Endless runner and survival games
Think you’re made of strong stuff? Check out these games, where death can come in the blink of an eye.
ALONE… has you zip along a procedurally generated landscape at ever-increasing speed, trying your best to avoid the obstacles in your path and using the bare minimum of controls (just up and down) to preserve your little spaceship.
It’s an incredibly simple, stripped-back game, but this style of game lives and dies by its speed; or rather by the sensation of speed that it’s able to produce. And ALONE… is brilliant at this. The hectic soundtrack, the speed lines and space detritus flying past you, the barely controllable boost you get whenever you’re winged by a small piece of debris, and the gradual acceleration as the game progresses - all of this contributes to a tightly focused thrill-ride of a game.
This isn’t to say the creators have ignored the game’s cosmetics: there’s some great mysterious background imagery (reminiscent of Canabalt) and the shifting colour schemes are undeniably lovely. You just might not get much of a chance to appreciate them. David Price
Alto’s Adventure feels totally Zen. It hones in on a sense of serenity that the vast majority of endless runner-style games avoid, and when your time comes and you end up with a face full of powder (or worse, boulder), the conclusion doesn’t feel so devastating. Just get back on the board, man.
Mostly, this is down to a visual design that eschews realism in favour of building big personality via dazzling animations, and a stunning day-night cycle (plus weather) that really changes the play experience.
It doesn’t have an array of absurd tricks to pull off, but while Alto’s simplicity could rub some the wrong way, it’s worth sticking around and digging deeper. You’ll always have up to three objectives to complete, and while the early ones are easy, the later tasks - a triple backflip, really? - require risking your run on a single move.
Alto’s Adventure might not have the gameplay depth of your average snowboarding game, but spend a few minutes soaking in these slopes and you’ll appreciate its low-key approach to a typically ‘extreme’ sport. Andrew Hayward
This endless runner kickstarted the entire genre on mobile. And at a glance, it today might seem wanting - overly simple, and lacking in depth. But that misses the point, because Canabalt was only really ever about one thing: speed.
Your little runner leaps through a window before belting along rooftops, making impossible jumps into the air while some kind of horrible armageddon plays out in the background. Occasionally, machinery drops from the sky, which must be leapt over. As ever, mistime a single leap and the runner falls to their doom.
Before long, you’re sucked in. The leapy gameplay might be simpler than what you find in Canabalt’s contemporaries, but the breakneck pace and sense of exhilaration when you’re going at top speed remains intoxicating. Craig Grannell
This one is simplicity itself. The eponymous Super Hexagon is always at the centre of the screen, and other geometric wireframe shapes are constantly being sucked into it. You play a tiny arrow on the edge of the hexagon, and it’s your role to rotate around the centre to ensure that you’re never crushed by the incoming shapes.
It sounds easy, and perhaps a little thin when you realise you only need to stay alive for a single minute to unlock extra levels. But this is misleading - the twitchy gameplay is so difficult that staying alive for even a handful of seconds becomes your own personal Everest.
You’ll simultaneously love and hate the game, but it’s brilliant: streamlined, simple and fiendishly moreish. Alan Martin
In this side-scrolling game, you hold the screen and a little bird furls her stunted wings and speeds downwards at a rapid lick. Raise your finger, and she flaps them and soars briefly – if she’s gained sufficient momentum to rocket off of the hill she’s just slid up. All the while, you’re racing against the sun (when it sets your bird goes to sleep and the game is over).
The basic gameplay mechanics are simple but exquisitely crafted, and the game is an aesthetic delight, from the crayony backdrops to the charming music and effects. Alongside this endless mode, the game provides some extra goodies, too – two-player same-device multiplayer, and a race game of sorts, featuring the bird’s chicks, desperate to get back to mum to snag the biggest worm.
In all, this is a wonderful, charming, inventive, simple, beautiful, fun game. David Price