No-one predicted the meteoric rise of gaming on iOS, and we're not sure anyone knew what the iPad was for at all when it first appeared.

However, Apple's tablet has become a very able gaming platform. With more screen space than the iPhone, games have the means to be more immersive. The iPad's therefore a perfect platform for adventure games, strategy titles and puzzlers.

But, just like the iPhone, there are so many iPad games that it's tough to unearth the gems and avoid the dross. That's our mission here - to bring you 50 of the very best iPad games, mixing traditional fare with titles that could only have appeared on a capable and modern multi-touch device.

1. Asphalt 8: Airborne (free)

At some point, a total buffoon decreed that racing games should be dull and grey, on grey tracks, with grey controls. Gameloft's Asphalt series dispenses with such foolish notions, along with quite a bit of reality. Here, in Asphalt 8, you zoom along at ludicrous speeds, drifting for miles through exciting city courses, occasionally being hurled into the air to perform stunts that absolutely aren't acceptable according to the car manufacturer's warranty.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Asphalt 8: Airborne

2. Badland ($3.99/£2.49)

At its core, Badland echoes copter-style games, in that you prod the screen to make your avatar fly. But the hazards and traps are devious and plentiful: imaginative and deadly contraptions in silhouette, ready to eliminate any passing creature. Your retaliation comes in cloning your flying monster, and figuring out how to manipulate the environment to bring as many clones home as possible.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Badland

3. Bejeweled HD (free)

We've lost count of how many gem-swappers exist for iOS, but PopCap's Bejeweled has a long history, which brings a maturity that's reflected in this iPad release. Along with a polished standard mode, where you match three or more gems with each swap, there's Diamond Mine (dig into the ground), Butterflies (save insects from spider-ronch doom), and Poker (make 'hands' of gems).

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Bejeweled HD

4. Beyond Ynth HD ($2.99/£1.99)

This fantastic platform puzzler stars a bug who's oddly averse to flying. Instead, he gets about 2D levels by rolling around in boxes full of platforms. Beyond Ynth HD hangs on a quest, but each level forms a devious test, where you must figure out precisely how to reach the end via careful use of boxes, switches and even environmental hazards.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Beyond Ynth HD

5. Bit Pilot ($1.99/£1.49)

A pilot finds himself trapped inside a tiny area of space frequented by an alarming number of deadly asteroids. You must stave off death for as long as possible. Bit Pilot is the best of the iOS avoid 'em ups, with precise one- and two-thumb controls guiding your tiny ship, effortlessly dodging between rocky foes — until the inevitable collision.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Bit Pilot

6. Blackbar ($2.99/£1.99)

As much a warning about digital surveillance as a word-based puzzler, Blackbar is a unique and compelling iOS classic. The game comprises single screens of communications, many involving your friend who's gone to work in the city, which you soon learn is part of a worryingly oppressive society. Your job is to literally fill in the blanks, while becoming immersed in a stark dystopian reality that's fortunately still peppered with warmth, humour and humanity.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Blackbar

7. Blek ($0.99/69p)

Blek is akin to shepherding semi-sentient calligraphy through a series of dexterity tests. Each sparse screen has one or more dots that need collecting, which is achieved by drawing a squiggle that's then set in motion. To say the game can be opaque is putting it lightly, but as a voyage of discovery, there are few touchscreen games that come close.

Blek
Blek

8. Boson X ($2.99/£1.99)

In what we assume is a totally accurate representation of what boffins in Geneva get up to, Boson X finds scientists sprinting inside colliders, running over energy panels and then discovering particles by leaping into the abyss. It's equal parts Super Hexagon, Tempest and Canabalt, and it's very addictive indeed.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Boson X

9. Botanicula ($4.99/£2.99)

Botanicula is another excellent adventure from the brains behind Machinarium, this time featuring a little group of tree creatures on a quest to save the last seed from their home, which is infested with parasites. Puzzles abound as you keep the seed safe while marvelling at the gorgeous environments. Although the point-and-click-style mechanics might be familiar, Botanicula is nonetheless a unique and joyful gaming experience.

Botanicula
Botanicula

10. CRUSH! ($1.99/£1.49)

CRUSH! is deceptive. At first, it appears to be little more than a collapse game, where you prod a coloured tile, only for the rest to collapse into the now empty space. But subtle changes to the formula elevate this title to greatness: the tiles wrap around, and each removal sees your pile jump towards a line of death. So even when tiles are moving at speed, you must carefully consider each tap.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
CRUSH! Device 6

12. Device 6 ($3.99/£2.49)

Device 6 is first and foremost a story — a mystery into which protagonist Anna finds herself propelled. She awakes on an island, but where is she? How did she get there? Why can't she remember anything? The game fuses literature with adventuring, the very words forming corridors you travel along, integrated puzzles being dotted about for you to investigate. It's a truly inspiring experience, an imaginative, ambitious and brilliantly realised creation that showcases how iOS can be the home for something unique and wonderful.

11. Death Ray Manta ($0.99/69p)

Akin to what Robotron might have looked like had its developer managed to recreate a 24-hour sherbet binge on-screen, Death Ray Manta is a wonderful, eye-searing twin-stick shooter. But whereas you initially think KILL ALL THE THINGS, each level contains a collectable 'tiffin'. Death Ray Manta therefore becomes both shooter and puzzler as you attempt to score the maximum 64 — and with only one life.

