Think for a minute about how far we’ve come in games design from the days of Asteroids and Space Invaders. Now, there are some stunningly beautiful mobile games for both iOS and Android that change the way we think about gaming apps. Hey, I’m all for relaxing by taking a walk, reading a book, or doing some meditative deep breathing. But it’s nice to have one of these 9 beautiful games at the ready for those times when your options for chilling out are limited — like when you’re stuck in the middle seat at 35,000 feet.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley: Beautiful mobile game and puzzle app

When most of us here think of beautiful games for our devices, Monument Valley leaps to mind first. It’s gorgeous, intricate, and mentally stimulating in a way that keeps you coming back for more. Plus it’s one game that older kids will dig too, which means I don’t mind shelling out a few bucks for the app. ($3.99, available on iTunes, Google Play, and Windows Phone Store)


Alto’s Adventure

Beautiful games: Alto's Adventure

If you’re already dreaming about the upcoming ski season like I am, Alto’s Adventure is the perfect way to get back on the slopes whether or not the community pool’s still open. It’s got spectacular, seamless graphics whether you’re skiing through a forest or a rainstorm, but no in-app purchases — you’ve got to earn your advantages through gameplay. ($1.99 on iTunes)


Two Dots

Two dots: One of the most beautiful mobile games

Two Dots is the much cooler (and more addictive) sequel to Dots, with hundreds of levels and increasingly difficult dot-connecting challenges. But it’s the gorgeous graphics of the different worlds in Two Dots that can really suck you in. The app is free, but it does offer in-app purchases so be sure to disable those before handing it off to kids. (Free on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Appstore)


Related: 13 of the best Android apps for kids


Prune app: One of the most beautiful mobile games

The new game Prune (also at top) has been getting tons of buzz, and it’s easy to see why. The graphics and movements are just striking, and the music really adds to the zen vibe. I also love that there are no in-app purchases or other forms of monetization to distract from the beauty. If only my outdoor landscape grew like my trees in Prune. ($3.99 on iTunes)


The Sailor’s Dream

The Sailor's Dream: one of the most beautiful apps

The Sailor’s Dream isn’t a game so much as it is a story, where you might learn about events in Chapter 10 before those in Chapter 3. The writing and soundtrack are as compelling as the beautiful artwork which is reminiscent of Myst for some of us, and there are no challenges or puzzles except to unravel the story. If you’re the competitive type or you prefer your tales told in a linear fashion, The Sailor’s Dream might not be for you but I love it. ($3.99 on iTunes)



Beautiful mobile games: Shadowmatic is challenging and lovely to look at

If you love shadow puppets, the Apple Design Award-winning app Shadowmatic could be your next obsession. The beginning levels feature one or two abstract objects which you shift and rotate until their shadows form a recognizable solution. Challenging, but fun. Based on reviews, it seems that adding a third object can make the controls a little wonky, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. ($2.99 on iTunes)



Beautiful games: KAMI

The lovely Japanese-inspired KAMI app is like origami in reverse: Unfold the paper to fill the screen in as few moves as possible. I love that developer State of Play used real paper in the production of this app; the sounds and movements, along with the beautiful soundtrack, make KAMI truly relaxing even as you work through the puzzles. (Available on iTunes for $1.99;  Amazon Appstore for $0.99; free on Google Play.  Note the number of levels unlocked is based on price)


Find the Line

Find the line: A beautiful mobile gaming app

I have to admit that Find the Line is tough to explain, but simple to play. Scroll back and forth to trace out parts of a drawing, but be careful to start and stop lines at the right place, because there can be multiple interconnected drawings hidden within a single level — and only one of them is the solution. The motion of the lines is soothing, almost like an animated version of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Unfortunately, the barrage of ads is not; an extra annoyance after paying close to $3 for it. But you may find the game play makes it worth it. ($2.99 on iTunes)


The most beautiful apps: Har-mo-ny

The har•mo•ny puzzle game series brings together sound, color, and music in a way that’s practically meditative. There’s even a sleep mode setting, in which the colors and music slowly fade away. (I’m going to give that a shot in my next bout with insomnia.) These apps are a perfect fit for those of us who relax by putting chaos into order. (Get the bundled series for $6.99 on iTunes)