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Hot Mobile Games for Holiday Travelers

8 free apps to keep your brain sharp during mind-numbing wait times

spinner image Travelers at airport on smart devices
Getty Images

To help you get through long lines, wait times and inevitable delays this holiday season — on airways, freeways and railways — millions of passengers have the perfect time waster in their pockets or purses.

Yes, your smartphone.

While no one has developed an app for patience, you can load your trusty mobile device with several free games to help keep you entertained and stay sane in crowded airport terminals, train stations or automobile back seats when grandkids whine, “Are we there yet?”

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With a focus on puzzle and strategy games to help sharpen the ol’ noodle, the following fun freebies are worth your time. Available for both iOS and Android, for smartphones and tablets such as iPad, be aware some of these eight downloads offer optional in-app purchases for advertising removal, extra content or virtual currency.

spinner image Words with Friends game
Zynga Mobile

Candy Crush Friends Saga

Even if you haven't played this “sweet” version of the incredibly popular Candy Crush family of games, you no doubt know the premise:'s Candy Crush Friends Saga has you swap colored candies on a board to make a match of at least three in a row. It's similar to Bejeweled, which no doubt influenced these games.

Now you can unlock fun characters, each with a special ability to help you clear the board. Cascading fruit, chocolate obstacles and fruit jelly all add to the deliciously challenging game play.


From Atari, one of the most iconic video game companies, comes Citytopia, a city-building and -management game for smartphones and tablets. This free-to-play 3D city simulation challenges players to develop, fabricate and run their own thriving metropolis.

You'll be tasked with constructing commercial, industrial and residential areas; building roads to connect them; boosting your population; and satisfying the needs of your citizens by taking on contracts ranging from staffing factories and delivering goods to supermarkets, to increasing tourism by building attractions.

Sharpen your skills and play online trivia and puzzles daily with AARP.

Diner Dash Adventures

Flo is back! The hit computer game Diner Dash Adventures and Facebook puzzler is even more fun on smartphones and tablets.

For the uninitiated, your job is to micromanage restaurants to help keep customers happy — from seating and serving to decorating and cleaning the joint. Oh, it might not sound like fun, but just try to stop playing it.

As the multitasking Flo, your goal is to close each day by making money for the establishment, so the boss can fix the place up and attract even more customers. Glu Mobile's free and challenging game is a blast.

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Mr. Bean Solitaire Adventures

Pointvoucher Studio's Mr. Bean Solitaire Adventures stars an animated Mr. Bean, a hapless character played by U.K. comedian and actor Rowan Atkinson.

Reminiscent of other mobile solitaire games such as Big Fish Games’ Fairway Solitaire, you must tap a card that's one higher or lower than the card you've flipped, such as placing an 8 or 10 on a 9. The goal is to clear the entire board with your available cards.

This game also adds a silly story about Mr. Bean traveling from New York to Honolulu and other U.S. cities. Along with hundreds of levels, the game lets you earn Bean Bucks and stars, unlock virtual prizes and use special power-ups and bonus cards.

Puzzle Page

Love sudoku? Crossword puzzles? Word searches?

You can have it all inside this one free game, Puzzle Page, featuring fun puzzlers such as Futoshiki, Kakuro, Os and Xs, Picture Cross and other logic, number, picture and word puzzles. Use your fingertip to tap and type on a simple interface with fast load times.

To keep things fresh, AppyNation's Puzzle Page also dishes up daily challenges, rewards, special bonus games and unlockable “achievement” trophies. I love the minimalist look of this game, which allows you to see and play puzzles easily.


Similarly, Puzzledom is a collection of several puzzle games all in one place.

Easy to pick up but difficult to put down, these games include popular classics such as Connect, in which you use your finger to connect dots with the same color; Escape, in which you slide a red block across the screen to the exit; and Tangram, in which you place shapes on the screen to complete the puzzle. Not only will you unlock new games the more you play, you'll also earn daily in-game prizes.

In total, Metajoy's Puzzledom delivers nearly 8,000 free-to-play levels. The Android version is here.


A highly addictive puzzle, 1010! challenges you to place different-size pieces on a 10-square-by-10-square board. Think graph paper.

One shape might be a small “L” that takes up three squares. Another game piece might be a straight line of five squares.

Completing a horizontal row or vertical column removes the pieces from the board. If you run out of space to place a shape, the game is over.

From GramGames, this minimalist game of “pentominoes” includes a night mode with a dark background and lets you compare your high score with friends on Facebook.

spinner image Mr Bean Solitaire Adventures mobile game
Pointvoucher Ltd

Words With Friends 2

This game is so addictive that Alex Baldwin was willing to be kicked off an airplane for not putting it away.

Create words using tiles on a virtual board in Zynga's Scrabble-like game, and you can take turns against your opponents — anywhere else in the world — at your own pace. Words With Friends 2 supports many simultaneous matches, and you'll be notified on your phone or tablet for each game when it's your turn.

Chat with friends while playing via the in-game messaging feature, take on mini games, and compete for the top spot on a leaderboard.

Marc Saltzman has been a freelance technology journalist for 25 years. His podcast Tech It Out aims to break down geek speak into street speak.

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