How to find the idea for your next hit game

As an experienced or novice game developer, the temptation to create a game targeted for the mobile platforms — and publish, be it Appstore / Google Play or others, is very big. There is a huge market awaiting for your beautiful and ingenious creation, and success stories are as numerous as are well established in the collective memory.

But before getting started, we have to find the idea for that hit game — or even better, more than one. Let’s go through a series of sources of inspiration and criterias that can guide you in settling on a certain game genre, mechanics and all-round feeling of your next awesome game.

  1. Your own gaming experience and passions. For example, being passionate about RTS games, I’ve always wanted to build an RTS game for mobile, but one that is really adapted to that platform. Starting from here, I would see a simplification of the classical RTS concept, with just a few unit types so that they’re easily distinguishable in the small screen estate, easy input and an UX favoring simplicity. Start from your favourite games or genre, add a twist, simplify, combine, keep notes with all the crazy ideas 🙂
  2. Going through the Appstore / Google Play categories and checking out the latest trending and biggest hits games. This is useful even if you already know what you’d like to develop as it can bring up new ideas and twists for your game. Document various aspects of the games that you liked most (like graphics style, sound & music, game mechanics), and let it sink for a while — the ideas will start pouring soon. Being original in your initial game proposals does not mean totally avoiding the existing trends and ideas.
  3. Checking out sites that list game ideas. This is sure to spark a lot of inspiration for possible game mechanics and themes, and it offers you the possibility to combine ideas in ingenious ways.
  4. Oldies but goldies. Be sure to check out the old hits, especially the older ones like ’80s — ’90s as they have less visual complexity but clever mechanics that may suit well a mobile implementation. It is useful to do this even if you don’t intent to create a retro title as those game are simple enough to warrant a very successful mobile adaptation.
  5. Use constraints to help shape an original idea. For example, I would like to build an uni-dimensional game, what kind of game mechanics could fit such a constraint? There are many types of constraints: for the graphics, the constraint could be that all the objects in the game are squares, or that the colours used are just indigo and black, for the input, it could be made only out of taps, or only of swipes, or drawing certain shapes, the time of the game could run backwards and so on. Or even the constraint could be the time allotted to craft the game. Come up with a few favorite ones and start playing with combinations. The amount of possible constraints and combinations is infinite.
  6. Existing real-life sports. With the increased mobile support and growing hype for the AR, this is sure something not to overlook. For example, you could opt for implementing ping-pong with the help of AR, allowing two competing gamers to play in the same physical place (guaranteed fun!), or remotely. Also consider here combining mechanics from two or more real-life games.
  7. Switch roles or mechanics. Take any well known game mechanics and begin to switch it out, reverse roles. Let’s say you have a classic game of hunter shooting ducks, what would you get if you could actually control the ducks and try to escape with as many as possible unscathed? Or, in a 2D platformer you actually control the monsters opposing the main character. Play with this and you could get to a very original and successful game idea.
  8. Target demographics. If you love the idea of designing and developing a game for children or, why not, for the seniors, then you have a solid starting point. Define your demographics very precisely (on the appstore, in case of games for children, you are required to target it to a precise age interval) and be aware of the possible limitations like for example parental controls. Starting from here, be sure to explore existing games targeted for that demographics (see point 2) and also use your specific experience with the users of that age in order to come up with some interesting game ideas.
  9. Choice of technology. So for a reason or another you choose to develop your game with a certain choice of technology, be it a 3D game with AR or a game using Metal engine. This may have the effect of narrowing down your choices and depending on the motivation behind it might be worth it or not. Be sure not to fall into the trap of ‘this tech is so cool, I wanna use it no matter what’ and carefully weigh in the pros and cons.
  10. Brainstorming. Last but not least.. So gather a few of your friends or your partners in the game project and start shooting wild ideas. This can be useful at the beginning of the ideas gathering process, or after you already have a few contestants and would like to see if any cool twists can come out of it. Make sure to not completely lose control of the process and also clearly state the scope (‘hey guys, we don’t actually want to build Starcraft III here ! .. or do we ?’)

OK, so after hard (and lot of fun) work, you did find the idea for your next hit game. Actually, not only one idea, you now have an entire list of favourite game ideas, now what ?

It is useful to make a document and list your game ideas as well as a short initial description for the game mechanics. Don’t stick to a single game choice, try to explore more or at least make variations on the original idea.

The step further is to start expanding on each game idea. Start describing in detail the mechanics, style of graphics, technical requirements or other specifics, whether it is single or multiplayer and possible venues for monetisation. Focus on game mechanics and graphics style though. Let those ideas rest for a week or two; if they bring up the same enthusiasm when you return to them, it’s a good sign you’re on the right track.

Further, choose 2–3 of the most promising ideas and promote them to the next step: prototyping. For that, you need to clearly define the core mechanics of the game in order to be able to start the implementation.

But more on that another time.

Cheers, and happy games crafting!

Originally published at on December 27, 2020.




Hello, my name is Tiberiu and I am passionate about games development and programming since high-school. I love to help others improve their skills in this area

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Tiberiu Jinga-Dinu

Tiberiu Jinga-Dinu

Hello, my name is Tiberiu and I am passionate about games development and programming since high-school. I love to help others improve their skills in this area

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