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The best iPhone games 2021

TechRadar logo TechRadar 2 days ago Craig Grannell
a close up of a sign: iPhone displaying a game against a brown background with the words "best iphone games" © Provided by TechRadar iPhone displaying a game against a brown background with the words "best iphone games"

We've rounded up the best iPhone games you can download today, whatever genre you're interested in.

If you've got a new or upgraded iPhone, or are simply just bored with what you've already got, then you'll be exhilarated to hear that you can revolutionize it, turning it into one of the greatest consoles of all time.

That's because the iPhone arguably kicked off the mobile gaming revolution, becoming home to exciting multitouch innovation through to ports of famous arcade titles. 

Today, most phones are capable, powerful handheld consoles – if you know the right games to buy. This round-up covers the best iPhone games available right now. It’s split into categories, so you can jump right to the top racers, puzzle games, adventures, platformers, and more.

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.

Genshin Impact was Voted Best Mobile Game at the TechRadar Choice Awards 2021

iPhone game of the month

Rush Rally Origins


Rush Rally Origins is both the latest entry in the series and a love letter to its past. It gives you the lauded and suitably weighty physics from Rush Rally 3 and combines that with a top-down view and more arcade-oriented feel. The result is an exhilarating mix of old-school racer and modern technology.

Visually, this is a stunning game, with gorgeous courses that zip by as your car kicks up dust while drifting around corners. The courses are tricky, but mastery reaps rewards as you chip away at time trial targets. You can also pit yourself against other racers, in multi-car scraps against hardcore computer opponents.

The entire product looks and feels the part and works superbly on iPhone. The icing on the cake is how configurable everything is, letting you adjust the on-screen controls to suit your preferences – and thumbs.

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.

Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale


Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale 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 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.

Peak’s Edge

(Free + $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.99)

Peak’s Edge 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


Maze Machina 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 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


P1 Select 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 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 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


Euclidean Skies takes the framework behind iOS classic Euclidean Lands 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 slaps a famous license on now-familiar Tinder-meets-kingdom management larks from the original Reigns, and follow-up Reigns: Her Majesty. 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 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


Card Crawl 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.

Exploding Kittens


High-octane card games don’t seem the greatest fit for iPhone gaming, but Exploding Kittens perfectly captures the manic chaos of the Oatmeal-illustrated original. As per that version, this is Russian roulette with detonating cats.

Players take turns to grab a card, and if they get an exploding kitten, they must defuse it or very abruptly find themselves out of the game.

Strategy comes by way of action cards, which enable you to peek at the deck, skip a turn, steal cards from an opponent, and draw from the bottom of the deck “like the baby you are”.

Local and online multiplayer is supported, timers stop people from dawdling, and a ‘chance of kitten’ meter helps everyone keep track of the odds. Large hands of cards rather irritatingly require quite a bit of swiping to peruse (although cards can be reordered), but otherwise this is first-rate and amusingly deranged multiplayer mayhem.



Nintendo fans probably wonder why the big N hasn't yet brought the superb Advance Wars to iPad, but Warbits now scratches that particular itch. However, although Warbits is influenced by Nintendo's turn-based strategy title, it isn't a copy — the iOS game brings plenty of new thinking to the table and is very much optimised for the iPad.

Working with 16 varied units, you conquer a series of battlefields by directing your troops, making careful note of your strengths and the enemy's relevant weaknesses. All the while, Warbits merrily has you and your opponent trading barbs, often about subjects such as whether tomatoes are fruit, because that's the kind of thing you'd go to war over.

Finish the 20-mission campaign and you'll have a decent grasp of Warbits, and can then venture online to take on other human players across dozens of different maps. With superb visuals, enough new ideas over the game that inspired it, and a single one-off price-tag, Warbits is a must-buy for any iPhone-owning strategy nut.

Our favorite iPhone point-and-click adventures, room escape games, narrative tales, and gamebooks.



Overboard! 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 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 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 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 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 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 - 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 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 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 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 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. 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 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 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.

