2014 saw a ton of great releases for iOS. Too bad I didn’t play most of them, although with Pocket Gamer’s advent calendar and a number of Christmas sales, that should change. So without further ado, here’s my top 5 iOS games from the year 2014:

1. Terra Battle

This game got me to quit Puzzle & Dragons, which is a pretty impressive feat if you know me. Terra Battle is essentially a combination of a board game and an SRPG, with enough twists on its basic gameplay loop to keep things fresh. Kudos to Mistwalker for delivering a game worthy of their pedigree, and the soundtrack proves that Nobuo Uematsu still has it.

2. Vainglory

More than just a pretty tech demo for Metal, this is a competent and well-designed MOBA. It’s simple enough to be a good introduction to the genre, and yet the jungle gives it enough tactical depth to be interesting. If Super Evil Mega Corp can keep pushing out unique characters, this game could have a lot of teeth heading into 2015.

3. Monster Hunter Freedom Unite

It shouldn’t work at all, and yet, somehow, Capcom managed to pull it off. Much like how Vainglory was a great game to show off iOS 8’s new Metal API, this game would have been a great game to show off iOS 7’s new MFi controller API. Even without a compatible controller, though, Capcom managed to put together a competent control scheme for a button-heavy PSP port.

4. The Nightmare Cooperative

One of Pocket Gamer’s advent calendar games, this is a dungeon crawler with a twist: though your party members may be spread throughout the level, they all move as one. Moving one character to safety may put another character directly into the line of fire.

5. Threes!

I briefly considered putting this at number 3 just for the novelty of it, but I figured my journalistic integrity was more important than a crude numeric pun. So anyway, back to Threes!. If you played 2048 or any of its clones, you know the drill, although as the title suggests, this game is based on multiples of 3 instead of 2. Unlike the stark commitment to minimalism of 2048, Threes!’s (is that awkward or what?) tiles have a bit of personality. It’s not much, but it’s nice.

Honorable Mentions

In no particular order: Bean Dreams, Chain Chronicle, Sky Force 2014, Brothers in Arms 3, Defenders.

Games That Likely Would Have Made The List Had I Actually Played Them

Again, in no particular order: Kingdom Rush Origins, XCOM: Enemy Inside, Card City Nights, Hitman GO, Monument Valley

All 5 games I selected have a couple of things in common. First, they work well with a touch screen-based control scheme (with a few hiccups in Monster Hunter). All of them present nice large interaction targets with good feedback to show which items are being interacted with, making them quite forgiving of the occasional mistouch. They work with the touch screen, rather than trying to force an awkward virtual joystick and buttons setup. (As a side note, that particular issue is what pushed the otherwise excellent Arcane Soul entirely off the list.)

Second, they’re not annoying with IAPs. In fact, only two of them even have IAPs to begin with, and in both cases the game is not really designed around trying to get you to buy them. (As another side note, this particular issue is why Brothers in Arms 3 only received an honorable mention and why Castaway Paradise makes me want to hurl.)

While it’s probably impossible to completely erase certain misconceptions from the minds of the gaming community at large, my Top 5 games of the year show that the platform can have deep strategic games that don’t have awful controls and don’t encourage you to pull out your wallet. And that’s something.

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