The best of mobile gaming
It would take approximately 34,506,455 years to play through every single iPhone game on the App Store. Well, OK, we might have made that number up, but surely we can't be too far off.
The App Store is crammed with gaming goodies to keep thumbs busy, but not all iPhone games are born equal - which is why we've done the difficult job of playing through as many game as humanly possible in order to tell you which are best. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.
In addition to our ongoing list of the 50 best iPhone games money can (or can't) buy, this article will also be updated every week with the latest top-tier titles that you'll want to be sure to check out. (Just skip ahead a few slides if you want to dive right into the top 50.) The most recent top new releases include Super Dangerous Dungeons, Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade, Heroes Tactics, and Snapimals!
Super Dangerous Dungeons (free)
New (11/19/15)! An homage to 16-bit platformers of the past, Super Dangerous Dungeons is sure to bring you take in time with its pixelated visuals and SNES-inspired soundtrack. Forty-eight colorful levels that feature classic traps are sure to keep you challenged as you solve their puzzles, turn on switches, and find that elusive key to open the door to the next one. Avoid those bottomless pits and dangerous water and you'll be fine.
New (11/19/15)! Blocktagon is a simple arcade title that requires you to rotate a hexagon to match the colors of its incoming attackers. If the wrong colored block hits one of your sides, it'll create an opening for any block to go into and attack the core, ultimately ending your run. An endless barrage of attacks means you'll need to keep your wits sharp, pick up special pieces to rebuild your hexagon, and just survive.
Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade (free)
New (11/19/15)! Hop aboard your own custom war machine and complete 40 story-driven missions that put your mechanized suit's powers to the test. Shoot down streets of invaders, defend against other giants in melee combat, and even send out some troops to recover materials to make your guns even stronger. As impressive as it is, be sure to upgrade your suit before taking on too many enemies. After all, even giants can fall.
New (11/19/15)! Anagrams are one thing, but Jollygrams are another form of word scrambles that don't make sense at first but say them over enough times or rearrange their syllables and you'll get a phrase that does. Words like Plouse Hant and Band Socks will try to stump you, but think it over a bit and you'll earn some coins and move on to the next puzzle. Use a hint if you must, but soon you'll find it's all a "keys of pake."
New (11/19/15)! A tower defense game that takes place below a castle, Digfender offers you plenty of levels that require some careful planning to ensure your enemies don't make it to the surface. Set up elemental towers that do different amounts of damage along the underground tunnels you dig and deploy some devastating attacks that'll put a stop to your enemy's invasion. Over 60 levels and an addictive survival mode are sure to keep you digging.
New (11/19/15)! Experience a vibrant world and capture it all on film in Snapimals, a photography game that takes you into the wild and lets you operate a museum filled with your collection of shots. Take some good shots on your trip and use the money you get from them to expand your museum or to upgrade your camera for even better pics. Interact with the animals you see or capture them in their natural habitats as you enjoy this casually addictive game.
King Tongue ($1.99/£1.49/AU$2.99)
New (11/19/15)! Your tongue is both your weapon and means to get around in this zany game where an army of evil bananas threatens your monkey kingdom. Use your tongue to whip them down but also use it to hook onto surfaces and swing yourself up to hard-to-reach places. Thirty levels are sure to keep you swinging for a while, but if you want more action, take on an infinite challenge and show off your finger-licking scores.
Heroes Tactics: Mythiventures (free)
New (11/19/15)! Heroes Tactics combines the strategic, turn-based appeal of a classic strategy-RPG with the fast-paced, intuitive, pick-up-and-play nature of mobile. There are tons of character types to acquire - knights, archers, mages, even fantastical beasts - each with their own nuances and special skills, as well as a seemingly endless array of loot to equip them. You can either go into battle against the demon army in story mode, or take on other players in the PvP Arena.
