Our favorite free iPhone platform games, from classic side-on 2D games to ambitious console-style adventures.
HopBound starts off like a horror take on Canabalt. You help your tiny sprinting character leap between buildings, before they eventually fall to their doom. But then this free iPhone game gets strange. As additional game styles are unlocked, fragments of story find you immersed in a tale about a recluse journeying through the actual game you’re playing, to come to terms with her past. Meta!
It’s intriguing stuff, as these worlds interlink in a meaningful way. That said, HopBound also takes no prisoners. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is sticking with the game as its platform sections casually kill you off time and time again. Persevere, though, and you’ll find HopBound a slice of intense, exciting arcade horror that you feel at any moment might again reveal itself to be more than it seems.
Tombshaft is a game stuffed full of high-octane platforming action. But rather than mirroring Mario’s horizontally scrolling larks, you’re heading deep into the bowels of the planet.
You get just two buttons, which direct your tiny tomb raider left and right. Depending on their particular power, they might be able to slide down walls to slow their descent, or hover for a bit.
This is vital, because Tombshaft auto-scrolls. End up at the very top or bottom of the screen and you lose a life. But all the bits in between are no picnic either, with enemies aplenty, spikes falling from distant ceilings, and the occasional very angry boss monster who wants you gone from his tomb – and in pieces will do!
OCO is a platform game of a decidedly minimalist stripe. Its levels all take place on circular courses that fit within a single screen. As they rotate, you prod the screen to jump – and that’s it.
This could all have been reductive and awful, but OCO excels due to gorgeous visuals reminiscent of modern art coupled with superb level design. You really have to think about how to grab all of the collectibles and reach your goal. And once you get there, you’ll discover move-limit and speedrun challenges that force you to upend your existing tactics and figure out new paths to your goal.
As if that’s not enough, OCO makes a case for a permanent spot on your iPhone with a daily challenge, and a built-in level editor that lets you share creations with friends.
Yeah Bunny 2
Yeah Bunny 2 features a little rabbit sprinting around colorful landscapes, squashing enemies, collecting coins, freeing trapped chicks, and generally being awesome before reaching a goal. Pretty standard platforming territory, then – Mario with bunny ears.
Only this game’s different, because all your direction for the running rabbit comes from a single digit. Tap and the bunny leaps. Hold the screen and the leap is higher. You must therefore figure out how to traverse levels by bouncing the auto-running rabbit off of walls, and ensure during boss-battle pursuits you don’t get inadvertently rebounded towards your doom.
You get vibrant visuals, loads of varied levels, and an endearingly cute lead character. It’s a fab little platformer, ideally suited to one-thumb mobile play and quick bouts of gaming on the go.
Super Cat Tales 2
Super Cat Tales 2 is a platform game that works brilliantly on your iPhone. That in itself is rare, but also this isn’t a stripped-back one-thumb leapy game. Instead, it’s a full-fledged 2D platforming experience reworked for the touchscreen.
The game features a group of cats, determined to save their world from a robot invasion. They sprint, jump, grab coins, and occasionally hop into tanks to eradicate the metal aggressors.
It’s a visual treat – all vibrant colors and chunky pixels. The controls are fab too – a two-thumb system that’s ideal for touchscreens, flexible enough to allow for a range of actions, and that transforms challenges into feats of choreography. In short, this is one of the very best platform games on mobile, and it would be an insult to the creator to not give it a try.
Soosiz is a side-on classic platformer – of a sort. Most such games echo Super Mario Bros, having you sprint from left to right, jumping on enemy heads, grabbing bling, and hot-footing it to an exit. Soosiz takes that basic framework, but has you explore tiny chunks of land floating in space, each of which has its own gravitational pull.
As you run, the screen flips and lurches; your brain flips, too, as you try to figure out which way is up, locate a bunch of tiny critters who’ve got themselves lost, and not accidentally careen into the void due to a misdirected jump.
But once everything clicks, what amounts to a 2D take on Super Mario Galaxy proves to be a smart, engaging mobile platformer, putting a new spin on the genre.
It’s Full of Sparks
It’s Full of Sparks finds you in a world where firecrackers are cruelly imbued with sentience. Aware of their imminent demise, they make a beeline for water to extinguish their spark and therefore not explode. Your aim is to help them make a splash.
