The ‘endless runner’ is no new trend to mobile gaming. It could even be said that the genre is one of the cornerstones of the vast iOS gaming pyramid (the other being Bejewelled and Candy Crush, probably).
With this being the case, it really shouldn’t be such a shock that Flappy Bird exists. It shouldn’t even be a surprise that it’s successful. What is strange though, is the sheer immensity of its success. It’s ubiquity. Flappy Bird sprung up overnight and blindsided the app world. Everyone and their mother (literally. Just think how terrifying that statement is when applied literally) has at least played the game at this point.
But why? With all due respect to the indie game’s developer Dong Nguyen, Flappy Bird really isn’t that special. Yes the gameplay is ingeniously simple, and it features a cute animal as the protagonist (always a plus in mobile gaming), but there are simply so many better games within the genre out there. If you like Flappy Bird, it’s a dead cert that you’ll like these even better. Here’s your What Mobile top five endless runners (that are better than Flappy Bird. Sorry again, Dong).
5. Time Surfer
Like Tiny Wings on acid, Time Surfer takes a once simple game and cranks the difficulty up to eleven.
The basic mechanic is that in order to propel your miniature boarder along the infinite landscape, you must co-ordinate his jumps in time with the peaks and troughs of the hilly terrain. Hold your thumb down to ramp off a hill, making sure to time your landing so that you come screaming back to earth at the beginning of another descent.
Sounds manageable enough, until you take into account the fact that Time Surfer wants you to die. It really, really does. Asteroids, spiked blocks and other natural hazards all stand in your way. So how do you negotiate these obstacles whilst travelling at 100,000 miles per hour? You reverse time.
This is Time Surfer‘s real USP. At the start of each run you are given a finite time-rewind bar. Use it all and you’re on your own. However, if you should die (or are simply unsatisfied with how you managed that last huge jump) and there’s some left in reserve you can rewind time to survive just that little bit longer. Or maybe it’ll be a lot longer! Better just give it one more go to find out…
4. Robot Unicorn Attack 2
It’s a real shame I used up that ‘on acid’ description on the first title on the list, because now I have no idea how to describe the fluorescent insanity of Robot Unicorn Attack 2.
RUA2 is a product of Adult Swim, the studio behind a whole slew of wildly successful and incredibly odd TV programmes such as Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Robot Chicken, and you best believe it shows.
Aesthetically the game plays out like a fantasyscape from a 70’s prog-metal LP sleeve. Your resplendent unicorn powers through strange alien worlds, collecting luminous pixies and smashing enormous monsters along its way.
The outstanding original soundtrack lends the game a tremendous sense of force, and the visuals look fantastically crisp on the newer iPhones and iPads.
3. Boson X
Remember the Higgs-Boson particle that was all over the news a little while ago? The one they used the giant CERN Supercollider to discover? Ever wondered what the scientists do with that big ol’ supercollider when they’re not smashing particles about inside it? No? Well luckily for you Ian MacLarty has, and as a result he’s created Boson X.
You control a man let loose inside a particle accelerator, tearing along a never-ending, hexagonal series of platforms. The tricky part is when the floor ahead disappears vanishes – you need to tap the screen on either side to rotate your hexagonal surroundings underneath you, or tap both sides simultaneously to leap ahead.
Running over green tiles speeds you up, whilst red tiles slow you down, with the ultimate goal being to reach 100% velocity. After that, it’s simply a matter of trying to beat your record high-speed for the stage, as you don’t have to stop at 100% (you’d think a scientist wouldn’t play so fast and loose with the rules of thermal dynamics).
2. Jetpack Joyride
Why this game isn’t as popular as Fruit Ninja will forever be a mystery. Jetpack Joyride is Halfbrick Studios’ other iOS endeavour – and boy do those guys know how to make a game.
Barry, your jetpack-clad hero, is on a rampage through a research lab, which rather conveniently happens to take the shape of an unending corridor. You hold down a thumb on your screen to propel him upwards, and release to see him descend. As you go you need to collect coins whilst avoiding the numerous hazards in place set to send him crashing back to Earth, including missiles and moving laser beams.
What sets Jetpack Joyride apart from other similar titles though, asides from its charming style and sense of humour, is its unbelievable longevity. There are no levels to complete or stages to pass – what gives the game its lifespan is the sheer amount of achievements and unlockables.
The premise is simple: complete one of your three presented challenges to unlock more coins, after which a new challenge replaces it. Complete a certain number of challenges to rank up and unlock a whole new set of more complicated and difficult ones. These bonus tasks range from the simple, such as travelling a certain distance, to the insane, such as deliberately dying and coming to a halt within a certain narrow stretch.
As you may have suspected, the coins earned can be spent on unlocking a massive amount of upgrades, from different jetpack-expulsions (machine gun bullets, fire, rainbows, you name it) to solid gold iterations of the game’s vehicles.
Oh right, the game’s vehicles. This is when things really start to get crazy. On your rocket-fuelled travels you come across floating mechanical bubbles – careen into one and you’re thrust into one of the several outstanding vehicles on offer. Giant robotic bird that accelerates when it eats coins? Check. Personal teleporter? Check. Chinese dragon? Double check (that sure is a weird list you had. Good choices though).
And what’s more, it’s free right now, and there’s absolutely zero ‘pay-to-win’ incentive involved, although you of course can spend real money to speed things up if you want to. But why would you want to rush through a game this great?
1. Temple Run 2
Don’t you roll your eyes at me, you knew it was coming. Temple Run 2 is the most popular endless runner since…well, Temple Run. And deservedly so – without the brilliant original we may not have had any of the other games on this list.
As a matter of fact you’ve probably already played it, or at least the prequel. But that simply stands as testament to why this game is number one on our list. It really is the perfect endless runner. The gameplay is simple enough to pick up with almost zero help, yet takes a lifetime to master. And yes, there is a strong chance you will be playing Temple Run 2 for the rest of your life, or at least until they release a threequel.
The Indiana Jones-esque theme works perfectly with the frantic, sweaty-palmed nature of the genre, and the horde of weird, nameless monsters chasing after you are as iconic as any foe created by George Lucas’ franchise. The second Temple Run introduces changes in scenery, more obstacles, and more delicious upgrades and power-ups. Just about any criticism you could level at the near-perfect original has been addressed.
There’s few better feelings in mobile gaming than picking up the Coin Magnet power-up and swinging down an enormous zipline with impunity, watching coin after coin get sucked into your character. This is the game to blame for a thousand missed train stations and a thousand unnecessary extra minutes spent sat on the toilet.
If you’ve not played it already, you should be downloading it right this second. If you have played it already, you probably want to open it up again and give it one more go. So by all means, be my guest. It’s a damn sight better than Flappy Bird.