Our favorite free iPhone FPS games, precision shooters, twin-stick blasters, and vertically scrolling shoot ’em ups.
HELI 100 comes across like a hyper-casual take on a twin-stick arena shooter, albeit without the twin stick bit. You merely steer left and right, while your ship automatically targets and blasts away at enemies. It seems a bit dull. But hang on, because HELI 100 gets much better.
Something happens around level ten. Mostly, the game ramps everything up, and it becomes clear you’ve been trundling around on training wheels. You suddenly find the arena boundaries rapidly close in. You weave between bullet hell, making use of pick-ups that enable your craft to spew all manner of projectile death – or encase itself in a huge shield.
So give this one a chance – recognize the slightly dull early levels are primarily there to help you get to grips with HELI 100, and then prepare to have a blast.
Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs
Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs provides a new dimension on one of mobile’s biggest hits. As ever, you catapult deranged feathered missiles at rickety contraptions housing rotund green pigs. The aim: eradicate the pigs, and the structures they’re hiding in. Their shoddy construction – along with quite a lot of ill-advisedly stored TNT – helps.
Unlike previous Angry Birds efforts, this one’s AR-based. You set up a virtual 3D game on a table or the floor, and can investigate each level from every angle to figure out the optimum shot.
This adds freshness to a concept that has become tired since its 2009 iPhone debut. Here’s hoping Rovio can keep the momentum going with new levels – although the dozens you get make this a no-brainer download, given the game’s lack of a price tag.
Piffle is a shooter that has you blast away encroaching blocks, which are under the control of the nefarious Doc Block, and on landing will presumably do something terrible and evil. To keep them at bay, you lob strings of piffle balls – cat-like critters that bounce around while emitting endearingly cute meowing noises.
As the sort-of cats ricochet around, the numbers on the blocks drop until they’re finally destroyed. Rinse, repeat, and the world is saved. Only, things aren’t quite that simple due to tricky layouts that demand precision aiming, blocks that annoyingly duplicate or deflect your piffles in the wrong direction, and setups that demand you grab and master powerups to aid you in your task.
Fun stuff to dip into when you fancy some colorful, destructive action.
Fortnite is a massively multiplayer online ‘battle royale’. You’re dropped into a playfield with 100 other players, each aiming to be the last standing. To achieve that goal, you must explore your surroundings, find a dangerous weapon, and use it to do some serious violence.
This in itself isn’t unique – even on mobile. But Fortnite differentiates itself in key ways. It has a sense of humor – and a sense of style that isn’t dull military fare. Also, rather than just shooting things, Fortnite encouragers you to build, creating strategic defensive barriers.
The relatively complex controls are, naturally, a problem on iPhone, and can frustrate in the heat of a battle. For the most part, though, this is impressive and ambitious multiplayer gaming that makes your iPhone feel like a console.
Shadowgun Legends is a first-person shooter with swagger, which depicts you as a show-off gun for hire, partaking in a probably prescient mix of wiping out evil aliens and reality TV.
After arriving in the game’s hub, you immediately find yourself on missions, which mostly involve following fairly linear pathways, violently shooting everything that moves – and some things that don’t. Control mostly happens by way of two thumbs (movement and gaze), with the odd trip to special power-up buttons.
For anyone deep into the world of console shooters, Shadowgun Legends may feel stripped back and reductive, but you’d have to be a misery to not have fun blasting away, gradually working your way through dozens of missions. Just remember when your worryingly eager fans build a statue of your wonderful self to worship, they’ll ditch you the second their next hero comes along.
Anycrate takes the idea of a gunfight and hurls it headlong into absurdist territory. There’s no ‘20 paces’ nonsense here – instead, the two protagonists are on floating stone platforms, leaping about like maniacs and blasting each other with gigantic bullets.
You can share your device to play against a friend (which is admittedly more suitable with an iPad) or play against the AI.
And given that we’re firmly in arcade territory, it should come as no surprise that there are all sorts of power-ups that affect the game in various ways. Medical kits patch up your tiny soldier, but you’re just as likely to blast a crate that unsportingly sends fiery meteors your opponent’s way.
Given that you only get two buttons (Jump and Shoot), there’s a surprising amount going on in Anycrate, not least when you venture into the co-op mode with a friend, and find yourselves battling to protect a pile of bling from tiny ‘magical’ thieves. No, we weren’t expecting that twist either.
Pixel Craft - Space Shooter
Pixel Craft takes no prisoners. No sooner have you found your feet in your little auto-firing spaceship than hordes of aliens blow you into so much stardust.
Before long, you clock formations and foes, learn to dodge huge arrows fired by a massive space bow, figure out how to avoid kamikaze ships, and discover how to best an opponent that’s apparently ambled in, lost from arcade classic Caterpillar. Then you face a massive boss and get blown up again.
It’s staccato at first, then – even grindy. But Pixel Craft has a sense of fun and urgency that makes it worth sticking with. The aesthetics and controls are impressive, and death always feels fair – to be blamed on your fingers failing you.
But with perseverance comes collected bling and ship upgrades. Then you’re the one dishing out lessons in lasery death!
(At least until you meet the next boss.)
Darkside Lite is a visually stunning twin-stick shooter that has you protecting outer-space mining colonies under attack from aliens who’d rather humans weren’t messing up the place.
The tiny snag is the mining bit – the bases you patrol are surrounded by massive ship-smashing rocks slowly ambling about. In classic Asteroids-style, you must make short work of them, while ensuring you don’t get blown to pieces by alien foes.
It’s a dizzying, thrilling ride as you zoom over the planetoids, dodging installations, blasting space rocks, and taking out UFOs coming in for the kill. Should you hanker for more, additional modes (and handy smart bombs) are available in the full Darkside game.
Smash Hit is a 3D on-rails shooter, seemingly aimed at people who really like smashing things. You float in ghostly fashion through its various scenes, hurling your limited cache of metal balls at glass objects minding their own business, or huge panes of glass that rather unwisely block your path.
Initially, you’ll fling balls with merry abandon, but you soon realize getting deep into the game requires a solid aim and sparing use of ammo – not least when the camera starts to spin and the shots become increasingly tough. You’ll need to be a pretty hardcore smasher and a crack shot to reach the end – although you can ease the journey by way of a one-off IAP that unlocks checkpoints.
Time Locker is a vertically scrolling shoot ’em up with a twist: when you stop, time stops. This means that although you’re often weaving between bullet hell and blowing up swarms of enemies, you at least get the chance to think for a bit and consider your next move.
That said, Time Locker doesn’t make things too easy: hang around and a relentless world-consuming darkness gobbles up your craft. This means although you can pause for a bit, you must remain on the move, utilizing power-ups to zoom ahead wherever possible.
It’s a unique, engaging shooter, and its distinctive nature is further cemented by its vibrant low-poly world, which at any moment may see you attacked by gigantic tanks, dinosaur herds, or deadly waddling penguins.