Adventure gamebooks, like the Fighting Fantasy and Choose Your Own Adventure series, were popular pastimes for children and young adults in the '80s and '90s, transporting readers into fantasy realms, pulp fiction scenarios and sci-fi universes. The genre has undergone something of a mobile revival, with publishers such as Tin Man Games, Inkle and Choice of Games delivering everything from classic gamebook fun to more experimental interactive fiction apps that play around with the possibilities of the digital medium. Check out 15 of our favorite mobile gamebooks. (Image Credit: Raiwin Mannak/Shutterstock)
One of the best gamebook app series in recent memory is also an excellent revival of one of the best paperback gamebook series. Steve Jackson's Sorcery series received a brilliant digital reimagining at the hands of Inkle, staying true to Sorcery's "choose your path" style adventures while also improving the presentation with combat minigames and a detailed map that shows the path and choices you make on the quest to restore the Crown of Kings. Cross-episode saves let you bring your character forward into the game's later episodes, and the entire saga is now complete, letting you explore the full story from Sorcery!: The Shamutanti Hills (Android, iOS), to Khare, the City of Traps (Android, iOS), The Seven Serpents (Android, iOS), and the penultimate episode, The Crown of Kings (Android, iOS)
Inkle gets even more experimental with its next piece of interactive fiction: 80 Days (Android, iOS), based on Jules Verne's classic Around The World in 80 Days. As the loyal valet Passepartout, you accompany your master Phileas Fogg in his globe-trotting journey through a steampunk Earth filled with automata, Artificers and airships. Players must race through the world's great cities, discovering new routes and stumbling across mysteries while exploring each city through a "choose your path" interface. Discover the fastest routes, balance your finances, pack the right inventory in your limited luggage space, and maybe you just might win Fogg's epic wager and circumnavigate the world in 80 days.
Imagine William Shakespeare's Hamlet as a choose-your-path gamebook app, and you get Ryan North's To Be or Not To Be, which has you playing the part of Hamlet, Ophelia or Hamlet Senior on their insane adventures. Powered by Tin Man Games' Gamebook Adventures engine, the app takes full advantage of the digital format by accompanying the text with music, sound effects, hilarious achievements and an end-game "Haml-o-Meter" featuring a statistics page that compares your choices with the Bard's. A particular delight is the wealth of illustrations by a variety of Web comic greats such as Kate Beaton (Hark, A Vagrant), Zach Weinersmith (SMBC), and Matthew Inman (Oatmeal). Incredibly hilarious and brilliantly executed, To Be or Not To Be is a great addition to your app library. Fans of the gamebook take note: Ryan North has also just released a new choose your path book, Romeo and/or Juliet about a certain pair of star-crossed lovers. Here's hoping it also gets an app release.
Another lighthearted gamebook from Tin Man Games, Trial of the Clone delivers a humorous pastiche of space opera stories. Readers take on the role of an unwanted clone, raised by the mysterious Silene Monks, who is out to explore the universe and become a hero — or die horribly. With a script written by Zach Wienersmith of Sunday Morning Breakfast Cereal and voiceovers by Wil Wheaton, Trial of the Clone delivers much hilarity, while operating with the tried and true Gamebook Adventures engine.
Choices That Matter (Android, iOS) is an interesting change in Tin Man Games' usual gamebook format. Instead of delivering a complete interactive story in a single package that you can read through in one go, Choices presents its content in an episodic format, with new content unlocked every week. It's also a free app, with players getting a limited number of "choice tokens" to make choices in the story; players can also subscribe to the app to get unlimited choices for their playthrough. The first story arc, And The Sun Went Out, explores a near future where the sun has mysteriously gone out, while the second, And Their Souls Were Eaten, is a journey through a steampunk Europe of high tech and high magic, with a new story (And Their Heroes Were Lost) currently ongoing.
Redemption Season (Android, iOS) marks the start of a new arc in Zachary Sergei's Hero Project series of choose your path games, with players taking on the role of a contestant in a reality show about super-powered heroes. Choice of Games's many titles might not have the same audiovisual thrills as those of other app publishers, but the company makes up for it with a focus on rich and varied writing, as well as a handy stats tracker system that makes it easy for players to track how their choices affect a story and its varied characters. If this one tickles your fancy, you might want to check out earlier titles in the series such as Heroes Rise, The Hero Project, and HeroFall.
Crack big cases like who stole your best friend's bicycle, face down bullies, and maybe, just maybe, get a date for the big school dance in Sixth Grade Detective (Android, iOS), a young adult choose-your-path novel by Laura Hughes. Another example of Choice of Games' rich selection of content, Sixth Grade Detective does away with super-powered conflict and adult themes for a more grounded story about coming of age, friendship, petty crime and cheeky sixth grade consulting detectives.