As a permanent traveller, I often find myself in situations where I am exposed to long travelling times or extended waiting periods with limited internet access. Often, I would just like to switch off for a while and seek refuge in a nostalgic world of games. Meanwhile, there are lots of retro games available, that are perfect for mobile devices (smartphones or tablets), but I have searched in vain for a good list of such games on the internet.
I want to change that now. The games on this list are exclusively retro classics that work completely offline – they are no in-game purchases or subscriptions. I have tested all these games myself, on my travels, and I have played most of them all the way to the end.
From experience, I can report that all the games on this list run without a hitch on an iPad Pro 11-inch or an iPhone Pro 13 Max. The only bottleneck here is the batteries in the devices. The battery of the iPad Pro 11-inch lasts for about 3 – 5 hours while playing; of course, some games have special energy-saving modes that allow you to play for much longer. When travelling, you can significantly extend the life of the battery by using a power bank, a connected notebook or, of course, a USB port in the vehicle or on the plane or train. If you fly business or first class, the USB port for most seats even charges the device while you play.
You can play all these games on either a smartphone or a tablet, and you will get used to the size. Of course, I recommend using a tablet, especially for complex strategy games, such as Total War, or detailed roleplay games, such as Baldur’s Gate. Many of the games would also support a connected controller, but I haven’t tested that yet because it doesn’t fit into my optimized equipment.
Needless to say, this list is not exhaustive. I look forward to receiving recommendations from you, and I will test any that come in and add them to the list. This wonderful list is not exclusively intended for travellers; just the opposite! In fact, I love sharing these great games with the younger generation, while passing on a piece of computer history coupled with part of my youth in.
Have fun gaming
Total War Titles for Tablet or Smartphone:
I have played through all the “Total War” titles that have been adapted for mobile devices on my iPad Pro, and I’m absolutely blown away by how well the developers have adapted the series for mobile platforms.
As the series covers almost every geographical region of the world and all historically important eras, I often use it as part of my preparation to familiarise myself with a new country, by briefly starting the relevant campaign and exploring the country’s history in a fun way. There is no other game series (except possibly Sid Maier’s: Civilization and the Anno series) that communicates world history so effectively and in such detail through historically accurate scenarios – and it’s also loads of fun to play.
Rome: Total War (2004, Strategy)
“Rome: Total War for mobile devices is a masterfully adapted version of the legendary strategy game for PC, which is now available on touchscreen devices. It has attracted a cult following, thanks to its captivating blend of tactical planning and epic historical battles that you can now play anytime, wherever you are. In my opinion, this game belongs in every history class, as it provides a playful overview of the early Roman Empire.
Rome: Total War – Barbarian Invasion (2005, Strategy)
“Rome: Total War – Barbarian Invasion” for mobile devices puts the intense historical conflicts of late antiquity directly into the player’s hands. This mobile version has earned a special position among fans, as it combines a complex strategy with captivating insight into the Barbarian invasions.
Rome: Total War – Alexander (2006, Strategy)
“Rome: Total War – Alexander” for mobile devices broadens the epic experience of the classic Strategy franchise by taking players along on the ambitious campaigns of Alexander the Great. The adaptation for mobile devices retains the depth and complexity of the original version, offering both fans and new players a gripping historical strategy experience, whilst on their travels.
Medieval 2: Total War (2006, Strategy)
“Medieval 2: Total War” is a gem among historical strategy games. It takes players back to the era of knights and kingdoms and enables deep tactical and diplomatic gameplay, be it on a PC or a mobile device. Its popularity lives on to this day, partly because of the detailed battles and extensive modification options that have earned it the status of a cult classic in the series. There are now four major expansions for the game: Teutons, America, Britannia and Crusades. It offers a fantastic opportunity to learn about the great eras of world history in a playful way.
The GTA Series for Tablet or Smartphone:
The GTA series has been perfectly adapted for mobile devices and it’s so much fun. All mobile titles to date are based on the GTA 3 engine. You’ll need a while to get used to the controls, but you’ll soon find them just as intuitive as a traditional PlayStation 2 controller.
GTA 3 (2001, Action-Adventure)
This is a classic in the open-world action genre. It offers an immersive gaming experience in the fictional Liberty City. The game allows players to take on the role of a criminal called Claude, and explore the city, commit crimes, and undertake various missions – all without any internet connection, of course, making it ideal for hours of fun whilst on your travels.
