The best iPhone games 2022
The best iPhone games in the App Store right now.
We’ve rounded up the best iPhone games you can download today, whatever genre you’re interested in. From strategy games to shooters, sports games, racing games and more, you’ll find every key genre covered on a separate page in this guide, so you can jump straight to what you’re interested in.
There are loads of top games to choose from in each genre too, with the App Store being one of the most vibrant gaming ecosystems around, and apple’s powerful phones rivaling the Nintendo Switch as the best portable consoles available.
So if you’re a gamer, these are the phones for you, and whether you’ve just got an iPhone for the first time or you’re simply looking to add to your library, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ll also highlight one new game every month, so remember to check back regularly to get a taste of the latest game to consume your waking hours.
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Table of Content
- – Strategy games
- – Adventure games
- – Arcade games
- – Endless runner games
- – Platform games
- – Puzzle games
- – Racing games
- – Shooting games
- – Sports games
- – word games
iPhone game of the month
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(Free or $4.99/£4.49/AU$7.99)
Pawnbarian(opens in new tab) grabs chess in one hand, hack-and-slash dungeon crawlers in the other, squishes them together and shoves the result into a shoebox. The turn-based battles take place on a tiny five-by-five grid, and involve you using chess-oriented cards to move around and duff up enemies.
What elevates Pawnbarian is its underlying systems. Cards can be upgraded between dungeons. And each enemy has its own skills, such as how it dodges attacks and fights back. When your claustrophobic arena becomes packed with enemies, this forces you to think carefully about every move.
The free version calls itself a demo but provides hours of engaging play. Grab the IAP and Pawnbarian expands further, with several additional compelling characters and dungeons, rewarding the time you invest while you master the rules and fashion the best tactics to win.
The best iPhone strategy games
These are our favorite iPhone card games, RTS and turn-based strategy titles, and board games to check out right now.
Dicey Dungeons(opens in new tab) is a lively game of pacey turn-based battles. It stars game-show contestants who’ve been transformed into anthropomorphic dice and now face surviving dungeons packed with enemies. During each bout, you roll dice and attempt to best match them with abilities you acquire and manage throughout your game.
Chance can be the downfall of strategy titles, but Dicey Dungeons never feels unfair. Instead, on being at the receiving end of some duff numbers, you’ll think of how you could have improved your chances with different spells – and resolve to do better next time.
There should be a lot of ‘next times’ too. Although you can get through a dungeon in minutes, the sheer quantity and variety of missions – along with the game’s semi-randomized nature – means this is a game you’ll be dicing with for the long term.
Arabilis(opens in new tab) reframes farming and harvesting games. Instead of it being a meditative and noodly pursuit, everything happens at breakneck speed. Seasons whizz by in minutes, and so you must plant your crops at the kind of pace that would make a scarecrow sweat – all while allowing for optimum yields.
In this game, that means matching each seed’s markers, so roots join together and tasty veg grows. Watch the tutorial – highly recommended, unless you want lots of dead things rotting in your fields – and you’ll also learn how to usher into the world produce that wouldn’t so much win at the local fair as squash the entire thing.
Tasty stuff, then, for fans of quick-thinking strategy puzzlers, farming games, and maniacally prodding your screen while getting all angry at carrots.
Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale
Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale(opens in new tab) feels like the ultimate evolution of games that combine turn-based strategy, deck building and RPGs, and then squash the resulting playfield into a tiny grid. Your aim is to defeat foes that exist in a three-by-three playfield, by carefully utilizing cards. But rather than cards being dealt into your hand, they are bought or discarded from the grid for money.
Every decision you make involves weighing up risk versus reward, whether you’re grabbing a weapon, selling armor, or deciding to take on an enemy. This can be overwhelming at first, and your first few goes will likely result in a swift demise. But stick it out and you’ll find Krumit’s Tale a deeply rewarding strategy title, blessed with fantastic art, a wide range of game modes, and enough depth to keep you refining strategies for months.
Kingdom Two Crowns
Kingdom Two Crowns(opens in new tab) is an iPhone game that kicks things off with a monarch on horseback, using his handful of gold coins to have locals do his bidding. Train archers and they set out to hunt local wildlife for dinner. Elsewhere, fences are erected to turn your ramshackle campfire into a slightly less ramshackle fortress.
This is just as well, because when the sun sets, the Greed arrive. These ghoulish beasts exist to steal things. If they nab your workers’ tools, you’ll have to spend to upgrade them again. If they get your crown, your reign is over, and it’ll be down to your heir to figure out how to defeat the Greed once and for all.
With its lush pixel art, large side-scrolling landscapes, and smart mix of real-time strategy and action, Kingdom Two Crowns is a mobile masterpiece.
(Free + $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.99)
Peak’s Edge(opens in new tab) joins an increasingly impressive sub-genre of sorts on iPhone: turn-based strategy games in a shoebox. Here, your little pyramid trundles around single-screen levels, aiming to smack enemies into oblivion and reach a goal.
Much of the strategy lies in the various power-ups that are dotted about. Roll on to one and it’s applied to that face of your pyramid. Defeating foes subsequently relies on correctly orienting yourself before attack.
