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Guide to Playing Mobile Games

This Mobilook guide for cell phone users helps novice gamers learn about the basics of mobile gaming and helps experienced gamers get to the next level. It describes game genres and handset platforms. It discusses how to to download games and play online games. Finally, it lists some providers of mobile games.

  1. Overview of Mobile Games
  2. Mobile Game Phone Platforms
  3. Mobile Handsets and Devices for Games
  4. Downloadable Mobile Games
  5. Online Mobile Games
  6. Choosing a Phone Handset for Playing Games
  7. Where Can I Get Free Mobile Games?

1. Overview of Mobile Games

Mobile games are games that you play on your mobile phone handset or device. Mobile games are also know as mobile phone games or wireless games. Mobile games are played on your mobile device (installed, downloaded) , by connecting to the Internet or with some else via Bluetooth wireless technology.

Mobile games are a great activity when you are away from your computer or game console and have some time to spare, want to escape from problems or worries -- or just have some fun! For example, while commuting, on your lunch or coffee break, or while waiting somewhere. With your cell phone, you can be engaged and entertained.

Depending on your phone and wireless service provider, you probably have some games installed on your mobile phone already. Other games may be available for download only on specific handsets or from particular carriers. There are a dozens of handset software platforms, each with its own set of compatible games. The most popular platforms are Java (J2ME) and BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Windows).

Mobile phone games are available from game publishers, distributors, portals and wireless service providers (such as carriers). Some games are free, but they are usually simple games or lack support. Some can be purchased for prices up to about US$20, but they can have a limited time activation. And other games are played online (Internet) and paid for per minute of play.

When an existing computer or console video game is written for a mobile platform, it is usually simplified – complex graphics removed and complex controls simplified – depending on the original level of complexity. The developers try to keep the original, often addictive, game-play that made them popular. But the real action or intrigue is usually subdued.

Game Genres

The genres of mobile games that are available range from classic arcade games such as Pac-Man to recent action titles such as Splinter Cell. See game providers for complete lists. Here's a list of the main genres of mobile games and some examples:

  • Action/Adventure – Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
  • Arcade – Ms. PAC-Man for Prizes.
  • Board/Puzzle/Quiz/Trivia – Bejeweled Multi-player Puzzle, Zuma , Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Trivial Pursuit.
  • Casino/Card/Slots – Poker, backgammon, chess.
  • Fighting – Boxing, karate, etc.
  • Girls – Flow CmM MiniFizz adventure game for girls.
  • Literati – Intelligence tests, scholarly, aptitude tests.
  • Racing – Car, motorcycle. Midtown Madness 3 Mobile.
  • Role Playing (single/multi-player) – Might and Magic, Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate.
  • Shooter – Sky Force.
  • Simulator – Aircraft pilot, train engineer (driver), etc.
  • Sports (skate , surf ,snow , tennis) – JAMDAT Sports' NFL Football 2005, Tony Hawk's Underground 2, VANS Skate & Slam.
  • Strategy/Simulations – Lemonade Tycoon Simulation, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3.

2. Mobile Game Phone Platforms

The most popular mobile phone software platforms for downloadable games are Java and BREW.

Java, or J2ME (Java Version 2 Mobile Edition), is a programming language from Sun Microsystems Inc. used for writing mobile applications such as games. Your mobile device needs Java runtime software to run the game program. Many carriers, especially GSM operators worldwide, support Java applications.

Brew is a software standard from Qualcomm Inc. for developing and distributing wireless (mobile) applications. The Brew runtime software comes installed on selected phones. Brew is popular on CDMA wireless networks.

Other popular mobile game platforms are: WAP (Wireless Access Protocol for websites), Mophun, SMS (Short Message Service), DoJa ("DoCoMo Java" in Japan), Microsoft Pocket PC, N-Gage (Nokia mobile game deck), Palm OS, Symbian OS and i-Mode.

3. Mobile Handsets and Devices for Games

Some mobile phone devices are designed for game playing and come with many dedicated game controls and features. The most popular phones for playing mobile games are:

  • N-Gage or N-Gage QD – Nokia's sideways-style multi-player game device and mobile phone handset. Play games with others via GPRS network or Bluetooth wireless. The leading mobile game phone on the market.
  • Top 10 Phones for Gaming (GameSpot hardware review).
  • Series 60 Mobile Phones – Recent type of phone handset has enhanced game features. Available from leading handset makers and service providers.

Display Screen

A large, high-resolution color screen is preferred for gaming. You can see more of the game space and see more details of the graphics.

The best quality screen is TFT (Thin Film Transistor), also known as Active Matrix LCD. TFT displays have a high contrast ratio (1:150) and fast refresh speed. TFT displays are the brightest screens and show the most vivid colors.


A joystick is better than a four-way directional button for playing games. The feel of the joystick should be tight and responsive for good control during fast action.

