Make no mistake, friends: this is a golden era for mobile gaming and it feels like it's only just begun. The number of high-quality, beautifully crafted, visually stunning and instantly playable titles on Google Play grows by the day, with developers lining up to get their innovative and affordable titles into our hands.
This recent explosion in mobile gaming has arisen from huge technological leaps made by devices such as the Samsung GALAXY S4, which have turned our mobile phones into legitimate handheld games consoles.
We've come a long way since 'Snake'
With masses of processing power, a generous high-definition screen, an advanced graphics chip and a highly responsive touchscreen, the S4 has certainly given developers all the tools they need to create great titles. We asked staff from Zen Studios – behind titles such as Star Wars Pinball – about their experiences developing games and testing them on the GALAXY S4.
Creative Director Neil Sorens explains: "The limited hardware of mobile devices has required a lot of effort on our part to optimise the software, in some cases resulting in simplified physics and geometry. When we got our hands on an S4, though, everything just worked – the game ran smoothly with no hitches, even with the full HD resolution. That was a big relief, since GALAXY S4 users are a huge portion of our Android user base."
Ed Rumley, COO of games publisher Chillingo, the company that brought us Feed Me Oil, Contre Jour and more, agrees. He told us: "Whenever a new device arrives we have to look at the market and ask, 'Is it going to benefit our developers to ensure their game runs perfectly on the new hardware?' In the case of the GALAXY S4, it was an easy answer. The device is extraordinary, so we wanted to make sure our Android games looked extraordinary on it."
Other developers have followed suit and there are lots of games now perfectly optimised to harness the 5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED screen, 1.9 GHz Quad-Core processor, super-powerful graphics chip and software advancements like Group Play. Not to mention that made-for-GALAXY Game Pad (pictured above) that will be hitting stores soon.
Here are our 10 favourite games for the GALAXY S4. All are available from the Google Play store or Samsung Apps on your device.
Star Wars Pinball
£1.28 Buy it here
We're suckers for Star Wars and the 5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED screen on the GALAXY S4 brings the wonderful complexity of the tables from a (lower case) galaxy far, far away, in supreme detail.
The game requires you to complete a number of challenges that involve battling Stormtroopers, firing at Darth Vader when he climbs on to the table, helping Luke complete his training and guiding the Millennium Falcon through an asteroid field. A smaller, lower-res screen just wouldn't cut it.
Soren says: "The small screen that most phones have tends to make our pinball tables, which are packed with small details and designed for large, high-definition displays, somewhat cramped. The GALAXY S4's extra screen space and high resolution alleviate this problem."
£1.49 Buy it here
The UK's own Fireproof Studios has developed the most absorbing, intuitive and visually impressive puzzle game of the mobile generation and it's now available for the Samsung GALAXY S4.
Inspired by browser-based 'escape the room' games, The Room asks you to unlock the mysterious secrets of an obsessed scientist by swiping, pinching, prodding and maneuvering your way around the endlessly interactive, beautifully rendered room.
Unlocking one door eases you seamlessly into the next clue, while the eerie, atmospheric music and lighting effects make it a great one to play in the dark, taking advantage of the GALAXY S4's superior audio and powerful graphics chip. The adventure will continue in a sequel coming soon.
Asphalt 7: Heat
£0.69 Buy it here
This stunning-looking racer, which sees gamers speed around beautifully rendered real-life cities in real-world cars, is one of 13 games optimised especially for the GALAXY S4 smartphone by publisher Gameloft. The hook here is the awesome Group Play feature, which enables S4 owners to quickly and easily challenge friends to multi-player games over a Wi-Fi network.
"What's nice about Group Play is that it lets gamers access quick real-time multiplayer sessions," says Baudouin Corman, vice-president of publishing for the Americas. "It also opens up great features for gaming such as trading items, instant challenges, or even ghost races, as we have done with Asphalt 7."
The Simpsons: Tapped Out
Free Get it here
Well before the GALAXY S4 hit the shelves, console kingpin turned mobile-gaming mogul Electronic Arts announced it was optimising 16 games especially for the handset. One of which was the incredibly popular real-time strategy game, The Simpsons: Tapped Out. In this title, it's up to you to enlist Springfield's finest to rebuild the town in your own image after a Homer-induced nuclear mishap.
Thanks to EA's tweaks you can bask in the glory of your new world in full HD. "The device's higher resolution, larger screen and increased processing power will give our games an opportunity to look even more beautiful for Samsung consumers," says EA's vice-president of new platforms, Glenn Roland.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted
£3.27 Buy it here
Mobile game developers continually wow us by providing new and innovative ways to play games using a touchscreen, but every now and then we yearn to bust out the control pad and just bash some buttons. And with Samsung's forthcoming Game Pad accessory for the GALAXY S4, you'll be able to do just that.
