Whether your staring at an incomprehensibly large pile of loot or contemplating a solitary lump of coal, the aftermath of the holidays can be tough. We got you covered. Hardcore Droid contributor, John Markley has put together a list of formidable hardcore Android games that won’t dent your post-holiday budget and bring you a little joy now that its season is on the way out.
Great Big War Game
Sequel to the popular and widely acclaimed Great Little War Game, Great Big War Game carries on in the style of its predecessor’s cartoony graphics, comical style, and surprisingly intricate 3D turn-based military strategy. It has 50 single-player campaign missions, skirmish mode, and online multiplayer. As an added benefit, the multiplayer is cross-platform compatible, finally giving any militant Android device fans you know a chance to crush those haughty iPhone owners.
Venerable developer SNK Playmore has been bringing some of their classic games—originally made for arcades and their long-discontinued Neo Geo home console—to the Android. While these games aren’t as technically demanding as modern games, their symbolic importance is tremendous. The Neo Geo was notorious in its time for both the cost and sheer physical size of its games, which typically retailed for $200 new and came in cartridges large enough to double as a spare coffee table if you had a lot of guests over. Putting a perfect port of one into a device that fits in a pocket and selling it for $3 is the sort of feat my younger self would’ve viewed with the same superstitious wonder as a caveman who’d suddenly been exposed to the Jumbotron at Cowboys Stadium.
You can bring that sense of primitive slack-jawed awe to the seasoned gamer with Blazing Star, the mobile version of the side-scrolling outer space shoot-’em-up originally released in 1998. It’s a perfect port of the original with intense action, beautiful sprite-based graphics, and a two-player simultaneous mode using the device’s Bluetooth connection.
Old-school Japanese RPGs are not the force they once were in gaming, but they haven’t disappeared.
Grinsia is very old-school indeed, with a graphical style that looks like a souped-up version of something you might have played on the Nintendo or Super Nintendo and gameplay reminiscent of the early Final Fantasy games. A fine choice for someone who misses this style of game.
By far the most adorable saga of interstellar warfare available for Android, Kairobotica is a management sim mixed with turn-based combat, putting you in command of an interstellar spaceship as it travels from world to world battling the forces of evil with an army of robots. You manage and expand facilities on your ship to build robots, earn income, and upgrade your abilities until you reach a planet in need of your aid, at which point it’s time to do battle with your horde of square-headed mechanical warriors. Kairosoft has built up quite a strong reputation for mobile games in this genre, so if someone on your list is a fan of games like this it’s a pretty solid bet.
Let’s take a break from the bellicosity and bloodshed so common in gaming with something different. Draw Something is an online multiplayer game where one player is given a word and has to represent it visually with as much fidelity as his or her touchscreen-drawing skills will allow. Meanwhile, the other player is given a list of letters that might—or might not—be part of the word and must decipher the first player’s drawing to figure out the answer. You can play with friends you invite online or in random pair-ups with owners of the game around the world, and it supports cross-platform play with Apple devices.
One word of warning: Some people using devices with Android 4.1 or 4.2 have reported problems with the game after receiving updates for their operating system early in December. Hopefully this problem will be corrected before long, but bear it in mind if you’re considering this as a gift for someone with such a device.
Platformer hero and Sega mascot Sonic the Hedgehog has long been one of gaming’s most iconic characters, so it’s ironic that one of his best games, released near the height of his popularity, is also one of his least played. That’s because it had the bad luck to be released on the Sega CD, the ill-fated CD-ROM add-on for the Sega Genesis that was released in the early 90s and probably sank like a stone under the weight of dozens of crappy full motion video-based products that were barely interactive enough to qualify as games.
There were high points, however, and Sonic CD was one of them, building on the high-speed platforming action of its predecessors and adding improved visuals, music, and sound. It also introduced a time-traveling gameplay mechanic that allows the player to shift between past, present, and future versions of each stage and even affect conditions in the future through actions taken in the past. This mobile version also features widescreen mode and the ability to choose between the American or Japanese soundtrack of the original. This one is a fine choice for fans of classic platforming.
The Bard’s Tale
An impressively faithful mobile adaptation of the 2004 action RPG with all the action, humor, and utter lack of fidelity to its original 1985 RPG predecessor, The Bard’s Tale. There are hours of action and numerous quests, nicely fluid controls for a mobile game, a choice between standard or enhanced high-definition graphics, and the three original Bard’s Tale games included as a bonus feature in all their 1980s home computer glory.
As a side note, it also features narration by the late and very much missed Tony Jay, who you almost certainly know by voice if not by name. He stole the show with his mighty baritone in countless video games and animation roles—the Elder God in the Legacy of Kain series, Chairface Chippendale in The Tick, Megabyte in ReBoot” Judge Frollo (both spoken and singing voices) in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and many others. This was his final video game role before he passed away in 2006 and he’s a man worth hearing again.
Epic Astro Story
This is another game in the narrow-sounding, but surprisingly fecund sub-subgenre of Kairosoft management simulation/city-building games set in outer space. In Epic Astro Story, you’re charged with the task of building a colony on an alien world. You plan out your settlement’s layout, build new structures to meet the needs of your growing population, and send out intrepid teams of explorers to scout your mysterious surroundings for future expansion. It’s one of the company’s most acclaimed games and fills a niche that has been pretty much empty for far too long.
Reckless Racing 2
The combination of high-speed motor vehicles and mobile electronic devices seldom ends well, but it doesn’t have to be that way. This overhead-view racing game is a good choice if you know somebody who’s a fan of the genre. It’s got fast action, lots of customizable cars to choose from, five different customizable control setups, and some astonishing graphics for a mobile game. It also has an online multiplayer function.
Tank Hero: Laser Wars
I don’t want to live in a world where a game with a title like Tank Hero: Laser Wars isn’t any good and, fortunately, I don’t have to. This is a puzzle/action game where each stage has your tank locked in a single-screen chamber with various enemies and it’s up to you to figure out how to use your weapons and the unique features of each stage to survive. There are 60 stages to battle through, and if you have a tablet you can play a two-player deathmatch with a friend in split-screen mode. It’s also quite nice to look at, especially for a game that only requires Android 2.1 or better to play.