Monthly Archives: December 2015

RPG Reload Special Edition – ‘RPG Reload’s Favorite RPGs Of 2015’

RPG Reload Special Edition – ‘RPG Reload’s Favorite RPGs Of 2015’

Logo_on_whiteHello, gentle readers, and welcome to yet another special edition of the RPG Reload. In this weekly feature, we usually take a look at a game from the App Store’s past, but due to the New Year’s holiday, we’re doing something a little different this week. That’s right, it’s time for the second annual listing of the RPG Reload‘s favorite RPGs of the year. I thought it might be cool to come up with a catchy name for these prizes, but since I couldn’t come up with anything good, I’ve settled on calling them the Golden Pancho Awards, in honor of the frequently-seen Kemco monster. No actual trophies yet, unfortunately, but ‘Golden Pancho‘ sounds a lot better than trying to spell out the whole article name, right?

To repeat myself a little bit from last year’s awards, I know we already did some Best Of articles here at TouchArcade, but RPGs are what the Reload is all about, so I want to give them some special attention. There were tons of cool RPGs again this year, so paring that list down was as difficult as ever. Like before, I’ve separated games into ports and originals in the interests of fairness, and included a third category for more under-the-radar releases.

The rules are the same as last year. Three lists, each with five entries. We’ve got Best RPG Ports, Best Original RPGs, and Best Sleepers. Each series is allowed only one spot to keep certain genre elephants from trampling everything else. The lists are not ranked, but simply presented in alphabetical order. The Best Ports prize is not solely or even substantially based on the quality of the port itself, but rather how good the overall package is. These lists are nothing more than my own opinions, and by no means have I listed every excellent RPG that came out this year because that, my friends, would be bananas. Without further ado, let’s check out the RPG Reload Golden Pancho Award winners for 2015!

The 2015 RPG Reload Golden Panchos For Ported RPGs


DRAGON QUEST V, $ 9.99 We didn’t have quite the feast of Dragon Quest games this year that we did in 2014, but the ones we got were excellent. Dragon Quest 5 is my favorite game in the series, and one of my favorite RPGs of all-time, thanks to its superb story, interesting cast of characters, and sprawling quest. As the series is often wont to, Dragon Quest 5 has some ideas about the nature of a hero, and what that actually means. The gameplay is familiar and fun, and the tale it spins has rarely been matched by other JRPGs even more than 20 years later. If you only ever play one Dragon Quest game, this is the one you should be playing.

Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust: An Elysian Tail, $ 5.99 Dust: An Elysian Tail was one of the best games I played on iOS this year. The production values are outstanding, the gameplay is challenging and enjoyable, and the size of the adventure dwarfs most other stabs at the action-RPG genre on mobile. It’s always a gamble when a game moves from a controller with a ton of buttons to touch controls, and doubly so when it’s an action game, but Dust made the trip to iOS without so much as even tousling its hair. One of the marks of a great game is that it’s fun even if all you’re doing is running the character around in the environment, and it’s a quality Dust can claim for itself handily.

Legend of Grimrock

Legend of Grimrock, $ 4.99 The Legend Of Grimrock is a wonderful combination of the classic and the modern. Calling back to the period in the early 90s when games like Dungeon Master and Eye Of The Beholder ruled the roost, Grimrock is a dream come true for fans of dungeon crawlers. It infuses the idea behind those classics with plenty of modern touches to create a brilliant RPG with an old soul. The transition to iOS was virtually flawless, though it is a little bit crowded on devices with smaller screens.


Sproggiwood, $ 4.99 There were a lot of roguelikes released again this year on iOS, but the one that truly stuck with me was Sproggiwood. When I played it for the review, I honestly didn’t expect to keep on playing it for the rest of the year, but that’s exactly what happened. There’s just something about how approachable yet challenging it is, and I like how the different classes provide some fun variety for replays. I have to tip my hat to the difficulty balancing, as the game becomes an entirely different beast depending on which mode you play on. It’s tough enough for veterans when you play the highest difficulty, but friendly enough for newcomers on easy.

Ys Chronicles 1

Ys Chronicles 1, $ 4.99 Considering it’s one of the great-grandparents of the action-RPG genre, the first Ys game holds up surprisingly well in the modern age. Of course, Chronicles is a remake that improves considerably upon the original release, but at its core, this isn’t terribly different from the game that started it all. Thrilling action, a sensational soundtrack, and some legendary boss battles make this one of the most fast-paced and enjoyable action-RPGs on iOS. Let’s hope these Ys ports keep coming from DotEmu, because it only gets better from here.

The 2015 RPG Reload Golden Panchos For Original RPGs

Attack the Light - Steven Universe Light RPG

Attack the Light – Steven Universe Light RPG, $ 2.99 Please do not burn me at the stake, but I am not a Steven Universe fan. I’ve never even seen the show, which shouldn’t be too surprising as I live in Japan. I’m told it’s quite good, though. Why do I say this? Because it shows that Attack The Light is a good game, regardless of whether or not you are a fan of these characters. It describes itself as a Light RPG, and I’m okay with that description. The story is barely there, and dungeon exploration is a matter of quick swipes and taps. The combat system is surprisingly deep, however, taking a page from Nintendo’s Mario RPGs with timing-based skills and mini-games. You won’t need to use most of the options open to you, mind you, but the game makes a good effort to keep things interesting for its relatively short running time by presenting enemy groups that require you to change tactics now and then.


