20 iOS Games You Should Play

by Hedge

Following my rant about how sucktacular the game 4 Pics 1 Word is, along with all games like it, and Funk’s tirade about how iOS gaming is collapsing as a platform anyway, I thought it’d be a good idea to show you, our dear readers, that there are still games out there worth playing – even if they are few and far between.

In this age of mobile and Facebook gaming, the focus is often on simplistic games and a tappa-tappa-tappa mentality. Game makers want your attention for the least amount of effort on their behalf, and many gamers want little more than to while away the minutes, escaping their dreary, meaningless lives with the fantasy of their very own Facebook farm, or a quiz about cats.

It’s not all lost though. For those of us who don’t think mobile has to mean mundane, I’ve compiled a list below of the twenty iOS games I personally think are worth your time. These are games that discard the timesink mentality and opt for rich gameplay and genuine challenge to give you something to really enjoy.

(Note: For testing and general fun purposes the following games were all played, by me, on either an Apple iPhone 4, or iPad with Retina Display. These are presented in no particular order.)

1. The Walking Dead: Assault

By Skybound

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPad

The Walking Dead is probably the hottest zombie property of the last decade. Not only is the long running graphic novel series still wowing readers with plot developments and sudden executions, but the TV series is coming into it’s own after a slow season two: the recent episode “Clear” by new showrunner (insert) gives great hope for the future of the series. There is the Tell Tale game, which has won awards worldwide as it rightly should, and a first person shooter has been rumoured to be in the works as well. Truly this is a great time to be Robert Kirkman.

The Walking Dead: Assault is a great addition to that media collection. A top down shooter, you control a group of survivors in scenarios based on the graphic novel series and with art to match. It’s rendered in 3D, but with a visual style that echoes the interior art of Cliff Rathburn brilliantly. Kill walkers and meet optional objectives to unlock more points, which can be spent on unlocking new survivors or raising your damage and health stats.

If you’re looking for a zombie shooter on your phone, this one is for you. I played it on iPad where the visuals are superb.

2. PuzzleJuice

By Colaboratory

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPhone

I love puzzle games. Back in the days of MSN (which I recently learned is a thing people still use) I stayed up for four solid days just trying to beat my own score on Bejewelled. Colour matching, wordplay, bubble-bobble: I love to stretch my mental muscle. If you’re of a like mind then Puzzlejuice is one for you.

Puzzlejuice is best described as a mash of Tetris, Bejewelled and Scrabble. Coloured blocks in typical Tetris forms fall from the top of the screen, you arrange them down below in the spaces they will fit. Have a block of three or more? Tap them like a colour match game to turn them into a jumble of letters. Join letters to form words, which clears the blocks. As complicated as that sounds, it’s really rather intuitive and a great deal of fun. There are combos, challenges and extra modes to increase the fun. It’s one of my favourite games on any mobile platform, and like many puzzle games it’s easy to while away the hours on this.

3. Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor HD

By Tiger Style

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPhone / iPad

Spider is a jumping and platform game with a difference. You play a typical house spider, exploring the innards of a long abandoned mansion. On the surface, the goal is to explore each gorgeously drawn level, eating the bugs by spinning your webs, and unlocking the portal to the next section of the house.

Look a bit deeper though and you’ll find secret areas that tell the story of the house, of the family that lived there and the reasons the home is now left empty and lifeless. It’s challenging and fun, and you can play in short bursts for some ‘waiting for a bus’ entertainment.

4. Plague Inc.

By Ndemic

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPhone / iPad

If, like me, you hate pretty much everyone, then a game where you control a pathogen and try to wipe out humanity might be the game you’ve been looking for. It’s been out a while, and has been reviewed well, and so I’m sure many of you will have at least heard of it but I couldn’t go past adding it to this article.

It’s remarkably simple, yet the difficulty certainly is there as you unlock new types of plagues – which are being added frequently in updates to the app. Play it on iPad for big screen extermination.

5. Flow


By Big Duck games

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPhone / iPad

This one is a very simple, but very enjoyable puzzle game. You’re given a grid with coloured dots, and your task is to connect the dots with coloured lines, like a map, so that none of the squares are empty and none of the lines overlap. Many of the solutions are simple, but try remembering that when you’ve been staring at the screen for an hour, without the faintest idea how to progress.

Sometimes you’ll kick yourself when you finally see it.

