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These are the best apps of 2016 (so far)

Best make some room on your smartphone

These are the best apps of 2016 (so far)
11 July 2016

We hate to break it to you, but we're over half way through 2016.

How did those New Year's Resolutions work out for you? Us too. 

Now, get a grip. Pull yourself together. Don't you dare slump into a state of mild panic over in the face of those failed ambitions. In the past six-and-a-bit months we've been blessed by some truly wonderful apps, making our pockets an altogether more entertaining place. 

Wipe away those tears, delete some photos from your camera roll and get downloading (and be sure to leave some space for Pokémon GO).


Platforms: iOS

Right, we're going to talk to you about a strategy game that sees you build an army of magical trees and defend against invading dark forces.

Because that's what the delightful world of Nanuleu is actually about. Really. And it's brilliant.

You start with a single tree in a unique location. You must expand your network, gathering resources and strengthening your forest army. As you expand, you must build defences (different types of tree) to fight off shadowy little figures from neighbouring worlds.

It's a beautiful, thoughtful, well-crafted experience that deserves a spot on your iPhone. There should be more games about magic trees.

Get it here

NBA Live Mobile

Platforms: iOS, Android

Mobile sports games are, by and large, pants. The controls are too fiddly, the physics don't really work and you just end up wanting to play a 'proper' console game.

Mercifully, that's not the case with NBA Live Mobile - a superb pocket companion to EA's wider basketball series. The controls are simple: there's one direction 'stick' on your screen, with three interchanging buttons that allow you to make all the basic plays.

In addition to playing five-on-five games, there's also a comprehensive management mode, allowing you to build your own 'franchise'. That's American for 'club'.

Best of all? It's free. So you've got no excuses (unless you hate basketball, in which case, fair enough). 

Get it here

The Higher Lower Game

Platforms: iOS, Android

Higher! Higher! Lower! Higher! Bollocks.

This is essentially what you'll be doing when you fire up a round of 'The Higher Lower Game' - an app/web game that takes the familiar form and adds an element of the digital age by making you pick between average monthly searches.

Deceptively tricky, you'll be clocking along toward a high score before the dreaded happens: Does 'Tim Henman' get more monthly searches than 'Slippers'? Silly, simple fun.

Play it here

Get the app here


Platforms: iOS

Remember when you were a kid? When a marble and some sort of gradient could provide you with hours of entertainment?

Perchang replicates these formative delights on your iPhone: a puzzle marble run game, every level sees you control two features - one red, one blue - with a corresponding button. It could be a magnet, a switch, a fan, a flipper - something out of a game of Mousetrap

You need to get a certain number of balls into an end goal in an allocated time limit - a simple process that becomes joyously addictive. While looking lovely, it's the physics of this game that make it a winner. Yep, a game that gets you excited about physics. It's that good.

Get it here


latforms: iOS

June is something of a hangover month for the games industry, pumping itself up on the news hype of E3 before finding a sofa to curl up on and release hardly any games of note.

Mercifully, Hyperburner has blasted onto iPhones at unlikely speeds with some welcome thrills.

A high speed runner/dodger game, it sees you navigate your space craft through increasingly small gaps in oncoming debris. There are six zones to master, each with five challenges. No still image can really do it justice - it's one of the most gorgeous, fluid games you'll ever download, with graphics that rattle along at sweat-inducing speeds.

Get ready to stretch your reaction times to breaking point.

Get it here


Platforms: iOS, Android

While this isn't a game, you're still going to love it. is a new social network/platform/space for anyone who loves games to share all their activity in one convenient hub, grouping together all your separate gaming accounts and personalities into one neat package. Show off the games you're playing across all your devices, share your images and videos, meet new people, find new team-mates - if you're a serious gamer, you'll wonder how you managed without it.

Get it here

Lost Frontier

Platforms: iOS

There aren't enough video games about cowboys.

While we keep every limb crossed that Red Dead Redemption 2 knocks the doors of this year's E3 festival, we can itch our Western scratch with this neat little app: Lost Frontier.

A turn-based strategy game with 24 chapters to its story mode, you must guide your 'Living Legend' and his crew of heavies to glory, moving across grid-based cartoon worlds to capturing saloons, shoot cowboys and build up a gang of gunslingers. It's an endearing app that'll push your tactical thinking to the limit.

Get it here

Uncharted: Fortune Hunter

Platforms: iOS, Android

Typical. You wait five years for a new Uncharted game (the remakes don't count) and you get two in one week.

To partner the release of Uncharted 4 (a game we can't really heap enough praise on - just play it already) comes this pocket-sized companion.