Dark Echo


Dark Echo is a weirdly creepy horror game that manages to make squiggly lines scary. As you stomp about in the dark, sound waves are represented as abstract lines that rebound off of objects you can’t otherwise see.

The soundtrack is all-important. Don a pair of headphones, and you can hear your footsteps, and the floor squelching beneath you. Flies buzz as you pass… well, it doesn’t bear thinking about. And then you hear things growling in the shadows, before one decides it fancies a snack.

Dark Echo will helpfully suggest RUN! as you bolt for an exit – or end up devoured in a dead end. It’s a great example of how the imagination can give you bigger scares than any rendered CGI beast on your iPhone’s screen. That and you’ll never look at red zig-zags in quite the same way again.

Sorcery! 4


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, 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.)

The Room Three


The Room is a series about mysteries within mysteries. It begins with a box. 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, 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 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.



pureya 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! 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.

Octagon 2

(Free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Octagon 2 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 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 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 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 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 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. 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 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! 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 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.

Micro Miners


Coming across like an auto-scrolling stripped-back Lemmings, Micro Miners 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, 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.

Eliss Infinity


The original Eliss was an early App Store darling, defining the iPhone in terms of multi-touch gaming. Eliss Infinity 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.

Power Hover


Power Hover is an impressive action game that takes you through a beautiful world to recover a village's stolen power. Hover through deserts, oceans, and highways, and grind on rails as you make your way to the finish line, chase down baddies, or play through arcade-style boss runs and challenge your friends for the best score. Collect dropped batteries to unlock even more gorgeous and thrilling levels.

It turns out the future will involve hoverboards, only it'll be robots piloting them. In Power Hover, all the humans are gone, but so too are the batteries that power your robot village. So you hop on your flying board and pursue a thief through 30 varied and visually stunning levels.

Whether scything curved paths across a gorgeous sun-drenched sea or picking your way through a grey and dead human city, Power Hover will have you glued to the screen until you reach the end of the journey. And although it's initially tricky to get to grips with, you'll soon discover the board's floaty physics and controls are perfectly balanced.

Our favorite iPhone games where you run, leap, board, and dodge your way to a high-score – or an abrupt end.

Summer Catchers


Summer Catchers 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


Alto’s Odyssey 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, 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


Impossible Road 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 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 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, 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.

Frutorious HD


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 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.

Chameleon Run


You might have played enough automatic runners to last several lifetimes, but Chameleon Run 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


Super Hexagon 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.

Our favorite iPhone platform games, from retro-style 2D titles to full-on console-style adventures.



GRIS is a rare iPhone game that feels like a work of art. It contains a beautiful hand-illustrated world, splashed with watercolors. Alongside a soundtrack determined to squeeze every ounce of emotion from your core, this makes for an evocative, engaging experience – for what is, fundamentally, a side-on platformer.

The basics of play have you run, jump, and find stuff that unlocks new areas to explore. Sometimes, GRIS is fiddly. More often, it’s joyful, with grin-inducing set pieces, such as when you’re tracked through a forest by a tiny creature that thinks you can’t spot it. Occasionally, there are gut punches, too, when the protagonist is put through the grinder.

You get the full range here, then, in a masterful game that showcases there are still new things to say in side-scrolling platform games.

Death Hall


Death Hall is a bit like Super Mario Bros. or Donkey Kong as reimagined by a psychopath. “This game is simple,” suggests the trailer, noting that all you need to do is run, jump, and escape the Death Hall. The tiny snag is said hall is jam-packed with massive spikes, uneven surfaces, and hideous toothy monsters. And there’s a deadly demon in hot pursuit – one touch from him and you’re dead.

The danger of this kind of approach is it can just be too much – and Death Hall can overwhelm. You might feel dispirited on being dispatched yet again, especially when so close to a level exit. But the polish and superb design here is enough to keep you coming back for more punishment – and that glimmer of hope that your thumbs will eventually be dextrous enough to help you escape.