Each of the 80 hand-crafted levels takes a mere handful of seconds to complete – at least when you master the precise choreography required. Before then, there’s plenty of trial and error as you tap colored buttons to turn hazards and chunks of the landscape on and off, and grab rotors that let you soar heavenward.
Despite occasionally slippy controls, this one’s a joy – full of personality and smart level design. It’s likely to put a smile on your face even when your firework goes out with a bang.
Cally’s Caves 4
Cally’s Caves 4 continues the adventures of worryingly heavily armed pigtailed protagonist Cally, a young girl who spends most of her life leaping about vast worlds of suspended platforms, shooting all manner of bad guys.
For once, her parents haven’t been kidnapped (the plot behind all three previous games in the series) – this time she’s searching for a medallion to cure a curse. But the gameplay remains an engaging mix of console-like running and shooting, with tons of weapons to find (and level-up by blasting things).
But perhaps the best sections feature Bera, Cally’s ‘ninja bear cub’ pal. His razor-sharp claws make short work of enemies, resulting in a nice change of pace as the furry sidekick tears up the place.
Super Phantom Cat 2
Super Phantom Cat 2 is an eye-searingly colorful side-scrolling platform game. Like its predecessor, this game wants you to delve into every nook and cranny, looking for hidden gold, unearthing secrets, and finding out what makes its vibrant miniature worlds tick.
It’s also a game that never seems content to settle – and we mean that in a good way. It revels in unleashing new superpowers, such as a flower you fire at walls to make climbing vines, or at bricks to increase their fragility. It also wants you to experiment, figuring out how critters who are ostensibly your enemies can be coerced into doing your bidding.
The only downside is the presence of freemium elements (ads and an ‘energy’ system) - although both can be removed with inexpensive IAP if you agree this is one cool cat to hang out with.
Drop Wizard Tower
Drop Wizard Tower is a superb mobile take on classic single-screen arcade platform games like Bubble Bobble. Your little wizard has been thrown in jail by the evil Shadow Order, and must ascend a tower over 50 levels to give his enemies a good ‘wanding’ (or something.)
It’s all very cute, with dinky pixelated enemies, varied level design (skiddy ice; disappearing platforms; watery bits in which you move slowly), and fast-paced boss battles against gargantuan foes.
Most importantly, it’s very much designed for mobile. You auto-run left or right, and blast magic when landing on a platform. Said blasts temporarily stun roaming enemies, which can be booted away, becoming a whirling ‘avalanche’ on colliding with cohorts.
The auto-running bit disarms at first – in most similar games, the protagonist stays put unless you keep a direction button held. But once the mechanics click, Drop Wizard Tower cements itself as a little slice of magic on your iPhone.
Swordigo is a love letter to the classic side-scrolling platform adventures that blessed 16-bit consoles. You leap about platforms, slice up enemies with your trusty sword, and figure out how to solve simple puzzles, which open up new areas of the game and move the plot onwards.
The plot is, admittedly, nothing special – you’re embarking on the kind of perilous quest to keep evil at bay that typically afflicts videogame heroes. But everything else about Swordigo shines.
The virtual controls are surprisingly solid, the environments are pleasingly varied, and the pace ranges from pleasant quiet moments of solitude to intense boss battles you’ll struggle to survive. All in all, then, a fitting tribute to those much-loved titles of old.
The Mikey series has evolved with every entry. Initially a speedrun-oriented stripped-back Mario, it then gained swinging by way of grappling hooks, before ditching traditional controls entirely, strapping jet boots to Mikey in a kind of Flappy Bird with class.
With Mikey Jumps, the series has its biggest shift yet. Scrolling levels are dispensed with, in favor of quick-fire single-screen efforts. Now, Mikey auto-runs, and you tap the screen to time jumps so he doesn’t end up impaled on a spike or plummet to his death.
It sounds reductive, but the result is superb. Devoid of cruft and intensely focused, Mikey Jumps is perfect for mobile play, makes nods to previous entries in the series (with hooks and boots peppered about) and has excellent level design that sits just on the right side of infuriatingly tough.