GTA: SA (2004, Action-Adventure)
With its enormous open world, its gripping narrative and the freedom it offers players, “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” sets new standards in the action-adventure genre. The story of Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson, who returns to his hometown and finds himself in a world of gangs, police corruption and crime, remains unforgettable. The mobile version of the game brings this in-depth experience to smaller screens without sacrificing any of the comprehensive content and immersive atmosphere of the original version.
GTA: Vice City (2002, Action-Adventure)
“Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” whisks players away to a vibrant, neon-drenched recreation of 1980s Miami, complete with a pulsating soundtrack and atmospheric narrative. The mobile version of the game preserves the essence of this iconic wide-open environment and offers the thrill of Tommy Vercetti’s rise in the world of criminality, in an impressively portable format.
The Baldur’s Gate Series for Tablet and Smartphone:
Baldur’s Gate has been available for mobile devices for several years. I have now played through all the parts and I am very impressed by the excellent adaptation. To this day, there are hardly any roleplay games with a better storyline and more effectively implemented game mechanics, based on the Dungeons & Dragons rulebook. I have played some of the titles on an android phone, but as with most games, I recommend using a tablet if available, so as not to miss any of the details on the screen. If you like roleplay games and are not yet familiar with this series, you can rely on the mobile versions to close this knowledge gap.
The games are still among the most complex and challenging in the genre. Partly using a walkthrough can be helpful to discover alternative storylines or secret levels and quests. The use of character guides is also recommended for beginners, as the game is very unforgiving when it comes to mistakes. Careless character development can make the game very tough or even unplayable later, due to the high level of difficulty. As with the PC version, characters can be transferred between parts; for example, you can simply continue playing with your character from Baldur’s Gate in Baldur’s Gate 2.
Baldur’s Gate (1998, Roleplay)
The mobile version of “Baldur’s Gate” brings the comprehensive roleplay experience to mobile platforms. It is based on the Dungeons & Dragons rulebook, with all its complex storylines and profound character development. The developers have cleverly adapted both the graphics and the user interface for smaller screens, so that the strategic battle system and rich narrative also come into their own on a touchscreen device. A personal favourite of many RPG fans – me included – “Baldur’s Gate” offers a nostalgic return to the roots of the genre in a mobile version, coupled with the freedom to enjoy the game anytime, wherever you may find yourself.
Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced Edition (2000, Roleplay)
The mobile version of “Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition” is a masterful transposition of the iconic PC RPG; it retains the in-depth storyline and sophisticated gameplay mechanics that fans have come to love. The developers, Beamdog, have done a remarkable job of not only preserving the rich content and complex interactions of the original version – they have also optimised the controls and usability for mobile devices. This edition receives universal acclaim for its successful balance between the modern enhancements and the preservation of the original spirit, making it a must-have experience for lovers of the genre, and I personally derive great pleasure from experiencing this classical saga in such a well-adapted format.
Siege of Dragonspear (2016, Roleplay)
As an expansion of “Baldur’s Gate”, “Siege of Dragonspear” brings a new dimension to the series; with a bridging storyline that takes place between the events of the first and second parts, with a strong focus on combat and military tactics. In contrast to the classic “Baldur’s Gate”, “Siege of Dragonspear” is even more focused on the strategic aspects of warfare, and it offers a series of battles that challenge the player’s tactical skills. A revised user interface and controls support this in the mobile version.
Planescape: Torment (1999, Roleplay)
The mobile version of “Planescape: Torment” is a meticulous adaptation of the award-winning PC game, with a focus on a deep narrative experience, set in the world of the multi-layered Planescape universe. The developers have managed to preserve the rich story and complex character relationships while optimising the controls for touchscreen devices, which makes the immersive story accessible whilst on your travels. The mobile version of this game, which is renowned for its philosophical dialog and moral choices, offers one of the best narrative experiences the roleplay genre has to offer.
