This past year has been excellent for the mobile games industry. In all directions, the sector seems to be expanding, catering to over 2 billion users worldwide and generating well over $100 billion this year alone.

But what makes a mobile game particularly great? And what trends can we see from the best games published this year? In no particular order, we take a look at what we think are the best games of 2018 that any developer can take inspiration from.

1. Alto’s Odyssey

  • Developer: Snowman (dubbed Team Alto)
  • Launch date: 21st February 2018 iOS, 25th July 2018 Android
  • Price: $0.99
  • Available on: iOS, Android
  • Awards won: Apple Design Award for Outstanding Design and Innovation

Alto’s Odyssey is the follow-up title to the critically acclaimed Alto’s Adventure, an endless runner snowboard game developed by Snowman. If you’re not familiar with this, players need to tap the screen to jump and perform tricks, beat competitive scores and earn upgrades.

This game is definitely not one to miss if you’re interested in making titles within this genre – with seamless gameplay and beautiful designs, you’ll have plenty of inspiration to take away.

Keep your remake fresh and new

Releasing a second title can be a tricky business, especially if your new game is lacking fresh mechanics for your users to explore. This is where Team Alto’s sequel game shines bright. When exploring the game, you’ll find new landscapes, challenges, artwork and music, enough to make the game feel entirely new – all without changing the core gameplay.

You might not have to change everything about your game when making a second title, but it’s important to remember to keep it fresh – be that with new artwork, features or storyline.

2. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)

  • Developer / Publisher: PlayerUnknown / Tencent
  • Launch date: 9th February 2018
  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS, Android, Windows, Mac
  • Awards won: Best Game of 2018, Most Competitive Title, Fan Favorite Game and more.

Anyone and everyone in gaming would have heard the words ‘PUBG’ muttered around the industry. Originally crafted for console and PC, this online multiplayer survival game has taken the mobile industry by storm since its release in 2018. If you’re not familiar with this title, users essentially have to defeat all other players in the arena, and be the last man standing.

Consider your UI when taking you game cross platform

If you first created your game for mobile, consider yourself lucky. However, if your game was originally crafted for the likes of PC and consoles, then you may need to take a page out of PUBG’s UI design book.

Keeping the same amount of controls that players are used to on PC and console, PlayerUnkown has used clever tactics to make sure their game is easily playable on a 3-inch screen. We could talk for ages about this… but we’ve actually put together a nifty blog about taking your game cross-platform. You can check it out here.

3. Dandara

  • Developer / Publisher: Long Hat House / Raw Fury
  • Launch date: 6th February
  • Price: $14.99
  • Available on: iOS, Android, Windows

A hero of the 2D metroidvania era. Dandara takes a much-loved genre and builds on it, combining the two basic ideas of running and jumping. However, neither is as obvious as it seems, as players are encouraged to cling to any surface they see fit during gameplay.

Be creative when sourcing your title’s story

You don’t necessarily need an amazing story for your game to work, but if you are going to incorporate one, you should probably make sure it’s good.

Originally, the developers behind Dandara actually focused on the gameplay and mechanics before even considering its narrative. When they did finally come to tackle the story, they decided to go down a route closer to home, in particular the story behind the the Brazilian figure, Dandara. Doing this not only let them work on something that was meaningful to them, but also allowed the devs to add another level of exploration for their players – a different culture and an untold story.

4. Helix Jump

  • Studio / Publisher: Voodoo
  • Launch date: 10th Feb 2018 | 12th MArch 2018
  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS, Android

Hyper-casual games are by nature lightweight and instantly playable, and Helix Jump is perhaps the best example of this in action. Featuring constant reward and stimulating gameplay, it has achieved widespread popularity in 2018.

Use design to your advantage

With most hyper-casual games, there’s normally no need to over complicate things. And Voodoo is notoriously famous for creating games within this genre that perfects the balance of design, UI and controls.

Design plays an important role in this title. To give you an example, the use of contrast lets the player know which areas they can land on and which to avoid. And perhaps the best part of all is that no words are needed to explain this feature — the art style allowing for naturally intuitive gameplay. We actually talk a heck of a lot more about design in games in one of our most recent posts: 7 Incredible Game Design Examples And Why They Work.

