The Best GPS & Location-based Games on Mobile12 Oct 2019 2
Pokemon Go was a sensation when it first launched, and for many people it may have been their first brush with the idea that the GPS locator in your phone could be used for gaming. But Pokemon Go is not the only location-based augmented reality game out there - Niantic have been operating in this space well before they got the license, and other similar games have cropped up as well that offer differing and deeper experiences.
Here are several other strategy, puzzle and RPG games that will challenge your mind and the soles of your shoes.
Upcoming Games of Note
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Platforms: iOS & Android
Niantic is continuing to try and dominate the AR/GPS space with a new Pokemon GO style game themed on the Harry Potter universe. The basic gameplay loop is the same, albeit the presentation is a bit more awkward and the story is a bit thin. Some kind of 'calamity' has caused iconic people, creatures and items from across the Harry Potter world to appear in the 'present', and it you're job to hunt down this 'foundable' fragments and attempt to 'catch' them to complete a registry. There are some added bells and whistles - you can brew potions, and there's Gym-like locations where you go and battle creatures and death eaters.
So far, it doesn't look like Wizard's Unite has taken off in the same way Pokemon GO did, but it's still proven a popular game amongst fans. If we're being honest, the premise has not been adapted as well for the style of game Niantic makes as it could have been, but other than some minutia that could do with tweaking if you've been waiting for a half-decent Harry Potter game then this is definitely the best one to come a long in a while. If you need help getting started we've got a great beginner's guide, a general tips guide, as well as an in-depth analysis to the various locations in the game and what they do.
If you like Pokemon Go, you should try Niantic's first GPS game Ingress, which has recently been rebooted as Ingress Prime. In what is a common theme for augmented reality games, there is a secret world hidden behind our everyday lives, with Exotic Matter spewing into our reality at various hotspots. In a clever bit of post hoc justification, these hotspots show up at cultural markers in major population centres because humans are naturally attracted to them.
Also attracted are two rivals conspiracies that will recruit you to use your phone as a scanner to control fields of influence. The old guard is not happy with the new changes to Ingress, but for a brand new player, they may be welcome. The interface is smoother and a bit flashier (at the cost of data usage). Plus, it's about to be an anime on Netflix!
Another recent GPS MMO is Maguss, which is definitely not trying to make the player feel like they are in the world of Harry Potter. This is a very polished RPG with unique combat and potion-brewing systems. You pick spells like cards and have a limited number of slots for each round, which happen in a timed-turn-based fashion. Then, you use your finger to draw the spells you want to cast.
The devs are apparently working on a magic wand peripheral for when you want to stop just playing games and really go LARPing. Maguss is also unique in having real PvP combat. However, it is definitely not a Harry Potter game. We cannot stress this enough. Maguss may be about a secret world of magic, and have four rival schools, and magic wands, but it is not a way to live out your Hogwarts fantasies in the real world ... at least until Niantic's third game comes out.
A new kid on the block is Orna, which basically takes your classic SNES JRPG gameplay and plops it into a map of your actual neighborhood. It's Dragon Warrior, but instead of wearing out your thumbs stomping around looking for random encounters you'll wear out your actual feet. There's also some multiplayer aspects where characters can grow strong enough to become Duke of their area and be challenged by other players, and the ability to form parties to cooperate.
This one is only available on Android for now, but hopefully it will gain enough attention to make the jump to iOS. IAPs get you class specializations for more options but aren't necessary to play the game.
Developer: Robot Chicken Interactive
A much stronger story is found in this AR game, which puts you in the shoes of a secret agent tasked with hacking suspicious citizens for the state by solving puzzles around town, some left by other players. CodeRunner really goes all-in on the augmented reality through its awesome audio, asking you to plug in headphones to play and giving you immersive spy 'dialogue' like instructions to keep your head down and don't look behind you.
The game demands that you move around a lot as well, which is great if you're trying to exercise more. It hasn't updated in a while, and you won't find many other players, but it’s a lot of fun while it lasts. Best of all, CodeRunner is a premium app, with no questionable IAP nonsense.
This Android game puts you in the middle of a war of tycoons. The real-world map gives you various resources to exploit, but after that advancing in the game is mostly up to you. After building mines, you can refine the raw materials with factories and sell them on a standard or black market. Plus lots of other economic trickery, including attacking the facilities of nearby players.
That said, you don't need too many people playing in your area thanks to the global trading layer that keeps things interesting. If you're interested in tycooning and walking, give Resources a shot. It's free to play, and the IAP are more for early boosts or developer tips than for late-game domination.
Developer: Erik Melkersson
Speaking of domination, this is another one-man-developed location-based game on Android. Here, you've got a great ant-based theme with three teams to ally yourself with. Build up your anthills anywhere you like, and they'll expand on their own, gradually overrunning your whole town. Not only this, but the game is truly free-to-play, with IAP only for donations to the developer!
Platforms: iOS & Android
First of all, why not go back in time to the very first GPS game? Geocaching goes back to the age when GPS units were expensive contraptions primarily of use to forest rangers, not something we forget is built into our phones and constantly monitoring us like SKYNET. It's a straightforward game of going to a specific GPS location and finding a hidden package ... at first.
Each geocache is hidden by another player, and some of them like to set up puzzles first. Unlike most GPS games, geocaching is a curated tour of your surroundings. The standard app is Geocaching, based on geocaching.com. The game has a freemium model where a lot of caches are free to find, but some you'll need a subscription for. More so than other games on this list, though, Geocaching is the way to really explore your surroundings. It must be noted that there are plenty of different apps that plug into the geocache database, however
- Hacker World War (Android-only)
Do you have a favourite GPS/Location-based game or experience? Let us know in the comments!