Death Ray Manta
Death Ray Manta

13. Eliss Infinity ($2.99/£1.99)

Eliss was the first game to truly take advantage of iOS's multi-touch capabilities, with you combining and tearing apart planets to fling into like-coloured and suitably-sized wormholes. This semi-sequel brings the original's levels into glorious Retina and adds a totally bonkers endless mode. Unique, challenging and fun, this is a game that defines the platform.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Eliss Infinity. Magnetic Billiards

14. First Strike ($3.99/£2.49)

First Strike bills itself as the fun side of nuclear war, but there's a sting in its tail. The game mixes Risk-like land-grabs, a Civ-style tech-tree, and defence akin to Missile Command, your missiles aiming to intercept incoming strikes. Sooner or later, though, you realise the only way to win is to go all-out, sacrificing territory and obliterating your opponents. Just like the classic Missile Command, First Strike remains a playable game, but it's one with a chilling message that comes through loud and clear — at least when it's not buried under radioactive crackles.

First Strike
First Strike

15. Forget-Me-Not ($1.99/£1.49)

Forget-Me-Not is like one of those ice creams you get with every kind of candy imaginable, but instead of sugary treats, the sprinkles here are all the best arcade games of old. There's Pac-Man dot-munching, Rogue dungeon-roaming, nods to Caterpillar, Wizard of Wor and more. It's a glorious, madcap neon-drenched slice of perfect arcade fare, deserving a lofty position in gaming's history alongside the more famous games that inspired it.

Forget me not
Foget-Me-Not

16. Frisbee Forever 2 (free)

We loved the original Frisbee Forever and this sequel is essentially more of the same. Fling your plastic disc away, guide it through hoops, collect stars, and make it to the finish line. What makes Frisbee Forever 2 really stand out is the lush locations you get to fly through, including ancient ruins and beautiful snowy hillsides.

Frisbee Forever 2
Frisbee Forever 2

17. Gridrunner Free (free)

Gridrunner Free has the look of a lost 1980s arcade game, with hints of Caterpillar and Space Invaders. But this is really a thoroughly modern affair, with perfect touch controls and bullet-hell-style gameplay, albeit bullet-hell in the video game equivalent of a shoebox. Oh, and you get only one life in survival mode, making every game a frantic bid to stay alive (more modes can be unlocked via the 69p in-app purchase).

18. Hitman GO ($4.99/£2.99)

It's great to see Square Enix do something entirely different with Hitman GO, rather than simply converting its free-roaming £D game to touchscreens. Although still echoing the original series, this touchscreen title is presented as a board game of sorts, with turn-based actions against clockwork opposition. You must figure out your way to the prize, without getting knocked off (the board). It's an oddly adorable take on assassination, and one of the best iOS puzzlers.

Hitman Go
Hitman Go

19. Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage HD ($2.99/£1.99)

There are other famous swiping games on iOS — Cut the Rope and Fruit Ninja spring to mind — but Icebreaker has oodles more charm, loads more character and, importantly, better puzzles. The animated, cartoon-like world feels alive under your fingers as you cut ice blocks, rope, slime and more to return helmeted chums to a waiting boat.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage HD

20. Impossible Road ($1.99/£1.49)

A roller-coaster ribbon of road winds through space, and your only aim is to stay on it and reach the highest-numbered gate. But Impossible Road is sneaky: the winding track is one you can leave and rejoin, if you've enough skill, 'cheating' your way to higher scores. It's like the distillation of Super Monkey Ball, Rainbow Road and queue-jumping, all bundled up in a stark, razor-sharp package.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Impossible Road

21. Kiwanuka ($1.99/£1.49)

There is a hint of Lemmings in Kiwanuku, this sweet-natured action puzzler.. You must guide a little tribe to freedom, using a magical staff to make bridges from the citizens themselves. They're left behind as you bolt for each level's exit, presumably thrilled at their assisting your escape, if less thrilled that they're now forever fused into an unused pathway across a yawning chasm.

Kikwanuka

22. Letterpress (free)

Who knew you could have such fun with a five-by-five grid of letters? In Letterpress, you play friends via Game Center, making words to colour lettered squares. Surround any and they're out of reach from your friend's tally. Cue: word-tug-o'-war, last-minute reversals of fortune, and arguments about whether 'qat' is a real word or not (it is).

23. Limbo ($4.99/£2.99)

A boy awakens in hell, and must work his way through a deadly forest. Gruesome deaths and trial and error gradually lead to progress, as he forces his way deeper into the gloom and greater mystery. Originating on the Xbox, this Limbo fares surprisingly well on iOS, with smartly designed controls. Its eerie beauty and intriguing environments remain hypnotic throughout.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Limbo

24. Magnetic Billiards (free)

A game that could have been called Reverse Pool For Show-Offs, Magnetic Billiards lacks pockets. Instead, the aim is to join like-coloured balls that cling together on colliding. Along the way, you get more points for trick shots and 'buzzing' other balls that must otherwise be avoided. 20 diverse tables are provided for free, and many more can be unlocked for $1.99/£1.49.

25. Minotron: 2112 ($1.99/£1.49)

Jeff Minter's gaming pedigree is very long indeed, and he went all out on this update of his own Llamatron, which itself was a tribute to Robotron, the original twin-stick blaster. In Minotron, the levels are populated by all manner of oddball foes, and the action comes thick and fast. A smart scoring system enables you to tackle the game in 'pure' fashion or pick up from your best score at any level previously reached.

50 best iPad games: the greatest free and paid-for games around
Minotron: 2112