In the realm of digital entertainment, mobile gaming has emerged as a colossal titan, bringing immersive experiences to the fingertips of billions worldwide. With the rise of smartphones and app ecosystems, a myriad of games have vied for the attention of users. However, only a select few have etched their names into the annals of gaming history. These titles, with their innovative mechanics, compelling narratives, and cultural impact, have not only set industry benchmarks but have also reshaped the way we perceive and interact with games on our devices. Join us as we journey through the 10 most legendary mobile games that have defined a generation.
Angry Birds is practically a household name and yet if I explained the game on paper (catapulting birds like weapons + destroying forts = fun), it may not sound ingenious nor very exciting. But many of you know that the game experience is very different; it is super easy to get addicted. Here are a few reasons:
- It is simple and because it is simple, players feel accomplished and empowered early on- Core Drive 2 (Development & Accomplishment).
- The game develops in a way that allows the players to feel a clear sense of progress which further ingrains their sense of achievement.
- Players can compete with their friends. There is a strong drive to beat the other person and score higher (even if they are your girlfriend or boyfriend)- Core Drive 5 (Social Influence & Relatedness).
Temple Run is an adventure game. Players interact as an explorer character who steals an ancient mask and must escape the wrath of demon monkeys. The touchscreen controls allow the explorer to run as fast as possible, trying to avoid dangerous traps and obstacles such as trees and roots- Core Drive 8 (Loss & Avoidance). Players can move left or right. They can also duck, turn, or jump.
There is now a Temple Run 2 which is based on the movie, Brave. The objective is to use archery to hit a target and collect coins. By the fourth day of its release, it had already been downloaded 20 million times!
Jetpack Joyride, developed by Halfbrick Studios, is an action-packed side-scrolling endless runner game that has captivated millions with its engaging gameplay mechanics. Players take control of Barry, a protagonist who breaks into a laboratory to commandeer experimental jetpacks. The simple touch mechanism — press to ascend and release to descend — complements the game’s fast-paced nature, as players dodge obstacles, evade missiles, and collect coins. Power-ups and vehicle upgrades add further depth, ensuring every run feels unique.
From a gamification design perspective, Jetpack Joyride incorporates several elements that hook players and promote continuous engagement. The game employs a series of missions and achievements, motivating players to pursue specific objectives each time they play. This taps into the Octalysis Framework’s Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment, giving players a sense of progression and achievement. Furthermore, the collection of coins and the in-game store where players can purchase aesthetic upgrades and power-ups play into Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession. The result is a game that, beyond its core mechanics, skillfully utilizes gamification principles to keep players returning for one more ride.
Genshin Impact, developed by the Chinese company miHoYo, exploded onto the global gaming scene in 2020 and quickly became one of the highest-grossing mobile games. With its breathtaking open-world design reminiscent of high-end console titles, intricate storylines, and a diverse cast of characters, it offers a level of depth rarely seen in mobile RPGs. But where Genshin Impact truly shines in terms of revenue generation is its “gatcha” system — a loot box-style mechanic where players can spend in-game currency (which can be bought with real money) to obtain random characters and weapons.
The allure of rare characters and powerful items, combined with regular updates and events, entices players to invest continuously. This, coupled with the game’s high-quality production values, has made it a favorite among both casual gamers and hardcore enthusiasts.
From a gamification perspective, Genshin Impact leverages the Octalysis Framework’s Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback. Players are encouraged to experiment with different character combinations and strategies, offering a rich, feedback-oriented gameplay experience. Additionally, the anticipation of acquiring a coveted character or weapon taps into Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity, keeping players engaged and willing to invest. The game’s success is a testament to the effective intertwining of engaging gameplay, captivating narrative, and well-implemented monetization strategies.
Pokémon GO, launched in 2016 by Niantic, is a groundbreaking augmented reality (AR) game that became an instant worldwide sensation. Merging the physical and digital realms, it encouraged players to venture into the outside world to catch virtual Pokémon that appeared in real-life locations. Not only did it rejuvenate the Pokémon franchise for a new generation, but it also introduced a novel way of gaming that prioritized physical activity and social interactions.
Revenue-wise, Pokémon GO adopts a freemium model, enticing players to make in-game purchases for items that enhance gameplay or expedite progress. Items like Poké Balls, Lures, Incubators, and Raid Passes can be bought, and special events or the introduction of new Pokémon often motivate players to invest more. The game also collaborates with local businesses, turning them into PokéStops or Gyms, thereby generating additional revenue streams.
From a gamification standpoint, Pokémon GO taps into several elements of the Octalysis Framework. Core Drive 7: Unpredictability & Curiosity are evident in the random appearances of Pokémon, never letting players know what they might encounter next. The game also leverages Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness by promoting team-based gym battles, events, and the excitement of collective experiences, such as Community Days. The continuous introduction of new features, events, and Pokémon ensures the game remains fresh and engaging, demonstrating how AR, nostalgia, and well-executed gamification mechanics can lead to a worldwide phenomenon. Core Drive 2: Development of Accomplishment for Collection Set (GT #16). Gotta Catch Em All!
Clash of Clans, developed by Supercell, is a strategy-based mobile game that merges base-building, resource management, and player-versus-player combat into a cohesive and addictive experience. Players build and upgrade their village, amassing an army of varied units to defend their base from other players while also launching their raids to plunder resources. The game’s social aspects, including joining clans and participating in large-scale Clan Wars, add depth to the game, fostering cooperation and competition in equal measure.
