2014 was a banner year for Android gaming. Not only did the market grow in unprecedented leaps and bounds, but we saw more ports of classic core games, more AAA made for mobile titles and more quality microdev apps then we have in years prior. In 2014 Android went from a platform that most gamers considered exclusively for casual fodder to onbe which proiduced working renditions of Xcom, Civilization and Hearthstone, to name a few. It was year that featured made for mobile titles like Hitman: Go and Threes as well as great indie titles like Star Traders 4X and Tales of Illyria, from wonderful budding microdevs like Little Killerz and the Trese Brothers. 2014 will, in fact, probably go down as the year that Android became a bona fide gaming platform that could proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with any of its console or cellular cohorts. The following list, representing the best of this years crop, can clearly stand as evidence of said transformation, submitted here for your approval: The Best Android Games of 2014.
Best Micro Dev Game – Star Traders 4X Empires (Free in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 3.7
The evolution of mobile gaming as a credited to developers who have either taken advantage of the unique capabilities of mobile devices, or shown that experiences we typically associate with consoles and PCs are in fact possible on the platform.
Star Traders 4X Empires is a prime example of the later. With it, the Trese Brothers have shown that even an impossibly complicated genre like 4X starategy games can be pulled off on mobile. More than that, they show that if you’re willing to accept a step back in the visuals department, the trade-off is a 4X game that needs not look up to its larger platform brethren in terms of depth and possibilities.
There’s a certain satisfaction that comes when a micro developer makes a big game, on a small device. It’s the kind of experience that makes you realize that in the age of modern game design, anything is truly possible.
Best Board Game – Talisman ($3.10 in Google Play Store)
HD Score -4.3
Board games to Android are not an inherently tricky proposition. Sub in some virtual dice, get the aesthetics right and you’re usually halfway to glory.
Talisman, however, is a more interesting conversion. While it certainly captures everything involved with the classic board game of the same name, it does a truly exceptional job of converting all of the intangibles of the game into a digital format. It results in a game that even long-time fans of the original board game may end up preferring over the physical version, if for no other reason that it allows for the ability to find a game at any time.
Talisman always felt like a truly great RPG in the guise of a board game, and this Android version shows us just how much the experience belongs in this format.
Read Talisman Review
Best FPS – Modern Combat 5 ($3.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 4.0
I’m not going to try to convince you that Android FPS games are quite ready for prime time, or that Modern Combat 5 is a herald of new age for the genre. They aren’t and it isn’t.
But Modern Combat 5 is nothing short of technically amazing. It’s the kind of game that can turn passerby’s heads with awe that you are playing something that looks like this on a device. More than pretty, however, there’s actually quite a lot of content here, including one of the more realized multiplayer shooter experiences in all of android gaming.
Best Indie RPG – Tales of Illyria: Beyond the Iron Wall ($4.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 4.0
It’s no secret that we here at Hardcore Droid love Tales of Illyria: Beyond the Iron Wall. Any opportunity that allows us to sing its praises does not go unutilized.
Yet, for all of the good thing there are to say about Tales of Illyria, sadly the most applicable is underrated. For whatever reason, this Oregon Trail meets Dungeons and Dragons meets Game of Thrones hybrid still hasn’t become the runaway success it deserves to be.
So help us. Help us take back this injustice by downloading Beyond the Iron Wall, and encouraging everyone who loves video games that truly define the word epic to do the same.
Best Action-Adventure – Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath ($5.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 4.0
Let’s all take a moment to thank developer Oddworld Inhabitants for bringing this game into the modern age. Then, let’s all spend the entire runtime of this game gawking over just how well they did it.
In a way a game like Stranger’s Wrath was almost destined to be an underrated cult classic, based on its mere concept. However, this quirky, loveable and above all else mechanically excellent action/adventure title has long deserved to be experienced by gamers of all walks of life, and I do not hesitate to recommend the Android version as a prime way to do so.