CHAOS RINGS ?, $ 19.99 On careful consideration, Chaos Rings 3 is probably the best original JRPG ever released for iOS. While the other Chaos Rings games are excellent, they always felt like they were being put together on a shoe-string budget. I won’t say Chaos Rings 3 is quite console-quality in that regard, but it’s probably as close to it as Square Enix has gotten with a mobile game. With an epic story, a massive amount of content to enjoy, and gameplay systems that dance on the knife edge of complex and comprehensible, Chaos Rings 3 is the kind of release mobile JRPG fans have waited a long time for. Unfortunately, if you have iOS 9, you’ll have to wait a bit longer, since the game is currently in need of a fix. Still, I have no doubts that Square Enix will update it, so you shouldn’t let that deter you from this amazing effort.

Galactic Keep

Galactic Keep, $ 2.99 Galactic Keep certainly made for some laughs in the meeting room at TouchArcade Towers. When I was assigned the game, I came back shortly after to complain about it, expressing my dislike for it on almost every level. A few hours later, I returned to the meeting room absolutely gushing about the game. I think one of the things that I found daunting initially but attractive in the long run was the sheer scale of the experience. In using board game visuals, your brain might think about the game in terms of board game dimensions, but Galactic Keep is bigger and more open than just about any board game would dare to be. It might be a little weird at first, but once you get into its way of thinking, it’s hard to stop playing. There is apparently another module coming in 2016 for the game, and I’ll be setting aside a few days to happily soak it in.

Sorcery! 3

Sorcery! 3, $ 4.99 Developer inkle keeps upping the ante with each adaptation of Steve Jackson’s classic Sorcery! gamebooks. Sorcery! 3 has a much bigger vision than the prior installments, creating something that a physically book couldn’t feasibly do without losing its roots. Taking a somewhat dry middle chapter and turning it into a massive role-playing adventure was a nifty trick, and that time travel idea is excellent in both its conception and implementation. It’s almost too non-linear at times, and it takes a clever, lucky player to see it through to its conclusion, but as a marriage of interactive fiction and RPG, it’s one of the most impressive examples yet. It will be interesting to see what inkle does for the fourth and final part of this series.

Templar Battleforce RPG Full Game HD

Templar Battleforce RPG Full Game HD, $ 6.99 Of all the strategy RPGs released this year, Templar Battleforce marks down the highest scores across the board, and that was no mean feat. The gameplay is accessible, the customization options are deep, and the maps and enemy layouts do a superb job of keeping the player on their toes. The AI might not be as clever as in some other games, but the game manages to be a blast anyway. That’s not even mentioning how much game there is to play here, with the amount of missions doubling up on a lot of full-priced console strategy games. The Trese Brothers really knocked it out of the park with this one.

The 2015 RPG Reload Golden Panchos For “Sleeper” RPGs

Dark Fear

Dark Fear, $ 2.99 Dark Fear is weird, there’s no doubt about that. As a hybrid of point and click adventures and RPGs, there are surprisingly few useful points of reference to help explain it. Imagine Quest For Glory draped in a horror motif, and you’ll be on your way, I suppose. While Dark Fear probably leans more on the adventure side of things than the RPG end, it features equipment upgrades, consumable items, a functioning economy, and turn-based battles, so I think it has a lot of appeal for RPG fans who are willing to try something a little off the beaten path. Just be careful, as it does make use of the occasional jump scare.

Demon's Rise

Demon’s Rise, $ 2.99 Demon’s Rise is not the most balanced strategy RPG, nor does it have the best story or the shiniest presentation. It takes a fairly orthodox approach to tactical RPGs and then slathers on a ton of content, including a healthy amount of missions and what is, I think, the largest and most-varied playable cast in any strategy RPG I’ve had the pleasure of playing. For the price the developer is charging, it’s almost an absurd value, particularly in light of how many free, substantial updates he’s delivered since releasing the game. It might be a little rough around the edges, but it’s time well-spent for anyone who loves a good turn-based bash.

Hero Emblems

Hero Emblems, $ 1.99 Given the amount of match-3 water that has passed beneath the TouchArcade bridge, it takes something really special for a game of that type to get noticed. Hero Emblems is quite a special game indeed, mixing in some intriguing RPG elements and some (perhaps unintentionally) hilarious dialogue. The balancing gets a little dicey at times, but if you’re looking for a quality match-3 RPG with no IAP strings attached, I’m not sure you can find any better than Hero Emblems on iOS.

