Back in June, we judged the top 10 social games on Facebook for the first half of 2010. Now that we’ve reached December, it’s time for part two of our list, ranking the games launched from July onward.
In our first 2010 list, we gave the top ranking to the Booyah title Nightclub City. Since then a whole slew of new concepts, revolutionary games, and evolutions of existing concepts have made their way onto Facebook.
The games on this list are all titles that have been reviewed since June, chosen by factors like presentation quality, style, originality, level of detail, and the most important element, how fun it is. A given game’s success also factors into the mix, though several picks have yet to acquire significant numbers of users.
Here are our top games for the second half of 2010:
10. Bar World
The list starts out with a business sim title from DNA Games. Many games have attempted to recreate the success of Nightclub City, but DNA’s Bar World is the only one to do it well, mixing a hodgepodge of existing game genres and mechanics, along with a few original ideas, into a title that feels both unique and satisfying.
With the premise of making a successful bar, players decorate the space with a much wider variety of decor than most games (at least in their early stages), with spaces ranging from the beach to the city. Following a Cafe World-style, users mix and create drinks to keep patrons dancing the night, or day, away.
But what stands out most is the in-game characters themselves, and the level of interaction that comes with them. Not only do these NPCs utilize the items purchased, but they represent actual friends and other Bar World users. That in mind, players can try to get them drunk or even make them fall in love (complete with cheesy pick-up lines) with each other and post the quirky results to a Facebook feed. Additionally, players can unlock new features and venues by visiting and “Liking” other random users’ bars as well as having do the same for yours.
Bar World is doing well with over 1.6 million monthly active users.
9. CSI: Crime City
Next up comes a new take on the treasure hunting style of games: CSI: Crime City. Published by Ubisoft, in association with CBS Consumer Products, the game was developed by an independent developer by the name of Area/Code. At its core, CSI is not terribly different from other treasure hunting games, but its tie in with the popular television franchise and its darker undertones (it is about murder, after all) make it appealing to a different audience from the norm.
Beyond an overall high level of polish, it’s the theme that makes CSI stand out the most for us. Though none of the “mysteries” are terribly hard to figure out, there is something infinitely more gratifying about searching for clues rather than sea shells. The solutions must be solved using time and high-tech lab stations that can actually be shared amongst friends. With this social machinery, friends can feasibly work together, creating meaningful social play.
Currently, CSI: Crime City is growing, with almost 1.7 million MAU.
8. Legacy of a Thousand Suns
Number eight on our list hails from the role-playing genre. As one of the oldest forms of social games on Facebook, the text RPG is certainly tough type to stand out with. However, 5th Planet Games does its best with, Legacy of a Thousand Suns, which it co-developed with Concept Art House. A mouthful the title may be, but with beautiful visuals, tremendous polish, and an interesting story, this is one of the few text-based RPGs that can really catch our attention.
As a space odyssey, Legacy already takes a less travelled route than the ever-so-common fantasy RPG. While most of the core game mechanics follow the standard “mafia-style” rule sets, each of the in-game elements is visually stunning, with quality shining through in each game element. What stands out most, however, is the story itself. Right from the get-go, characters that it’s possible to actually care about are being developed.
With the ability to search out and fight bosses with friends and form “Alliance Raids” with other users, Legacy scratches the social itch as well. Sadly, the game has not taken off, hosting just over 369,000 MAU.
7. Wildlife Refuge
Sony Online Entertainment has been dipping its toes into the social gaming waters for some time now, but has yet to truly invest itself in the concept. Their most recent game, Wildlife Refuge, came out in November, and hasn’t yet attracted as many users as it truly deserves. A quasi-animal husbandry app, Refuge sends users out on safari to protect the wildlife of the African savanna.
Though it’s working in a genre that’s been done to death, Sony managed the make the process of raising and releasing animals feel new and meaningful. Beyond teaching users a little bit about the animals, stopping poachers and tracking (literally tracking) animals, it is an enjoyable experience to say the least. Furthermore, with no real way to know what animals one may find, it becomes a fun collection endeavour to fill one’s virtual space with the rarest and most exotic creatures of the African ecosystem.
The virtual space aspect of Refuge is also more meaningful than previous zoo titles. Placed items provide more than just aesthetics; they also boost stats that allow for more wildlife to be placed. Furthermore, many buildings are needed to complete the variety of collections (e.g. a series of photographs), giving players yet another goal to accomplish.
Sadly, despite how well-made the game is, it only has 58,000 MAU.
6. Ravenwood Fair
A marriage of FrontierVille with business sims, Ravenwood Fair from LOLapps brought the company back into the light after Facebook suspended its other apps. This cutsie game of big-headed forest critters has shown that there are businesses out there beyond restaurants, or variants thereof.
Like FrontierVille, this successor to Critter Island has players chopping down trees and creating civilization — but instead of a homestead, the aim is to build a quirky Victorian fair. As the number of games and decorations grows, a variety of talking animals appear to spend money and chat with the player.
Though many of the basics have been seen before, Ravenwood Fair feels original, and brings an interesting role-playing element to Facebook. From hidden attractions within the forest to one-liners from the guests, the rest of the game also shows a tremendous amount of style and flavor.
With aboutr 5 million MAU thus far, Ravenwood Fair is an app that ought to be around a while.
5. Crime City
Here’s another for the RPG genre: coming in at number five is Crime City from the folks over at Funzio. While the premise of going from street thug to criminal mastermind has been done before, Crime City steps away from the text-and-buttons style of Mafia Wars to hybridize itself with concepts from both console games and city-building, in a quite interesting fashion.
