This post occurred to me recently while playing a game on my iPad – let’s talk about time-wasters, specifically games and puzzles for your phone or other handheld device.

I got my first couple of games to play on my subway commute, like everyone else on there crushing candy or flinging angry birds. I have an older iPad mini so I only keep five or six games at a time on there, and if I decide one’s a dud or realize it’s going to cost me actual cash to make headway, I delete it.  Over the years I’ve developed some favorites, and today I thought I’d talk about them and ask you to recommend your favorites in comments, because I’m always ready to try some new things.

I will say it’s amazing to me how many sub-par games there are available in the app stores – constant ads, they crash all the time, if you’re going to get beyond level 10 it’s going to cost you money, etc.  It should be easier to find the “good ones” but it isn’t, partly because folks must have a lot more tolerance for endless ads and in-app cash grabs than I do.

Beyond that, I like a certain kind of game experience and format.  I prefer puzzle-like games over ones with a timer clock (strategy over speed).  I give bonus points to games that are beautiful to look at, although it’s not a requirement. I’m willing to pay a few bucks up front for a great app, or a few bucks once I’m in to get rid of ads (hey, the devs have to make their money somehow) but I’m not going to watch the same 30-second ad over and over between each level, or continually shell out actual money for coconuts or magic darts or whatever you need to progress.  Personally, if I can’t beat a level after a try (or five) without some sort of in-app help on a regular basis, even if the boosters are free, it’s not the right game for me.

So, given those parameters, which games have stood the test of time on my iPad/phone and get used regularly while I’m standing in line or taking a break from Zoom calls?  Here are my picks.

Monument Valley I and II (ustwo games) – I’ve mentioned this one before, and it’s everything I love in a time-waster.  You have to buy them outright and after that you’re done, play them forever, no ads.  It’s more of a puzzle – a walk-through of various Escher-like impossible landscapes.  It is both simple and complex, beautiful visually and musically, and any fans of MC Escher really need to check it out.  I think I spent a total of $10 on the two (they have additional add-on games included) and, given the hundreds of hours I’ve played and replayed various levels for years now, it’s one of the best ten-buck purchases I’ve ever made.

Wordscapes (peoplefun) – probably the oldest game currently on my devices, I just checked and I’m at level 1463 lol.  Find all the words to solve the on-screen crossword puzzle using the letters in the circle (usually five or seven letters a game).  You get bonus points for words even if they’re not on the board, which I guess is why I have …. 63,075 points, because I don’t have to buy anything to progress, and I’m good enough I don’t often need points to solve.  How many words (of three letters or more) can you make with E R M E V O ?  If you just thought of five, and that stimulated you, you might enjoy this.

I Love Hue (Zut! games) – my daughter told me about this one awhile back, correctly predicting I’d love it.  It’s a color grid puzzle, sort all the shades correctly – from light to dark, red to blue, etc.  It starts off simple so you can get the hang of it and gets more complex as the tonal variations get more subtle (what I’ve jokingly called Fifty Shades of Greige), and the grid itself gets more boxes.  Beyond a certain point, I can’t imagine doing this on a phone rather than my iPad, and if I keep going I think I might upgrade from my Mini, which is pretty old anyway. It’s incredibly soothing, and a fascinating illustration of how shades can look different depending on what they’re adjacent to.

Bubble Shooter (ilyon) – my most old-school game.  When you first open it they’re always giving you bonus crap and trying to get you to play on an online team; I just keep hitting NEXT to ignore and then I’m back in play, I probably have enough bonus doodads to buy a Ferrari, I don’t know.  ANYWAY.  Aim your little bubble like it’s 1997 and shoot!  There is strategy involved as you progress, which is probably why I’m still playing it, but it’s achievable without having to make in-app purchases, and the banner ad at the bottom is easy to ignore.  I’m somewhere in the 2000 levels at this point, and I’m not embarrassed about it.  Good for a quick game in an Uber or while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil.

Sugar Blast (Rovio) – my dumbest game, said with affection. I cannot possibly be the target audience; I just love looking at it – the little dancing jellybeans!  The noises they make! The cheerful Disney-movie musical score, the slightest of challenges …. it’s adorable, as colorful and non-nutritious as a bowl full of candy.

Honorable mention:

Happy Glass – this was an absolute hoot at first (draw a line to fill the glass with water) but I’ve leveled up to a point of insanity where it takes me too many attempts to advance, so I think I’m done.  Maybe.

OK, your turn!  What games do you like, and why?

Finally, congrats to the winners of Regime des Fleurs sample sets (I’ve emailed you already)  … commenters Taxi, Spring Pansy, VerbenaLuvvr, Nancy C, Maya, Dina C, Anna Egeria, Tiara, Angela, Pam F. I used Random.org to select and if you didn’t win and you’re bummed, I feel you, I never win anything either.  RdF does sell the sets on their website, and I noticed some new items on there recently as well…



  • Jennifer S says:

    I always have an eye out for great games, for free or a couple of bucks at most. I don’t know if all these games will work on your older iPad but here’s some of my favorites.
    * Stress free coloring like Happy Color or Cross Stitch World.
    * Logic games like Picross / Nonograms , Marple, Unblock Me, AuroraBound, Fold the World, Escape the Room type apps
    * Spin Bubbles is a popping bubbles game which can be addictively annoying.
    * Paper Mingle, Mahjong, Tile Snap
    * Tripeaks Solitaire, Solisquare

    Bubble Shooter is a staple for me, as is Numberzilla, Tile Craft, and Onet Connect Pro, which is a matching pairs game, and while it does have a timer, I can kinda disregard it as I feel this game serves to keep me….sharp/er….while I’m playing it anyway? Lol!
    And I’m always on the lookout for challenging word games but have not found the ideal one yet.

