Mobile games of the year – Pocket Tactics Awards 2023

Here are our picks for the best mobile games of the year 2023, from Disney's Speedstorm and Dreamlight Valley to Hello Kitty and some Mortal Kombat.

Mobile games of the year - Aerith from Final Fantasy VII against a blurred background of a church

It feels like every year the mobile game scene gets better and better, and our picks for mobile games of the year 2023 prove things aren’t slowing down yet. Somehow each member of the Pocket Tactics team has managed to choose just two games each that they loved the most this year and have explained why just for you.

If you’re more of a Nintendo fan, we’ve also chosen our picks for Switch games of the year. So head over there to see if your favorite title made the list. You may even find a new Switch game to pick up and play over the holiday period.

Now, here’s our list of the mobile games of the year 2023.

Mobile games of the year - Jing Yuan from Honkai Star Rail with a lion against a background with a train traveling through space

Honkai Star Rail – Ruby’s pick, Editor

You have no idea how badly I want to see my Honkai Star Rail playtime. I’ve been enthralled by this turn-based game more than any other title this year thanks to Hoyoverse’s frequent updates and events that keep things fresh. I can see myself continuing to play every day for the foreseeable future thanks to daily tasks that offer tasty rewards.

If you’re a fan of Genshin Impact but prefer turn-based combat, then Honkai Star Rail is definitely worth a go, it features a similarly intriguing story, unique characters, and a constant stream of new content to keep you occupied for at least a year. Our Honkai Star Rail review expands further on why this game is just so good.

Mobile games of the year - four Mortal Kombat: Onslaught characters against a blurred orange background

Mortal Kombat: Onslaught – Kayleigh’s pick, Deputy Editor

I love RPGs, enjoy a beat ‘em up, like some action and adventure, and I absolutely adore Mortal Kombat, so it’s no surprise that Mortal Kombat: Onslaught is one of my picks for mobile game of the year. The thing that intrigues me about MK:O is that you need to be a bit more strategic, as it’s a team-based collection game, so it’s vital that you select the right characters for the job. This is new for me, as I’m very much a smack random buttons and hope for the best kinda girl. Unless I’m playing as Cassie, Mileena, or Sonya, I own those three.

I’m someone who appreciates a good bit of lore, even one as convoluted MK, so I also value the chance to dive into a brand-new story in this world. This time around, Shinnok is on a course of complete destruction, and as always, it’s up to fighters from various realms to bring him down. Given the fighters you can recruit, such as Kitana, Jade, Jax, Sonya Blade, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero, you have a good chance of stopping evil once more.

Mobile games of the year - Stitch against a blurry background from Disney Dreamlight Valley

Disney Dreamlight Valley: Arcade Edition – Tilly’s pick, Guides Editor

Disney Dreamlight Valley is a lovely little game that blends nostalgia and escapism in a comfortable and cozy little package. However, with Gameloft recently deciding that Disney Dreamlight Valley free-to-play is no longer on the cards, and with a lot of the exciting, upcoming characters and new features tied to the new A Rift In Time expansion, it can be a little off-putting for people joining at this stage.

Luckily, as of December 2023, Apple Arcade subscribers now have access to the full game, along with all previous and upcoming Disney Dreamlight Valley updates, and the fresh A Rift in Time expansion through the Disney Dreamlight Valley: Arcade Edition. The only thing missing is the premium, in-game shop and battle-pass-style Star Path – and, personally, I don’t really mind that.

Now we can feel free to explore the enchanting world of Disney in the palm of our hands, farming, crafting, decorating, and making friends with all our favorite characters, without any extra cost beyond your standard Apple Arcade subscription. And if that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

Mobile games of the year - a bear in a suit against a watery background

What the Car? – Connor’s pick, Staff Writer

If you thought What the Golf? was wacky, wait until you see what What the Car? has in store. It’s got a car with legs, a car on a bike, even a car on a trampoline! It’s ridiculous but in the best possible way, providing hours of varied gameplay that’s sure to put a smile on your face. Better still, with a collection of community-created levels, you can keep playing to your heart’s content even after you’ve raced past the finish line on all the main game has to offer.

The amount of time I’ve spent in What the Car? alone in 2023 easily justifies my Apple Arcade subscription, and even just writing this entry makes me want to jump back on and go for a spin at the next given opportunity. You can keep your Asphalts, Forzas, and Gran Turismos. I’ll be racing through a cartoon world with a car on giraffe legs, thank you very much.

Mobile games of the year - Big Challenges the crocodile against a background with Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty Island Adventure – Daz’s pick, Staff Writer

Even if you’re unaware of the wider Sanrio cast of characters, everyone and their mum has heard of Hello Kitty. She’s starred in her fair share of videogames throughout the years, but Hello Kitty Island Adventure is a standout title. This Apple Arcade exclusive is part RPG and part life sim, letting you turn yourself into a Sanrio mascot and join the crew in restoring a forgotten island resort to its former glory.

The game was already amazing on release as you can see from my Hello Kitty Island Adventure review but Sunblink and Sanrio have worked really hard to provide regular, exciting content updates and fixes to continue building the community around the game and introducing even more gamers to the adorable world of Hello Kitty. As a Sanrio fan, it’s so cool to see lesser-known mascots making their way into the lineup, especially the snappy little ‘gator, Big Challenges.