Starlit Adventures (free)
New (11/19/15)! Help a girl and her mole-like friend recover the stars that have fallen from the sky in this charming puzzler that has you collecting jewels and stars as you dig your way down through its colorful levels. Your abilities also change depending on what suit you wear so your experience and method of attacking can change each time you replay a level. Unlock new levels or challenge your friends by scoring high each time you play.
Real Boxing 2 Creed (free)
New (11/19/15)! Follow the guidance of your coach Rocky Balboa and get pumped for the film Creed as you create your own boxer and follow his climb to stardom in the impressive Real Boxing 2. Take on story-driven fights that reward you with experience and special gear or spend some time in the gym training and improving your stats. Challenge other players around the world and see who has what it takes to be the World Champion.
1. 80 Days ($4.99/£3.99)
In this decidedly steampunk take on 1872, you must get around the world in 80 days, because Phileas Fogg has a big mouth and last night bet a fortune on doing so. Gameplay involves you as the loyal valet, planning routes, managing your inventory, and making decisions as the story plays out, all while Fogg gripes and drinks, the lazy swine.
2. AG Drive ($3.99/£2.99)
We've been after a decent futuristic racer on the iPhone for some time, but none of them really felt right. AG Drive bucks the trend, echoing Wipeout and F-Zero: breakneck speed is married with pitch-perfect tilt controls and suitably shiny graphics. Also, there's absolutely no IAP, so the only way you're going to win is with mastery and skill.
3. Agent A: A Puzzle in Disguise ($2.99/£2.29/AU$4.49)
Explore the stylish home of a nefarious spy in Agent A, a snazzy puzzler that is sure to captivate you with its sleek visuals and ingenious puzzles hidden in the environment. Check underneath everything for any hidden trinkets, disable security systems, and keep mental notes of where you think an item is used as you play. Keep your logic skills on point as you enjoy this casual yet engrossing puzzler.
4. ALONE... ($1.99/£1.49)
There are so many endless survival games for iPhone that we tend to gloss over when a new one appears. ALONE… is different, primarily because it's so brutal. It's one of the few games to take Canabalt's lightning-fast pace – and then ramp it up a notch or 10. Every game becomes an exhilarating adrenaline-fuelled rush through deadly canyons and meteor showers, with you urging your tiny ship on an extra few hundred metres.
5. Asphalt 8 (free)
Some time long ago, the gaming gods apparently decreed that racing games should be dull and grey, on grey tracks, with grey controls. Thankfully Gameloft chose to ignore their foolish omniscient notions - along with a large chunk of real-world physics – with Asphalt 8: Airborne. Here, then, you zoom along at ludicrous speeds, drifting for miles through exciting city courses, occasionally being hurled into the air to perform stunts that absolutely aren't acceptable according to the car manufacturer's warranty.
6. Framed ($.99/£.79)
If you're looking for a hidden gem of a game, Framed has your name written all over it. It's a unique puzzle game that makes good and novel use of the touchscreen.
Each scene looks like a page ripped out of a comic book and it's up to you to guide the character through it. Starting from left to right, you have to organize each panel so that you can run through and avoid harm.
7. Beat Sneak Bandit (£2.29)
One thumb is plenty when a game's so cleverly designed. Beat Sneak Bandit is part rhythm-action, part platformer and part stealth game, with the titular hero aiming to steal back the world's clocks from the nefarious Duke Clockface. You move on the beat, rebounding off walls, and avoiding guards and alarms. It's clever, charming and brilliant.
8. You Must Build A Boat
It's always great when a savvy developer rethinks a genre and comes up with something that feels fresh. EightyEight Games welds auto-running to match-three in You Must Build A Boat. Deft fingerwork must be married with careful timing, matching keys as the hero approaches locked chests, or swords at the moment an incoming enemy prepares to get all stabby. Get shoved off of the left-hand side of the screen and you're told YOU WIN!, because every step potentially adds to your coffers. There are missions to complete, abilities to power-up, and a cheeky sense of humour that sets the title apart from its frequently comparatively po-faced contemporaries.
9. Beyond Ynth (£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 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.
