Top 5 mobile games of 2020: Jon B's picks of the year
So many games were deserving of a spot on the list, but these high-performing games stood out from the pack.
Although 2020 was mostly a train wreck, the impressive lineup of mobile games released throughout the year was undoubtedly a bright spot. No matter your gaming preference, odds are you'll find a mobile game that caters to your tastes.
That makes it difficult to put together a Top 5 List, as so many games are deserving of inclusion on this list. However, after looking back at all the titles I've installed this year – and which ones consumed most of my play time – there were a few that stood out from the pack.
Here are my favorite mobile games of 2020, in no particular order.
Harry Potter: Puzzles & SpellsDespite being a fairly straight copy of Candy Crush, there's something endearing about this match-3 puzzler. Maybe it's the authentic audio, pulled directly from the films. Maybe it's the early bonds I formed with my Club, trading tips and pushing each other onto the next level. Or maybe it's my deep-rooted love for all things Harry Potter. Regardless, the amount of my time Puzzles & Spells consumed is downright staggering – and I don't expect that trend to die down in 2021.
There's also an impressive amount of unlockable content, keeping you glued to your screen and working towards the next unlockable spell or pet. Zynga did a fantastic job introducing new events throughout the year, too, with seasonal events offering unique spins on the traditional formula and bringing iconic characters to the small screen. Its combination of polished gameplay, great use of the Harry Potter franchise, and community engagement easily made it one of my favorite games of the year.
There's not much to dislike about Genshin Impact, and you've probably heard more about it than any other mobile game throughout 2020, so I'll keep it brief.
Genshin Impact is an anomaly on mobile devices. Not only does it boast stunning graphics – rivaling some of the best console games – but the amount of content spread throughout Teyvat is mindblowing. It truly is a console experience in the palm of your hand. The only drawback I can think of is its lack of controller support on mobile, something Mihoyo claims will be fixed in a future update. But using touchscreen controls is a small price to pay for a game this well-developed.
Like most titles on this list, Genshin Impact received constant updates, pumping new life into the game and giving you a reason to keep coming back for more throughout 2020. Admittedly, there's a lot I still need to experience with the game, but everything I've stumbled upon so far proves it's much more than a simple Breath of the Wild clone.
Guardian Tales is a game that's greater than the sum of its parts. Taking pieces from gacha, top-down action, and simulation games and merging them into a cohesive experience isn't an easy feat, but somehow Guardian Tales pulled it off with flying colors.
Not a single part of the sprawling title feels underdeveloped, and you can spend hours tinkering with every part of it – whether you're adjusting your party, building a massive home hub, or exploring all the side quests, everything feels like a great use of your time. The combat is especially engaging, with various abilities and combination skills that lend themselves to a shockingly deep level of customization.
Then there's its sense of humor – offering some of the best one-liners in recent memory. Nothing is sacred in Guardian Tales, and the jokes will probably catch you off-guard, but you'll be smiling and laughing your entire way through this lengthy adventure.
9th Dawn III
Its name leaves a bit to be desired, but 9th Dawn III is far and away one of the best mobile RPGs in recent memory. There's a fairly engaging narrative, but before long you'll forgo that journey to go get lost in its many dungeons, slaying hundreds of enemies at once and engaging in challenging boss battles.
The world of 9th Dawn III unfolds organically as you explore it, with most of the action driven by your own choices. Do you want to become a spell-casting wizard? Then unlock some spells and start casting them – the more you use them, the better you become. Rather hack enemies to bits with a greatsword? Pick one up and start swinging – you'll become more deadly the more you use it.
This sort of leveling system immediately reminded me of Skyrim, and it's a system that's easy to sink hundreds of hours into. A deep roster of monsters, dozens of quests, and a massive world to explore, 9th Dawn III is the mobile RPG I've always wanted.
Black Desert Mobile
Despite launching in 2019, Black Desert Mobile continued to improve in 2020. It's my most played game of 2020, thanks to constant updates that brought new classes, events, and unlockable gear. It's also well-suited to both casual and hardcore gaming sessions. I'd often find myself running BDM in the background while I watch TV or work, taking care of the more mundane activities that don't require much brainpower to pull off. Then, when I have a few hours of free time, I can settle in for some intense PvP or stat management, constantly chasing a higher CP and exploring the beautiful world put together by Pearl Abyss.
From Hadum's Realm and the Great Desert to several new classes and game modes, 2020 was an incredible year for Black Desert Mobile fans. It's certainly not a game for everybody – thanks to its heavily reliance on RNG – but if you're looking for a deep MMO experience, handcrafted for mobile devices, there's nothing on the market that does it better than Black Desert.