Augmented reality (AR) is one of the more interesting technologies our smartphones can handle with ease. At first, it felt like a bit of a gimmick, but in the right hands, it can add a lot to gaming. Whether you prefer to stay home and solve puzzles, or roam the area battling or catching creatures, there’s something out there for you. VRFocus has put together a list of some of the best AR infused videogames you can play right now.
It wouldn’t be an AR list without Pokemon Go!, would it? The game that got everyone outside in the summer of 2016 has been using AR technology since the outset. What started with Pokemon placed within the world you inhabited, has become a robust system with avatars that interact while your physical self stands around tapping the screen in a gym or raid battle. AR features are integral to Pokemon Go!, particularly the map view which tracks not only yourself but the gyms, pokemon and pokestops along the route; using photos and location services along with the accelerometer to interact with the fantastical world Niantic Labs have created.
The Birdcage, and its sequel, are beautiful puzzle games that place the central puzzle within your home space. Aiming the camera, you can place the titular birdcage in the centre of a room. The task is to open the enclosure and free the bird by solving puzzles attached to the cage. Utilising your phone’s camera, the perspective can be changed by moving closer or further, and even around the cage. There are lots of switches to flick, dials to turn and word puzzles to move through the steps. The Birdcage looks and sounds gorgeous and is perfectly taxing on the brain; think The Room but in your room.
Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs
Angry Birds had its time in the sun quite some time ago, but recent entries have tried to implement the winning formula onto new technologies. Dabbling in VR (where applicable) and this AR entry, the mechanics feel fresh again. Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs opens and asks you to place the traditional looking level on a nearby table (or on the floor). Everything is recognisable – towers and buildings made from blocks with chubby pigs standing by. On your phone, you’ll have a direct view of a catapult, into which the familiar birds jump and can be fired at the puzzle. Watching the blocks and pigs tumble about is joyous and it fits within the AR space ideally. A great game for everyone, but kids will love it!
Draw a Stickman: AR
There’s something wonderful about drawing an object on your phone and watching it come to life. With Draw a Stickman: AR, that’s the first step. Your stickman can be as simple or lavish as you want. Once they’re created, an RPG style world is displayed on the floor or surface of your table and you can tap where your stickman needs to go. What comes next is a simple RPG, full of monsters and dungeon crawling… and more drawing! This adds a nice flair to the game, and watching everything pop up in a 3D space through your phone never gets old.
The Walking Dead: Our World
It’s been a few years since TWD: Our World was released and in that time, enthusiasm for zombies has waned a little. Don’t let that stop you from trying this AR gem, though. If one of your daydreams has been how you would deal with a zombie outbreak, now is your chance to live that out. There are walkers roaming your neighbourhood – with maps from Google – and they need to be put down. With legends from the TV show to recruit, you can search out stashes of items and weapons ready to fight it out with the shambling terrors. There are plenty of missions to take on, including saving survivors and holding off rival NPCs, so there’s a lot of variety in this apocalyptic world.
Five Night’s at Freddy’s AR: Special Delivery
The tenth overall instalment in the Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise, it’s time to be scared again. Well, only if creepy, broken, furry robots are your nightmare fuel. There are still puzzles to solve and horrors to avoid, except this time the animatronics are in your home! Played in first-person perspective, the jump scares will get you every time. Thankfully combat is an option, and bashing the demonic beasts has never felt more satisfying. The videogame received a lot of content updates, so anyone jumping in now will have plenty to do.
Also from Niantic Labs, comes another Nintendo property in Pikmin Bloom. Some liken this title to a gamified fitness app, as there is no deep gameplay aspect like other AR games on this list. Pikmin Bloom encourages users to leave their homes, walk their local areas and this is reflected in collecting seeds along your route and hatching them into cute Pikmin. Features from the console counterpart have been implemented – like Oliver’s ship log, which is now a daily tracker with photos and captions – to create a richer world.
The Witcher: Monster Slayer
In summer 2021, a surprising AR game popped up on app stores. The Witcher: Monster Slayer is a remarkably enjoyable extension of the Witcher universe. Much like Pokemon Go! the player explores the local neighbourhood battling monsters within the AR world overlaid onto a scale map of your area. Here, instead of using cute creatures, your finger swipes are translated into sword swings and spells to destroy the horrific monsters plaguing the land. A great inclusion are story-driven quests which expand the lore within the games (and the books) and give you a good sense of progression, alongside earned XP and new items to unlock as wander the streets.
Ghostbusters Afterlife: ScARe
Released in conjunction with the latest Ghostbusters movie, this AR app is wonderful jumping on point for the Ghostbusters universe. Packed with puzzles, flying objects possessed by new and familiar ghosts which require ‘busting’ and lots of footage to guide the light story along. This is a great app for kids who can explore their home, or even a local park, while looking for ghosts. There’s something spectacular in swiping and moving the phone to control the stream of the proton pack and wrangle the spectral monsters and slam them into the trap.
Much like The Birdcage above, Doors: Awakening uses your immediate space to position an object bursting with puzzles. In this instance, it’s a door. If you don’t feel like walking back and forth across your living room, you can place these doors on a table and spin them using swipes on the screen. Doors: Awakening has a spooky atmosphere delivered by luscious graphics which bring a real sense of otherworldly adventures to our world. The puzzles aren’t overly difficult, the main reason to play is the visual spectacle it brings to our world.