10. Blek ($2.99/£2.49)
Blek is akin to shepherding semi-sentient calligraphy through a series of dexterity tests. Each sparse screen has one or more dots that needs 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.
11. Coolson's Pocket Pack (free)
This word puzzler's all about chaining. You drag tiles from the bottom of the well and make short words; do so without swapping any letters from the well's bottom row or the area you create the words and you start amassing huge points. Coolson's Pocket Pack is then a test of nerve, and your ability to not forget every single short word in the dictionary when under pressure.
12. Crossy Road (free)
This endless take on Frogger finds your cuboid character confronting countless deadly roads, train lines and rivers, before inevitable squashage. It's the characters that make the game, though – a varied roster of people, animals and 'things' won using a one-armed bandit, fed with coins collected en route (you can just buy stuff, too, but Crossy Road also lets you earn by watching videos and bestows regular coin top-ups anyway, making it the least obnoxious free-to-play game with IAP imaginable).
13. Device 6 (£2.99)
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.
14. Doug dug ($1.99/£1.49)
Doug likes to dig, and he's an even bigger fan of bling. You, therefore, must help him go deep underground in Doug dug, unearthing gems and hacking to death any creatures that fancy a dwarf-shaped snack. Danger also lurks in lava that's dotted about and regular cave-ins – the latter of which are caused mostly by you getting a bit too greedy.
15. Her Story (£3.99/$4.99)
An intriguing little game that lets you play detective, Her Story has received rave reviews for its incredibly engrossing gameplay. As a British woman is interviewed about her missing husband, it's up to you to search through the clues and discover what happened. An impressive achievement.
16. Drop Wizard ($1.99/£1.99)
Single-screen platformer Drop Wizard is infused with the soul of classics such as Snow Bros. and Bubble Bobble, but it's also part auto-runner. You can only run left or right, and your wizard blasts magic on landing. Strategy, therefore, involves careful timing, to avoid and zap foes, and then kick them into a tumbling combo that will bounce about in a pleasingly destructive manner before turning into fruit. Because that's what vanquished platform-game enemies all did in the 1980s.
17. Drop7 (free)
One of mobile's most perfect puzzlers, Drop7 is all about dropping numbered discs into a tiny well. If a disc's face value matches the number of discs in its row or column, it blows up. But every few moves, a row of grey junk pushes up from the bottom of the well. Survival therefore depends on creating combos – well, that and a smattering of maths.
18. Forget-Me-Not ($1.99/£1.49)
One of the finest arcade games made for any platform, Forget-Me-Not dumps you in procedurally generated mazes. The aim is to eat all the flowers, grab a key and reach the exit without dying. That's easier said than done, given that various critters regularly teleport into the maze, and set about not only attacking you but annihilating each other. Within a minute, the entire screen always erupts into a tiny retro war zone.
19. FOTONICA ($2.99/£2.29)
Evidence that even the most basic concept can wow when injected with some dazzling beauty, FOTONICA takes Canabalt's basic jump-and-survive gameplay and places it in a wireframe 3D world. The fragmented dream-like environments and floaty gravity mesmerise as the soundtrack slowly worms its way into your skull; the entire experience becomes hypnotic as vector platforms whirl in the distance and you enter 'the zone' to survive each stage.
20. Guitar Hero Live (free)
Tap into your inner rock star as you tap your screen to the music in Guitar Hero Live, the mobile version of the console game that comes free with two songs to try. Crowds will cheer you on if you're performance is solid, but miss too many notes and your bandmates will be seen shaking their heads and the audience will let you have it. The full game can also be played with a separate guitar controller and comes with over 40 songs and even more you can stream online.
21. PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX ($4.99/£3.99).
We fear PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX is destined to be overshadowed by 2015's <em>other</em> superb Pac-Man game, namely Pac-Man 256, which happens to be free. But Namco should be congratulated for DX, because it at the last minute ditched a horrible freemium model while simultaneously unleashing the best version of Pac-Man to date, jammed full of screaming-fast dot-munching, using the split-screen format introduced in the original Pac-Man CE.
