If you’d asked someone in 2009 what their favourite mobile game of the decade was, Tetris and Snake would probably have been among the contenders. For a proper gaming experience while out and about, a PSP or Nintendo DS would have been your best option.
Fast forward 10 years and the mobile gaming landscape has changed beyond all recognition. PCs and consoles still reign supreme but modern smartphones are leading a revolution in portable gaming. Whether it’s fully-featured versions of console classics or dedicated subscription services such as Apple Arcade, there are plenty of great games to choose from.
With that in mind, to choose a single title and declare it to be the best mobile game of the decade is extremely difficult. Our choice is not for everyone, but its sustained success as a global phenomenon just about does enough to edge out the competition.
Our top pick: Minecraft
The game was initially launched as a pocket version, but developers quickly realised that the depth offered on mobile more than justified the standalone name.Its immense success means an experience once reserved for PC gamers can be enjoyed by almost anybody.
Minecraft is a sandbox game, meaning there are almost unlimited possibilities for the user. Progression-based games have often had the issue of attracting players back, particularly once they’ve completed the regular missions.
However, Minecraft continues to captivate audiences worldwide, despite being available for the entirety of the last decade. Its popularity also remains undiminished on mobile, with in excess of ten million downloads on Android alone.
For its likeness to the desktop version, and the ability to get a full version free of in-app purchases, we believe Minecraft provides one of the most complete mobile gaming experiences out there.
We feel it more than justifies its price, whether you’re playing on iOS or Android.
Honourable mentions: Fortnite, Pokémon Go, Angry Birds, Clash of Clans, Temple Run
It’s impossible not to acknowledge the immense impact of other mobile games during what has been a time of profound cultural shift.
Fortnite has been something of a phenomenon since its release in 2017, and alongside PUBG the mobile version is considered one of the most entertaining Battle Royale games.
Pokémon Go’s period of immense popularity came in the few months following its 2016 launch, but in fact hit its peak in May 2018 with a staggering 147 million active users. It has since given rise to a new breed of AR mobile games, which includes Harry Potter and Minecraft spin-offs in 2019 alone.
Angry Birds has been an ever-present throughout the decade, and there are now 17 games with a similar pig-killing premise. It’s not all about destruction though, with the clear emphasis on strategy making it remarkably addictive. The franchise’s immense popularity has spawned countless items of merchandise, a feature-length movie and even a full-size theme park in Qatar.
Clash of Clans regularly ranks among the highest-grossing mobile games of all time, but that is due in part to its emphasis on in-app purchases. The premise is simple: build your town and protect it with resources gained from attacking nearby settlements. It’s proved a hugely successful one, with the game considered one of the pioneers of single-player mobile games.
Finally, who could forget about Temple Run? It was all the rage in the early part of the decade, as players tried to stay clear of the evil demon monkeys for as long as possible. The original game quickly surpassed one billion downloads, while 2013’s sequel even added record-breaking sprinter Usain Bolt as a playable character.
The 2010s has been a defining era for mobile gaming, going from a niche hobby to a fully mainstream activity enjoyed by billions. Its popularity only looks set to grow, as devices’ compatibility with cloud-streaming services looks to signal a new beginning for gaming on-the-go.
There are many, many more games worth your time. See our run-down of the best Android games of all time.