Looking back at 10 years of Tiny Tower

I suspect that most of us have a game or two on our phones that fill the purpose of “pick up and play” for a short period of time. Toilet time, or elevator time, or I-have-two-minutes-until-the-kids-get-out-of-school time. They’re our comfort games, trading depth and intricacy for immediate satisfaction and enjoyment.

For about a decade now, one of these pick up and play iPhone games for me has been NimbleBit’s Tiny Tower. I remember getting it a decade ago the week I went on a mission trip. At night, as I was trying to sleep on a very uncomfortable cot, I was enthralled with this tiny pixelated world and its money-generating inhabitants.

Tiny Tower’s simple gameplay loop — expand a tower and stock floors with workers to generate coins for more floors — was such a hit that it spawned countless knock-offs (and even several NimbleBit developed titles like LEGO Tower and Vegas Tower). But none had the simple charm of the first with all of its gorgeous pixelart and dorky “bitzens” who would chat to you on “Bitbook.”

It’s been a while since I last played, but I recently re-downloaded the game and have fallen for it all over again. Part of this is thanks to the massive 10th anniversary update, which added several great features like a little dude who parachutes in with gifts and actual player housing. I’ve been diligently saving up the enormous amount of currency needed for a house while stocking my floors with dream job bitzens.

I think the personality is the big appeal here. Each floor is covered in so much detail even though it’s, well, tiny, and I like outfitting my bitzens and giving them pets and helping them find their dream jobs. A while back I paid for the one-time VIP purchase, which gave a lot of quality-of-life improvements, such as an auto-delivering elevator, and I’m still reaping the benefits of that today.

I hear that NimbleBit is working on a big update to Pocket Planes, which is another favorite, and I hope that comes true. The Tinyverse that this studio created with its several titles is awesome, but none has been so addicting as this simple tower that I can play in portrait mode while pretending to be checking stocks or something.

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