Holidays are great, apart from the boring bits. Tootling along a motorway to the airport. Standing in the slowest queue in the world while waiting to board. Hours on a plane where entertainment comes from the middle two-thirds of fairly recent movies, on screens the size of postage stamps.
But then — hurrah! — paradise. Until ALL OF THE RAIN arrives, consigning you to a hotel. Never fear, because amazing games will see you through all of these rough bits. Our selection includes modern hits and mobile classics, none of which require data — handy when hurtling through the air in a tin can at 40,000 feet.
In the taxi...
Shortish games to play while a determined driver weaves between traffic on the M25, while growling in a vaguely scary manner…
Oddrok’s gorgeous arcade game of short, choreographed levels and regular surprises finds a hoverboarding robot scything across minimal landscapes in a desolate yet gorgeous world.
The sun-kissed deserts and vibrant blue seas may even put you in mind of your final destination — although it’s unlikely laser meshes and huge spider mechanoids stomping about will. (If they do, we suggest writing a stern letter to your travel agent.)
Super Stickman Golf 3
This side-on ball-thwacker is a far cry from sedate greens and whispered commentary. Here, tiny golfers belt balls around larger-than-life courses: giant trees; moon bases decidedly lacking in gravity; strange metal contraptions with lasers wheeling about the place.
The breezily speedy nine-hole courses are perfect for dipping in and out of on a journey to the airport — and beyond.
Lara Croft: GO
Lara Croft: GO distils Tomb Raider’s essence into a visually stunning puzzler. It shouldn’t work, but it does, providing moments of isolation and tension that rival any of Croft’s other outings.
And the bite-sized and turn-based nature of the puzzles means you won’t mess up a delicate moment if you’re halfway through a tricky manoeuvre when turfed out on to the tarmac.
Queuing for boarding...
Lightning-fast and straightforward efforts to keep you sane while seemingly every row has boarded apart from yours…
Pinball’s had a renaissance on mobile, but you don’t want to be juggling multiballs and flippers along with passports and baggage while in a queue. INKS, though, rethinks pinball as a succinct puzzler.
In each challenge you focus on hitting a few specific targets that explode paint all over the table’s ‘canvas’, your ball subsequently leaving trails as it moves. There’s satisfaction despite the brevity, not least when you get a star award for using the fewest possible shots.
A blobby yellow critter dodders back and forth in this platform game on fast-forward. You tap to jump and double-jump, aiming to climb each tall, narrow level, which is broken up into tiny sections.
Along the way, you grab fruit and avoid monsters, leaping Mario-style atop foes lacking spikes or angry faces. Skinflints must swap food to unlock restart checkpoints; but pay for the premium unlock and the going’s at least a touch easier.
You likely won’t want to play a lengthy game in a queue, but ALONE… takes this idea to an extreme. You pilot a tiny ship zooming through deadly caverns, asteroid fields and comets.
The breakneck pace is exhilarating, and although the ship recharges post-scrape, you’re almost certain to blunder to an explosive end within seconds. Perfect for whiling away a minute or two, then, if you can deal with later fastening a seatbelt while buzzing with adrenaline.
On the plane...
Lengthier but contained fare you can dip in and out of while those around you attempt to watch a brutally cropped Disney movie…
Maybe it’s us, but there’s something amusingly perverse about sitting on a plane, while your finger directs a virtual plane to scoot about.
We just hope your real-life plane’s journey is less eventful than those in AirAttack 2, where pilots fend off all manner of nightmarish hardware in a very different WW2 from the one in history books. Here, the Allies have only a handful of rickety planes, whereas the evil guys have massive tanks the size of small villages.
More or less Advance Wars on iOS, Warbits is all about duking it out on grid-based maps, lobbing projectiles at the opposition until one side emerges victorious.
Strategic thinking is key — there’s no point blundering about when the AI will merrily ambush you, ‘rewarding’ complacent players with a virtual punch in the face. But within a few hours, you’ll amass skills in the campaign mode to take to dozens of additional maps — and to online players once you’re somewhere with a web connection.
If Warbits is a bit brain-pounding and AirAttack too explody for you when flying through the air, King Rabbit might hit the spot.
It features a regal bunny rescuing his chums by way of turn-based puzzling. He hops. He pushes boxes. He avoids rabbit-eating spiders. It’s all very familiar, but the execution, neatly designed puzzles, and top-quality presentation make this a must-have travel game.
A word of warning: extra adventures are in-app purchases that you'll need to do before boarding.
For epic trips...
More involved offerings, to keep you going during rainy days or when you’ve decided your pants are full of too much sand…
There are many great adventure games on mobile, but most want to punch out your brains with a device wrapped around a brick — not what you need for a relaxing holiday.
Poco Eco lacks the challenge of many contemporaries, but boasts a wonderful soundtrack and visuals; these combine with exploratory puzzles to create a sedate chill-out vibe. There are echoes of Monument Valley, in the game’s lushness and also its brevity. But Poco Eco is very replayable for those who can’t resist taking its stages slowly rather than gorging on the entire game in a single sitting.
Her Story plonks you in front of an old-school PC terminal to watch snippets of interviews, but it's a lot more fun than it sounds. Entries are returned on the basis of search queries, which relate to the interviewed woman’s transcriptions.
The aim is to piece together precisely what’s going on. Each tantalising clue sparks ideas that will have you head off in all kinds of directions, so arm yourself with a pad and pen before venturing down this particular rabbit hole.
Cally’s Caves 3
For something more action-oriented when lazing about, Cally’s Caves 3 fits the bill. Cally’s parents have been kidnapped by a nefarious evil scientist (for the third time), and so the pigtailed girl arms up, leaping about platforms and shooting her way to her folks.
With 120 levels, boss fights aplenty, and a smart weapons upgrade system (essentially, shoot things with a weapon to upgrade it), this is one of the smartest platform games on mobile — and unless you’re the kind of person who can complete Super Mario Bros. without losing a life, it should keep you playing for days.
The classic: The Room
A series of tactile thoughtful puzzlers about boxes within boxes, The Room starts small but soon evolves into something creepy, mysterious and plain weird. Play all three games in order, preferably after sunset.