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List of Touch/Stylus Games for PC

So there are some games that are better with touch or pen controls on the PC. For those of us with things like Surface machines, there's no real list of them, so I've attempted to curate a list here. In addition, I'll only be listing games that are made better by the presense of touch or stylus, since if mouse/keyboard work better, there's no real need for touch.

This list will be separated into whether it's native (made for PC) or if it's an emulator (emulates another system with touch/pen games). Emulated systems will be one big description with a few recommended games, whereas native games will each have their own entries and be sorted into a table.

For native games, I'll also put a rating for pen, whether it's worse to play with a stylus, the same as finger touch, or better with a stylus. The rationale for it will be in the description.
Generally, pen is better for games that require accuracy, drawing, or dragging.
Touch on the other hand is generally better when you have touch gestures (like zoom), ones that require multitouch outright, or when you need to tap multiple things at once or very quickly in succession.

If you have any other games I may have missed, you can email me at uglook (at) uglook (dot) net.
This document was last updated on January 2017. It is nowhere near complete (I estimate that it's less than 5% complete).

Emulated Systems

Personal computers have two primary emulation software at the moment: Android emulation and Nintendo DS emulation.

Android Emulation Show/Hide

Mobile games primary operate through the medium of touch, and so most Android games are going to be touch games. They are generally pretty casual games, which may turn a lot of people off, but if you look, there are some gems in the library, even for more hardcore gamers who want more of a challenge from their games (I'll list some of my picks below).

In order to play Android games on a PC, you'll need a system with multi-touch capabilities (which is most modern touchscreen laptops, such as the Surface series). You will also need an Android emulator, of which there are many (some of which have Mac or Linux ports), such as Droid4x, Andy, and Bluestacks, to name just a few. Gaming is kept in mind for these emulators, so performance, depending on your system, is generally okay, but that being said, you may notice a bit of slowness sometimes, but it's generally bearable for all but the most timing sensitive games (which is a particular problem with rhythm games).

There are plenty of lists online for you to get a good grasp of what Android games there are available. You'll generally want to look for something that works well on a tablet (since a touchscreen is going to be pretty big), but to get you started, I'll list some of my general picks for what works well:

DS Emulation Show/Hide

DeSmuME allows you to play DS games on a PC. Normally, you'd have to use something like a mouse to control the touchscreen, but it is much better with an actual touchscreen. Unlike Android emulation, DS games were designed to be used with a stylus, so more often than not, you'll get the best results if you use a stylus to control the touch screen. In addition, the DS had controls, such as the D-Pad, so you'll probably be better of if you also have a gamepad in your off-hand, or at least have the keyboard handy.

Despite having a touchscreen, not that many games ended up making very good use of it. However, there are some good to great games. Below is a sampling of some of those games.

Game List (Native Games)

Name OS Website With Stylus? Description
Osu! Windows, Wine (Freeware) http://osu.ppy.sh/ Better Show/Hide

Like Stepmania and Frets on Fire, this is a rhythm game based off of a console game. In this case, the source game is "Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan" (hence the name Osu!). A bunch of hit tokens appear on the beat and your job is to tap/slide the notes to the rhythm. The original was a bit of a cult classic, but the fact that anyone can make a beatmap (and there are thousands available on their site), as well as the fact that they have an active global high scoreboard means that Osu! has seen much success.

Controls

That being said, a touchscreen is not exactly necessary. Some play it with the mouse, in fact. If you've played "Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan" (or "Elite Beat Agents", the USA sequel), you can imagine how painful that must be, especially if you know how it was originally played. Some people play it with a combination of mouse and keyboard, using the keyboard for taps, but in my opinion, this doesn't really make up for the fact that mouse is a relative movement input, whereas touch/pen is an absolute movement device, and is more accurate. There is some amount of benefit you get from keyboard taps; as fun as it is to physically tap on the keys, the keyboard is a bit quicker. You can get the best of both worlds by using touch, disabling the mouse click, and using a keyboard on the side (or a controller using Joy2Key or something).

This is also one of the rare games where a stylus is actually better than finger touch (as opposed to equal), for a few reasons:

  • Sliding your finger across your screen for extended periods can cause issues with friction, depending on your touchscreen, and whether you can use gloves or not.
  • On certain screens and difficulties, precision can be pretty important.
  • Many styluses (Wacom and N-Trig for instance) lets you hover, so you can hover and use a keyboard/gamepad for taps, without having to disable mouse clicks (and in fact you can use both in conjunction).

Chalk Windows (Freeware) http://www.konjak.org/ Better Show/Hide

This is actually a very unique game in its own right, setting aside how well it works for touch screens. It is self-descripted as a shoot-em-up game with crayons. The idea is that you control a character with arrow keys (or with the right mouse click), and then you attack/interact by drawing on the screen, which can be used to create shields, destroy obstactle, or attack enemies. Despite how much power you are given with the ability to draw anywhere on the screen, the game actually ends up being quite a challenge, even if it is a bit on the short side.

Controls

You CAN use a mouse and keyboard to control this, but it is much more precise and accurate using a stylus, as you can imagine, given that the game is based mostly on drawing on the screen. It is also one of those rare games where pen is better than straight up touch, as drawing with a pen is more natural and more precise than trying to do the same with a human finger. This game also gets fast, so trying to line things up just right with your mouse can get a bit frustrating, whereas with a pen you can get to exactly where you want at any time. In fact, the game really feels like it was meant to be played with a stylus over anything else.

There is one caveat to the control scheme: it works best when paired with a keyboard or with a gamepad (emulating a keyboard, using something like joy2key). This is for the movement of the main character. While you CAN move Sprite around by right clicking on screen, this does mean you can't move and draw at the same time, which can get pretty dangerous at later levels.

Crayon Physics: Deluxe & Magic Pen Win/Mac/Linux (Steam & Freeware) http://www.crayonphysics.com/ & http://www.physicsgames.net/game/Magic_Pen.html Better Show/Hide

There are actually two I've listed here, both of which are pretty similar. They're both physics based drawing puzzle games, where you draw shapes to set up a course or propeller to guide a ball to a goal, with some objectives being using the smallest number of objects, quickest time, or shortest draw length. "Magic Pen" does seem to have more restrictions on what you can draw where, and gives you the option of drawing perfect circles, so there's more "puzzle" and less "sandbox" than "Crayon Physics", so if you only play one, that may alter your decision.

Controls

Puzzle games tend work pretty well with touchscreens, but this one is particularly well suited, because drawing with the mouse generally sucks, whereas drawing by hand generally doesn't.

The stylus does work better here for the drawing precision. You CAN use a finger, but drawing is generally more precise with a tool with a well defined point, rather than trying to use a finger, which has a large area of contact, to try and draw specific shapes.

The one caveat to the controls is that "Crayon Physics" expects keyboard controls, such as "Escape" to pause and middle click to change crayon colors. If you have a Wacom pen, this is easier to deal with, as you can just remap your controls, and there are multi-button wacom pens. However, it may be useful to have a keyboard nearby, or at least have a gamepad that has various buttons bound to key or mouse presses using something like joy2key. If you have a Steam controller, this can be trivial to set up.