Our favorite free iPad platform games, from classic side-on 2D games to ambitious console-style adventures.
Shadow Frog (opens in new tab) is a hoppy one-thumb platform game with a twist. Like many of its contemporaries, this one features an auto-running protagonist (in this case, the titular frog), who needs to grab a bunch of keys. You must tap the screen to make him leap over deadly spike pits and bound off of walls like a froggy ninja.
The twist is the ‘shadow’ from the title. Not long after you start running, the frog’s shadow sets off in hot pursuit, precisely copying the hero’s moves. Given the labyrinthine paths required to complete each level, you must take great care not to blunder into your deadly and shadowy doppelgänger, lest you become an ex-frog and have to try again. Working in portrait or landscape, this game looks and plays great on iPad.
Cat Bird! (opens in new tab) might be exaggerating its capabilities somewhat. That’s because in this platform game of pint-sized levels, packed full of islands, traps, and massive spiked rocks determined to pummel you into kitty paste, this moggie can’t really fly. Instead, hold the jump button once the cat’s airborne and it can glide for a bit.
That might not sound especially thrilling, but it makes for some tense moments, not least when you find yourself in empty space, above a pit of spikes, and have to instantly decide whether to complete a big leap or run back to safety.
With its bold visuals, gentle difficulty curve, and endearingly daft bosses, this game’s a delight over its 40-level length. It might not be drowning in innovation, but it’s nearing purr-fection in every other way.
OCO (opens in new tab) strips back platform gaming and combines it with minimal modern art. Each single-screen level is based around a circular design. Your polygonal protagonist automatically moves, and you prod the screen to leap, aiming to scoop up collectables before making your way to the goal.
The trick is in figuring out how to get to your targets, which often requires rebounding off of walls, and making use of jump mats and other objects. As you play, OCO provides a treat for your eyes, your pathways simultaneously building a dazzling visual spectacle and procedurally generated soundtrack. And when you’ve beaten all 135 levels, you can make your own in an editor.
With console-like platform games on iPad, you might reason there’s no space for one-thumb contenders. OCO suggests otherwise.
Spicy Piggy (opens in new tab) is a hardcore auto-running platformer, featuring the porcine winner of a chilli-eating contest desperate to down something cool and refreshing.
Between pig and drink are screens full of hazards, including deadly saw blades, roaming zombies and massive pits. As the screen scrolls, you must tap buttons that make you jump, slide, and belch burps fiery enough to obliterate enemies or even entire walls.
This game is bruising. You’ll need to commit an entire level to memory, and then get your timing just so, in order to get to the end. And although restart points exist, each requires you watch an ad to unlock (unless you plump for an IAP).
Still, if you’ve got what it takes, mastery here feels deeply rewarding each time you successfully get the rotund hero to the juice bar.
Yeah Bunny 2
Yeah Bunny 2 (opens in new tab) is a one-finger platformer. Instead of you getting directional controls and a jump button, you can only tap the screen to make the titular bunny jump into the air – or away from a wall it’s precariously clinging to.
Your aim is to roam levels, leaping on enemies, grabbing bling and finding trapped chicks. Because of the inability to turn – unless you bounce off of a wall – getting somewhere specific can be quite complicated.
Sometimes backtracking gets old, but for the most part Yeah Bunny 2 is a fast-paced, colorful treat. Its chunky visuals really click on the iPad, which also affords you a larger viewing area. And there’s plenty of variety in what you face, from pinball-like bumpers that ping you around to a ferocious screen-high pig king in hot pursuit.
Super Cat Tales 2
Super Cat Tales 2 (opens in new tab) is a platform game that requires just two of your thumbs. Tap and hold the left or right of your iPad’s display, and you can make your on-screen heroes – cats with unique super powers – walk, dash, leap, and wall-jump like kitty ninjas.
