If you have a smartphone, you’ve got access to one of the most powerful gaming systems on the market. Sure, it doesn’t have the graphical power of the PS5, but mobile gaming has evolved far beyond playing Snake on your old Nokia. These games are fun and can enhance your emotional well-being and stave off cognitive decline. If you’re looking for games to fill up that shiny new smartphone, here are our recommendations, plus some tips on what to look out for.
Things To Look Out For
When picking a mobile game, it’s important to consider why you’re playing the game. This doesn’t mean you need to have a serious reason: while you can use games to train your brain or promote physical activity, games are meant to be fun. Rather, consider what you want to get out of it: do you want a quick game you can pick up and put down whenever you want, or do you want a game you focus on for hours? Do you want to see a game through to completion, or something that is different every time you play? All of these considerations determine what sort of games are a good fit for you.
We recommend avoiding games that are overly reliant on in-app purchases. While not inherently a bad thing, some games rely on predatory monetization. Some sell power-ups and extra lives while ramping up the difficulty to impossible levels. Others rely on “gacha” mechanics: exchanging money for random characters or items. These games can become far more expensive than a Triple-A console game if you’re not careful.
Best for Wellness: Pikmin Bloom
A new offering from Niantic, this adorable adventure is built on the same infrastructure as Pokémon GO. Like the 2016 hit, you visit local points of interest to collect adorable creatures. Unlike Pokémon GO, however, Pikmin Bloom has a much more relaxed vibe. Rather than finding and capturing pocket monsters in the real world, you’re raising adorable plant creatures (the titular Pikmin) from seedlings. The game syncs with your smartphone’s native health app and GPS to track your steps, and using seeds allows you to leave a path of flowers in your wake. Take enough steps, and your Pikmin will sprout! Like in the original Pikmin games, you can send your Pikmin out to visit nearby landmarks. Given time, they’ll return with fruit, seeds, and new Pikmin! If you’re lucky, you might even get a Pikmin wearing a location-specific costume. The game also keeps a record of photos you take and landmarks you’ve visited, allowing you to keep a diary of your memories and mood. It’s a great way to keep active and monitor your mood. Plus, since it shares location data with Pokémon GO, you can progress in both games at once!
Best Casual Game: Dots
A minimalist take on the mobile puzzle genre, the goal of Dots is simple: connect dots of the same color in a continuous line. In practice, however, the game is surprisingly complex. Like games of the wildly popular Match-3 genre, clearing out lines of dots causes those on top to drop. With careful planning, you can build long chains of dots, each new addition playing a satisfying tone before finishing with a crescendo and a satisfying rush of points. The game also encourages spatial reasoning and strategic thinking. Dots has two sequels, but we recommend the first for its infinitely variable gameplay and minimal microtransactions.
Best for Cognitive Training: Peak
Brain training is nothing new, but for a large amount of variety in an inexpensive package, Peak is hard to beat. Developed in collaboration with institutions like Cambridge, Peak contains dozens of games, ranging from simple word games to complex problem-solving puzzles.
The game tracks your progress and offers a rotating selection of games daily. However, for a small monthly fee you can unlock more detailed feedback access to their entire library of games.
Best for Puzzle Solvers: The Room
If you cut your teeth on gaming classics like Myst, or just love escape rooms, The Room is the series for you. You begin the first game in a room containing a safe and a letter from your mentor. As you solve puzzles, you’re drawn deeper and deeper into a maze of haunting chambers and bizarre puzzles, unraveling the truth of what happened to your mentor. There are four games in the original series, including one virtual reality game, telling a continuous storyline. If you’re looking for a more self-contained experience, The Room: Old Sins features a story in the same setting, but doesn’t require prior knowledge to play. It’s a great starting point for people new to the series.
Best Word Game: Wordle
This wildly popular word game is technically a browser game, but its compact form factor makes it perfect for a quick brain tease at the start of your day. Inspired by the classic game Mastermind, you have five guesses to figure out a five-letter word. The game will let you know when you guess a correct letter, making it a game that will test your deductive reasoning and vocabulary. A built-in AI will rank your performance after each game, showing how you improve over time. The downside? You only get one puzzle a day, though the myriad spin-off games that follow the same formula can help scratch the itch. If you want a real challenge, try Absurdle, an adversarial game variant where the AI actively narrows down its range of possible answers based on your inputs. By carefully choosing your input, you can wear down the AI’s options until there’s only one possible answer.
With new games dropping every day, there’s no shortage of options for tech-savvy seniors. It’s even possible to get a console-level experience in your pocket. Are there any games you love that we missed? Let us know your recommendations in the comments!
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