Our favorite free iPhone games where you sprint, jump, drive, hoverboard, dig or pinball to victory – or your doom.
The VideoKid is an infusion of the 1980s for your iPhone. The core gameplay is an auto-scrolling avoid ’em up, where you periodically hurl deliveries at mailboxes positioned at the side of the road. If you’re very old, you’ll instantly recognize this as a take on arcade classic Paperboy.
But what elevates The VideoKid beyond being a mere clone of a much-loved – albeit ancient – game is it being peppered with chunky versions of cultural references. There are transforming robots, and martial-arts-obsessed turtles. A guy in red trunks sprints down the street. Every game you’ll spot something new.
Importantly, it also plays pretty well. You tap to throw a video tape, and swipe to move and perform stunts. Reaching the end of your round will be tough – but you’ll have a ball getting there.
Pigeon Wings Strike
It initially features a pigeon in a biplane, which you must direct through twisting corridors and caverns, and periodically have shoot down drones and massive enemy airborne battle stations.
The controls are pitch perfect, with one button for speed, another for boost or blasting, and vertical tilt controls for subtle or abrupt changes in altitude.
It’s simple stuff, but hugely compelling. And although there’s not a ton of depth, Pigeon Wings Strike has multiple characters (each with unique skills) to unlock, and a cleverly designed upgrade system that encourages you to take extra risks when belting along at speeds no pigeon should be subjected to.
Transformers Bumblebee hurls you back to the halcyon days of the original Generation One Transformers, before Michael Bay got his hands on the franchise. Here, the boxy, heroic Autobots valiantly try to stop the evil Decepticons from taking over the world – mostly by driving around a lot and then blowing things up.
The entire game is controlled with a single finger, whether you’re zooming along freeways in car mode, engaged in a bout of vehicular combat against Decepticon enemies, or shooting at anything that moves (or doesn’t) in a Decepticon base.
Survive long enough and you get to battle one of the bad guys. These boss battles are varied and entertaining – and you must quickly figure out how they work, lest your ‘bot’s alternate mode ends up being a pile of smoldering scrap.
PAKO Forever seemingly takes place in a world where law-enforcement really doesn’t want you mucking about in what appears to be the world’s largest parking lot. The second you move, police cars are on you like a shot, and if one smashes into you, that’s your lot.
Pretty quickly, you figure out that you need to drift and snake about to survive – and then you start seeing gigantic gift boxes bouncing along. Snag one of those and your car temporarily balloons to giant size, or acquires a handy ball and chain to smash the cops.
Visually, the game’s quite crude, and the staccato nature of missions can pall, but for a quick blast of breezy endless driving larks, it’s a decent install.
Will Hero is a superb one-thumb arcade game that features a blocky hero dashing through a world of levitating islands, being all heroic and duffing up enemies. His foes are mostly bouncing cubes, and you must carefully time dashes to pass beneath them, or engineer collisions to knock them into the abyss.
Crack open a chest you find on your travels, and you’ll get weapons that transform dashes into violent attacks. Add in the game’s collectible helms (from unlocking loot crate chests), and you’ll end up with many potential weapons to choose from, including missiles and colossal swords.
Will Hero is fast-paced, inventive, and a lot of fun. It has a unique feel, and pleasingly bucks convention when you rescue a princess. When you do so, she tags along on subsequent adventures, gleefully hacking away at the enemies who once imprisoned her.
ARcade Plane – with emphasis in the ‘AR’ – combines the complex and the simple, providing you with an augmented reality gaming experience controlled by a single digit.
The game projects a tiny city on to a nearby surface, above which a plane circles. It’s low on fuel and – for reasons unknown – must grab a set number of stars before it lands. The tiny snag: the city is rather suspiciously surrounded by extremely tall, spiky hills – and between them is where the stars are found.
You hold the screen to dive, carefully timing doing so to snatch up stars, then release the screen so your plane briefly soars heavenward again. All the while, your city grows and you unlock more planes. Simple stuff, then, but an effective and fun use of AR that anyone can get into.
Power Hover: Cruise
Power Hover: Cruise is three endless runners (well, surfers) for the price of one. It borrows the boss battle levels from the superb, beautiful Power Hover, and expands on them. You get to speed through a booby-trapped pyramid, avoid projectiles blasted your way by an angry machine you’re chasing through a tunnel, and whirl around a track that snakes through the clouds.
This is a gorgeous game, with silky animation and minimal, but vibrant objects and scenery. The audio is excellent, too – the rousing electronic soundtrack urging you on.
There are a couple of snags: games can abruptly end due to difficulty spikes, and the controls initially seem floaty. But we grew to love the inertia, which differentiates Power Hover: Cruise and makes it feel like you’re surfing on air. As for the difficulty, spend time learning the hazards and mastering the game, and you’ll soon be climbing the high score tables.
Leap On! is an endless jumper with a sadistic streak – at least as far as its bounding protagonist goes. The two-eyed ball is tied to a central spiked star by a huge piece of elastic. Whenever you hold the screen, the hero moves in a clockwise direction.
The snag is hitting the spiked star spells instant doom – as does touching anything else that’s black. At first, this mostly means jumping on white orbs, and avoiding the odd lurking blob, but before long, the star starts lobbing all manner of ball-killing stuff your way.
You can fight back by grabbing power ups and smashing the white bits of projectiles, while chasing dual high scores – how many white orbs you hit, and your furthest distance from the star. Leap On! is admittedly a bit one note, but the pacy, chaotic gameplay very much appeals in short bursts.
Although, at its core, this is a fairly standard lane-based survival game (swipe to avoid traffic; don’t crash), Dashy Crashy has loads going on underneath the surface. It’s packed full of neat features, such as pile-ups, a gorgeous day/night cycle, and random events that involve maniacs hurtling along a lane, smashing everything out of their way.
It also cleverly adds value to mobile gaming’s tendency to have you collect things. In Dashy Crashy, you’re periodically awarded vehicles, but these often shake up how you play the game. For example, the cop car can collect massive donuts for bonus points, and an army jeep can call in tanks – just like you wish you could when stuck in slow-moving traffic.
Disney Crossy Road
Disney Crossy Road builds on the endless Frogger-style hopping shenanigans found in Crossy Road, mostly by mashing it into a ton of famous Disney properties.
It kicks off with a fairly humdrum take on the original, just with Mickey Mouse instead of a chicken, trying very hard to move ever onwards and not get run over by cars or drown in a river. But you soon start winning coins, enabling you to unlock new characters.
When you get to visit blocky endless takes on Toy Story, Lion King, Wreck-It Ralph, Monsters Inc, and more, sound and vision alike get a major overhaul. Even better: many of these worlds offer subtle changes to the way the game plays, making it more varied, and boosting long-term appeal.