The gaming apps that blur the line between the virtual and the real

Our smartphone screens are getting bigger. The picture quality is getting better too, and mobile gaming apps are now able to deliver a more immersive experience than ever before.

Most mobile apps have taken advantage of this technological progress by looking for ways to improve the detail and depth of their graphics. Others have approached mobile gaming from a different perspective, by looking to integrate real-world elements to blur the lines between technology and reality.

Here’s a quick look at three of the mobile apps that provide the most realistic gaming experiences in 2019.


Pokemon Go

Niantic’s augmented reality game needs little introduction, given that it was nearly impossible to ignore Pokemon Go at the peak of its popularity. The app was newsworthy across the world, with gamers taking to the streets with their smartphones in hand to catch virtual Pokemon. The game’s use of a real-world map, with landmarks acting as PokeStops and gyms, encouraged players to explore their environments, or even travel further afield.

Players can also hatch Pokemon by walking certain distances, with the app inspiring real-world exploration and exercise like no other. The augmented reality method of capturing Pokemon is perhaps the app’s most notable strength; animated Pokemon are rendered on top of real-world environments via the use of the smartphone camera, creating a range of memorable photos as Pokemon popped up in interesting locations.

Released in June 2019, Niantic’s other AR title, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, has failed to capture the imagination as effectively as Pokemon Go, partly because the wizarding world perhaps doesn’t transfer as neatly to the augmented reality format. Niantic captured lightning in a bottle with Pokemon Go, setting the benchmark for future augmented reality games.

Live Casino

While Pokemon Go brought animated monsters into real environments, other gaming apps go one step further and combine real environments with real people. HQ Trivia was one such app, using a live host to bring players from across the world together in a quest for the main prize.

HQ Trivia has since declined in popularity, but the live casino gaming genre is thriving. Live casino games similarly use a real-life dealer to run mobile (as well as browser-based) games in the manner of a physical casino. Most online casino games are digital affairs, with games like roulette and blackjack completed through animations. Live casino titles don’t alter the gameplay of these titles; it simply adds a human connection.

For some people, the convenience of online casinos was slightly undermined by the lack of a human touch. However, with the development of live casino games such as blackjack, roulette and casino hold’em, players now have the best of both worlds. Bigger and more powerful smartphones can easily stream these live casino games in high definition, turning mobiles into a portal to a luxurious casino setting.

Asphalt 9: Legends

Of course, there are now several mobile gaming apps that can create realistic environments through incredible graphics, without a reliance on real-life images or a human presence. Gameloft’s Asphalt 9: Legends is one of those apps that delivers an immersive gaming experience, with the racing game widely considered the genre leader for Android.

The app is free to download, although there are in-app purchases to unlock a full array of features. Circuits span from Cairo to the Caribbean, while over 70 cars are available for use. Each track and vehicle is realized in painstaking detail, which in 2018 prompted GSMArena to call Asphalt 9 “possibly the best-looking game on the mobile platform”.

While the improvement in graphics over time is expected, augmented reality and live streaming mobile games couldn’t have been anticipated a decade ago. Who knows how realistic our mobile gaming experience will be in ten years?