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When you think about mobile games, your first thought is probably something free-to-play. This isn’t always bad, but more often than not, it means that the gameplay is going to be slightly gated by a stamina system or something else that keeps you paying regularly in order to keep playing. While some of these can be great, others are, well, just plain bad.
The good news is that playing a game on your iPad or Android tablet doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a sub-par experience. There are plenty of great games that started on other systems, then made their way to tablets. A side effect of this means that none of these are loaded with cash-grabbing free-to-play mechanics.
1. Planescape Torment: Enhanced Edition
Planescape Torment is often referred to as one of the best RPGs ever made. It’s not heavy on combat, focusing instead on world building and story. This just happens to make this game perfect for playing on your tablet, as you don’t have to worry about quick reaction times. Developer Beamdog has provided the Enhanced treatment to other classic games like the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, both of which are worth checking out as well.
2. Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions
Most of the classic Final Fantasy games ranging from the 8-bit to the 16-bit and even 32-bit eras are available for tablets. Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions earns the spot here because the tactical gameplay and lack of overworld exploration makes controlling it on a tablet as easy and natural as if it was developed for the platform in the first place.
3. Grim Fandango Remastered
While games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead have brought the adventure game back from the dead, it’s nice to look back at older titles in the genre. Grim Fandango may just have been the apex of the genre, combining the classic humor of other LucasArts games with a spiffy 3D engine. This remaster smoothes over a few rough edges, making it one of the best ways to play it.
Download Grim Fandango Remastered on the App Store
4. Invisible Inc.
Take the turn-based, top-down approach of a game like XCOM and replace the combat with stealth. That’s pretty much Invisible Inc. in a nutshell. While this game is available on both PC and modern consoles, the overhead view and controls make it a perfect fit for playing on the go on your tablet.
Download Invisible Inc. on the App Store
5. Civilization VI
Sid Meier’s classic franchise has come a long way from its roots. While not everyone loved it as much as its predecessor at launch, Civilization VI is still one of the best entries in the series. Just the fact that you can play this on your tablet is almost reason enough to do so.
Download Civilization VI on the App Store
6. FTL: Faster Than Light
FTL was an instant hit when it launched, as it was simple to learn but still tough to finish, even on the easiest difficulty. I’ll be honest: I wish I could put developer Subset Games’ follow-up Into the Breach on this list instead, but it’s not available on tablets, at least yet. Still, if you haven’t already played the heck out of FTL, give it a shot on your tablet. I can’t imagine you’ll regret it.
Download FTL: Faster Than Light on the App Store
7. Stardew Valley
Picking up where the Harvest Moon games left off, Stardew Valley is a peaceful farming sim RPG with some surprisingly fun dungeon diving built in. This game is available on pretty much every platform out there, but if you’re looking for something to play on your tablet, it plays as well there as anywhere, as long as you have a little patience.
8. The Witness
If you’re familiar with Cyan’s Myst games, you’ve got a decent starting point for The Witness. You traverse a mysterious island solving puzzles and, well, that’s kind of it. The way the puzzles present themselves and the realizations you come to about how to solve them is what makes this game so satisfying.
9. Papers, Please
It’s tough to describe Papers, Please to someone who hasn’t played the game yet. I’ve seen it referred to a bureaucrat simulator, though personally I would opt for another definition: stress engine. The game tasks you with watching over a migration checkpoint. This quickly becomes much more difficult than it sounds. Papers, Please is a great game, but don’t grab it looking for a relaxing way to unwind.
Download Papers, Please on the App Store
10. XCOM: Enemy Within
By the end of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, it was already pretty unforgiving, and the expansion, Enemy Within just increased the challenge level. XCOM: Enemy Within combines the base game and expansion and brings them to your tablet, letting you experience the invasion all over again, or for the first time.