Some handsets can connect to an add-on joystick, but this is an additional piece of equipment you have to carry around.

Keypad Buttons

The handset's regular buttons should be easy to press and respond quickly and positively. Soft or mushy keys should be avoided because they are not responsive enough for gaming.

Regular keypads have limited functionality for the serious gamer.

Dedicated Game Buttons

Some handsets have dedicated game buttons for ?

For example, the Nokia N-Gage QD has its controls laid out like a regular two-handed game console. For example, a four-way cursor button with an adjacent select button.


You needs lots of handset memory if you want to load many games or play a big game.

Add extra memory with a memory card, if possible.

4. Downloadable Mobile Games

Games can be downloaded to a mobile phone for limited or unlimited use. You pay per download or by subscription. Plus you pay your carrier's download charges per kilobyte.

Some downloaded games have a limited time of activation. Check the license or terms before you buy.

In order to download a game, your mobile phone must be able to play them. Check your phone's capability (Java, Brew, etc.) on the manufacturer's website Then check on the game page of your wireless provider or the game provider if your phone is supported.

Your mobile phone account will likely need text messaging (SMS) and Internet access features (WAP) enabled.

Most game sellers will not give a refund if you download a game to an incompatible phone or carrier or if the required phone features are not enabled on your phone account. Check compatibility first.

When you are ready to buy and download the game, follow the instructions from your wireless provider or the game provider.

It can take several minutes for your game to download to your handset. The download can fail for several reasons:

  • Call was dropped – Make sure your reception is good and try again.
  • Carrier's network was busy – Maybe wait one hour and try the download again.
  • Handset out of memory – Check how much memory your phone has available. Some games are large files that require a lot of memory space on your handset. If you don't have enough free memory available, delete all unnecessary items, such as games, messages, ring tones or graphics, to make the necessary memory space available for the download. Make sure that your inbox is not full, in order to receive the link to the game.
  • Old firmware version – installed on your phone might not let the game download or play. Contact your wireless provider or phone manufacturer for support.

If your game runs slowly or crashes, check for low memory on your handset. Make more memory available if necessary. It could be buggy game software. Search the Web to see if other people have the same problem.

5. Online Mobile Games

In an online game, the game is controlled by a host computer (game server or Internet server), not by your computer or mobile device.

In a single-player game, you are the only live player of which you are aware. You play the game against the host computer or other players. The goal is usually to be first to finish (fastest time) or to get the top score.

In a multi-player game, you and other people play the game against the computer or against each other at the same time. You are aware of the other players. It's very interactive and challenging as each player plays and maneuvers.

Online games charge for play by the minute of online time or by subscription.

Most online games are role playing games, such as Splinter Cell, where each player assumes a role (character) in the story. Other online games are more passive but still very interactive, such as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

For example, 1Up.com Wireless has bi-weekly tournaments with other mobile gamers. It is a high-score ranking contest based on a mobile Java game downloaded on your mobile phone.

6. Choosing a Phone Handset for Playing Games

What level of game player are you? Novice gamer, casual gamer or hard-core gamer. Except for the simplest games, you need a handset that has Java or Brew and a large color screen. More advanced gamers should buy a more game-focused handset and get wireless service from a provider with fast and reliable service.

  • Decide on the genres and types of games you want to play.
  • Estimate the number of games you will download.
  • Estimate the amount of time you will spend online playing games.
  • If you know the specific game you want to play, check its requirements for handset and wireless service.
  • Once you know the game's requirements, check which wireless service providers or game providers support those games.
  • For the wireless provider you use and games you want, determine which handsets are available or supported.
  • Determine your budget for mobile gaming, including the initial purchase price and total monthly charges.
  • Buy a compatible handset and calling plan. Enable the required account features for getting and playing games.
  • Qualify the game providers according to your game selection criteria. Many providers offer a free trial. Try a few games and then decide what you want to buy.
  • Go to a game provider's website, download a game or subscribe, and start playing!

7. Where Can I Get Free Mobile Games?

Your mobile phone probably has some games already installed on it. Although they are likely simple games, try them and see if you like them.

There are thousands of mobile games available ranging in price from free to about US$20.

Like anything free, you often get what you pay for. And in the mobile and Internet world, you often get less than you pay because of hassles and problems with low quality, buggy software, poor support, viruses, spyware or adware. Consider paying at least a few dollars for some games. The quality and support are usually worth it, considering the time and money you will spend on your phone and gaming.

Due to the potential "dark" nature of many game sites, Mobilook hesitates to recommend any Web sites that offer free games. You can find sites by searching on the Internet. Beware of what you find. Make sure your browser security features are updated, strong and enabled.

Mobilook recommends that you look for free games from your wireless service provider or from a reputable provider at our Mobile Games: Providers.

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