As I come into my own of being 30, having two kids, and losing a lot of available time for games, I find myself looking for quick experiences to enjoy on the go when I have some free time.
I’m also a big fan of tabletop and card games as the industry is currently busting at the seams with new and interesting entries, but also find that coordinating a regular game night with a group of adults, some with kids and some without, is a pretty daunting task.
I’ve found myself looking more for engaging games, that fill short amounts of time in a day, on mobile. Solitaire style games in particular offer the fast gameplay, tabletop feel, and challenge that really satisfy what I’m looking for. Below are the 10 best that have captured the most amount of my time.
10. Miracle Merchant — iOS & Android
In Miracle Merchant you assume the role of a potion maker creating potions that satisfy the desires of your clientele. You have four stacks of ingredient cards colored red, blue, green, and yellow. Mixed in these stacks are also cursed ingredient cards that hinder your potions. Clients walk up one at a time and have a required ingredient color that must be present in the potion, and an ingredient that they like that will boost the score of the potion.
Mixing up potions is as easy as putting 4 cards into a middle row and a potion is crafted from them. The strategy comes in the placement in the mixing area. Many cards work off each other, getting bonuses based on what cards are nearby, or present in the potion. There is a lot of strategic depth to explore with your options.
The only gripe I can launch against this one is, unlike the previous Tiny Touch Tales games, this one has very little unlockable progression beyond the base game. A few daily challenges, but they don’t reward anything upon completion, and a daily run mode that again has no real payoff other than the game itself.
Price— iOS: $1.99 Android: Free ($1.99 no ads)
9. Meteorfall: Journey — iOS & Android
One thing I’ve found with more modern takes on a solitaire card game on mobile is that they’ve been putting a very deep experience into a very easy to grasp interface. Meteorfall is a shining example of this. An entire deck-building adventure card game with a simple swipe left or right interface.
You start with one of a few unique characters that have the ability to be upgraded individually the more you play. You have a very basic starting deck of cards for attacking creatures.
Once you start on your adventure you swipe left or right to choose which region you want to travel to first, and then encounter creatures along the way. You can either swipe-right to battle the monsters or swipe-left to rest, camp, or take other actions.
Resting allows you to regain some of your lost HP, dig for treasure to add new cards to your deck, or remove cards that may be causing your deck to be less useful. It is a deck-building game that reminds you often, more cards does not mean a better deck.
If you choose to battle a creature you take turns playing 3 cards, using a set of energy points. Cards are drawn and you swipe-right to play the card for the effect, spending the energy point cost to do so. The only way to get more energy points back is to swipe-left on any card to discard it and regain some energy. It creates a really good balance of knowing when to keep swinging with cards, or when to stop because you are running yourself out of energy.
The art is fantastic, and the game is genuinely goofy and charming as you keep making runs one after another with such a simplified and easy-to-use interface.
8. Dead Man’s Draw — iOS & Android
Dead Man’s Draw, for being so high up on this list, was a game I bounced off a few times before I was suddenly entranced by it, and I think it is because when you start the game you don’t have access to the full suite of options in the game, but looking back it does a great job of introducing the card abilities one at a time and is well worth your time.
Dead Man’s Draw is a push-your-luck drawing game with a simple premise. You have a deck of cards with several suits. On your turn you tap the deck of cards to draw a card into a central row. You can do this as many times as you want. You can stop at any time to bank the cards you’ve drawn, but if you ever draw two of the same suit, you lose all of the cards you have been drawing.
At first this seems like a really lame idea since it is entirely random, until the game one-by-one starts to introduce the card abilities, and this is where the game shines. The decks 10 suits all have a triggered ability when revealed. You may get a Cannon that can remove a card from your opponents set of banked cards, an Oracle that will allow you to see the next card that will be drawn, a Kraken that forces you to draw the next two cards, or a Chest that can be unlocked if you also draw a Key for a score bonus. These all add a great twist and level of strategy to an otherwise random press-your-luck game.
Scoring is also clever in that your score is based on the highest card you have in any suit in your collected cards, so it encourages a lot of strategy in what you might destroy from your opponent with a cannon, or what you might want to steal from your opponent with a sword. It’s so simple but also so deep with options when you’re going up against opponents. Add in a set of unique abilities you can bring into games to use and you have a lot of game in such a small package.
