Happily Angry after?
Angry Birds maker Rovio long boasted about its ambitions to become the next Disney, and now that goal has kinda-sorta come to fruition: The Angry Birds Movie is playing on thousands of screens around the globe. Whether or not it’s any good is another matter altogether—early critical reviews seem pretty mixed.
It’s a feeling we know well from the more recent entries in the Angry Birds game franchise, which currently spans 16 titles (with a 17th, a soccer game, out soon) and has deviated in surprising and sometimes underwhelming ways. Still, the series has its serious highlights, so we’re taking the opportunity to rank every game from worst to best. Disagree with our clearly scientific findings? Let us know in the comments.
16. Angry Birds Fight
Rovio has taken the franchise in a lot of different directions of late (as you’ll see over the next 15 slides), but the developer’s clumsiest misfire is surely Angry Birds Fight (free). It’s essentially the franchise’s take on the Puzzle Quest formula, only sped up: Matches last about 45 seconds and you have to constantly link up like icons to power up your fighter.
Strategy is minimally important; in fact, the game constantly suggests matches, making it tough to consider your own pairings. However, the biggest issue is that the resulting combat that follows the puzzle sequence is totally automatic and unclear, and you’ll often get matched up against higher-level players who will just dominate you. Add in multiple energy meters and hugely expensive gems and the appeal just vanishes.
15. Angry Birds Go
Colorful, cartoonish console game franchises often end up making a kart racer, and Rovio did quite the same on mobile with Angry Birds Go (free). And honestly, there’s a fair bit to like here: It’s a very pretty game, the driving mechanics are solid, and it offers a decent amount of event variety. Problem is, the game is absolutely doused with obnoxious freemium elements.
Kart upgrades and higher-level rides are needed to make much progress, but you’ll have to grind and grind to get anywhere—or pay out huge bounties for bundles of in-game currency. The idea of paying upwards of $30 in gems for a high-level kart is mind-numbing, and all the ads and the sponsored power-ups wear thin pretty quickly. It can really rub you the wrong way.
14. Angry Birds Epic
You’ll find some pretty epic role-playing games on the App Store, including The Banner Saga and many classic Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest entries—but Angry Birds Epic (free) doesn’t quite fit the title. True, it takes the shape of a fantasy role-playing quest, transforming the birds into warriors and mages and tossing them into turn-based battles against cloak and armor-clad pigs.
But that’s all there is to it: Battle after battle, with plenty of repetition along the way. Angry Birds Epic doesn’t have any sense of exploration or much of a storyline, and besides, are these characters really strong enough to support much narrative anyway? It’s a baffling turn for the series: Attractive and competent, but pretty uninteresting otherwise. And the freemium elements can be a serious detriment to continued play.
13. Angry Birds Action
Angry Birds Action (free) is the series’ latest attempt to spin the pull-and-fling formula into a new kind of experience, but as we detailed last week, it doesn’t really satisfy. As the title teases, Action is more interested in brute force pummeling than strategic puzzle-solving, as you launch the birds into pinball table-esque areas and watch them bounce around and smash everything in sight.
It does offer a bit of variety: You’ll sometimes collect stolen eggs or guide baby birds back to their nest, while other stages see you smashing into TNT boxes or knocking around oversized soccer balls (for some reason). Still, it’s a lot of randomized chaos, and we never felt a strong pull to keep coming back to it. At least the freemium model isn’t as harsh as it initially seems.
12. Angry Birds Star Wars II
As we’ll explain later on in this piece, the original Angry Birds Star Wars is one of the best entries in the entire series. Angry Birds Star Wars II (free), on the other hand, is not. Surprisingly, it’s not because the second game spotlights the reviled prequel films, although the game has fewer truly iconic sights included. Instead, this just isn’t a great take on the Angry Birds formula.
With more than 30 available characters to unlock and/or purchase, the stages are designed to be defeated by any of them—which means there’s often little precision needed, and you’ll see a lot more obvious solutions. It’s just not very satisfying. Add in loads of ads and in-app purchase opportunities and this prequel-based sequel just can’t live up to the first game’s legacy.
11. Angry Birds Pop!
As genre tributes go, Angry Birds Pop! (formerly Angry Birds Stella Pop!) is perhaps the most brazen of the bunch: Every bit of the interface and game design is cribbed from Bubble Witch 2 Saga, which itself was already a clone of the classic Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble games. The side-by-side comparison is laughable, but at least Rovio’s game adds a ton more visual polish.
And the game itself? It’s solid, but doesn’t really improve upon the familiar design. You’ll shoot colorful balls onto the screen to try and match three or more of a kind and clear them from view, and varying objectives keep things interesting enough. The freemium design ultimately proves frustrating and can slow your progress, but it’s a slick diversion up ‘til that point.
10. Angry Birds Slingshot Stella
Starring the titular pink heroine, Angry Birds Slingshot Stella (free) has been described by some as a spinoff and others as a return to the core style of series play (prior to Angry Birds 2’s release, of course)—but ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, it tends to just feel like more Angry Birds. And when it released in 2014, that caused some well-earned franchise fatigue.
If you missed it back then, Stella has its moments still: The new abilities tweak the familiar approach to some extent, letting you, say, ricochet Stella from building to building. And the colorful aesthetic has something of a storybook appeal to it. The freemium elements can frustrate, however, and Stella hasn’t added as much post-release content as other entries.
9. Angry Birds Friends
Angry Birds Friends (free), as the title suggests, is the social spinoff of the series: Rather than play solely to gain all the stars, you’ll compare your scores against those of your Facebook friends, and compete in weekly leaderboard competitions. Also, instead of a huge vault of levels to take on, Friends offers up a brand new set each and every week.
