The Evolution of Mobile Gaming

Mobile gaming was once considered another casual fad, with players killing time with a quick round of "Words with Friends" or "Tetris." But by 2012, mobile gaming came into its own, with a number of developers going all out to make deep, involving gameplay experiences worthy of home gaming consoles.

Following are seven of the better mobile games that pushed the genre forward. Some lean more toward familiar casual game experiences. (How could we not mention "Angry Birds"?) Others offer a refreshing take on how you play games on your phone or tablet devices.

"Horn" (Zynga, $7)

The developers at Phosphor Games did something brilliant with this adventurous title, combining the puzzle-solving skills of typical role-playing games with fast, frenetic combat where you could mix up combos. And all of this is surrounded by luxurious 3D visuals, some of the best we've seen on mobile devices. This "Horn" is well worth tooting. [App Store link]

"The World Ends with You: Solo Remix" (Square Enix, $18)

Though much costlier than most App Store fare, this game lives up to the price by providing some of the best role-playing gameplay you'll find. Featuring an exquisite battle system and beautiful visuals that are amongst the best you'll see on iPad devices, including the Mini, "Solo Remix" also has a great neo-futuristic story that'll suck you in. [App Store link]

"Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy" (Square Enix, free with in-game buyable content)

"Theatrhythm" initially made its debut on the Nintendo 3DS, but its shift to the App Store was nothing short of remarkable. The visuals on a much bigger screen sprung to life, especially during action-packed fight sequences. Square Enix also packed plenty of songs from the "Final Fantasy" series into the game, including numerous compositions that sound just as sweet today as they did years ago. Additional songs and characters are also available through in-game purchases, ranging from 99 cents apiece to four-packs that go for $2.99. [App Store link]

"Rayman Jungle Run" (Ubisoft, $3)

The entire "Rayman Origins" platforming game could've probably been crammed into tablet form. But we're more than happy to play this spin-off, which takes Ubisoft's limbless hero through a number of wall-jumping and flying challenges as he collects Lums. Featuring a variety of stage designs, exquisite graphics that look like a Saturday morning cartoon brought to life, and an upbeat, ridiculously funny soundtrack, this is a "Run" for your money. [App Store link]

"The Walking Dead" (Telltale Games, $5 per episode, $15 season pass)

Though the comic books and TV series are provocative in their own way, Telltale Games has its own original tale to spin within Robert Kirkman's comic universe in a five-episode horror series. Following a pair of survivors — an escaped convict named Lee and a young charge named Clementine — you face a number of dire situations and choices as you fight off hungry zombies. [See also Why the "Walking Dead" Game Franchise Is a Runaway Hit] With great graphics, a well-told story and plenty of surprises, "The Walking Dead" is as good as mobile gaming gets. [App Store link]

"Crazy Taxi" (Sega, $5)

Originally released in arcades in 1999, Sega's "Crazy Taxi" has somehow made a seamless transition to iPad and iPhone without losing a hint of its lunacy-filled momentum. You play one of four drivers picking up customers in random destinations, then drive like crazy trying to get them to their drop-off point. Filled with great gameplay, beautiful graphics that don't slow down at all, and the original arcade soundtrack (featuring The Offspring and other bands), "Crazy Taxi" is a must-take ride. [App Store link]

"Angry Birds Star Wars" (Rovio, $1 iPhone, $3 iPad) [TK price]

Finally, we come to Rovio, which had a smashing year between its entertaining spin-off "Bad Piggies" and this, a crossover for the ages. "Angry Birds Star Wars" makes swell use of the sci-fi license, with a number of inventive stage designs and power-ups that keep things interesting throughout. We thoroughly enjoy how the Mighty Eagle has become a destruction-dealing Millennium Falcon. These are the "Birds" you're looking for. [App Store link]

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7 Revolutionary Mobile Games