The best mobile games of 2013

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By Jon Robinson Comment

Image via PopCap

From plants with personality to cars corkscrewing through the air to a game that can best be described as the Words with Friends of sports, 2013’s best mobile titles left both our brains dazzled and our batteries drained.

So as we step into 2014 looking forward to what the gaming world has to offer, we take a look back at the year that was and pick our favorite games of 2013.

And just in case you missed any of these gems, I have two words for you: Download now.

Jon Robinson’s Five Favorite Mobile Games of 2013:

Plants vs. Zombies 2 (iOS, Android)

Image via PopCap

Price: Free
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Why we love it: I can sum up my love for Plants vs. Zombies 2 in three words: Zombie chicken farmers. That’s right, in the insane world of PvZ2, the plants have to deal with everything from pirate zombies getting shot out of cannons to the zombie chicken farmer, complete with chickens strapped to his body with barbed wire. Shoot the zombie, and he unleashes his pesky beasts in a move designers like to call “The Chickening.” Addictive, iconic, and best of all, a free to play game that I beat without having to spend a single penny (sorry, EA), Plants vs. Zombies 2 has my vote for best mobile game of 2013.

Your Turn Football (iOS, Android)

Image via Pick6 Studios

Price: Free
Publisher: Pick Six Studios
Why we love it: No NFL license, no problem as Your Turn Football took the X’s and O’s strategy of America’s favorite sport and combined it with the social aspects of popular games like Words with Friends to become the game I found myself the most glued to in 2013 (and the first thing I’d check when I woke up in the morning). The concept is simple: A turn based football game where the player on offense actively controls the action, then after a score or stop on downs, the action is passed to the opponent who takes his or her turn on the virtual gridiron. YTF really takes me back to the glory days of sports gaming.

Asphalt 8: Airborne (iOS, Android)

Image via Gameloft

Price: $0.99
Publisher: Gameloft
Why we love it: If you ever wanted to do a barrel roll in a Lamborghini, Asphalt 8: Airborne is the game for you, as the action-packed racer is as much about the spectacle of the crash as it is about the competition (think Burnout). Jumps, takedowns, and smashed up rides only begin to explain the insanity of the races, as players fly around the streets banging into each other while performing stunts and filling up their nitro gauges in order to boost their cars to new heights (while never having to worry about the reality of a little thing called gravity).

Badland (iOS, Android)

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Price: $3.99 (iOS), Free (Android)
Publisher: Frogmind
Why we love it: A dark, atmospheric action-adventure, all you have to do is look at the title to know there’s something evil waiting for you in Frogmind’s side-scrolling swamp. But that’s the beauty of Badland, as it starts out and you catch yourself almost mesmerized by the incredible art on your screen, then next thing you know your working your way through puzzles and traps in order to avoid a startling death by spike or sawblade. Warning: Four-player multiplayer is so good (and so competitive), it has the potential to end friendships with its survival of the fittest playability.

Infinity Blade III (iOS)

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Price: $4.99
Publisher: Epic Games
Why we love it: You haven’t seen the graphics of mobile games pushed to their limits until you’ve downloaded Infinity Blade III. The final game in ChAIR’s blockbuster trilogy, IB3 boasts the intense combat to match its stunning visuals, while offering fans of the series a breathtaking last ride into the epic quest to stop The Worker of Secrets from destroying the world. A fantastic mix of powerful storytelling and thrilling gameplay.

Brandy Shaul’s Five Favorite Mobile Games of 2013:

Nimble Quest (iOS, Android)

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Price: Free
Publisher: NimbleBit
Why we love it: NimbleBit’s Nimble Quest is ‘Snake’ for a new generation. The game mixes fast-paced combat with a demand for even faster reflexes to create an experience that’s simple to learn, but always feels new. Just as soon as we’ve grown to love our archers and warriors, new characters are introduced, creating longer ‘snakes’ with more battle power, and thus increasing the length of each session. What’s more, Everyplay integration gives players a chance to record and share their best runs (or most epic blunders) with friends via social networks and YouTube.

Flutter: Butterfly Sanctuary (iOS, Android)

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Price: Free
Publisher: DeNA
Why we love it: Runaway’s butterfly collection game is simply one of the prettiest games around, mixing educational content and real-world-inspired butterflies with adorable, chubby caterpillars and an ever-increasing selection of butterflies to collect. Even while waiting for new butterfly eggs to appear, there’s plenty to do in Flutter, from collecting pollen and flowers, to completing quests to save the rainforest. It’s that diversity, mixed with a Pokemon-esque “gotta catch ‘em all” design that has kept our attention level high since the game’s launch in February.

Tiny Thief (iOS, Android)

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Price: $2.99
Publisher: Rovio Stars
Why we love it: Tiny Thief is one of the most charming, adorable and witty mobile games around, asking players to help a literal tiny thief in his quest to outsmart his medieval foes, from candy-loving sheriffs to bakers and more. The point-and-click style gameplay is easy to pick up for beginners, with each level cleverly crafted to challenge players’ observational skills. The challenge in each stage is never so steep as to feel overwhelming, and the inclusion of multiple optional collectibles means there’s always something to do aside from the main story tasks. Putting it simply, Tiny Thief is worth every cent of its $2.99 price of admission.

Disney Hidden Worlds (iOS, Android)

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Price: Free
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Why we love it: Disney’s mobile catalog offers games based on individual properties, including Snow White and Alice in Wonderland, but Disney Hidden Worlds offers something much more, an experience where multiple major Disney properties come together in a single, incredibly fun experience. The hidden object game features images inspired by films including Beauty & The Beast, Tangled and Aladdin (for starters), and challenges players to save each by collecting and crafting key items from each world. Add in voiced cutscenes and an assortment of adorable new characters in the land of Inkspire, and you have an experience every hidden object fanatic or Disney fan simply must try.

Fish Out of Water (iOS)

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Price: $0.99
Publisher: Halfbrick
Why we love it: Fish Out of Water comes with a simple design, asking players to simply fling fish as far as possible across the screen to earn points and impress a series of crabby judges. However, that simple premise hides an experience offering great strategy. Each fish behaves differently, just as each fling sends each fish in a slightly different arc above the water. It’s finding the right balance between specific fish abilities and fling trajectories that’s the key to success, and makes the game so endlessly replayable. At this point, Halfbrick could create a game about reading a telephone book, and I’m sure I’d love it.