In this guide, we've rounded up the very best iPad games you can download right now, with something for everyone. Whatever genre you're interested in, and however much or little time you have spare, we've scoured the App Store to find the very best titles for you.
The iPhone revolutionized gaming through multitouch, but the iPad provided a larger canvas and power for fully immersive and expansive experiences.
Apple’s tablet remains a powerful, engaging gaming device, whether you delve into innovative touchscreen games, or use a controller for a more console-style experience, and whether you have an iPad Pro (2021), iPad mini (2021), or anything in between.
Whatever you prefer, the very best games are found in our lists. Check back every month for our latest favorite.
iPad game of the month
Cat Museum sits roughly equidistant between adventure game, puzzler, and all-out surrealist horror. The last of those comes from the deranged world you find yourself in: the titular Cat Museum, packed full of weird creatures pulled from your worst nightmares. Fortunately, they’re illustrated in comic-book fashion, and so won’t give you actual nightmares. Still, weird.
The gameplay is almost the polar opposite of the visuals, being quite conventional: you explore your surroundings, find objects, and figure out where best to drop them – just like in a classic point-and-click adventure from the old days.
Most of the puzzles are straightforward, and are there to lead you through the story. And that’s fine; not all adventure puzzlers need to smash out your brains with how hard they are – now and again, it’s great to have one baffle you mostly because of how it looks.
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Best adventure games for iPad
Our favorite iPad immersive adventures, point-and-click games, and story-led narratives.
Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods finds college dropout (and anthropomorphic cat) Mae returning to her hometown, a place in decline, where people glumly look for work that mostly doesn’t exist. Also: there’s something in the woods. Eek!
It’s part platform game, part adventure, with an awful lot of narrative. The game also really doesn’t want to barrel through its runtime. If you’re an impatient type, look elsewhere. But if you’ve an interest in an adventure full of character, which sometimes digs into tricky subject matter, and that peppers proceedings with (optional) fun arcade sequences, this game is ideal.
It looks superb, with wonderful cartoon-like animation. It sounds great. But it’s the writing here that wins out. It’s frequently moving, occasionally mysterious, and fully immerses you in the game’s world – assuming you’re willing to stay the course, even when the pace is slow.
(Free + $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)
Five Dates is a virtual dating game, set in lockdown London. You play the role of Vinny, a millennial who’s signed up to a dating app. Your aim: to help him find a soulmate – or at least not to make a complete idiot of himself.
We’re in FMV territory here – much of the game comprises lengthy video clips. Now and again, you make a decision on Vinny’s behalf, which can impact on the ongoing conversation. This is where the ‘game’ element comes in. You can play based on your own personality and morality, or respond to questions in a way you think will best continue the conversation.
However you choose to play, Five Dates is interesting. As with any FMV title, it can be clunky, and repeat play is limited; but there’s humanity and personality within these dates, and even the potential to find out something new about yourself along the way.
unmemory initially resembles a conventional illustrated mystery novel. You awake with blood on your hands, with no idea where you are. A telephone has a button to press, but it doesn’t do anything. Scroll down and more story is revealed, but interaction beyond reading is minimal.
A few minutes in, everything changes. The phone rings and you scroll up to receive a message (that’s best jotted down). You soon realize what once appeared to be a scrolling page of storyline is an intricate network of interlinked puzzles. And once you’re done, there are several more to tackle.
It’s rare to see truly fresh games on iPad, but unmemory manages to thrill and intrigue in equal measure, doing clever things with narratives, adventures and puzzling to an extent we’ve not seen since classic iPad game Device 6.
The Unfinished Swan
The Unfinished Swan begins with a classic tale: boy loves mom; boy loses mom; boy bestowed painting of a swan; painted swan comes to life and disappears one night through a mysterious doorway through which boy follows. Okay, maybe not that last bit.
It’s an intriguing start, though, not least when you discover the space through the doorway is blank - apparently due to a minimalist king having painted everything white. Fortunately, you’re armed with endless balls of paint; throw them around and you bring form to your surroundings so you can explore.
This basic interaction - throw stuff; make a mess; explore - remains throughout, but The Unfinished Swan continues reinventing itself as you progress. It’s a sweet, imaginative tale, and especially rewarding when played with a physical games controller.
Figment: Journey Into the Mind
(free + $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)
Figment: Journey Into the Mind is a curious beast. Its cartoonish whimsy at first puts you in mind of a children’s adventure, but the grumbling protagonist’s world, peppered with puzzles and battles, turns out to be dark and demanding.
The premise is that a mind once at peace now very much isn’t, and Dusty – a former voice of courage – has been charged with making things right. This means traipsing around a surreal, beautifully realized dreamworld, solving basic puzzles, and frequently hacking to bits various nightmarish critters.
Ultimately, there’s little new to this iPad game in gameplay terms – this is part old-school adventure mixed with action-RPG battles. But the soundtrack and animation make the world come alive, creating an experience to be savored. If you’re not quite sure, you can try the first two chapters for free; a one-off IAP unlocks the rest.
Journey is as much an invitation to poke around as it is an iPad game. It dumps you in a vast desert, and leaves you to it. At that point, it’s down to you to unravel the strange world’s secrets – and how to proceed. At first, it’s a blast to just explore, with your traveler surfing along dunes, and making occasional discoveries. But Journey is more than a gaming sandbox – there is a progression path in this adventure.
