What a year 2019 is to live in. We’re all now carrying around tiny supercomputers in our pockets and use them to fire virtual birds at pig forts. It sounds like something from a zany 80s sci-fi novel.
Actually, while Angry Birds might have been one of the biggest mainstream successes in mobile gaming, the technology has come along in leaps and bounds. Since games like Infinity Blade first showed us that mobile hardware could give consoles a real run for their money, the graphical prowess of smartphones and tablets just won’t stop barreling forward.
One side-effect of this is that there are plenty of games on mobile devices that first saw the light of day on traditional consoles. Which means you don’t just have to spend your mobile game time playing lightweight games designed for mobile from the start. From deep RPGs to stunning racing titles, and everything in between, mobile gamers are spoilt for choice.
Narrowing down the best of these titles to just a single list of 10 is no easy task, so there are some rules about what can make it here. First of all, the port of the game has to be good. A stunning game ported to mobile poorly can’t be recommended, which is why the critically acclaimed Dragon Quest VIII isn’t here.
Secondly, the game itself must be worth playing. We’ve played everything on this list and so are basing it on our actual impressions of real gameplay.
Finally, the game in question must have originated on a console or have launched on both console and PC at the same time. PC-only or PC-to-console ports are excluded. Other than that, anything goes!
Knights Of The Old Republic
Knights of the Old Republic was originally an Xbox exclusive. That is, the original Xbox. Made by RPG kings Bioware, this game is in a very real way a sort of prototype for the later Mass Effect trilogy we all know and love. You can see plenty of nascent ideas forming with KOTOR, funded by the Star Wars licence.
KOTOR is set centuries before the events of the mainline Star Wars films and is therefore free to tell whatever story it wants, without impacting any other part of the franchise. The end result is a game with excellent writing, a robust RPG system and plenty of replay value.
The port for mobile is also brilliant, with sharp graphics and a smartly-designed control scheme. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, RPGs or just great games in general then this absolutely must be on your shortlist of games to buy.
Few games have showcased how far mobile graphics have come as well as Grid Autosport. From racing geniuses CodeMasters, the game is a deep, semi-simulation racing game with a beefy career mode and jaw-dropping visuals. It’s also a crazy battery hog, but the developers have kindly included an in-game battery meter so you don’t end up unable to make any phone calls.
Grid plays well enough with touch and tilt controls, but it’s really begging for a gamepad. Luckily there are plenty of options in this regard, but if you tune the difficulty settings just right you’ll be fine without as well. This is THE racing game to own on mobile, no doubt about it.
Get it on Android (soon) or iOS
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
The PS2-era of Grand Theft Auto games from Rockstar are well represented on Android and iOS. You can buy GTA III and the excellent Vice City, which are all worthwhile purchases.
However, if you’re only going to buy one GTA title on your mobile, then it has to be San Andreas. This represents the best of the PS2 3D GTAs. The story is fantastic, there’s plenty to do and it adds light RPG elements missing from previous installments.
The graphics have been upgraded significantly and you can lose yourself for endless hours on the mean streets of San Andreas. The game’s biggest issue is its control schemes. San Andreas was of course designed for a gamepad and you certainly have that as the preferred method of play.
However, the touch controls are competent and you’ll have no issue finishing the game using them. It’s just not as good as a gamepad, which is a common refrain.
Xcom: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within
The Xcom series of tactical games have a long and storied history on PC, but the rebooted title made waves anew when it was released for both PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 originally. Bringing base management, persistent units and complex tactical combat together in a way that raised the bar for the genre.
It was actually quite a surprise to see a title like this come to mobile, but in comparison to the original releases the graphics have taken a serious hit. However, all that juicy tactical gameplay and the entire storyline is intact.
If that sounds like your thing, then you’re in good company with Xcom. Especially since the app has been updated with the Enemy Within content, making it an even better value proposition.
Not all console ports have to be from the modern 3D era, classic games from the 16-bit era count too! So it would be a major oversight not to include the iOS and Android port of Chrono Trigger to this list.
Widely regarded as one of the best JRPGs ever made, the epic time travel story of Crono and his many companions is as gripping today as it ever was. The app has recently been upgraded with a raft of improvements and is, for the most part, the best version of the game you can play today.
