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10 premium mobile games worth the money (and three that aren't)

Free-to-play is definitely en vogue on the iOS and Android app stores. 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. If you can swallow the price tag, 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.

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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.

Editor-In-Chief

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From The Chatty

  • reply
    July 8, 2014 2:00 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, 10 premium mobile games worth the money (and three that aren't).

    Free-to-play is definitely en vogue on the iOS and Android app stores. 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. If you can swallow the price tag, 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.

    • reply
      July 8, 2014 2:04 PM

      Hell yes for calling out DEVICE6. I feel like the game isn't getting anywhere near the attention it deserves, and perhaps that's just because it's so wildly different from anything else.

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        July 8, 2014 2:29 PM

        Ya, I don't remember where I saw it recommended but I picked it up a while ago and it is pretty good.

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      July 8, 2014 2:11 PM

      I don't think Infinity Blade 3 is worth the price. The first game was great, had an interesting premise and incredible visuals. It was also a quite complete experience after finally beating the last boss.

      The third game is a total chore, nothing but a grind and bogged down with a boring story. There's layers of stupidity to both story and mechanics. Get something else from that list instead.

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      July 8, 2014 2:27 PM

      Plague Inc, I couldnt stop playing that till I had destroyed the world with every plague possible :) From memory I got it as a FreeGameADay type deal, but then bought all the DLC that was available for it as I played through it (extra plagues etc). I am still thinking about buying it on PC too

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      July 8, 2014 2:35 PM

      Tank Riders, Gunman Clive, Cordy 2, Edge, Pinball Arcade, and Muffin Knight are also great premium games for Android mobile devices.

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        July 8, 2014 4:18 PM

        I might rank Zen Pinball over Pinball Arcade though.

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      July 8, 2014 2:39 PM

      Surprised the "Republique" didn't make the cut.

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      July 8, 2014 2:52 PM

      Aww that sucks about the final fantasy ports. I could use a game like those

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        July 8, 2014 3:39 PM

        You're in luck - the article is deeply and utterly wrong. The FF6 port is great with the exception of the dpad, as is Tactics.

        Whether they're worth $15 or not, relative to options on other devices, depends on you and the devices you own. For me, they're worth it because I have my device/tablet with me much more often than my DS/PSP/Vita/etc.

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          July 8, 2014 6:06 PM

          FFT is totally worth it as it stands the test of time pretty well and it has all the bonus features of the PSP version!

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      July 8, 2014 3:01 PM

      There are some good games here, but I have to take issue with Card Wars being a good premium experience. It tries to have it both ways, where you pay for a premium experience, but before very long, you're locked into F2P nickel and diming, limiting how often you can play, grinding to unlock levels, and taking away rewards when you lose unless you pay money every time. If they just wanted to sell booster packs, that's one thing. But charging a price, and then throwing every IAP mechanism under the sun in sure ruined the game for me. From looking at the reviews, it seems to be controvesial, as a lot of people still love the game, and it's certainly a nice looking and polished homage to the TV show, but when all those fun-limiting mechanisms hit you at once, it really hurts the experience. If there have been updates to the game that change this, however, please let me know and I'd love to give it another chance.

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      July 8, 2014 3:08 PM

      Weird to see Horn pop it's head up even after 2 years of release :v

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      July 8, 2014 3:48 PM

      "toot sweet"

      ok

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      July 8, 2014 3:50 PM

      5 clickbait style article headlines that will discourage me reading shacknews stories

      • reply
        July 8, 2014 3:53 PM

        Haha good point.

      • reply
        July 8, 2014 4:01 PM

        That's not clickbait.

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        July 8, 2014 4:04 PM

        Not clickbait, br0.

      • reply
        July 8, 2014 4:15 PM

        oh come on. It's great to see some new content coming out of the shack front page.

      • reply
        July 8, 2014 4:20 PM

        Yeah, I dislike that style of headline. When I get those on FB, i tend to "Hide everything from <clickbait site>".

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          July 8, 2014 4:28 PM

          You guys are off your rockers. A clickbait headline for this would be: When you play these mobile games you'll fall in love. (#5 will make you cry!)

          • reply
            July 8, 2014 9:57 PM

            10 things king_darius knows about click bait headlines that will blow your mind

            • reply
              July 8, 2014 10:05 PM

              17 replies shackers have about this NASTY shitpost made by yours truly!

