The 15 Best iPhone Games
Last time we looked at the best iPhone games in the mobile market, things were much different. Angry Birds ruled the land with an iron first, Doodle Jump had, er, jumped into the App Store to critical acclaim, Rage HD gave us a taste of id Software's next big thing, Infinity Blade pushed the boundaries of iOS technology, and a little title called Game Dev Story had put Kairosoft on the map. A handful of months later, some new sensations and indie gems are headlining our new list of "Top 15" favorite iPhone games.
But with so many excellent apps (and it's impossible to cover them all), we had to lay a few ground rules down. One, no ports of console or PC games like Street Fighter IV or Mega Man 2 -- those iOS titles will be getting special treatment further down the road. Also, the GamePro editors took an office poll to make sure that our Honorable Mentions included as many worthy games as possible. Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments, and give your special iOS games some love.
15 | Space Invaders Infinity Gene
Space Invaders Infinity Gene, one of the very first shooter games on the iPhone, is part of a series of recent strides by Taito Corporation in modernizing and updating the simple left-to-right single-shot formula of the original title. With Infinity Gene, each level branches out with a new challenge, depending on how you fight the swarms of enemy ships. Aside from being able to move in any direction via the iPhone touchscreen, different ships with different types of bullets become available later in the game.
While Space Invaders Infinity Gene packs a lot of content with achievements, hundreds of levels, a Challenge Mode, a Music Mode (which creates stages based on songs in your iPod's hard drive), and difficult bosses, the app's most recent update expands the gameplay more with a new Survival Mode.
14 | Real Racing 2
One of the most polished racing sims on the iPhone, Real Racing 2 builds upon the first installment with more cars, tracks, and races. Graphically, the game is stellar: races go by at a speedy framerate with realistic sound effects to boot. Control-wise, Real Racing 2 stays engaging by giving players the option to use the iPhone's accelerometer to steer your vehicle of choice (or, you can use easier control schemes to handle auto-acceleration or auto-braking in your car).
Aside from bumping up the vehicle count to 30 and including a deep career mode, Real Racing 2 also features substantial multiplayer challenges with offline time trials, 16-player online, and 8-player local matches -- plus global leaderboards.
13 | Pizza Boy
While developer Acne Play has a name you wouldn't want to associate with food, their iOS game Pizza Boy does the team proud with a delectable serving of old-school platforming gameplay. As the titular hero, it's up to you to track down stolen pizza across a variety of classic level archetypes, like lava and ice worlds. While a short adventure, Pizza Boy has some legs on the campaign thanks to unlockables, collectibles, and bonus areas.
Also, make sure you give a listen to the music over at http://soundcloud.com/andreaslof/sets/pizza-boy-music -- the tracks are catchy, and sound just like early 1990s games.
12 | The Incident
In The Incident, you're a man in a standard button-down shirt and a tie. It's been a long day at work. Suddenly, a couch falls from the sky and lands next to you with a thud. More objects begin raining down, and the only chance for survival is to stay atop the ever-growing heap of TVs, cars, and the occasional Egyptian sarcophagus. Tilting left or right will make the unlucky man move accordingly, and a simple tap will cause him to leap and scramble atop the nearest object.
If you've got an iPhone 4, you're in luck, as The Incident supports super crisp "Retina Display" visuals in order to make the pixel art really sharp. Once you really get good at the core mechanics, give the "Endless Night" mode a try, too. Eventually, the gameplay becomes a question of how high can you can climb and how many weird objects you can spot.
11 | Rage HD
Rage HD was hotly anticipated upon its release, and we found its on-rails gameplay to be as equally awesome as its impressive visuals. The game's story has you as a contestant in a strange game show in which you must survive a gauntlet of angry mutants. It's a somewhat interesting setup, but in reality it just serves as an excuse to get you running through rooms while shooting as many dudes in the face as possible. The game is something of a tech demo for id Software's engine on the iPhone, but it also offers a decent enough chunk of shooting gallery gameplay to be worth its meager price point.
