Updated: Original list by Chris James, Updated by Jupiter Hadley on April 30th, 2021.
Certain genres just don't feel right on mobile. Take first-person shooters, for example, which rely too heavily on a vast array of buttons to sit comfortably on a touchscreen. If you try using a tablet, it's hard to control the actual game. Sure, you could use a Bluetooth controller in order to play first-person shooters, however, not everyone has controllers to play games on their mobile device.
The same can't be said for all genres - particularly those with games that only require a simple tap or swipe. Some genres just lend themselves better to simplistic controls, allowing players to more easily play games on smaller screens and devices. Not every genre is perfect when it comes to mobile games - and not every game made in a genre is perfect either. But, if the controls are simple, then you can find some games where mobile devices really thrive.
Here are 8 genres that work best on mobile with a selection of their finest examples.
There is a reason you've probably seen tons and tons of endless runners on mobile - they just work. The control scheme is simple in endless runner-type games, allowing you to swipe to move from lane to lane and tap to jump. You can avoid objects, collect coins, and continue forward until, uh, you don't.
Subway Surfers is the best example of the Endless Runner genre on mobile - you play as one of a variety of characters, being chased by a security guard, who just got caught tagging a wall. You are running through a subway at first, using your hoverboard, grabbing letters, and running on moving trains!
Subway Surfers codes are occasionally released, we have an article where we keep track of them.
Elements of one tap can be found mixed into a lot of genres on mobile so it can be a tricky genre to pin down. Many games allow you to tap to interact or do something, however, we are looking at games where tapping is the core mechanic, allowing you to play the game through only tapping. Think Tiny Wings or Flappy Bird as other examples in the genre.
Badland is my pick of the bunch, though, due to its Oddworld-style atmosphere and shaking up of the genre by putting you in the hands of multiple creatures to control with a tap rather than one. Badland is an action platformer that has you trying to get groups of black, flying blobs, through dangerous levels. It's a fun and simple game.
When it comes to mobile devices, you have a lot of options when it comes to controls. Instead of swiping or tapping, you can find yourself using motion controls - tilting your device - to control a game! The tilty racer has been seen elsewhere, Mario Kart on Wii being a prime example, but I like how close to the action playing these types of games on mobile brings.
Asphalt 8 is a fine example of this, with its metal-enhanced visuals, impressive sense of speed, and glorious crashes totally stealing the show from other racers. You can challenge players around the world, customize your cars, and race with intensity, tilting your device to help you move!
Puzzle & Dragons was a major hit in Japan and was the highest-grossing game in the region for an impressive two years. Though that was a few years back, Puzzle & Dragons still holds its place as one of the best Match 3 RPGs ever released on mobile.
The match-three puzzles here take the form of a turn-based battle in one of the games many dungeons. You can combo more than three orbs to unleash even more devastating attacks. There is a lot of strategy that is tied into this game, providing a lot of depth and making the game extremely popular along with the genres that it's mixed together.
The best game in the adventure genre for iOS is hands down, Genshin Impact. Though there are thousands of games in the adventure genre, Genshin Impact has really made its mark in the last year or so, becoming a game I feel like literally everyone has at least heard of. This game is a massive, beautiful, open-world adventure game where you are trying to find answers from the gods of each element.
The game is just dripping with adventure, areas to explore, places to travel to, monsters and so much more, showcasing how lovely adventure games can be.
You know what? Here are some of the Genshin Impact codes for you, for reading through the article this far!
When it comes to narrative games, often called gamebooks, they seem to fit right into mobile devices. You don't need to carry around a pencil or dice, print out sheets of rules or flip through pages as you make your choice on what happens next. A lovely example of the genre is 80 Days.
80 Days is particularly lovely to look at and tells a very engrossing story based on the Jules Verne novel, Around the World in Eighty Days. It's also nice to not have to rely on your imagination and just have the visual stimuli presented directly to you. Though this game has been around a while, it holds this place for a reason - it's well written and very enjoyable.
Watch a video of Super Hexagon and you'll realise one thing fairly quickly - it's mesmerizing. There is something about the simplistic graphics, moving quickly across the screen, changing colours as you keep yourself alive by avoiding items.
It's a good thing that it looks so mesmerizing too because you'll need to be in a zen-like place to get some of those higher scores. You'll need to get in the zone, relying on muscle movement in order to master the game.
It's hard, it's addictive, it's mesmerizing and you should play it.
Clash of Clans is the most successful mobile RTS of all time, and for good reason.
It's free, social play is its main focus, and it doesn't require you to stare at it until you win such as Command & Conquer on the PC. You can find a large community around the game, with plenty of people sharing how they best build their bases or what troops are worth creating before taking on a battle. It's one of those games that you can start right now or be playing for years, getting deeper and deeper into the game itself.
Oh, and it does it all while looking really good. It's the very example of how to bring a genre to mobile.