ultra modern series of games. The intricately crafted puzzles are presented in a fluid, tactile environment that could only be achieved on touch screen devices. The graphic style is beautiful and the level of detail is astounding. But it’s not just a pretty face. The difficulty level is perfectly judged, making the games a challenge but never frustrating. Crank up your screen’s brightness before you begin, then enjoy.
Like so much of Radiohead’s recent output, the band’s first foray into apps is enigmatic, remote and rewarding in equal measure. A ‘game’ that defies description, PolyFauna is nonetheless an experience unlike any other. The sound and visuals combine to produce a dreamlike world for you to explore, it’s creative, abstract and curiously addictive.
An innovative take on the platform game, Nightmare: Malaria places you in the bloodstream of a girl infected with malaria, and you need to escape. The nightmarish visuals—including killer mosquitos and teddy bears—are stunning, as is the atmospheric music. The game was developed in association with the Against Malaria Foundation and helps raise money for the charity’s work.
Another example of a simple game that is lifted to a whole new level thanks to its gorgeous presentation. The aim within Strata is to place a series of ribbons on top of each other to match a set pattern. Simple, or so you’d think. More to the point the refined visuals and wonderful soundtrack make this a seriously classy game that will leave you coming back for more.
Dumb Ways to Die
A throwaway game based on a series of characters from a safety campaign by Melbourne Metro, Dumb Ways to Die nonetheless illustrates that there’s a major distinction between throwaway and junk. A fun, easy going style, and innovative use of the assorted features of your Android phone lift it well above so many of the other five-minute-plays on the Play Store.
A Ride into the Mountains
A Ride into the Mountains is more than just Angry Birds on horseback, although that is the essence of the archery-themed gameplay. It comes with 80s-style pixellated graphics and lovely, mournful soundtrack, and is set in a series of simply defined but beautifully realised worlds. It’s a very difficult game, but looks so pretty you won’t mind taking a second look.
This point and click adventure comes with a unique style and involving storyline. The graphic novel inspired visuals, combine with good voice acting and a great soundtrack to produce an immersive environment. Like most games of this type, there’s a lot of random tapping of objects when you get stuck, but with a few surprises along the way it is worth the effort.
What are your favourite great-looking Android games? Let us know in the comments below.