A Grandparents Guide to Smartphone Gaming



A screenshot of Candy Crush for mobile

It’s day whatever in these uncertain times and you’re bored. You planned on spending the weekend with the grandkids at the shore house, but that’s not so possible in this COVID-19 world.

So, what to do?

Maybe give video games a try? But dropping hundreds of dollars to set up a Nintendo Switch or a Playstation 4 is a lot to spend all at once. And set-up can be a hassle. Luckily, there are thousands of games accessible at the tips of people’s fingers on a device many already own.

So here’s a list of games to pass the time while sheltering in place. Each is available for either a smartphone or tablet computer on Google Play or the Apple App Store. The majority of the titles on this list are free, but include ads and in-app purchases in order to play additional levels. I’ve tried to stick to games that are simple, accessible and fun for those who didn’t grow up with video games. Enjoy!

The Cold War may have ended, but Mother Russia’s legacy survives: Tetris — the solitaire of video games. From graphic calculators to towering skyscraper displays, if it runs on electricity, chances are it can play Tetris. This classic is literally everywhere, so it’s no surprise to find it on your phone and tablet as well.

This puzzle game has you stack falling blocks to eliminate them by completely filling a row and racking up points. But watch out, because enough wrong moves could lead the stack to reach the top — and then it’s game over. Tetris is a fairly simple design that’s remained popular even after all these decades. Forewarning: The Tetris theme is super-catchy, so be prepared to find yourself humming along.

Candy Crush Saga / Bejeweled Classic
A bus ride hasn’t gone by where I haven’t seen somebody playing Candy Crush. Or maybe it was Bejeweled. I’m gonna be honest: If you were to ask me the difference between Bejeweled and Candy, I couldn’t tell you. What I can say is Bejeweled is the forefather of all match-three puzzle games.

Get a table full of mismatched icons, put three of them together to earn points and bam, you’ve just made one of the most-played games on the market. Candy Crush improved upon the formula by making those icons candy, so quite the innovation. Either of these games is worth a try, at the very least to pass some time while traveling.

Angry Birds 2
For some reason, my dad’s a huge fan of this one. Angry Birds may be the only game on this list to get its own movie (at the time of publication). It’s on T-shirts, toys and even a cartoon from Finland streaming on Netflix and Hulu.

But what about the game? In summary, you play as a group of various birds — who are mad at a hoard of green pigs — for stealing their eggs. Now, with your trusty slingshot, the player must fire these birds-turned-projectiles at jungle gym towers constructed by the pigs.

After reading what I wrote, I can say this definitely has the most out-there premise on this list, but it works. It’s fun. There are tons of levels and it’s worth a try. Hey, at the very least, my dad approves.

Plants vs. Zombies
Batman vs. the Joker. It’s a pretty weird match up, right? Bats and clowns have no historical pretense to be at odds with one another, but it’s a thing now. That’s Plants vs Zombies. In this game, the player uses a variety of plants — like the sunflowers, mushrooms and cherries — to eliminate wave after wave of zombie enemies.

Why must plans and zombies fight? Who knows, but it sure is fun. It’s a cute, simple tower defense game that’s one of the more complicated games on this list, but quite rewarding to master.

Pokemon Go
I have to admit I was a little bit iffy on whether or not to recommend this one. This game does require you to go outside and head to places normally filled with people. But it should be safe if social distancing is kept in mind.

The summer that Pokemon GO came out was magical. The streets of my college town were littered with people running around with phones in hand trying to capture invisible monsters. I remember how dozens of people would camp out on the lawn in front of the veterans dance hall in their foldable chairs and congregate at one of the game’s hot spots.

Those days are gone, but the game is still popular and has been updated frequently. Players walk around town to collect items, capture monsters and fight other people’s monsters. It’s difficult to play in rural areas, but a jam in the city.

Just make sure to stay six feet apart.

An Italian teen designed this game over a weekend as a test and it has since gone on to become a viral hit. 2048 has players slide numbered blocks together to merge and combine their numbers. Only blocks of the same number can combine, otherwise, they just bounce into each other.

The goal is to rack up the highest number possible before running out of free space. It’s simple to learn, difficult to master and a great way to kill small amounts of time. I would say 2048 is the simplest game on this list and definitely worth a try.

Mister Smith & His Adventures
If you were a fan of early computer games from the ’70s and ’80s, then you’re probably familiar with the text adventure genre. It’s like a mixture between a book and game, where the player chooses the actions of the protagonist on a grand adventure. Back then, players had to type out commands at random, but Mister Smith is much more straightforward.

Players select from several prompts of decisions Mister Smith can make, from clever to dumb. Players will also answer trivia questions to progress the story. Whatever happens to Mister Smith is in your hands.


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