Let’s face it. If mobile gaming has a downside (ok, there are tons of downsides), it’s that most of the games on mobile devices aren’t designed to be played in long sessions. On top of that, thanks to the free to play movement, many games are crippled when they’re played without an internet connection. Not a great situation to be in for the mobile gamer who also happens to be a frequent traveler. Fortunately, hope is not lost. There are a lot of great offline-capable games out there if you know where to look. Here are some of our favorites.
Anyone who’s ever played Pokemon will know the appeal of Hunter Island right away. In fact, calling this a Pokemon clone may be all it takes to convert a good number of readers. While there are dozens (possibly hundreds) of Pokemon clones on iOS, Hunter Island is unique in that it’s a paid game with no paid in-game currency. That means you can collect the over 350 monsters completely unhindered by annoying timers or paid currency. Though you can purchase gold, making it somewhat play to win, Hunter Island doesn’t participate in some of the more predatory tactics of crippling your gameplay experience if you don’t fork over the cash. If you loved catching Pokemon, give Hunter Island a try and see how many you can capture between takeoff and landing.
FTL: Faster Than Light
One of the worst things about this game also happens to be one of the best: it is really, really hard. It also happens to be really random, which means it’s rare that two play-throughs are at all alike. After playing for about a dozen hours you’ll feel like you’ve just scratched the surface of FTL. All you’re really doing in FTL is going from point A to point B while shooting spaceships along the way. The variety occurs as you unlock different ships, recruit crew members, find new weapons, shields and drones, all of which is distributed along your journey randomly. You also only get one shot. If your ship blows up, you start over. This isn’t a game where you’ll play it in 10-minute increments. It’s a game you can sit down with for an hour and wonder where the time went. While FTL likely won’t provide you much cerebral relaxation, what it will do is kill six hours without batting an eye.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Like the Walking Dead, the story in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is it’s selling feature. The difference here is the gameplay is actually quite substantive. It’s a BioWare game albeit an old one (it originally released on the first generation Xbox), but think Mass Effect. Stat management, gear management, skill trees, it’s all here. Also, like in Mass Effect, your actions dictate your morality (or is it the other way around?), only here it’s light and dark side rather than paragon and renegade. It also defines what skills you’ll use. Want to zap your enemies with force lighting, a la Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi? Better start taking the dark-side paths when given the option. Back when I first played KOTR back in 2003 it took me a month to finish it. Now that it’s on my iPad, I’m being much more leisurely with KOTR, but either way you look at it, the game is meaty. No chance you’ll finish it before making it from LA to New York.
Terraria is a game that doesn’t end. Well, it has an ending in that there’s a final boss, but the game doesn’t stop there. Terraria is a 2D platformer, but it’s completely linear; you’re never forced to be anywhere you don’t want to be. As you defend to the depths of the underworld, you’ll encounter hordes of monsters, but also collect loot, in the form of collectables, magical items, armor, and weapons. On the surface, you build a home-base, decorate it, and employ it with NPCs. As soon as you feel you’ve tapped out a world, start a new and bring your old character into it. Each world you create is randomly generated, so you’re sure to find all new loot while exploring this new frontier. You should rack up around two dozen hours before getting to this point, though, so expect to cross a few flights off your list before burning out.
The Walking Dead: The Game
I’m somewhat conflicted about calling The Walking Dead a game. Its more like a choose your own adventure movie. Whatever it is, it’s amazingly compelling. The great thing about this game when it comes to playing on an airplane, is that it’s not mentally or physically demanding. You essentially watch the screen and occasionally click on a few highlighted options. If you buy all the episodes, it will likely last you a two to three transcontinental flights, depending on if you take a break for the in-flight meals. We recommend buying and downloading all the episodes before flying, as they are quite large. You’ll never finish downloading them via In-flight Wi-Fi, and once you finish an episode, the cliffhanger will compel you to start the next right away. If you’re looking to be entertained for long periods of time by a game that’s very easy but very compelling, get the Walking Dead: The Game as soon as you can.
Well, if nothing else on this list outed us as major geeks, this game surely did. Magic: The Gathering is one of the all time great card games. Scratch that. One of the all time great games of any kind. It’s formula is truly timeless. If you’re unfamiliar, the idea is that you play a summoner with 20 health. You play against another 20-health player. Throughout the game you cast spells and summon creatures with the goal of eliminating the health of your opponent while he or she does the same to you. What makes the game interesting is the fact that the cards are designed to bend or break the pre-set rules of the game. Combine that with the fact that you customize the deck you play and what you’re left with is one of the most deep and endlessly-replayable games ever made. The iPad version has PVP gameplay, but it also has a robust single player campaign with countless unlockables, consisting of decks and cards. If you enjoy the game, it can easily eat up an entire international flight with still-locked cards to spare. Before you download, a word of warning: Magic 2014 is resource intensive, and has been known to have performance problems on iPad2 or older, as well as the first generation iPad Mini.
Infinity Blade III
There was a time when Infinity Blade was the flagship game on the iPad. Of course, that was before the free to play craze that’s now making developers and Apple billions. While Infinity Blade doesn’t quite dominate the App Store the way it once did, the series is still incredibly solid and offer a gripping offline experience that can hold a players attention for hours. The game is a very traditional RPG, which is rare on iOS. Infinity Blade III is gorgeous, the control scheme on the iPad feel natural. The story isn’t quite as engaging (actually, nowhere near as engaging) as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but if you’re looking for a more modern way to kill six hours, Infinity Blade 3 is a great solution.
X-Com Enemy Unknown
X-Com Enemy Unknown isn’t a game focused on picking up collectables, nor does it rely strongly on story (though the story offered isn’t bad). No, this is AAA tactical gaming at its best. In fact, X-Com might be the closest thing to console gaming you’ll find on the iPad currently. Unlike games like Injustice: Gods Among Us, there is no questionably fudging with the controls to make X-Com playable on a touch device. X-Com is already not much more than pointing and clicking on the PC, so the iPad version feels very natural as a result. As you would expect from a AAA, there are dozens of hours of gameplay here. Looking for an added challenge, while your trapped in the air for several hours? Try playing in Ironman mode; if you make a mistake, there’s no loading an old save to turn back time.
As the only pass and play game on this list, Agricola takes the cake as one of the most fun multiplayers you’ll play on an airplane. in Agricola, you’re tasked with raising a family by building a farm, growing crops, and raising animals. After a number of rounds, points are totaled based on how big your family is and how much you’ve produced. It may sound like Farmville 3, but trust me, it’s a lot of fun. Agricola is an adaptation of the board game of the same name, so it’s not a surprise that it translates well to pass and play mechanics. A single player game will last 15 minutes or so, but games will take longer depending on how many people are playing. Expect a complete game with five players to take an hour and a half. It’s a fun way to spend a flight, but if that’s how many people you’re playing with, you’d better have something else to keep you occupied while others are taking their turn.
Sudoku (By Finger Arts)
I can hear the groans now, but come on! Sudoku is a classic! We’re talking about one of the all-time greatest time-killers here! This version is especially good. It’s got great graphics, an intuitive note-taking system, a handy number highlighting feature, and a scoring system that’s time based for an added challenge. Sudoku is a lot like Solitare in that anyone can play and have a decent time, for at least one game, but it’s not at all luck based, so it never feels unfair. This version of Sudoku is fee, so my advice is to pick up one of the other games above and play this when you need a break.
What’s that you say? You don’t need my advice to download Sudoku? Okay then. Everyone has their favorite go-to classic game. What’s yours? For that matter, what offline game should be on this list but isn’t? Let us know in the comments.