The Last Warlock

The Last Warlock, $ 3.99 I know, there are a lot of strategy RPGs this time around, but it was a great year for them. If nothing else, I can promise you haven’t played one quite like The Last Warlock before. Most strategy RPGs are fairly strict about coloring inside the lines of the genre. It’s a genre where steady balancing is a lofty ideal that most developers aspire to and many players expect. The Last Warlock is not interested in your rules. It gives you the keys to your father’s prized Ferrari and encourages you to launch it at passing helicopters, if such a thing should strike your fancy. You’re not only given the tools to be creative, you’re actively encouraged to use them to try and get one over on your opponent, leading to some truly awe-inspiring battle stories.


Lowlander, $ 1.99 There are tons of games that pay homage to the classics, but the truth is that very few of them manage turn out to be better than their source while simultaneously hitting most of the same notes. Lowlander can count itself among that small few. Admittedly, improving on Ultima 2 is probably an easier task than, say, taking aim at Chrono Trigger, but you have to give developer Flat Black credit. This is early Ultima the way we would all like to remember it, rather than how early Ultima actually is. It’s a tasty meal for anyone with fond memories of those trailblazing titles.

Congratulations to the games that made the list. It was another tough competition this year, and the final cuts to bring the lists down to five each were not made lightly. Congratulations are also in order to any developer, big or small, who put in the hard work and effort to release an RPG this year. Even if your game isn’t appearing on year-end lists, simply getting such a big endeavor completed is worthy of praise. Thank you once more for giving players like me so many exciting quests to tackle.

It has been my absolute pleasure to cover the mobile RPG beat for another year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2016 will bring. I have a hunch we’ll be seeing more of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy from Square Enix, and perhaps the Sword Of Mana remake, as well. The new Baldur’s Gate: Siege Of Dragonspear, Ys Chronicles 2, and Avadon 3 might be on the horizon. Kemco will surely be there with more of their RPGs, and Titan Quest, 9th Dawn 2, and the new Adventure To Fate game should all arrive early in the next year. Who knows, maybe this will be the year for Sword Of Fargoal 2 and the new Solomon game? Only time will tell.

As my final sign-off for the year 2015, I’d like to thank each and every one of you yet again, gentle readers. The RPG Reload feature has been going on strong this year, and your generous support both as readers and Patreon backers has made it possible for the feature to stretch its legs a little. It couldn’t happen without all of you. Thank you for sharing in my adventures with me, and I look forward to another 50 or so in the next year to come. Now, with that said, it’s time to let me know what your favorite RPGs of 2015 were. You can do that by commenting below, posting in the Official RPG Reload Club thread, or by sending out a tweet to me at @RPGReload. As for me, I’ll be back next week with the next part of our History Of Handheld RPGs monthly feature. Have a happy and safe New Year, friends, and as always, thanks for reading!

Next Week’s Reload: The History Of Handheld RPGs, Part Five

Saber a Champagne Bottle With a Spoon

Saber a Champagne Bottle With a Spoon

Sabrage, the process of opening a bottle of champagne with a saber, is a fun ceremonial tradition that?s great for impressing party guests. You don?t necessarily need a saber or knife for this party trick, however.

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Eli’s Favorite iPhone and iPad Games of 2015: ‘Hearthstone’, ‘Bean Dreams’ and… Wait, Those Came Out in 2014!

Eli’s Favorite iPhone and iPad Games of 2015: ‘Hearthstone’, ‘Bean Dreams’ and… Wait, Those Came Out in 2014!

Phew, well, that’s 2015 officially in the books. The App Store should thaw sometime tonight or tomorrow, and we’ll be back to business as usual, or, as “usual” as the constant state of insanity that we’ve grown used to following the world of iOS can be. This year felt weirder than most when it came to figuring out our best games, as the App Store has really been trending towards the idea of making games “evergreen.” If you’re not familiar with the term, it basically means developers have figured out that it’s often better to just endlessly support existing titles with live teams constantly pumping out updates and other content than it is to continually release new stuff. For our “official” best games and Game of the Year post we decided to only include games released in 2015, which makes sense, but feels odd at the same time because a lot of my favorite games of this year were actually released last year.

When figuring out what to do about all this, I consulted with friends who run other web sites focusing on PC and console, and this is just one more thing unique about the world of mobile that no one else needs to deal with. For instance, it’s easy to treat World of Warcraft as distinct individual expansion releases and potentially include those expansions in end of the year coverage as they’re sort of their own game release even if all you’re doing is adding more stuff on to a title originally released over a decade ago. Similarly, the three chunks of campaign content that make up Starcraft 2 all are treated as distinct releases, even though by former standards, Starcraft 2 would only be “complete” now, as it originally only launched with the Terran campaign, leaving the Zerg and Protoss coming soon as separate $ 60 purchases. It’s hard to find any parallels in mobile, aside from maybe the recent substantial Temple Run 2 [Free] update, as most games are updated slowly and constantly. You wouldn’t treat a random Hay Day [Free] update that adds a few tiny things any different from any other iOS update, but when you pool together twelve months worth of those tiny updates, it feels like a whole new, super significant improvement to the game. So, here’s what I’ve been loving over 2015:

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

The iOS game I spent the most time playing this year was Hearthstone [Free], but again, does it feel right to consider what essentially amounts to new card sets for “best” game consideration? These are strange times. Anyway, to back up a bit, if you’ve followed my reviews or the podcast here on TouchArcade, you’d know I am a pretty hardcore fan of Magic the Gathering. I’ve been playing, following, or otherwise participating in the game on some level since I was in Junior High, which means I’ve been involved in Magic for well over 20 years. (And thinking about the amount of money I’ve likely spent on cards in that time makes me queasy.) A large portion of my best friendships have come from people I’ve met playing the game, and anecdotes surrounding a Magic tournament even made it into a recent Best Man’s speech at a friend’s wedding. I had very early beta access (or technical alpha or whatever Blizzard calls it) to Hearthstone, and for the longest time, I really didn’t like it, because it wasn’t Magic.

