Astronaut Island Blog

Astronaut Island is the home of Marty Allen's writing about pop culture, video games.

Five Great Mobile Games (That I Think Are Worth Your Time)

True confessions: I like to play games on my phone and iPad. I hear rumors that I'm not alone in this pursuit. As a self-proclaimed connoisseur of weird and wonderful interactive experiences, I thought it might be helpful to make use of that ubiquitous modern tool of the internet: THE LIST.

  Author's insider pic of forthcoming iPhone 14

Author's insider pic of forthcoming iPhone 14

Mine is not a definitive TOP FIVE of the “best” or “must play” or “most” anything, really. These are five little games from the last five years that I think are damned interesting. They caught my eye, I played them, and I enjoyed them. In my opinion, they are worth your time (the assumption being that you value your time in a similar light as I do). For the record, my opinion is generally wrapped in a tortilla of creativity in order to build a burrito of innovation and fun (as opposed to those burritos of mundane despair from down the street, don't eat those). What I present is to my taste, which is to say long on style and innovative ideas, particularly within the ever-changing context of this medium (your phone or tablet). Take THE LIST with a grain of in-app purchase salt. Or salsa.

1. Hidden Folks (

A black and white 'Where's Waldo' with countless loving little touches, 'Hidden Folks' is a magical little elf of a game. Artist Sylvain Tegroeg's lovingly hand-drawn environments invite exploration and relaxation. Combined with designer Adrain de Jongh's disarmingly cute mouth sounds, you will smile at every little chirp and rustle that came from this guy's mouth. The smiles start to hurt, and the result is pure play.

Uncover more about this Dutch-made wonder on Paste:

2. Reigns (

What if you took the play mechanic of Tinder's swiping and mapped it onto a sly-witted game of kingdom management? Reigns is born. But make no mistake, much like in Tinder dating, you will die. A lot. That's part of it. You swipe right for The Church in favor of the coffers? Dead. You swipe left and stumble into a river? Dead. And then you start right back up again, just like in real Tinder!

A royal review for Reigns from the good people at Pocket Tactics:

3. Ridiculous Fishing (

Wonderfully silly fishing culminates with a semi-automatic round of Duck Hunt. Every time. Except you're shooting fish. Weird, strange, brilliant fish. This game looks great, plays great, and is fun as hell. I couldn't stop casting my line until I'd caught and shot the hell out of everything in its magnificent sea. A great game in itself, and one of the best fishing game ever made, iOs or no.

There's a whale of a development tale on Polygon:

4. Downwell (

Gun boots. This is reason enough to play Downwell. Boots that are guns. You shoot them as you fall (down a well, surprisingly enough), killing monsters and collecting treasure. Downwell's minimal retro-pixel style and unforgiving gameplay is perfectly executed and tuned, and this game is the rare instance where the quality transcends the faux-nostalgia and becomes one of the best shooters ever. Gun boots. Play it.

The Verge boots up a welcome Love-craftian interpretation of Downwell:

5. Sword and Sorcery EP (

Sword and Sorcery EP is the cool kid you want to hate, but the second that you sit down with them at the lunch table, you want to give them back rubs and find out where they bought their cool cool shoes. Brimming with the indie style, Sword and Sorcery is unlike any game on any platform. Part classic Zelda, part slow-paced fever dream, S & S transports you to another world and mood. The style and soundtrack merge such that it's hard to consider one without the other. All this, and one of the finest examples of a female protagonist since Rainbow Brite. Love that Scythian.

The Verge again, with a lovely piece in light of the recent five-year anniversary of this little masterpiece (I have too much respect for it to pun):

It's easy to dismiss mobile, but if you care about games, don't. These games and many others are some of the finest examples of modern game design in any medium. I could go on, and at some point, I will. For now, consider spending your hard-earned 1-3 dollars on one or all of these strange and wonderful games designed for the super-computer that lives in your pocket. Maybe enjoy it with a burrito? Of the mind!

My name is Marty. This story originally appeared on my pop culture blog, Astronaut Island. You can follow me on Twitter via and on Facebooks via, and look at (or buy!) lots of the other stuff I make at I've had four books published (, recently made an internet cartoon about vampires and dinosaurs (, and often perform with a sock puppet/human/giant monster rock band ( All for science! Which is real!