Happy New Year! Welcome back to our series on what we can learn from the best games of 2019. And how the big trend has been simplicity. In parts one and two, Kelly and Sarah have covered story-driven games and casual games.

So to end the series, I’ll be sharing three of my favorite mobile games from last year – all of which have a multiplayer aspect.

7. Magic Brick Wars

  • Developer: Halfbrick Studios
  • Release date: 15th November 2019
  • Available on: Android, iOS
  • Price: Free with in-app purchases
  • Genre: Multiplayer strategy

Inspired by card-building and auto-chess

Magic Brick Wars is a mix between a tower-defense, a card-builder, and an auto-chess game. These are all similar genres anyway, but Magic Brick Wars brings it all together pretty well. You put down barriers and monsters on your side of the field who stalk up to fight your enemy. Very simple.

Make every aspect a game

Leveling up your monsters needs certain currencies. You do this by periodically heading down into the mines and smashing blocks. This part of the game could have just been a simple button tap. But instead, Halfbrick made it feel that little bit more interactive. It’s a meta-feature which goes a long way to making every part of the game enjoyable.

Think more about defense than attack

Often, developers will focus on bigger and “badder” spells to strike the enemy with. But if you’re only ever getting power, there’s no strategy. There needs to be that balance. Magic Brick Wars actually gives players two options to defend. First, players can put down physical walls. But second, they can put their own monsters in the line of fire, and sacrifice them.

It’s such a simple extra defense option. But that deliberate imbalance, where there are actually more ways to defend than to attack, makes the game so much more strategic, which is incredibly important in a competitive game.

8. Mini Motorways

  • Developer: Dinosaur Polo Club
  • Release date: 19th September 2019
  • Available on: iOS and soon to be on Steam (Mac and Windows)
  • Price: Free with Apple Arcade
  • Genre: City building

An odd mix of relaxing and difficult

In Mini Motorways, houses and destinations appear and the player simply needs to draw roads between them. It’s all about how the player balances the traffic. While it’s not directly multiplayer, it does have a high-score table for each level. And that adds a competitive element that keeps people coming back.

Focus on one mechanic

This game is one of the most addictive on our list. And that’s because they created a simple premise and perfected it. There’s no fluff or extras. They’ve trimmed back as far as they could, only adding the essentials, which makes for a truly satisfying casual game.

Add challenges to keep people playing and perfect your endgame

The trick with Mini Motorways is in the music. It soothes you like a soft lullaby, so the average gamer will likely just sit back, feet up, and paint roads on their canvas. And it’s pretty easy to hit the target of the level, and get that sense of achievement. You’ve won, so you don’t feel too bad when things get out of control.

But after you’ve hit that main objective, the game switches tact. Players are now essentially battling each other to see how long they can survive. You’re trying to achieve that high-score. It’s a switch that’s all down to where Dinosaur Polo Club put the target score. By making sure it was low, and keeping the zen-like music playing, it meant they could appeal to two kinds of player.

By perfecting that endgame, Dinosaur Polo Club stops the game feeling repetitive. And so people will keep coming back. Considering the casual and hardcore gamers vital to creating a game that’ll live on past the first few weeks. And could, in time, naturally lead to a more competitive scene.

9. Call of Duty: Mobile

  • Developer: TiMi Studios
  • Release date: 1st October 2019
  • Available on: Android, iOS
  • Price: Free with in-app purchases
  • Genre: First-person shooter ​(FPS)

Being simple isn’t about removing features

In Call of Duty, there are multiple modes, loads of weapons, and quite complicated controls, especially if you’re not familiar with FPS games. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make playing the game as simple as possible, when porting over to mobile.

Give your players the choice

In the settings of Call of Duty, you can choose to automatically fire when hovering over an enemy. This stops the tricky problem of not having a trigger on the back of your phone or tablet. It’s such a small and simple addition, which makes the game really easy for beginner players to pick up and get used to controlling their characters without the usual buttons.

The second option lets you customize where and how big your buttons will be. This is actually a major benefit of using a screen over a controller because your players aren’t locked into the shape of the hardware. And it makes it much easier to make the game more accessible for people with disabilities.

With games as complex and intense as Call of Duty, it’s important to layer in these features. Giving your players the freedom to personalize something as important as controls can help even out the game, and avoid them from rage quitting at something they might see as unfair.

Stay savvy in 2020

That’s it for our roundup. As you can see, it’s often the simplest ideas that are the best 🙂

If you want to make sure you’re up to date with the latest trends and developments, sign up to our newsletter. And if you think we’ve missed any ‘simple’ masterpieces from this list, tweet us, and we’ll consider adding them on.

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