It seems obvious you should head to a mountain, but getting there requires understanding the world around you, singing to cloth creatures, confronting ancient guardians, and uncovering glyphs. There are moments of tension, but mostly this is an alien, otherworldly experience about the joys of freedom and discovery, working at your own pace, and staring at the beautiful visuals.
Telling Lies is essentially an expansive, relatively big-budget follow-up to surprise scrappy hit Her Story. The basics are quite similar: you find yourself staring at an oddball database of video recordings, into which you can type search terms. Results lists are limited – the conceit being that this is due to privacy concerns, but obviously it’s to make your search harder.
But the search for what? Well, that’s really the point of Telling Lies – unwrapping its many layers, watching video footage of conversations, trying to figure out the links and the central mystery.
That you can only ever hear one half of interactions means you gradually piece things together – it feels properly investigative. There’s a digital notepad, but you’ll likely want a real one; and you’ll marvel at how creator Sam Barlow has again breathed life into the once derided genre of FMV.
Sky: Children of the Light
(free + IAP)
Sky: Children of the Light is an open multiplayer adventure, set in a world of magic and delight. It features the titular children of the light, tasked with freeing fallen stars, and returning them to their constellations.
The actual gameplay involves a lot of poking around lush landscapes, looking for hidden secrets, and lighting candles that charge up your ‘winged light’. This lets you leap from clifftops and temporarily fly above the world.
It’s the feel of Sky that first draws you in – a mix of dazzling visuals and freedom that’s like nothing else on iPad. What keeps you there is the game’s clever multiplayer, where you must share with others, wordlessly working on solutions to puzzles, and occasionally having your hand grabbed before the pair of you soar majestically into the heavens.
Minit is a quirky adventure title with roots firmly planted in retro RPGs. The visuals look like they were cooked up on a 1980s console, and the gameplay has you scour a tile-based map to find objects, secure quests, and complete basic tasks.
However, rather than allowing you to amble about, Minit pits you against the clock. Every session lasts just 60 seconds. You’ll emit a howl on reaching a target, but then running out of time before you grab an object or flick a switch – and then resolve to shave precious seconds off your route next time.
Minit is short; given how it’s constructed, that’s perhaps inevitable. But its sense of focus – and the razor-sharp focus it forces on the player – is to be championed, not criticized.
Thimbleweed Park is a love letter to classic point-and-click adventures, designed by two of the industry’s most devious minds. Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick were the brains behind classics Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, and Thimbleweed Park is no less tricksy as you ostensibly attempt to solve a murder mystery.
We say ‘ostensibly’ because the dead body you quickly find is the least of your problems. Over the game’s length, you end up playing several characters, including feds, an aspiring game developer and a vulgar, down-on-his-luck clown.
The interface is a bit of a 1980s throwback, as is the difficulty level. Thimbleweed Park can be absurdly obtuse, and a little awkward. But there are few iPad adventures that match this one’s humor, heart and cunning – and no others that feature plumbers who happen to be paranormal investigators who dress as pigeons.
Subsurface Circular exists in a gray area between novella, short film and video game. Set in a single carriage within an automated transit system, it features a cast of Teks – androids that have replaced humans in many of society’s roles.
You play a detective Tek, which spends its life interrogating other robots on the Subsurface Circular, and are immediately embroiled in a mystery. To say more would spoil things, so take it from us that the story entrances, twists and turns over its few hours.
Despite the single-scene setup, the game looks superb, with a cast of varied Teks and a familiar messaging-style interface that has a distinctly futuristic sheen. And if you’re concerned about the game’s brevity, be mindful you’d spend as much renting a film, and probably wouldn’t have nearly as much fun.
Flower is a game that revels in bombing along as a petal on the wind, scything your way through fields of lush grassland, and soaring into the air above mountains and windmills.
Each environment starts with you playing as an individual petal. As you collide with other flowers, they bloom and offer a petal of their own to join yours, which soon becomes a spinning, swooping conga of color, wheeling above Flower’s tiny, beautiful worlds.
There’s a smattering of exploration and light puzzling in Flower, primarily to unlock more parts of each level, and discover secrets. But mostly this game is about enjoying an immediate, accessible, beautiful journey that has an emotional core and an exhilarating edge.
From the creators of Machinarium and Botanicula, Samorost 3 is an eye-dazzlingly gorgeous old-school point-and-tap puzzler.
It follows the adventures of a gnome who sets out to search the cosmos and defeat a deranged monk who's smashed up a load of planets by attacking them with a steampunk hydra.
The wordless tale primarily involves poking about the landscape, revealing snatches of audio that transform into dreamlike animations hinting at what you should do next.
Although occasionally opaque, the puzzles are frequently clever, and the game revels in the joy of exploration and play. It's also full of heart – a rare enchanting title that gives your soul a little lift.
Love You to Bits
Love You to Bits has a heart as big as a thousand iPads. It's a tap-based adventure that finds a little space explorer trying to retrieve pieces of his android girlfriend that have been scattered across the galaxy.
The mechanics are right out of classic point-and-click gaming, essentially having you amble about 2D locations, unearth items and then drop them in the right spot.
But the game is so relentlessly creative and inventive with its environments — full of dazzling visuals, references to movies and other games, and increasingly clever mechanics and ideas — that you can't help but love it to bits yourself.
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. It's also extremely tough at times. Our advice: pay attention, jot down notes, and mull away from the screen if you get stuck.