Clear half a maze of dots and a special bonus appears on the other half. Grab that and the cleared section refills with a new dot pattern. All the while, you're avoiding roaming ghosts and brushing past snoozing ones that follow you as a shimmering spectral conga. Soon, you're facing an intoxicating breakneck combination of Snake and Pac-Man that, despite its heritage, feels thoroughly modern.
22. Helix ($2.99/£2.29)
Helix is all about quick thinking within a confined space. Your little craft is fragile and unarmed, but it can eradicate enemies by encircling them. Deft finger work is required to survive even a few waves, and things only get tougher when foes appear that force you to encircle them in a particular direction.
23. Hitman GO (£3.99)
Square Enix would have been on a hiding to nothing converting its free-roaming 3D game to touchscreens, and so it's great to see the company do something entirely different with Hitman GO. 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.
24. Icycle ($2.99/£2.29)
Cycling into an imaginative world of madness, Dennis's mission in iCycle is to grab blocks of ice and try very hard not to die. The animated, beautifully conceived environments make survival tough, but even as Dennis is impaled yet again, you'll be dazzled by the Gilliam-esque landscapes he's attempting to work his way through.
25. Implosion ($9.99/£7.99)
Humans are again getting a kicking at the hands of nasty aliens and it's up to you to stop them. Cliches aside, Implosion offers a stompy slash-and-shoot experience that feels entirely at home on the iPhone but scratches that itch when you fancy playing something that resembles what you'd find on a 'proper' games console.
26. Leo's Fortune (£3.99)
Leo's Fortune finds gruff hairball Leo in search of his gold, which has been dropped in a suspiciously trail-like manner across typically platform-game environments. As he scoops up coins, he finds himself whizzing round Sonic-style loops, solving puzzles by manipulating the environment, and negotiating increasingly complex and deadly pathways. It's a beautiful game, full of character, and well-suited to quick bursts on your iPhone.
27. Limbo (£3.99)
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, Limbo fares surprisingly well on iOS, with smartly designed controls; and its eerie beauty and intriguing environments remain hypnotic.
28. Lumino City ($6.99/£4.99/AU$10.99)
Beautiful to look at and even more amazing to play, Lumino City is a puzzler that's also an adventure into a world of magic and color. Play as a Lumi, who ventures into the puzzling city following her grandpa's kidnapping and discovers people in need of her help. Featuring paper-like visuals, the city is filled with unique puzzles for you to find and solve and is sure to charm and invite you in every step of the way.
29. Mikey Hooks ($1.99/£1.49)
If iOS is supposed to be no good for traditional 2D platform games, it's a good job no-one told the developer of Mikey Hooks. The mechanics aren't a million miles away from Nintendo titles starring a certain plumber, but Mikey's also armed with a rope that can attach to hooks dotted about the levels, enabling him to speedily swing to glory. An emphasis on time-attack racing and surprisingly solid controls round out a first-rate title.
30. Monument Valley (£2.99)
In Monument Valley, you journey through delightful Escher-like landscapes, manipulating the very architecture to build impossible paths along which to explore. It's not the most challenging of games (nor one with the most coherent of storylines), but each scene is a gorgeous and mesmerising bite-sized experience that showcases how important great craft is in the best iOS titles.
31. Mos Speedrun 2 ($1.99/£1.49)
The original Mos Speedrun was a smart, stripped-back platformer that actually worked on iPhone. Now the bug is back, in Mos Speedrun 2. Again, this is old school leapy platforming action, with rewards to win on each level for speed, collecting all the gold coins, and finding a hidden skull.
Cleverly, these objectives are typically mutually exclusive in a single run, forcing you to replay levels and approach them with new tactics. This time round, though, Mos has learned some new tricks: wall jumping; rope swinging; jelly swimming; and spider-web battling. Sadly for him, this bug hasn't learned to not die very regularly indeed. Playing against your dead ghosts after repeated failure therefore remains as both a clever means of encouragement and a reminder of the ineptitude of your sausage thumbs.