    So….there’s a few ideas thrown out there. Hopefully you’ll find something new to waste your time with!

    • March says:

      Thank you so much! I JUST realized (since clearly I’m not a tech early adopter lol) that my iPad will no longer update its iOS, so I may get a newer one, grrrrrrr!

      • Jennifer S says:

        Yep unfortunately….or not! there comes that time devices won’t update any more and while they’re still perfectly good for a lot of things, latest and greatest isn’t one of them. Fortunately, the time of year probs can’t get any better price wise for considering that upgrade!

  • Portia says:

    Hey there March.
    Currently there are three games on my phone. Diamond Mine, Toy Blast and Words with Friends 2. All excellent for toilet/bus/bed time. Do we count FB, Insta and Whats App as time wasters? They certainly are.
    Portia xx

  • Tiara says:

    Needed something other than Solitaire and am now the proud downloader of Wordscapes. Thanks (I think)!

  • Peafly says:

    Sudoku. On my iPhone. For hours and years. That’s all.

  • Merry Rower says:

    I love this post! The only game I played for years was Words with Friends. I added the “brain training” games from Lumosity a couple of years ago, although my college age son says there’s no such thing. But pandemic stress required something much more mindless, and somehow I fell into a very large Toon Blast hole. It was perfectly distracting, and so, so sticky. Again, my son was horrified by the Candy Crush clone, and I was a little embarrassed by how addictive I found it. When I realized it was impossible to level up without spending cold hard cash, I dumped it. But I still miss it, so thanks so much for your suggestions. I’m looking forward to playing them all.

    • March says:

      Oh, you’re welcome! I had to delete Candy Crush after it started to grab me a little too hard lol. I’ve done the Luminosity but I’m too cheap to upgrade to paid.

  • Dina C. says:

    Back, oh, 10-12 years ago, both of my kids were really into those Webkinz plush animals where they had an equivalent Webkinz World avatar online that they could build a home for, dress in clothes, feed, and treat like a pet. Well, I took over my son’s account when he tired of it, and I play games on that on my phone. The child-like game levels are just right for me because I’m horrible at video games, having shunned all video games growing up. You can pay $ for Deluxe levels, but the basic stuff is free.

  • VerbenaLuvvr says:

    I have a self-imposed ban on games, as it is I already feel guilty for as much time as I spend on social media and the fragrance forums when there is plenty around my house to be done. Sometimes at night I look up at the clock and am surprised to find I’ve lost myself for three hours. I also do love to ‘fantasy shop’ at fragrance retailers, exploring and filling my cart then leaving it behind, and that’s a time-waster too but gives me a mini fragrance fix without further wearing out my card. 🙂

    • March says:

      Ooooh, I do fantasy shopping too! I spend a lot of time online, thanks to COVID, even more than I used to. Looking forward to the vaccine and a post-COVID world.

  • Musette says:

    omg. as I said to Cinnamon, below – uh, no. (okay, I did not say that to Cinnamon but the sentiment is the same). I have a somewhat addictive personality and am very, very attracted to color and color-depth and I wouldn’t get anything else done and I would starve and have to move me and The Girl into my car (or a box) under the bridge and…well, no. 😉

    they are pretty, though… xoxoxo

    • Musette says:

      I was once chastised for fixating on a screen where my boss had his financials up – but I couldn’t have told you what was on the screen because the backdrop was this periwinkle blue… omg. He calmed down once he realized that my eyes were completely glazed over and I couldn’t tear myself away from the backlit COLOR. Do you know, he actually had to shut the monitor OFF in order for me to stop staring? Word serious. It was one of those mid-90s space-age Mac monitors with stunning resolution. I can still see that color……


    • Musette says:

      I once peeled off from a group ride… El O had to chase me down (and our friends were worried about WHY I peeled off, thinking I was angry)… it was the silver-blue glint of sunlight on some ditchwater at the side of the road.

      I am not to be trusted around color and shiny things…


      • March says:

        Yep. Shiny things and color! You have more of the synaesthesia than I do, but I have done things like cross the street or pull over just to examine a shade of something more closely.

    • March says:

      HAHAHA don’t get that I Love Hue game then!

  • Cinnamon says:

    I am so behind the curve on these sorts of things. Took me ages to finally get on to Facebook. I don’t play any games. I know that makes me a bit sad, but it’s simply not my thing. I have read The Hunger Games books, but not any of the 50 Shades …

    • Musette says:

      Honeydoll – let’s go bust up some mills, together! I don’t think I’ve played an online game since… Pong? (is that what it was called, with the little bonky-bonk ball, back in the 90s? ) xoxo

    • March says:

      Doesn’t make you ONE BIT sad. I probably wouldn’t have any of these things if they hadn’t crept onto my phone for my commute.

      • Cinnamon says:

        Ah, see, I don’t commute (worked from home for a long while now). So, going into the world is planned, savoured and addressed like it’s an event — even if it’s just going to the recycling centre to drop off cardboard or the farm shop.

  • Ann says:

    Tetris! Big time. I’ve been wasting time on Tetris for at least 30 years. I definitely turn to Tetris in times of stress, and when it’s important for me to be getting actual work done, Tetris is always there. Also Twitter.

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    I usually stick to Teris, Candy Crush Saga, and Solitaire. They are stupid easy and that is why I play them. I used to play Subway Surfers but the game refused to update and switch countries or cities every 2 months.

    • March says:

      I said this upstream, I had to delete my Candy Crush because I could feel myself getting a little tooooo attached to it. The Candy Crush devs were definitely onto something with that one.