Best 5 Narrative Games for Android and iPhone of 2019
As great as mobile games are at providing action-packed experiences, it's sometimes nice to take a break from the shooting, slashing, mauling, etc, and settle into a great story. 2019 has been especially good for fans of narrative games, arguably thanks to Apple Arcade taking a chance on plenty of story-driven titles, like Jenny LeClue, The Bradwell Conspiracy, Neo Cab, and Stela.
Narrative games come in all shapes and sizes, from minimalist experiences like Journey to talkier Telltale-like titles. And that's something I've tried to demonstrate with the following games, all of which tell their tale in distinct ways.
And so, without further ado, here are 2019's five best narrative games for Android and iPhone.SIMULACRA 2
Kaigan Games, one of the masters of the "found phone" genre, waited until the very end of 2019 to release its GOTY contender, SIMULACRA 2. Its predecessor enjoyed tons of praise from critics and fans alike for its creepy atmosphere and intriguing detective work.
The sequel once again sees you sifting through a character's phone to uncover clues and info – only this time you're investigating the potential murder of a young influencer. You'll analyse her social media accounts, messaging apps, and other personal info to uncover the truth, all while having to monitor her influencer friends and their potential role in her death. As things continue to take a turn for the strange, you'll find yourself plunged into a dark and potentially life-threatening situation.
It's easy to get into, boasts plenty of twists, and feels sufficiently different from the first game. I suppose you could argue that it's maybe not quite up to par with the original, but SIMULACRA is admittedly a very tough act to follow. Regardless, it's absolutely worth checking out, and you'll struggle to find a better, more unsettling horror game for mobile this year.
You'll see this one pop up quite frequently on a few of these end-of-year lists I'm putting together, largely because it's one of my favourite games of 2019, with some of the most memorable narrative moments of the year.
It tells five distinct stories, all themed around tragedy. Each is distinct in its characters and puzzles, with settings ranging from the fantastical to the mundane. What makes Photographs so much more interesting is the way it ties its thematic elements and narrative arc into the puzzles themselves. It's far more impactful experiencing, for example, the gradual decline of relationships through action rather than ham-fisted exposition.
STONE is the most lighthearted game on this here list, featuring a great Aussie sense of humour and plenty of fun slang. It casts you as a pot-smoking koala bear detective, who, after an especially hard night of partying, has completely forgotten the events leading up to the disappearance of his friend.
What follows is an odyssey through the grimy underbelly of a world populated by oddball anthropomorphic animals and dangerous criminals. It's a stripped-back take on the adventure game genre, though it has more in common with Telltale's work than any of the LucasArts classics.
Harry reviewed it at launch, saying "STONE is an adventure that plays at its own pace, and if you're looking for something slow, thoughtful, and funny, you're going to love it".
Lego Builder's Journey
Where did this one come from? These last few days, I've been working my way through developer Light Brick Studios' gorgeous puzzler, and it's now easily among my favourite games of 2019. Well-paced, accessible, and oddly moving, Builder's Journey is so much more than I ever would have thought.
Gameplay revolves around building pathways across a series of islands viewed from an isometric perspective. It's also a simple tale of a father and son learning to work and play together, which is my justification for sneaking it into this list.
Quite frankly, it's one of the best Apple Arcade games yet. I'd also go so far as to say it's one of the best, and certainly most different, LEGO games we've seen on any platform to date.
AI Dungeon is the best narrative title of the year if you value scope and player input above all else. It's a text-based adventure where the game will react to basically any action – no matter how silly – you decide to perform. Naturally, I chose to test its limits by refusing to do anything that would progress the story, and, much to my surprise, AI Dungeon handles that surprisingly well.
When the stars align, you can get yourself into some truly incredible scenarios. Yes, sometimes things go wrong, bugs happen, and the game struggles to cope with your particularly verbose responses, but it serves up such a unique and frequently hilarious experience that I can't knock it for its technical wobbles. This thing is still in development, after all.