A pure puzzle game, you move a cartoonised Nathan Drake around tile-based boards, navigating obstacles and collecting treasures. In addition to being good fun, the app's points win prizes: link the game to your PlayStation 4 account and you can get new multiplayer rewards for the console game, likes skins and one-use bonuses.

Great even if you don't have the main game. But you really should.

Get it here

Platforms: Android

This is evolution in a game - which might sound like a crap science project from your youth, but it's actually surprisingly addictive.

You control a snake/worm, eating food and other worms in order to grow in length and improve your score. However, the other worms you're competing against are controlled by real-life people from around the globe. It's survival of the fittest. 

Get it here


Platform: iOS

Ever played a game of pinball and thought "This could do with more paint"? Us neither, but it's an idea that clearly struck in the minds of State of Play Games.

Their new pinball creation is a work of art - literally. There are over 100 pinball tables, each with a unique shape a set of 'inks' to thrash your ball into. Tables are 'completed' once you've exhausted the ink supply, leaving you with a messy, beautiful creation. Take a snap when you're done and hang it on the fridge. 

The perfect brain drainer.

Get it here

Sea Hero Quest

Platform: iOS, Android

Sea Hero Quest deserves every ounce of hyperbole you care to slap on it. 

Every two minutes spent exploring the beautiful aquatic locations of the app is equal to five hours of lab-based research into dementia.

Navigate mazes, shoot flares to test players’ orientation, chase creatures to capture photos of them, all the while providing researchers with invaluable data on spatial navigation - a key skill that can be lost with early onset dementia.

Get it here 

Fallen London

Platforms: iOS

"That looks familiar..."

Good spot - there's finally a miniaturised version of one of the best web games ever made. 

A literary role-playing game, Fallen London is a dark, gothic tale of fantasy: Thirty years ago, London was stolen. Now resting on the shore of the Unterzee, that old dark ocean under the world, immortality is now cheap, and the screaming has largely stopped…

Part book, part game, this threatens to become your new commute obsession. 

Get it here

Hammer Bomb

Platforms: iOS, Android

Ever wondered what Pac-Man must have seen as he made his way around his eternal prison? Us neither, but it's the best way of explaining the first-person perspective of this maze game.

Run around mazes, pick up power-ups (pizza, pies, that kind of thing), arm yourself with pointy things and take on increasingly menacing bosses. A simple, brilliantly-executed dungeon arcade adventure. 

Get it here

Shadow Bug

Platforms: iOS

Be honest, you didn't know you wanted to be an overpowered ninja insect hero until Shadow Bug offered you the opportunity, did you? 

A complicated, layered story that sees you battle through a series of hideous factory monsters threatening your beautiful forest, it's all a complicated allegory of humanity's rampant destruction of the Earth's natural resources. But you'll probably just play it for all the ninja slicing you can do. 

Get it here

Exploding Kittens

Platforms: iOS (Android soon)

Now what part of that name hasn't already got you hooked?

The award-winning card game that rose to fame after it smashed its Kickstarter campaign has been modified into a seamless app experience: a cross between Russian Roulette and UNO. Players draw cards with increasingly bizarre, ridiculous abilities until the Exploding Kitten enters the game. 

The online multiplayer is going to ruin what little battery life remains on your poor old iPhone. 

Get it here

King Rabbit - Find Gold, Rescue Bunnies

Platforms: iOS

Seriously, 'Find Gold, Rescue Bunnies' is how this game sells itself on the App Store. What more do you need to know.

Fine: the sequel to Furdemption - A Quest For Wings, this platforming puzzle game sees you play a totes adorbes rabbit king who must battle all manner of demons to save your bunny kingdom. Use enchanted crowns, push blocks about, dodge saws, throw bombs - it's the twisted lovechild of Mario and Watership Down. What a sordid mental image that is...

Get it here

Super Arc Light

Platforms: iOS

How are your reflexes? 

This pocket-sized shooter should test their mettle: a modern take on survival blaster classic AsteroidsSuper Arc Light sees you control a small ship with a single hand, guiding it around a central arc of light that acts as your base.

Tapping the screen to spew out waves of lasers at incoming foe, collecting upgrades as you progress to take on the increasingly challenging enemies. The moment your base is destroyed its game over - record your high score and start all over again. 

You'll be making your own sound effects in minutes.

Get it here


Platforms: iOS

Telepaint doesn't have a conventional hero - but then it's not a very conventional platformer.