But, as you grow up, your friends start getting married and having kids, you buy a house, and just generally have responsibilities that both prevent you from attending 2-3 paper Magic events a week and effortlessly dropping $ 400 on a eBay playset of Jace the Mind Sculptor. With that the game loses a bit of its luster due to how difficult it is to keep playing competitively. The digital offerings aren’t great either, with Magic Online in a state of constant, unbelievable jank, and Magic Duels [Free] feeling like a real watered down version of the game I love. These days, I really just follow Magic through watching tournaments that are big enough to get streamed on Twitch, which sucks, but, that’s life.

Hearthstone, on the other hand, I can play anywhere, any time, from any mobile platform, or even my PC. Purchases, my collection, decks, quests, overall progress, and everything else is synchronized across everything. It feels like what a card game in 2015 should be. Once I got over the whole “This sucks, it’s not Magic!” thing (which many of my Magic friends I’ve converted have also gone through), it’s scratching nearly all the same itches of strategic CCG gameplay that Magic used to. Also, as far as the professional scene is concerned, watching Hearthstone tournaments are far more entertaining and well produced than Magic tournaments, which you can plainly see any time you’re comparing the differences on Twitch. A lot of that entertainment factor comes from RNG, for sure, but that’s true of any “real” sport as well- Hell, there’s an entire industry that surrounds releasing crazy VHS/DVD/BluRay releases of crazy sports moments. Ragnaros going to face for lethal when there’s almost no way that’s even possible statistically isn’t really any different.

Blizzard has done some super interesting stuff with card releases over the year, both in single player expansions and more traditional releases of sets through card packs, and a lot of great mechanics have been added to the game. I feel like it’ll still take some time before The Grand Tournament reaches its stride as more cards enter the pool, but I love what they’ve done with The League of Explorers. Not only was the single player content amazingly fun, but Discover as a mechanic is the best one they’ve released yet. I love how they’ve embraced RNG as a thing while allowing you to mitigate it via choosing one of three cards. It’s got all the flavor of crazy Hearthstone RNG while still allowing you to structure a strategy around it. The coolest part of all this is you could conceivably get all this for free. I’ve spent money on the game, for sure, but many friends of mine play without spending a cent, and from doing interviews with Blizzard, a lot of the development and balance teams intentionally maintain entirely free to play accounts.

I really miss playing Magic as much as I used to, but, thanks to Hearthstone the only real thing I feel like I’m “missing” from that world is the social aspect of sitting across the table from someone and playing. Hearthstone definitely doesn’t offer that, but, I guess it’s a decent trade off as it’s impossible to play a game of Magic in less than ten minutes from the toilet.

Tales from the Borderlands

It’s really pretty incredible how far Telltale has come. We called Jurassic Park: The Game [$ 2.99] a “technical disaster” in our review, and really, that aptly described most Telltale games of the time. The games themselves might have been decent, but their iOS ports were so terrible it was almost unbelievable. That all changed with the release of Walking Dead: The Game [Free], and since then it almost feels like Telltale found some kind of genie or something who granted the wish of all their games be awesome. I wasn’t super into Telltale’s Game of Thrones [Free] and Minecraft: Story Mode [$ 4.99] isn’t doing a whole lot for me, but I think it’s because I loved Tales from the Borderlands [Free] so much that everything else pales in comparison.

I absolutely love the Borderlands universe, but the way it’s presented on PC and console in traditional Borderlands games always kind of made me wish it was told in any other medium. Total Biscuit, I believe, coined the Borderlands PC and console games as “First Person Looters,” which is pretty perfect. If you’ve never played one, you’re revealing the (admittedly, simply incredible) lore of the Borderlands universe via MMO-style kill quests and other stuff with the typical gameplay loop of “Go here, kill X things, come back, get loot, equip any updgrades, repeat.” It’s perfectly fine, and that cycle is the foundation of many games, but I’ve been doing that for decades now. The feeling this gameplay invokes in me is perfectly nailed by this Penny Arcade strip:


But, like I said, I love the universe the games take place in, so I put up with it. The writing in Borderlands 2 is simply phenomenal, and even though the gameplay loop was incredibly boring at times, the game features some of the most memorable moments, characters, and high points of any PC/console game I’ve played in recent memory. Tales from the Borderlands takes all that stuff I love, strips out all the stuff I hate, and what you’re left with is pure distilled awesomeness. That being said, Tales from the Borderlands is also sort of difficult to recommend because much like me not really being into Minecraft and not really appreciating Story Mode, if you’re going into Tales from the Borderlands cold… Chances are you won’t love it as much as I did.