Among the 80-odd titles to be optimised for the battery-powered Pad is EA's Need for Speed: Most Wanted. You'll be able to simply connect your S4 via Bluetooth, slide it into the clamp and get racing. From there, instead of tilting to turn and tapping the screen, you can set about destroying cops and opponents with the D Pad and traditional physical buttons.
£1.28 Buy it here
Question: How do you make one of the most beautiful, soothing and downright gorgeous mobile games ever even prettier? Well, optimise it for a 5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED screen of course! That's exactly what Maksym Hryniv, the head of Mokus Games, did for iconic physics/puzzle/platform game Contre Jour.
He told us: "From the beginning, Contre Jour was designed for bigger screen sizes, looking particularly good on tablets. The S4, with its 5-inch, 1080p screen, offers the best game experience without any compromises. Optimising Contre Jour for the S4 was something I wanted to do as soon as the device was announced."
The monochromatic adventure requires you to guide 'Petit' to safety by manipulating the environment around him and allowing gravity to do the rest; nudging and pushing the one-eyed protagonist towards the blue lights at the end of the level. There are 100 levels to complete, so off you go and don't come back until you've earned three stars for every one.
Sonic 4: Episode II
£3.94 Buy it here
In the list of things we missed most from the '90s, 2D Sonic The Hedgehog platform games narrowly lost out to Baywatch, Pat Sharp and Hanson, but that doesn't mean we weren't happy see the spinny little guy arrive on our mobile devices in Sonic 4. The only problem was that Sonic and touchscreens were about as friendly as Dr Eggman was with cute furry bunnies.
We really missed the control pad, so when Samsung revealed its Bluetooth-enabled wireless Game Pad alongside the GALAXY S4, we were pleased to hear the comeback of SEGA's finest hero was one of the first games to be optimised for the forthcoming device. Once the Game Pad hits stores you'll be able to hold Down, and furiously tap 'Spin' until you are blue in the face – a bit like Sonic himself, really.
Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour
£4.99 Buy it here
The presence of a 1.9 GHz Quad-Core CPU and an Adreno 320 GPU, along with that beautifully expansive, full HD Super AMOLED screen, ensures the Samsung GALAXY S4 is the most capable gaming smartphone on the planet.
One place you'll really feel that extra graphical rendering power and those high-def visuals is in the fast-paced first-person-shooter (FPS) genre. Gameloft knew this and ensured its top title, Modern Combat 4, was perfectly primed for the GALAXY S4's extra power.
It's basically as close to the immersive, action-packed, immaculately detailed console FPS games as it's possible to get on a mobile device. Baudouin Corman told us: "The Samsung GALAXY S4 is a great gaming device! The Full HD screen and Quad-Core processor are just a couple of the features that allow Gameloft to deliver cutting-edge gaming experiences."
Feed Me Oil
Free Get it here
Like EA and Gameloft, publisher Chillingo was another company quick to announce a raft of updates to its most popular titles in order to make the most of the Samsung GALAXY S4.
Ed Rumley told us: "Feed Me Oil is one of our most popular games, and it made perfect sense to get our best products ready for such a popular device. Some of that optimisation was making sure the games supported the new resolution, but we're aware that development is rarely simple.
"More often than not there are kinks to work out, but we were sure that it would be worth the time and effort. If you go and play our games that are optimised for the S4 now, I think you'll agree that they look and run brilliantly."
We couldn't agree more. In this physics-based puzzler, it's up to you to sate the hunger of weird and wonderful oil-obsessed creatures by guiding the crude stuff into their mouths from a broken pipe. There are a host of elaborate levels where you'll make use of fans, send the oil floating across canals and more, and before long you'll be a dab-hand at creating machines of your own.
The game's developer Alexander Ilin, of Holy Water Games, adds: "The S4 has a very bright, precise and large screen. Its great hardware also makes it possible to run FMO with more complex oil physics."
Rayman Jungle Run
£1.99 Buy it here
Undoubtedly one of the finest games available for mobile devices today, Rayman Jungle Run's rich, colourful and varied world is at its most enjoyable on the GALAXY S4.
Unlike some high-profile games, Ubisoft's mobile edition of its timeless platformer is perfectly optimised for touchscreen gaming. Rayman starts running the moment you enter the level and doesn't stop until he's either home or dead, and you can breeze through the fast-paced levels with fluent taps, prods, swipes and holds.
Watch out for those Land of the Dead levels though. They're tougher than a £2 steak!