Quickly, it becomes apparent that Peak’s Edge is easy to get into, but tough to master – and with procedurally generated levels, 25 skills, and 30 armor types, there’s loads to dig into. Note that although you can play for free, we’re treating this as a premium game, because IAP rids the title of intrusive ads, and unlocks the unlimited undos you’ll need to have the best experience.
Maze Machina(opens in new tab) finds you as a mouse in a maze. Unfortunately, it’s not a cardboard creation with cheese at the end, but a bewilderingly complex clockwork construction crafted by an unhinged robot testing his mini-mes.
The aim is to get to a key and then an exit. But every tile on the four-by-four grid acts as a power-up. As you swipe to move, everything else on the grid follows suit. You must therefore strategize to forge a path to your goal, not get impaled by tiny stabby robots, and avoid inconveniently blowing up the key with a bomb.
Every game feels like a new challenge with limitless combinations. But the slide-based mechanics make it approachable. It’s an excellent example of ‘simple to play, hard to master’, brilliantly compressing oodles of strategy into tiny spaces and short games.
Starbeard(opens in new tab) features a race of space gnomes, attempting to defend their gardens from aliens that look an awful lot like garden pests. But in order to stab them, you must engage your brain rather than your sword arm, because Starbeard is a match puzzler.
The game happily plays with conventions. You can only move items on the bottom of each column, and your protagonist’s position within the grid is key when it comes to engaging bugs. However, your attacks rely on actions that only become available if fully charged by you matching certain items.
Starbeard therefore gives you something more than a typical gem matcher, demanding you think several moves ahead; and the strategy the game’s set-up demands ensures victory over those nasty bugs depends on your brain, rather than the dexterity of your digits.
P1 Select(opens in new tab) is a single-screen dungeon crawler with a twist. At the bottom half of the screen is a basic maze, with its walls, monsters, bling, and an exit. At the top half is a player select grid. As you move within the maze (in turn-based fashion), the player selection shifts accordingly.
This is, to put it mildly, perplexing. At first, P1 Select merrily smashes your brain out with a brick. Even though the game has just nine screens, getting to the end seems like a daunting prospect.
At some point, it just clicks. You figure out how to goad monsters, and better switch between players. Then you can work on improving your strategy – a must, given that your high score is actually an average of recent runs. Thinky stuff, then, and all the better for it.
Kingdom Rush Vengeance
Kingdom Rush Vengeance(opens in new tab) is the latest entry in mobile gaming’s foremost tower defense series. As ever, the basics involve using resources to buy towers that stem the flow of adversaries. If too many of them reach their goal, you’re defeated and must try again.
The twist – at least from a storyline perspective – is that you’re the bad guy. Vez’nan the wizard has had enough, and is now on the rampage, attacking his nemeses. (How this is achieved through tower defense, we’ve no idea, but, well, video games.)
It’s visually smart, with varied levels, plus added strategy in the form of heroes to deploy and special powers to unleash. Even though it’s a touch fiddly on iPhone, and gates some towers and heroes behind IAP, Vengeance should be immediately snapped up by any fan of the genre.
Twinfold(opens in new tab) initially comes across a bit like iOS tile-sliding match classic Threes! You move cards within a claustrophobic grid, aiming to match pairs and double their face value, and cards all sport expressions, imbuing them with the kind of personality typically absent from such games.
Very rapidly, though, you realize Twinfold has more in common with turn-based dungeon crawlers than puzzlers. Your aim is primarily to survive; and this requires you learn and master rules and powers that enable you to efficiently deal with enemies roaming the mazes that shift and change every time you gulp down an energy-giving yellow card.
Despite the tight confines of the arena, there’s loads of depth here – but it sits behind a vibrant and inviting interface that ensures immediacy and accessibility. Top stuff.
Euclidean Skies(opens in new tab) takes the framework behind iOS classic Euclidean Lands(opens in new tab) and stretches it to breaking point. Lands had you move in turn-based fashion on floating structures akin to Rubik’s Cubes, attacking nearby foes in chess-like fashion. Manipulating the landscape was as important as the direction of your next step. But in Skies, the land itself can be pulled to pieces.
This means the original’s quiet clockwork elegance has been replaced with a kind of brain-thumping chaos. You may be tasked with obliterating a giant monster’s spine by reworking the landscape, or figuring out how to simultaneously carve a pathway to a switch and some doors.
It’s hard work, but hugely rewarding; and even though the game’s a touch fiddly on the smaller screen, iCloud sync means you can always pick up from where you left off on your iPad.
Reigns: Game of Thrones
Reigns: Game of Thrones(opens in new tab) slaps a famous license on now-familiar Tinder-meets-kingdom management larks from the original Reigns(opens in new tab), and follow-up Reigns: Her Majesty(opens in new tab). You tend to the needs and desires of your subjects and enemies, keeping the army, church, people and bank happy – but not to the point they’ll instigate your untimely demise.
Flick cards left or right and your approval ratings change accordingly – and sometimes unpredictably. Quests and themes run throughout, providing surprising depth, given the basic nature of your interactions.
