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Games to go: Our favorite shooters, simulators and more for your smartphone

Nov. 25, 2011 - 03:00PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 25, 2011 - 03:00PM  |  
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App gamers easily can buy more than a dozen of today's top titles from the Android and Apple app stores for the price of a single console game. That's a little like comparing viral videos on YouTube to big-budget movie blockbusters, but mobile games are closing the gap.

Android and Apple devices "have already disrupted billions of dollars of game revenue," say the number crunchers at mobile-industry analytics company Flurry — with Android and iPhone game apps already earning more than Nintendo DS and Sony PSP games combined.

The biggest moneymakers are the so-called "free" apps. Developers hook new players with a taste of the action, then up-sell add-ons. Here are some of our favorite alternatives to the price (and time suck) of the console. Like with many of today's console games, you can pay a little more to upgrade many basic apps.

1. Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation

This app puts Hollywood-like action in the palm of your hand. The third installment taps your device's gyro for fast-paced first-person-shooter action — think of it as a mobile battle buddy to "Call of Duty." An immersive battlespace and in-depth story line propel you through the 13-level campaign mode. Call in reinforcements with up 12 squad mates in multiplayer. Earn weapons upgrades as you rank up or buy them with in-app purchases.

• Platform: Android/iOS ($6.99).

2. Great Little War Game HD

Fans of Nintendo's "Advance Wars" series for the Game Boy and DS will find a lot to love in this turn-based game that blends cartoony fun with serious strategy. A generous campaign mode and multiplayer options, plus in-app add-ons, ensure plenty of play time for the money.

• Platform: Android/iOS ($2.99).

3. Zombie Gunship

What's better than spraying zombies with a 25mm Gatling gun from an orbiting AC-130 "Spectre" gunship? How about blasting them with a 104mm howitzer? Throw in a Bofors cannon and you're in business. But don't get too trigger-happy — you've got civilians to protect, and collateral damage will get you grounded.

• Platform: iOS ($0.99).

4. Ultimate Utility for MW3

Some apps can help enhance your console play. Like a Leatherman for "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" players, this comes with an unlockables checklist, maps, HD video tutorials, "Pwn Box" live chat with friends, handy create-a-class, stats calculator, real-time stats feed and more.

• Platform: iOS ($3.99).

5. Shadow Cities

As a mage-in-training cast into a digital doppelganger of your own town in this charming MMORPG, you'll battle for dominance on bewitchingly familiar streets. Made by Finnish company Grey Area, the game takes alternative reality to a new level by tapping your device's GPS to literally put you in the middle of the action as you make friends and divine new strategies with local players through in-game chat.

• Platform: iOS (Free).

6. Dead Space

Winner of the "Meffy" mobile entertainment industry award for best game of 2011, it's the prequel to the console space horror hit "Dead Space II." A third-person shooter from EA, the app gets high marks for its movie-quality soundtrack, lush-if-grisly visuals, and the freaktastic alien horde you must battle your way through to survive.

• Platform: iOS ($6.99).

7. String Augmented Reality Showcase

Bring the "wow factor" back to your handheld with this app from String Labs. It's a glimpse into the future of gaming and, in all likelihood, mobile advertising and marketing as well. "Augmented reality" meets next-gen 3-D animation as you watch a dragon — from any angle you want — fly out of your desk. It's just one of the four technology demo/games included in this eye-popping app.

• Platform: iOS (Free).

8. MetalStorm: Wingman

Engage in air-to-air combat against the computer in campaign mode or, better yet, Top Gun contenders from across the globe via Wi-Fi and 3G. Enable smack-talking ("Yee-haw, Jester's dead!") with voice chat. A variety of upgradable aircraft keeps things interesting. You'll have to fork over real money to tune your bird into a top performer, but there's endless game play available without paying a dime.

• Platform: iOS (Free).

9. Anomaly Warzone Earth HD

The tower defense genre meets the old military adage about the best offense: Chilingo's Anomaly puts you at the helm of an armored convoy making its way through the tower- and turret-laden territory controlled by alien invaders.

• Platform: iOS ($3.99).

10. Dark Meadow

Like a long-awaited reboot of "Myst" in its eerie visuals, haunting atmospherics, engrossing storytelling and unravel-the-puzzle predicaments, this title from Phosphor Games Studio adds a welcome crossbow and sword to take on the monsters as you roam the halls of an otherwise abandoned hospital.

• Platform: iOS ($5.99).

11. Call of Duty: Zombies

More evil than Nazis? Nazi zombies! Oh, they're so going down. With four massive maps, the game supports up to four players via Wi-Fi/Internet and two players linked by Bluetooth. And with the option of either private or open matchmaking, there's always someone to go Zombie-hunting with.

• Platform: iOS ($4.99), Android ($0.99).

12. FIFA Soccer '12

Complete with more than 20 leagues, 500 teams and 15,000 players, this companion to EA's console game of the same name has scored well with even the most devoted soccer fans. Blur the lines between console and mobile by using an iPhone or iPod touch as the controller and an iPad as the screen.

• Platform: iOS ($4.99), iPad ($9).

13. My Horse

You'll get this for the kids, but don't be surprised if you find yourself a little taken by this virtual steed. There's a Zen-like simplicity to the minigames and challenges that all revolve around basic care and feeding.

• Platform: iOS (Free).

14. Asphalt 6: Adrenaline

This tilt-to-steer Gameloft title pulls ahead from the other racing games with its high-speed graphics, stunning maps and deep stable of 48 fully customizable cars and motorcycles. Up to five players can join you on the track, either locally or on your Wi-Fi network. Online and worldwide leader boards letyou know how you stack up against the competition.

• Platform: iOS ($0.99), Android ($6.99).

15. Trade Nations

No shooting, no smashing, no outmaneuvering — not a zombie or even a slightly irate bird in sight — and yet, it's surprisingly addictive. Channel your "SimCity" creative urges to the small screen with this Z2Live medieval town-builder while indulging your inner mogul as you play the in-game stock market to leverage your earnings. Invite friends into the game while you build your empire through trade.

• Platform: iOS (Free).

16. Eden World Builder

Building on PC-based world-builders like "Minecraft" — and real-world builders like Legos — this title from Kingly Games lets blockheads go crazy from the ground up.

• Platform: iOS ($0.99).

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