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3 GORGEOUS mobile games that will change how you think about design

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve played 3 amazing mobile games on my iPhone and iPad. Each has left an indelible imprint in my brain. The games are, simply put, surreal. Each game is visually stunning and features a haunting soundtrack (or sound effects) along with smart levels, each designed around a puzzle-adventure storyline.

If you’ve ever wanted a non-traditional design or development career, or ever wanted to play video games but didn’t know where to start, these 3 games are a great introduction to gameplay mechanics, design possibilities, user experience & product design. They are truly works of art.

Mobile gaming is having a major defining moment with these 3 titles, all of whom buck trends and defy mobile gaming stereotypes. Forget your Candy Crushes and Angry Birds. These 3 games boast immersive experiences and celebrate design, without asking you to cough up more cash to unlock levels.

1. Limbo

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Fans of Tim Burton’s aesthetics will love this title’s minimalist design. Limbo is the first title by indie Danish studio Playdead. The game centers around a young boy, who wakes up in a forest to find that his little sister has gone missing. He begins a journey to find her and bring her home, encountering all manner of obstacles and puzzles along the way. The game’s aesthetics are rooted in film noir and are also influenced by German Expressionism. The developers matched the game’s mechanics to its minimalist presentation – the 2d side scroller provides the player only a few moves – walking left and right, jumping, pushing and pulling.

If you enjoy the game, check out the developers’ new venture, just released at E3 on June 9th and titled Inside.

2. Monument Valley

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This architectural marvel features a female lead and a sweet mystery. The game has even inspired Alphabet Valley – a personal project and typographic tribute by designer Claudia Mussett. You control Ida, a lost princess in a mysterious land on her journey. The game, inspired by M.C. Escher and Japanese prints & sculpture, was called “the most beautiful iPad game of 2014″ by Wired magazine. Critics praised its optical illusions & use of Isometric projection. 

Interested in reading more about M.C Escher? Check out this book.

3. Machinarium

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Machinarium centers around a robot named Josef, (named after Josef Čapek, the artist who coined the term “robot”) and his quest. Cast aside into a scrap heap by evil robots, part of the Black Cap Brotherhood, Josef must reassemble his body and venture back into his city to find his true love, Berta, who has been captured and (ha!) forced to cook for the brotherhood’s thugs. The game’s puzzles are at times, seemingly unsolvable, but well worth the agony you will endure as you work not to be bested! I’m amazed that this game was created by only 7 people at Czech studio Amanita design, who funded it with their life savings. Their marketing budget was only $1000. Can you imagine?! It’s a true labor of love with an incredible soundtrack to boot! I cannot recommend this game enough.

Amanita design has also re-released Botanicula for the iPad. Check out the trailer below. It looks absolutely delightful and early reviews have been nothing short of raving.

Interested in game and level design? Check out these great reads:

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design

Ready to play? Check out your App Store, Android marketplace or Steam to get all these great titles!

Deepina Kapila

Dee is a fun-loving instructor with diverse tech experience across Fortune 500 companies, early-stage start-ups, government agencies & non-profits. Dee works at mobile product design studio Funsize, in Austin Texas where she lives with her husband, 2 border collie mixes, & 2 cats.

In her spare time she enjoys playing video games, reading on her Kindle & scuba diving in her hometown (Curaçao - an island in the Caribbean!).

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2 comments

  1. Chelsea White Replied

    Monument Valley is completely my jam! I loved the spacial relations and the change in perspective. I was so sad when I finished the 10th level and there weren’t more levels to play. Limbo has amazing visuals, but is definitely a challenge. I die constantly. Just started Machinarium and already had to use my hints, but the visuals are amazing and the concept is fun.

  2. Angela Wyman Replied

    ding-ding-ding!!! I own all three! Add kid apps Christoph Neiman’s Petting Zoo and TInyBop’s Human Body plus Vector Park’s Windosll and Contre Jour– all good looking!

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