Flashback: a look back at the best mobile games of 2013

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According to stats from App Annie, back in 2013 there were only 7 mobile games with a revenue of $100 million (or more) a year (PDF). Fast forward to 2021 and there were 7 mobile games with revenues of $100 million or more… a month. Mobile games are now the dominant form of gaming after hitting 51% of all revenue in 2021.

Today there are AAA mobile games and a number of tournaments around the world. But a decade ago in 2013 game developers were still coming to terms with the larger displays and more powerful chipsets of smartphones, which were a world apart from the J2ME and Symbian devices that dominated the market a few years prior.

Touch controls were a focal point, of course, but devs found uses for the various sensors that a typical iPhone or Android had – especially the accelerometer and GPS. Let’s get a hit of nostalgia and revisit the best games of 2013.

The 9th International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA) awarded Telltale’s Walking Dead: The Game the Game of the Year title. This is a story-driven graphic adventure that focused as much on plot twists and difficult choices as it did on cinematic cutscenes. Unsurprisingly, Walking Dead also won in the Excellence in Storytelling category.


Walking Dead: The Game
Walking Dead: The Game
Walking Dead: The Game
Walking Dead: The Game

Walking Dead: The Game

The jury also named two honorable mentions: Zombies, Run! and Devil’s Attorney. As you can probably tell, zombies were a hot topic a decade ago.

Zombies, Run! was an interesting one as it took place in the real world – players took the role of “Runner 5” and had to actually go out and run while listening to music and instructions from the game. It tracked you using your phone’s GPS and could trigger a “zombie chase”, requiring you to run at least 10% faster than your normal pace. Basically Strava with zombies.


Zombies, Run!
Zombies, Run!
Zombies, Run!
Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run!

Devil’s Attorney was much more relaxed, a turn-based strategy game with some RPG elements that had a humorous tone, an 80s soundtrack and a bachelor pad you could upgrade.


Devil’s Attorney
Devil’s Attorney
Devil’s Attorney
Devil’s Attorney

Devil’s Attorney

The People’s Choice award in the 9th IMGA went to The Room by Fireproof Games. This was a puzzle game that saw the player figure out the secrets of a series of increasingly challenging puzzle boxes.


The Room
The Room
The Room
The Room

The Room

The best social game was Candy Crush Saga by King. The tile-matching game originally launched on Facebook before getting dedicated versions for the major mobile platforms at the time.


Candy Crush Saga
Candy Crush Saga
Candy Crush Saga
Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga

Then there was Spaceteam, which won the Excellence in Innovation category. This game had a social aspect to it too – it was a cooperative party game for between 2 and 4 players. This was something of a frantic, humorous recreation of Star Trek as players were given a control panel full of technobabble and had to work together to pilot their ship away from an exploding star.


Spaceteam
Spaceteam
Spaceteam
Spaceteam

Spaceteam

Finally, the winner of the Best Serious Game was, wouldn’t you know it, a game about math – DragonBox Algebra 5+. And yes, that’s ages 5 and above. This was a sort of puzzle game too as players had to solve various algebraic challenges to unlock new and more challenging levels.


DragonBox Algebra 5+
DragonBox Algebra 5+
DragonBox Algebra 5+
DragonBox Algebra 5+

DragonBox Algebra 5+

Leaving IMGA behind, let’s have a look at what Apple though were the best games of 2013. Ridiculous Fishing — A Tale of Redemption by indie dev Vlambeer. Using motion and touch controls you could navigate a fishing hook into the depths to catch as many fish as possible and then fling them into the air (the game is called ridiculous fishing, after all).


Ridiculous Fishing on the iPhone
Ridiculous Fishing on the iPhone
Ridiculous Fishing on the iPhone
Ridiculous Fishing on the iPhone

Ridiculous Fishing on the iPhone

The best iPad game was Badland by Frogmind. This is similar to Flappy Bird in a way, a side-scrolling adventure that gave you control of a weird flying creature as it tried to make its way through a perilous, bizarre landscape and ever-changing physics.


Badland on the iPad
Badland on the iPad
Badland on the iPad
Badland on the iPad

Badland on the iPad

Honorable mentions went to Device 6, an interactive novel/puzzle game hybrid and the sequel to Plants vs. Zombies.

At the time, the top paid apps on the Apple App Store were Minecraft: Pocket Edition, Temple Run: Oz and Plants vs. Zombies HD. The free category was topped by Temple Run 2 and Candy Crush Saga. Saga validated the freemium model as it was the highest grossing app in the Store, followed by Supercell’s Clash of Clans and Hay Day.

Over on the Android side of the market, the Top Apps and Games of 2013 as voted by over 1 million users featured the Knights & Dragons Action RPG and Ingress.


Knights & Dragons Action RPG
Knights & Dragons Action RPG
Knights & Dragons Action RPG
Knights & Dragons Action RPG

Knights & Dragons Action RPG

Remember Ingress? This was the first game by Niantic, which went on to create the mobile phenomenon that was Pockemon Go. Ingress laid the groundwork for that – it was a location-based game where players navigated a modified version of the real world map.


Ingress
Ingress
Ingress
Ingress

Ingress

What was your favorite mobile game of 2013?

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