The writing is great, although the game is more enjoyable if you’re a fan of the TV show on which it’s based. But even if you’re a newcomer, this Reigns is fun, with you seeing how far you can get into its complex narrative web before being brutally taken down by any number of foes.
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
(free + $19.99/£19.99/AU$30.99 IAP)
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI(opens in new tab) is one of the PC’s finest 4X (eXplore; eXpand; eXploit; eXterminate) strategy titles. Its turn-based shenanigans have you explore a brand-new world, aiming to be the dominant civilization through conquering space, getting absurdly rich, or giving everyone else a kicking until your mob’s the only one left standing.
When the game arrived for iPad, that was an eye-opener, but now it’s on your iPhone. This isn’t a cut-back, cartoonish take either – it’s the full experience.
There are drawbacks beyond the high price – the game’s a touch fiddly on a phone, requires powerful hardware, and lacks cloud save sync. We’d love to play a few turns on the train and continue later on an iPad. Gripes aside, this game showcases the potential for immersive AAA experiences on iPhone like no other.
Card Crawl(opens in new tab) is solitaire reimagined as a dungeon crawler – or perhaps the other way around. Regardless, it pits you against a grumpy ogre’s deck of 54 cards. During each round, he deals four cards, which may be a mix of weapons, potions, spells, and hideous enemies.
Your own four slots are for the adventurer, your two hands, and a backpack to stash items in for later. The adventurer’s health is diminished when fighting monsters (unless armed), but you can counter by getting stabby with swords (or hiding behind a shield, like a coward).
Games are brief – only a few minutes long – but Card Crawl manages to balance randomness and strategy. Over time, you can unlock new abilities and figure out strategies to boost your high scores. It’s a polished, entertaining and clever take on card games that’s ideal for iPhone.
Our favorite iPhone point-and-click adventures, room escape games, narrative tales, and gamebooks.
Night in the Woods
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Night in the Woods(opens in new tab) finds protagonist Mae Borowski returning home after quitting college. She tries to reconnect with friends and family – but things have changed. It isn’t just the people or the weather either – something strange is afoot in her town.
Your task is to accompany Mae during this period of her life, as she navigates challenges, works on relationships, and explores darkness at the center of the story.
Although resembling a side-on point-and-clicker, Night in the Woods is quite linear in nature. Tests of brainpower and arcade skills are diversions as you work your way through the story. But the narrative here is compelling, as is the way in which Night in the Woods encourages you to take the time to explore – even if what you discover won’t always be joy.
Overboard!(opens in new tab) begins with a murder being committed. But the mystery isn’t who committed the crime – it was you, unceremoniously pushing your husband overboard during a transatlantic crossing. Instead, the mystery is how you’ll get away with it.
In trademark inkle fashion, the game plays out as a branching pathway adventure. You select where in the ship you’d like to go, interact with objects and people, and become the master of your own fate within the limitations of your circumstances.
The claustrophobic nature of Overboard! is your biggest enemy – there’s nowhere to hide, and too many others suspect what you did. Within limited time – and across multiple playthroughs – you must therefore figure out the actions that will not only allow you to escape, but also to make enough riches to set you up for a life of luxury in your new home.
Cards! – MonkeyBox 2
Cards! – MonkeyBox 2(opens in new tab) is part of a mobile-optimized gaming series by Coding Monkeys that aims to present playful, experimental, handcrafted experiences. This time, you’re on an adventure, with actions and consequences all depicted by the eponymous cards.
As you flip through scenes, you’ll periodically be given a selection of cards to play. Decisions determine what happens next – often your abrupt death. The aim is to figure out a sequence to play that allows you to progress.
The game relies on trial and error, and scenes can be vague and obscure. Planning far ahead is impossible. This might frustrate seasoned adventurers – not least if they get caught in a death/restart loop – but taken on its own terms, this is a beautifully designed reimagining of adventure gaming tropes and ideal for iPhone.
(Free + $5.99/£5.99/AU$9.99)
Headland(opens in new tab) is best described as a Zelda-like action adventure played with a single digit. You explore a colorful realm, searching for gem shards that will restore a companion’s creativity. In tried and tested fashion, this means roaming about, finding bling, and hacking enemies to bits with your sword.
Intriguingly, imagination itself is used as one of the game’s currencies. Dead foes drop globs of it, which are subsequently used to build bridges and other contraptions. You might then surmise that your surroundings are a touch traditional for a game based on the concept of imagination, but there’s no doubting the heart, care, polish and sense of fun that underpins this friendly yet challenging adventure.
FAR: Lone Sails
FAR: Lone Sails(opens in new tab) finds the protagonist in a desolate world, tending to a colossal steampunk vessel that’s like a gigantic sailing ship on wheels. You feed its reactor fuel, punch a massive red switch, and are on your way.
This game is as much about the journey as anything else. Large sections are bereft of bespoke challenges, leaving you to admire the landscape and keep your ship running.
Periodically, events occur that require more varied input. Early on, you’ll acquire a set of sails. Later, your vehicle is damaged and needs repair. Even during those moments, FAR: Lone Sails is a quiet, contemplative game – but its atmosphere and experience are such that it’s not to be missed.
