Top 5 mobile games of 2019: Stephen's picks of the year
| Assemble With Care
2019 has undoubtedly been a cracking year for mobile games. I'm sure the reasons for that have been covered extensively and more eloquently by my colleagues in their lists. So fear not, I won't waffle on about Apple Arcade and such again.
Instead, I'll focus on my own personal surprise at parts of my list during this little preamble before the bit you're probably here for. You see, I'm generally not good at multiplayer games, so I tend to shy away from them because - to put it simply – it's not much fun being bad. And yet, there's two of them in this list and I've played both of them a lot. That's a whole 200% more multiplayer than I ever expected in my end of year round-up.
So here are my picks for the best mobile games of 2019, in no particular orderAssemble With Care
People who are able to fix things are basically wizards as far as I'm concerned. If I break something, it's over for that poor object, I will not be able to repair it. But in Assemble With Care, I'm gifted with that power and it feels great.
If you've not played Assemble With Care it's essentially a series of puzzles where you'll mend various objects for folks in a small town. I found immense satisfaction in taking objects apart, fixing them and putting them back together again using touch controls. It gives a tactile feeling of involvement with your repair job that just wouldn't work on other platforms.
Beyond making me feel like a restoration wizard, there's a lovely heartfelt story in Assemble With Care that draws parallels with fixing objects to mending relationships. Sure, it's a fairly obvious metaphor but it's still an undeniably wholesome narrative to enjoy.
Ah Rumble Stars. I love football but I've always found games based on the sport tend to aim for realism and end up a tad dull because of it. I've always preferred the idea that a game would use football more as a starting point and then build something more ludicrous around it, which is exactly what Rumble Stars does.
Sure, it's not without its gripes. There are a plethora of free-to-play irritations present such as lengthy chest opening times or throwing 'offers' in your face at any given opportunity. But all of that stuff becomes much easier for me to ignore when the gameplay itself is so exhilarating.
You'll develop strategies using your chosen team of Rumblers only for all of that to go out of the window on occasion to the sheer amount of randomness at play. And because of that, it's comfortably the game I've played most this year and I can see myself playing it for a long time yet. Unless it shuts down or something, who knows what 2020 will bring.
I debated including Pokemon Masters on this list because, well, it's definitely not a top 5 game in the quality sense. But, as you may know, if you're an avid reader of Pocket Gamer and have seen the number of news stories I write about this game, I really enjoy it.
That's mostly because I really love Pokemon and during one of the many Gem compensations I got Chandelure from the gacha machine, which is my favourite Pokemon. So from there, I've been pretty obsessed with trying to make it as powerful as possible, despite there being a plethora of better Sync Pair options.
The game is definitely far from perfect though, most of the events they make are fairly repetitive exercises in patience with grinding, for instance. But they're working to improve the game and I'll be there for the journey to see if they manage to make it better for everyone, not just diehard Chandelure fans.
Grindstone is my second pick from Apple Arcade on this list and probably my favourite game from the subscription service, from those I've played anyway. I didn't expect to it enjoy it as much as I did either. On paper, it's just another match 3 battler kind of game.
But it's in the presentation where Grindstone really won me over. As you trace your finger over the enemies of a particular colour you're about to slice open their neutral expression changes to one of fear. Then you sit back and enjoy as the barbarian hero chops his way through all of them with a satisfying squelch.
It's not completely devoid of depth either with various special abilities available to add an extra layer of strategy to the action. They also introduce new enemy types at a slow enough pace that you don't feel like you have to learn too much all at once.
Call of Duty Mobile (2019)
Now, this is mostly on this list because I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It's certainly not mobile game of the year, the accolade bestowed upon it by the Geoff Keighley awards. But, it is a very good one and it definitely brought me back to a series I'd lost interest in.
I used to play a fair bit of Call of Duty when I was younger and had infinitely better reactions than I do these days but I'm actually pretty solid at CoD: Mobile. That could be because everyone else hasn't adapted to touch controls or because I'm actually against bots, but I've definitely been enjoying a multiplayer shooter again for the first time in years.
Again, much like Rumble Stars and Pokemon Masters, it has its issues. Whenever I open the game I need to cross off several attempts to convince me to pay for IAPs and some of the events they've had are never as generous as they first appear. However, from a pure gameplay perspective, CoD: Mobile is a great time.