APPS & GAMES

Best new Android games to download in March

Android has an awful lot of games, and each month new ones are released. Knowing which ones are any good can be tricky. So we’ve put together a list of the best games that we’ve discovered on the Play Store—just three each month to ensure that only games we’ve played make it onto the list. This month, we’ve added Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, Cytus II, and Sonic CD!

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March

A host of great new games have hit the Play Store these past few weeks, making it hard to skim the cream of the crop, since there’s something for everyone. This month we recommend the gorgeous but high-maintenance Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition for those hungering for AAA graphics, a brand new Rayark game for indie fans and an absolute gem from the Sonic series for retro gamers to enjoy.

Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition

I was a little apprehensive when I heard about Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition. It seemed like there was no way a mobile device could seriously handle the latest epic story from the beloved RPG franchise. But it’s here, and it’s looking just as good, if not better than trailers promised.

Square Enix’s epic story of a goth prince, his best friends, and a cool car is presented in a cute, chibi-style art direction but is suffused with all the personality and charm of the full-fat console version. This is due in no small part to the original voice acting and characterful animations that keep all the humor intact.

When it comes to combat, some aspects of the game are streamlined to make it easier to battle it out on a touchscreen. For example, you only control Noctis in combat, with the AI helping out through his companions. Nonetheless, fights are challenging (especially bosses), and there’s still plenty of options to customize all the characters.

You find the huge open world gameplay of the console version here. In some ways, this actually works out to the Pocket Edition’s advantage, with the progress of the game keeping a tighter focus on plot. Mobile gamers don’t miss out on FFXV’s story and characters, only on the more generic battling, wandering and grinding.

The condensed version of Final Fantasy XV’s epic road trip meets fantasy quest will be released in an episodic format, with the first part is available to download for free.

While I haven’t seen any dodgy ads, players should be aware that completing the entire saga will cost $19.99. The first chapter is free, the next two cost $0.99 and chapters 4 through 9 cost $3.99 each.

  1. App version: 1.0.3.251
  2. App size: 5 GB+
  3. Compatibility: Android 5.0 and up (2GB RAM, 1.5 GHz also required)
  4. Price: Free to try, $19.99 to purchase the full version

Cytus II

As you’re swiping, holding, tapping and racking up points, the intense gameplay really sucks you into the music, and the icing on the cake is Cytus II’s cyberpunk story presented through anime-style visuals.

In a future where the virtual world and real life are synced up to an extreme degree, the game’s characters investigate the mysterious disappearance of superstar DJ Aesir. The personalities of Cytus II’s characters and appealing aesthetics of the sci-fi world serve as welcome interludes from the increasingly demanding rhythm segments, making Cytus II appealing a package for its initial asking price.

The $9.99 expansions, which add more tracks and story chapters, do seem a little steep, however, though I must admit that the base game contains more than enough content to sprain your fingers if you’re not careful.

  1. App version: 1.1
  2. App size: 573 MB
  3. Compatibility: Android 4.4 and up
  4. Price: $1.99, with two $9.99 expansions

Sonic CD

Another Sonic the Hedgehog classic returns to the Play Store, this time not from the beloved Genesis, but rather the more advanced Sega CD. Sonic CD has all the classic Sonic elements—you run, spin, collect rings, bust banks at breakneck speeds, but this platformer is more complex than its predecessors, with large, complex levels full of secrets to discover, a time-travel storyline that has you tackling different versions of each zone and a sinister new antagonist in the form of Metal Sonic.

As is usual with the Sega Forever series, you can play free with the cost of suffering ads and a required internet connection or pay a small price to enjoy the game unrestricted.

The Sonic CD is the most advanced Sonic game available on Android (many of us are still hoping to see 2017’s Sonic Mania get a port at some point) right now and a must-have for fans. Sega CD veterans are warned: controls are not exactly as smooth on the touch screen as they were on a controller so you might yourself losing control of the speeding blue blur more often than not.

  1. App version: 1.0.2
  2. App size: 224 MB
  3. Compatibility: Android 4.2 and up
  4. Price: Free with ads, $1.99 to purchase

February

It’s the shortest month of the year, so you don’t want to waste your precious time playing boring games. Here are my top three recommendations to make the most of those minutes this February.

Uciana

A space 4X game for Android? As if I wasn’t spending enough time already on Endless Space 2 and Stellaris on PC, now I can be a galactic space emperor on the subway, too. Uciana is a new indie game that delivers a fantastic amount of depth for your $0.99. There’s no IAP either. What you get is effectively a mobile game version of sci-fi Civilization descendants, such as Master of Orion 2.

There are several distinct spacefaring civilizations to choose from. Good ol’ humanity is an option, but I’m a fan of the more exotic types, with the crab-like Sothren Federation being my current favorites. Through the graphics are basic, each comes with distinct bonuses and ship design to give them a different flavor.

The goal is galactic conquest, which is accomplished via exploration, expansion, economic growth, technological research, and of course, diplomacy and war once you start bumping into your rivals. Right now, it’s only possible to ‘win’ the game by conquest but the developer has mentioned adding in different victory conditions further down the line.

Although the turn based system makes the controls easy enough on mobile, this isn’t a casual game. Uciana doesn’t dumb down the 4X genre at all, and you’ll struggle at first to keep track of all your resources and statistics, and what exactly they mean. Though there are a couple of tutorial videos from the devs up on YouTube, mostly you’ll be learning through trial and error in the game.

Nonetheless, once you’ve spent time getting the hang of it, Uciana stands out as one of the best strategy games out there on mobile that isn’t tarnished by pay-to-win monetization or predatory IAP. Given that it’s early days yet for the game, it’s got great potential.