Reventure(opens in new tab) is a side-scrolling 2D platform adventure with a twist. Although you leap about, chance upon quests, and frequently get all violent to dispatch doddering enemies, your aim is to die.
In fact, your aim is to die in 100 different ways. Figuring out how, and collecting your various deaths, can be perplexing, challenging, and highly entertaining. Early on, you can usually meet your demise by unsportingly stabbing someone, but subsequent expiration is much trickier to reach.
The game, fortunately, plays with the concept to breaking point. When you die, you’re resurrected in often amusing ways, and sometimes death is the only way to unlock progress to a new section of the map. But this iPhone game takes itself seriously where it matters, in terms of tight controls and level design. Something of a miniature mobile classic, then.
Speed Dating for Ghosts
Speed Dating for Ghosts(opens in new tab) is an iPhone game all about specters who want to find love after life. You select a room, and blaze through quick chats with potential partners; assuming you don’t annoy anyone too much, you then choose who to go on a date with.
This might sound a bit pat, but this isn’t a horror-tinged dating sim. Instead, it’s closer in nature to Florence(opens in new tab) – a heartfelt story (or, in this case, set of stories) with little interaction, but plenty of soul.
If you hanker for agency throughout your games, the presentation here will feel limiting. But if you’ve got time to delve into a set of tales tinged with sadness but peppered with hope – and with a suitably surreal spooky twist – this one has more than a ghost of a chance of winning your heart.
The White Door
The White Door(opens in new tab) is part classic point-and-click adventure, part puzzle, and part emotionally charged storytelling. It begins with the protagonist in bed, within the stark, white confines of a mental health facility. He has no memory of how he got there.
On poking around, you soon find a schedule pinned to the wall. When completing tasks – brushing your teeth; eating – the hands of the clock move, and days pass. Gradually, memories return, presented as animated comic-like cutscenes; but something’s off at the heart of this claustrophobic adventure – a creeping unease that grows as you dig deeper, and end up faced with various roadblocks to completing your goals.
The tale itself is short, but it feels very different from any other iPhone game. A door worth opening, despite the horrors you might then discover.
Sky: Children of the Light
(free + IAP)
Sky: Children of the Light(opens in new tab) is an open-world multiplayer adventure, set in a place of lush open fields, rain-filled forests, and ruins that mask terrifying creatures of the dark. Your aim is to bring light back to the world, and return trapped constellations to their rightful place in the heavens.
Initially, Sky is a rare kind of game where you revel in just existing. You can run around the fields, flap your cape to briefly take flight, and then skid down hillsides when you land. But there’s plenty of game here, whether you’re poking around caves to find secrets, or working with other players to unlock a puzzle.
The challenges aren’t especially tricky, although the game’s opaque nature adds a splash of mysticism – and sometimes frustration. Mostly, though, Sky is a unique, premium iPhone gaming experience to be savored.
Minit(opens in new tab) has all the trappings of an old-school RPG adventure. The sharp visuals look like they’ve beamed in from a ZX Spectrum or a Game Boy, and the tiled landscape peppered with buildings, forests and characters puts you in mind of an early Zelda.
The twist here is your adventures come to an end after precisely 60 seconds – although anything collected in your previous run stays with you for the next. You must use your time wisely, memorizing pathways and ensuring efficiency in your every step and action.
Minit’s setup ensures it’s more tightly constructed finite adventure than sprawling beast – a kind of RPG puzzle to unlock. However, the game’s bite-sized nature is not only innovative, but also makes it perfect for a few rounds on your iPhone during odd moments.
(free + $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)
Maginary(opens in new tab) exists in a gray area between novella and game. From the off, you get an inkling of what’s in store, on inputting your name and seeing it infused into the story. As you read on, it becomes clear interactions with your device affect what occurs within Maginary’s world.
There’s a great sense of atmosphere, from subtle sound effects to surprising animations that shake up the story in real-time – in narrative and visual terms. Events barrel along at some pace, too.
The story is resolutely linear, though – there’s no freedom to explore, unlike in, say, Device 6(opens in new tab). But this doesn’t matter when you’re glued to the screen, and the interactive components are so cleverly designed. Entertainingly, even the one-off IAP to unlock the last two-thirds of the book is baked deep into the storyline – how very meta!
Florence(opens in new tab) is really an interactive storybook, but there are game-like elements peppered throughout – and because it was created by the lead designer of Monument Valley, you know it’ll be full of heart.
It also features plenty of clever design elements. For example, you at one point create something as a child that later makes a reappearance in a box of mementos. After a crash, sliders are used to make the blurred vision of the protagonist coherent. And at one point you fashion speech balloons from puzzle pieces, which reduce in number as the people conversing with each other become more comfortable.
The downside is brevity – Florence is very short and lacks replay value. But it’s a heartwarming experience, and one that showcases the kind of innovation that occurs at the fringe of gaming.
Far From Noise
Far From Noise(opens in new tab) is as much an exercise in self-reflection as a game. It begins with a car balanced precariously on a cliff edge. With no means of escape, what remains is to make sense of it all – not easy when you start possibly hallucinating a conversation with a surprisingly philosophical deer.
