The year’s top apps had us brushing up on America’s presidential history (“Disney American Presidents”), burning calories while surviving the undead apocalypse (“Zombies, Run!”), and turning our pets into action-movie stars. Your move, 2013!
George R. R. Martin’s A World of Ice and Fire – A Game of Thrones Guide (iOS)
Brimming with facts, info, and fan-servicing tidbits from George R.R. Martin’s high fantasy epic, this encyclopedia-like supplement serves as the perfect companion to the sprawling literary series. Featuring family trees, interactive maps, and even a cool anti-spoiler tool, this packed app will please seasoned Westeros wanderers as well as newcomers to the Wall.
Zombies, Run! (iOS, Android)
Equal parts zombie game, survival story, and fitness app, this inspired attempt to encourage exercise helps users burn calories and keep their brains from becoming zombie appetizers. Whether collecting scarce supplies or hoofing it from flesh-hungry hordes, Zombies, Run!‘s mission-based challenges can transform a mundane daily jog through the park into an adrenaline-pumping race to survive the undead apocalypse.
The Silent History (iOS)
A refreshingly twisted take on the e-reading phenomenon, The Silent History delivers an absorbing yarn through daily entries dubbed testimonials. Complementing its cliffhanger-friendly, serialized approach is a compelling tale about creepy kids who don’t speak or engage with the world around them. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but you’ll have to tune in tomorrow to peel back the next narrative layer.
This Hulu-Twitter hybrid allows users to share and caption bite-sized clips spanning a variety of interests, from pop-culture to politics. It gained a faithful following this past election season when the debating candidates provided plenty of fodder ripe for sharing and skewering, but the ability to also post quick, quality film, television, and sports clips continued to make it a favorite even after the polls closed.
Action Movie FX (iOS)
If you’re hoping to become the Spielberg of smartphone film-making, Action Movie FX probably won’t help much. However, if you’re simply looking to spice up your everyday life with blockbuster special effects like, say, unleashing a missile strike in your living room, this accessible app delivers. Trust me, you haven’t experienced the year’s most mindless—and awesome—fun until you’ve shot a mini action movie starring your cat.
Frankenweenie: An Electrifying Book (iOS)
Bucking the trend of phoned-in, film-tied advertisements disguised as entertainment apps, Frankenweenie: An Electrifying Book is a fan-pleasing, info-packed complement to its silver screen counterpart. Brimming with behind-the-scenes content, the interactive tome digs deep into Tim Burton’s latest stop-motion movie, while also providing an engaging peek into the director’s bizarro brain.
Disney American Presidents: Unofficial Oval Office Scrapbook (iOS)
Presented with plenty of polish and personality, this charming “edutainment” app turns America’s presidential history into a fun—and funny—interactive journey. Whether you’re a seasoned political pundit, budding history buff, or just a student who’d rather tap an iPad screen than page through a text book, this palm-sized Hall of Presidents is the perfect pre-inauguration day primer.
Many turntable apps cater to audiophiles and DJ-wannabes, but Turnplay forgoes the strict focus on tools and teaching in favor of a more fun-fueled vinyl-spinning experience. Beyond the obvious appeal of transforming your tablet into a high-end turntable, the realistic audio effects—hisses and scratches are especially ear-pleasing—and detail-drenched animations make this one an iPad-showcasing staple.
Avengers Origins: Assemble/ Avengers Origins: Hulk (iOS)
While the Avengers’ youngest fans will dig these interactive books’ mini-games and touchscreen activities, more seasoned followers of the spandex-clad crime-fighters will appreciate the stunning artwork, slick animations, and rich narration provided by comic book icon Stan Lee. Okay, adults—like this 41-year-old fanboy—may also occasionally enjoy crushing objects from behind Hulk’s smashing fists.
Xbox SmartGlass (iOS, Android)
Supporting a second-screen experience similar to the Wii U’s, this Xbox 360 companion app lets players further immerse themselves in their games through their tablets and smartphones. On top of, say, interacting with maps in Forza Horizon or playlists in Dance Central 3 though, the intuitive tool also enhances non-gaming entertainment, like allowing users to unlock bonus content in the latest Batman flick.
More Best of 2012:
The couples we’re shipping
The 5 best non-Adele songs of the year
Episodes we can’t erase from our DVR
On-screen couples with great chemistry
Say what? The worst movie lines of the year
The year in lyrics, from Taylor Swift to Carly Rae