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With the growing power of mobile devices, it was inevitable they’d become bona fide gaming machines. And I’ve recently been converted. Increasingly capable processors and graphics chips, more memory, and gorgeous IPS screens on Android-based tablets make some of these devices a completely viable platform for serious gaming.

Plus, the versatility of the Android operating system means it’s quite easy for developers to make the most of hardware resources. And let’s not forget Google Play has a bevy of games that are free to download, and then explore in depth through micro transactions. Which I’ve become completely addicted to.

That’s not a bad thing. All of the games listed below could easily fetch a decent up-front price were they offered on more traditional digital distribution channels for PC and games consoles. I wouldn’t think twice about forking over for them, except with Android they’re generally offered for much lower prices or, as mentioned, completely free with “pay as you go” structures.

Naturally, you can’t really enjoy them fully without buying at least some content, but then again, if the game’s good and you enjoy it, then it’s only fair to pay and support the developers.

Let’s start with my current list of must-have games for Android devices:

 PBA Bowling Challenge by Concrete Software 

The epitome of compelling if you’re a bowling person, of if you just like to see those pins get banged around. Easy controls, a seemingly endless array of cool and unique bowling balls, and a very lengthy and cohesive career mode make this the best bowling game I’ve ever personally played. And true to touch conventions, it takes all of ten seconds to master this gem. There are even wacky special powers that recharge over time, adding a fun factor to this apparently officially-sanctioned product, endorsed by the Professional Bowlers Association.

Turkeys to hambones, they're all here!

Dead Trigger by Madfinger Games 

This is the one that sold me on Android gaming. I saw it on a tablet, and was simply floored by how great it looked. This game has graphics settings, just like a PC game! Well, almost, they’re not nearly as detailed. Free to download, this zombie-apocalypse first person shooter has you running around town taking on missions of several types, and there’s also a decent story. The campaign is quite long, and the amount of detail that has gone into environments, weapons, items, and opponents is staggering. You would not think twice if someone told you this was a downloadable PC/console game.

It depends heavily on buying new gear, ammo, and character abilities, but then again Madfinger prices them so reasonably, it’s fine. Although not as intuitive as keyboard/mouse or game controller, the touch controls are very good. They’re best on larger screens, though, I’d say minimum 7-inch device is recommended, otherwise you’ll find your thumbs taking up half the display real estate.

Even the loading screen and the game logo crack me up!

The game's main currency is gold, and you get extra for playing daily: which you'll do

Levelling up, real inventory management, tons of items and abilities...truly amazing

The first time I saw proper aiming down the sights on a tablet was quite a shock!

My trusty M4 and zombie-thrashing turret. Sure, there are some low-res textures, but this is just the beginning...

Blood and Glory: Legend by Glu Mobile

Anyone who’s ever played 16-bit classic Sword of Sodan will immediately fall in love with Blood and Glory, and even if you didn’t, its awesome sword-swinging antics are too compelling to refuse. Telling the story of a gladiator on a journey to take down the wicked emperor, this game has high production values and more items in the store than your local supermarket. Also, Glu gold bought here applies to all other Glu games – and there’s quite a few of them. The basic premise are one-on-one sword fights where you block, parry, attack, and dodge, plus there’s a strong RPG element as you gradually build your character. Or simply spend lots of money at the store and effectively make him invincible on the spot.

As usual, the first thing I check are the daily deals at the store

Have to say the controls are a little trickier with this one, but practice does make a difference

Frontline Commando by Glu Mobile 

A cover shooter much like Kill.Switch and Cabal, Frontline Commando is another Glu instant classic. There’s a massive campaign, and basically non-stop shooting action. Not too much variety in locations, and movement is restricted to jumping around between cover points. Of course, there are still some limitations on Android – most notably RAM. But this is a fun action game through and through. Myriad guns, upgrades, air strikes, and abilities add depth to it, and the controls are somehow even more responsive than other touch games. Of all games listed here, this one is to me the smoothest and most natural. And it has aiming down the sights.

What do we need now? "Credit cards, lots of credit cards"

Pop and shoot HD, no less!

I could do this all day...please help me!

Mass Effect Infiltrator by EA Swiss

Now we’re on to AAA territory. Not that the previous games aren’t AAA as far as I’m concerned, but Mass Effect Infiltrator is part of the Mass Effect trilogy, and thus has BioWare and EA resources to back it up. Also, it’s a pay upfront game in the more traditional sense, and your actions within it can affect your Mass Effect 3 campaign. But Infiltrator stands just fine on its own, thank you.

First off, the story has a unique angle any Mass Effect fan will love. Then, the action makes the most of touch controls, and everything looks spectacular. A meaty story, great voice acting, and lots of tributes to the Mass Effect universe render this a must-have purchase. Note this doesn’t have the deeper aspects of Mass Effect, as it’s again essentially shooter with strong emphasis on cover. There are paragon/renegade moments, though I have yet to encounter the romantic moment…

As soon as you hear the familiar Mass Effect theme, you know you're in good hands

A notion quickly reinforced by beautiful visuals

And easy to master but satisfying action across diverse locations

Dead Space by EA Swiss

From the same team that developed Mass Effect Infiltrator, the mobile version of Dead Space also ties in to its parent franchise in a very interesting way – you’ll be surprised at first when you discover who you’re playing as. Again, marvellous graphics and effortless controls lead to a supremely enjoyable experience that is entirely faithful to the source material, and not far behind the first 2008 game in technical terms. Appreciators of the Dead Space series and anyone keen on slicing up necromorphs need apply now.

On tablet, no one can hear you click

Altman be praised, look at those lighting effects!

The trusty plasma cutter is back, and just as easy to control as on console or PC

N.O.V.A 3 by Gameloft

Until a mere few days ago, I used to read about N.O.V.A games and write them off as Halo wannabes. I wish I could take all that back now. First of all, the third entry looks miles better than the first two Halo games, and comes very close to Halo 3 standards. Plus, it has a more mature flavor to it. And aiming down the sights, let’s not forget. Apparently the N.O.V.A universe is quite rich in story and details, but I’m not familiar with it yet. I do know the graphics here are nothing short of breathtaking considering the modest specs of the devices you’re playing the game on, and playability is great. Highly, HIGHLY recommended for gamers looking for a cross between Halo and Crysis!

Look past the acronym, people!

Time to give the cep...I mean those alien interlopers what for!

Yes, it had to happen. I had to include this image. It was my aim.

Listen, I’ve been a gamer for more decades than I care to admit. I game on more platforms than I probably should do, though I wish I had more time for it all. Until recently? Yes, I was a gaming snob. Tablets? Phones? Pah, that’s not gaming! Well, it’s a good thing I’ve been reformed. This is gaming par excellence. If there’s a gap between these and the wonderful games we play on consoles and PC, I really can’t see it in terms of core essence. Yes, the visuals and other technical aspects are not as evolved, and in most likelihood PCs and consoles will always stay ahead of smaller portable devices. That’s just physics. But mobile gaming has crossed a threshold, and I’m in awe of what developers can achieve with such mobile and compact platforms. Even better, I am finally convinced that touch controls are viable.

It’s a great feeling to be in love.

Let us know if you have your own mobile gaming favourites!












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