Ordia is the marriage of flinging a protagonist about, Angry-Birds-style, and platform gaming. However, in this world of primordial ooze, resting places are rare, and some surfaces are liable to fire you across the screen like a sentient pinball.

At first, the going is mercifully easy, though. You line up your shots, reach each point of safety, grab collectables along the way, and eventually make your way to safety. But Ordia’s world quickly becomes hazardous, requiring perfect timing to get past a ravenous worm’s snapping jaws, or a steely nerve to outpace a predator in hot pursuit.

Mechanically, Ordia is familiar, and even the – admittedly lovely – graphic style is nothing new, but the execution is borderline perfect, making it a joyful experience on your iPhone.

Rolando: Royal Edition


Rolando: Royal Edition is a love letter from the early days of iPhone gaming. It remasters one of the platform’s earliest hits, released way back in 2008: an inventive puzzle-platformer, where you trundle rotund Rolandos to their goal.

With drag-based selection in the multiple-character levels, gestural actions and tilt-based movement, Rolando always felt like a game designed for iPhone first. It’s stood the test of time remarkably well. With spruced-up visuals, it still feels like a modern, vibrant take on what mobile gaming can be.

There’s great variety in its challenges too, whether you’re rolling a chubby regal Rolando along, avoiding traps and pits, or whirling your iPhone around like a maniac, trying desperately to get to the end of a level in an extremely tight time limit. Buy it (again)!



see/saw is a fast-paced platform game with a delicious streak of sadism. It features a subject who’s been invited to help with scientific tests of a distinctly dubious nature. 

Each single-screen test involves collecting three coins as rapidly as possible. This is easy at first, as your little player zips about, scooting up walls, and leaping around. But the professor in charge is a nutcase, and soon has you facing massive saw blades, spikes, and rockets. Helpfully, challenges often require the player to be killed in precisely the right manner to fling them at the final target.

With 150 bite-sized levels, this platformer is ideal for dipping into – and engaging enough that you may find yourself wanting to blaze through the entire thing in a handful of sittings.

Suzy Cube


Suzy Cube is a platform game set in a world with a thing for straight edges. Assuming you’ve played a platformer before, you know the drill: explore; grab gold; unsportingly jump on the heads of enemies to obliterate them.

But Suzy Cube goes beyond the stripped-back 2D fare we often see on iOS for something akin to Super Mario 3D Land. This means you may find yourself quickly swapping between skidding down icy mountains in 3D, following Suzy Cube as she runs side-on around a tower, and then delicately leaping between floating platforms, as seen from above.

Bar some duff boss battles, it’s ambitious, entertaining fare, with tight touchscreen controls, and a great sense of pace and variety as you delve into the world and discover its many hidden secrets.



Oddmar is a platform game featuring the titular protagonist, a selfish Viking who suddenly has to become the hero when his village vanishes and evil critters take over the land. It is a stunning mobile production, awash with dazzling visuals, and wonderful set pieces, such as trying desperately to outrun a massive troll in a boss battle, or riding a pig like you’re starring in a medieval Metal Slug.

But even the more typical platforming bits are something special. Wonderful animation ensures the game is full of life, while carefully placed hazards and enemies cleverly shift and change the game’s tempo as you pick your way through each level.

On iPhone, there’s the slight niggle of thumbs getting in the way of the action. That said, the controls are among the best we’ve ever seen on a mobile platformer, as – to be frank – are all other aspects of the game.



VVVVVV is a love letter to classic games. Its visuals and soundtrack recall the Commodore 64, and its platforming action (each single-screen challenge also being amusingly named) echoes much-beloved 1980s fare, like Manic Miner and Bounty Bob.

However, VVVVVV’s speed and fluidity are thoroughly modern, as you zoom about a huge space station, trying to locate lost crew members. And unlike comparatively stodgy platformers of old, VVVVVV doesn’t have you leap over hazards – you instead invert gravity to flip between ceiling and floor in an excitingly disorienting manner.

