It is the time to be merry and play football in the world. Yes, the World Cup is well and truly upon us and the landscape (digital as well as real) is littered with footy symbols reflecting devotion to the game in general and loyalty to teams in particular. And as it is the most popular sport in the world, it is hardly surprising that it has spawned dozens of mobile games. But whether it is EA’s epic FIFA series, Konami’s equally famous Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) or the numerous team management games that populate app stores across the globe, what cannot be denied that one of the simplest games to play in the real world (pick up a ball, kick it) is also the most complex in the digital one – there are team and skill selections, complicated menus, even more complicated UIs (press this to dribble, swipe that to shoot, et al) and in many cases, even the demand for constant connectivity. So if you are looking for some real life-like high-quality football gaming action on your handsets, be ready to put up a learning curve that is as devious as one of David Beckham’s free kicks.
On the other hand, if all you are looking for is a simple kick in the grass and a quick few minutes of footy fun, well, we would suggest trying out the following apps. They might not have official team jerseys or players or stadia, but what they have is simple pick up and play joy. Oh and like the best things in life, they are free (although they do have in-app purchases):
Flick Kick Football Kickoff (iOS, Android)
It does not get simpler than this really. All you have to do is swipe the ball into the goal from different positions on the pitch. There are a few obstacles in your path – defenders and goalkeepers who are sometimes static and sometimes moving, and a few tricky angles too. You can opt to try and score as many goals in a fixed time or just simply carry on scoring until you miss too many shots. The graphics are good, the sound effects neat, and the physics spot on – you will find yourself trying to curve the ball even when there is no need to.
Stick Soccer 2 (iOS, Android)
Yes, it is from the same folks who gave us the amazingly simple and fun Stick Cricket. No, it is not as simple as the original Stick Soccer (now seemingly available only on some app stores, alas), but it still is ridiculously addictive. You take on the opposition and simply try to score more goals than your opponent. Goal scoring is as easy as swiping the ball and as difficult as getting around well-placed defenders and goalkeepers. The physics seem odd and the ball sometimes seems to wobble unusually and we do not like the concept of not being able to stop the goals of our opponents or the complexities brought in by bonus cards and all, but at its core, this remains a simple, good footy time waster. Oh and we love the player celebrations – be it the rolling around in laughter when you miss or faux Macarenas.
Final Kick 2018 (iOS, Android)
They might make the pundits blanch, but there is nothing quite as exciting for the casual spectator in football as penalty kicks. And this game has made literally an art form out of the whole penalty taking and saving process. You alternate between goal scorer and goal saver as your team goes through a series of tie-breakers. And can even improve abilities and go into a free kick mode. The ball behavior is very realistic and the game is sensitive even to the subtle changes of speed and swing from your swipes. And it looks gorgeous. Yes, the player celebrations can look ghastly, but then FIFA and PES are no angels in that department.
Score! Hero (iOS, Android)
This is for the managerial, strategically inclined types who do not have the patience for selecting and managing squads in other elaborate football strategy games (we are looking at you, Top Eleven and PES Club Manager). Score Hero creates scenarios and challenges you to score goals from them. Your job is simply to create passes and shots between players. The number of players on the screen will change, including the number of defenders, and the design of the game is so good that there are often multiple ways of scoring a goal from the same situation. A neat touch is the ability to put your own name on a player and his jersey and even see it appearing in faux news headlines, as you go through your career. There is a special World Cup mode too. For those who want to use their little grey cells on the Beautiful Game, without getting too caught up in menus and controls. The graphics are superb and even the celebrations look realistic.
Flick Kick Football Legends (iOS, Android)
It comes from the same folks who made Flick Kick Football. But it is a very different game. And thankfully, still not at all difficult. We would actually call it perhaps the most comprehensive casual soccer game out there. You are in charge of a team that you have to lead to glory and no, there is no formation tinkering or anything – you just have to do what players do on a football ground: tackle, pass, shoot, save. All with well-timed swipes. The game comes with eighties comic book style graphics and a very cheeky narrative, including a pair of truly pun-tastic commentators. Perhaps our own personal favorite of all the games in this list.
Football Strike (iOS, Android)
This is for the PUBG types who like frenetic online action. The game is basically all about swiping a ball into a net, sometimes at a target that is placed inside the goal. Sounds simple enough? It is. Until you factor in the fact that there is an online opponent trying to do exactly the same – and sometimes the person pops up right in front of you as you take a shot at goal. There are different scenarios – you can go toe to toe in a shooting contest with your opponent or get into classic tiebreaker and switch between goal scoring and being the goalkeeper. This is as thrilling as quick online footy gets. Just make sure you have a good Internet connection handy.