The best mobile games of the year 2021 are here to blow you away. Mobile gaming has never had a great reputation, but as time has gone on, we’ve seen more high quality titles available on Android and iOS platforms. It has gotten to the point where games that are directly available on modern consoles can also be played on mobile devices, which just goes to show how much more powerful the best smartphones have become. But even then, it can still be hard to find something good to play on the go.
So without further ado, here are some mobile games we played this year that we think are worth trying out.
When I first learned Genshin Impact would be free to play, my excitement plateaued. I’m quite wary when a game is marketed as free, since it typically implies the inclusion of distracting microtransactions and pay-to-win mechanics. My anticipation for the game fell even lower when I learned that miHoYo, the game’s developer, published its previous titles on mobile devices.
However, Genshin Impact has reshaped what I thought a free-to-play experience could accomplish. I don’t adore the game, but it’s hard to deny that it offers dozens of hours of quality fun. And the icing on the cake is that at no point throughout my journey in the world of Teyvat have I felt ostracized by predatory microtransactions.
To say that this is shocking would be an understatement. Genshin Impact is an in-depth single-player RPG with optional co-op that could have been easily sold for $60 (assuming the microtransactions were stripped) and no one would question it. The game’s quality speaks for itself, providing me with what felt akin to an AAA experience from my 25 hours with it.
Unfortunately, it grew more difficult to make any progress as I continued playing. I decided to quit the game at this point, but I already explored the entirety of the game’s world by then. Sure, it would take a significant amount of grinding to proceed through the story, but I felt as if I experienced a whole package. Genshin Impact is plagued by overly expensive microtransactions with little return rate, but much of the game is accessible to people who refuse to pay money. If you’re in need of a mobile game that you can sink time into without feeling the need to empty your wallet to progress, Genshin Impact will keep you entertained for a decent bit.
Marvel Future Revolution
If you’re a huge fan of Marvel and need something to play on the go, you should download Marvel Future Revolution. With eight playable characters, this MMO features a combination of cutscenes and battles throughout an open-world. The game certainly plays like a mobile title, but it’s something worth jumping into if you love these franchises.
Players can jump between Starlord, Storm, Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel. Fans can also look forward to the inclusion of in-game events related to big changes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For example, a new event dungeon was added to celebrate the release of the Eternals film.
Fantasian is a recently launched Japanese role-playing game available exclusively on Apple Arcade for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac and Apple TV. It’s developed by Mistwalker, a studio that was founded by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the original creator of Final Fantasy. If you’re itching to jump into a charming JRPG experience on the go, this is a good pick.
Fantasian stands out because every environment is a hand-crafted diorama that exists in real life. Players are moving through real-world props, which gives the game a unique feeling, even though the characters and special effects are still digitally created. It also introduces a battle feature which allows players to send enemies to an alternate dimension where they must wait their turn before the player returns to that space and battles all of those creatures at once. Final Fantasy games are often criticized on how random encounters interrupt the flow and pacing of the game, and Fantasian attempts to streamline this process by allowing the player to put those battles on hold and do a number of them at once at a later point.
And as a cherry on top, Nobuo Uematsu composes all 60 of the game’s music tracks. If you aren’t aware, Uematsu is the legendary composer known for his contributions to the music of every game from the original Final Fantasy to Final Fantasy XII.
Rocket League Sideswipe
Rocket League Sideswipe is a surprisingly solid iteration of our favorite car soccer game. It’s not just a lazy port that’s nearly impossible to control, as Psyonix has optimized it to work to the strengths of mobile gaming. Players drive their cars in a two-dimensional space, and the locations of goals are embedded within walls slightly above ground.
All of the classic Rocket League controls are present, allowing players to boost and jump in combination with the hopes of pulling off incredible air maneuvers. Due to it being in a two-dimensional space, it’s nowhere near as exciting or challenging as the original game, but it’s absolutely worth trying if you’re a fan of Rocket League and want to pass time on the go.
Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier
On the topic of Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier is an unorthodox entry in the iconic franchise. It’s no surprise that Square Enix would want to jump in on the Battle Royale genre, but I could not have predicted the company would try it with Final Fantasy, let alone base it off the most iconic of those games. When I first saw the trailer, I was disgusted by what was happening to a world that has meant a lot to me for many years. I could not believe that Final Fantasy VII was Square Enix’s choice for a third person shooter battle royale.
However, The First Soldier is so obviously a cash grab, it’s hard to not be amused by its existence. Square Enix’s intentions are clear with this mobile game, even taking plenty of parts of Final Fantasy VII Remake’s world design and importing it into the game. Players start with a relatively simple character creation screen, and once they finish, they enter a tutorial and are then able to battle other players. Nothing about The First Soldier will shake up the world of battle royales, but if you’re looking to ride Chocobos into battle and use Materia to cast spells, this isn’t the worst passtime.