Best Life: Five Games that are better on mobile

By Dick Page 06 Aug 2019 5

Mobile devices and computers become more and more like each other every day, but desktops and consoles are still considered the superior platforms for serious gameplay. Their ability to push more pixels, accept more control inputs, and deliver complex strategies remain unequalled. Yet, sometimes, a game that was once a "real gamerz" exclusive crosses over to mobile devices. So which cross-platform games are actually better on mobile?

Board and card games do very well on mobile for obvious reasons: a simulation of moving cards and tokens around a tabletop definitely feels better when you're using your hands. So consider most of the games on our Best Board and Card games lists to be honorary members of this one. Adventure games likewise often control extremely well with touch controls, but the difference is small enough that it's hard to say they are really 'better' on mobile. Beyond that, here are a some cross-platform gems that actually have superior mobile versions.

Steamworld Heist

SteamWorld Heist

SteamWorld Heist is a unique tactics game played on 2D platforms with guns that you can manually aim. It's got a wide variety of enemies, weapons, and interesting multi-level maps with lots of cover. What's more, Heist gives the player the ability to nudge their shots ever so slightly to ricochet off one or a dozen surfaces, pinging across the iron spaceships to nip the hat right off that annoying royal guardsman's head. While mouse control is fine for this, the game really shines as you slowly roll your finger into the perfect position. Missions can take only twenty minutes in some cases, making Heist a perfect mobile game.


FTL was one of the earliest indie darlings to make the jump to mobile devices, and quickly became the obsession of many a pocket gamer. The game's frantic gameplay has you putting out multiple fires (some of them literal) on a spaceship with limited tools. Tapping on your tablet far exceeds mouseclicking as a control scheme in this situation. What's more, the 'episodic' structure of the game, where you deal with crises in one star system at a time, is perfectly suited for short bursts of play. At the same time, its rogueish world map makes it a compelling long-player.

Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions

Console ports are a dime a dozen on the app store these days, but any review of a classic port is going to mention that a gamepad is basically required for a good experience. On the other hand, Final Fantasy XV got a great port with great mobile controls, but it still needed a lot stripped away to fit on mobile.

Final Fantasy Tactics is the one game that really became better in its mobile iteration, despite losing its multiplayer component. Touch controls are an obvious improvement over selecting your units and their actions through endless scrolling through menus and maps using a joystick. What's more, the mobile version includes the enhanced script and cutscenes of the PSP port. For experiencing the epic story of a game considered one of the best of the PlayStation era, if not the best tactical RPG of all time, mobile is where its at for Final Fantasy Tactics.

Touchscreen-based games from the Nintendo DS are also worth checking out, including Square's RPG The World Ends with You and Capcom's ports of the Phoenix Wright games and forgotten gem Ghost Trick.


Tons of puzzle games have made the crossover to mobile, and a lot of them definitely benefit from having touch controls. One that truly stands out is Gorogora. This game sees the player manipulating a grid of illustrations, dragging pieces, uncovering details, and matching patterns in increasingly unexpected ways. Gorogora is like a jigsaw puzzle for the ubiquitous-computing age, and its highly tactile gameplay really benefits from a touchscreen. It just doesn't feel the same to click and drag these beautiful paintings that beg to be touched.

Kingdom New Lands

Kingdom: New Lands

Kingdom began as a Flash game, and its boiled-to-the-bone gameplay reflects that simplicity in its instantly-iconic visuals and super-simple controls. You simply swipe to move your monarch around, collecting and distributing coins to build an unimpeachable castle, and eventually escape the ever-multiplying monsters.

While its simple controls suit mobile, there's one caveat: Kingdom relies on the player keeping the status of their kingdom in mind at all times. It deliberately doesn't keep a count of how many people you've recruited or make an automap for you. That makes it the most accurate horseback-strategy simulator around, but it also makes it hard to pick up and play. It's easy to forget what you were doing even moment to moment, and get overwhelmed by an attack you forgot was coming.

But, when you have the attention to devote to it, there's nothing quite as engaging as Kingdom on mobile. The game's day-to-night cycle is perfect at compelling you to finish just one more task before dark, and its procedural design makes every round unique. It's the perfect game for a long commute or an rainy afternoon at the beach house. It will hold your attention for hours without requiring more than a few swipes a minute, and is easily played from bed.

What games do you think are better on mobile vs. other ports or versions? Let us know in the comments!



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