32. Need For Speed Most Wanted ($4.99/£3.99)
Racing games are all very well, but too many aim for simulation rather than evoking the glorious feeling of speeding along like a maniac. Most Wanted absolutely nails the fun side of arcade racing, and is reminiscent of classic console title OutRun 2 in enabling you to effortlessly drift for miles. Add to that varied city streets on which to best rivals and avoid (or smash) the cops, and you've a tremendous iOS racer.
33. Octodad: Dadliest Catch ($4.99/£3.99/AU$7.99)
Play as a dad and a husband in Octodad, a hilarious game that tasks you with accomplishing basic daily tasks as best as you can so that your family doesn't get suspicious that you're, in fact, an octopus. Moving around in a man's world is harder than it sounds and you'll need to get used to your cephalopodan limbs as you pick things up, move around, and interact with people without accidentally outing yourself.
34. Osmos (£2.29)
This superb arcade puzzler is at times microscopic and at others galactic in nature, as you use the power of physics and time to move your 'mote' about. Some levels in Osmos are primordial soup, the mote propelled by ejecting bits of itself, all the while aiming to absorb everything around it; elsewhere, motes circle sun-like 'Attractors', and your challenge becomes one of understanding the intersecting trajectories of orbital paths.
35. Rayman Fiesta Run (£2.29)
The iOS Rayman games are considered by some to be reductive, overly simplifying console-style platforming to an instant runner with bells on. We instead consider Ubisoft's games distilled: they take the essence of platforming action — running, jumping, timing — and make it truly fit for mobile. Smart, varied level and character design, along with a well-considered unlock mechanism, ensure Rayman Fiesta Run's an iOS classic.
36. Hearthstone (free)
Yes, the insanely popular online card game Hearthstone has been squashed down to fit your iPhone screen - and it works surprisingly well. With less space to play with, the creators have rejigged the deisign slightly; it's still the same game, just a bit more considerate to your thumbs. It's also still compatible with the tablet and desktop versions so you'll be able to play against your friends on the move. Requires at least an iPhone 4S or 5th generation iPod Touch.
37. RGB Express ($2.99/£2.29)
RGB Express is seemingly set in some kind of courier's clockwork hell. Little vans must pick up packages and drop them off, colour-matching vehicles, boxes and buildings where appropriate. To complicate matters, roads can be used only once. What follows is a brain-bending game of route finding as you attempt to grow your tiny delivery company.
38. Ridiculous Fishing (£2.29)
If Ridiculous Fishing is what fishing's really like, we've been missing out all these years. An angular fisherman casts his line into the inky gloom, where you cunningly avoid fish by tilting your device. Snag one and the hero reels the line back in, and you jerk your iPhone from side to side, aiming to catch as many fish as possible. At the surface, the catch is flung into the sky, to be blasted to pieces by powerful weaponry. Longevity's secured by an amusing in-game store and social network parody, along with several fishing spots to visit.
39. The Room Three ($4.99/£3.99/AU$7.99)
Featuring more than just boxes to examine, The Room Three expands the format of the original just enough to create a uniquely tactile experience that definitely pulls you into the many nooks and crannies you'll be entering to solve. Gorgeous box puzzles still play an important role in the game, but many other clever logic games are sure to tickle your brain and condition you to look closely at everything that could turn out to be a puzzle. Three's a charm indeed.
40. SpellTower ($1.99/£1.49)
SpellTower is a fantastic word game that starts off easy. You get a grid of letters and remove them by dragging out words. Your only foe is gravity, letters falling into empty space as completed words disappear. But then come new modes, with ferocious timers and numbered letters that won't vanish unless you craft long enough words. And there always seem to be too many Vs!
41. Super Hexagon (£2.29)
Ah, Super Hexagon. We remember that punishing first game, which must have lasted all of three seconds. Much like the next — and the next. But then we recognised patterns in the walls that closed in on our tiny ship, and learned to react and dodge. Then you threw increasingly tough difficulty levels at us, and we've been smitten ever since.