6. Zookeeper


By Kiteretsu

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPhone

Another puzzle game, this time sorting cute little animals instead of simple gems or coloured blocks. Nothing out of the ordinary, but still a great game.

7. Lazors


By Pyrosphere

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPad

There is this game, called Khet 2.0, which is like Egyptian Laser Chess. This game is similar to that; you get a grid, a laser and some blocks of different types: glass, metal, coal, etc. with different properties. Use the blocks to direct the laser and hit the target, or targets.

Sounds simple? It’s really not. Well it starts out simple, and you feel pretty confident, then it’s a little more challenging but you’re still doing well, then you’re screaming and you want to find someone to punch.

Good times.

8. Baldur’s Gate

By Beamdog

Available for: iPad

Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition for iPad is not to be underestimated. This is the full, complete game, remastered for iPad controls and the retina display. As such, it is fucking hard.

This was one of the mainstay RPGs of my childhoos, although I never completed it because the D&D2.5 system is unforgiving and I’m honestly not that good. Even now, some twenty years later, I fail badly but I have a lot of fun in the process.

9. Finger Tied

Finger Tied

By Streaming Colour Studios

Available for: iPad

This is a twist on the typical draw-a-line style puzzle game in that while you start tracing single lines, with one finger, eventually you need some sort of tentacle graft to successfully complete the levels.

The idea is easy enough; you have two coloured dots and a space between them. Connect the two dots with one, continuous line. Your finger cannot leave the screen or go out of bounds. Then it gets a little more challenging with four dots, of two different colours: you must still connect the dots with a single continuous line, but the added challenge is that you must arrive at both end-points simultaneously.

Now imagine that you have four starting positions, and for end-points, and you must trace lines from all four starting positions to all four end-points whilst not removing your fingers from the screen, or going out of bounds, and you have to hit all end points at the same time.

Not so easy now, eh?

10. Dream of Pixels

By Dawn of Play

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPad

Reverse Tetris. Seriously. Reverse. Tetris. Instead of blocks falling, and the player placing them to make them vanish, the player must select blocks of a certain type (using, as Puzzlejuice does, the typical Tetris formations) from a blck of gorgeously rendered foamy-tree-cloud stuff before said wall of cloud hits the bottom of the screen.

It’s a truly beautiful game, and it’s novel enough to get a mention here.

There is also a puzzle mode, where you are given large shapes and must remove the smaller pieces from them, until all are gone. This one is more thought intensive, but also can be played at a slower pace as there is no descending wall of cloud to keep you going at breakneck pace.

11. The Room

By Fireproof Games

Available for: iPad

This game was a lot shorter than I expected, I played it with the hubby over in the US when I was visiting last Xmas having been told about it by Funk some weeks beforehand.

On each level the player is given one single task: open this box. However said boxes are more akin to the Lemarchant Configuration of Hellraiser fame than a simple six-sided toy chest.

With hidden panels, puzzles, codes and intricate mechanisms to solve and arrange, the game is quite difficult in places, and requires a certain affinity for three-dimensional problem solving. Sadly though it isn’t very long and we got the game beat in only two sittings.

But what a fun two sittings it was. The game is in glorious 3D, and responds excellently to the touch controls. With a narrative of alternate dimensions and beings from beyond reality interwoven through the game, it really is worth a look. Apparently there is a sequel coming, which I will be rushing out to play upon release.

12. Circadia


By Simple Machine

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPhone

Sometimes you wanna take things slowly. Like the puzzle mode on Dream of Pixels, Circadia is a game for just such an occasion. With no time limits, no lives, and no pressure, this game asks you to do one thing, immerse yourself.

You are given two coloured dots and pressing them will send circles streaming outwards. Eventually they will hit a white dot and the level will be completed. But not all colours move at the same speed and so the challenge is about timing your taps to make both waves of colour meet the white circle at the same time.

It’s not always easy, but as there is no time limit, simple visuals and infinite carefree replays without penalty there is such a serene calm from the game that you never feel pressured.

13. Civilization: Revolution

Civ Rev

By 2K Games

Available for: iPad

Like Baldur’s Gate, this is a game I enjoy at whilst sucking hard. It’s the full, original Civilization: Revolution, rendered for iPad with touch controls. They’ve done a great job, although it would be nice if you could zoom out a little further.

If you enjoyed Civ in the past, grab it. The store needs more games like this (I’ve heard that SimCity 2000 is available there too, which I will probably grab while I wait for the new game to come out on mac).

