Free-to-play is definitely en vogue on the iOS and Android app stores, even if there is some reasonable disagreement over the use of the word "free." Though games had a race to the bottom with a $0 price point, some developers are still holding out with games that cost $3, $5, $10, or even higher. Outrageous!
If you can swallow the price tag, though, some of these paid games are among the best on the platform and well worth the asking price. Others, not so much. Here's a handy list of some to pick up toot sweet, and others to avoid.
Totally Worth It
Threes: The number-matching puzzle game was an overnight sensation, and for good reason. The addictive hook is easy to learn, near-impossible to master, and well worth dropping a couple of dollars.($1.99 - iOS | Android)
Plague Inc: For those who don't mind their games with a touche of the macabre, Plague Inc is a fantastic strategy game with a ton of longevity. Helping to steer your virus to wipe out humanity is darkly humorous, and the sparse writing keeps it light and amusing. Plus, it keeps updating with more contagion types. It may not be doing itself any favors in the bare-bones presentation, but the strategic hooks are pure (sick) fun.($0.99 - iOS | Android)
Rayman Fiesta Run: Either of the Rayman mobile games are well worth the cost of admission, so we just went with the more recent of the two. No matter which you choose, these expertly translate the platforming tropes into a simple touch-based interface. It's all about tight timing and precision taps, and so it really emulates the feeling of the recent console revivals.($2.99 - iOS | Android)
Card Wars - Adventure Time: Talk about a surprise. Card Wars, based on an Adventure Time episode of the same name, is both a hilarious spoof of CCGs and a quality one of its own. Perfectly capturing the humor of the show, this simple card game focuses on dominating "lanes" to deal damage to your opponent. It's a unique twist on the genre with a shocking amount of depth.($3.99 - iOS | Android)
Minecraft Pocket: Though it had a bit of a rocky start, Minecraft Pocket has grown into one of the most popular versions of the blocky building game. Just like its PC and console counterparts, it's constantly being updated with new crafting recipes, items to discover, and ways to manipulate the world.($6.99 - iOS | Android)
Infinity Blade 3: Any of the Infinity Blade could make this list, since Epic Games has made sure they're each showpieces for their engine on iOS devices. The latest includes all the advances of its previous iterations like Clashmob challenges and a rich upgrade system, along with two playable characters and a story presentation that includes voice actor Troy Baker.($6.99 - iOS)
Horn: Another mobile showpiece, Horn is an action adventure game in the vein of The Legend of Zelda, with a little bit of Infinity Blade thrown in for good measure. The rich, colorful world is a standout among more grim-and-gritty entries, making it a nice piece of escapist fantasy.($6.99 - iOS | Android)
Device 6: Less a game than an interactive story, Device 6 makes full use of its platform. By making sound and movement part of the experience, this thriller from Year Walk studio Simogo shows just how well they manage to turn iOS games on their head.($3.99 - iOS)
Hitman GO: We wouldn't have expected the Hitman franchise to be adapted into a turn-based strategy game inspired by board games, but then, we also wouldn't have expected it to turn out so well. It manages to capture the spirit of the Hitman games without any of the bloody murder, and the art style is charming for cardboard gaming enthusiasts. Better still, a recent update proves the promise that the base price is all you need to pay. You can earn the currency to unlock the new set of stages without paying a dime.($4.99 - iOS | Android)
Ticket to Ride Pocket: Sometimes, a great board game can translate directly to a great mobile game. Ticket to Ride is the classic game of building railroads across the US of A, and it's been translated beautifully to iOS devices. With simple rules, tons of replay value, and a few expansions available, this is a must-have for long trips.($6.99 - iOS)
Not Worth It
Final Fantasy Ports: Square Enix made some of the best RPGs of its time, but its ports of this venerated library don't do it justice. Though games like Final Fantasy 6 or Final Fantasy Tactics are well worth the money under normal circumstances, the sloppy ports, ugly updates, and poor touch controls spoil the experience. They're almost universally around $15, which may be worth it if you have no other options to play these classics, but generally there are cheaper, better ports on consoles. Though it isn't a Final Fantasy game, count Chrono Trigger under this classification as well: too expensive and slipshod when there are better options.
Monopoly: The best board game adaptations (like Ticket to Ride, above) take all the complexity of arranging your pieces and take care of the busy-work for you, letting you have some pure fun without sweating the details. The worst, like Monopoly, take an already complex game and fill it with so much junk that it becomes even moreso. Though it's only a buck, EA's take on Monopoly is probably the least fun way to argue with your family over money. For your sake, do not pass go.
Deus Ex: The Fall: This one stings a little, because it's by no means a bad game. It sports high production values and reasonably replicates the console experience from Human Revolution. Unfortunately, that's its downfall too. Unlike Hitman, which took a basic concept and adapted it to a new format that still fit the themes, this tried to imitate its brethren lock, stock, and barrel. The result is a game that's clearly trying its best to be something that it's not. There's something to be said for mobile games that cater to their device, and The Fall simply didn't.