With the advent of officially supported iOS 7 controllers, many types of games that weren’t always a perfect fit for a touch interface — like shooters, racing games, and 3D adventures — suddenly have an opportunity to shine much brighter on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Granted, many of these games are former console titles (or games inspired by prominent console games), but now you don’t need a dedicated gaming box to experience a wider array of really excellent experiences. As of this writing, only a limited number of notable games actually support iOS 7 controllers, but even so, there’s plenty of great stuff in the mix.
Here are our current picks for the 25 best games that support iOS 7 controllers, and we’ll be updating this list from time to time as even more stellar games add support or are released. A word of caution, though: some of these games may not support every available gamepad released thus far, so be sure to check each respective App Store listing for further details.
Riptide GP2 ($2.99, Universal) proved a pretty fun — but not particularly amazing — aquatic racer when it launched in 2013, but the addition of controller support really put it over the top. With an analog stick under your thumb, Riptide’s waves feel all the more raucous, and the visually impressive racer comes that much closer to feeling like a modern equivalent to the classic Wave Race 64.
The brutal and brilliant Impossible Road ($1.99, Universal) feels like a whole new challenge thanks to the addition of gamepad support. We never had an issue tapping left and right to roll down the ever-twisting pathways, trying our best to continue moving, but the precision of an analog stick shakes up the familiar feeling and makes us want to get obsessed all over again. That’s the plan.
We were thrilled to see original Xbox classic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic ($9.99, Universal) make the leap to iOS, but the touch controls became a bit awkward in transition. Worry no more: the now-universal release includes controller support, so you can explore the galaxy and unfold the story in this sprawling role-playing epic like it was originally intended back when.
Sure, Oceanhorn ($8.99, Universal) might do a pretty obvious The Legend of Zelda impression, but it’s a darn good one — and with controller support, this lavishly produced adventure really feels like a console game. Roaming around the colorful locales with an analog stick feels great, and whacking enemies with real buttons is a definite upgrade. It adds a slight bit of epicness to the proceedings.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed ($4.99, Universal) expands upon its Mario Kart-aping predecessor with even more obscure (and smile-inducing) Sega references, not to mention planes and boats, and controller support is a fantastic addition. Playing it on an iPad in particular with a wireless controller makes it feel like you’re playing the console game — it’s really something.
There’s nothing on the App Store quite like Type:Rider ($2.99, Universal), an experiential platformer that whisks you through the history of print and typography. While gamepad support doesn’t change the sometimes-floaty physics — one of the rare downsides within — it does give you a bit more control when it comes to the occasional tricky challenge, like the ones seen later in the game.
Edge ($2.99, Universal) and its sequel Edge Extended are longtime iOS action-puzzle favorites, challenging you to nudge a neon cube across tricky, grid-like surfaces until you reach the goal. While the touch controls are great for both, the extra precision of a d-pad or analog stick makes it easier to hang off of the edges and manage your speed as you zip towards the exits.
One of Rockstar’s all-time greatest open-world adventures, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas ($6.99, Universal) holds up extremely well on iOS devices nearly a decade after its release — and as you’d expect, this original console game plays best with a gamepad in hand. Exploring the vast terrain of an early-‘90s Los Angeles clone is a blast, whether by car, boat, bike, or foot.
It might be a very long time before Mario makes his move onto the App Store, but at least we’ve got Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ($2.99, Universal). It’s an amazing port, too, with new levels, widescreen support, and even awesome menus (seriously). But our favorite feature has to be the ability to use an iOS 7 controller and relive the Genesis days wherever we are.
Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders ($4.99, Universal) is a superb flight combat affair that whisks you through tense World War II-era showdowns in both the sharp single-player campaigns and the various lively online multiplayer modes. We like the touch and tilt controls just fine, but using a controller adds a welcome bit of precision to the mix — especially helpful during online dogfights.
Even though Terraria ($4.99, Universal) was smartly tweaked for its touch screen release, it’s the kind of game that cries out for a controller. Luckily, controller support has been added to this 2D take on the familiar Minecraft formula, making it easier to explore the pixelated world, dig for elements, battle enemies, and generate helpful items and weapons using the crafting menus.
