Top 5 Mobile Games of 2015

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2015 was another great year for the mobile game industry. Perhaps, it’s the best yet: Nintendo (finally) decided to enter the space, mobile game developers embraced virtual reality, and reports showed that mobile now owns an even larger chunk of the gaming pie—to the tune of $25 billion—than it ever has.

There were countless big winners this year, but we thought we’d highlight five games that did a standout job of everything from gameplay mechanics to player engagement to mobile game monetization. Here they are (in no particular order):

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Her Story

Developer: Sam Barlow
Released: June 2015
Mobile platforms: iOS
Price: $4.99

Full motion video (FMV) games have a long and checkered past. Since the 1980s, FMV technology has fallen in and out of fashion in the games industry in large parts because the games that used them haven’t been engaging. Developer Sam Barlow has resurrected the use of FMV in Her Story, flipping the script on the FMV stigma. Her Story is a police procedural game that tasks players with examining police video interviews of Hannah, a suspect in an unsolved murder case. Players feel like a true detective as they watch the video interviews in any order they see fit, piecing together their own interpretation of the facts in the case. Barlow’s venture into a game narrative technique that has typically been dismissed was a risky one, but we think the move paid off.

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Lara Croft Go

Developer: Square Enix
Released: August 2015
Mobile platforms: iOS, Google Play, Windows Store
Price: $4.99

Lara Croft Go is a throwback to early Tomb Raider games. But while most recent Tomb Raider titles have gotten away from tomb raiding, Lara Croft Go thrusts players back into puzzle-filled tombs. From the same Square Enix team that created Hitman Go, Lara Croft Go features gorgeous cell-shaded graphics, clever turn-based puzzle gameplay and a hypnotic soundtrack. Developers Square Enix masterfully tapped a well-known heroine and player nostalgia to create a game that was all at once familiar and wholly new.

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Alphabear

Developer: Spry Fox
Released: July 2015
Mobile platforms: iOS, Google Play
Price: Free

In 2012, Spry Fox set the mobile world on fire when it brought its hit puzzle game Triple Town to iOS and Android. Triple Town was one of the first free-to-play games to introduce a limited turns mechanic. Nearly four years later, it’s still regarded as one of the best mobile puzzlers ever. Alphabear is Spry Fox’s latest puzzler hit, featuring a fresh take on word games, adorable bears adorned in various costumes and fair player progression which allows them to collect every bear from any game mode. In fact, most players could breeze through the game for free. Players have the option to extend game sessions by watching video ads to earn free currency. And for the players that do pay, the game actually caps the amount of money they can spend on IAP—a clever strategy implemented by the developers.

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Mr Jump

Developer: 1Button
Released: March 2015
Mobile platforms: iOS
Price: Free

Mr Jump proved that there’s a masochist in all of us. This devilishly hard platformer features a simple yet elegant jumping mechanic that rewards patience and punishes hastiness. French studio 1Button created more than just a great game, though. 1Button innovated on the monetization front, implementing ad interstitials at a logical break point in Mr Jump‘s gameplay. An ad is triggered when a player dies—but not every time. The studio added frequency caps to limit the number of ads served. The strategy paid dividends for 1Button, resulting in a $20,000 a day payout from ad monetization.

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Land Sliders

Developer: Prettygreat
Released: September 2015
Mobile platforms: iOS
Price: Free

Land Sliders is the epitome of a mobile game—it can’t be reproduced on any other platform. Land Sliders, from Australian developer Prettygreat, features gameplay that’s built around inertial scrolling—a scrolling motion where an object continues to scroll in a decaying fashion after a player releases their touch of the screen. The result is a movement mechanic that feels like second nature, especially for anyone who’s familiar with a touchscreen interface. This indie title found monetization success by presenting players—after dying—with an opportunity to buy more characters or earn free currency by watching video ads.