Yes, the Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and Candy Crush Saga phenomenons were all intense, but nothing in the mobile-games realm has had an impact quite like Pokémon Go. The millions upon millions of people meandering around outside in search of cutesy critters to catch are causing servers to fail frequently, Nintendo's stock value to double, and society to become certifiably ridiculous.
No matter how many programmers try to create the next big location-based AR game, the sensation likely won't be duplicated anytime soon. But Pokémon Go isn't the only mobile game to break away from the tedium of match-three puzzlers, grinding freemium battlers, and other done-to-death concepts. The eight innovative mobile games below are worth a look when you need to put Pokémon on pause.
The goal: You and a friend hold one phone simultaneously and move the device in unison; this highlights on-screen cursors designed to send you cavorting around the room in time to music, and... oh look, a game just tricked you into dancing.
Why you might want it: If your favorite aspects of the Pokémon Go experience are the physical activity and the opportunity to socialize with other players, then Bounden might push your buttons, too. It'll help if you like ballet. And it'll help to bring friends: playing a game this intimate with a total stranger might get awkward.
Where to get it: iOS or Android ($3)
The goal: Help Taylor, a stranded astronaut who crash-landed on an unknown alien planet without a crew or a clue, by making quick decisions in conversational interludes. Each choice impacts Taylor's ultimate fate.
Why you might want it: The existence of a storyline here puts Lifeline in a completely different realm than Pokémon Go -- especially since the story is everything. However, the play has some parallels, unfolding at your own pace, whenever you're ready to save the main character from intergalactic doom. You'll get notifications whenever Taylor needs to chat, and, as with Pokémon Go, you don't need to play for large chunks of time: a couple minutes here and there will suffice. It's especially compelling on a paired Apple Watch or Android Wear smartwatch, where the messaging system slips seamlessly into real life.
Where to get it: iOS or Android ($2)
The goal: Solve a series of puzzle stages by trimming bonsai trees. Strategic cuts to unneeded branches guide the highest ones into the sunlight.
Why you might want it: Prune's puzzles have a meditative quality about them: there's no pressure, no timers, and little pressing danger. You're simply there with the tree, learning the process along the way, and making smart snips to progress ahead. Even better, the game offers little guidance within -- you're left to work out the nitty-gritty details on your own, just like in the real world.
Where to get it: iOS or Android ($4)
The goal: Guide adventurer Phileas Fogg and his valet around the globe within the stated timeframe by making the right decisions on transportation, dialogue, and adventure.
Why you might want it: Pokémon Go is all about exploring your surroundings to find adventure. 80 Days whisks you on a different trip, exploring a steampunk-tinged take on the year 1872. This adaptation of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days is a narrative quest built around text, menus, and mostly still graphics, yet the brilliant writing and diverse scenarios keep it thrilling to the end. Each route you take through the world can be dramatically different, which means you can play it over and over again for fresh thrills.
Where to get it: iOS or Android ($5)
The goal: As a low-level employee slowly working your way up the corporate ladder, you have to solve logic puzzles to appease your bosses. Bonus: the game actually teaches you the basics of computer programming.
Why you might want it: Part of the reason why Pokémon Go is so intoxicatingly addictive is because it's more than just a game: you're exploring, being social, and potentially having new experiences in the process of catching monsters. Likewise, Human Resource Machine is a lesson disguised as a game, turning the fundamentals of software coding into easy-to-learn puzzles. It's also ridiculously fun and packed with personality, as you'd expect from the makers of the brilliant World of Goo.
Where to get it: iOS ($5)
The goal: What, Pokémon Go isn't enough of a capitalist enterprise for your liking? Well, Landlord has the location-based premise, tasking you with "owning" nearby buildings and businesses and extracting rent from visitors.
Why you might want it: Like Pokémon Go, Landlord wants you to get out and visit nearby locations -- only here, you buy up virtual property. Every time someone marks a visit to one of your buildings via Facebook or Foursquare, you earn rent in the game and increase your faux-fortune. Upkeep expenses and money-making upgrades create a GPS-centric game with loads of strategy, cunning, and competition -- think Monopoly come to life.
Where to get it: iOS and Android (free)
The goal: Lure as many adorable, cartoon cats to your backyard as you can by placing down special toys and food. Loads of secret, top-level felines can be attracted with the right items and enough persistence.
Why you might want it: Neko Atsume is a bit deceiving at first glance, because it looks absolutely pointless. But as you spend more time with the game, that'll become slightly less true. Even with no real objective or missions to complete, playing Neko Atsume feels like a calling to its most devoted fans. The comical, costumed kittens are hard to come by, requiring a fair amount of time and attention, and it feels a lot like the "Gotta catch 'em all" pursuit of rare Pokémon -- only here, you don't have to leave your couch to do anything. Score one for this Japanese curio.
Where to get it: iOS or Android (free)
The goal: Navigate through pitch-dark stages using only sound and visual ripples that represent your footsteps echoing through hallways. Find the exit -- and try not to get killed in the process.
Why you might want it: Locating Pokémon is a total crapshoot. You can wander into leafy areas and refer to crowd-assembled maps to locate certain types, but unless you're using a lure or incense to draw them near, you have no idea which monsters will appear (if any at all). Dark Echo plays on that same kind of theme: you have no sense of what you're walking into with each darkened stage. All you'll see are footsteps and brief imprints of echoes as you try to find your way out of each level. It's unnerving but ultimately immersive and gripping, much like a dogged hunt for your local Snorlax can be.
Where to get it: iOS and Android ($2)
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