Interaction comes by way of balloons, which you tap to confirm thoughts and actions. As you make decisions, the narrative branches, leading you to one of several endings. Oddly, we could have perhaps done with fewer choices, because many seemed almost inconsequential. Although perhaps that’s the point.
Despite the situation (car wobbling; imminent death), the pace is very restful and the experience is unique. We suspect Far From Noise will nonetheless prove divisive, but it’s great to see such artistic games on iPhone.
Gamebook-style text adventures have had something of a renaissance on mobile, and the adaptations of Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! series are among the very best. The fourth entry, suitably titled Sorcery! 4(opens in new tab), again immerses you in a world of fantasy, with you attempting to ascend a mountain, infiltrate a fortress, and recover the Crown of Kings.
If you’ve played previous games in the series, you’ll find a familiar set-up akin to a single-player board game. You drag your character about, respond to scenarios, bash up monsters, and can (thankfully) flip back to save points should you mess up and get horribly killed.
But even for total newcomers, there’s a full standalone adventure here – one that perfectly marries and balances a book, interactive game, and touchscreen experience. (Note that should you fancy trying the rest of the series first, it’s available as a bargain-priced three-pack(opens in new tab).)
The Room Three
The Room is a series about mysteries within mysteries. It begins with a box(opens in new tab). Fiddling with dials and switches causes things to spring to life elsewhere, and you soon find boxes within the boxes, layers unraveling before you; it’s the videogame equivalent of Russian dolls meets carpentry, as breathed into life by a crazed inventor.
The Room’s curious narrative and fragments of horror coalesce in follow-up The Room Two(opens in new tab), which expands the ‘boxes’ into more varied environments – a seance room; a pirate ship. Movement remains restricted and on rails, but you’re afforded a touch more freedom as you navigate your way through a strange clockwork world.
The Room Three(opens in new tab) is the most expansive of them all, featuring intricate, clever puzzles, as you attempt to free yourself from The Craftsman and his island of deranged traps and trials. Get all three games, and play them through in order, preferably in a dark room when rain’s pouring down outside for best effect.
Our favorite iPhone arcade titles, from breakout and one-thumb rhythm action to multitouch madness and gorgeous survival efforts.
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Night Skate(opens in new tab) initially feels like an ancient mobile game and resembles an even more ancient handheld title. In play, it’s a one-thumb endless effort, with you tapping the screen to make the skateboarding protagonist leap into the air; visually, it looks like something that might have once graced a Game Boy Color.
As a combination, this is nice enough, but feels fleeting and throwaway. And it is – Canabalt on a skateboard – until you make your first combo.
At that point, all bets are off and the game becomes an enthralling and constantly tense challenge where you string together moves that rapidly ramp up your score – points that are wiped away in seconds if you break concentration and clatter through cones or fall down a massive hole. Top marks also for the one-off price-tag rather than going down the freemium route.
pureya(opens in new tab) starts off looking like the most basic of arcade games, as you use huge red buttons to direct your character to grab marbles and avoid getting clobbered. Ten seconds in, however, everything changes as you take on an entirely new challenge.
The pace becomes exhilarating as you blow up asteroids, direct a jumping penguin, dodge cannonballs, and urge a monkey through a jungle thick with vines. A minute and a half in, you get a breather with a pachinko machine that has you use your marbles to win prizes: new character skins or even entirely new mini-games.
Then you repeat the process, which suggests grind, but pureya’s always fun. And adding to its value, every unlocked game can be played as a standalone endless high-score chaser.
PUSS!(opens in new tab) at its core is a basic pathfinding game. You drag to direct your oddly square feline avatar through maze-like routes toward an exit. Simple. Only it isn’t, because PUSS! is drenched in enough visual madness to make your retinas scream.
As each level morphs and twists, psychedelic backgrounds evoke a strange combination of internet memes and experimental 1970s animation. Levels are short and sweet, and sometimes tough; get through enough of them and you’re hurled into a deranged boss fight from the bowels of bullet hell.
The game’s presentation and demanding nature will doubtless be too much for some. But if you fancy a challenge dripping with strangeness – one that’s entirely suited to single-thumb play on an iPhone – this kitty will get its claws into you.
(Free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)
Octagon 2(opens in new tab) is a twitch iPhone game set in a tunnel – akin to Super Hexagon painted inside an octagonal tube. It features an octagon that doesn’t fancy being hurled into the abyss, meaning that you must swipe to have it hop sideways or leap to the ceiling in order to avoid the many holes in the floor.
The action is fast. The slightest hesitation means you will fail in your mission. However, unlike its contemporaries, Octagon 2 prizes defined challenges; so although its levels are algorithmically generated, each one stays the same unless you decide to manually refresh it, giving you a fighting chance of mastering the choreography required to win.
For free, you get five levels with potentially limitless play through refreshes. But pay and you unlock the entire game, including a compelling endless mode.
Vectronom(opens in new tab) is a visually arresting, ear-pleasing slice of demanding but captivating arcade gaming. In a world of geometric shapes, your cube wants nothing more than to reach an exit. But to get there, it must traverse a landscape that shifts and changes to the beat.
