Tech Transformers

Snake to Candy Crush: 10 iconic mobile games

Franckreporter | E+ | Getty Images

Mobile gaming has exploded in recent years with the rise of smartphones and the ability to download a game at the click of a button.

Last year, global mobile gaming revenues topped $30 billion, a 23 percent rise from the year before, with rapid growth set to continue, according to analyst firm Newzoo.

"It's fair to say that mobile gaming has reached heights in 2015 that few of us would have expected a decade ago," Newzoo said in a recent report.

As Mobile World Congress in Barcelona approaches, CNBC looks back at some of the most iconic mobile games - so far.

- By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal

Tetris (1984)

Source: Tetris | Facebook

Concept: Players have to slot different shapes together as they fall from the top of the screen. When a solid horizontal line is created, the row is eliminated. That is a good thing because if you stack the shapes until they reach the top of the screen, you will lose.

"Tetris" was originally invented in Russia and gained international popularity on Nintendo's Game Boy when it was launched on the platform in 1989.

But the simple game has been on plenty of other devices since, including mobile phones, where it has seen a lot of success.

Snake (1997)

Arvid Rudling | Flickr

Concept: Players have to control a snake using the keypad on a feature phone to collect food. But when the snake eats, its body gets bigger and there's only limited space on the phone screen. As soon as your snake hit its own body or the walls, it's game over.

In the late nineties and early 2000s, "Snake" was the hottest game around – mainly because it was one of the only games on mobile phones.

The first "Snake" game was pre-installed on Nokia's 6110 handset which was available in 1997. Snake II was released on the Nokia 3310. It got various iterations over the years with graphics improving as phones got better.

Analysts said that "Snake's" success was due to the fact it was simple and users could not simply download new games like they can today.

"It had complete domination over that platform," Heloise Thomson, research analyst at Enders Analysis, told CNBC by phone. "Every single person in the world who ever had a phone at that time had that game and had played it."

The original image can be found here.

Space Impact (2000)

Marcus Rerre | YouTube

Concept: "Space Impact" sees players controlling a tiny ship through outer space and shooting whatever alien life forms crosses their path. But you can only move up and down, while the pace of your spaceship moving forward is out of your control.

As far as monochrome games on feature phones go, this was one of the more complex. It debuted on the Nokia 3310 and was pre-loaded on many of the company's future phones.

Angry Birds (2009)

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Concept: The game involves firing some pretty angry birds via a slingshot into objects in order to kill the bad pigs. There are a number of different birds which each have their own features. These include the ability to explode or to speed up in flight.

Mobile games finally came into their own with release of Apples iPhone. Released two years after the first iPhone, "Angry Birds" exploded as smartphones became more popular, giving people the ability to use touch screen to control the flight of the birds.

Rovio, the Finnish maker of "Angry Birds" has released several versions of the game, including a Star Wars-themed one. Its games have been downloaded over 3 billion times and the first official sequel, "Angry Birds 2", was released last year.

"It was one of the first games that really sold the concept of playing games in an addictive and casual way on mobile devices," Thomson said.

But it's not just games that Rovio makes. The company has expanded the "Angry Birds" franchise into a TV show as well as an upcoming movie. It also sells merchandise.

Plants vs Zombies (2009)


Concept: A mob of zombies is about to invade your house and your only defense is a bunch of plants. Using different plants from Peashooters to Cherry Bombs players need to try and hold off the zombie attack. But each zombie has a different ability so users need to deploy plants carefully.

It's a whacky premise, but "Plants vs Zombies" took off in a big way, helped by the fact that it was a simple strategy game with a broad appeal, particularly among children.

"This is an example of what's known as a 'tower defense' game, where people defend an area by placing various traps and weapons to take down incoming enemies. The genre had been popularized by Fieldrunners in 2008, but PopCap took the idea and injected it with great big bubbles of personality, via witty, silly spins on cartoon zombies and houseplants," Steve Bailey, senior games analyst at IHS, told CNBC by phone.

PopCap, the developer of the game, did not stop there and went on to release "Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare" and "Plants vs Zombies 2".

Fruit Ninja (2010)

Halfbrick Studios

Concept: Who knew slicing fruit with a cartoon character could be so entertaining? That's what players have to do in "Fruit Ninja" by swiping their finger across the screen in different directions as fruit falls from the sky.

With over one billion downloads, "Fruit Ninja" has proved its popularity and addictiveness. Halfbrick Studios, the game's creator, has sought to reinvent the title, adding new mini-games and levels.

A number of spinoffs were also released including "Fruit Ninja Academy" and "Fruit Ninja Kinect".

Analysts said that the success of the game is down to ways in which players could physically interact with the game using the swipe motion.

"You really felt like you were interacting with the animation on the phone. It was really using the input style, swiping in complex shapes, that was in essence different to other games," Thomson said.

Temple Run (2011)

Imangi Studios

Concept: Run and keep running. This endless game sees players controlling an explorer through a maze with obstacles in the way from fallen trees to broken pathways, collecting coins as you go along. The aim is to beat your previous score.

Like many of its predecessors, the simplicity of the premise has seen "Temple Run" downloaded over a billion times since its inception, according to the latest official figures from 2014.

"Temple Run" also took advantage of improving mobile capabilities, allowing players to tilt their tablet or smartphone to move the player. The ability to play a quick game while commuting or during an idle moment helped boost its popularity, analysts explained.

"It is a fast paced game that's addictive and doesn't ask you for anything. You have to think about what the context of people playing this game is. It's probably sitting at home or commuting," Thomson said.

Candy Crush Saga (2012)

The 'Candy Crush Saga' game is displayed on an iPhone 5S and iPad Air.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Concept: Matching candy to create different types of candy in order to reach the target points to get to the next level.

That's the premise of "Candy Crush" which took mobiles and tablets by storm when it was released in 2012 by King. Since then, the New York-listed games company has released 13 other titles with a third installment in the "Candy Crush" franchise.

"Candy Crush Saga" has remained consistently one of the top grossing apps in Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store. Analysts attribute this to the way it keeps players hooked and wanting more.

"Something like Candy Crush is especially good at inducing what's known as a 'flow state' in players, where they move seamlessly from one action to the next, remaining engrossed thanks to the 'flowing' nature of attention that they're giving to the game," Bailey said.

King has been trying to move its game beyond mobile to boost revenues and last year announced that some of its games will be pre-installed on Windows 10 devices.

Clash of Clans (2012)

A woman plays the "Clash of Clans" from computer game maker Supercell on a tablet computer.
Vesa Moilanen | AFP | Getty Images

Concept: "Clash of Clans" is a so-called massively multiplayer online (MMO) game where players build up a city, train troops, build defenses and attack other players to earn gold.

The premise of "Clash of Clans" is not new, other games such as "Civilization" which was made popular on the PC, had a similar concept.

But with a big marketing push that included TV ads, and simplicity of gameplay on mobile, "Clash of Clans" has consistently been one of the app store chart toppers since its inception.

"They were one of the first ones to popularize real time strategy games on mobile," Thomson said.

The game also has many social elements such as fighting other clans or joining clans which Thomson said helps keep players engaged.

2048 (2014)

Concept: "2048" is a puzzle game in which players have to rearrange tiles to make the number 2048.

It sounds simple, right? But when it was launched, the game went viral with many people expressing their frustrations with it on social media. Gabriele Cirulli was the 19-year-old creator who made the game in one weekend. It racked up 10 million unique users in its first month.

But the concept was not new. A similar games called "Threes" was released prior to it.

"You get into a trance playing it," Thomson said. "It's a very simple but addictive concept broadly applicable to people who can count," she added explaining its mass appeal.