Some of the best experiences we’ve had playing iOS games, like breeding tropical frogs, building a skyscraper, and managing an airport, have all come from one unique company: Nimblebit. With their delightful pixel art and mastery of the freemium play style, Nimblebit has found incredible success on the App Store. Here are a few of our favorite Nimblebit simulations.
Who would have thought that an amphibian breeding game could be so much fun? In Pocket Frogs, your goal is to collect and breed rare species of frog, each with unique colors and patterns on their skin. Breeding together two frogs will mix their attributes, and you can sell the rarest frogs for in-game currency. Premium currency will let you speed up the hatching process, so you don’t have to wait as long for an egg to hatch. Although it sounds dull and academic, you can create several fun breeds of frogs, like bacon-striped frogs, or star-spangled patriotic frogs.
Key Quote: “Pocket Frogs is all about collecting, breeding, and trading frogs with friends. Whether you want to sell happy frogs for a big profit, collect rare varieties, or fulfill orders from various computerized customers, Pocket Frogs has something for you.”
Tiny Tower lets you build a high-rise for pixelated denizens, one story at a time. With each new addition, your tower will gain a new apartment, restaurant, or other place of business. You can send your tenants to work in the businesses that suit them best, earning additional revenue and letting you build even higher. You can also earn Tower Bux, the game’s premium currency, by completing minigames like operating the elevator, or locating certain individuals within the tower. Tiny Tower has inspired several imitators, like Dream Heights and Happy Squirrels, but they can’t match Tiny Tower’s impressive quality and polish.
Key Quote: “Tiny Tower is a big step forward for freemium games. It’s got a lot of the same gameplay mechanics as Farmville, and like those free farming games, there’s very little skill required to play. All you need is a lot of time and patience, but the rewards feel endless.”
After Tiny Tower, Nimblebit’s next popular sim was Pocket Planes, which lets you manage a tiny airport and build the planes that shuttle passengers across the globe. Like in Pocket Frogs and Tiny Tower, there are countdown timers to watch while your planes move towards their destinations, but in Pocket Planes we felt that there was less payoff for the time spent waiting. You can build up a network of hubs and a fleet of planes, which can be addictive, but it’s also very simple and casual.
Key Quote: “Pocket Planes will likely appeal to many casual gamers who like the idea of being able to focus on the simple, semi-strategic gameplay for a minute here and there, and watch their airline grow.”
Nimble Quest isn’t a simulation like the other games on this list, but it does share Nimblebit’s retro style and pick-up-and-play appeal. Based on the old mobile game Snake, in Nimble Quest you control a party of adventurers who have formed up into a line. As you swipe to turn and attack nearby enemies, more adventurers will join your crew, which can make it harder to avoid obstacles. The goal is to survive for as long as possible, unlocking new characters as you go. If you enjoy fast-paced action games, Nimble Quest is highly recommended.
Key Quote: “Where it differs from Snake is that there are also various enemies on the field, from villainous knights to bats and other rivals. Upon approaching them, your conga-line of warriors lets fly whatever their chosen weapon is– from wide-arcing sword swipes to arrows, fireballs, and bombs– when they are within range of the enemy in the hopes of ultimately destroying them.”
Pocket Trains has barely been out for a week (it’s so new, we haven’t reviewed it yet), but it’s already in the Top Ten free games on the App Store. Pocket Trains is similar to Pocket Planes in that you have to establish a network of stations, then buy the cars that will carry passengers and cargo. As you progress, you’ll be able to upgrade from steam engines to bullet trains. Because of the layout of the train cars, Pocket Trains reminds us of Tiny Tower on its side, which indicates this could be another addictive hit from Nimblebit.
In our next installment, we’ll catch up with the Temple Run series, including its Brave and Oz spin-offs.
This article is part of a series about the best games on iOS, 2008-2013. You can read the rest here.