5. Happy Glass

  • Studio / Publisher: Lion Studios
  • Launch date: 14th August | 27th August
  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS, Android, Windows

Happy Glass is a simple and distinctive puzzle game recognised by many for its clean graphics and creative gameplay. Your job is to find ways to fill up the glass by drawing lines that divert the water source –  all in the hope of making the sad glass happy. Who knew such a simple premise could be so enthralling?

Make your game easy to learn but difficult to master

Happy Glass is a perfect example of this rule. The premise of the game – draw a line to get the water into the glass. To begin with, the game is extremely easy to complete. But as you progress through each level, the puzzles naturally get harder and harder, requiring players to think outside of the box to fill that cup.

The lesson you can take away from this title is – you don’t always need to introduce new features into your game to keep your players engaged. A simple mechanic and clever puzzles can be all it takes to keep your game’s core loop fresh and exciting.

6. Game of Thrones: Reigns

  • Studio / Publisher: Nerial | Devolver Digital
  • Launch date: 23rd August 2018 | 14th August 2018
  • Price: $2.99
  • Available on: iOS, Android, Windows

Whether you’re an advocate of Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister or other iconic  leaders, Reigns: GOT lets you navigate the complex terrain of the seven kingdoms to rise to power. A deep and immersive world for GOT fans and those with a passion for strategy, gamers are kept on their toes as they make crucial decisions to manage their popularity, wealth and power.

Look everywhere and anywhere for inspiration

Reigns: GOT wasn’t the first Reigns game to be developed by Nerial. Originally published in 2015, Reigns took the simple swiping mechanic from the known dating app Tinder, and applied it to a quick decision making game. And these easy mechanics freed up the developers time, allowing him to focus on what was important for all of these titles: the story.

7. Eloh

  • Studio / Publisher: Broken Rules
  • Launch date: 10th October 2018 | 8th October 2018
  • Price: $0.99 | Free on Google Play
  • Available on: iOS, Android

Eloh is just as much about finding your musical groove as it is about completing the challenges. A puzzle game from the creators of the Apple Design Award winning Old Man’s Journey, we’re reminded yet again how much the world of creative artwork and gaming crosses over today.

Use audio to enhance gameplay

If you’re going to incorporate audio into your game, then you can definitely learn a thing or two from Eloh. Rather than just having a simple audio soundtrack for each level, Eloh has actually made sound and music a part of the gameplay.

And although this tactic works particularly well for this title, keep in mind that it may over-complicate or confuse the gameplay for other games. It really depends on what type of title you have. We have a pretty nifty blog on sound design tips you should check out if you’re not really sure how to tackle your games audio.

8. The Room: Old Sins

  • Studio: Fireproof Games
  • Launch date: 25th January 2018
  • Price: $4.99
  • Available on: iOS, Android

As the fourth game in the multi-award winning series, it’s clear The Room hasn’t lost its appeal just yet. For those who are not familiar with this title, the game opens with you being an investigator exploring rooms of a deviously dark dollhouse. Your tasks range from manipulating hidden artifacts to unlocking intricate puzzles in order to solve the ultimate mystery of The Room: Old Sins.

Introduce controls over time

Seems obvious, but this can be easily overlooked in a lot of games. And although a number of titles don’t necessarily need to worry about this (particularly the hyper-casual genre), it’s important to make sure you don’t overload and confuse your players with a ton of controls and information.

The Room: Old Sins does this pretty well. The beginning of this game is pretty much a step-by-step tutorial, allowing players get to grips with what they are expected to do and familiarise themselves with the games mechanics. And rather than just tell the player what to do, users are encouraged to perform certain actions, making the controls easier to remember.

Have we missed anything?

2018 has been an impressive year for mobile games, with more and more brilliant titles being released than ever before. If you think we’ve missed anything from our list that deserves a shoutout, ping us an email at insights@gameanalytics and we’ll take it into consideration.

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