Players move about an isometric world, interacting with the characters and buildings within it in order to complete various missions. Technically speaking, the interaction is no different than text-based RPGs, as each action is successfull performs with a mere click, but it is far more gratifying to visually punch someone in the face than just read about it. This alone was enough to make Crime City stand out from the crowd.
It’s the game’s social city-building elements that really sets Crime City apart. Rather than buying static images of buildings to make money, players can build up their own criminal neighborhood and visit other users’ “hoods” to rob their buildings or avatar, using the same game mechanics of the single player missions.
Suffice to say, Facebook users love the violence, as this game boasts a whopping 6.6 million MAU.
4. Pocket God
Probably best classified as a sim, Pocket God marks the most recent release on this list. Developed by Frima Studio and Bolt Creative, this simplistic Facebook remake of the iPhone’s guilty pleasure is one of the best times you’ll ever have torturing pygmies.
If there is any one reason as to why Pocket God made it to this list, it’s style. The whole point behind the game is to rule over a small island of pygmies and beat them into submission with your godly powers. What makes it stand out is that each means of killing the little guys comes with a highly polished and highly gratifying visual. From feeding them to giant venus flytraps, to launching them into a volcano, every animation is an amusing display that just doesn’t get old.
The game has translated itself well onto Facebook. With new god powers, the ability to spawn and kill friends (complete with wall posts), and a new leveling system, it’s a title perfect for playing for just a few minutes or for an hour plus.
Pocket God is still brand new, having only been released this December. It’s currently at 44,000 MAU and growing.
With Zynga‘s new title CityVille now overtaking FarmVille, the game demands recognition. Though it’s difficult to find anything entirely original in CityVille, its use of a multitude of other game mechanics comes with a personal flair that makes each stand out in a flavorful and entertaining fashion.
At its core, CityVille is one city-builder among dozens, but one aspect that it truly enhances is the the strategic, resource management side of these games. It’s this focus that makes the game stand out for us. More than just population and happiness, players must actually create a thriving economy through the use of all game elements. Some buildings produce money, while others produce goods, yet each type requires the other. This creates strategic choices for the player that are further enhanced by the addition of decorative elements that boost the percentage of money producing structures.
The importance of friends adds to all of this. Players can actually set up basic trade routes (e.g. via train) with friends to garner the goods needed to power their money-making facilities. There’s even the option to actually create franchises in friends’ cities, granting fiscal benefit to both parties and opening up long-term management. Granted, it is no SimCity, but there is a simplistic, yet perfectly polished and balanced depth (especially from a social perspective) to this Zynga app that simply cannot be ignored.
CityVille continues to grow by leaps and bounds, now at over 77 million MAU.
2. It Girl
Knowing that a vast majority of social gamers are, in fact, women, CrowdStar planned out a hit with its “girls-only” Facebook title, It Girl. Working with very simple concepts, It Girl is tailors directly to the female demographic, and filled with elements popular to them in general. Significantly more unique than most other Facebook titles, it’s the originality that has placed It Girl at number two.
Players start out as just another cute girl in the big city. Walking through the city streets, players can visit any number of shops in search of the hottest outfits, which they can try on, collect, and combine to create virtually any style imaginable. In some cases players can even buy themed clothing from actual stores (e.g. Old Navy).
If this wasn’t addictive enough, players can test their fashion sense by visiting hot social events and tailoring their outfits to the clothing requirements (black tie, nightlife, outdoors, etc.). Moreover, users can interact with one another asynchronously by challenging each others’ avatars — that wander the city — to a sort of fashion “duel” to see just who is the most hip.
Though the game may not appeal to most men, this title continues to grow with approximately 6.7 million MAU.
1. City of Wonder
Easily, the top title this time around goes to Playdom with their historically-oriented city-builder, City of Wonder. A game of meaningful choices, heavy social interaction, and a gratifying visual reward for leveling up, City of Wonder has sucked up more hours since its August release than we care to admit.
A combination of Playdom’s successful Social City and some aspects from the Civilization series, City of Wonder tasks players with taking their city and progressing through the ages of human history. From the tribal huts of the Stone Age to the skyscrapers of the modern era players manage, not only the well being and happiness of their populace, but their cultural, military, and trade capabilities. With every single structure of the game enhancing one of these elements, it becomes a task of choosing what form of civilization you want your city to become.
Why is this important? Because any player can interact with other players, their level, in the form of Expeditions. By traveling to other cities around the world, players can exchange in trade, culture, or even start invasions in an attempt to boost their income, population, or experience, as well as see the societies others have created. The higher one’s trade, culture, or military, the greater chance of success for these respective exchanges.
Leveling up in City of Wonder is more than just a number. As players research new technology and reach new milestones, the city visually evolves through the ages of mankind, making it feel like something is actually accomplished, rather than merely seeing a number changing. Furthermore, with citizens milling about and performing parades, and buildings burning from aggressive player attacks, everything just feels alive.
It’s for all of these reasons that the 8.7 million MAU strong City of Wonder holds our top pick for the best Facebook social game, for the second half of 2010.
All in all, it’s been a year of outstanding releases and the bar of quality has been continually pushed upward. If one thing that can be said for certain, it’s that progress will not stop. As good as 2010 was for social gaming, you can bet that 2011 will be even better.
As for the absolute best game of 2010, stay tuned, as we’ll soon roll out our final list for the year.