Particle Mace

If you looked at how I played iOS games as a pie chart, simple one-button games with super-short sessions time likely make up the majority of the time spent gaming on my phone. It’s how games like Candy Crush [Free] boast such huge numbers, as when you’re playing a game for a few minutes a time, many times a day, you really don’t realize how quickly that all adds up. Particle Mace [$ 2.99] came out in early January, and has lived a happy life of near-daily play on my iPhone ever since.

You control the game one handed and play in portrait mode, so it’s a really great title for killing time in line or wherever else. The basic concept is that you’re a space ship that has a, well, particle mace, swinging from the back of your ship. Gameplay involves seeing how long you can survive while you clear the game field of enemies by swinging your mace around. It’s a clever physics-based gameplay mechanic which always seem to resonate well with me, and it’s one of those games where you can do incredibly well, sometimes unintentionally, and just have that feeling of “Oh man, this is such an amazing run” before dying an untimely death moments later.


Particle Mace is a game that could’ve been packed to the brim with free to play shenanigans and Crossy Road [Free] collection mechanics, but it’s nice just getting the whole thing for three bucks and not needing to worry about any of that. Also, while I know they’re not for everyone, the low-fi vector graphics and particles really do it for me. We loved Particle Mace in our review, and it’s a pretty effortless recommendation for anyone looking for a good one-handed game to play.

Bean Dreams

Here’s another great example of what I was talking about earlier with update craziness: Bean Dreams [$ 2.99] was released in early December of last year, and while we liked the game quite a bit in our review, the amount of content Kumbobius has added to the game over 2015 more than doubles what was included in the original, all for free and without any kind of IAP. The gameplay of the Bean games is so great too, and features mechanics I straight up tell developers to steal to add replay value to their games.

So, you can just bumble through a level in Bean Dreams without much issue. Your little jumping bean jumps automatically, and finishing them without jumping into spikes or other obstacles isn’t supremely challenging, particularly if you have roots in platforming gameplay. Just beating each level is just the beginning, as you’ve got three other goals: Collecting all the fruit and the hidden axolotl involves scouring each level from top to bottom, but where the rubber really meets the road is in beating the maximum jumps threshold.

Say a level has a goal of 15 jumps, you’ve got to fully make it to the end of the level by only touching the ground 15 times. It sounds trivial, but I assure you, it is anything but easy- Particularly on later levels. It’s fascinating how this extra goal also transforms the game from what otherwise would be a pretty basic platformer into something that feels more like a puzzle game. This ramps up the replay value to sky-high levels as what the game is asking you to do is maddeningly simple, but it will often require a near-scientific analysis of the level to meet the goal. It’s awesome, and again, I encourage more developers to straight up steal this kind of level objective because it’s amazing.

Pac-Man 256

For the longest time, mobile games, particularly during the J2ME days, were a total dumping ground for terrible games tied together with some kind of IP that barely made sense. Namco has been especially terrible with this sort of thing, releasing games like Pac’N-Jump which combined Pac-Men with Doodle Jump [$ 0.99] because someone at Namco looked at Doodle Jump and said, “Doodle Jump, he’s so hot right now. Doodle Jump.” Anyone around for the early days of iOS gaming know all about this phenomenon of mashing together popular character plus popular gameplay model at the time. Not even Sonic the Hedgehog was immune to the “Just throw him in a Doodle Jump-like!” Because, you know, when I think Sonic I think slowly jumping up platforms vertically.

Anyway, cautious optimism was the key when we first heard about Pac-Man 256. It’s published by a company who historically has done some pretty crazy things with their characters but developed by the indie studio responsible for Crossy Road, one of the biggest (and best) indie hits in recent history. It seemed like a delicate balance, because learn too far towards the Namco side and you’re left with another crazy Pac-Man game that would leave gamers scratching their heads. Learn too far towards the Hipster Whale side and surely someone high up in Namco would look at the game and say, “Can’t we make it more like, hmm, let me look what’s on the charts, ah yes, Candy Crush?”


Thankfully, it all shook out flawlessly. I’d go as far as to say Pac-Man 256 is the best Pac-Man game I’ve ever played, and as a child of 80’s arcades, I’m even including the originals in that which admittedly may be sacrilege for some. It’s got a shockingly fair pay model, power-ups which spice up the gameplay nicely, and recently they’re pumping out additional content updates to do things like re-skin the game in fun and exciting ways. Pac-Man 256 is going to live a long and healthy life on every iOS device I ever have.

Oh, and of course, outrunning the level 256 glitch is potentially the most clever way to explain why you’re trying to go fast in an endless game.

2015 was a great year for iOS gaming, both in regards to individual releases as well as updates to existing titles. I’m super excited for what 2016 will bring, as we’re on the verge of highly anticipated titles like Crashlands which undoubtedly will kick off what will be another exciting year full of awesome stuff that we similarly end up whiddling down at the end of the year. To all of our readers who have stuck with us, you guys are the best, and I look forward to keeping this train rolling through whatever insanity the App Store throws out way.