Price — Free
7. Dream Quest — iOS
This game, one of the first card games I really got into on a mobile device, came out in 2014, and I think it’s one of those hidden gems not a lot of people played. I know I put off picking it up for quite a while based on the screenshots of it. It’s a very rough looking game. Cards are white rectangles with color borders, and all art outside of the monsters and characters looks like it was done in MS Paint. That being said, this game is the perfect example that flashy artwork isn’t what will make a game great, it is the gameplay.
This game, one of the more complex entries here, is a deck-building adventure game, where you move through a dungeon exploring floors and fighting enemies using your deck of cards. You have options as you adventure through these floors to upgrade your deck, remove cards, add new cards, and even boost your characters health or action points. The presentation of the floor of this dungeon is also in very MS Paint graphics, but it does its job for letting you move around, explore, and find the monsters to fight, as well as shops to upgrade and heal.
Once you get into a battle with a monster you find a robust card battling game as the enemies have unique abilities from one to the other. Zombies are constantly crumbling but also can not be damaged, so suddenly you are trying to play a waiting game of not taking damage while the zombie crumbles, while bats will leech life from you, other monsters will put useless curse cards in your hand that take up hand size, and thieves will needle you with small amounts of damage, but also draw more cards to keep doing so. There are a good number of cards made to combo off each other in some satisfying ways and the sense of progression feels good when your deck starts to click in a specific way.
Dream Quest also features a large set of Achievements that serve as your way of retaining progression between runs as it unlocks more cards and abilities to use or find in your future runs. The character decks you can start with also give a good unique feel depending on who you choose.
Price — $2.99
6. Frost: Survival Card Game — iOS
Frost is a game that hits an aesthetic and hits it hard. The art is all very unique, and while its quality wavers in spots, it all ties together really well with the theme. You are tasked with taking a group of travelers through a harrowing pilgrimage across an arctic tundra. As you travel new challenges will confront you and you need to deal with them quickly to avoid the frost that is chasing you.
You have a hand of resources such as food, wood, and followers. You need to spend these, or trade them to deal with challenges that hold you back every round. The Frost is always closing in behind you so dealing with things quickly is a must, but you also have to manage that with exhaustion cards in your hand that are useless. Use your followers to dig up more resources, but if you abuse it too much they could risk their lives in the process. Every hand has a sense of tension as you try to juggle your resources and manage your trades.
If iOS isn’t your style this one recently hit Steam on PC and Mac as well, though no Android port.
Price — $3.99
5. Reigns / Reigns: Her Majesty — iOS & Android
Reigns and Reigns: Her Majesty (I’ll just refer to both of them as Reigns, they play almost the same except for story). Is one of the first I can remember that took the Tinder swipe left and right and turned it into a way to control a game, and has inspired others to use the same mechanic.
Reigns is an interesting game of balance while trying to rule an empire. As you are presented with challenges, NPCs, or story beats you can choose one of two options by either swiping right or left, and you can swing the card back and forth on screen to see the options available to you, as well as how much they might influence any of your four meters on the top of the screen.
The meters are what are important to keep ruling in the game. If any of the meters reach either the top, or the bottom, your game is over. This doesn’t always end poorly, but either way your reign ends, and the next ruler will start. The meters represent the church, the people, the army, and your wealth.
The trick with the meters, which makes your decisions important, is that when you slide the card left or right to see your options you will also see either a big or small circle above certain meters. This means there will either be small or big changes to that meter, but it doesn’t tell you if that will be a positive, or negative, change.
Certain decisions in the game will also add new cards to the stack of cards you are going through as new quest branches are added, and simplistic puzzles are dropped in. The game manages to fit a lot of stuff into such a simple presentation and a unique look. I would recommend at least checking out one of these games, Her Majesty being the latest.
Price — $2.99
4. Card Thief — iOS & Android
Card Thief is a solo card game that features one of the higher skill ramps into a game. I had bounced off of it a few times because of this. Making it through the tutorial only to be left with my head spinning and me looking for a different game to play. On the third time trying this I played a few games afterwards, still not feeling like I totally understood it, but as I played I picked up some ideas and concepts along the way and at a certain point it clicked.
Once it clicked I became enamored. This is one of the most strategic and dense games on the list but the reward for a successful run, especially one where you walk out with a high-level chest of loot, is incredibly satisfying.
You are a thief sneaking through castles to bypass guards, pickpocket enemies, snuff out torches, and hide in barrels. At some point near the end of a run through this deck of cards, dealt out in a grid that you physically move through, you will see a chest card. You need to maneuver around to get it in darkness and then move on to it with a high enough stealth value to obtain it. Then just make it to the exit for your reward.