At the heart of Clash of Clans is a web of gamification principles that underpin its widespread appeal. It effectively leverages the Octalysis Framework’s Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment, with players constantly striving to upgrade their bases, improve their armies, and climb the competitive ranks. The game taps into Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession, as players feel a personal attachment to their village and its defenses. Moreover, the social dynamics and collaborative clan efforts resonate with Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness, reinforcing bonds between players and fostering a sense of belonging within clans. Clan Wars, specifically, act as events that rally members together, creating shared moments of victory or lessons from defeat. By intertwining strategy, progression, and social interaction, Clash of Clans stands as a hallmark of engaging mobile game design.
Candy Crush Saga, developed by King, is a colorful and captivating match-three puzzle game that has become synonymous with mobile gaming success. Players progress through a multitude of levels, each with its layout and objective, by swapping adjacent candies to form chains of three or more of the same type. This seemingly simple mechanic is enhanced by special candies, combinations, and challenging level conditions, creating a game that’s easy to pick up but hard to master. Its bite-sized levels make it perfect for quick gaming sessions, yet its increasing difficulty and varied objectives have kept players coming back for more, level after level.
Incorporating gamification elements, Candy Crush Saga excels at keeping its players continuously engaged. One of its most potent mechanics ties into the Octalysis Framework’s Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment. Every cleared level offers a sense of progression, with star ratings and scores fostering a competitive spirit. The game also employs Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience, with its life system limiting the number of tries in quick succession and encouraging players to either wait or make in-app purchases. Another layer of engagement is added through its social features, tapping into Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness. Players can see their friends’ progress, compete for higher scores, and assist each other with lives and power-ups. All these elements combine to create a gameplay experience that’s both rewarding and irresistibly enticing.
Among Us, developed by InnerSloth, is a multiplayer game that skyrockets into popularity due to its unique blend of social interaction, deception, and teamwork. Set on a spaceship, players are assigned roles as either Crewmates or Impostors. While Crewmates focus on completing tasks around the ship, Impostors work covertly to sabotage their efforts and eliminate them without getting caught. Players must then discuss, debate, and vote on whom they suspect as the Impostor(s) based on their observations and conversations. The game ends either when all tasks are completed, all Impostors are ejected, or the Impostors outnumber the Crewmates.
Gamification principles are deeply woven into Among Us, driving engagement and repeated play. The game taps into the Octalysis Framework’s Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness as players rely on communication, persuasion, and trust to succeed, whether they’re proving their innocence as a Crewmate or sowing doubt as an Impostor. There’s also a strong element of Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience, especially when players are eager to play their preferred role or aim for a certain outcome in the game. The unpredictable nature of each session, combined with the dynamics of player interactions, ensures that no two games are alike, invoking Core Drive 7: Curiosity & Unpredictability. Ultimately, the game’s blend of strategy, social interaction, and suspense make it a standout in modern multiplayer gaming.
In this Disney game, there is a cartoon alligator (Swampy) who lives underground in the sewer and needs to take a bath. However, when he turns on the faucet, there is no water, since another alligator (Cranky) disrupted the supply.
The player must dig tunnels through the dirt above to allow water to reach the alligator’s tub. Sometimes pipes can be used to route the water more effectively.
Occasionally algae may absorb the water that the player is trying to direct. Sometimes there is slime or oozthatch may reach Swampy’s tub preventing him from having his bath (wouldn’t that be terrible if you woke up one morning and had to do what Swampy does?) However, toxins can be used as a good thing to kill unwanted algae.
Fortnite, developed by Epic Games, stands as one of the most influential and groundbreaking games of its era. Launched in 2017, it quickly rose to dominate the gaming landscape with its vibrant graphics, dynamic gameplay, and innovative approach to the battle royale genre. While the battle royale mode, where 100 players compete to be the last person or team standing, is the most well-known, Fortnite initially started with a “Save the World” mode where players collaborated to fend off zombie-like creatures.
One of the standout features of Fortnite is its ever-evolving game world. Every few months, Epic Games rolls out a new “season” that often introduces significant changes to the game’s map, mechanics, and narrative. These regular updates keep the player base engaged, always offering fresh content and experiences.
Gamification principles in Fortnite are abundant. The game taps into the Octalysis Framework’s Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment with its tiered Battle Pass system. As players complete in-game challenges and earn experience, they unlock a series of rewards, including new skins, emotes, and other cosmetic items. This sense of progression and achievement keeps players returning match after match. Additionally, Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness is at play with team modes, cooperative challenges, and the strong community culture fostered by shared in-game events and experiences.
Moreover, Fortnite has transcended mere gameplay. It has hosted virtual concerts, featuring artists like Travis Scott and Marshmello, and has even showcased exclusive film trailers, positioning itself as a virtual space for shared cultural experiences. The blend of engaging gameplay, regular updates, and boundary-pushing events makes Fortnite much more than just a game – it’s a cultural phenomenon.
10 Most Legendary Mobile Games
As we reflect on these iconic mobile games, it’s evident that they’ve done more than merely entertain; they’ve revolutionized the gaming industry, setting standards and paving the way for future innovations. Their influence goes beyond high download numbers or impressive revenue figures. These legendary titles have created communities, sparked global trends, and demonstrated the immense potential of mobile platforms. As technology continues to evolve, it’s exciting to anticipate what the next wave of legendary mobile games will bring, but one thing is certain: the legacy of these games will remain etched in the memories of players for years to come.
Any other games you think should be up on this legendary list?
This blog post was updated in 2023 by Howie Ju
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