You soon work out that this is no freeform iPhone game of path-finding and timing. You must swipe to the beat, often moving into what appears to be thin air, because you’ve spotted the rhythmic pattern and know a platform’s about to save you.
Gradually, the game ramps up the complexity of the challenges and rhythms alike. By the end, you’ll be nodding along in manic fashion, your finger trying desperately to make the little cube dance its way to victory, knowing that losing your sense of rhythm even for a second means certain doom.
Witcheye(opens in new tab) resembles a classic platform game, with its roaming monsters and chunky pixel art. But rather than run, leap and shoot, you control a flying eyeball that darts along with a swipe, stops dead on a tap, and causes wanton damage whenever it collides with something – or someone.
Said eyeball is in fact a witch, who’s transformed herself to pursue the knight who stole her stash. It’s an odd mode of transport, but the idea works nicely on the touchscreen, avoiding problems usually associated with controlling platform games on a glass surface.
The game is still occasionally fiddly on iPhone, though, particularly when you need to squeeze through narrow gaps. Mostly, though, it’s a blast, not least when taking on one of the many bosses – or all of them at once in the unlockable boss rush mode.
Solar Explorer: New Dawn
Solar Explorer: New Dawn(opens in new tab) revisits ancient arcade game Lunar Lander, tasking you with getting a craft down intact on to a planet or moon’s surface. This is easier said than done, given that space is full of craft-smashing asteroids, and spacecrafts have limited fuel.
Each mission has three phases. The first two involve avoiding space debris while staying within a target path, to maintain an optimum speed for landing. For the final descent, the game switches to a traditional lunar lander view, where subtle puffs from boosters slowly direct your craft to the landing pad.
At least, that’s the theory. Often, in this intense game, your landers will be blown to bits, but with repeat effort comes mastery, and when you’re deep into Venus missions, you’ll wonder how you ever found it tough to land on the moon.
Jumpgrid(opens in new tab) is an intense twitch arcade game where blinking can be enough to make you fail. Each of the 100 levels features clockwork obstacles keen to obliterate your little vessel. Your only means of escape: darting about a wraparound three-by-three grid, gobbling up spinning cubes, and then leaping into a teleporter.
From the off, with its urgent chiptunes, eye-searing visuals and ridiculous pace, this is a furious white-knuckle ride. You’re generously given endless retries, but your ego will take a beating when you fail a level for the umpteenth time.
But you’ll keep coming back for more, because Jumpgrid is so refined, balanced, and brilliantly designed – a superb take on a streamlined Frogger hurled into the maw of a Super Hexagon. A modern day classic, albeit one that might leave you a crumpled heap in the corner.
(free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)
Microbian(opens in new tab) is a creepy arcade game that features a scuttling spider scurrying through the gloom. Its monochrome world is full of traps, and instant death is always but a second away.
To keep the arachnid hero alive, you tap to make it jump, thereby avoiding things liable to kill it. Tap again while it’s in mid-air, and it will leap to the ceiling – or back to the floor if it’s already upside-down. The procedurally-generated path is finite, but you’ll need the timing and focus of a champ to reach the end.
Even if you never make it, Microbian is well worth a look. The action is great for quick blasts, and the art style is gorgeous – from jump scares when spike-toothed monsters lurch from the dark, to flying fish that offer a brief ride to safer ground.
INKS.(opens in new tab) is a pinball game. Each table has flippers and a ball to spang about, but INKS. differentiates itself from traditional fare by instilling proceedings with art and fine-tuning challenges so they heighten pinball’s demands for precision shots.
Tables are therefore stripped back, simple affairs, with a handful of targets, and you are rewarded for hitting them all in a minimum number of shots. Delightfully, targets splatter ink when hit, which the ball can subsequently pick up and create trails with, transforming every table into a tiny canvas.
Devoid of the clutter usually associated with pinball, INKS. is far more suited to iPhone play; and the unique presentation makes it a pinball game for people who didn’t even realize they might like pinball.
Spitkiss(opens in new tab) is an arcade game about lobbing bodily fluids about. That probably sounds a bit graphic, but Spitkiss actually comes across as a sweet-natured, cartoonish game, with cute characters in silhouette flinging little blobs at each other.
The mechanics are a bit like Angry Birds, but once you’ve fired your goop by slingshot, you get another shot if it hits a flat surface. Typically, you need many to get to your target – and this isn’t simple in levels packed with winding pathways, spikes, and monsters.
Fortunately, you can hold the screen for some slo-mo action, and plan your route before you start. It’s good stuff, in all – a quirky mix of shooter and platform game, and with a nicely conceived underlying narrative about love.
AR Smash Tanks!
AR Smash Tanks!(opens in new tab) is all about smashing tanks. Specifically, using yours to smash up your opponent’s.
Because this is an augmented reality game, you can project the rectangular arena onto anything from a table to a large garden – and then let battle commence. Whether using multiple devices or playing with pass-and-play, it’s great to be able to check out your next move from any angle.