Collecting the loot is complicated by guards who may be looking certain directions, making it hard to sneak by. The chest will also gain in value every turn you don’t collect it. This is a double edged sword because your stealth needs to be higher then the chest to collect it, and everywhere you move on the board uses your stealth. There are a few ways to get it back during the run, but you have to be very careful with your movements and where you chose to stop moving.
To move through this grid you basically tap cards in a line orthogonally or diagonally to make a path you move. It has to be at least 2 cards to make a path, and it can’t cross back on itself. Depending on what you pass by different effects will either put out torches, leaving yourself or guards in darkness, you might pick up some loot, or make a noise that might change what direction a guard is looking. Once you’re happy with your path tap and hold on your character to have him execute it.
After a number of runs you will finally get it and will master the basic manor. Then the next unlocks and suddenly there are guard characters that also act as torches, dogs that can sense things even in the dark, and other new twists and turns. There is also, like other Tiny Touch Tales games, a good set of unlockable to keep you sneaking for some time to unlock them all. New items, new modes. Don’t let the steep entry deter you from giving this one a go.
Price — iOS: $2.99 Android: Free ($2.99 no ads)
3. Onirim — iOS & Android
Onirim, the digital version of the solo tabletop game, is a very abstract solitaire game. It has a very simple premise, but interesting mechanics that make it challenge it to make it through.
You have a single deck of cards that contain location cards. The location cards are in four colors and feature a key, sun, or moon symbol. In this deck of location cards are also doors matching the four colors. Two doors for each color. There are also nightmare cards that will seek to stop you from escaping this dreamscape you find yourself in.
You start with a hand of 5 cards drawn from the deck, and lay them down one-at-a-time into a center row. As you lay down cards the only rule for laying down new cards is that you can not play two cards with the same symbol after each other. So if you just played a blue sun card you can’t play another sun card, even one of a different color. After every card played you draw back up to fill your hand. If you play 3 of the same color card next to each other in the center row you get to pull one of the doors matching that color out of the deck and score it. You need to score all the doors (2 for each color) in the deck to win.
The Nightmare cards add risk to the game. Anytime you fill your hand if you draw a nightmare card you either have to put one of the found doors back in the deck, discard a card with a key symbol from your hand, discard your whole hand, or discard the top 5 cards of the deck. There is a bit more rules complexity with those choices, but all in all it makes this game very strategically deep.
Once you grasp the main game I highly recommend the expansions as they add unique and new rules and they can be entirely mix-and-match. You can play with all of them, some of them, or none of them. They keep the game feeling fresh for a lot of replayability.
Price — Free (In-App expansions available)
2. Card Crawl — iOS & Android
Card Crawl was a really strong contender for the top spot on this list. The game is simple in its design, but deep in its strategy and content. When I originally played it only the core game was there and so much has been added to it, but in its current form it is still one of the best mobile solitaire games.
In Card Crawl you are playing a solitaire adventure game with a Minotaur who is dealing cards for a dungeon. You start the game with only a character card that shows your health. The object is to make it to the end of the deck without losing all your health. Next to your hero card you have two spots with hands, and one with a backpack. These represent the spots you can keep cards as you go. The Minotaur deals four cards in front of you and you must defeat or handle three of them to deal out another three.
The cards you find will be monsters with a certain number of health, swords which can be equipped to your character and then used to do a certain amount of damage to a creature, shields that can be equipped and will block damage when you have monsters run into them, coins that are useful for a long list of unlockable ability cards, potions to heal your health, and abilities cards that have various effects.
When you deal with the cards in front of you it is always up to you to make monsters attack you, run into your shields, or hit them with your sword, and there is nothing more grim than having to pick up the 10 hit monsters and make him hit you for 10 because you didn’t play the cards right. It really makes all the good and bad happen in the game on you. It gives a solid sense as well of all things that happen in the game being under your control. Making it to the end will bank your coin, and there are a ton of unlockable, from new ability cards, to new daily dungeons, to constructed decks created by the community. It’s well worth the price.
Price — iOS: $2.99 Android: Free ($2.99 no ads)
1. Solitarica — iOS & Android
This beat Card Crawl only because of the depth of replayability. Both games feature very solid gameplay, good unlockables, and deep progression, but Solitairica, a rogue-like adventure solitaire game, gives so much depth to customization as your run goes along it’s hard to beat. No two runs could possibly be the same.
