Our favorite free iPad soccer, golf, tennis, basketball and other sports games.
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Golf Skies is far from the first mobile game to do weird things with golf - and not even the first to reimagine it as whacking a ball between islands floating in the sky. Still, Golf Skies earns its place on this list through impressive execution and gameplay that’s a solid mix of challenging and relaxing.
You fire your ball into the heavens, Angry Birds-style, and then use directional buttons to adjust its path. A timer dictates how long it can stay airborne, and planetoids exert gravitational pull as you weave your way to the hole.
On the iPad, the large display makes it easier to plot winding pathways and avoid obstacles, and the visuals look lovely. Smart course design and multiple high-score targets (shots and speed) further propel Golf Skies toward the top of the leaderboard.
Motorball brings together motorsport and soccer in a manner that’s frequently explosive. Playing out a bit like a top-down Rocket League, it pits you and an online human opponent against each other, doing whatever’s possible to get the ball into the back of the net.
The snag is that vehicles aren’t the best way of booting a football about; and the pitches in this game are decidedly unorthodox, being packed full of hazards and occasional power-ups.
Games tend to be fun, fast and furious, with strategy often giving way to frenetic desperation, not least when you’re two-one down with mere seconds left on the clock. But because matches are short, even defeat isn’t a terrible blow - more the briefest of setbacks before you resolve to win the next of many subsequent games.
Super Over! starts with cricket, hits most of the rules for six, and transforms what’s left into a high-octane arcade-oriented take on a sport that, in the real world, has matches that can literally last for days.
Here, you chase a total from a limited number of balls. A cricket bat zooms back and forth, and tapping the screen stops it on a number or the dreaded W. In the former case, a chunk is lopped off of your total; in the latter, you’re out and instantly lose the match.
The breakneck pace extends brilliantly to a same-device two-player mode. There, you and a friend battle it out, one bowling while the other bats. You might argue this free iPad game’s just not cricket – but it’s all the better for it.
Grow in the Hole
Grow in the Hole is a side-on minimalist golf game reminiscent of iOS classic Desert Golfing. As in that title, you drag to set each shot’s direction and power. The twist: for every shot that doesn’t make the hole, your ball grows.
Helpfully, the game keeps track of how many goes you have until your ball’s too big to putt – at which point, game over. Successfully putt, and the ball shrinks a little so you can continue your oddball golfing quest.
Grow in the Hole is visually crude, but gets things right in the gameplay stakes. The controls are precise, and there’s a decent selection of options, whether you fancy a quick nine-hole blast, or to pit your digits against a surprisingly intense (when you’re down to those last shots) endless mode.
Golf Blitz is a side-on crazy golf game, with you racing to the hole against online competition. A spiritual sequel to the highly lauded Super Stickman Golf titles, the courses here are far from standard fare, often comprising levitating islands, or trap-laden caverns linked by narrow tunnels.
The game isn’t designed to reward speed alone. After each shot, there’s a countdown timer, and so you must think ahead and figure out the optimum path to the hole. Power-ups can help – and unsportingly blast rival balls away by way of a grenade or rocket-powered super ball.
There are quibbles: the slight randomness of shots that can rob you of wins; constant nudges towards IAP. But the game’s otherwise a blast, and repeat play gets you upgrades – without anyone taking a swing for your wallet.
Nano Golf: Hole In One
Nano Golf: Hole In One is a follow-up to Nitrome’s own Nano Golf: Puzzle Putting, but whereas the earlier title was a fairly conventional mini-golf from above, Hole In One – as its name suggests – is all about sinking the ball first time, every time.
The controls are straightforward: drag backward to set direction and shot strength, and then let go. Courses are peppered with awkward routes and traps, plus coins you can grab to unlock balls with special abilities later.
Clearly, this isn’t exactly PGA Tour for iOS, but then it’s not supposed to be. It’s a speedy, compelling high-score chaser with a sporting bent – one with plenty of drive, and entirely bereft of bogeys.
Rowdy Wrestling is a sports game on fast forward – one that’s performed a pile-driver on nuance and lobbed it out of the ring. It features chunky retro cartoonish fighters, whose arms whirl as they speed about. The buttons you stab afford you a degree of control, but initially bouts are like attempting to control chaos – akin to trying to steer an avalanche.
