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I would like to make an isometric RPG game that can be played with one hand in portrait mode. This will primarily be for smartphones like the iphone 6 and samsung galaxy s7. I've been looking at many examples online but most isometric smartphone games seem to be landscape games. Making Isometric Social Real-Time Games with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript By Mario Andres Pagella also claims that

In isometric games, presenting the game in landscape mode is a better use of screen real state than presenting it in portrait mode.

Why is this true? Don't both orientations display the same number of tiles?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why "most" games make a choice and whether or not making that choice is a good idea for you are questions that too broad and too opinion-oriented here, so I have removed those aspects of your question in order to preserve what is on-topic from your query. \$\endgroup\$ – user1430 Aug 29 '16 at 3:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Don't both orientations display the same number of tiles?" They do but in a different number of tiles along each dimension. Depends what you want to have actually. \$\endgroup\$ – Trilarion Aug 29 '16 at 11:02
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In a typical isometric-style projection, tiles are roughly twice as wide as they are tall (depending on whether you're using true isometric or its close cousin often used in games, the 2:1 dimetric projection).

So, as you move around the tile grid, measuring out from the player's current focus, you eat up horizontal space about twice as fast as vertical.

Check out the two crops of a scene below, both using the same zoom:

Example showing the same scene at the same zoom, landscape & portrait

(modified game image from fldr, using Kenney game assets)

  • In the landscape crop, we can see every tile 3 hops away from the central focus (in white), and nearly every tile 4 hops away.

  • In the portrait crop, we've already hit the edge at two hops from the center, and some of the tiles 3 hops away are missing. So although the total tile area on screen is the same, we can't see as far in all directions.

    If we have things like enemies that can attack from 3 tiles away, then we'd need to zoom out to keep the game fair in a portrait crop. (But, if most of your gameplay is vertical, then the extra visibility above & below might be helpful)

So, if showing a broad flat area is important to your game, then a landscape crop might help you keep your assets larger on-screen without losing important information off the sides. Levels with a lot of vertical variation can turn this on its head though, so consider carefully what kind of game spaces you want to create.

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This is a square grid shown using an isometric projection:

isometric square

Note how it's wider than it's tall.

In fact, even if the grid was a rectangle with unequal sides, it still will be wider than taller, due to the nature of isometric projection.

If you use a different projection, you can reduce the width-to-height ratio but you'll never get it taller than wide. The best you can do is equal width to height, which is a top-down perspective.

The only way you'll end up with a grid that is taller than it's wide is to use non-rectangular shapes, like this (only taller):

jagged isometric

But notice that it produces jagged edges, which are less aesthetically pleasing, and it's a bit harder to check bounds.

Some isometric games use portrait orientation though, usually because they have a lot of verticality. For example, here's Monument Valley, a game with lots of vertical structures, and uses portrait orientation:

monument valley

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