42. Lara Croft GO (£3.99/$4.99/AU$6.49)
Following in the footsteps of Hitman GO, which astonishingly managed to transform that series into an adorable board game, Lara Croft GO reworks the adventures of the world's most famous tomb raider. It's another turn-based affair, with lashings of atmosphere, finding Lara carefully working her way past traps crafted by an ancient civilisation with a penchant for blocky design and elaborate moving parts.
There are also lots of snakes and deadly lizards about, which she's quite keen on shooting in the head. The five chapters are quite brief, but savour the game rather than blazing through, and you'll find something that merges early Tomb Raider's sense of adventure and solitude, Monument Valley-level beauty, and bite-sized touchscreen gaming that's perfect for iPhone.
43. Horizon Chase ($2.99/£2.29)
Time was racing games were all about ludicrous speed, gorgeous graphics, and the sheer rush of weaving through a sea of cars to the finish line. Horizon Chase briefly reverses back to such halcyon days, grabs the best bits from the likes of Lotus and Top Gear, before zooming back to the present as a thoroughly modern arcade racer.
It looks gorgeous, with some stunning weather effects, and an odd but pleasing low-poly roadside-object style; it sounds great with veteran games musician Barry Leitch on soundtrack duties; but most importantly, it handles perfectly, and is a joy until the very last track.
44. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP (£3.99)
Apple's mobile platform has become an unlikely home for traditional point-and-click adventures. Sword & Sworcery has long been a favourite, with its sense of mystery, palpable atmosphere, gorgeous pixel art and evocative soundtrack. Exploratory in nature, this is a true /adventure/ in the real sense of the word, and it's absolutely not to be missed.
45. Threes! ($1.99/£1.49)
Threes! is all about matching numbered cards. 1s and 2s merge to make 3s, and then pairs of identical cards can subsequently be merged, doubling their face value. With each swipe, a new card enters the tiny grid, forcing you to carefully manage your growing collection, and think many moves ahead. The ingenious mix of risk and reward makes it hugely frustrating when you're a fraction from an elusive 1536 card, but so addictive you'll immediately want another go.
46. TouchTone ($2.99/£2.29)
There are two sides to TouchTone. The foundation is a topical story about intercepting communications, ostensibly to make the world safer. The game itself involves reflecting signals to receivers, using a tiled grid where every item on a row or column moves as one. The story gives you added impetus to keep going, even when you've been racking your brains for days to come up with a solution to a particular puzzle.
47. Walking Dead (free)
We do like a good zombie yarn, as long as we're not the subject matter, having just had our brains eaten. Walking Dead successfully jumped from comic to TV screen, and it's just as good in its interactive incarnation. The first part of the story is free, and you can then buy new episodes; if you survive, season 2 is also available.
48. Year Walk (£2.99)
Year Walk preceded the same developer's iOS masterpiece Device 6, but is equally daring. It's a first-person adventure of sorts, with more than a nod towards horror literature and, frankly, the just plain weird. It's unsettling, clever, distinctive and beautifully crafted — another unmissable and original touchscreen creation.
49. Zen Bound 2 (£2.29)
One of the most tactile puzzlers around, Zen Bound 2 doesn't sound terribly exciting, in that you're wrapping sculptures in rope. But the atmosphere and polish combine with a nagging percentage bar, urging you to perfect each level. With no time limit, it's one of the more soothing puzzlers in this round-up, but it also never drifts towards the noodle.
Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey ($8.99/£6.99/AU$13.99)
An immersive story, stellar soundtrack, and a fluid turn-based combat system are just a few delights that await you as you journey to the world of Orcanon and uncover the first installment of this mobile RPG. Gorgeous cutscenes accompany your characters as they travel throughout a kingdom filled with dangers and secrets. Customize your experience by crafting your own weapons and bring your friends with you into battle as you fight to save the world.