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A Casual, Cornered: My Ten Favorite Mobile MMORPGs

Columns By Beau Hindman on January 27, 2015

My Ten Favorite Mobile MMORPGs

Mobile MMOs have long been one of my favorite things. I love the fact that the games are portable; not really because I find myself out-and-about and in need of a gaming fix that often (I work out of my home, after all, so when I leave the house I leave it) but because I like the toy-ness of it all.

Some people make the mistake of referring to mobile titles as a genre. “Mobile gaming” is not a genre, just like “Mac gaming” or “PC gaming” or “console gaming” is not a genre. These are references to how we physically interact with the games, not titles of quality or variety.

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In other words, there is a lot of variety and fun to be had on a mobile device – while playing MMOs – just like there is on a PC or Mac. Sure, the number of mobile MMOs still needs to rise but it will as mobile devices become even more popular and powerful than they are now. Trust me, it will happen.

Let’s get to the list. Here are the top ten MMOs I keep on my personal tablet.

For the record, I have a lot of devices; an iPad, a Nokia 1520 Windows phone, a few PCs, a Chromebook and this 8-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 8 4G Android tablet (my maintstay and the one I am using for this article.)

I have to start off the list with the most surprising game on the tablet, Game of Thrones Ascent. It lies more in the pseudo-MMO category, but with its huge playerbase, alliance-versus-alliance combat and sweeping IP, you’ll find yourself feeling very connected to many different players. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure game that is based in the lore of the familiar book series and TV show. Don’t worry, you won’t be playing characters from the books, but you will be meeting up with them occasionally. If you like deep story and unusual gameplay, pick this one up.

Ingress, by Google, did not strike my fancy when I first gave it a try. Heck, it did not strike my fancy the second or third time as well. The main issue with the game is also its selling point; you have to live or be in a populated area for the game to be much fun. Luckily, now that I live in a larger city, I have more fun with the game. You’ll walk around your town (or stop while driving, just keep an eye on the road!) and will attempt to “hack” portals that are usually based on the location of landmarks or large buildings. You can join one of two opposing factions, and what results is a strangely-fun game of… I don’t know, touch-football-claim-bases-GPS-tracking-stuff? It’s different and, heck, we could all use with a little walk.

Tribal Wars 2 is the mobile version of the very popular browser-based MMO by Innogames. It’s also the “remix” version of Tribal Wars, an ancient (in MMO terms) city-builder-strategy game that has continued to see success. Honestly, any title by Innogames is going to present you with a particular level of quality, but Tribal Wars 2 offers some of the most.

Arcane Legends is easily the highest quality MMO that Spacetime Studios offers. If you have played their earlier titles like Pocket Legends or Dark Legends, you will know that each new title seemed to become better than the last. Arcane Legends is a fun dungeon-grinder that offers pet collecting, crafting and a pretty large and active community. You can’t go wrong with a Spacetime title in your pocket. They have been doing mobile MMOs for longer than most, and I cannot wait to see what they do next!

Game of War sure has some silly, sexist commercials going for it (as I recently covered in a blog) but it is actually quite fun. Its gameplay is not really anything new, but the game gives players so many freebies and fun little presents and makes it so easy to play with people all over the world with tools like an auto-translator that it feels more massive than most mobile titles. Sure, it’s a common city-building game in a lot of ways, but when I log into it I feel like I am actually playing with tons of people, and that’s not a small thing.

SL Go by Onlive is fantastic. If you like to play Second Life but have found that your PC or laptop stutters while trying to load the game’s massive amount of custom content, check this out. Second Life decided to work with OnLive, the service that streams games to you for a monthly fee. This means that you can play Second Life on pretty impressive settings while sitting on your tablet. The controls are a bit off occasionally and there are still a few tweaks to be made to the interface, but it all runs really smoothly. There’s something impressive about having such a large world like Second Life in your pocket, although I would be a bit careful with streaming that world while on a 4G connection. You might get hit with a very large bill.

Galaxy on Fire Alliances suffers mostly from a smaller playerbase and gameplay that tends to lose casual players, but it also boasts really nice graphics and a massive world. You can hang out in your own tiny safe zone or you can join an alliance and trade, fight or use diplomacy to spread across the galaxy. I am constantly impressed by how smoothly the game runs, but the intense gameplay can be a bit overwhelming. The beginning tutorial is helpful, but just barely. Join an alliance and ask a lot of questions!

Vega Conflict offers a bit more sci-fi action if you are in the mood for it, but it does so in a much simpler way than games like Galaxy on Fire Alliances. In Vega you will build a base that is essentially a tower-defense module, and you will also take part in combat with other craft in fun-to-watch real-time battles. The real massive part of the game comes from the interactions you’ll have within your particular system, but you can branch out and move around to other systems, attacking NPCs or players as you go. If you like casual play with the option for hardcore obsession, check this one out. You can also play through the browser.

Parallel Kingdom is sort of brilliant, but I wish it would update its look. The game overlays on to a real Google map, and you move around within a limited area and teleport to other zones to travel. You can build houses, conquer dungeons, fight monsters, craft, collect, PvP and can even become Mayor of a real-life city, but the game is not dependent on your real-life proximity to larger populations like Ingress is. If you like old-school, slower-paced and hardcore gameplay with a real-world twist, try this one.

You know, for this last spot I am going to go with Clash of Clans. Sure it’s not an MMO. It’s what I like to call a MOG, a massive online game. There are tons of other players to play with and clans to join, but there is not really any persistence to the world. Outside of your instanced area, there really isn’t much going on. Still, the game is successful because it is brilliant fun. You start off with a plot of land and will build a base to defend. As you level up and become better at recognizing the weaknesses in your design, you’ll have to decide what is worth more; good defense or attacking other players.

Games like Clash of Clans are ruling the mobile market because they offer simple, intense gameplay with the option to play casually or obsessively. While not an MMO, I put it on this list because it shows how important polish is to a game, and how important good UI design is when making a mobile game. Plus, I’m super addicted to this one. Seriously, I need help.

So, there are 10 (basically) pocket MMOs. There are many more out there, but these are the ones that I find I go back to the most. They are mostly well-made and show just how much variety there is in the mobile world.

Have fun!

Beau Hindman / Beau is a writer, artist, PR/CM, game designer and pro moderator, and he's been blogging since 2002. He lives it up in Austin, Texas with his community manager wife. He's also the author of Anna the Powerful, a sci-fi book about the world's only superhero. Buy it here: http://my.bookbaby.com/book/anna-the-powerful