If you're like me you like to be productive, even while you are on the toilet.
By "being productive" I really mean "not be bored" because, let's face it, most of us are not really productive most of the time, and are doing pretty well just to not completely waste 100% of our free time. So, to make sure I avoid boredom at all costs, I often turn to the masters of boredom mutilation: Indie game developers.
Hardcore console and PC gamers are likely to deride mobile apps as inferior to their preferred platforms. That's cool and all, but can you play while taking a dump at work? No? Well the heroes that develop mobile apps are busy spending their entire waking lives to find ways for you to do just that, so those gamer elites can go imagine their fancy processors and VR headsets while they hold back tears in their work bathroom. I, on the other hand, will be grinding Orna or solving hilarious mysteries while I do my dirty business, all while supporting awesome indie game developers in between wipes*.
But how do you find these awesome indie games to spend your precious bathroom time with?
Of course you have come to the right place. Right here in front of you, a listicle (I hate that word, don't you?) dedicated to just that! I have painstakingly researched and curated a list of fine independently developed mobile games that I have personally enjoyed, some of them for years. These games all have one thing in common: They were developed by very small teams, some by a single developer. These are the definition of games made with love. Many of them are an homage to 'lost genres' updated to today's standards and dripping with nostalgia. Yet, for a younger audience these just simply feel like quality games developed with a careful eye that seems to have fallen by the wayside in today's modern era of "Triple A" game development factories.
All of these games are available through Google Play and are free to play (though some of them have "full versions" that you can pay a small amount for**).
In no particular order, here they are:
(BaldrickSoft RPG Games)
Moonshades is a classic POV adventure RPG in the style of Eye of the Beholder and other classic games of the 1990s. You would never know that this was a single-developer title if not for the communication between the developer and players. As a labor of love, Moonshades has been updated regularly by the developer over the last few years and looks to be a 'never ending dungeon' type of project with new locations, items, enemies, and puzzles added whenever they are ready. While there is a significant story to the game, it never really feels unfinished when players are waiting for the next installment. Moonshades is completely free but you can buy in-game currency that will allow you to increase your inventory space as well as other simple enhancements, but will not give any advantages that you could not already get by playing the game.
Dentures & Demons
Do you remember Maniac Mansion? If not, then you missed out on a piece of gaming history, which, I believe was the very first appearance of actual blood (hamster blood, to be exact) on the NES. If you don't know what the NES was... you are too young to be worrying about how to spend your bathroom time at work. You probably need to get a job and stop skulking around the internet looking for articles like this one***. I digress. Maniac Mansion was the epitome of comical point-and-click adventure/puzzle games for the NES audience, which at the time, was definitely too young to care about that entire genre of games. Dentures and Demons pays homage to the great puzzle games that came before by offering an excellent series of puzzles with a few head-scratchers and more than a few surprises. The humor in Dentures and Demons is just juvenile enough to make me chuckle, but it develops into something truly meta by the end, constituting a fantastic feat of game writing and development for the mobile platform. I mean that! Also There is a sequel, and who knows, probably a third installment in the works (I hope). I must admit that the sequel has a moment towards the end where the developer wants you to do some actual 'investigating' and interpretation of clues. I could not muster the brain power to accomplish what the game was asking. I just wanted more fart jokes. I may go back one day and try again since I played through the first game twice and enjoyed it both times. Did I mention that Dentures and Demons is free? You can buy some game upgrades with additional game modes for something like $1.99. Please do. Just buy it. It's less than a candy bar.
Vendir: Plague of Lies
(Early Morning Studio)
This is a great example of a small development team building a game setting that relies heavily on ambiance, mood, and style and delivers on all three. I consider this a 'dark fantasy' setting where everything is disgusting, rotten, disturbing, and covered in flies...you can almost smell this game as you play it. The story is solid and some of the quests include mysteries that I still haven't unraveled even after playing for quite a while. Interestingly, while the setting is dark, there is also a good amount of humor involved in the various quests and the main story line and even some inside jokes. In terms of game play, the skill tree is interesting and the classes are very much suited for the setting (Plague doctor? ugh). My only problem with the later stages of the game is that the abilities available from character advancement don't really seem to scale up with the level of the player, while the enemies continue getting more and more HP and powers. As a result, it's possible to continue winning fights but they start taking longer and longer...which creates a significant amount of monotony. I love the style, mood, story, and humor in this game, but I honestly might not even finish it. I still recommend checking this game out, maybe someone can report on whether the ending is as good as the beginning?
Orna is in an 8-bit pixel graphics class of its own. As a GPS-based game, it provides a very special type of gameplay that will have you wandering around town and riding smelly public busses just for fun. You may take long walks on the beach but forget your girlfriend entirely. She probably thinks you're cheating on her while you're looking for water-spawning MOBs or new dungeons. It's the way of the warrior. Or wizard. Or whatever class you pick, but tamers are losers! Note: Do not play this while driving. Instead, find a friend (i.e. sucker) to go on a road trip and drive you 3 hours out of state to visit another mutual friend. Then introduce them to the game at the end of the 3 hour trip back home. Then never hear the end of how you "owe" them a 6 hour drive while they play Orna, being sure to never ever make good on that because it's not your fault that they weren't aware of how much insane grinding you did during that drive. Just sayin. This game is fun, addicting, strategic, lasting, and above all else... super grindy. The developer has added a few people to the team so it's no longer a one-man show, but it is still very small and communication with the player base is fantastic. The game is free and since it is highly competitive there is very little any player can buy with real money that can affect the game. However, all sorts of cool sprites are available for every season, every faction (including many monster factions), and most new events include cool sprites that players can purchase to support the game.
(4 Dimension games)
Okay, I lied. There is a particular order. Exiled Kingdoms is such a fantastic game that I had to save it for last. This game hearkens back to the glorious days of computerized adaptations of tabletop RPGs such as Baldur's Gate, the early Ultima games and the original Diablo. This game is really good... possibly the best mobile game I've played. Choices you make throughout the game have an effect on both how the different factions and towns perceive you as well as how the final chapters of the storyline play out. Each NPC companion has their own questline and there is a great deal of customization in player strategy as you level up and choose abilities. This is an example of top-notch game design and even more impressive that it was done mostly by one designer!
An interesting ARPG with cool controls and physics. As far as I know this game is being developed by a single developer who is really dedicated to his project.
(Crescent Moon Games)
A little gem of a game with a hilarious theme and unique gameplay! This is an honorable mention because it doesn't have much of a story, just a great concept, (and I'm still waiting to hear back from the game developers about how big their operation is)
*Please, sanitize your phone once in a while, for chrissakes!
**Don't worry, I would only include games that are worth far more than the asking price for a "full version"!
***If you fit in this category, please tell your friends about me. I will regale all you youngsters with tales of 8-bit glory and even earlier tales of "Atari" and other wonders of the ancient world of gaming. But first, click on my articles. A Lot.