For several years now smartphones have been capable of running video games that surpass the technical qualities of the Nintendo DS. Although the mobile market specializes in games made with the casual market in mind, companies sometimes like to release versions of classic video games on Android and iOS. Considering how many consumers have fallen in love with titles that are exclusive to mobile devices, it only makes sense to try capturing that demographic.
In this Ryan’s Corner, we’ll essentially be taking a look at a grab bag of various classic games that made it onto Google Play and/or Apple’s app store.
Of course, we ought to start with a game everybody and their brother knows. Pac-Man originally started out with a very straightforward port; it was simply the arcade game on a small screen and with a price tag. This original 2008 release was priced at…$9.99?! What the actual crap, Namco?! That’s as insane as the NES version being on the Game Boy Advance for $25 three years prior. Over the years, this price dropped at a gradual rate for obvious reasons.
However, they did more than just retool the price in recent years. The game got a big upgrade in the middle of this decade. It went from being a straight port of the arcade game to offering a variety of content exclusive to mobile. Players could compete in tournaments, do some side-missions for little rewards, and play an absolute truckload of different mazes. Granted, the new mazes are locked away behind in-game currency but they are relatively easy to afford without spending real money. It honestly makes me wish Namco put this version on consoles; I was a bit bummed when the arcade version made it to Namco Museum on Switch instead.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Like Pac-Man, Sonic the Hedgehog originally debuted on smartphones with a straightforward emulation of the original game. It was serviceable enough and was priced fairly reasonably ($4.99 instead of Pac‘s baffling $9.99 introduction). Then in 2013, the folks that would go on to make Sonic Mania completely remade the original Sonic from the ground-up. And it is freaking glorious.
They first did this with Sonic CD and went on to do the same with Sonic 2. The game runs perfectly without much technical issue and there are new extras inspired by later games in the series. Just like all of those games, their work on Sonic 1 results in an amazingly fine-tuned version that console owners envy beyond belief. Sonic CD was fortunate enough to make it to Xbox Live but the others are mobile-exclusive as far as anybody knows. The games are also now totally free via the SEGA Forever service albeit you may have to pay a small fee to be completely rid of ads.
Oh heck no. This game was already unfairly hard as it was on consoles, but on a mobile device? Good luck being precise with a pair of virtual buttons and an equally fake D-Pad! Rayman is anything but a forgiving game. Underneath its impressively polished exterior is a game that would rip players apart any chance it could get.
There are modes that are meant to ease the difficulty this time around but none of it really affects two things: this version’s touch controls and the game’s general level design. Both of these factors make playing through this one a death wish on smartphones. If you want a good Rayman game on mobile, play any of the mobile-exclusive games. They are based on the console games Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends but are crafted in a way that cater to mobile capabilities.
For years now, Warner Bros. and Traveler’s Tales have been porting their IP-based LEGO games to mobile. These are all actually ports of the handheld versions of each; LEGO Batman 2 is based on the version that released for DS, 3DS, and PS Vita, for example. That explains why they released the crappy LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril on app stores instead of the “real” game.
Aside from that and a couple other similar stripped-down games, the LEGO games are generally as sound as they are on the dedicated handhelds. The handheld versions of them are usually very faithful to their console counterparts, just with differing level layouts and a few less smaller details. The smartphone ports feature a slight increase in visual clarity and the tried-and-true (if formulaic) puzzle-platforming gameplay remains intact.
All six NES games made it to mobile but Mega Man 2 had been an iOS-only release since 2009. Back then it was a slightly touched up port of the original game. It would be easy to see it as a direct emulation but certain settings and certain new glitches show otherwise. Still, it’s Mega Man 2. Once you get past having to use virtual buttons, the game plays out well enough.
Then somewhere in recent years, the brains at Capcom broke; while it seemed great that they would release all the early Mega Mans at reasonable prices on mobile, every single one of them is plagued with problems exclusive to the utterly bastardized port job they each received. This includes Mega Man 2, which seems to have replaced the old version of the app on the iOS app store! The framerates run at a consistent rate of…10 FPS, I think? The in-game fonts also don’t match the games’ pixel art. It feels like these were meant to be on J2ME phones from the early-to-mid 2000s rather than on today’s mobile devices. However, those old phones had real buttons to work with.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2
Yep, this one was ported to iOS in 2012! If you didn’t know that, you wouldn’t be wrong for not knowing of it. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was pulled from the app store for at least a couple of years now, possibly due to legal issues. Was there anything fans have missed out on? Well…not really. There is the novelty of getting to play this excellent fighting game on the go but it did come with some questionable quirks.
For starters, the framerate has been chopped from 60 FPS to struggling-to-be-30. Virtual buttons take up a portion of the screen, no multiplayer modes are present and about half of the entire roster has to be unlocked for some arbitrary reason. Yeaaaaah, you may as well stick with any other release of the game.
To top off this batch of games, I thought I’d bring up an early 2000s arcade game that I loved playing back in the day but didn’t know what it was called until this year. Hyperbowl is a bowling game where you constantly roll the ball along a corridor in order to reach the ten pins at the end. The arcade cabinet had you roll a big trackball that felt like a real bowling ball, so it was only natural for the mobile version to use constant swiping across the screen to emulate that to some degree.
The mobile game is actually a remake that was developed in Unity by a lone developer under license by the owners of Hyperbowl‘s trademark. Although it doesn’t feel 100% like the original (the ball’s momentum is a little easier to manipulate here), you’d be hard-pressed to find any faults with the translation. The game even has a few brand new levels not featured in earlier releases! It’s clear the developer has been putting a lot of care into making the game as good it as it can be and I can only respect them for that.
So that’s my grab bag of mobile ports for today. I may mention more in the future, or this could be a one-off. Either way, I just wanted to provide something that may be fun to think about.