Tower defense games sprung to life on the PC and have also thrived on consoles, but it's on iOS devices where we've seen the largest and most diverse number of great entries. These strategic affairs challenge you to protect a base from waves of increasingly tough and complex enemies by placing offensive turrets along the way, and the tactical thrill of managing an effective array of fortifications can be hugely satisfying. Need a brainy fix wherever you are? Here are our picks for the 10 best iPhone tower defense games, each of which offers a distinctive test.
One of the most enrapturing games we've ever played on iOS, Kingdom Rush ($0.99, iPhone) offers limited plots on each map for you to set towers upon, but then gives you more options once placed. Branching upgrades give you smart choices on the battlefield, plus you can enlist a roaming hero for an occasional boost. The cartoonish look is charming, but Kingdom Rush can be thrillingly taxing.
PopCap's colorful and delightfully bizarre twist on the genre, Plants vs. Zombies ($0.99, iPhone), challenges you to repel the undead invasion using a slew of differently-abled foliage. Starting in the backyard and moving to the rooftop, this streamlined take keeps everything neat and tidy in rows, but just because it's easier to pick up doesn't mean that it lacks a solid challenge within.
Fieldrunners 2 ($2.99, iPhone) builds upon the winning approach of one of the most popular iOS tower defense games around, offering large, open spaces in which to construct winding mazes of turrets to slow down and eradicate huge waves of foes. It's one of the most robust and diverse entries we've seen, packing in multiple gameplay styles and an array of amusing (and effective) tower types.
Early in the App Store's lifespan, we pumped seemingly endless hours into geoDefense ($1.99, iPhone), an incredibly tough, no-nonsense entry that features glowing vector graphics. Sadly, the app hasn't been updated in a couple of years, but the core experience remains alluring thanks to speedy enemies, perplexing pathways, and towers that can be upgraded several times over.
Technically, Anomaly Warzone Earth ($1.99, iPhone) is a tower offense game, putting you in charge of the little creepers attempting to survive the brutal turret arrangements. Much as it flips the script, taking the opposing role proves pretty excellent in practice, as you'll have to pick your pathway and smartly utilize power-ups. It also looks superb, and sequel Anomaly Korea continues the fun.
Among the more vibrant iPhone tower defense titles is Jelly Defense ($2.99, Universal), a game that drops starkly colored enemies and towers against monochromatic backdrops. Certain towers only work against certain foes, so you'll need to consider that as you're placing (and scrapping) weapons on each map. It's a supreme challenge offset by some seriously wonderful visuals.
Though it lacks a heavily stylized edge, iBomber Defense Pacific ($2.99, Universal) delivers a refined military-themed strategy experience that pits you against tanks, gunboats, airships, and more. Secondary objectives add an extra layer of depth to each mission, and while the more realistic aesthetic might seem plain on the surface, this is actually a super sharp and polished genre option.
Shifting the perspective to that of a multi-tiered structure, Defender Chronicles II: Heroes of Athelia ($1.99, Universal) challenges you to ward off more than 50 different types of foes by placing various fantasy wizards, knights, and more in guard houses along the paths. The unique look does more than just shake things up, though, as branching paths and multiple approach points add to the appeal.
Flipping the usual narrative approach, Tiny Heroes (Free, Universal) makes you the evil enemy trying to ward off heroic adventurers that storm into your treasure-stocked dungeons. You'll do so by placing towers within twisting map layouts, though the heroes here are a little smarter than your average genre cannon fodder. Luckily, you've got some complex and humiliating defenses at hand.
As with the original affair, geoDefense Swarm ($1.99, iPhone) has languished without updates for some time, but this completely different entry is equally gripping. Eschewing fixed enemy routes, Swarm instead lets you loose on more open maps, where you can funnel foes around using elaborate layouts of laser turrets, rocket launchers, and more. It's an oldie, but still one of the best around.