You control buckets of walking paint that can teleport (that name makes a lot more sense now, right?). Tap the portals to guide the bucket to the right key/door/area, and groan in frustration as what appeared to be a simple level turns out to be a complex brain teaser. Throw in a soundtrack that responds to your movement and you've got yourself a captivating app experience.

Get it here

Mimpi Dreams

Platform: iOS

Sure, a platforming adventure about a small white dog that pees on checkpoints to save your progress might not sound like the most mature of escapades - but it's bloody good fun.

The twisted dream worlds of Mimpi are all delightfully animated, filled with moving hazards and pitfalls you have to jump over (or pee on) as you find your way to your bed. A delightful way to kill your weekend.

Get it here


Platforms: iOS

Blackbox is a very, very clever app. 

Not a single one of its 50 puzzles is solved by tapping around on your iPhone screen: each solution lies in tweaking an aspect of your phone.

Colours correspond to functions, from fiddling with your screen brightness to plugging in your charging cable. Some will appear utterly unsolvable until another puzzle makes you realise something you never knew you could do with your handset.

This one is going to keep you up at night.

Get it here


Platforms: iOS

So you think you've got some pretty nifty thumb reflexes, do you?

Allow Sparkwave to make a mockery of your confidence.

A 'twitch' game, you navigate through a shifting track of hexagonal tiles. Avoid blocks, collect power ups and keep adding precious seconds to the final countdown. Fall off a tile and you're in serious danger of blowing up. 

Fast, furious, and importantly, free. You're going to suck at it though.

Get it here

Stranded: A Mars Adventure

Platforms: iOS, Android

You've seen The Martian, right? Well this is nothing like that.

Stranded on Mars, you must guide your little astronaut through a variety of terrains and low gravity environments, collecting oxygen bottles and parts to repair your downed ship.

Thanks to its retro graphics and neat gameplay, Stranded manages to feel a lot more polished than the average mobile platformer.

Get it here: iOSAndroid

Tennis Champs Returns

Platforms: iOS

Miss the good old days when sports "simulators" consisted of little more than two buttons and a joystick? 

Tennis Champs Returns is a little slice of that retro action, bringing a classic Amiga game to your iPhone. There's a full career mode, daily challenges and even a doubles mode. 

You're going to Love it. It's Ace. You'll have a (tennis) ball. 

We'll stop. 

Get it here

Futurama: Game of Drones

Platforms: iOS, Android

Futurama is back! 

Well, sort of. Its officially branded 'match-four' app has launched to help scratch the itch of fans missing the show. 

Prof Farnsworth has employed you to clean up a batch of toxic drones (stick with us), grouping them into batches of four of the same colour. You progress by collecting a required number of coloured targets, with points given for finishing with as few moves as possible.

Throw in enemy drones, power ups and a heap of references, and you've got your new Candy Crush replacement. 

Get it here

The Swords

Platforms: iOS

Remember Fruit Ninja? That game that everyone was wiggling their finger at in 2010, seeing you dice up melons with an invisible blade?

The Swords is nothing like that - other than following a similar idea of swordplay with your digits. You're a swordsman, learning the ancient art passed down by a grandmaster, with each level introducing you to a new skill. You 'flow' your finger/blade over the screen, looking to break the tips of enemy swordsmen with deft swipes. 

It's a beautiful, artistic experience, blending captivating ink-flow graphics with an impressively compelling storyline. 

Get it here


Platforms: iOS

Clean, crisp and challenging, Abzorb is a tilt-n-shuffle arcade game that's going to haunt your every waking hour (or until you finish its 65 levels). 

A distant relation to classic experiences like Asteroids, you control a little triangle, tilting it around your iPhone screen. Your aim is to fill a blue circle surrounding your tiny ship, collecting blue 'energy' from passing blue spheres. Get too close to a red sphere and it'll sap the time you've got left to complete the level - with new foe entering later in the game.

A superb, rewarding test of just how steady your hand is.

Get it here

Alto's Adventure

Platforms: Android

Alto's Adventure has been cutting up the slopes of iOS devices for a while now, but the handsome infinite snowboard has finally arrived on Android.

Every time you play the game it produces a new, beautiful run that you must guide Alto down: tap the screen once to jump, and hold down to pull off a back flip.

Collect coins, pull off tricks and gawp at how astonishingly beautiful this pocket game is. 

Get it here

Stellar Wanderer

Platforms: iOS

Giant space exploration games shouldn't live on mobile phones - yet somehow Stellar Wanderer manages to condense a vast space opera into a pocket format. 

