Since the birth of modern smartphones with the iPhone in 2007, mobile games have become a part of everyone's lives, from toddlers to baby boomers. From simple games like Snake in the previous decade, to socially connected games like Candy Crush Saga, mobile games have spawned a multi-billion dollar industry, and propelled the dreams of developers the world over, bringing them fame and fortune. The growth has been massive enough that major console and PC game developers such as Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, and Square Enix have invested heavily in the sector, creating their own mobile game franchises, or in some cases, buying them outright from smaller developers.
Over the past decade, some mobile games have made a bigger mark on the collective consciousness than others, and here, we've listed the biggest in terms of downloads and revenue (with data from app analytics firm App Annie), apart from overall popularity. We can guarantee that every title or franchise on the list is something of a household name, and that you've heard of each of them regardless of how many hours a day you spend gaming on your smartphone.
Released in 2009, Angry Birds is a casual puzzle video game developed by Finnish firm Rovio Entertainment. It's safe to say the game spawned one of the biggest franchises in mobile game history, with 18 Angry Birds games, 7 spin-off games, and two Angry Birds movies having been released since its inception. With those many titles, it's understandable that no one Angry Birds game features on App Annie's list of most downloaded or highest-grossing games of the past decade. Games from the franchise are available on various platforms, from mobile to PC.
Released in 2010, Fruit Ninja is a skill-based puzzle game developed by Australia-based Halfbrick Games, also known for Jetpack Joyride. In Fruit Ninja, players control a blade via their smartphone's touchscreen, slicing up falling fruit and avoiding obstacles. The game is the ninth highest downloaded game across Android and iOS of the past decade as per App Annie. It has been published on a variety of platforms, including making its way to the Xbox 360 with motion control support via the Kinect camera, and even with VR support for the HTC Vive, Oculus Quest, and PS VR.
Released in 2011, Temple Run is an endless runner game developed by US-based Imangi Studios. Popularising the 3D endless runner genre of games that later included the record-breaking Subway Surfers title, Temple Run has had four sequels and spin-offs. The second of those – Temple Run 2 – is App Annie's third most downloaded game of the past decade, across the App Store and Google Play. The first spin-off was a collaboration between Imangi Studios and Disney to promote the latter's movie Brave, and the two also partnered on another spin-off for the film Oz the Great and Powerful.
Released in 2012, Subway Surfers is an endless runner game that was developed by Danish companies Kiloo and SYBO Games. It can be considered amongst the pioneers of the genre, and is available across mobile and desktop platforms. Subway Surfers has several milestones to its name – such as becoming the first game to cross 1 billion downloads on Google Play in 2018, and then crossing the two billion mark within 6 months of the original feat. It's also App Annie's top mobile game in terms of downloads in the past decade, across the App Store and Google Play.
Released in 2012, Candy Crush Saga is a tile matching game developed by Malta-based King Digital Entertainment. Acquired by Activision Blizzard in 2016 for a massive sum of $5.9 billion, King specialises in socially-connected games that let players associate their social network (most commonly, Facebook) profile, and share their progress with friends, thereby competing with them or inviting them to play alongside. Available on a multitude of platforms, Candy Crush Saga is number 2 on App Annie's list of most downloaded mobile games of the past decade, and number 3 in terms of consumer spend.
Released in 2012, Clash of Clans is a mobile strategy game made by Finnish developer Supercell, which is also known for Brawl Stars, Clash Royale, and Hay Day. Clash of Clan players are chiefs of their own villages, which they build out in a persistent world. The game has enjoyed its status as the highest grossing game on both the App Store and Google Play for many years, and interestingly, hasn't seen a port to other platforms. It's App Annie's number 5 game in terms of downloads over the past decade, apart from being the top grossing game.
Released in 2012, Hill Climb Racing is a physics-based racing video game developed by Finland-based Fingersoft. Available for Android, iOS, Windows, and Windows Phone, the deceptively simple game is lambasted for its lacklustre graphics but praised for its mechanics. Players drive a car through increasingly difficult terrains while collecting coins and keeping an eye on their fuel gauge. Hill Climb Racing features at number 7 on App Annie's most downloaded games of the past decade across Android and iOS. Hill Climb Racing 2 was released in 2016 for Android and iOS, and has also made its way to Windows 10.
Released in 2013, My Talking Tom is a virtual pet app developed by Slovenia-based Outfit7. The children's game is part of several Talking Tom and Friends apps, first released in 2010 in the form of Talking Tom Cat. The app has also spawned a Web series and even a television series. My Talking Tom players have to raise and nurture a cat named Tom. Another draw for children was that words spoken into the microphone could be repeated by Tom in a synthesised voice. It ranks as the fourth most downloaded game of the past decade by App Annie.
Released in 2016, Pokemon Go is an augmented reality (AR) and location-based mobile game made by US-headquartered Niantic. Formerly Niantic Labs, an internal startup within Google, the company first gained attention for Ingress, another AR, location-based game. In Pokemon Go, players have to find, capture, and train virtual Pokemon creatures in the real world. It gained worldwide fame on the basis of its Pokemon fan following and innovative gameplay, breaking several records for downloads and revenue along the way. With players barging into inappropriate real-world locations for the sake of the game, it also gained some notoriety in its popularity. Pokemon Go currently stands as the eighth highest earning game of the past decade as per App Annie.
The most recent title on our list of best mobile games, PUBG Mobile is a battle-royale game first released in 2018 and is developed by China-based Tencent Games. Also unlike most other games on the list, the title's origins are from a PC game – PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds – which also made its way to consoles such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Given its recent release on mobile, it's understandable that the game doesn't feature on App Annie's most downloaded or highest grossing games of the decade. However, one cannot deny the game's popularity with the masses, with countries like India going so far as to attempt to curb ‘PUBG addiction' in the youth. In its most popular play mode, players are air-dropped onto an ever-shrinking map and compete to be the last person standing.
Infinity Blade – Released: 2016. Popular Because: Set the benchmark for graphics on mobile.
Monument Valley – Released: 2014. Popular Because: A puzzle game with beautiful, minimalistic graphics.
Fortnite – Released: 2018. Popular Because: A battle royale game with PC and console origins.
Flappy Bird – Released: 2013. Popular Because: High difficulty, addictive gameplay, and one-man developer origins.
Call of Duty Mobile – Released: 2019. Popular Because: Another battle royale game, but part of the longstanding CoD franchise.
Modern Combat (Series) – Released: 2009. Popular Because: A first person shooter with realistic graphics.
Honour of Kings (Arena of Valor) – Released: 2017. Popular Because: A multiplayer online battle arena game for the mobile.