14 Wolfenstein 3D

By iD Software

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPhone

More classics! Yay! Wolfenstein is the progenitor of all modern shooters and so it’s no surprise that this got a ton of play time during lunch lessons when I was in high school. The controls aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty good (and that’s from somebody who loathes FPS on touch screen).

There’s not a lot to say about W3D but for the young and the uninitiated, in Wolfenstein you play a soldier and your enemies are Nazis. You run around killing them, finding keys and secrets. It’s like Call of Duty but low res and better.

15. Vector

By Nekki

Available for: iPad

Side scrolling “run-em-ups” are a dime a dozen these days. I generally hate them. They’re boring, they take no effort to make or to play and the only one that was worth your time was Robot Unicorn Attack because of the hilarious soundtrack. That’s changed with Vector.

The setting is a far future dystopia where the lives of the population are strictly controlled. You are a renegade, you rebel against such authority. You are being pursued by an agent of the government. It’s time to run.

The game is played out like a typical runner but with one fantastic difference: the game uses parkour stylings and a narrative of escape from pursuers to really make it unique. The backdrops are simple but effective and the animations on both the player and the pursuing enemy are really well done.

Simple gesture controls allow you to perform parkour moves and item bonuses allow for special tricks.

16. The Silent Age

By House on Fire

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPad

The Silent Age is a gorgeous point-and-click game where you play, Joe, a janitor who is brought into a tale of time travel and science fiction weirdness. I can’t say too much without spoiling it (plus I haven’t finished the game myself yet) but it’s really, really worth your time.

Atmospheric, and bracing, this is proof that point-and-click adventure types are perfectly suited to the gesture controls of the iPad.

17. Puzzle Quest 2

PuzzleQuest 2

By Namco

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPad

An isometric RPG where the battles are played out as a colour matching puzzle game. Take your hero, wander the medieval fantasy world and embark on dangerous quests. When a monster is encountered, the game changes from isometric third person to a Bejewelled style puzzle screen, where combinations of coloured gems allow the player – and the enemy – to build up attacks and spells that can be used to battle the other party.

It’s very inventive and a lot of fun.

18. Into The Dead

By PikPok

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPad

A new take on the running genre, this one is neither side scrolling not over-the-shoulder. Instead this is a first person running game set during a Night of the Living Dead style zombie holocaust.

You run, avoid the undead and occasionally crash through crates to receive limited use weapons that are discarded upon the breaking of a new crate. Sometimes these are guns, with four bullets, or a chainsaw with only five or six uses. The zombies come from the fog in waves, and you must avoid them, jump fences and kill the occasional walker to get by.

As the environment changes, the difficulty improves: first a cornfield and then a forest. I’ve not actually made it any further than that. The cornfield is a bitch. Play with headphones for the full effect of death. Crunchy.

19. Angry Birds: Space


By Rovio

Available for: iPhone

I don’t understand the attraction to Angry Birds. I tried to love it, since everybody else seemed to. I used to think that a billion people couldn’t be wrong. Then I remembered that Twilight was popular so apparently lots of people can be wrong after all.

Angry Birds: Space though, is a game I can get behind.

Look I don’t go in for the cult of personality surrounding this game and the ever-flowing stream of franchise based versions. It’s okay, but it isn’t great. The addition of gravity well gameplay in Angry Birds: Space though makes this truly awesome. No longer are you simply flinging birds at pigs in ramshackle housing; now there are whole planetoids to encircle, and sometimes just flinging your pigeon around in orbit of the planets is satisfying.

20. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP

By Capybara Games, Superbrothers

Available for: iPhone / iPad

Played on: iPhone

This one came out a while ago, and was well received but I know a number of people who’d never heard of it until recently. This game is a side scrolling RPG, with gorgeous 8-bit graphics and a well-played narrative.

It’s not easy and it won’t hold your hand, but it’s unique and it’s fun and it’s ridiculously pretty.

One downside is that the iPhone and iPad apps are separate purchases as each is optimised exclusively for that platform. I’d like to get it for the bigger screen but can’t justify paying again for a game I already own.

These are the twenty best I have played, but I am sure there are more out there and more are being released all the time. Perhaps down the line we’ll do another collection but for now why don’t you leave us a comment below: what’s some of your picks for great games on the iOS platform? Make sure you tell us whether it’s iPad, iPhone or both and none of that Simpsons: Tap Out city builder microtransation bullshit please.

You can harass the author of this post via twitter: @CAricHanley