The spike and alien-infested twisty corridors awaiting you require serious dexterity to conquer. Fortunately, death is not the end, because you get unlimited lives, and there are frequent checkpoints.

And in another nice nod to the old-school, even the 4:3 viewing area works in the game’s favor – you can control your character by swiping and tapping in black bars at the edges of your display, rather than covering up his on-screen exploits with your thumbs.

Bean Dreams


Precision platformer Bean Dreams is more bouncing bean than jumping bean. The edible hero, decked out in a natty sombrero, bounds about colorful environments, aiming to grab fruit, free a hidden axolotl (a Mexican salamander, if you didn’t know), and reach the exit without getting impaled. Your part in all this: guiding the bean by prodding left or right on your iPhone.

Bean Dreams offers plenty of replay value – you can spend time learning each small level, but only on committing to memory every nook and cranny can you aim for the tiny number of bounces that unlocks a gold medal award.

And to succeed in grabbing the axolotl or getting all the fruit, you’ll often need to play again, shaking up your approach.

With plenty of variation in its stages, alternate beans with special powers, and devious puzzles lurking within, Bean Dreams is ample proof platform games can work on iPhone – when specifically designed for the system.

Leo’s Fortune


The bar's set so low in modern mobile gaming that the word 'premium' has become almost meaningless. But Leo's Fortune bucks the trend, and truly deserves the term.

It's a somewhat old-school side-on platform game, featuring a gruff furball hunting down the thief who stole his gold (and then, as is always the way, dropped coins at precise, regular intervals along a lengthy, perilous pathway).

The game is visually stunning, from the protagonist's animation through to the lush, varied backdrops. The game also frequently shakes things up, varying its pace from Sonic-style loops to precise pixel-perfect leaps.

It at times perhaps pushes you a bit too far — late on, we found some sections a bit too finicky and demanding. But you can have as many cracks at a section as you please, and if you master the entire thing, there's a hardcore speedrun mode that challenges you to complete the entire journey without dying.

Drop Wizard


This single-screen platformer initially resembles a tribute to arcade classics Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros., but Drop Wizard is a very different beast. It's part auto-runner, which might infuriate retro-gamers, but this proves to be a brilliant limitation in practice.

Your little wizard never stops running, and emits a blast of magic each time he lands. You must therefore time leaps to blast roaming foes, and then boot the dazed creatures during a second pass. It's vibrant, fast-paced, engaging, and — since you only need to move left or right — nicely optimized for iPad play.

Our favorite iPhone turn-based puzzlers, match games, path-finding tests, dexterity challenges, and open-world brain-smashers.

Railroad Ink Challenge


Railroad Ink Challenge is somewhat reminiscent of Ticket To Ride if that board game was played in a shoebox. You get a seven-by-seven grid featuring road and rail exits at its edge. During each round, dice are rolled, providing you with component parts of a network to place. The aim is to make long routes and avoid points-sapping errors.

Where the game perfectly aligns with mobile is in its brevity. At just seven rounds long, each session takes only a matter of minutes. Yet there’s plenty of space for you to improve your tactics and high scores – especially in modes that utilize bonus squares, such as universities and factories. There is a challenge option for taking on friends in asynchronous play, but Railroad Ink Challenge is best enjoyed as a standout mobile solo puzzler.

Baba Is You


Baba Is You is a puzzle game in which you constantly change the rules in order to fashion a solution. It plays out like a Sokoban block-pusher, only the landscape is littered with words and object names. Fashion a sentence from these blocks and everything can change in an instant.

For example, you can change your controllable character by placing an object type in front of ‘is you’, or transform all the walls to flags by placing the word ‘flag’ after ‘wall is.’ This is simultaneously disarming, devious and delightful.

Early gentle levels soon give way to tougher tests, but the game never stops being relentlessly grin-inducing as you figure out solutions – however convoluted your path. The touch controls are pitch-perfect too. Superb stuff.

