36 Best iPhone Games
The huge number of games available in the iTunes App Store can make delving into the games scene for the iPhone and iPod Touch pretty intimidating at first. To help you out, we've pulled together what we feel are 36 of the best games currently available. Some of them have been available for a while, some of them are updates to previously well-received ideas, and some of them are spectacular new releases that hit the store in the past few weeks. With a market this Crowded, few things are more powerful than personal recommendations.
100 Rouges mixes up the 35-year-old Roguelike genre with a distinctly arcade-friendly style. After choosing your character class you'll be dropped into a dungeon where normal RPG elements like leveling up and acquisition of spells come at a ridiculously fast rate. Instead of playing with one character for several hours (as you would in other Rougelikes), most characters you create in 100 Rouges are unlikely to last more than ten minutes. 100 Rogues is a game for those who want all the fun that RPGs offer but don't have a lot of free time on their hands, making it a perfect mobile game.
Across Age DX
Games like developer GAMEVIL's Zenonia showed that you could make a good action-RPG on the iPhone, but Across Age (and it's high-definition release, Across Age DX) showed that you could also make a great one. The top-down game sees you escorting a young girl with hidden powers through a story that dabbles in time-travel, and the game manages to really explore its time-travel mechanic in a way that makes for some really interesting puzzles. With gorgeous sprite-based graphics, dungeons that'll make you think you're playing a Zelda game, and an addictive leveling system, Across Age feels like a freshly discovered Super Nintendo classic.
Age Of Zombies
"Dual-stick" shooters are in no short supply on the App Store, so it's really saying something when I assert that Age of Zombies is the best one currently available. In the game you'll play as Barry Steakfries, a foul-mouthed character with a penchant for guns and one liners. The game uses the same virtual joystick controls that many other iOS games rely on, but they work much better in this case than in some other releases. 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 went from being a quietly successful hit in 2009 to the face of iPhone gaming in 2010. The setup 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 birds until all of them are dead. The million-selling physics puzzler has gone on to see release of numerous platforms, although Rovio has continued to focus mainly on the iPhone version, even creating a separate holiday-themed version of the game that functions as an extra level pack. If you're the one iDevice owner who hasn't already purchased Angry Birds, get out that credit card and hand over a Washington, because this is a game that has earned its popularity.
You're a man in a suit, and you're running. Tapping the screen will make you leap, and you're going to be doing a lot of that, because your jogging location of choice happens to be a bunch of exploding, crumbling rooftops. Canabalt gained inexplicable levels of popularity upon its release in 2009, and it's gone on to inspire the creation of an entire genre of games that feature similar mechanics (e.g.Monster Dash and Rogue Runner). It's a game with an excellent soundtrack and beautiful animation, and its quirky premise is perfect for a mobile device.
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.
Donut Games has released dozens of simple, arcade-style games via the App Store over the last two years, but Cat Physics may very well be their most original and fun game yet. Your goal is to get a ball from one on-screen cat to another. You'll have several tools at your disposal, most commonly placeable arrows that launch the ball in a given direction. There's a surprising amount variation in the puzzles, and you're guaranteed to get a lot of replay value out of making tiny tweaks to improve your score.
Cut The Rope
Cut the Rope has become just as much of a top ten sales chart mainstay as Angry Birds, and it's no doubt due in part to its crisp, colorful graphics and charming 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. The inclusion of elements like a gravity changer keeps things fresh, and adds variety to an already fantastic puzzler.
There are plenty of games on the App Store that center around rolling a ball around a level using tilt controls, but the Dark Nebula games blow everything else out of the water in terms of overall quality. Levels generally focus on you getting from one side to another, and you'll have to solve a seemingly endless selection of increasingly interesting puzzles as you go. It's hard to explain exactly what makes these games better than all of the other ball-rollers available, but drop 99 cents on Episode One and we're confident you'll end up buying the second game as well.
$0.99 (Episode 1); $1.99 (Episode 2)
Doodle Jump was the number one 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 gameplay and tight controls made it a huge hit and spawned countless knockoff titles that developers spammed the App Store with. The tilt-controlled game remains one of the most addictive pull-out-and-play apps available on the iPhone.