Once again, the iPhone 4 can give the graphics a little extra "oomph" due to the Retina Display and faster processor, so if you're not playing on iPad, the newest iPhone on hand is a solid substitute.
10 | Monster Dash
Halfbrick Studios, creators of the addictive and colorful Fruit Ninja, have shown that they're no one-hit wonder -- Monster Dash manages to recapture the same addictive spirit as their debut title. With this game, hero Barry Steakfries runs at a breakneck pace across tons of monster-filled levels as you have to keep him clear of danger. If you can avoid crashing and burning, plenty of power-ups like rocket launchers and a "machine gun jetpack" will stack the odds in your favor.
Barry Steakfries also hunts zombies on the side, so if you like this app, give Age of Zombies (another solid title from Halfbrick) a try, too.
9 | Flight Control
Flight Control was directly responsible for the creation of an entire genre of "line-drawing games" on the App Store, but it remains the best of its kind. Directing planes and helicopters to their landing is a great use of the touch screen, and the game gets incredibly frantic if you can make it far enough. It's easy to learn, but hard to master, as a constantly increasing number of incoming flights will have you juggling more than you might be able to handle.
Flight Controls has received continual support from developers Firemint post-launch -- a recent update has even added online multiplayer support and an online voice chat feature, making a somewhat older game new again for the millions who have purchased it.
8 | Doodle Jump
Doodle Jump was the #1 best-selling iPhone game for the majority of 2009, and for good reason. It features a simple premise: keep hopping upwards to improve your score. The game's simple "keep on climbing" platforming gimmick and tight controls made it a huge hit, and spawned countless knockoff titles that developers spammed the App Store with. But what makes Doodle Jump unique is its distinguishable art style, various types of jumping boosts (springs, rockets, and more), plus a variety of different obstacles to dodge and navigate around. It's a mix that just works well, and developer Lima Sky just hit the right formula at the right time.
7 | Cut The Rope
Cut the Rope has become just as much of a "Top 10" sales chart mainstay as Angry Birds, and it's no doubt due in part to its crisp, colorful graphics and charming lead character. In each level, you must figure out how to get a piece of candy from one side of the screen into the mouth of an adorable green critter named "Om Nom." Early in the game, you'll accomplish this by cutting ropes attached to the candy with a swipe of a finger, initiating a physics-powered puzzle that you'll have to use both planning and speed to solve.
Although it sounds simple enough, other elements like a gravity changer and collectible stars manage to keep things fresh, and add variety to an already fantastic puzzler.
6 | Tiny Tower
Tiny Tower is the textbook definition of "time sink" -- spending a few seconds with this game can easily turn into a few minutes. As the landlord of a bustling urban skyscraper, it's your task to manage "Bitizens," shops, and job distribution as you try to earn enough money to increase the size of your tower. Part of the incentive is finding all the different types of shops in the game, and matching each Bitizen to their dream job -- by doing that, sales increase, more money rolls in, and you can build more floors in your Tiny Tower.
Be warned: Once you get past 15 floors, you could be checking your iPhone every minute to stock your Pub/Cyber Cafe/Coffee Shop/Laundromat/Night Club or move in a new Bitizen. For a free game, the features are quite robust, yet simple. Of course, if you want to speed things along, you can always buy virtual "Tower Bucks."
5 | Game Dev Story
There are simulation games for nearly everything, whether you want to fly a plane, build a city, or command the growth of an ant colony, but Game Dev Story just might be the first ever game developer simulator. As the new guy (or gal) in charge of a promising new studio, you'll be charged with making the big decisions that go on behind the scenes in game development like hiring and firing designers, coming up with game ideas, managing a budget, and dealing with fans. For us, one of the weirdest feelings was getting enraged at gaming journalists for giving our early games low scores of 3s and 4s -- talk about hitting close to home.