The game is played in a series of fights to try and make it to the final boss fight. Every fight is a very familiar looking solitaire game with a single card in front of you and columns of cards you need to get through. The trick is all you have to do is tap any card that is one above or below the card you have in front of you. If you do that card is destroyed and your card becomes that one, allowing you to chain into long streaks of clearing cards if the numbers line up. Since you can walk this chain up and down it can really lead to some interesting streaks, which the game rewards you for with bonus coins.
If you find yourself stuck, unable to clear any more you tap your deck to draw a new card, but every time you draw so does the monster, and a card from the monsters deck is revealed that will have a variety of effects. It might try to attack your HP, drain some ability power you have, dazzle cards which makes them a random new card every time you draw, or one of a ton of other effects. Add on to this that every time you encounter a creature it will have some randomly assigned attributes on it that will change either its play field, or the cards in its deck, or how it handles your clearing of cards.
Unlike Card Crawl your coins are something you use between every fight. You have the option to shop for items that will let you start with card energy, armor, gain more health, or a variety of effects. You can also purchase a myriad of rotating spells. Your character starts with a set of spells that flipping and clearing cards will charge up, but you can add a few more, and swap some out. Each spell has a matching color of a suit associated with it and flipping or clearing cards of that type grant the energy so it pays to be well kitted.
You progress through these fight and shop rounds along this line of monsters until you reach the end, or fall in the process. Depending on how far you got you will get another type of currency that you can use to unlock new decks or upgrade existing ones. Decks are all unique in that they focus on two of the card suits. This means every card you draw from your deck will only be of those two suits, so you will find yourself with more energy for those, although clearing cards from the field will still build energy based on the card cleared. You can unlock special cards for each deck, and add up to two more item slots for when you are purchasing items in a run.
The game has even added new single-color decks for a bit of an added challenge. These often have unique abilities to help out with the lack of energy creation for other suits. This game is one that I have sunk a lot of time into and will continue to do so as I work to make it to the end of the line with a deck and unlock the epic run mode for it. It’s always rewarding, sometimes tense, and when you hit a really good card streak it just feels so satisfying.
Price — iOS: $3.99 Android: Free ($3.99 no ads)
The following games were ones that got a bit of my time and have some fun ideas that fell just short of the above list. Still worth a check out if you’re looking for more time-filling solitaire games.
Lucky 21 — iOS
This is distilled black jack with an interesting twist. You have a set of cards and swipe left to hit, or swipe right if you think the next card drawn will bust you. If you are right and you would have bust, you win. If you swipe left and hit a blackjack, you get two wins. The overall point is to progress in levels by making a certain amount of wins in a row, and failing will reset your progress for that level. It’s an addicting little game, the only downside is a lack of progression or change outside of the core concept. Still fun to spend a bit of time with since it is free.
Price — Free (ad supported)
Daily Solitaire — iOS
Like Lucky 21, Daily Solitaire nails its core mechanic very well, but lacks a depth that keeps me playing long-term. The basic idea is you have 5-card poker hand, and you can hold any of the cards you want, then you replace any cards that haven’t been held to try and end up with a poker hand worth something. If you don’t, you lose a poker chip. Lose too many poker chips and you fail the level. If you succeed you do it again until you’ve reached whatever the level goal is. Landing very good hands like a Flush will net you a set of free-hands that just draw new cards and check for success. Failing any of the free-hands has no drawback, so its a fun little thing to watch when you hit it. If this had more of a sense of progression to keep me coming back I could see it making the list.
Price — Free ($4.99 premium)
Brave Hand — iOS & Android
Brave Hand is one of the more traditional solitaire games, but that doesn’t mean the game doesn’t play with some original ideas. This game has a very simple premise. You have a small deck of 18 cards, and the board is filled with 8 face-down stacks of cards. You pick one card from your hand (7 to start the game) and you choose to challenge one of the stacks. When the card is revealed if you’re card is higher than the one in the stack, you win the battle.
There is also a scouting mechanic that allows you to discard a card from your hand at any time to randomly reveal the top card of two stacks, although this sometimes lands on already face-up cards and means you gain nothing from the action. A small gripe with an overall great experience.
Price — Free ($2.99 no ads)
What are some of your favorite solitaire or solo mobile games. Leave a comment below to let me know.