Neverwinter Nights (2002, Roleplay)
“Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition” for mobile devices presents the extensive and detailed world of the original game, with improved graphics and an optimised user interface that ensures a pleasant gaming experience on touchscreen devices. The developers have not only retained the core aspects of the classic Dungeons & Dragons game; they have also expanded the multiplayer and modding capabilities, making the mobile version a multifaceted, in-depth RPG experience. This Enhanced Edition honours the legacy of “Neverwinter Nights” by enriching the original game mechanics and content, making the comprehensive adventure available to travellers. The mobile version of this gigantic game also includes the major expansions ‘Shadows of Undrentide’ (SoU) and ‘Hordes of the Underdark’ (HotU). The additional DLCs, ‘Kingmaker’, ‘ShadowGuard’ and ‘Witch’s Wake’, turn the game into an adventure that offers more than 100 hours of playtime.
XCOM 2 Collection (2016, Tactical Shooter)
The “XCOM 2 Collection” for mobile devices packs the full experience of the highly acclaimed tactical shooter, complete with expansions and DLCs, into an impressive mobile version. The developers have done an excellent job of adapting the complex strategic elements and deep customisation options of the combat units for touchscreens, without compromising the graphic quality and depth of the game. This makes the “XCOM 2 Collection” a showcase example of how to successfully transfer a sophisticated PC and console game to mobile platforms, providing a seamless, immersive experience for strategy fans who are on the move.
Sid Meier’s Civilization 6 (2016, Strategy)
The mobile version of “Sid Meier’s Civilization VI” brings the complex gameplay and strategic depth of the highly acclaimed PC strategy game to touchscreen devices, without any compromises in terms of content or playability. Players can now experience the building of empires, researching of new technologies and waging of war against historical leaders anywhere, anytime. This new edition for mobile devices has successfully brought this classical game into the modern age of mobile gaming, and it enables a fully-fledged Civ experience on a small screen.
Tropico (2001, Strategy/Simulation)
The new edition of “Tropico” for mobile devices transfers the popular dictatorship simulator’s unique blend of city management and political manipulation to smartphones and tablets. Players take on the role of “El Presidente” and control the fate of their own island nation, with the aim of gaining and maintaining power while monitoring the needs and welfare of the citizens at the same time. With a user interface that is optimised for touchscreens and graphics that capture the characteristic atmosphere of the series, the mobile version of “Tropico” offers a fascinating and humorous approach to the complex issues of power and governance.
Titan Quest (2006, Action Roleplay)
The mobile version of “Titan Quest” brings the much-loved roleplay action game to mobile devices, complete with its mythological theme and profound character development. This remake adapts the classic hack-and-slash experience to touch controls, taking players on a journey through ancient worlds, where they can battle legendary creatures wherever they encounter them. Despite the challenge of bringing a large PC game to a smaller screen, the core gaming experience has been retained and complemented by an intuitive user interface and customised controls.
Max Payne (2001, Third-Person Shooter)
The mobile version of “Max Payne” preserves the sinister atmosphere and intense narrative of the original, whilst placing the groundbreaking bullet-time shooter action into the hands of the player. This remake, which is optimised for mobile platforms, with customised control options and a graphically revamped user interface, allows fans and new players alike to experience the tragic story of the titular anti-hero.
Jade Empire (2005, Action Roleplay)
The mobile version of “Jade Empire” brings the immersive adventure of the award-winning roleplay game, set in ancient China, to the small screen, complete with its captivating story and innovative combat system. This adaptation retains the epic narrative and rich, evocative world of the original, while offering intuitive touch controls for a seamless gaming experience for people on the move.
Sid Meier’s Railroads! (2006, Strategy/Simulation)
The mobile version of “Sid Meier’s Railroads!” transfers the fun and the challenges of building a railway empire from the desktop to the mobile device, without sacrificing the complex management and planning of the original. The intuitive user interface and touchscreen-adapted controls allow travellers to effectively build railways, control trains and develop an economic network.
Company of Heroes (2013, Realtime Strategy)
The mobile version of “Company of Heroes” presents the intense real-time strategy game, which focuses on troop leadership and tactical warfare in World War II, with touchscreen-optimised controls. This adaptation enhances the experience of “Company of Heroes 2” by retaining the profound strategic gameplay structure and historical accuracy, allowing the player to conduct sophisticated military operations directly on a mobile device.
