Our favorite free iPhone games all about crosswords, anagrams, and playing with letters.
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Knotwords is a crossword game that immediately provides you with all the answers. The snag: all the letters are jumbled up within geometric shapes, and it’s your job to correctly place each letter to complete the puzzle.
Like creator Zach Gage’s other games, the twist is deviously clever, but also so obvious in hindsight that you wonder why no-one’s done this before. And it all works brilliantly, forcing you to rethink how you approach word puzzles.
For free, the game generously gives you two daily puzzles and a monthly set. Note that Daily Classic gets much harder as the week progresses. Pay up and - along with rewarding an indie dev for a great game – you get the twist mode, access to the entire puzzles archive, and ongoing stats.
Tiler More is a game where you make words by stacking and combining letter tiles. Said tiles are dished out randomly, based on the remaining words in your list. Stacks are limited to three high, and combined tiles must have no more than three letters. There are nine stack slots in all. You can probably see where this is going.
On the easy levels, the words you need to make are short, and so there’s relatively little juggling to be done. Combine a few tiles. Move a few small stacks around. Job done. But by the time you get to the brutal levels, Tiler More becomes a much more challenging prospect, with you having to use ever-diminishing space to tick off increasingly lengthy words. Good fun.
Sticky Terms is more or less a set of jigsaw puzzles, but for oddball phrases. At the start of each level, you’re presented with a mess of shapes, some of which resemble recognizable letters. Your aim is to drag them together to make a coherent form. You’ll then be told what the phrase actually means, and where it comes from.
Making this all tricker is the fact Sticky Terms is all about untranslatable words. So although you’ll be familiar with some of the terms, you won’t know most of them. Instead, your path to completing a challenge usually rests in recognizing parts of letterforms, and shoving words back together in a process of trial and error.
It’s unique stuff on the App Store – rare for a word game - along with being tactile and smart.
AI Dungeon resembles a classic text adventure from the dawn of gaming. But unlike the canned, scripted likes of a Zork, this game is potentially endless, providing new chunks of storyline on the fly. This is achieved by the ‘AI’ bit, via an engine trained on reading the internet.
You can start your adventure with a generic pre-defined setting, like fantasy, and select a character type. But it’s more fun to construct a scenario of your own (just type a few lines of text), and see where it takes you.
Given that AI Dungeon isn’t hand-crafted, its grasp on reality and consistency can be creaky. Objects and names can be forgotten or switched, and stories often have whiplash-like shifts that upend everything. This might prove annoying to old-school traditionalists, but if you’ve got an open mind, you’ll find AI Dungeon dreamlike and fascinating.
Typochondria is a game about typos. You sit before an algorithmically generated crime novel, looking for mistakes in each of its pages. Tap one and you move on to the next. Which probably doesn’t sound all that thrilling, but Typochondria is played against the clock.
When you’re deep into a round, the timer running dry at ferocious speed, it’s surprisingly exciting partaking in a videogame take on proofreading. And if that isn’t quite enough challenge for you, an alternate mode has you figure out how many mistakes are on any given page.
Should you get fully drawn in, but need a bit of a break during your downtime, there’s a risk-free zen mode, too, along with a bunch of additional genre options available via IAP.
Alphabear 2 introduces you to a world where bears have made a major blunder with a time machine, and need you to fix things by… spelling words. Even the in-game protagonists don’t seem convinced by that setup, but it’s a fun hook on which to hang the sequel to one of the iPhone’s best word games.
As in the original Alphabear, you make words from Scrabble tiles on a grid. When tiles are used, bears expand into the gaps. Tiles also have countdown timers, and turn to stone if you don’t use them in time, thwarting your ability to make full-screen bears.
There’s a lot going on, including several modes, oddball ‘bear speech’ victory screens, a smattering of (horrors!) education, and a mildly baffling bear collection meta-game. In all, though, it’s furry much worth a download.
Wordgraphy looks like a stripped-back crossword puzzle with letters crammed into a grid, but the letters are muddled up and you can’t just drag them wherever you fancy. Tap any letter and you’ll be presented with a small set of possible destinations.
The aim is to ensure you create complete words. It’s often easy enough to make one or two, but then you’ll be left with the likes of CCRZK along one axis, and a realization that perhaps your other words aren’t the right ones.
A smart, interesting piece of logic word puzzling, then, and a game that’s suitably different from its contemporaries when you’re getting bored with more conventional fare.
Letterpress is a mix of Boggle and Risk. Two players (you and an online or computer opponent) face a five-by-five grid of letters and take turns tapping out words. But the key isn’t to show off your vocabulary; instead, you must strategize to secure territory.
Captured letters turn your color, but those surrounded by your tiles become a darker shade and cannot be flipped by your opponent during their turn. With careful play, you gradually chip away at the board; to win, you must secure every tile.
It’s a simple premise, but one that makes for surprisingly exciting battles. Games can turn on a smart play you didn’t see coming; many become like a tug of war, with you and an opponent trading blows. The claustrophobic board further adds to the intensity, and makes a nice change from countless Scrabble clones.
Scrabble [non-US App Store link] is a digital take on the famous boardgame. You play the computer or human opponents (over Wi-Fi or the internet), carefully placing letters on the grid, trying to position them over bonus spots for double and triple points.
Crossword games of this ilk are now commonplace, but Scrabble’s board layout remains the best. It also gives you the option for ponderous play or a kind of time-attack take, forcing everyone to quickly make moves.
On the iPhone, things are perhaps a touch cramped compared to on larger devices, and you’ll quite often get ads thrown in your face. Even so, Scrabble remains a solid download, not least if you’re a fan of the original.
The Impossible Letter Game
The Impossible Letter Game isn’t actually impossible, but it does get decidedly tricky once you’re deep into the game. Each challenge presents you with a grid of letters, the idea being to find the odd one out. This might be a W in a grid of M’s, or a 2 sneakily nestled within rows and columns of Z’s.
Initially, the letters are fairly large, but they soon shrink, and even start animating, to try and throw you off the scent of your prize. The smallish screen of an iPhone adds an extra layer of difficulty to the mix. Good for your powers of observation; not so much for resting your eyes!
Bonza Word Puzzle
Bonza Word Puzzle deconstructs classic crosswords – and then has you put them back together again. You’re given a clue, hinting at the words you need to make, and then a bunch of fragments that resemble tetrominos.
The game ends up coming across like a mix of Scrabble and jigsaws as you slowly piece together the puzzle. And just like with jigsaws, everything gets a mite tougher when you’re grasping with a larger number of pieces.
Packs in the game are split between free, IAP, and those you can buy with coins earned in-game. There’s also a daily freebie, and the option to create your own puzzles – a nice touch for people who get seriously into the game.
- We've also rounded up all the best free Android games