Doom II RPG
Take the original Doom games, clean up the graphics, stick in a bunch of awesome RPG elements, and make the game turn-based. What you end up with is Doom II RPG, a comedic first-person adventure designed exclusively for the iPhone. The game doesn't feature turn-based combat in the vein of Final Fantasy, but instead makes the whole world work almost like a board game - every time you take a step, so do all the enemies in the level. Likewise, attacking with a weapon takes up one turn. Even if you're not a fan of the Doom franchise, it'd be a mistake to miss out on this.
It's a weird combination - Sudoku and Tetris - but Drop7 is easily one of the best original puzzle games on the iPhone. The game has you trying to prevent an ever-rising pile of numbered bubbles from reaching the top of the screen. A bubble will be popped whenever the number of bubbles in a row or column matches the number displayed on the bubble itself. It's a bit confusing at first, but give the game about five minutes and you'll begin to understand the underlying strategy behind it. It's one of the deeper puzzle games I've ever played, and it's totally worth the $2.99 the developer is charging for it.
Dungeon Hunter 2
The original Dungeon Hunter felt like a somewhat soulless rip-off of Diablo, but this is a beautifully refined sequel that 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 and earn points that allow you to customize your character into something unique. Then you can go online and show off your armor and skills while playing cooperatively with up to three other players. If a Diablo-style action-RPG is what you crave, you can't go wrong with Dungeon Hunter 2.
EpicWin is a to-do list manager that turns your life into an RPG. After selecting your "character class," you're taken to the app's home screen, where you can create quests (read: tasks), set their due dates, and decide how many experience points each is worth based on the "epicness" of the challenge. As you continue to conquer the quests you've set up for yourself, your character will level up, collect loot, and earn new titles like "Mighty Dwarven Conqueror of Tasks." Although not technically a game, EpicWin earns a spot on this list for its pure originality and addictive, video game-inspired qualities.
If you're partial to the Final Fantasy series, Eternal Legacy strikes a chord that you'll be familiar with. The game features a battle system that has been more or less ripped from Final Fantasy XIII, and its spiky-haired characters are just as non-sensical and effeminate as anything Square-Enix has ever created. You'd be crazy to call it original, and Gameloft didn't do too many brainstorming sessions of their own while creating this game, 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.
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. The game has received continual support from developers Firemint post-launch, and a recent update has even added online multiplayer support, making a somewhat older game new again for the millions who have purchased it.
Frogatto is an open-source PC platformer turned iPhone game. The game has you controlling a frog on a side-scrolling adventure that involves a little Yoshi-style combat (you can lick up enemies and spit them out) and a whole lot of hopping. I personally loved the game's lush and often colorful pixel graphics, and although the game was a little bit hard to control at first, numerous updates added over time have made it into an excellent platformer that feels on par with its PC/Mac counterparts.
Developer Halfbrick Studio's Fruit Ninja puts you in a situation that has no explanation and frankly doesn't require one. The game's premise sounds a bit lame - 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.
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 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. Even if simulation games aren't normally your thing, give Game Dev Story a chance. It'll eat away your entire weekend before you know it.
If you're looking for a completely original game with a unique and engaging mechanic, look no further than Helsing's Fire. 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. Helsing's Fire is one of the freshest game ideas this year, and iPhone owners have no excuse for missing it.
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 being raining down, and the only chance for survival is to stay atop the ever-growing heap of TVs, cars, and the occasional Egyptian sarcophogas. 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. It's goofy, it's easy to pick up for a quick game, and you're guaranteed to love it.
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. The game 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. It's unbelievable that Infinity Blade runs as well as it does on a phone, and hopefully it's a sign of more to come.
Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus
Much like Dungeon Hunter was a Diablo clone, the first Modern Combat game was something of a shameless rip of the new Call of Duty games, but Modern Combat 2 takes things in a new direction. The game offers an action-packed FPS that 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. This is easily the best product ever released by Gameloft.
Plants Vs. Zombies
What started as a PC-only hit is now available on pretty much every platform out there, and the iPhone's version is among the best PC-to-mobile ports I've ever seen. Zombies are coming for your house, and you'll have to enlist the help of some ferocious flowers to defend it. As a colorful cast of undead drags towards your defenses, you'll have to plan strategically and plant the right types of greenery (be they pea-shooters, exploding cherries, or crazy cabbages) to survive. Sure, it's technically a tower-defense game, but Popcap has worked their magic and turned an otherwise stale genre into something that everyone can enjoy.
