Can you believe that about 20 years ago, people were playing black and white games on their chunky Nokia mobile phones that couldn’t fit in their pockets? I can still feel the anxiety playing Snake brought on when the tail grew longer and longer while trying desperately not to crash into a wall or collapse into myself. It was the same anxiety that presented itself when I accidentally hit the ‘Browser’ button on my phone and thought I (my parents) would be charged for using 0.01 seconds of data.
What a time to be alive!
If only we could have seen into the future of mobile games with the likes of The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land, that has insane graphics that could easily be mistaken for a Playstation or XBOX game.
Let’s start at the very beginning and work our way through the years of progress. It really is pretty wild to see how far we’ve come!
1994: Snake on the Hagenuk MT-2000
Let’s take a quick minute to marvel over the absolute hilariousness of this ancient piece of technology. I can just imagine it being released and people going “Wow! This is the future!”.
The very first mobile game was on this fossil of a device. People were absolutely addicted to Snake, which is why it came automatically downloaded to many mobile devices for many years to follow after this. What’s so captivating about controlling a LINE in circles, chasing dots? It’s hard to say but that game was incredibly addictive and beating your friend’s high score won you some serious bragging rights.
Nostalgia at its finest! Who in the world HASN’T played a game of Tetris? Originating in 1984, it was made popular in arcades and people who were lucky enough to own computers, who would play from the comfort of their home.
Before the iPhone, we were playing Tetris on our iPods, using the click wheel to navigate the tiny pieces. Yes, it was a solid 12 years ago, but I can still vividly remember that satisfying clicking noise the wheel made while I obsessively stacked the puzzle pieces into neat little piles.
Now there are hundreds of apps in various stores that offer different versions and themes of Tetris.
2009: Angry Birds + Words With Friends
2009 seemed to be the year of the iPhone. Yes, it was technically released in 2007 but it took a couple of years before it truly dominated (in North America, at least).
Everyone seemed to jump on that bandwagon at the same time and became instantly hooked on the concept of playing games online against their friends on their mobile devices.
It was a huge year for mobile games, with two of the world’s most recognized games being released. Angry Birds was even made into a movie, with merch galore and people even dressing up as characters for Halloween!
Although Words With Friends isn’t officially associated with Scrabble, the idea is the same. People all over seemed to be challenging their friends to this addictive and competitive mobile game, showing off their language skills.
Being a naturally competitive person (thanks, sports!) with a knack for English vocab, Words With Friends quickly become my obsession that I dragged friends and family into until they inevitably became annoyed with my constant winning.
(Okay, okay, I would OCCASIONALLY let them win sometimes, too.) For me, this word game addiction was quickly replaced by another once Scattergories was released.
2010: Plants Vs Zombies
Plants Vs Zombies is a tower defense mobile game developed and originally published by PopCap Games for Microsoft Windows and OS X. The player uses a variety of plants to block zombies from coming into their home and eating their brains; as zombies do.
Eventually, in 2013, Plants Vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time, was released and also saw some pretty huge success, winning Apple’s 2013 iPhone game of the year.
2011: Temple Run
This automatic runner game, made by Imangi, was the first of its kind on mobile and blew up on iOs in 2011. A year later, after celebrating huge success, it became available for download on Android.
I personally don’t breathe while playing this game so can’t make it very far without having to smash into something just so I can survive in REAL life. Otherwise, it’s a fantastic and addictive mobile game.
2012: Clash of Clans + Candy Crush Saga
Everyone was either clashing or crushing in 2012. Supercell launched Clash of Clans, a freemium mobile strategy game, for iOS in 2012 and for Android in 2013. The player is the chief of a village and builds their own town using the resources gained from attacking other players through the game’s fighting features. It has tested patience, friendships, and relationships for the past 5 years and has shown no sign of slowing down.
Candy Crush Saga is its own beast but equally massive. This match three game is based on swapping two adjacent candies among several on the gameboard as to make a row or column of at least 3 matching-colored candies… And no, Aunt Shirley will NEVER stop inviting you to play on Facebook.
2013: Plants Vs Zombies 2 + Cut The Rope 2
2013 was the year of the sequels! After learning what people enjoy playing and the success that came from it, both Plants Vs Zombies and Cut The Rope took advantage of an opportunity and expanded their games.
Cut The Rope (the first one) came out in 2010 and after that came Cut the Rope: Experiments (2011), Cut the Rope: Time Travel (2013), Cut the Rope 2 (2013) and Cut the Rope: Magic (2015). These games are physics based puzzles developed by the Russian company ZeptoLab and since 2015 have been downloaded more than 600 million times.
That’s a lot of rope cutting, friends!
2014: Flappy Bird
Oh look, another anxiety ridden game that I got hooked to until I almost threw my phone across the room. Obviously, a classic.
Flappy Bird was developed by a Vietnamese video game artist/programmer, Dong Nguyen, under his game development company called dotGEARS. The side scroller mobile game allows the player to control a bird flying in between columns of green pipes without hitting them.
Although the game was released in May 2013, it took off in early 2014, where it quickly became the most downloaded free game in the iOS App Store.
2015: Her Story
There’s nothing quite like this captivating, murder mystery game. The player gets to sit in the role of detective and try to solve the investigation behind the murder of a British woman’s husband.
This game stole hours (alright, days) away from millions of people with it’s captivating and addictive storyline.
Her Story won a slew of mobile game awards, including Game of the Year from Polygon, Game of the Month from Rock, Paper, Shotgun and GameSpot, and the Breakthrough Award at the 33rd Golden Joystick Awards.
2016: Pokemon Go
Ohh, Pokemon Go! Ruining social lives and causing people to walk into trees and manholes all over the world. It really was a magical few months for a while, there.
If you somehow missed the Pokemon Go phenomenon (HOW?!), let me explain it to you. It’s a free-to-play location based mobile game, where the player’s mobile device’s GPS allows the ability to locate, catch, train and battle virtual creatures, which appear on the player’s screen as if they’re actually there in real life. Being a 90’s kid myself, I’m guilty of spending countless hours (and gas money!) obsessing over and tracking down Pokemon.
Despite the mixed reviews Pokemon Go received, having many glitches to work through after the launch, it quickly became a global phenomenon with more than 500 million downloads in the first year. It did, however, receive some negative press after problems with trespassing, invasion of privacy and multiple car accidents.
Remember to always play safely and responsibly!
2017: Super Mario Run
Who else was embarrassingly giddy when the news of this was released? I remember counting down the days until it was available for download then, I’ll say it, being a little bummed out by the final product. This is just a personal opinion and one that clearly wasn’t shared by many as the reviews for the game are positive, for the most part.
Super Mario Run is a side-scrolling, endless runner video game developed and published by Nintendo for iOS and Android devices that was released in December, 2016 (so, let’s call it 2017 for all intents and purposes).
During its first week of release, it had 50 million downloads, making it the fastest-growing app in iOS history. By the end of 2017, it had 200 million downloads. In. Sane.
So, what’s going to be next? It seems like everyone’s predicting a huge jump in the AR world of games since the release of the iPhone X.
Niantic, the company that made Pokemon Go, revealed that they will be launching a Harry Potter AR game in 2018, which has fans of the franchise buzzing with anticipation.
But, that will be very similar to Pokemon Go, which could mean it will become hugely successful then just fade out until the next trend.
What’s it going to be?