  1. App version: 1670
  2. App size: 39.04 MB
  3. Compatibility: Android 4.2 and up
  4. Price: $0.99

Morphite

From the abstract galactic exploration of Uciana to something much more up close and personal, we come to Morphite. Morphite is an action/exploration/puzzle game that was recently ported to Android, and it’s low-fi (but pretty) polygon graphics and relaxed, exploratory gameplay make it a great fit for mobile.

Morphine’s has you take on the role of Myrah, a space explorer who investigates alien worlds, scanning the exotic flora and fauna for information and resources. In some respects, this is reminiscent of controversial space sim No Man’s Sky, except that the gameplay is only focused on exploring the surface of plants, not space in between them, and the environments are generally smaller and more like platformer levels.

although Morphite does feature weapons and combat with hostile alien critters, it’s not a high-octane action game. Rather, the real pleasure is in casually exploring the stylized alien environments, admiring the scenery and enjoying the absorbing soundtrack and quips from Kitcat, a wisecracking feline robot.

In between the occasional challenging aggressive beast or tricky platforming puzzle, Morphite generally has a calming, almost zen-like casual vibe. To get through the story, you’ll eventually need to upgrade your ship, weapons, and armor to overcome late-game challenges.

But the first late-game challenge may be more psychological, as the full story mode is locked behind an IAP. So in essence, what you’re getting for free is a demo version of a game that is priced at $15 on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One. Morphine was good enough to convince me to fork over of the full version, but for anyone who isn’t sure, it doesn’t cost anything to give it a try, and there more quality out there in exploring the procedurally generated planets than there is on a lot of free games cluttering the Play Store

  1. App version: 1.01
  2. App size: 350 MB
  3. Compatibility: Android 4.4 and up
  4. Price: Free demo, IAP to unlock full story

Skullgirls

Skullgirls mobile, much like its PC cousin, is a fast-paced fighting game with a darkly humorous anime-inspired art style that will be somewhat familiar to fans of classic series like BlazBlue or Guilty Gear. It recently received a major update that won it praise for its balance and depth. I took it upon myself to find out if Skullgirls mobile is a worthy sibling to the acclaimed PC version.

The freemium mobile version of Skullgirls is a prequel to the main fighting game with a familiar mobile-oriented twist—RPG elements to level up your character, and daily missions and story elements to keep you coming back and kicking ass. Ready to run for the hills? I was too. But being a fan of the PC version, I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised.

Skullgirl’s fantastic soundtrack and art style make it a winner right off the bat (think sci-fi anime meets the gothic art deco stylings of Batman: The Animated Series), and surprisingly deep beat ’em up gameplay provides a solid core to the game that skilled players can really get in to. Sure, for those with no honor there’s an auto-fight mode you can switch on which takes care of basic moves, but if you just save it for a crowded subway, Skullgirls offers a frantic feast for the fingers.

Annoying free-to-play elements are present in that you’ll constantly end up upgrading your fighters, and using in-game currency to unlock new ones randomly. If you’re dead set on using your favorite characters from the PC version of Skullgirls, this could really put you out.

But having not yet reached a point where I’m tempted to shell out hard earned cash, I’m impressed at how much I can get out of the game gratis. Compared to other popular mobile fighters like Marvel: Conquest of Champions, or even another favorite of mine, Shadow Fight 3, Skullgirls manages to be less predatory when it comes to monetization and still oozes character and fun.

  1. App version: 2.0.1
  2. App size: 718 MB
  3. Compatibility: Android 4.1 and up
  4. Price: In-app purchases

Run Sausage Run!

Run Sausage Run! Is an endless runner with a culinary twist. As a plucky sausage attempting to escape your fate on the dinner table, you’ve got to dash through the kitchen dodging deathtraps like knives, tenderizers, searing hot grills, and various whirling blades.

The bloody but cartoony visuals and tongue-firmly-in-cheek humor make Run Sausage Run! stand out from the many endless runners out there by force of personality. The fantastic soundtrack and variety of power-ups help keep the high-score chasing gameplay interesting over time and there are various outfits and skins to unlock to personalize your sausage.

Although free to play, the game is supported by ads, which, once you get engrossed in a particularly tricky section of traps, can feel quite frustrating. An in-app purchase exists to remove them.

  1. App version: 1.2.0
  2. App size: 98.25 MB
  3. Compatibility: Android 4.1 and up
  4. Economic model: In-app purchases

Arena of Valor

Arena Of Valor is a 5v5 MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game developed by Tencent games, makers of the smash hit League Of Legends. In China, the game has been available in various incarnations, but it has only recently made its way to western markets.

Although Arena of Valor shares many characteristics with League of Legends, it benefits from many tweaks that optimize it for mobile play. Matches on Arena of Valor are only 10 minutes long compared to the more established MOBA games which can often run for around 45 minutes per match. The controls are simple and easy to learn thanks to a comprehensive tutorial.

This makes Arena of Valor both a great introduction to MOBAs and perfects to pick up and play in short bursts. Since it’s easy to learn and matches don’t take too long, you won’t lack for teammates (and opponents) among the game’s huge and fast-growing user base. As someone who’s normally turned off by both the complexity and time-sink of more established MOBA, Arena of Valor still managed to hook me in with its accessibility.

Another selling point for Arena of Valor is its playable DC universe characters. But if you want to get this game just to pit Batman or Wonder Woman against the game’s roster of original heroes, be prepared to grind (or pay), as it requires a lot of gaming time to unlock the DC heroes.

  1. App version: 1.19.1.1
  2. App size: 548 MB
  3. Compatibility: Android 4.0.3 and up
  4. Economic model: In-app purchases

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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