Gaming

The best apps of 2016 (so far)

Posted by
David Cornish
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Need a new app to occupy your commute? You're in luck.

Assembled below are the best pocket-sized game releases of the year so far - from fiendish puzzlers to dungeon explorers. 

Roam through the gallery to discover your new favourite app addiction.

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far)

    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

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 1

    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 best apps of 2016 (so far) 2

    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

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 3

    Abzorb

    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

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 4

    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

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 5

    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

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 6

    _PRISM

    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

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 7

    Away

    Platforms: iOS

    Okay, so Away isn't actually a game. It's a meditation and mindfulness app, which despite sounding like a oxymoron is actually surprisingly effective at chilling you out at the end of a shitty day.

    Presented with a gorgeous forest scene, you select your preferred time of day - a process that changes lighting levels, ambient sounds and various other elements of the picture. You can drag a virtual microphone around to tune in on different elements - from the sound of rustling leaves to a babbling brook.

    A timer function allows you to set the app to provide gentle white noise to fall asleep to, before shutting down after an allocated amount of time.

    So no, you're not about to get a new high score on this one - but it might save your week.

    Get it here

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 8

    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

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 9

    Swing

    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

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 10

    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

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 11

    Twofold

    Platforms: iOS

    You wait months for one super addictive puzzle app to turn up, then two arrive at once.

    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 

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 12

    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

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 13

    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: iOS, Steam

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 14

    Swapperoo

    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

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 15

    Bleach: Brave Souls

    Platforms: iOS, Android

    The hack'n'slash-em-up based on the hugely popular anime series, Bleach: Brave Souls has been turning heads (and thumbs) in Japan ever since it launched in July 2015 - and now it's finally received a worldwide release.

    Build a team of three fighters with unique abilities, take part in online battles or go it alone in story mode - this mean little fighter is going to be responsible for draining your battery for the next month or two. 

    Get it here

  • The best apps of 2016 (so far) 16

    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

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Author

David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

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