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A lot of people look at video games as being inferior to playing sports or games in real life. We don’t necessarily agree with that opinion, but it is true that playing video games regularly and for long periods promotes a sedentary lifestyle.
Fortunately, an offshoot of virtual reality technology has made it possible to bring video game mechanics to the real world. Augmented reality has been around for quite a while, although there still seems a lot of potential to be explored with its concept. That’s beyond the objective of this article, though – all we need to know are the very best games that augmented reality has to offer in 2020.
What is augmented reality?
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that combines the elements of virtual reality and the real world. The principle of AR is better explained by its alternative term – “mixed reality.” Through AR, games that utilize traditional video game elements can be used in real-world settings, making them more accessible while gamifying exploration of the actual physical space around us.
Most AR games available today are playable using smartphones. A smartphone is a great tool for AR because of its camera, screen, and GPS technology. The launch of AR games to smartphones has gone a long way towards allowing for mainstream acceptance of the concept, thus opening the gates for dozens of developers to create their own AR games.
The short-lived Google Glass offered a lot of potential for the accessibility of AR. Lack of adoption and poor market performance stunted the possibilities of diversifying the possibilities of Google Glass. However, rumors have been swirling that Apple has been developing the Apple Glass – a headset that is specifically designed for augmented reality. With Apple’s years of work in developing VR and AR content, we can’t help but feel excited about what Apple can pull off, should these rumors prove to be true.
The top 8 best AR games in 2020
1. Pokemon GO
The game that was responsible for bringing AR technology into the mainstream consciousness, the heyday of Pokemon GO may have already passed but it still remains one of the most widely played AR titles today. By combining the massively popular Nintendo franchise with AR technology, addicting video game elements, and a global community of players, developer Niantic pretty much stumbled into the formula for overnight success.
Pokemon GO has you hunting the real world for Pokemon to catch. The game uses your phone’s GPS signal to create a simulated world where you can see Pokemon around you, gyms to take over, and Pokestops to reload on supplies. Along the way, you can also work together with other players to raid powerful and legendary Pokemon.
Pokemon GO has been a milestone of AR technology and will certainly be a game that will be fondly remembered as AR continues to evolve. It was a great showcase of what AR can do and how well the general public will accept video game mechanics that also encourages real-world exploration and interaction with strangers. No matter where AR technology goes, Pokemon GO has pretty much cemented itself into its history.
It would be unjust to put Pokemon GO at the top and fail to put Ingress Prime immediately after. Ingress Prime pretty much paved the way for Pokemon GO – it’s the game that learned to walk so that its predecessor can learn to run.
The mechanics of Ingress Prime are very similar to Pokemon GO. The player chooses a Faction to side with. The objective of the game is to control a location in the real world by physically visiting the location of portals, taking over them, and linking them to create Control Fields.
Aside from having you explore actual physical locations to visit the portals, the game is also better played with an element of teamwork and collaboration. By communicating with agents in your neighborhood, you can strategize how you can take over the portals. Are you going to whittle away at the enemy’s territory, or can you stage a massive simultaneous movement to take over multiple portals all at once?
Much like Pokemon GO, Ingress Prime is an AR game that will have you visiting places in your neighborhood that you did not even know existed. For many people, the developers of Ingress are considered pioneers when it comes to AR gaming mechanics.
3. Dragon Quest Walk
Dragon Quest Walk is an AR-based role-playing game (RPG) based on the Dragon Quest series. Unlike most other AR games, Dragon Quest Walk actually tells a story that the player progresses through as they finish quests and defeat enemies. The only downside is that the game was released exclusively in Japan.
Dragon Quest Walk comes with all the usual RPG elements that will tickle the fancy of fans of the Dragon Quest series and RPGs in general. Players can choose between several vocations, each of which comes with unique skills and stats. The in-game tasks will typically require you to physically travel to a location to talk to characters or fetch items.
The map of the game is based on the map of real-world Japan. The game appropriately scales the map so that players don’t end up having to walk excessively large distances. Along the way, players can go against enemies that they will need to fight using their weapons and skills. Just like any RPG, players can get stronger weapons and more powerful skills throughout the course of their adventures.
Dragon Quest Walk is an ambitious take on AR technology. Should the game hit the Western market, we’re pretty sure that it will be a hit and may kick off a wave of story-driven AR games.
In yet another integration of AR gaming and a popular franchise, Jurassic World Alive has you hunting for dinosaurs in a map created via your GPS position. These dinosaurs can then be used to create a team with which you can on one-on-one fights with other players. Dinosaurs can range from common to rare, with the stronger ones less frequently encountered in the wild.
Jurassic World Alive is sure to thrill dinosaur enthusiasts. The immaculately rendered models of the dinosaurs look great. Through your phone’s camera, you can superimpose the models of these dinosaurs over any real-world location and take a couple of fun photos. The thrill of finding a rare dinosaur and being able to pin it down with tranquilizers also creates a very addicting gameplay loop.