The touch controls work perfectly, even for the innovative action scenes that do require some finesse. There is nothing that prohibits a player from finishing the game and it’s another essential mobile title.
Monster Hunter Stories
The Monster Hunter franchise has been a smash hit over its many iterations and Monster Hunter United is actually also available on iOS, though not Android. Those games are however rather hardcore and niche in the greater scheme of things. Which is why Monster Hunter Stories, originally a 3DS game, is a perfect way into the world of Monster Hunter.
The game is a turn-based, JRPG spinoff with its own distinct art style. It tells the story of a young hunter in training and offers hours of exploration and story.
The mobile version of the game plays perfectly with touch controls and brings significant visual upgrades over the 3DS original. If you want to really sink your teeth into a beautiful, fun and satisfying game then Monster Hunter Stories is a great choice.
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
Both Android and iOS are woefully bereft of quality strategy RPGs in the vein of Fire Emblem, which lives on Nintendo systems.
Luckily, one of the finest strategic RPGs of all times has found its way to both iOS and Android. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, is set in Ivalice. The same setting as the underrated Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy 12.
The story and setting are, of course, as good as you’d expect from the Final Fantasy franchise. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to the individual player, but the quality of the tactical play in War of the Lions is indisputably great. In terms of game mechanics and depth this game has been the bar against which other similar titles have been measured since its release.
Being an isometric, turn-based tactical game, touch controls are perfect and it has never looked better. Perfect for short bursts of play and at home in any strategy fan’s device.
Final Fantasy IX
In terms of mainline Final Fantasy titles, we are up to number fifteen, which includes a few MMOs. Despite so many titles bearing the Final Fantasy name, it’s popularity shows no sign of waning.
Right now, almost all pre-PS2 Final Fantasy titles are available on mobile devices. The PS2 titles have been ported to handhelds, but you don’t need a dedicated gaming handheld to play titles older than that.
While Final Fantasy VII gets all the love from the fandom, its mobile version isn’t that well regarded and has several issues that make it a lesser choice compared to simply playing the original. So instead, consider Final Fantasy IX. The last FF title to come out for the PS1 and therefore the most attractive in the series up to date.
The iOS and Android versions have received a serious boost in resolution and clarity, with several “cheats” added to help smooth over some of the more grindy aspects of 90s gaming.
FF9 is a real return to the series fundamentals, has great characters, a charming story and fun gameplay. It’s the one to own on Android and iOS.
Before the mega hits that are GTA and Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar had quite a few left-of-field games showcasing how creative the company can be. Bully is a real hidden gem.
You play a schoolboy thrown into the mean streets of a private school. Think of it as GTA, but confined to the school grounds. There’s plenty to do, from beating up other kids to taking classes to gain special skills. The GTA DNA is clear to see in Bully, but it really is its own thing and there has never really been anything like it.
If you missed out on this gem, the mobile port is great and offers an engrossing on the go experience.
The creators of Transistor first came to everyone’s attention with Bastion, a stylish ARPG which looked on the surface a bit like a Diablo clone. In truth , it turned out to be an arty and subversive indy game, with amazing music and art. That game is also available as a mobile game, but since it first launched on PC, it’s disqualified for this list.
Their next game, Transistor, is however a day one console release, and so deserves to be here. Transistor takes us to a future, sci-fi setting, in contrast with the rustic fantasy of Bastion. You play a voiceless woman, carrying a sword containing the digital soul of a man who dies seconds before the story starts.
It’s part ARPG and part isometric turn-based strategy. Just like Bastion, it’s also more than it seems and Transistor is a title that begs for your attention and for headphones. It’s optimized for touch controls and a great port overall.
Get it on iOS
This list is, of course, not exhaustive. There are plenty of other deserving console ports on both iOS and Android and surely there will be many more. Mobile consoles like the Nintendo Switch are also helping developers get to grips with AAA content on smartphone hardware. Who would have thought that when Skyrim launched it would one day be a handheld title?
Hopefully this list of top titles will help you round out your mobile game collection and really showcase what’s possible in a way that a gem swapping game never can.