Pokemon GO blew the doors off AR (augmented reality) games in 2016, and mobile game developers have been rushing to capitalize on this burst of popularity. With AR, a game adds objects to the worldmore
Pokemon GO blew the doors off AR (augmented reality) games in 2016, and mobile game developers have been rushing to capitalize on this burst of popularity. With AR, a game adds objects to the world around you -- fuzzy animals, evil robots, furniture -- which you view via the camera on your phone or tablet. But Google doesn't offer a good way to find these games on its app store, so we've done the digging and surfaced these gems for you.
Before Niantic made Pokemon GO, it made Ingress, and you can see the resemblance. Like Pokemon GO, you go out into the real world with a map as your guide to collect virtual items. In Ingress, however, you are in one of two factions that are competing for the items, so you're not just playing for yourself. You can wander the map in an open-ended fashion, or you can participate in Missions, which are structured with multiple activities that need to be completed in order. As with Pokemon GO, it's important to stay aware of your real-life surroundings to avoid injury.
Niantic announced in December 2017 that Ingress will be getting a major free overhaul dubbed "Ingress Prime," so cultivating some playing experience now may give you a leg up when that comes out. Ingress is free to play; it generates money from sponsored in-game items and sales of game currency and physical merchandise related to the game.
The Google Play Store is full of AR games involving ghosts and monsters, and SpecTrek is definitely one of the better ones, combining Pokemon GO-like neighborhood exploration with supernatural spooky vibes. It obviously lends itself to nighttime navigation, though, so we recommend the buddy system and a flashlight to help prevent injury. It can also function as an informal fitness app, because some voyages may take you over a mile, and SpecTrek has a calorie-burning tracker. The game is $2.49, and as with all Android games, you can request a full refund from within your Google Play app if you made the purchase less than 48 hours earlier.
If you prefer something more stationary, you can play Splitter Critters without having to get up from the couch. This puzzler has you slice the 2D game world with your fingertip, which separates the world into sections that you can put back together in ways that open up different escape routes for your critter buddies. Don't let the first few levels fool you -- it starts easy but gets challenging. Its optional AR mode projects a cube in front of you, inside of which is the game world. When you pan your phone's camera left and right, you can get a different angle on the scene, which isn't necessary to solve its puzzles but gives you a visual perspective that wasn't possible before. You can set this cube down on a surface or just hang it in mid-air. Splitter Critters is $2.99 and has no ads.
On mobile devices, stacking games are practically their own genre. Stack It AR takes the concept and puts it in an augmented space. Blocks slide back and forth on their own, and the trick is to tap when one block is fully on top of another. If you hit it just right, you can keep stacking as high as you like. But the blocks slide progressively faster, and when a block doesn't fully line up with the one below it, the hanging edge gets sliced off, and your next block is that much smaller. So your blocks get smaller and smaller over time, and they eventually disappear altogether. There's no point beyond just seeing how high you can stack, but it can be a fun time waster. Stack It AR is free and comes with ads that pop up after you've completed your stack.
Okay, it's not actually a game, but Stellarium is a really handy AR app to have in your tool chest. It's like having a mobile planetarium that fits in your pocket. Just point it up at the sky, and it will detect your location and show you the constellations and names of stars in your region of the world, at that time of day. It's good for entertainment, and for teaching yourself how to navigate via the stars, which is handy if you get lost in the wilderness while looking for good spots to stare up at the sky. There are many AR apps like this one, but we prefer Stellarium for its overall polish. It's just $2.49 and has no ads.