Mobile gaming has come such a long way over the past decade, with graphics getting sleeker and gameplay getting groovier with each passing year. But back in the early 2010s, before the era of today’s popular games like Genshin Impact and PUBG Mobile, we were all playing the same arcade-style games on our wonky mobile phones. Flappy Bird, anyone?
While technically not as classic as other old games, the advancements in mobile gaming over the past couple of years make these look ancient. Let’s travel back to the simpler times of the early 2010s and revisit these 10 classic mobile games that defined the decade.
Table of Contents
- Subway Surfers
- Temple Run
- Angry Birds
- Fruit Ninja
- Flappy Bird
- Cut the Rope
- Candy Crush Saga
- Doodle Jump
- Geometry Dash
- Jetpack Joyride
We’re almost sure that you had these games installed on your phone at some point in the past 10 years, or maybe you’re still playing them up to this day. In no particular order, here are our favorite classic mobile games.
Let’s begin with an absolute crowd favorite. First released in 2012, Subway Surfers proved to be an instant hit. In this endless runner game, you are a graffiti-tagging urbanite running through the subway collecting coins and power-ups, all while avoiding trains and cops in pursuit.
It’s a fast-paced, highly addicting game that is beloved by billions of people, without exaggeration. In fact, Subway Surfers made history in 2018 as the very first game to reach 1 billion downloads in Google Play alone. With its simple gameplay enriched by constant updates to keep things fresh, Subway Surfers remains one of the most popular games ever, even after 10 years since its initial release.
Before the record-setting smash hit of Subway Surfers, there was Temple Run. While not the first endless runner game, Temple Run is the game that popularized the runner genre when it was first released in 2011.
The mobile gaming community adored this game. Players loved its Indiana Jones-esque premise of an explorer running from demonic monkeys across a temple in the jungle. Its sequel, Temple Run 2, came two years after and was another sensation, introducing new power-ups and new obstacles to up the stakes. Simply put, players had a hard time putting their phones down whenever the explorer steals that ancient relic.
At this point, who doesn’t know the story behind the feuding factions of green pigs and powered-up birds? Before Angry Birds became a cultural icon, with an animated series and a box-office hit movie or two, it was first a casual mobile game dropped way back in 2009.
There was no game quite like it at the time or since: a game that slingshots multi-colored birds across a field to eliminate enemy pigs sheltered by different structures. In the early 2010s, everyone was playing Angry Birds, and it’s easy to see why. It was unique, and the characters (either bird or pig) captured the hearts of children and adults alike.
Plus, the gameplay is accessible but gets more challenging and rewarding with every succeeding level. We’re sure many will remember the sheer euphoria after clearing an Angry Birds level that seemed impossible to do.
Fruit Ninja is a game that perfectly signaled the start of the touchscreen era in mobile phones. When Fruit Ninja was first released on both iOS and Android in 2010, people were undeniably obsessed.
The gameplay was simple enough: slice all of the fruits on the screen, and avoid slicing the bombs. But because of how it made use of touchscreen technology, which was still fresh at the time, Fruit Ninja became an instant classic. Every slash of watermelon, apple, and orange using the touch-controlled blade was tactile and gratifying. It was a simple game with addictive gameplay, and that is the perfect combination to make sure that people played Fruit Ninja as soon as they grabbed their phones for some quick fun.
Ah, Flappy Bird. This short-lived game took the world by storm when it gained a sudden spike in popularity in early 2014. Equal parts frustrating and addicting, Flappy Bird was on everybody’s phone, trying to get a decent score before the bird plummets down after hitting one of the green pipes. A high score in Flappy Bird felt like a badge of honor, and people would brag about it to their friends endlessly. If you reached a score in the three digits, you’re a legend.
Several players’ extreme overuse and addiction to the game prompted the developer to remove the game from the app stores in February 2014. But in just those two short months of soaring popularity, Flappy Bird was the #1 game on both iOS and Android, cementing itself as a cultural phenomenon. Now that’s what you call impact.
- 5 nostalgic PSP games and what makes them memorable
- 4 reasons why retro games remain popular as ever
- 5 classic mobile MMORPGs you can still play today
Cut the Rope
Helping a green creature get its candy treats had never been more fun than when Cut the Rope came out in 2010. In this physics-based puzzle game, players have to cut ropes, collect stars, and bring the candy sweets to their friend Om Nom.
Cut the Rope’s adorable graphics paired with genuinely challenging levels made sure the game appealed to a broad audience, from avid puzzle lovers to young children learning about physics for the first time. Needless to say, the game was a crowd favorite in the early 2010s.
Candy Crush Saga
Who would have thought that a match-three game with colorful candies would become the behemoth in mobile gaming that it is today? Candy Crush had its start as a Facebook game back in 2012, and when it quickly gained a huge following – with over 4 million active players in just a few weeks of release – it was brought to the mobile gaming arena. And the rest is history.
Candy Crush was the 2nd most downloaded mobile game of the 2010s (just behind Subway Surfers), and even up to today, the game records over 250 million monthly users. Candy Crush may have a reputation today as a favorite among our moms and aunts alike, but back in the early 10s, everyone looking for some chill gaming time was matching striped candies and making color bombs.
Everyone remembers this adorable platformer game that looked like a page ripped out of a kindergartner’s doodle book. Using gyroscope technology – another innovation newly introduced in the smartphone in the 2010s – players tilt their phones to guide the four-legged Doodler as it hops up an endless series of platforms, avoiding various monsters and obstacles along the way.
With its quirky graphics and engaging gameplay, it is easy to see why Doodle Jump became a mainstay in our mobile games collection for several years. A truly nostalgic mobile game, just one glance of a Doodle Jump screenshot is enough to transport anyone to the easier times of 2009.
Another beloved platformer game, Geometry Dash is nothing like the more laid-back energy of Doodle Jump. In Geometry Dash, players control a square block as it quickly moves through a series of obstacles based on the rhythm of the music soundtrack. Easy enough, right? Some levels are beginner-friendly, but as you move along, you can test your skill with levels that are tough to almost impossible.
Geometry Dash has attracted millions of players since its release in 2013 because of its high-intensity gameplay and heart-pumping music. Users can also design game levels of their own and share them online, which makes the game fresh and exciting. Geometry Dash only has 21 official levels, but because of its extensive fanbase, over 79 million custom levels have already been created.
The creators of Fruit Ninja followed up their massive success with another smash hit one year later. First released in 2011, Jetpack Joyride was both a critical and commercial success, beloved by everyone for its smooth graphics and addictive “one more game” element. People can’t seem to get enough of playing as jetpack-sporting Barry Steakfries as he flies through an endless arena collecting coins while avoiding zappers, missiles, and laser beams.
At the time of its release, Jetpack Joyride was widely considered the best of its class of endless runner games. But even up to today, the game’s graphics still hold up, now imbued with an old-school and nostalgic quality for the early 2010s.
How many of these classic mobile games did you play more than 10 years ago? What nostalgic game did we miss on the list? Share them with us below.