You’ve probably come across this problem many times. You want to play the hot new mobile game that you just discovered with your friend, but he or she has an iPhone. What do you do? If you’re lucky, you both pick up a copy of the game and it works — you can connect and play together. But more often than not, you wind up disappointed. It might be available for both platforms, but for some reason you just can’t cross streams.
So you vow to keep an eye out for some great games — new or old — that will let you play with your iOS-loving friends. We shouldn’t have to deal with iOS and Android segregation in this day and age, where solutions for implementing cross-platform multiplayer are plentiful. Here are nearly 40 games that set the example and do it right.
It’s the mobile version of the game that took the world by storm. At more than 33 million (and counting) global sales across all platforms, Minecraft is a force to be reckoned with. Kind of like Lego in video game form, you dig square blocks out of the environment and use them to build whatever you please.
There’s a survival mode with monsters and zombies that come out at night, and a create mode where you can shape the world like a god. Multiplayer is currently over a local wifi network, but there’ll eventually be a paid Minecraft Realms add-on for connecting to friends over the Internet.
If you want to ruin a friendship, or let out some angst against each other without coming to blows, Fun Run could be a great option. Up to four players at a time duke it out in an auto-runner where you control jumping and item usage. Much like a kart racer, you pick up items along the way that give you a boost or zap, mangle, stun, or blow up your rivals. It’s fun, hectic, and totally insane, with some cool level designs. Plus you can race your friends or be matched against random people from around the world.
Similar to Fun Run, but without the items and with a more distinct art style, Run In Crowd casts you as a black and white creature with an enormous head and tiny legs. It’s got a good leap on it, though, and the uncanny ability to double jump. The idea here is to avoid the obstacles and last as long as you can. New levels are generated each day, and multiplayer is handled through Scoreloop.
Muffin Knight’s delightful take on the old-school platformer extends to co-op or versus multiplayer over the Internet with people on iOS devices. The head-to-head matches are rather like the original Mario Brothers (before they went “Super”), except you each have weapons and special abilities. The co-op mode, meanwhile gives you a companion as you battle through the story. Controls work better with a physical controller, but it’s fun and adorable either way.
From the same team as Muffin Knight, Guerrilla Bob is a console-style dual-stick shooter with great humor and graphics. Multiplayer here is co-op over local wifi, allowing you to join forces with a friend to blow your way through the enemies. Be warned, though, that there seems to be serious compatibility issues with recent versions of Android — leading to graphics glitches and stability woes.
If you like Scrabble, you’ll love Words By Post. It gives you a Scabble-like board and seven letters with which you need to form words. Points come from tallying the value of each letter in the word. You can tap on words to check their meaning, monitor and improve your ranking, and challenge friends or strangers to matches online — whether they’re on Android, iPhone, or even Windows Phone. Plus there’s push notifications for alerting you to your next turn. Grab the free ad-supported version first if you’re not sure.
Also in the Scrabble vein, Jawfish Words asks you to find words on a grid by connecting a path between letters. You get more points for using certain letters or for meeting special achievements such as using every letter in one word or getting a diagonal across the board. You can compete with iOS players through tournaments that begin round the clock.
While we’re on a roll with Scrabble-inspired word games, there’s also Wordfeud. There’s not a lot of difference between this and Words By Post, except that Wordfeud has a harder to read font, a limit of 30 simultaneous games, and an option to randomize the initial board configuration. It also has a free ad-supported version.
The uber-popular Draw Something fell off the radar not long after its developer OMGPop was bought out by Zynga, but it’s still around and still a cool way to play with your friends anywhere and everywhere. You’re given a choice between a few different objects, then you have to draw it and wait to see if your friend can guess right. There’s also a sequel, if you tire of the words included.
One of the best mobile games around, Super Stickman Golf 2 turns golf into an extreme sport. You knock the ball around bizarre maze-like 2D levels, sometimes taking shots upside down or on a wall (thanks to some sticky putty). The Android-only real-time multiplayer adds a great dynamic to the fun, as you race to finish the hole first all while risking life and limb against the insane hazards, but turn-based competition across platforms is great too.
Tip-Off Basketball shaves the popular sport down to its very core: shooting baskets. You throw balls by dragging your finger around to adjust the shot trajectory, with extra points for combos and the almighty swish. Network play is locked out until you reach level five in the solo career, at which point you can challenge friends or random strangers to some one-on-one action.
I have no idea how to play Cribbage, but if you do you’ll be pleased to know that you can play the social card game against people all over the world in virtual form via Android and iOS. North American and UK players can participate in special contests, while everyone else has to settle for impromptu multiplayer tournaments. There are a number of rule adjustments on offer, too.
It’s not easy finding a good partner to play chess with, even if you’re willing to play via email or instant messaging. Chess Time takes the pain out of the process, allowing you to play against friends or random folks in an asynchronous matchup using standard chess rules.
