The holidays are upon us and for many of us, that means lots of family meals and other communal events. For lots of these get-togethers you’ll be away from home and thus away from your computer and/or console. What’s a gamer to do? Enter mobile games.
Whether you’ve got great friends and family you love to spend time with or it’s more of a chore you’d rather avoid, I’ve got some games that will help you get through this time of year. And because I’m Jewish and cranky and everything is about Christmas, this will be a list of 8 games, one for every night of Hanukkah. Deal with it.
Monument Valley is a beloved classic for a reason. Its hauntingly beautiful Escher-inspired levels are truly works of art and the relative ease of the puzzles makes it a great fit for every sort of gamer. It’s relaxing too and we could all use some peace and calm this time of year. You do each level at your own pace and the game doesn’t penalize you for mistakes; anything you do can be undone.
If you’ve played the game already, play it again. I’ve done so six or seven times and I never tire of it. Buy the Forgotten Shores expansion too and experience even more gorgeous monuments, labyrinths, and new mechanics. Fall in love all over again with Ida’s faithful companion, The Totem.
It’s also a great game to play with kids or have them play and help with puzzles if they need it. Fire it up on an iPad for maximum shareability.
Want to swoosh down a mountain slope on a snowboard, but it’s too cold or you’re too unathletic or there’s no snow where you live? Alto’s Adventure has you covered.
This endless runner will have you whizzing down mountains and through villages and forests, doing flips, jumping over obstacles and gorges, all the while trying to round up adorable errant llamas. It’s sleek and gorgeous and is the closest you can get to being a snowboarding legend without ever strapping on a board.
The gameplay is exhilarating while also oddly relaxing and the changing weather and time of day of the landscape is a visual feast. Make sure you try Zen Mode if you want endless play with no stopping even if you crash.
Drawn to Kill (iPad only)
Let’s say your relatives are stressing you out. You can’t deal with any more questions about your job, relationship status, or any other area of your life that your mom wants to micromanage. Need something to get your aggressions out on? Instead of shooting death stares across the dinner table, why not be a ninja and shoot some arrows in Drawn to Kill?
This iPad only precision archery game uses a familiar mechanic of pulling back and releasing, but it packs enough of a challenge to keep you focused and working hard to advance to the next level. So tell your uncle you can’t listen to his political screed now; you’ve got the villainous Mac Thundergut to deal with.
When you haven’t seen the sun in weeks and are itching to go on an adventure, Land Sliders might just be the modern free to play classic you need. Designed by legendary Fruit Ninja creator, Luke Muscat, it’s light, casual, fun in an irreverent and adorable package. But don’t let the ease of play fool you. This is a hard game once you get past a certain number of levels. But even so, it never ceases to be delightful
You’ll be sliding the world under a dizzying array of charming characters and collecting items through endless procedurally generated levels. But watch out for the bears, yetis, cactus turtles, and other baddies. And don’t fall off the edge of the world either!
Land Sliders feels great to play and its short sessions are perfect when you want to escape your family for a bit to someplace you, um, can’t be disturbed. Because we all know real gamers play on the toilet.
You can’t do anything about your flight being delayed or your car breaking down in a snowstorm on the way to grandma’s house, but you can design the transit system for London, Paris, Hong Kong, Cairo, and many other cities in Mini Metro.
You start out with just three stations, but slowly more pop up on your map and you must keep them all serviced and linked up in an optimal manner.
Despite the eventual stress of overcrowding and the inevitable game-over that results, the game is mesmerising and soothing to play. There’s something that lulls you into a contented state as you watch the train carriages glide smoothly to and fro.
When things get hairy, you can pause and try to re-design your system to deal with problem spots. Through it all, you’ll marvel at the clean simplicity of the game’s visual style. It’s a focused and contained experience which is breath of fresh air on a platform where games are often bloated and over-stuffed with endless “features” and “content.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly useless in the kitchen. So when I get asked to help with meal prep, I’d rather be just about anywhere else.
If this happens to you, have your phone at the ready, be playing Cook, Serve, Delicious, and say that sorry, but you’re already cooking up a storm in your restaurant and you can’t tear yourself away.
It won’t be an exaggeration. Whether it’s service time at your restaurant in this time management and restaurant simulation game, or you’re competing in the Iron Chef tournament, all your focus and attention will be needed as you madly tap and swipe, trying to keep up with the flow of orders.
This game is definitely unique in the time management and simulation genres; there’s nothing else out there quite like it. And you won’t even cut or burn yourself once ?
The next best thing to playing cribbage with your real-life grandpa is surely Cribbage with Grandpas.
Whether your real grandpas aren’t around anymore or are too far to visit, the grandpas in this game will give you some warm and fuzzies as they gently teach you how to play and then make jokes and tell anecdotes during each hand.
You can customize your grandpa too; everything from his features and dress to his attitude, personality, and how much he talks to you. I set my grandpa’s conversation meter to high and I’ve so far always found his banter fun and a pleasant distraction from the actual cribbage, which I’m terrible at. But my grandpa doesn’t shame me for my poor skills. He only offers words of encouragement and corny jokes which is just as it should be.
Yeti Pie (iOS only)
The holiday season can be ridiculous. Fight fire with fire by playing a game that’s surely one of the most ridiculously funny concepts ever.
Yetis (or sasquatches, if you prefer) are flinging pizzas to one another through the forest. Why? Lord only knows, but it’s your job to make those tosses the right speed and velocity to reach each successive yeti. You’ll encounter pizza obstacles like hills, branches, deer and yes, even something that looks suspiciously like the Loch Ness monster.
As a bonus, and like some of the other games on this list, Yeti Pie is compatible with the Apple TV so you can wow your friends and family with your pizza tossing skills on the big screen.