10 Quick Game Picks for This Holiday Season

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Single or multiplayer, funny or serious, these are the games you can play alone, with kids, friends and even strangers.

Christmas and New Year holidays are coming, and family parties are so much fun when you play games. Here are a few mobile games you can play alone, or with friends – some free, some paid, some time killers, others hardcore time gobblers. Some are just right for the wintery mood, so we hope anyone can find something to pick from our quick roundup.

Bombsquad

Download from Google Play, iTunes
Free-to-play, IAPs $0.99-$19.99

One of the best party games with online and local multiplayer, Bombsquad (review) is the kind of game I call guilty pleasure. There may be no rhyme or reason to walk around punching everyone in the face and throwing bombs at them, but truth be told, it can be hilarious and pretty much good fun, especially if you play with your friends. The mobile game has a slew of arenas and games that task you with different objectives – like grab a flag, or get the ball in the enemy gates, or throw the bomb to kill the enemy trying to get away from the blast. The game is mostly free. IAPs enter when you have a big crowd of 8 people wanting to partake in a multiplayer slaughter. If, however, your party is modest, you can connect cross-platform, via Google Play, via Android Connect or manually. I found the latter working perfectly. The game looks dazzling – hi-res 3D, posh colors, funny rag-doll animations, awesome collection of classical music to accompany the blasting action. Alternatively, you can have the app play your own music – the options and settings are extensive. It also has an OUYA version.

Bombsquad

Alto’s Adventure

Download from iTunes, $2.99

One of the best winter-time and atmospheric games that launched on mobile this year is Alto’s Adventure – a tripping slide down the steep slopes of… the Alps, I guess. Alto’s Adventure is an endless snowboarding trip across the gorgeous hills, mysterious villages and forests, abandoned ruins. Not only will you score combos of glitter as you play, but also jump over the abysmal chasms, rescue stray llamas, deal with village elders and enjoy one of the very best soundtracks in mobile gaming. The controls are fluid and the physics is realistic while the procedurally generated areas will keep you busy mastering your reflexes. The game looks mesmerizing with its dynamic lighting, cool weather effects and landscapes worthy of praise as they are.

alto
Or, you could try your reflexes with a cross-platform Skiing Yeti Mountain [Google Play, iTunes], which sees you skiing down an endless slope filled with snow, ice, raw ground, hilarious characters, blood stains and sometimes Yeti. The story is not central to the gameplay, although there are quite a few funny moments. It’s the reflex-based action that keeps you on your toes, as you pursue the highest scores and better equipment. Best of all, Skiing Yeti Mountain (review) is free-to-play and you can play to your heart’s content – IAPs aren’t obnoxious. Overall, if you care for a snow-related time killer, try these two games.

Rayman Adventures

Download from Google Play, iTunes

What can better than a new Rayman game to plunge into on a cold, winter night? Rayman Adventures (review) is a bright and colorful as your Christmas tree, and the vibrant looks certainly create the festive mood. Rayman Adventures is a fast-paced action platformer that keeps some of the best traditions of the franchise, adding a few new gimmicks. One is the Incrediballs, the critters in eggs you have to collect as you play. Once they hatch, they become your companions and power-ups that help you in combat and loot hunting scenarios. The game also introduces the extended control system, if compared to the previous two Rayman games on mobile. Now you can control Rayman’s direction, even though he runs non-stop. Tap to jump, swipe to change direction, swipe to attack – sometimes confusing, but the game is free-to-play, and children absolutely love it for its cute characters, wonderful animations, vivid looks and whimsical sounds.

Rayman Adventures (2)

Cut the Rope: Magic

Download from Google Play, iTunes

Cut the Rope Magic is a great Christmas gift to families. Bright colors, polished looks, enhanced animations, new avatars for Om Nom and 100 all-new puzzles with fancy gimmicks make it one of the best releases this month. Its IAP system is fair, and within my two days playing it moderately, I have covered some 90% of the game without paying a dime, occasionally watching ads. It’s incredibly fun, especially when you play it with a bunch of kids on the same device. Everyone is tossing and kicking, grabbing one another’s hands to have the crucial swipe that gets Om Nom the candy, or turns him into a cute pet avatar. Once again, Zeptolab proves the franchise lives on, and we are already looking forward to new levels. Read our full review.

Cut the Rope Magic (18)

Just Dance Now

Download from Google Play, iTunes

Definitely one of the must-have picks for any part, Ubisoft’s mobile version of its ultra-popular dancing game Just Dance Now (review) has earned quite a decent reputation on both platforms, which proves it’s formula is working. Get a phone in one hand, a large screen (connected TV, desktop, laptop, even tablet, whatever), go through a hassle-free connection procedure and pick a song. Lady Gag, Calvin Harris, Pitbull. Ariana Grande and a gazillion of other pop stars with the hits of the year are available for you to enjoy. The zest? Keep the phone in one hand and its sensors will register your moves while on your desktop, TV or laptop’s screen you will see professional dancers perform to the song. Your aim is to copy their moves as good as you can. In the end, the game scores your efforts. A great competitive and healthy mobile game for parties and a nice family getaway because there is no limit to the number of players, you can challenge your friends, earn XP points to unlock new avatars. It’s free-to-play, with a number of premium features, so anyone can pick the plan they like best.

just dance now

Badland and Badland 2

Download from Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, Windows Phone Store, Blackberry webstore

Badland needs no introduction, being a go-to time killer for millions. If you have played it solo before, now is the time you play it with your friends and kids. You can have up to four players sharing the same screen in a multiplayer mode. The game is constantly updated with new levels, and you can play it on Android TV, controllers supported.