It’s nice to have another small stack of levels to play each week, making it appointment gaming for serious fans, and these levels tend to be the larger, zanier ones. Still, there’s one big problem with a freemium game like this: The ability to buy power-ups to aid your architectural assaults takes the sting out of the competitive premise.
8. Angry Birds Transformers
Unlike the Star Wars tie-ins, Angry Birds Transformers (free) doesn’t even look or play like a classic Angry Birds game: Rather than fling fowl at buildings, your robot bird runs along a 2D path as you blast pigs and towers in the distance. It’s a strange little collaboration and easy to dismiss, but surprisingly, it’s actually pretty fun.
There’s an entertaining rhythm to tapping targets on the enemies, not to mention transforming into a vehicle to zip past falling hazards, and the cartoonish Transformers tribute is spot-on. The only big downside here are the upgrade timers that can keep you bogged down unless you spend gems—sold in bundles up to $100, naturally—but that’s the price of freemium.
7. Angry Birds 2
After a lot of middling spinoffs, it was a relief to see Angry Birds 2 (free) hit the App Store in 2015. Who would’ve thought it would take Rovio nearly six years to release a proper sequel to the smashing original? Whatever the case, this free-to-play follow-up returns to the core formula of old, as you launch birds to crush pig-housing buildings, but it also shakes up the familiar design.
Now you can use your birds in whichever order you’d like, plus you’ll typically complete three or four different areas in each level—which expands the size of the game, but also is punishing if you lose on the last part. And the newly-randomized level layouts take away the obsessive fun of reading a stage and learning from your mistakes. There’s a ton to play here and it all looks great, but the tweaks and freemium elements aren’t all improvements.
6. Angry Birds Rio
Remember Rio, the colorful animated film about tropical birds? No? Kids might, but adults probably have a better memory of Angry Birds Rio (free) the attractive tie-in game. As the third-ever Angry Birds game, it was a pretty big deal back in 2011—and while the movie license made it seem less essential, it’s actually a worthwhile entry even for those who don’t care about Rio.
Essentially, Angry Birds Rio uses the occasion to switch up the terrain, tossing you into lush jungles and warehouses full of animal cages to crash through, and has you knock away marmosets instead of pigs. Rio also introduced boss battles and new playable birds, while bringing in a fresher art style to the series. And the 2014 release of Rio 2 added much more content into the game, too.
5. Bad Piggies
Bad Piggies ($1) was the first real spinoff from the Angry Birds formula, and it’s still the best by a wide margin. It’s all a role reversal: Instead of controlling the birds, you take command of the supposedly stupid pigs, building intelligent contraptions to guide them to a goal. Even more so than the source series, Bad Piggies is a puzzle experience, and it requires a lot of trial and error tinkering to get right.
You’ll construct karts, helicopters, and other makeshift vehicles using crates, propellers, balloons, and various tools, and the grid-like building structure makes it simple to build—yet producing a proper ride to tackle the tougher stages isn’t easy. It makes you wish the series opted for more of these brainier entries, rather than brasher, forgettable fare.
4. Angry Birds Seasons
Originally launched as Angry Birds Halloween, Rovio’s holiday spinoff gained surprising traction as Angry Birds Seasons (free) and has continued on for years now, with a couple dozen level sets providing hundreds upon hundreds of playable stages. And while the original focus on holidays and seasons remains mostly intact, the game has taken amusing deviations as well—like the NBA-themed update.
At least early on, Seasons was noteworthy for being a lot more challenging than the original Angry Birds experience, with deviously difficult levels that you’d play dozens and dozens of times to solve. Well, at least we did. It might not be as iconic as the first game, but Seasons is arguably just as strong an overall experience. However, the switch to a freemium model has frustratingly locked off a lot of the content behind paywalls.
3. Angry Birds Star Wars
What could have been a quick-and-dirty nostalgia cash-in is actually pretty awesome: Angry Birds Star Wars ($1) does a great job of honoring the source material and delighting fans while also serving as one of the best showcases for the game series. You’ll relive scenes from the original film trilogy as game levels, all while playing levels as birds dressed up like Luke, Han, and Leia, and even sporting lightsabers and blasters.
Angry Birds Star Wars smartly splits the balance of its levels between the traditional ground levels of the core games and the gravity-twisting stages of Angry Birds Space, providing a sharp all-in-one series experience. And if you don’t care about Star Wars (what?!), the game itself is still plenty enjoyable.
2. Angry Birds
Catch us on another day and we might have this in the #1 slot instead: The original Angry Birds ($1) is an absolutely iconic game, and it has grown significantly over the years to now feature more than 500 playable levels. Angry Birds wasn’t the first catapult game on the market, but it took that basic premise and turned it into something alluring and addictive for all ages.
It’s arguably still the ideal starting point for the franchise, as you can see the experience progress from the relatively simple early stages to the more expansive challenges and level designs of the later sets. Angry Birds has been updated and enhanced over time, and sadly augmented with in-app purchases too, but the appeal remains. It’s a true classic.
1. Angry Birds Space
After a couple years of variations on the same pull-and-fling theme, Angry Birds charted a new course to the stars—and Angry Birds Space ($1) is the result. If the original Angry Birds seemed like a glossier riff on Crush the Castle, at least Angry Birds Space feels truly creative and original, putting a brand new spin on the environmental puzzler.
Shifting to outer space means playing with gravitational pull, letting you use the fields around planets to slingshot you into birds and asteroids, or send objects crashing down. Taking the game off the ground added a lot more gameplay possibilities, and Rovio thankfully explored many of them with various level updates. It hasn’t been as amply extended as some entries, but Space is still our favorite of the bunch.