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's engine on the iPhone, but it also offers a decent enough chunk of shooting gallery gameplay to be worth its meager price point.
With some of the most beautiful graphics on the iPhone and top-down racing gameplay that's reminiscent of arcade games like Super Off Road, the EA-published Reckless Racing earned a lot of pre-release hype, and we're happy to report that the game totally deserved the excitement. As you drift around turns in both single player and online multiplayer races, you're likely to be blown away by the realistic lighting, detailed textures, and the convincing way your vehicles dangerously lean as they roar around turns. The game's track selection isn't the most expansive in the world, but the content that is included is too good to miss.
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). It's an excellent "quickie" game, and it looks incredible on Retina Display devices.
Soosiz is something of an overlooked gem, which is a shame, because it's easily the best side-scrolling platformer on the iPhone. It was one of the first games to really nail down virtual d-pad controls, and the whole game feels like a two-dimensional version of the Super Mario Galaxy series (i.e. it contains a lot of cool gravity-based mechanics). Developers Touch Foo haven't released any other games since Soosiz first came out in October of 2009, but here's to hoping that they do, because they've clearly demonstrated their ability to make a superior iPhone game.
Sure, it's technically a rip of Popcap's Zuma, but if Popcap refuses to put Zuma out on the iPhone, you might as well do it yourself. Sparkle features the same match-three gameplay that made Zuma a hit, although it also integrates a few interesting collectible powerups (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. In our experience it's easy to be accurate with the touch screen, so Sparkle is in no way an inferior experience to its PC-only source of inspiration.
SteamBirds is a top-down, turn-based aerial dogfighting game in which you must give orders to a small group of planes and then watch your schemes unfold in a quick burst of real-time action. The strategy lies in how you command your planes to approach enemy targets; you'll want to end up behind other planes so that you can take them out in a blast of machine gun fire without fear of repercussion. It may have origins as a flash game, but SteamBirds plays like it was always meant for the iPhone.
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. The game is hilariously gruesome, and the over-the-top violence only gets more funny as you progress and unlock special attacks like acid spit or EMPs that slow down time and bring down planes. Super Mega Worm isn't for the faint of heart, and that's part of what makes it awesome.
Hook Champ was developer Kepa Auwae's first venture into the App Store, and over time it became an overwhelming fan favorite. Super QuickHook is the 16-bit successor to Hook Champ's 8-bit stylings, and it features the same grappling hook-based side-scrolling gameplay as its predecessor. You control a strapping adventurer on a quest for gold and speedy level completion times, and you'll have to tap on the screen with excellent timing to launch your hookshot into the right platforms as your customizable hero swings at incredible speeds through the 24 included levels. If you liked 2008's XBLA Bionic Commando remake, think of this as a faster, more frantic version.
Sword & Poker 2
Sword & Poker 2 combines familiar card game mechanics with RPG tropes like health bars and loot to create a game that's absurdly addictive. As you descend into a dungeon you'll have to fight numerous enemies in one on one duels. 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 those AI opponents. It's a great game, and multiplayer gives it even more replay value.
Sword of Fargoal
Dungeon crawling Roguelikes are a genre that have seen something of a revival thanks to the iOS platform, and Sword of Fargoal is among the best of the bunch. In the game, you're out to collect a powerful sword, and you'll 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 this is a game that's tailored for a more hardcore audience.
Texting of the Bread
As a clever spin on SEGA's cult hit Typing of the Dead, Texting of the Bread offers players a chance to have fun while simultaneously getting better at using the iPhone's built in virtual keyboard. Zombies with words above their head march towards your character from the left side of the screen, and you'll have to shoot them before they get to you by typing the corresponding word. It's surprisingly fun, and you'll actually become faster at texting thanks to the game.
Words With Friends
Although it was created by ex-Ensemble Studios employees, Words With Friends is as casual as games get. Using asynchronous online, 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 (aside from sitting down at a table with an actual board, of course). [There's a free version with ads as well-Ed.]