Pick between being a FIGHTER, TRADER, TANK or ENGINEER (we don't know why the capitalise them either, it's that kind of game), and glide about space, trading, fighting or mining as you see fit. There's an impressive main story (about 10 hours in all) and heaps of side quests.

If you've got a long journey coming up, you're going to want this on your iPhone/iPad. 

Get it here


Platforms: iOS

Do you love puzzles? Of course you do - you're an educated ShortList reader, which means you're going to adore _PRISM.

With beautiful visuals and a trippy soundtrack, _PRISM is a captivating geometric puzzle game. In essence, you slide lines around microscopic shapes in order to line dots up, but that's a cruel way of unpacking what's a hugely rewarding experience.

You'll pinch, zoom and tilt your way through puzzles, interacting with your phone in a manner few other games would think to employ. It's one to relax with rather than exhaust your mental faculties. 

Get it here

Space Grunts

Platforms: iOS

Ptewp! Ptewp! Vzwerp. Kabloom!

The noises are just part of the joy held within the tiny world of Space Grunts - a turn-based, tabletop strategy game (or a 'roguelike', if you know your gaming lingo).

Set in 2476, you control one of three Space Grunts around an alien-infested moon base. Armed with three weapon types, you must carefully plan your moves and shots to ensure you take out the invaders with your limited ammo supply. 

With the game generating a new layout with every play through, this is set to make your next long-haul journey an utter delight.

Get it here


Platforms: Android 

You've probably played a game a lot like Swing before - but we can guarantee it didn't have quite the polished feel of this mobile gem.

If the title didn't give it away, you must 'swing' your tiny hero from a ledge across a void to another ledge of varying thickness.

Draw your character back from the ledge, lengthening his rope and thus altering the distance of his swing. Too short and he'll not make the jump, too long and he'll overcook it and plunge to his cartoonish death.

A wonderful game that'll have you hunting combos as your friends give up attempting to get you off your phone.

Get it here

Circa Infinity

Platforms: iOS

We could spend hours attempting to describe this puzzle game to you and only capture an ounce of its brilliance.

Guide your running character through 50 circular levels, aiming to jump into the next expanding ring via a shifting segment while avoiding the various parading nasties. There are even boss fights, but they're even more impossible to put words to.

Part platformer, part LSD-fuelled trip, make sure you play this sitting in a comfortable chair with your loved ones close at hand, ready to pull your warped mind back into non-circular reality. 

Get it here


Platforms: iOS

Another matching puzzler, you'll have found aspects of Twofold in many other popular apps: you've got to match up coloured squares in a grid, drawing your finger to trace lines between matching colours. The tricky aspect of the game is in ensuring your scores match the required scores for each colour - meaning sometimes you have to line up much larger combinations to reach certain targets.

Engaging, pretty and all-consuming.

Get it here 

Open Bar: Keep Em Coming

Platforms: iOS

It's Tetris meets Candy Crush - in a game that's far more inventive than our clumsy summary would suggest. 

Open Bar is a gorgeous puzzler that tasks you with linking three coloured bars to overlapping grids of bars. With some flips and spins, you can make the bars match and move onto the next short puzzle. With infinite levels to clock through, it could turn into a worrying habit. 

Best head to this demo to see it in action. It's the perfect time killer while you wait for your mate to turn up to a real life bar.

Get it here

Punch Club

Platforms: iOS, PC

Punch Club reads like one of those glorious eighties action films you watch on a wet Sunday: having witnessed your father's brutal murder, you must train hard, eat chicken and punch dudes in the face to earn your place in the Punch Club ranks, and discover who ended your father's life.

But this isn't a simple pocket beat'em'up - with an involving storyline, RPG elements and stacks of stats to build, this feels more like a classic console game built for the iPhone generation. The best £3.99 you'll spend on an app.

Get it here: iOSSteam


Platforms: iOS

Bored of Candy Crush Saga? Of course you are.

Swapperoo is a match-three tile game. But it's brilliant. Having knocked off the early (easy) levels, things get interesting as the game starts introducing rogue tiles: some that you have to protect, some that need deleting within a move limit and some that even chase you.

No pesky microtransactions or ads, just pure, stylish swiping. 

Get it here

Into the Dim

Platform: iOS

Do you miss the days of simple dungeon crawlers on your greyscale Game Boy? Us neither - and then we had go on Into the Dim and changed our tune.

A classic role playing game, you control a boy and his dog, smiting hideous foes, collecting coins and generally going about the simple tasks you've been playing in games since your childhood - but on your mobile. 

The chiptune soundtrack makes this worth a download alone - and it's free.

Get it here