There are leaderboards, skill ratings, push notifications, customizable time limits per move (currently just one to seven days), game-level chatrooms, and loads of other little features that will please one chess fan or another.
If you like your pool and snooker variants in virtual form, you’ll enjoy Pool Break Pro, which includes more than a dozen common rulesets and games — such as 8-Ball, 9-Ball, Three-cushion Billiards, Straight Pool, Regular Snooker, and so on. These can all be played against other people locally through pass-and-play or online, with chat support, Facebook integration, shiny 3D visuals, and excellent — albeit imperfect — physics simulation.
Raging Thunder 2 is my kind of racing game. Fast, wild, colorful, and not in the least bit realistic. Your physics-defying jumping, boosting, and drifting are helped along by Mario Kart-style pickups that boast the most satisfaction when you play online against real people. Controls are via accelerometer and touch by default, but you’ll likely fare better with a gamepad.
Real Racing 3 is the latest entry in Firemint/Firemonkeys’ uber-popular mobile racing series, switching in free-to-play mechanics for the old single purchase system. Racing against your friends is once again an option, with a fancy feature called Time Shifted Multiplayer letting you race even when your opponent is offline. You’ll need to hook up your Facebook account to make it work, though.
We’ve been inundated with zombie-themed games over the past few years, but you’ll thank the developers for it when we’re neck deep in the zombie apocalypse. SAS: Zombie Assault 3 helps you prepare with a top-down dual-stick co-operative survival against the zombie hoardes in any of three different modes (only the first of which is available at the beginning of play).
Onslaught is just a matter of survival, Apocalypse keeps the waves coming forever, and Purge gives you the initiative to hunt zombies down instead of waiting for them to come to you. Level up and you can get better weapons and join more skilled players in the quest to extinguish zombies once and for all.
For first-person shooter fans, the mobile standard is set by Gameloft’s Call of Duty rip-off Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour. Multiplayer comes in several different modes, including capture the flag, battle (aka deathmatch), team battle, zone control, and more, with robust ranking systems and skill trees along with loads of weapons and gear. It’s a humungous download, though, requiring 1.9GB of storage.
Requires: Varies with device (but you’ll need a high-end device to get good performance)
Play Store Link: Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour
App Store Link: Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour
Shadowgun: DeadZone challenges Modern Combat 4 for mobile shooter supremacy, with a more tactical experience and voice chat support as standout features. It’s also less overtly copying the top console shooters, while providing something almost on par with them. The controls could still use a bit more tightening, and there are only two multiplayer modes, but this is a must-have for console-style first-person shooter fans.
If you’ve been playing first-person shooters for a while, though, you’ll want to try Critical Strike Portable — even if just for the nostalgia. It’s a lovingly-created homage to the multiplayer-only PC classic Counter-Strike, with customizable settings, all the typical game modes, dozens of maps by developers and fans, web, PC/Mac, and mobile multiplayer, and impressive touch controls.
The 3060 update removed support for custom controls, though, which sucks for gamepad users. Hopefully that’ll come back with the next release. The paid version is called Critical Missions: SWAT, with another option called Critical Missions: Space for when you want a change in scenery.
Gameloft has its own take on space marines shooting alien dudes in the face, courtesy of N.O.V.A. 3 – Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance. Like Modern Combat, it sports several multiplayer modes, great graphics, Bluetooth controller support, a gigantic download (2GB required to install), and a generic single-player storyline.
Aeon Command offers epic space battles in a real-time-strategy guise. You spend your resources on research and more ships, battling foes in lengthy and repeated skirmishes. Between its 2D visuals and old-school design sensibilities, it feels like a 90s PC game remastered and adapted to the touch screen. Aeon Command’s gameplay is a bit simplistic for some tastes, but you’ll find decent replay value in the multiplayer modes.
Galaxy: Eternal Warfare bridges the gap between arcade shoot-‘em-ups and strategy. You send fleets of ships to destroy your opponents by drawing lines between planets, battling for control of the galaxy. It’s simple to learn but tough to master, and oh so very cool. Only trouble is that the iOS version seems to have disappeared without warning from the App Store, so for now you might be stuck with Android-only multiplayer.
If strategy’s your angle, check out Great Big War Game — a top-draw turn-based skirmish with great depth and accessibility wrapped in one. Fans of the Advance Wars series on Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance will feel instantly at home here, as Great Big War Game matches it in both style and gameplay. It’s fun, funny, nice to look at, and easy to play, with robust single-player and multiplayer modes. What more could you ask?
Frozen Synapse was an indie darling when it was originally released on PC in 2011, and for good reason. It’s a clever, well-designed turn-based tactics game with a futuristic bent. You order your squad around, trying to kill the enemies without getting your guys killed. There are five multiplayer modes to dive into, including a couple of fairly standard deathmatch-style options, an unusual bidding and attack/defense-driven mode called Secure, and Hostage Rescue.