Tanks are pinged around in slingshot fashion. If you’ve played Angry Birds, you’ll be right at home and, as with that title, the environments are destructible. That comes as a surprise first time round, when you knock a skyscraper on to your own tank. Later, you start trying for snooker-like trick shots, toppling towers, smashing up tanks, and escaping to safety.
In short, it’s tons of fun; an excellent example of the potential in AR gaming.
Beat Sneak Bandit
Beat Sneak Bandit(opens in new tab) is one of the most audacious genre mash-ups you’re likely to find on an iPhone. Despite each level taking place on a single screen, the game manages to combine platforming, pathfinding, rhythm action, turn-based puzzling, and stealth.
The premise is that the nefarious Duke Clockface has stolen all the clocks, throwing the world into disarray. Benevolent pilferer Beat Sneak Bandit vows to get them back.
Amazingly, everything is controlled using a single thumb, which propels Bandit onwards. He must move on the beat, and you make use of walls to turn around, ensuring the rhythmic hero’s not spotted by a guard or security camera.
The game’s full of character, along with devious level design that requires seriously twisty routes and deft timing to crack. Great stuff.
Coming across like an auto-scrolling stripped-back Lemmings, Micro Miners(opens in new tab) features a team of excitable, tiny miners that toddle along tunnels you dig with a finger. On encountering a deposit of gold, silver or coal, they’ll gleefully hack it to bits with their tiny pickaxes.
At first, this all feels noodly and simple, but Micro Miners soon bares its teeth. You must commit each level’s layout to memory, in order to navigate underground hazards, often splitting and rejoining your little auto-running-team.
Before long, you’re carving complex pathways through the dirt, so you can grab large deposits and huge gems, circumvent lava, and avoid ferocious giant worms that eat anyone daft enough to stray into their path. The result is a fun, sometimes chaotic, and unique iPhone gaming experience.
In Edge(opens in new tab), you control a cube that finds itself within a minimal geometric clockwork universe. As the cube trundles about, the blocky world frequently shifts and changes, often thwarting your attempts to find the goal. When you do finish a level, Edge dispassionately awards you a rating, which will probably be rubbish.
If you’ve got steely resolve, you’ll try again to see how rapidly you can speed through each isometric wonderland. If not, you’ll still have a great time exploring the dozens of varied worlds, regularly being surprised at how much imagination can be packed into landscapes comprising only cubes.
And if in either case, you exhaust Edge’s levels, you can start all over again in equally impressive sequel Edge Extended(opens in new tab).
The original Eliss was an early App Store darling, defining the iPhone in terms of multi-touch gaming. Eliss Infinity(opens in new tab) takes the basic premise of the original and runs with it, cementing itself as a modern-day classic.
The basic aim is to control (move; tear apart; combine) colored planets in order to fit into them into wormholes that sporadically appear. Should planets of different colors collide, your energy reserves are depleted – only replenished by mopping up space dust that appears after successful planet dumpage.
Each of Odyssey mode’s 25 levels demands unique tactics to conquer. Best them all and there’s the manic Infinity mode, ready to tie your fingers in knots.
Our favorite iPhone games where you run, leap, board, and dodge your way to a high-score – or an abrupt end.
Townscaper(opens in new tab) lives in the App Store’s games section, but it’s more an open-ended meditative toy. Rather than tapping the screen to play sounds or trigger abstract patterns, you instead build island communities that sit atop an endless sea.
The controls are simple: tap to add a component and tap-hold to remove one. Townscaper deals with everything else, dynamically aligning buildings to its irregular grid, and upgrading or demoting building types, depending on how many blocks are added together.
This is delightful stuff and properly zone-out fare, from the splashy plop you hear on adding your first house to the way you can experiment with colors to create rainbow-like hamlets. Towns are auto-saved when you create a new one, and tools exist in a sidebar to move the sun, should you want an atmospheric night-time vibe when reworking your towns during the wee small hours.
Summer Catchers(opens in new tab) subverts and expands the typical endless runner formula. It features a little girl desperate to visit foreign lands, but she’s only got a rickety cart, and many miles of unforgiving terrain stand in her way.
Your job is to get her as far as possible, but instead of prodding the screen to leap, you instead trigger power-ups at precise moments, giving you the boost you need to escape an enemy or blaze up a hill, or a battering ram to smash through objects in your path.
Failure leaves the protagonist dragging her cart back home, where it can be upgraded and kitted out with more power-ups. It’s like juggling – exhilarating and rewarding when mastered. And over time, you will indeed find those new lands – but not before confronting tricky bosses lurking in the wilds.
Alto’s Odyssey(opens in new tab) is a side-on endless sandboarding game. Alto zooms across windswept dunes, frequently hurling himself into the air to perform speed-boosting tricks that then enable him to leap across vast canyons.
In gameplay terms, it echoes Alto’s Adventure(opens in new tab), and long-time players of that title might get a sense of deja vu. However, stick with Odyssey and you learn it’s more than just a reskin.
Complete achievements and new elements are slowly revealed: additional biomes to explore, and – more importantly – a rock-wall ride move that can have you reach greater heights than ever.