The iOS users are lucky to be able to get their hands on the second installment of the legendary game Badland 2 [iTunes, $4.99] that launched on the app store just a few days ago. The new game looks even better than the original, I doubted it was possible, but there you have it – gorgeous, atmospheric and emotional journey of the flappy critter through the hand-drawn Saw’s forest continues. The new game features all the famialiar mechanics, adding quite a few new features. For example, in Badland 2 you can control the direction of the movement left and right, instead of the original’s one direction movement. The game still has the background moving automatically, so there is still this time cap for your exploration, but still it would be interesting to find out how the new controls play out in action. In addition, the environments have been diversified, and now you have to deal with liquids, fire, frost and other nasty things. It’s still early in the launch, and Apple TV is not compatible, yet. Nor is there an estimated release date for the Android and Windows Phone versions, let’s hope for the best. After all, the original Badland was ported to Android, iOS, Win, Kindle, BlackBerry, Xbox and PlayStation. The currently available Badland 2 on iOS is a premium $4.99 purchase, but considering you get access to all its content, it’s a holiday game worth buying.

Badland 2

Osmos HD

Download from Google Play, Amazon, iTunes
$4.99

If you love ambient, atmospheric and meditative games that still imply some degree of tactics, Osmos HD (review) is a long-time classic that has been recently updated with a multiplayer mode. Ta-dam! The game has you controlling a shiny particle that needs to consume the other shiny particles and grow. It moves by ejecting its own matter, so your maneuvers are limited by the particle’s capacity. The other particles can be dormant, or they can be quite aggressive. If they grow bigger than you in size, they will consume you when you get near. This was a perfect game for multiplayer all along, and we are glad the developers have explored this potential. Seamless controls, 70+ levels, excellent replay value, achievements in single player and multiplayer modes, fascinating design and ambient music make it a great choice for playing this holiday season. The multiplayer mode offers the local play via Wi-Fi, or the online via Google Play Services, also requires Wi-Fi. You and your friends will explore six distinct and gorgeous arenas, including the new one, Antimatter Impasse.

Osmos HD

Riptide GP2

Download from Google Play, iTunes
$0.99

The racing genre is probably the most difficult to make a pick from simply because of the abundance of fine games, new and old but relevant. It depends on what you prefer and what you can play with your friends. Angry Birds GO is hilarious and has the extensive multiplayer options. Asphalt 8, Real Racing 3, Beach Buggy Racing – the list can go on forever, so choosing Riptide GP 2 is purely random. Also, we chose it because it has you racing a hydro jet instead of a car, which is a nice deviation from the overused formula. Riptide GP2 has great multiplayer races online you can play with your friends or just random players from around the world. The stunts, jets and visuals are top-notch, the speed is neck-breaking and the variety of game modes is impressive. If you are sick and tired of the cold, gloomy weather and don’t mind a nice, warm water adventure for a change, get Riptide GP2.

Riptide GP

Le Havre: The Inland Port

Download from Google PlayiTunesWindows Phone Store
$4.99

One for the hardcore board game fans is Le Havre The Inland Port, a mobile port of the award-winning game by Uwe Rosenberg. It’s a bit on the complex side, and noobs will need a good guidance, which the game provides. However, if your family loves board games, there is no better investment than The Inland Port. It’s deep, engrossing, provides relatively fast playthroughs and an immense replay value. You can play in single or multiplayer modes, with the latter providing several options. You can play versus your friends or random people online, and you can have multiple simultaneous instances of the game, asynchronous. There is also a “hot-seat” multiplayer, where you pass one device to play a two-player match. This makes Le Havre perfect not only for the instant gratification, but as a long-term commitment you and your friends can enjoy endlessly because the more you play, the better you get at trading and crafting (don’t ask, read the review).

Le Havre Inland Port (51)

Mammoth Gravity Battles

Download from Google Play, Amazon, Windows Phone Store
$0.99

Mammoth Gravity Battles is a wonderful physics-based strategy space combat that has you controlling a team of mammoths in flying saucers on a space grid. You have a whole arsenal of awesome space weapons – projectiles, nukes, lasers, etc. Aim well and shoot, but bear in mind the nearby asteroids, planets and stars affect the trajectory of your missiles. It’s like Angry Birds, but in full 3D and with hi-tech mammoth technology in deep space with stellar graphics. Exploding stars, black holes, asteroids and fantastic battle explosions look dazzling. The single-player story and campaign modes are immense, and the multiplayer lets you play four player battles with your friends using one device, “hot-seat” mode. Read full review.

Mammoth Gravity Battles (25)
Honorable mentions:

Land Sliders [iOS, Android] is a hilariously quick slider that has you controlling different avatars as they slide across the diverse terrain, collecting avatar-specific loot and avoiding hungry bears, dinos and Yeti. A witch, Mary Poppins, a shark, an anime boy, a toilet, a chocolate chips cookie, an elf, a reindeer – each 100 coins unlock new characters that can be upgraded. It’s solid family fun and a free time killer.

Table Tennis Touch [iOS, Android, Kindle, $3.99] – Ping Pong is, of course, better played offline with a real bat and a ball, but what if you don’t have the requisites at hand? Look no further than Table Tennis Touch, one of the best pin-pong mobile games, now with awesome multiplayer, local and online, arenas and mini-games.

This was our list, what about yours? What games are you playing this holiday season? My guess is it’s got to be one of the recent Star Wars games – can’t blame you, the force is in the air.