Blask 2


Blask 2 tasks you with blasting targets with lasers. Games of this ilk usually pepper the screen with mirrors, having you rotate them to achieve your goals. Here, levels instead comprise puzzle pieces with mirrored walls. You must figure out how to move and combine them, in order to succeed.

This is, we must note, a game that sometimes relies heavily on trial and error. Initially, you won’t always know how a level breaks apart. Strategic, tactical thinking is possible to a degree, but quite often you’ll solve a level by mistake.

However, because Blask 2 is such a joyfully tactile and responsive experience, it’s wonderful to play around with. Sure, it can be frustrating when you can’t figure out how to solve a level. But as a puzzler with a properly physical element and that actively rewards messing around, it’s hard to beat.

Song of Bloom


Song of Bloom is an iPhone game that plays with the conventions of narrative and games. Ostensibly a puzzler with a smattering of hidden object smarts, you work through the game by spotting clues, and later drawing them on to the screen at the appropriate moment; but the second you start experiencing Song of Bloom, you immediately recognize it’s far more.

At its heart, it’s a story. Fragmented but meaningful, it tasks you as the viewer with formulating its whole in your mind. And as you do, scenes you explore bring to mind everything from classical abstract art to modern digital visual manipulation.

It’s clever without being over the top, and impactful without being too knowing. If you had to place Song of Bloom alongside other apps, there are echoes of Simogo’s The Sailor’s Dream, and breakout hit Florence; but this title’s very much its own thing.

Spring Falls


Spring Falls is a unique puzzle experience, set on a geometric mountainside. Its various challenges are based around erosion, and task you with manipulating the landscape to bring wildflowers to life. This is essentially achieved by eroding (that is, swiping down on) sections of rock, which enables water to reach the thirsty plants.

This isn’t a game that holds your hand. You’re expected to figure out the various rules, and how this strange, angular ecosystem works. But Spring Falls is also a game that wants to engage you and be played, not frustrate you, so it encourages rather than punishes experimentation, giving you unlimited time and undos to play.

There are 60 levels in all. That will likely amount to several hours of serene but often tricky puzzling that’s a bit different from anything you’ve ever played before.

Path of Giants


Path of Giants is a sweet-natured puzzle game with a penchant for path-finding. It features three chums dressed for the cold – although they’re frankly not well prepared for anything else.

They lack climbing gear, for a start, which is a bit of a problem when they’re faced with massive walls and perilous drops between them and their goals. Fortunately, these chums are happy enough to plonk their bottoms on the ground and let others clamber all over them to reach higher ground. 

Gradually, other mechanics are introduced, like landscape-shifting switches and gigantic windmill contraptions for sailing across ravines. It’s never exactly brain-smashing, but with nods to some of the best puzzlers around – Monument Valley; Lara Croft GO – Path of Giants is nonetheless a thoroughly rewarding experience.

Rooms: The Toymaker’s Mansion


Rooms: The Toymaker’s Mansion follows the adventures of a young girl who – unfortunately for her – ends up locked within the mansion of a toymaker. We say ‘unfortunately’ because the toymaker is a lunatic who’s transformed the dwelling into a building-sized puzzle packed full of deadly traps.

The game more or less plays out as a sliding puzzler. The section of room you’re standing in can be moved into empty spaces. You need to get yourself to a key, and then to the exit – preferably before you’re attacked by a vicious exploding puppet, or get blown up by a bomb.

Although a tiny bit squint-inducing on an iPhone, Rooms is well worth a download. It looks great, and the control method affords immediacy, but the devious puzzles will keep you scratching your head for days.

The Witness


The Witness echos classic puzzle adventures like Myst. You emerge from a metal tunnel onto a lush island. You’ve no idea why you’re there – and the game isn’t saying. This wordless effort leaves you to figure out what’s going on.

What you do know is there are puzzles everywhere – maze and logic tests linked by massive lengths of piping. Learn the game’s ‘vocabulary’ and you can work yourself deeper into the island’s mysteries, eventually cracking the secrets of a distant mountain.

