Modern Combat 5: Blackout (Android, iOS, Windows Phone)
Heavily influenced by Call of Duty, the latest installment in Gameloft’s Modern Combat franchise is the closest you can get to a console first person shooter on mobile. You’ll need a powerful smartphone or tablet to run the game on its highest setting, but it even looks great when set to the “Better Performance” (a couple of settings notches down) mode.
The title holds onto the same sort of cinematic set pieces that you’ll find in console titles of the same genre, and it even controls a little better than most other mobile shooters.
Asphalt 8: Airborne (Android, iOS, Windows Phone)
There’s a fair bit of choice when it comes to racing games on mobile, but Asphalt 8 is perhaps the most visually appealing of the bunch. The environments are detailed and vehicles look and handle like they have some real substance. From visuals to gameplay, the title is more Need For Speed than Forza, but we think the over-the-top style really works for a mobile game.
If you’re not a fan of arcady racers, then you can always check out more realistic titles like EA’s Real Racing 3.
Infinity Blade III (iOS)
You can’t talk about beautiful mobile games without at least mentioning the Infinity Blade series. The original 2010 entry in the series was one of the first titles to really show off the potential of mobile gaming, and the visuals have only become more impressive over the years. The game is built using the Unreal Engine, and really starts to blur the line between mobile and console gaming – at least when it comes to graphics.
You’ll be more aware that you’re playing a mobile game when it comes to the control scheme. Combat is controlled by following on-screen cues, swiping in different directions at the correct moment. It’s a limited gameplay scheme (more than a little reminiscent of the old Punch-Out! series), but it does play to the strengths of the touchscreen.
App Store ($6.99)
The Room Two (Android, iOS)
The Room Two is a dark, moody puzzle game that’s atmospheric, simple and addictive. Its realistic looks and clever puzzles make for one of our favorite experiences in mobile gaming.
Like Infinity Blade 3, The Room Two plays to the strengths of the touchscreen, focusing on simple pinch, swipe and tap controls.
The Monument Valley (Android, iOS)
While most of the titles here opt for a realistic style, Monument Valley goes in an entirely different direction. It tasks you with guiding protagonist Ida through a series of clever, Escher-inspired puzzles. There’s a light dusting of story here, but the focus is on simple, gorgeous visuals with muted colors and superb, ambient sound design.
If you’re a fan of atmospheric games like Journey or Flower, then Monument Valley comes highly recommended.