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          July 8, 2014 4:28 PM

          There's a big difference in glamorizing headlines and writing articles quick and to the point. Personally I like reading "Top 10" games or "10 mods that work well" on sites.

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        July 8, 2014 4:26 PM

        The title is an EXACT description of the article. What would you have wanted instead?

        It's a good article, I hadn't heard of at least half of those, and I'm glad I have.

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        July 8, 2014 4:40 PM

        "10 premium games that will get your wife to stop cheating" is clickbait.

        This article is definitely not "clickbait". The breakdown was concise, on point, and relevant to my needs. I just purchased Rayman, and Card Wars because of this article.

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        July 8, 2014 4:51 PM

        You people will whine about ANYTHING.

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        July 8, 2014 4:51 PM

        I dunno, I liked the title. There are so many crap phone games out there that an article like this, from what I consider a trusted source, got my attention.

      • reply
        July 8, 2014 5:07 PM

        Shacker Sees a List Article That's Actually on One Page for Once: You Won't Believe His Reaction!

      • reply
        July 8, 2014 5:08 PM

        oh please, hardly.

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        July 8, 2014 6:04 PM

        don't be dense. Not even the same kind of thing.

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        July 8, 2014 6:25 PM

        Internet post.

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        July 8, 2014 7:17 PM

        I don't think you quite understand the format of clickbait articles/headlines.

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          July 8, 2014 7:46 PM

          i think you some of you guys have just been inured to terrible clickbait headlines, to the point where you only see the particularly bad ones.

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        July 8, 2014 7:23 PM

        looks like you hit a nerve DeBurgo, hahah

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        July 8, 2014 9:08 PM

        Brosef! Are you a plant?

        I don't play mobile games at all, but I just bought two due to the huge subthread bumps.

        Fucking high five!

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        July 8, 2014 9:15 PM

        reply bait

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        July 8, 2014 9:20 PM

        The cardinal sin of "listicles" is making you click multiple times to see all the content.

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        July 9, 2014 7:36 AM

        THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS!

        Too many sandy vaginas in this fucking chatty.

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        July 9, 2014 7:55 AM

        Eh. I thought this was fine. It's a question see asked on the Shack every few weeks. And it accurately explains what the article is. And the recommendations were sound.

        Also, the entire list is on one page, which as great to see.

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      July 8, 2014 6:05 PM

      I think FFT is worth it still as the port is pretty well done.....

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      July 8, 2014 6:24 PM

      Aren't there tons of free clones of Threes?

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      July 9, 2014 12:05 AM

      Great article! This should be a regular feature.

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      July 9, 2014 3:36 AM

      This article is pretty spot-on, especially re: the FF ports. I loved FF6 and bought it as soon as it was released and didn't play more than 15 mins of it.

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      July 9, 2014 3:39 AM

      Did they fix Adventure Time: Card Wars? It was panned pretty widely when it first came out due to the play timers, style of upgrades/purchases etc

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      July 9, 2014 3:52 AM

      You should play "Out There". Other than Osmos it's my favorite game for android. Great atmosphere, great writing.

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      July 9, 2014 3:55 AM

      I don't think people should be supporting shit like Card Wars where they charge for the game and then still push IAP in order to play as often as you want. That's some straight up bullshit.

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        July 9, 2014 4:04 AM

        Agreed.

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        July 9, 2014 7:57 AM

        Lol. It's a pay game and it still has a timer? That is utter bullshit.

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      July 9, 2014 4:04 AM

      This article is good because although it is a list, you kept it direct, concise, on point, and a single page. You included some iOS exclusives, but mostly cross platform games. (It might be cool to get an idea of some android exclusives, android tablets are cheap, FYI!)

      I think if every article on the site was a list of 10 things, that'd be bad, but this is the type of content that will get inbound links and new visitors.

      A discussion of clickbait articles in game journalism might be a good podcast topic :)

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      July 9, 2014 7:09 AM

      i disagree with the comments around FF series, the ability to play FF6/3 anywhere i go is worth the cost.

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      July 9, 2014 7:24 AM

      As someone who was just about to ask what the hotness in mobile games was, thank you steve.