Jared’s Favorite iPhone and iPad Games of 2015: ‘Card Crawl’, ‘Hero Emblems’, ‘Mos Speedrun 2’ and More

Jared’s Favorite iPhone and iPad Games of 2015: ‘Card Crawl’, ‘Hero Emblems’, ‘Mos Speedrun 2’ and More

It’s the end of 2015 and time to say goodbye to what was another crazy year of iOS gaming. As I’ve mentioned in years past, I hate doing these “best of” things because I’m terrible at making concise lists. There’s far too many great games released in any given year, and I have an absolutely awful time cutting any of my favorites from a list in an effort to get it down to just ten. After putting together and writing our Game of the Year and Best Games of 2015 post, many of my own personal favorites found their way onto that list anyway, so in a way it’s kind of like I get some bonus picks in my personal list here as I’m not going to be listing any repeats. Hooray! So, while looking through this list, keep that other list in mind too as all but a very few would also have been in contention for my personal picks this year. Oh, and much like last year, despite these “bonus picks” I still couldn’t keep this list down to ten, so enjoy my *ahem* fourteen favorite iOS games of 2015. Have a Happy New Year and here’s to yet another great year of iOS gaming in 2016!


Card Crawl

Card Crawl

Card Crawl, $ 0.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – When Card Crawl initially launched back in March it was a very nifty Solitaire-like card game built around the mechanics of a turn-based dungeon crawler. It was super clever, but had a lot of rough edges. With two major content updates and lots of smaller nip and tuck updates during the year, Card Crawl has really come into its own and become a daily obsession that won’t be leaving my device anytime soon.

Dashy Crashy

Dashy Crashy

Dashy Crashy, Free – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – Despite its extremely recent release, Dashy Crashy has charmed the pants off me and earned a spot in my top games list. It’s a simple game on the surface, boring-sounding even: It’s a lane-based behind-the-back runner at its core. However, crisp, colorful visuals, an incredible sense of speed, and layers of hidden depth like a clever combo system and multi-touch swiping maneuvers elevate Dashy Crashy beyond “just another endless runner” and brings a smile to my face every time with its over-the-top arcade sensibilities.

Hero Emblems

Hero Emblems

Hero Emblems, $ 1.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – The classic Puzzle Quest proved how well match-3 could blend with RPG mechanics, but in the years since the genre has been overrun with mediocre “me too” matching RPGs. Hero Emblems is the first game in a long time that actually held my attention and made a matching RPG feel like a meaningful endeavor with its cast of likable characters, an engaging story, and strong blending of matching and RPG mechanics.

Last Horizon

Last Horizon

Last Horizon, $ 2.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Last Horizon is a surprisingly simple game, but executed oh so well. Blasting from planet to planet restocking on fuel and collecting resources to take to your new home planet is fun in and of itself due to the Asteroids-like inertial physics in the game, but Last Horizon also does a great job at creating a moody atmosphere that actually makes you feel like a lone space pilot flinging around in the vastness of the universe. It’s also a very challenging game with both structured levels and an endless mode, meaning it will keep you busy for some time.

Mos Speedrun 2

Mos Speedrun 2

Mos Speedrun 2, $ 1.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Mos Speedrun is one of my all-time favorite platformers on any game system, and I waited four long years for the sequel. It was absolutely worth the wait. Bigger levels to explore, more abilities for Mos to utilize, better visuals and impeccable design make this a platformer that exceeds its predecessor in just about every way. If all that new stuff doesn’t interest you though, Mos Speedrun 2 is still built around a nearly flawless speedrunning system that will test even the most skilled gamers.

Operation Dracula


OPERATION DRACULA, $ 2.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – The arcade era in the late ’80s and into the ’90s was filled with over-the-top, borderline obnoxious games that were basically yelling at you as you walked by trying to get your attention over the hundreds of other games begging to be played. This is Operation Dracula in a nutshell. A nonsensical storyline, a blaring and kick ass rock soundtrack, huge explosions, massive boss fights, obnoxious announcer voice? It’s all here. I love all these things, and it’s rare to find them all in one game nowadays, let alone with satisfying, tough-as-nails shooter gameplay included too.

Particle Mace


PARTICLE MACE, $ 2.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – One of the most unique games I’ve ever experienced, Particle Mace is a space shooter without the shooting. Instead, bungie-like tentacle extend from the back of your ship like tin cans tied to a newlywed’s car, and you must maneuver around in order to swing the weights at the ends of the tentacle into enemies and asteroids. It sounds strange but is strangely satisfying to play, and translates especially well to the portrait orientation and touchscreen of the iPhone.

PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist

PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist

PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist, $ 4.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – I can’t say I’m the biggest PewDiePie fan, but I respect the hell out of his rise to fame these past couple of years. Being one of the biggest YouTube celebrities on the planet, I figured there was no way Legend of the Brofist wouldn’t be some crappy cash-in game. Boy was I glad to be wrong. Legend of the Brofist is a wonderful love letter to some of the great platformers of the past, with varied gameplay, great level design, whimsical environments and characters. Besides the mostly terrible voice acting, this is (surprisingly) one of the best platformers I’ve played on the App Store.

