Well, the World Cup is over--time to stop thinking about soccer for another four years, right? It's a sensation that many of us are no doubt familiar with. We get swept up in the excitement of the tourney, but when that golden trophy is handed out and your Twitter pals stop sharing second-by-second updates, most of us aren't then rooting for our local Major League Soccer squads or following Cup heroes back to their international club teams.
Want to change that? Get interactive! Perhaps you're not up for joining a local league, but investing time in soccer video games can keep you immersed in the culture and also help you learn the little intricacies of the so-called beautiful game. Here's a look at five of the most entertaining mobile options around, all of which can help stoke the footie flames so they don't fade.
The FIFA franchise has been a consistent genre leader for more than 20 years, and the last couple of mobile entries have been quite solid--but moving FIFA 14 for iOS and Android to a free-to-play model was a gamble. No need to worry: it sticks the landing, providing plenty of great content for free players while offering optional add-on modes for both die-hards and traditionalists.
Everyone benefits from the various mobile and tablet-friendly tweaks made for this iteration, namely the touch and tap-centric control scheme that lets you easily dominate the pitch. FIFA delivers a rich and refined soccer simulation on the go, and the Ultimate Team mode lets you construct your own squad via collected cards and battle online opponents. It even features official World Cup teams, gear, and matchups, so the bash in Brazil never has to end.
Soccer Showdown 2015
While not the only mobile game that delivers online penalty kick battles, Soccer Showdown 2015 (free for iOS) proves a particularly addictive experience. Whereas a cartoonish game like Perfect Kick is more about timing your swipes to move your goalkeeper into blocking position, the sleek Soccer Showdown focuses on frantic reactions as you guide the gloves in front of the fast-approaching ball. That's what makes each quick-fire multiplayer matchup so exciting.
To be fair, the kicking controls can be a little inconsistent, and it's very tough to block hard shots to the upper corners. But those quirks are easy to ignore in a free game that lacks energy meters or other limiting elements, and makes it a breeze to hop online, find an opponent, and trade shots back and forth.
Pixel Cup Soccer
Just launched recently, Pixel Cup Soccer ($1.99, iOS) ditches the realistic approach of FIFA for something distinctly retro. You'll zip along the 16-bit pitch at a rapid pace, with the frantic action laced with exaggerated slide tackles and frequent turnovers. Considering the speed of play, the zoomed-in camera admittedly doesn't do the game any favors, as it's difficult to locate teammates for long passes.
Granted, if you're seeking a methodical simulation, this definitely isn't it--but it is a lot of fun, and the great pixel graphics pack in a lot of personality, even with the limited character designs and backdrops. And on iPad, you can even do head-to-head matches on the same screen, which adds the rare and welcome ability to face off without a second device needed.
Football Manager Handheld 2014
If the appeal of soccer for you comes not from the excitement of each shot, but rather the strategizing and tactics that make the big plays possible, then perhaps Football Manager Handheld 2014 ($9.99, iOS and [Android][https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sigames.fmh2014&hl=en]) is more your speed.
Sega's long-running management sim series never lets you take to the pitch yourself, but you'll be able to put your squad in the best position to win by running the entire organization. That means making key substitutions and smart player transfers, answering tough media questions, and analyzing data to learn from past strategic mistakes. It's all menus, and not for the casual observer who simply wants to kick the ball around, but it offers serious depth for stat junkies.
Flick Kick Football Legends
With a narrative hook, cartoonish '70s aesthetic, and first-person gameplay, Flick Kick Football Legends (free for iOS and Android) feels distinctive from everything else out there, challenging you to return a faded club to prominence after the untimely (and explosive) death of its legendary coach.
Unlike the original Flick Kick Football, which simply offered a series of penalty kicks to undertake, Legends puts you into every play--whether it's taking a shot, passing the ball, or sliding to steal from an opponent. Well-timed and smartly curved swipes are needed for success on the pitch, and while the gameplay is rather simple, the amusing tone and colorful look keep things fresh for a while.