Even if simulation games aren't normally your thing, give Game Dev Story a chance. Kairosoft's entire formula of addictive "slice of life sims" started here, and it's a good jumping-in point. It'll probably eat away your entire weekend before you know it.
4 | Dead Space
One thing that Electronic Arts has done very well with the Dead Space franchise is porting the experience to systems with vastly different control schemes. On the iPhone, swiping and tapping gestures are the core gameplay element used to battle hordes of deadly Necromorphs, and they work incredibly well. Even the production values outclass many other iPhone games with 3D engines, as Dead Space retains the ominous lighting, speedy enemies, and eerie sound effects that made the original game such a frightening title.
If you're really a survivalist, you can also try the iOS version's "Nightmare" difficulty, which basically takes away your ability to recover health during levels. If you need practice, Dead Space's content also includes some neat extras like exclusive weapons and survival modes. Just make sure you have an iPhone 3GS or better to access everything the game can offer.
3 | Infinity Blade
Epic Games' Infinity Blade is the first real game to utilize Unreal Engine technology on a handheld, and it's easily the most impressive looking game available on the iPhone. It actually plays quite similarly to Nintendo's Punch-Out series, albeit with gorgeous animation and RPG elements like the ability to buy new weapons and armor for your fighter. Blocking, slashing, and dodging blows is the cornerstone of the gameplay, and as you die, opponents simply become more and more difficult to finish off.
It's unbelievable that Infinity Blade runs as well as it does on a mobile phone, and hopefully it's a sign of more to come from Epic Games and other ambitious developers.
2 | Tiny Wings
A stellar example of minimalist video game design done right, Tiny Wings is a perfect storm of accessibility. One-touch gameplay that's easy to learn, but difficult to master; a charming, colorful palette that's constantly changing with each new game; and host to a seemingly endless array of diverse objectives that're always increasing in difficulty. There's a reason that German iOS dev Andreas Illinger's little-App-that-could has sold more than two million copies -– and we'll tell you what that reason is. Um, right after we wrap up this game.
1 | Angry Birds Rio
Angry Birds Rio may be a shameless tie-in for the computer animated movie Rio, but that doesn't detract from the quality that developer Rovio put into the game at all. Consider this sequel/expansion a vastly more polished version of the original Angry Birds, as you try to free your exotic feathered friends from captivity in all-new levels and puzzles. Sure, there's no war with the Green Pigs here, but the gameplay will still have you replaying level after level as you try to bust the feathered mascots free of their cages.
With all the updates added so far, Angry Birds Rio brings over 130 new levels to your iPhone, so expect to get comfortable as you try to aim the furious fowl at just the right angles to rack up the highest scores you possibly can.
Mixing up the 35-year-old roguelike genre with a distinctly arcade-friendly style, 100 Rouges drops you into a dungeon where normal RPG elements like leveling up and acquisition of spells come at a ridiculously fast rate.
Age of Zombies
In Age of Zombies you'll play as Barry Steakfries, a foul-mouthed character with a penchant for guns and one liners. Crisp pixel art, a varied selection of weapons, and great humorous writing make Age of Zombies a shooter no iPhone owner should miss.
Angry Birds' steup is as goofy as the gameplay itself; you're a bird and evil green piggies have stolen your eggs, so you've decided to take revenge by flinging yourself from a catapult at the filthy swine until all of them are dead.
A "love story on wheels," Bumpy Road is about guiding a couple on a drive, controlling their car by manipulating the xylophone-like ground. Tapping the road makes it bump -- launching the vehicle -- while dragging it allows the landscape to ripple.
Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night
With gameplay that combines a Puzzle Quest-like battle system with the classic side-scrolling Castlevania games, Encore of the Night is a strange but surprisingly good App Store release from Konami. Think Bejeweled but with tons of RPG elements, and that famous Castlevania art style.