Sage Solitaire

Sage Solitaire

Sage Solitaire, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – I love playing poker, but I’ve grown pretty tired of most of the poker games on the App Store. You’re either playing against mediocre AI, or online against people who aren’t really taking it seriously, since the money is fake. Sage Solitaire is the solution to this, as it allows me to play a card game and put together the best poker hands that I can but confines it to a game of solitaire, which is really just you playing against the deck of cards and luck. The results are incredibly compelling and make for a great fit on mobile.

Samurai Blitz

Samurai Blitz

Samurai Blitz, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – It’s easy to grow tired of side-scrolling endless runners, but every once in a while one will come along that still manages to wow me. Samurai Blitz doesn’t necessarily break the mold, but it has a great “feel” in terms of its running and jumping and the ability to create combos by attacking airborne enemies in succession. Throw in incredibly gorgeous pixel art, fantastic animation, wonderful chip-tunes, and tons of upgradeable items and abilities to chase after and this turned out to be one of my all-time favorite runners.

Shooting Stars

Shooting Stars!

Shooting Stars!, $ 2.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Ok, so it’s no surprise I like shoot’em ups, but Shooting Stars struck me as a really unique take on the genre. I like its “roguelike” influence in that it’s a series of randomly generated levels strung together, making it a perfect game to simply pick up and play without having to put too much thought into the matter. I also really enjoyed all the celebrity parodies and the crazy humor. Plus, any game where you get to shoot rainbow lasers out of a cat at Carter Dotson earns an automatic spot on any “best games” list I’ll ever do.

Skiing Yeti Mountain

[appblurb options=”” url=”link” blurb=` – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Downhill slalom skiing games are surprisingly popular on mobile, and the awesome Dudeski made my top games list in 2014. Now its brother-from-a-different-mother Skiing Yeti Mountain has done the same. The biggest standout for me is how well this game nails the one-thumb controls, allowing me to maneuver my little slalomer with incredible granularity by using just subtle movement. Throw in some wacky characters, a mysterious storyline, and literally hundreds(!) of levels, and it’s hard not to like just about everything Skiing Yeti Mountain has to offer.`]

Super Boys – The Big Fight

[appblurb options=”” url=”″ blurb=` – [Game of the Week] – [Forum Thread] – Developer Mooff has been making iOS games for years, and as such have amassed a gigantic roster of quirky characters across their library of titles. They decided to take those characters and throw them into one giant fighting game in a similar vein to Smash Bros. and the results are fan-freaking-tastic. There are a surprising number of great fighters on iOS, but Super Boys has punch and kicked its way to the top of my list of favorites.`]

Sword of Xolan

[appblurb options=”” url=”″ blurb=` – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Speaking of brothers from different mothers, Sword of Xolan is very much like a distant relative to one of our Best Games of 2014, Goblin Sword. I always feel that platformers live and die by the “feel” of their physics and the character’s movement and jumping, and this is something Sword of Xolan completely nails, making it simply a fun game to play. Having interesting levels that are a joy to explore, colorful enemies and bosses, and fantastic pixel art are the things that push Xolan over the top from “good” to “absolutely fantastic”.`]

Force Refresh the iOS App Store by Tapping the Tab Bar 10 Times

Force Refresh the iOS App Store by Tapping the Tab Bar 10 Times

Every once in a while, the App Store seems to glitch out and get stuck either not properly updating or not showing new updates correctly. Over on Twitter, Zachary Drayer points out that you can force reload everything in the app by tapping an icon on the tab bar 10 times.

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TouchArcade’s Top Stories of 2015: Confederate Flags, Five Nights at Freddy’s and Town Hall 11

TouchArcade’s Top Stories of 2015: Confederate Flags, Five Nights at Freddy’s and Town Hall 11

We put together one of these posts last year, and it’s always fun to go back and look at site statistics, so, why not do it again? To figure out these lists, I’ve pulled up the cumulative traffic of everything we specifically wrote in 2015 over the entire year. Now, stories posted earlier in the year obviously get the benefit of being around longer and got a bit more traffic as a result, but, it’s not that significant as most of the clicks we get come right around when something was posted, with some stories having a longer tail than others. Oddly enough, all of our top stories from 2014 are still going strong as well.