Mobile games of the year - a rainbow with eyes against a blurry background

Gubbins – Holly’s pick, Staff Writer

Any game backed by John Green and the developer of Unpacking is bound to be a good one, and Studio Folly’s zany word game Gubbins is precisely that. By placing letters on an empty panel reminiscent of a Scrabble board, you make words. Any words. But, there are also the cartoony Gubbins that can severely help or hinder your progress by moving your letters or blocking spaces, providing just enough of a challenge to keep you coming back for more, and boy, did I.

Gubbins has daily challenges that I eat up with my breakfast, and find myself constantly playing it in my downtime to try and beat my score by making wild words out of a randomized selection of letters. I highly recommend it if you, too, are a fan of word games.

Mobile games of the year - Aerith from Final Fantasy VII against a blurred background of a church

Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis – Ruby’s pick

This may make me sound a little biased, but I love Final Fantasy VII more than anything on this earth. Okay, maybe I sound more than a little biased, but I think Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis is a wonderful, palatable entry to the compilation for those of you who are yet to try the OG 7, or people who want to have a quick refresher before picking up Rebirth in February.

Since I published my Final Fantasy Ever Crisis review, the game has featured numerous events including a Final Fantasy 9 collaboration and a wintery holiday adventure with special outfits and weapons for you to collect. I recommend you pick the game up ASAP and play through the main story slowly while they continue to release new chapters.

Mobile games of the year - Rouge the bat against a blurred background with a crab on it

Sonic Dream Team – Kayleigh’s pick

Okay, so I didn’t know what to expect when I first heard about Sonic Dream Team. I knew it was a new game with a new story, but beyond that, I didn’t have much to go on. Well, it turns out that’s a good thing, as I got to experience the game in all its glory without any misconceptions. As ever, Eggman is up to no good once more, and it’s up to Sonic and pals to put a stop to it.

Yes, pals. In Sonic Dream Team not only do you get to play as the titular character, but you also get to play as Tails, Knuckles, Rouge, Creme, and Amy. While I love Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails, I have to say it’s a treat to play as the other three, especially Rouge. Each character has different abilities that can help you navigate the various dream worlds. Every level is new to this game, no more rehashing Green Hills. Well, in this game at least, Sonic is bound to return to Green Hills in another game.

Mobile games of the year - a quaint house against a blurry background of a rural village

Settlement Survival – Tilly’s pick

There’s something very cathartic about city builders, and Settlement Survival certainly scratches that unusual brain itch that sits in the back of my mind. After seeing great success on Steam back in late 2022, Gleamer Studio’s unique blend of survival and city builder set its sights on a mobile release in early 2023, and I was immediately hooked. In fact, I hadn’t played the PC version before, but after spending hours on the mobile port, I bought it on Steam, too.

The mobile version strives to offer all the fun of the full version at a fraction of the cost, and it certainly delivers. While some of the features and finer details are stripped back, it still manages to translate very well to the small screen, allowing you to build your very own medieval-style settlement, develop your own society and trade links, send your little friends out on conquests, and sit back and watch while your world continues to prosper (… or die. There’s a lot of dying at first). Curious? Head over to our Settlement Survival mobile review to find out more.

Mobile games of the year - a quirky cube against a blurred green and blue background

Rytmos – Connor’s pick

You might not have heard of this little mobile marvel, but my time playing Rytmos gave me some of my most engaging gaming moments of the year. Rytmos is half puzzle game, half world music museum, taking you on a trip through a sonic universe full of sounds inspired by German krautrock, Ethiopian jazz, Zimbabwean Mbira music, and much more. Simply put your headphones in, open Rytmos up, and you’re transported away from the banality of everyday life with engrossing puzzles and eclectic melodies.

As I made clear in my 9/10 Rytmos review, not only does this game sound fantastic, but it looks pretty spectacular, too. Each of the puzzles takes you to a gorgeous new planet, all with their own puzzle game gimmicks, including some late-game challenges that really get the brain ticking. While it might not be a free-to-play mobile experience, if you ask me, Rytmos is certainly worth the small admission fee to find a glorious galaxy of audible awesomeness.

Mobile games of the year - Hatsune Miku against a vibrant orange background

Project Sekai – Daz’s pick

While it’s true that Project Sekai isn’t a new mobile game, I would be lying if I didn’t say it was the most impactful mobile game for me personally. This Vocaloid rhythm-game-slash-visual-novel from Sega and Colorful Palette has consumed my life since its initial global release in December 2021. As we approach the second anniversary, I want to sing its praises.

Not only is Project Sekai a fun and complex rhythm game with plenty of solo and co-op game modes, but it also contains some of the most heartfelt visual novel stories I’ve ever read, centered on the teenage members of five unique musical groups. You don’t need to be a Vocaloid fan to connect with the Project Sekai characters – Miku and her pals are simply supporting characters, acting as mirrors reflecting the protagonists’ strengths and weaknesses back at them. I’ve also made tons of friends through this game, which I’m truly grateful for.

Mobile games of the year - the Monopoly Man flying into a blurry image on a red parachute

Monopoly Go – Holly’s pick

Monopoly Go took the mobile gaming world by storm with its Coin Master-like gameplay, set on the classic game board. Roll the dice, move around the Monopoly board, and earn loads of cash – it’s a very gripping gameplay loop and had me checking back every few hours to use up all my dice.

Constant events and collect-a-thons are going on in Monopoly Go which means you’re always working towards something, and getting rewarded with stacks of cash, boosts, and money. You can also smash down fellow players’ hard-built boards, which as much as it seems rude, is satisfying. Hey – they’ll come after yours, too! Whatever the mustachioed Monopoly man put into this game, it works, because you will get hooked into this game.

Did your favorite game make the list? If not, it may be on our list of the best mobile games or best mobile RPGs.