The best thing about the app video game market is that it has something for everybody. Even within the defined app store categories there are dozens, if not hundreds, of sub-genres catering to any whim or preference a user might have. Want a shooter with graphics as pretty as those on your Xbox? There are about 10-15 good choices. Want a head-scratching, mysterious puzzle? Good luck finding just one. Want to control a fishing line falling through the ocean only to collect fish, launch them in the air, and blow them to bits with a rifle? Here’s the app for you.
Part of all this is that the app gaming market has become an old school gamer’s paradise. From old Atari hits and classic arcade experiences that have been adapted, to graphics and gameplay reminiscent of another era, there are unlimited treats providing old fashioned entertainment on mobile devices. If that sounds as delightful to you as it does to me, you may want to start your foray into old school app gaming with a few of these titles.
Smashy Road: Wanted
This happens to be one of the most popular games in app stores at the moment, despite an intentionally crude design and controls that amount entirely to pressing the right or left of your touchscreen to steer a car. The game? Evade law enforcement for as long as you can without crashing or getting cornered. Then do it again, and again. Then spend the coins you win along the way on better cars… and then do it again! It’s ridiculously simple, and yet it’s incredibly satisfying for fans of straightforward gaming. Heavy’s tips for the game compared it loosely to Grand Theft Auto (in that mayhem is encouraged), and that’s kind of why this one stands out as such a great old school experience. It’s a little bit like what might have happened if some of the minds behind a game like GTA made a game 20+ years ago.
Do I need to go too far explaining this one? ID Software’s original game has become a true classic over the years, and in a way the foundation for many of today’s first-person shooters. And it’s brought to life pretty faithfully in this app. In the face of so many games attempting to bring the beauty of Battlefield, Halo, or Call Of Duty to mobile platforms, something with vintage graphics and purposefully clunky gameplay is oddly appealing.
Gala Mobile Casino
At a glance, there’s really nothing old school about this app. In fact it might even look particularly “new age” given the sharp graphics and a pretty realistic aesthetic. The vintage appeal is really in the selection of available games. For the most part, the modern casino genre has divided itself into individual gaming experiences: poker, blackjack, slots, roulette, etc. But in this app, Gala Casino’s full range of games is available for mobile use, which really facilitates an experience closer to that of a real casino. Given that real casinos themselves are viewed as increasingly “old school,” that alone gives this app sort of old fashioned appeal.
Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the most iconic characters in gaming, and his games are often level-based platformers. As a result, they can actually adapt pretty naturally to mobile devices. But the Sonic Dash app (by SEGA, of course) takes a new approach by mimicking the third-person endless runner format that’s become so popular. Basically, imagine Temple Run in the world of Sonic, where your jungle adventurer is replaced by the spiky blue hedgehog himself, and the coins you’re collecting are the golden rings from the old Sonic games.
Atari’s Battlezone can still be played online, and it is one of the more influential games from the old Atari lineup. There have been countless Battlezone mimics over time in which you control a tank navigating a landscape filled with enemies, but Tanks! Free may just be the best of them. It doesn’t try to absolutely imitate the simple look of the original Battlezone, but it doesn’t try to be too sophisticated either. The result is something that’s perfectly satisfying on modern smartphones, but no different in execution than a game that debuted in 1980.
There are plenty of other vintage games available if these appeal to you, but these five offer a few nice places to start across a range of genres.