Through the one-on-one battles, Jurassic World Alive offers a compelling part of the game that you can play when you’re just at home and lying down in bed. You don’t have to be moving around all the time to have a good time with Jurassic World Alive, although real-world exploration is necessary if you want your dinosaurs to get stronger.
Zombies Run was developed way back in 2012. As one of the first games that are considered to be AR, Zombies Run was a product of its time. It did not use sophisticated cameras or graphics – instead, it relied on simple audio prompts and the phone’s GPS receiver.
At its core, Zombies Run is a fitness app disguised as a game. This does not mean that it does not excel in being a game – quite the opposite. In Zombies Run, you are one of the few survivors in an apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. Your mission is to collect supplies to build your base, all the while avoiding zombies that pop up randomly. To do this, you’ll need to run in the real world.
With more than 200 missions, Zombies Run offers enough variety in experiences to have you coming back again and again. As a workout tool, it’s a wonderful way to break the monotony of a usual run. Base-building is strangely addictive. The real thrill, however, comes when it’s time to run away from the zombies. The audio of the game creates an incredible atmosphere that will really have you sprinting for dear life.
Zombies Run may be a strange entry in this list because it involves no elements of virtual reality. However, its integration of the real-world space and video game elements makes it one of the more innovative AR games, despite technological limitations.
Another AR game anchored to a popular franchise, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite uses the same exploration mechanics as Pokemon GO but with a Harry Potter skin. Though the gameplay may no longer be fresh, there is no doubt that fans of the franchise will have tremendous fun with this game.
In Wizards Unite, players can choose between different professions, wizarding houses, and even have a custom wand. Much like the previous Niantic games, you will need to explore a map based on the real world to replenish supplies, unconfound items, and battle magical beasts. There are also Portkeys scattered all over through which you can explore the magical wizarding world through immersive AR.
Combat is done through an array of spells, casting which requires tracing specific patterns on your phone’s touchscreen. Some beasts may be too strong for one wizard, so you may find yourself teaming up with friends or strangers to defeat particularly fearsome and rare beasts on the world map.
All in all, Wizards Unite is another take on the AR gameplay mechanics that Niantic has refined through several games. Despite how familiar the game feels, the mere fact that it is based on the Harry Potter universe pretty much ensures its success.
The easiest way to describe Knightfall AR is that it’s an app that turns any flat surface into an instant board game. This isn’t your standard board game, though. In Knightfall, you can have your characters physically move around the space, set and upgrade your defenses, and watch as your coffee table or living room floor turns into a battlefield. The gameplay is more akin to the traditional tower defense games that remain popular until now.
As a game, Knightfall does not really present anything new. It’s just a tower defense game with a gimmick. The developers could have just made a simple tower defense game with less effort if they had chosen to remove the AR feature. However, the ambition behind Knightfall is what makes it impressive.
Of all the other AR games, Knightfall is one of those that overlay as many interactive elements on a real-world image. It’s really fun seeing soldiers walking around your table and a huge castle towering over your furniture. While this level of interactivity invites a lot of glitches, we still appreciate how Knightfall advanced the possibilities of what can be done in AR gaming.
8. Spirit Camera
If you’ve ever heard of the Fatal Frame video series, then you will immediately understand the premise of Spirit Camera. This intriguing horror game comes with some bad news, though – it’s only playable in the Nintendo 3DS.
In Spirit Camera, the handheld console acts as the Camera Obscura – the trademark “weapon” of the protagonist of the Fatal Frame series. Using the Camera Obscura, players can detect and attack the ghosts that appear through the camera’s lenses. The beauty of the Spirit Camera AR game is that the ghosts don’t appear in a video game world – they appear right in your living room.
Through this novel game mechanical and an enthralling and mysterious story, Spirit Camera proves to be one of the most terrifying uses of AR technology. If you still have a Nintendo 3DS lying around, then Spirit Camera is one of the most unique experiences you can have and one of the earliest forms of AR gaming.
While VR gaming is one the rise with more and more content being created, AR gaming does not feel like it’s too far behind. Just one look at the number of players of Pokemon GO at the peak of its popularity is enough evidence of that AR gaming has a huge potential. Right now, AR gaming is still limited by the fact that it’s still mostly played on phones. If the rumors of the AR-specific Apple Glasses prove to be true, they could usher in an entirely new generation of AR applications.
High-quality AR titles are still rare nowadays. There can only be so many iterations of the Ingress mechanic, even if game developers put it behind different skins. Perhaps this is the biggest hurdle of the field of AR gaming – the innovation for more game mechanics that take full advantage of the AR concept. More diversity in the selection of games may be what it will take for the AR gaming industry to take off.