Naturally, there’s a point to all this activity: the cats are trying to save their world from an alien invasion. They must therefore scoot about, avoid enemies, find hidden secrets, and grab the bling that’s oddly left lying about in this kind of game. Also, for some reason, they can sporadically jump into huge yellow tanks to dish out serious destruction.
With a smartly written script, superb level design, and vibrant retro-infused visuals, Super Cat Tales 2 is one of the best platformers on iPad. That it’s free makes it a steal.
Soosiz (opens in new tab) is a fun platforming adventure which features a blobby protagonist, who in traditional platformer fashion runs left and right, leaps into the air, grabs gold coins, and jumps on enemies to dispatch them.
The twist? The world of Soosiz is based around tiny circular islands hanging in space, each of which has its own gravitational pull, adding an exciting new twist to a tried and tested format.
As you sprint from left to right, the screen spins and whirls, disorienting you as you figure out a route to the exit – and how not to leap from a floating island into oblivion. After a recent refresh, the game represents a great spin on an age-old concept.
It’s Full of Sparks
It’s Full of Sparks (opens in new tab) is a platform game in a world where firecrackers are cruelly aware they’re about to explode – and are desperate to find water to extinguish their sparks.
Each side-on level is an urgent sprint to the finish line. The first is literally just that, but – inevitably – you’re soon dealing with platforms and hazards, many being triggered by a trio of colored buttons that enter the equation.
This thumb choreography adds another level to It’s Full of Sparks. It’s not enough just to be fast and know your way to the exit – you’re also frantically tapping buttons on and off, all too aware that your firework is about to go out in a blaze of glory.
It’s frustrating when that happen moments before watery bliss, but short, smartly designed levels keep you running, jumping and splashing, even when you’re occasionally gnashing.
Runventure (opens in new tab) is a streamlined platform game that finds your little hero darting through trap-laden jungles, temples and castles. However, rather than use a traditional D-pad or have you auto-run and tap to jump, Runventure tries something new.
At the foot of the screen is the run-jumping bar. Drag across it and the hero runs, and the game previews the jump you’ll make on lifting your finger. With deft timing, you’ll leap on enemy heads, rope-swing across deadly ravines, and totally not die by falling into a spike-filled pit like an idiot.
That’s the theory. Initially, you’ll fail often as you get to grips with what seems like a needlessly awkward control system. But stick around, discover the nuance in the leapy action, and Runventure proves compelling. If nothing else, grab if if you’re tired of the same old thing.
Cally’s Caves 4
Cally’s Caves 4 (opens in new tab) is a free game that appears so generous that you wonder what the catch is. The Metroid-style run-and-gun shenanigans find you leaping about, shooting anyone in your path. However, the hero is a girl with pigtails and a surprising arsenal of deadly weapons, neatly subverting convention.
The plot’s a tad more mundane - something about finding a cure for a curse. But the game retains its oddball credentials with a gaggle of strange enemies - everything from footballers to cleaver-lobbing chefs.
The jumping, blasting, and exploring is compelling stuff, which is just as well, because this is a big game, with hundreds of sprawling levels, 11 bosses, and stints where you temporarily control a psychotic ninja bear. No, that last bit isn’t a typo; and, yes, those bits are particularly great.
Hoggy 2 (opens in new tab) is a platform puzzler, with a firm emphasis on the puzzling. It features some cartoon slime molds, who’ve got on the wrong side of the villainous Moon Men. These rogues have taken the heroes’ kids, and so parents Hoggy and Hogatha vow to get them back.
The Moon Men’s fortress is a huge maze peppered with jars. Within each jar is a room filled with platforms, enemies, hazards, and fruit. Eat all the fruit and you get a key. Get enough keys and you can venture further into the maze.
The snag is that getting at the fruit can be tricky. Hoggy 2’s levels are cunningly designed, often requiring you perform actions in a specific order and manner, making use of power-ups that transform the protagonists into trundling granite squares or screaming infernos.
Add in lush console-style visuals and a level editor, and you’ve got one of the biggest bargains on mobile.