Stranger’s Wrath is the type of game that you play once and spend the rest of your life trying to get other’s to experience. So long as you don’t mind some eye rolls from your friends when you bring up for the 100th time then, be sure to download it today.
Best Point and Click Adventure Game – The Walking Dead (Free in Google Play Store W/in-app episode purchases)
HD Score – 4.3
Ok, so technically The Walking Dead is not a point and click game. Of course, in that same vein, no games in Android are.
What it is, though, is an adventure game that captures everything that made the point and clicks of old truly great. It presents a journey only possible in this format, and replaces many of the traditional puzzles of adventure games of old, with new kinds of narrative and character driven puzzle, that ask you to constantly make tough decisions at a moment’s notice, without having a true idea of their consequences.
Yet what really sets The Walking Dead apart are its host of great characters and plot worthy of the source material. This is as gripping a narrative experience as gaming has ever known, and the Android version does it justice.
Best Strategy – XCOM: Enemy Within ($6.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 4.6
Like a hurricane sprung from a sunny day, XCOM: Enemy Unknown came out of nowhere to surprise the gaming world. Few anticipated the brilliance of its high stakes brand of strategy, yet found themselves there hours after booting it up out of curiosity, completely transfixed.
The Android version of its equally great expansion pulls off a similar feat. It is a conversion of the original PC game that is in clear defiance of our preconceived notions of technological limitations. You’d swear you should be playing it on a cruise to Mars.
XCOM: Enemy Within is one of the truly great games of the last decade. To be able to play it on your Android device with almost no compromises is a true privilege.
Best Indie – Monument Valley ($3.99 in Google Play)
HD Score – 4
Games, much like love, are not all about looks. That being said, a game like Monument Valley comes along and…well you’re forgiven
This is the kind of game that makes you question the need for drool protectors for your phone. As you play it mouth agap, you may be lucky enough to be able to get over the sheer awe of the visual spectacle on display for a moment to solve the game’s M.C Escher style puzzles , but sooner rather than later the game’s artistic majesty will render you useless.
Monument Valley may have more than its looks going for it, but even if the gameplay wasn’t the sublime brain-teaser it is, this game would still be worthy of this award based on sheer beauty alone.
Best RPG – Baldur’s Gate II ($9.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 4.5
What words could possibly be used to describe the greatness of Baldur’s Gate II that haven’t been used before, ad nauseam?
How about perfect? Do we dare invoke that impossible word to describe Bioware’s long used template on how to craft a truly exceptional role playing experience? Has the scope of the game, its complex character interactions and writing, as well as the quality of the mission design gone unchallenged long enough to justify such a consideration.
Well…not quite. However, the latest version of Baldur’s Gate II on Android is as close to perfect at the game itself has ever been. The amount of content presented within it is almost overwhelming, which is about the only knock one could reasonably raise against this masterpiece.
Game of the Year – Shaowrun: Dragonfall ($6.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 4.3
I did not believe that Shadowrun: Dragonfall was this year’s game of the year. In fact I had to be convinced (to the degree of being talked down from a ledge) to truly sit down and devote the proper hours to it. I was assured that at that time, I would have no qualms with awarding it all the acclaim we could muster.
And sure enough as I sit here writing this not far removed from my completion of the game, my biggest struggle is to think of negatives to assign.
Dragonfall so far outstrips the good but not great Shadowrun: Returns, that you’ll find struggling to believe it is from the same team. After they were done shoring the mechanics and having everything run as smoothly as possible, they turned back to focus on what made this series so great in the first place. The world, the characters, the plot (which is truly exceptional) and that constant feeling of surprise around every corner. While playing Dragonfall, there is a real sense that you are not prepared for what’s next, yet you are expected to be ready to handle it at a moment’s notice.
It’s certainly an ambitious game then, but it also feels very confident in its every action. It does everything you ever wanted from an RPG, and only leaves you wanting more out of greed. It’s the best thing going on Android in 2014.