Over time, you figure out a modicum of tactics – combinations of moves that more often leave you victorious and your opponents unceremoniously hurled from the screen. Get particularly good and you can buy new wrestlers with currency earned in-game, and then have a crack at the career mode.
As ridiculous as real-world wrestling is, a career in that sport isn’t a patch on the madness at the heart of this game.
Virtua Tennis Challenge
Virtua Tennis Challenge is an iPad reimagining of a classic Dreamcast tennis game. Although Sega claims it’s the most realistic game of its type on mobile, Virtual Tennis Challenge is in reality very much an arcade outing, with you darting about, attempting to defeat your opponent by way of lobs, top spins, and dramatic ‘super shots’.
The gestural controls leave a lot to be desired, resulting in tennis as if your player had downed a few too many drinks in the bar prior to their match.
But plump for the on-screen virtual D-pad and buttons (or use an external MFi gamepad) and you’ll find an entertaining take on repeatedly smacking a ball over a net, while the virtual crowd presumably gorges itself on virtual strawberries.
Flappy Golf 2
The original Flappy Golf was a surprise hit, given that it was essentially a joke – a satire on Flappy Bird. While Flappy Golf 2 is a more polished and considered effort, it’s essentially more of the same, giving you courses from the most recent Super Stickman Golf, and adding wings to the balls.
Instead of smacking the ball with a stick, then, you flap it skywards, using left and right buttons to head in the right direction. If you’re a Super Stickman Golf 3 aficionado, Flappy Golf 2 forces you to try very different approaches to minimize flaps and get the scores needed to unlock further courses.
For newcomers, it’s an immediate, fun and silly take on golf, not least when you delve into the manic race mode. The permanent ad during play also makes this a far better bet on iPad than iPhone, where the ad can obscure the course. (Disappointingly, there’s no IAP to eradicate advertising.)
Super Stickman Golf 3
Much like previous entries in the series, Super Stickman Golf 3 finds a tiny golfer dumped in fantastical surroundings. So rather than thwacking a ball about carefully tended fairways and greens, there are castles full of teleporters and a moon base bereft of gravity. The Ryder Cup, this is not.
New to the series is a spin mechanic, for flipping impossible shots off of ceilings and nudging fluffed efforts holewards on the greens. You also get turn-by-turn battles against Game Centre chums and a frenetic multiplayer race mode.
The spendthrift release is limited, though, restricting how many two-player battles you have on the go, locking away downloadable courses beyond the 20 initially built-in, and peppering the game with ads. Even so, you get a lot for nothing, should you be after new side-on golfing larks but not want to pay for the privilege.
WGT: World Tour Golf
If you like the idea of golf, but not traipsing around greens in the drizzle, WGT: World Tour Golf is the closest you'll get to the real thing on your iPad. Courses have been meticulously rebuilt in virtual form, based on thousands of photographs, and WGT's control scheme is accessible yet also quite punishing.
There's no mucking about spinning balls in mid-air to alter your shot here - mess up and you'll know about it, with a score card massively over par. But this is a game that rewards mastery and perseverance, and you feel like a boss once you crack how to land near-perfect shots.
WGT is, mind, a touch ad-heavy at times, but this is countered by there being loads to do, including head-to-head online multiplayer and a range of tournaments to try your hand at.
This smashy endless arcade sports title has more than a hint of air hockey about it, but PKTBALL is also infused with the breakneck madness associated with Laser Dog's brutal iOS games.
It takes place on a tiny cartoon tennis court, with you swiping across the ball to send it back to your opponent. But this game is *really* fast, meaning that although you'll clock how to play PKTBALL almost immediately, mastering it takes time.
In solo mode, the computer AI offers plenty of challenge, but it's in multiplayer matches that PKTBALL serves an ace. Two to four people duke it out, swiping like lunatics (and hopefully not hurling the iPad away in a huff, like a modern-day McEnroe, when things go bad).
As ever, there are new characters to unlock, each of which boasts its own court and background music. Our current favourite: a little Game Boy, whose court has a certain famous blocky puzzle game playing in the background.