Drop7's weird combination of Sudoku and Tetris has you trying to prevent an ever-rising pile of numbered bubbles from reaching the top of the screen. Any bubble can be popped whenever the number of bubbles in a row or column matches the number displayed on the bubble itself.
Dragon Hunter 2
Dungeon Hunter 2 fixes everything wrong with the first game and makes the series into something that stands out as an action-RPG with a distinctive feel. As you hack and slash through beautiful environments you’ll collect mountains of loot, earn points that allow you to customize your character, go online, and show off your armor and skills while playing cooperatively with up to three other players.
Eternal Legacy features a battle system that has been more or less ripped from Final Fantasy XIII, but it's a mechanically solid and great-looking game that's in a league of its own as far as turn-based RPGs on the iPhone go.
Developer Halfbrick Studio’s Fruit Ninja puts you in a situation that has no explanation and frankly doesn’t require one. Fruit is flying up from the bottom of the screen and you need to kill it by swiping like a crazy person -– but there’s something oddly therapeutic about the whole thing.
As the Sherlock Holmes-inspired Dr. Helsing and his jovial companion Raffton, you must place torches in 2D, top-down levels to illuminate and destroy the creatures hiding in the darkness. Light shoots out in all directions from your torches, but obstacles like frail maidens (which you must avoid, of course) will force you to position your torches carefully.
Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus
Much like Dungeon Hunter was a Diablo clone, the first Modern Combat game was a shameless rip of the new Call of Duty games -- but Modern Combat 2 feels like all the greatest parts of the original Goldeneye, albeit with a Modern Warfare-esque online multiplayer system. Using surprisingly accessible controls you'll storm through hallways with shotguns, mow down dozens of enemy troops with turrets, and stealthily snipe baddies in a campaign that blows away every other FPS on the App Store.
As you drift around turns in both single-player and online multiplayer races, you're likely to be blown away by Reckless Racing's realistic lighting, detailed textures, and the convincing way your vehicles dangerously lean as they roar around turns.
Silverfish is effectively a dual-stick shooter, but without the dual sticks or the shooting. Using swipe controls, you command a strikingly colorful "space fish" around a small, rectangular arena. As you do so, baddies will randomly spawn into the world and begin to relentlessly chase you around. If you hope to escape –- or get a high score –- you'll have to let the enemy space fish get as close to you as possible before running into on-screen bombs that target all surrounding threats (much like in Geometry Wars 2's Pacifism mode).
Sparkle features the same match-three gameplay that made Zuma a hit, although it also integrates a few interesting collectible power-ups (along with a strangely dark tone). If you're worried about possible complications stemming from the fact that the iPhone screen is seemingly too small for a Zuma-style game to work, fret not -- it’s easy to be accurate with the touch screen, so Sparkle is in no way an inferior experience.
Super Mega Worm
Rednecks are trashing Mother Earth, and as the long-sleeping guardian of the planet, you must exact justice upon the entirety of the human population. Using intuitive slider controls, you'll guide a gigantic, ever-growing worm as he rockets through the Earth's crust, only leaping out into the air whenever there's a nearby person or vehicle to be snacked on.
Sword & Poker 2
Sword & Poker 2 combines familiar card game mechanics with RPG tropes like health bars and loot as you descend into many dungeons. In battle, you’ll take turns laying down cards on a five by five grid while attempting to create poker hands. Bigger hands (like a flush) will deal out more damage to your enemies, so you’ll have to have both strategy and luck to crush friends and AI opponents.
Sword of Fargoal
In Sword of Fargoal, you're out to collect a powerful sword, and have to descend into an increasingly dangerous dungeon to reach it. Like in many roguelikes, dying just once in Sword of Fargoal will mean that you can no longer play as that character, so it's tailored for a more hardcore audience.
Words With Friends
In Words With Friends, you can have up to 20 games going at once. Once your opponent has made a move, you’ll be alerted via push notification and you can open the app and send your own move in return. If you like Scrabble, this is by far the best way to play the game with others.