Reviews / First Impressions

  1. ‘Final Fantasy VII’ for iPhone and iPad First Impressions: It’s About What You’d Expect
  2. ‘Mortal Kombat X’ Review – Vengeance Feels A Lot Like Justice
  3. ‘Chaos Rings 3’ Review – Put A Ring On It, This One’s A Keeper
  4. ‘Implosion – Never Lose Hope’ Review – Hope Is The Thing With Missiles
  5. ‘Radiation Island’ Review – Get Chased by Katana-Wielding Zombies and Have Fun!
  6. ‘Attack the Light – Steven Universe’ Review – Power Levels Over 9000
  7. ‘Five Nights At Freddy’s 4’ Review – The Latest Freddy Gets The Worst Port Yet
  8. ?Dungeon Hunter 5? Review – Truly a Whole New Dungeon
  9. ‘Hitman: Sniper’ Review – One Shot, One Kill
  10. ‘Lifeline’ Review – Taylor, You Are Way Too Needy


  1. ‘Fallout Shelter’ Guide ? Strategies, Tips and Tricks for the Industrious Post-Apocalypse Vault Overseer
  2. ‘Mortal Kombat X’ Guide – Tips To Win Without Spending Real Money
  3. ‘Final Fantasy: Record Keeper’ Guide – Tips To Win Without Paying Real Money
  4. ‘WWE Immortals’ Guide – Tips To Win Without Spending Real Money
  5. ‘Dungeon Hunter 5’ Guide – How to Loot Without Spending Real Money
  6. ‘The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land’ Guide – How To Play the Game Without Paying Any Money
  7. ‘Need For Speed: No Limits’ Guide – Tips To Win Without Spending Real Money
  8. Guide to Beat ‘Hearthstone’ Molten Core Heroic, Normal, and Class Challenges – Tips and Decks for Blackrock Mountain Adventure’s Second Wing
  9. ?Pokemon Shuffle Mobile? Guide – How to Catch ?em All Without Spending Real Money
  10. Guide to Beat ‘Hearthstone’ Blackrock Depths Heroic, Normal, and Class Challenges – Tips and Decks for Blackrock Mountain Adventure’s First Wing

News / Miscellaneous

  1. Apple Removes All American Civil War Games From the App Store Because of the Confederate Flag
  2. How to Use a Custom Skin in ‘Minecraft Pocket Edition’
  3. Check Out ‘ClashCon’ Video of ‘Clash of Clans’ Update Spoilers – New Town Hall 11, New Defense, and New Hero
  4. “We Own You” – Confessions of an Anonymous Free to Play Producer
  5. ‘PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist’ is the Latest YouTuber Game in Development
  6. ‘Clash of Clans’ Town Hall 11 Update is Out Now!
  7. ‘Crossy Road’ Updated with New Characters to Celebrate Chinese New Year
  8. New ‘Clash of Clans’ Town Hall 11 Update Sneak Peek Shows Level 9 Wizard Tower & Laboratory
  9. More ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s 4’ Teaser Images – Say Hello to Nightmare Chica
  10. ‘Hearthstone’ for iPhone Now Available via Universal Update – Log in to Get Your Free Pack of Cards Now

The top story of the year by far was us being on the ground floor of the Confederate Flag drama. That got picked up by FOX News, Drudge Report, and a bunch of other places that were super wound up over the Confederate Flag in general. What’s particularly interesting about that story is that it had a surprisingly decent bounce rate, which means people were coming in from FOX News mad as hell about the Confederate Flag, then decided to stick around to check out some rad iOS games.

So, if you’re one of the people who is now a converted TouchArcade reader because of the Confederate Flag, or any of these huge stories… Thanks for sticking around!

How to Work Out When the Gym Is Crowded

How to Work Out When the Gym Is Crowded

It?s the least wonderful time of the year to get a peaceful workout. Throngs of eager exercisers will fill the nation?s gyms this week to work on their resolutions. Whether you?re one of the newbies or just a regular trying to get your scheduled sweat on, here?s how to deal with, or ditch, the crowds.

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Surprise! ‘Final Fantasy IX’ Is Coming to the App Store

Surprise! ‘Final Fantasy IX’ Is Coming to the App Store

Final Fantasy fanatics officially now have something super awesome to look forward to with the new year: This morning Square Enix quietly announced that Final Fantasy IX is coming to iOS, Android, and PC. It’s surprising news considering there’s been rumblings for the last decade or so that Squeenix lost the source code for Final Fantasy IX, and if that’s true, this is likely just an emulated version of the original PlayStation game… Which is A-OK with me. Here’s the trailer:

A lot of folks consider FF9 to be the best of the PlayStation-era Final Fantasy RPG’s, but then again, people said that about FF7 and FF8. Whichever one you consider the “best,” they’re all great games, and definitely something to get excited for next year. According to the game’s web site, you’re going to need to have a reasonably recent iOS device running iOS 7.0 or later to play.

Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

Update: Shaun spotted some additional details inside of the FF Portal app: “With high-definition graphics, newly added achievements, auto-save, high speed mode, and several game boosting features, the game is easy to pick up and play no matter where you go.” Awesome!

Jezebel Old Navy Doesn’t Want Your Kids to Become Artists | Factually This Viral List About 1915 Is

Jezebel Old Navy Doesn?t Want Your Kids to Become Artists | Factually This Viral List About 1915 Is

Jezebel Old Navy Doesn?t Want Your Kids to Become Artists | Factually This Viral List About 1915 Is Full of Lies | Gawker The Republican Party Is a Trick | Jalopnik Barack Obama Drives A 1963 Corvette With Jerry Seinfeld! |

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