Framed is a film noir comic book, and you are the author. Or at least, you’re re-arranging the on-screen panels to help your character, framed for a murder, escape the police. Each sequence begins paused, giving you time to assess, rejig the order of the story, and hit play. You might be doing something as simple as lighting a cigarette – or you might be deciding the best route for your character to sneak through back streets, evading the cops’ torches.
Like the best puzzle games, Framed introduces concepts slowly, and then ramps up the difficulty, stretching the limits of your mechanical mastery. Soon you’ll be tilting and rotating panels – to create new paths through alleyways, say – or quickly moving panels during the action to reveal new routes as your character runs. You’ll never be stuck for too long, but the solutions still feel clever, which keeps Framed moving along at an action movie pace.
It looks stylish, and sounds it too, thanks to a jazzy soundtrack. Framed 2 is even more polished, and introduces new ways to solve puzzles, but we’d advise playing the original first to get used to the concept.
69. Pixel Dungeon
Pixel Dungeon looks like a pure and simple roguelike, but once you’re a few floors into its underground dungeons, you’ll release just how deep and complex a game it is. The premise is uncomplicated enough: as a Warrior, Mage, Rogue or Huntress, your goal is to strike deep into the earth to find an amulet, searching for stairs on each floor you encounter. You’ll defeat ghouls and rats, open chests, buy items from shops, cast spells, find hidden doors and face a boss once every five floors. But by experimenting, you’ll constantly discover new, unexpected mechanics. You can find seeds, for example, which you can grow into trap-like plants. You can jump into chasms to reach lower floors, at the cost of hit points. If you burst into flames from using an unidentified item, finding water will quench the fire.
With each new run, your items and potions are reset, and many start with unidentified properties. These might be good – healing or invisibility – or bad, such as vertigo of paralysis. You can identify them with rare scrolls, or, if you’re feeling brave, you can just try them out and hope for the best. These risk-reward trade-offs are what make Pixel Dungeon so compelling. Do you loot an enemy’s corpse for treasure, and risk it turning into a powerful wraith? Do you try and open that chest, which might actually be a monster in disguise? If you can get over the difficulty, and accept the fact that there’s a heavy dollop of luck at play, you’ll find Pixel Dungeon to be one of the most involved roguelikes around. Yes, you can play it on PC, but mobile is its original, spiritual home.
68. Dota Underlords
We’ve resisted putting an autochess game on this list up until now, but it’s grown so popular that we can resist no longer. All games in the genre follow roughly the same structure: you purchase heroes from a random starting selection, plop them on an 8v8 grid, and watch them face off against your opponents. It’s not as simple as it sounds, and compiling the best squad round-to-round requires plenty of tactics. Dota Underlords is the most polished game in the genre, courtesy of the fact it’s made by Dota 2 developer Valve, so expect shiny visuals and a (relatively) streamlined UI.
It’s still in Early Access, so expect balancing mistakes, but Valve is updating it regularly, and it’s improving over time. It’s therefore the ideal route into the genre, and if you can’t get enough of it, you could branch out to Auto Chess, another viable option.