Cubemen is a fantastic twist on the tower defense formula, doing away with static towers in favor of little colored men. It’s red versus blue; you against an opponent. The 3D levels are bizarre grid-based architectures for your men to climb high and low, attacking and defending according to your orders and nimbly shifting to a new position as needed — so you don’t have to worry anymore about getting your defenses in just the right spot the first time.
You can play with up to six people at a time, divided into teams or everyone for themselves. Cross-platform multiplayer now works for user levels, too.
Turtle Strike is crazy, but in a good way. The developers call it “live turn-based,” which means that both players take their 30-second turn simultaneously — with the result being that any close situations will be decided not on tactical nous but on speed. The controls work well, the 3D visuals are great, and the skirmish gameplay is frantic in all the right ways. Plus there are tournaments with real prize money up for grabs.
Champs: Battlegrounds is similarly dedicated to mixing real-time and turn-based mechanics, handing you control of a squad spread out on a grid that reminds me of Final Fantasy Tactics. It feels at times like it’s trying to nickel-and-dime you, but the real-time combat in a setting normally reserved for turn-based tactics proves an interesting challenge.
Greed Corp benefits from its prior life as a console and PC title, offering a polished turn-based strategy game of scampering for resources, building war machines, and fighting your rivals on a hexagonal grid. Its steampunk aesthetic feels fresh, although its user interface gets a bit tiny on a 7-inch tablet. Multiplayer involves short-ish matches (less than half an hour) over local wifi or online against PC, iOS, or other Android players.
Also putting turn-based strategy with a hexagonal grid on mobile, UniWar HD focuses on building units and capturing bases. It’s kind of like StarCraft, if StarCraft had a love-child with Advance Wars and became turn-based, and it’s really special. There’s a fairly robust single-player campaign mode here, but the real meat is in multiplayer. You can battle friends online in teams or individually, playing up to 20 games at once.
If you prefer your strategy with a large slice of roleplaying, you might like Hero Mages. I’ve linked to the free Silver edition on Android here because, in an unusual move, the developers made multiplayer free and single-player paid. On iOS paid is the only option.
Hero Mages plays from an old-school top-down perspective, looking rather like a 90s Ultima game, with plenty of menus and intuitive touch controls. You guide your characters around a dungeon, using spells and attacks to defeat the enemy’s characters, with up to eight players competing in a room at a time through team, co-op, or free-for-all across the web, Android, and iOS.
Paradox Interactive’s Magicka: Wizard’s of the Square Tablet brings more multiplayer strategic fantasy fun, with a ridiculous satirical world of RPG insanity designed for up to four players to join forces in cross-platform co-op. Killing your teammates goes part and parcel with this RPG-brawler madness, which is lighthearted and colorful from start to finish. Make sure you experiment with spell casting — the chaos that ensues will both entertain and destroy everything that stands in your way.
Requires: Android 3.0 and up on a tablet device
Play Store Link: Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet
App Store Link: Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Pocket Legends was one of the first mobile massively multiplayer online games back in 2011, and it’s still going strong today. Its fantasy setting goes somewhat off the beaten track by including a bear and a hawk among the playable characters and crocodiles, aliens, and zombies among the enemies.
Pocket Legends has you covered whether you’re the player-killing type, a loner, or a co-op addict, with its best quality from my perspective being that it dumbs down the insane interfaces of PC MMOs without overly simplifying the mechanics.
Pocket Legends developer Spacetime Studios has since added another three mobile MMOs to its arsenal, which I’ve compressed into one entry here as they’re fairly similar at the core. There’s Star Legends, for those of you looking to get involved in a little star hopping, Arcane Legends, a hack-and-slash affair with in-game pets, and Dark Legends, a zombie-horror adventure with supernatural themes and a much darker tone.
For a more old-school MMORPG experience, there’s Parallel Kingdom MMO, which throws you into a top-down 2D world with trade hubs, chat rooms, and airships. It’s also incredibly inventive and forward-thinking, with your phone’s location services used to render the action in the real world. You’ll fight epic battles over our world’s largest cities and shape the game world with your actions.
Getting even more old-school, TibiaME MMO dates back to 2003 (as Tibia) on the PC and 2010 on mobile. It looks and plays like it’s even older, though, with a style reminiscent of Ultima Online and the indie RPGs of the mid-to-late 90s. It’s deep, difficult, and persistent, with hundreds of quests and a large player base to keep you busy for months.
Oh my, that’s a lot of games. I don’t know about you, but my favorites in there are Minecraft Pocket, Fun Run, Super Stickman Golf 2, Magicka, and Great Big War Game. There are more cross-platform multiplayer releases dropping all the time, with several excellent ones looking to be on the horizon (case in point).
Did I miss something awesome? Are you a developer soon to release a new game or an update to an existing title that offers cross-platform multiplayer support?