Looking Back at 25 Years of Mobile Gaming

As a modern gaming website, we can be as guilty as anyone for taking the current state of technological affairs for granted. With so much breaking news and huge releases to cover, we can forget the path travelled, with eyes firmly focused on the road ahead. What we need to remember is that, with a wider viewpoint, we can gain a much deeper appreciation of what the entertainment world of today can offer.

This is a revelation we experienced recently after discovering a box containing an old Nokia 3310. Still partially usable after an alarming amount of charging, we got back into Snake for a taste of nostalgia. This got us thinking, what have been the biggest games and changes for mobiles, and how is this arena fundamentally different than how it used to be?

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

While many people believe that Snake was the first mobile game, the actual prize goes to a Tetris knock-off called Klotz. Released in 1994 for a device called the Hagenuk MT-2000, Klotz was a fantastic fit for the low-powered device, mirroring how successful Tetris was on the NES and Game Boy in 1989. It wasn’t until 1997 that Snake 1 slithered onto mobile screens, followed later by the imaginatively named Snake II.

The Smartphone Environment

In 2007, the world of mobile gaming would enter a new age with the release of the original iPhone. Though it was far from the first or most innovative smart-device available at the time, there can be no denying that Apple’s device brought the smartphone market into the public consciousness like no other.

An enormous part of this was the app store, which gave mobile users a simple interface from which to enjoy an entire spectrum of new games. Even better, with large touch screen controls and more processing power than their predecessors, smartphone games could deliver on their promises. Nowhere was this better illustrated than with Plants vs Zombies and Angry Birds in 2009. Not just mobile success stories, these games would go on to become major franchises worth billions.

A Pocket Computer

Modern smartphones go far beyond their roots, acting as what is essentially small mobile computers. Over time, smartphone popularity has created an enormous entertainment industry reverence for the mobile market, leading the way, in some cases, to unprecedented success.

One of the larger examples of this can be found with online casinos, where the likes of phone slots have found international recognition. Here, games like Treasure Nile and Shaman’s Dream operate functionally the same as they do on PC while being just as playable due to easily translatable touch controls.

Similar examples are also found in more traditional video games like Stardew Valley and XCOM: Enemy Within. Again, these excel not just through their base popularity, but in how well they made the leap onto powerful modern smartphone platforms.

Given the last few years, it’s likely that the mobiles of tomorrow could find an increasingly important place within the gaming landscape. Both in terms of delivering their own targeted experiences, and bringing in existing games from PCs and consoles, the potential of phones is immense and only growing. And to think, it all started with an unofficial Tetris knock-off on a phone that looked like a graphics calculator.

the author

He’s a cat. He likes to play video games. He often has a hard time with this since he’s a gamer cat living in a gamer human world, but he gets by.