There is no better design for smartphones and mobile devices than minimalism. The medium’s very nature requires limitations on screen space and power usage, so you really get the most bang-for-your-buck with modern designs – especially for mobile gaming. If you want cutting-edge graphics, look to the console wars. But for Android games? I look to minimalism.
The great thing about minimalism is that it’s fundamentally built on the principles of simplicity. Everything is reduced to its most core components, and when that’s applied to both gameplay and interface, you end up with games that are easy to play and pleasant on the eyes. That fits perfectly with the mobile device philosophy and that’s why I love it when I find beautifully-crafted minimal games on Android.
Gyro [Arcade, Free] [No Longer Available]
Despite the utter simplicity of Gyro’s gameplay, it may prove addicting. In essence, you control a circle in the middle of the screen and this circle is split into different colored sections. Meanwhile, balls of different sizes and colors will come flying at your circle. The goal is to match the section of your circle with the ball upon collision.
If the ball of a wrong color hits an incorrect section of your circle, it will be damaged. As the different sections are hit more and more, they lose more and more life, and once a section is completely dead, you lose.
The game comes with four modes: Arcade (described above), Challenges, Time Attack, and Hardcore, but all of the non-Arcade modes require you to unlock them through the Gyro Market.
7×7 [Puzzle, Free]
When you think of 7×7, your first instinct might be to think that it’s undeniably similar to Connect Four. Well, it is. The entire point of the game is to line up four blocks of the same color, whether horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. You can drag the blocks around on the board, but they must be moved along an open path, so other blocks may prevent you from moving the block you want.
If you move a block and it does not complete a four-row of the same color, more blocks will spawn on the board. If you do clear a four-row of blocks, though, more blocks will not spawn. The game requires a careful balance between spawning more blocks so you can clear four-rows while not spawning so many blocks that you can’t keep up.
Mosaique [Puzzle, $0.99] [No Longer Available]
For one dollar, you can play this amazingly simple yet fun game. The concept is thus: you are taken through seven randomly generated levels, each one more difficult than the last, and the goal is to destroy blocks by firing a colored block at other blocks of the same color. Once all of the blocks are destroyed, you move onto the next level.
The unique draw of Mosaique is two-fold: one, you fire your blocks into the puzzle from the outer boundaries of the puzzle board and, two, you use up an energy meter at the bottom of the screen with every fired block. Therefore, the difficulty is in completing all seven levels in as few moves as possible. Due to the randomly generated nature of the boards, there is a lot of replayability here.
Doublemill 2 [Abstract Strategy, Free] [No Longer Available]
Doublemill 2 is based on the popular board game called Nine Men’s Morris. Essentially, the board is made up of three concentric squares that are interconnected. There are two phases to the gameplay: in the first phase, both players take turns placing their pieces and, in the second phase, players can move their pieces around. Every time you line up three pieces in a row, you get to remove one of the opponent’s pieces from the board permanently.
I found this game to be loads of fun. It even comes in three game modes: Challenge (each level’s opponent AI is more difficult than the previous), Freeplay (choose the difficulty of your opponent’s AI), and Heads Up (two players on the same board using the same device).
Auralux [Real-Time Strategy, Free]
Real-time strategy games are known for being complex and epic in scale, which is why Auralux fascinates me so much. It takes the concept of an RTS game and boils it down into the tiniest fragments possible. It’s so simple that you can play using no more than a single finger. Ever heard of Galcon Fusion? Auralux is like that, only less frantic.
You control a Sun, which is your base of operations. Every second, this Sun produces a unit of light, energy, or whatever it is. You can send these units to other stars to claim them for yourself and these stars will start producing units for you as well. Units will collide with enemy units, destroying both in the process, and units can destroy enemy Suns and stars, too.
Timing, anticipation, and prediction are crucial for success in Auralux. This is the simplest RTS game you’ll ever play, but don’t be fooled into thinking that it’ll be easy or boring, because it’s neither.
Last Fish [Survival, $0.99]
Last Fish is an arcade survival game that’s divided into multiple levels (135 levels at the time of writing this article). You control a fish using the Android tilting sensors – tilting it one way moves left, tilting it the other way moves right, etc. – and you narrowly avoid obstacles while trying to reach your goal. Goals can range from simple survival to ring collection to whatever else the game throws at you.
This game is both beautiful and strangely relaxing. The monochromatic visuals not only make it easy to see which gameplay elements are good or bad, but there’s a soft tranquility to it all. It helps that the music and sound design are perfect as well. If you don’t like games that utilize the Android tilting sensors, you may want to skip over this one, but it’s definitely worth the price.
Games don’t always have to be flashy and next-gen. Sure, those kinds are game are impressive to see, but these types of minimalistic games are impressive in their own way. Plus, the unsophisticated graphics leave more room for the developers to concentrate on fun and engaging gameplay. Just look at Minecraft and you’ll know what I mean.
Looking for more Android games to play? Be sure to check out our Best Android Games page.
What do you think about these minimalistic games? Do you like their no-skin-only-bones approach to game design? Or do you prefer the games with lots of eye candy? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!