Zynga may specialize in super-casual games, but don’t let the logo fool you — Respawnables (Free, Universal) is a surprisingly stellar free-to-play shooter, which lets you blast foes in real-time online battles or solo missions within a great cartoonish aesthetic. Controller support luckily kills a lot of the awkwardness that comes with touch-based shooters, letting you focus on the colorful carnage.
Bastion ($4.99, Universal) is one of our favorite indie adventures of the last few years, though it’s not quite as perfect without a controller. Problem solved. With a gamepad, you can experience the game as it was originally designed, letting you explore the stunning world as it’s built around you and deliver hammer blows to menacing creatures with precision.
Putting a fantasy-themed spin on the classic game of Snake, NimbleBit’s Nimble Quest (Free, Universal) is an entertaining little trifle wherein you’ll amass a party of warriors, mages, and more, and then turn frequently to attack enemies and stay alive. Using a d-pad instead of swipes is a plus, and this freebie offers a nice, simplistic break between more complex controller-based games.
Solstice Arena (Free, Universal) condenses the kind of multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) experience that League of Legends popularized into speedy, bite-sized matches perfect for mobile devices. Using a gamepad gives you much better control of your fighter on the online battlefields as you work in tandem with allies to crush the enemy squad and its base.
In time, we hope that every notable iOS fighter adds controller support — looking at you, Street Fighter IV Volt and Soulcalibur — but for now, The King of Fighters-i 2012 ($3.99, iPhone) is leading the charge away from virtual buttons and towards the real deal. Even the best touch-based fighting game feels compromised, but that’s no longer the case here with a controller in hand.
Asphalt 8: Airborne (Free, Universal) delivers intense, fast-paced thrills unlike any other racer on the App Store, and using a gamepad adds some welcome heft to the experience — you’ll feel it more when you bash an opponent’s car into a wall by flicking your ride over with an analog stick. Originally released as a premium game, this arcade-style racer delivers a huge amount of fun for nothing.
Admittedly, Limbo ($4.99, Universal) isn’t a game that needs a controller — it might not have originally been designed that way, but the iOS version’s touch and tap controls are superb. Still, this brilliantly atmospheric side-scrolling platformer remains one of the best games with controller support, which is particularly nice if you’re planning on soaking it in via the larger screen of the iPad.
Call of Duty: Strike Team ($6.99, Universal) might not be a fully perfect fit for a controller, due to its overhead tactical moments, which require touch screen input — but the first-person shooter segments are much more enjoyable with real analog sticks and buttons available. And if you’re playing the survival shootout stages, you can get by without touching the screen at all.
If there’s one thing we know about Jet Car Stunts 2 (Free, Universal), it’s that the game is hard. Really, really tough. Crazy turns and hazard-packed courses make completing its more advanced courses a real test for anyone, and while a gamepad won’t suddenly make the game easy-breezy, it’ll definitely help give you a slight edge in this exciting arcade-style affair.
If you’re planning to simply walk into Mordor, you’ll want some plastic in-hand — at least, you will when you’re playing LEGO The Lord of the Rings ($4.99, Universal), the latest instance of a pop-culture franchise reimagined with virtual plastic bricks. Storming the fantastical settings and bashing enemies and items alike is a lot more fun with physical inputs.
Navigating elaborate, over-the-top obstacle courses on a motorbike is plenty fun in Bike Baron ($0.99, Universal), especially when playing with a controller. You’ll alternate between leaning and accelerating to guide your grizzled rider through the side-scrolling stages, which are filled with all sorts of hazards — and plenty of coins to snag along the way.
If Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas doesn’t satisfy your open-world urges — or you’re just seeking something a bit more modern — then check out Gameloft’s Gangstar Vegas ($2.99, Universal). It too serves up a large open playground for criminal activity, and the recent addition of controller support makes it much easier to get around and cause a little mayhem on or off the strip.
Into the Dead (Free, Universal) puts a grim and horrific spin on the endless runner. Viewed from a first-person perspective, you’ll quickly set off sprinting into the foggy darkness, all the while dodging the undead in the hopes of staying alive. With a controller, you’ll have a bit more precision while evading capture or brandishing a firearm amidst the darkness.
Classic arcade games are totally ideal for controller play, and it’s hard to think of anything more classic than the original Pac-Man ($1.99, Universal). The iOS version delivers the original arcade version alongside eight optional premium maze variants, offering ample opportunity to munch on power pellets, ingest a few ghosts, and repeat endlessly.