Final Fantasy 1-10 Beginning with “Final Fantasy I” in 1987, to “Final Fantasy X” in 2001 (Roleplay)
The mobile versions of “Final Fantasy I to X” bring the legendary roleplay series, with its epic storylines, iconic characters and innovative battle systems, to smartphone and tablet. Square Enix has managed to faithfully transpose these classic games by carefully remastering the graphics and optimising the user interfaces for touchscreens, allowing for an accessible, fluid gaming experience. The adaptations allow a new generation of gamers to experience the beginnings and evolution of one of the most significant series in the history of video games, while long-time fans can enjoy their favourite titles anywhere, anytime.
DOOM (1993, First-Person Shooter)
The mobile version of “DOOM” brings the classical first-person shooter experience, with all its fast-paced gameplay and the iconic arsenal of weapons, to mobile devices. The developers have done an excellent job of preserving the essence of DOOM’s demon-infested corridors and chaotic combat, while implementing smooth and intuitive controls for the touchscreen. The result is a faithful conversion that brings the adrenaline-fuelled action and challenging levels of the original game to mobile devices, offering both new and experienced players an immersive DOOM experience on the go.
Metal Slug 1-5 (1996, Run-and-Gun)
The “Metal Slug” series, which is known for its action-packed shoot-’em-up games, also includes Titles 1, 2, 3 and 5 for mobile devices. With their characteristic graphics and dynamic gameplay, these games offer the classic arcade experience. However, the gaming experience on mobile platforms suffers from an inadequate control system, which is often criticised, as it affects the accuracy and enjoyment of the game.
The Sega Sonic the Hedgehog Classic series (1991, Run-and-Gun)
The Sega Sonic the Hedgehog Classic series, available for mobile devices, offers a modern reinterpretation of the iconic and fast-paced platform games featuring the famous blue hedgehog. These mobile versions preserve the original gameplay and graphics while simultaneously being optimized for touchscreen controls, enabling fans to enjoy a seamless gaming experience on smartphones and tablets. The first part of the retro series is available for free on mobile with very annoying ads, but if you pay €1.99, the game becomes ad-free.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 (2007, Roleplay)
The iPad remake of “Divinity: Original Sin 2” is an outstanding example of how modern technology can transform an already excellent game into an even more impressive mobile experience. The game is definitely one of the best RPGs of recent years, and on the tablet, it’s one of my absolute favorite games. Developed by Larian Studios in collaboration with Elverils and Apple, this role-playing game masterpiece is brought to the iPad, fully utilizing the powerful features of the iPad Pro. The adaptation to the mobile platform is seamless, with graphics optimized for the iPad and a user interface specially designed for touchscreen control, while also supporting external keyboards and controllers. The game retains all its depth and complexity, offering the complete story campaign as well as the original’s multiplayer options. With the ability to synchronize game saves via the cloud, it enables a seamless transition between different devices, making the game ideal for on-the-go play. This remake is not just a technical achievement but also a triumph in game development, redefining the boundaries of mobile gaming and transforming “Divinity: Original Sin 2” into an even more immersive and impressive gaming experience. The game works only on the latest iPads due to its high requirements.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2. (2003, Roleplay)
The remake of “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” (KotOR) 1 and 2 for mobile devices is a triumphant revival of these legendary role-playing games, set in a fascinating era of the Star Wars universe. Originally released in the early 2000s, these games offer players an in-depth exploration of the galaxy, thousands of years before the rise of Darth Vader. In these remakes for mobile devices, the epic narrative of power, betrayal, and heroic adventures has been masterfully reimagined with modern technology. They combine intuitive touchscreen control with graphical enhancements, creating a fluid and visually impressive gaming experience. Players have the opportunity to choose their own path, develop characters, and make crucial decisions that influence the fate of the galaxy. These remakes not only offer new fans access to one of the most celebrated stories in the Star Wars universe but also allow long-time followers to re-experience this profound journey.
Emulators for mobile devices:
The use of emulators on mobile devices allows for retro games, originally developed for older consoles and computer systems, to be played on modern smartphones and tablets. This opens up a convenient way to enjoy classic games without needing to own or use the original consoles. Through emulators, users can experience a wide range of retro titles from various eras and platforms directly on their mobile devices, making these games accessible to a new audience. Classics that I have enjoyed playing with emulators include the Pokémon titles and various Super Mario games.