The main mission remains a curious combination of heart-poundingly exhilarating (when escaping a frenzied lemur, or completing a jump by a hair’s breadth) and relaxing; if you hanker after the latter, check out the Zen mode, which removes scores, coins and power-ups. At that point, it really is just you and the endless desert.
Impossible Road(opens in new tab) is an endless survival game, starring a featureless sphere belting along a ribbon of road suspended in space. Gates are placed along the road at intervals, each of which bestows a single point when you blaze through it. As the road bucks and lurches, it’s all you can do to stop yourself plummeting into the abyss.
But Impossible Road is sneaky. It turns out that if you’re careful – or lucky – you can soar briefly into the air and return to the track, taking massive shortcuts that would perhaps be best referred to as ‘cheating’.
Amusingly, high scores are logged not only for the farthest gate reached, but also the most skipped. And although the App Store has freebie riffs on the Impossible Road theme, none have the class, style, polish and razor-sharp focus of this premium title – so stick to the original.
Canabalt(opens in new tab) popularized endless runners on the iPhone. Originally released in 2009, it strips back platform gaming to tapping the screen to make a little sprinting man leap over gaps rather than plummet to his doom.
You might wonder why such an ancient title is on this best-of list, but Canabalt is a classic that easily deserves a place. With a firm emphasis on speed, Canabalt’s breakneck pace makes it a pure adrenaline rush in a way that complex and slower rivals just can’t match.
The game hasn’t stood still for years, either. It’s optimized for modern iPhones and has eight variants on the basic theme. The aesthetics remain intriguing too – an ominous, urgent soundtrack accompanies a city’s destruction by massive machines, perhaps explaining why the leaping hero is so desperate to flee.
Sheep Goes Right
Sheep Goes Right(opens in new tab) is an auto-scrolling arcade game that features a sheep that goes right. And also up. But mostly right.
For reasons unknown, the heroic Sheepy has been challenged to pick his way through 100 levels of mayhem, packed with swirling maces and massive spiked balls. Hitting one is baa-d, sending you back to the start of the level, and wiping out one of your three gold stars. Fail too many times and the game assumes you’re rubbish and helpfully offers to let you skip the level, at which point you woolly feel like a failure.
The game looks crude, but proves compelling as you figure out which combination of rightward steps and upward jumps will get you to the end without being turned into a kebab.
A friendly whale beckons a shipwrecked pirate to leap on its back. So begins their joint adventures, in Run-A-Whale(opens in new tab), which is perhaps the iPhone’s most gorgeous endless runner.
Really, endless swimmer is more like it, seeing as you’re a massive aquatic mammal speeding through the sea. You hold the screen to dive and release your finger to surface and leap, grabbing coins in a manner akin to jetpack joyride in reverse.
But Jetpack Joyride was never this eye-dazzling, and Run-A-Whale is packed with wonderful moments, from soaring through the air after being blasted from a cannon, to zooming along as a volcano erupts in the distance.
Occasionally, the game irks with its demands – obstacles in succession you have little chance of avoiding, or unskippable tricky missions – but for the most part this is a gem that’s not to be missed.
Slingshotting cartoon characters across your iPhone’s screen is a popular gaming pursuit. But if you’ve become bored rigid of catapulting miffed avians at kleptomaniac hogs (and, let’s face it, who hasn’t?), try Frutorious HD(opens in new tab) for something that’s somewhat familiar, but with far more spark and heart.
The story is that an evil skull’s turned all the protagonist’s friends into fruits, and so he must bound up vertically scrolling levels, making use of handy levitating platforms and cannons to collect fruit and avoid various nasties ambling about.
It’s a jolly, sweet-natured game with superb hand-made visuals that add plenty of character, and a slightly unhinged edge always lurking just beneath the surface.
You might have played enough automatic runners to last several lifetimes, but Chameleon Run(opens in new tab) nonetheless deserves to be on your device. And although the basics might initially seem overly familiar (tap to jump and ensure your sprinting chap doesn’t fall down a hole), there’s in fact a lot going on here.
Each level has been meticulously designed, which elevates Chameleon Run beyond its algorithmically generated contemporaries. Like the best platform games, you must commit every platform and gap to memory to succeed. But also, color-switching and ‘head jumps’ open up new possibilities for route-finding – and failure!
In the former case, you must ensure you’re the right color before landing on colored platforms. With the latter, you can smash your head into a platform above to give you one more chance to leap forward and not tumble into the void.
Super Hexagon(opens in new tab) is an endless survival game that mercilessly laughs at your incompetence. It begins with a tiny spaceship at the centre of the screen, and walls rapidly closing in. All you need to do is move left and right to nip through the gaps.
Unfortunately for you, the walls keep shifting and changing, the screen pulses to the chip-tune soundtrack, and the entire experience whirls and jolts like you’re inside a particularly violent washing machine. It seems impossible, but you soon start to recognize patterns in the walls.
String together some deft moves, survive a minute by the skin of your teeth, and you briefly feel like a boss as new arenas are unlocked. And although complacency is wiped from your face the instant you venture near them, Super Hexagon has an intoxicating, compelling nature to offset its mile-long sadistic streak.