On iPhone’s smaller display, some of the visual spectacle is less dazzling, and interactions are more fiddly than on other systems. But for a game on the go, The Witness showcases the sheer clout and capabilities of modern iPhone gaming, and iCloud support means you can always continue your efforts on iPad.

Photographs - Puzzle Stories


Photographs - Puzzle Stories wraps familiar puzzle tropes around emotionally charged narratives – or perhaps it’s the other way around. Either way, the combination in this unique game sucks you in and never lets go.

Each of the five vignettes slowly reveals its tale, alternating voiceovers and basic animated scenes with you searching a screen for clues, and then brief puzzle sections. The last of those cleverly shift and change as the narrative demands, ensuring Photographs is a coherent whole.

This all makes for a surprising and rewarding game. What you won’t be prepared for, though, is the hard-hitting nature of the stories, which pull on the heart-strings as you work your way to the bittersweet ending. It’s an excellent game that shows puzzlers can do far more than just test your brainpower.

Snakebird Primer


Snakebird Primer is a turn-based puzzler that has you direct worm-like birds around levitating islands. They need to get to a swirling rainbow goal; but often the gaps between bits of land are too big, resulting in the grumpy burping avians ending up in the drink – or getting horribly spiked.

So you need to figure out paths, which often involves multiple birds working together. Eating fruit lengthens a bird, potentially enabling it to reach a ledge, or become a bridge for another. On quite a few levels, Tetris-style blocks appear – to help and hinder.

Snakebird Primer feels right at home on iPhone. It’s colorful, and the challenges tease your brain without smacking it too hard. But if you do get to the end and want a much sterner test, there’s always the vicious, unforgiving and equally brilliant Snakebird

Pipe Push Paradise


Pipe Push Paradise sends you to a desert island, but not to the beach. Nope – you’re there to sort out the island’s dreadful plumbing disasters. This involves moving massive pipes around confined angular rooms, aiming to make connections that get water flowing once again.

It echoes box-shoving games, but adds some ideas of its own. Pipes can be rotated and dropped into pits – and sometimes you’ll consider yourself victorious, but then realize your little character can’t get back out of the room, thereby forcing you to rethink.

On iPhone, the controls are a touch fiddly, but infinite undos ensure errors don’t frustrate, while also giving you space to experiment. With multiple challenges unlocked at any given time, this is a puzzler where you’ll want to plumb the depths.



Chuchel is a very strange experience that sits somewhere between trial-and-error logic game and decidedly oddball animation. The premise involves a ball of angry fluff who’s desperate to devour a cherry. Unfortunately for the hairball hero, it’s snatched away by a giant hand after every hard-fought victory.

Actually, ‘logic game’ might be stretching things a bit. Ultimately, you’re tapping hotspots, seeing how things play out, and trying to crack the sequence that will temporarily get Chuchel his fruity prize.

This can be a bit of a grind, given that you may end up seeing a canned animation several times before cracking a level; but it’s hard to stay mad at a game that has so much to give in terms of charm, surprise, energy, and flat-out imaginative weirdness.

Where Shadows Slumber 


Where Shadows Slumber is a puzzle adventure featuring an old man with a mysterious lantern. Its special power is to change the landscape when shadows are cast on it, transforming treacherous drops into bridges, and blocked passages into doorways.

Much of this is a logic test, with you needing to figure out how to build a path to an exit, sometimes with the help of lights you can switch on and off, or people that march back and forth, triggering switches. The mechanics are engaging, as is the minimal yet vibrant art style.

There’s also a story underpinning your adventures, which has moments as dark as the shadows that are cast. If nothing else, though, these shocking moments only make you root for the protagonist more, and urge you to help him to victory.



Evergarden is a gorgeous puzzler underpinned by an emotionally charged narrative adventure. The main game echoes Threes! and Triple Town, in being about merging elements on a board to boost your score. Only here, you’re combining plants into new forms, and having them strategically spit out seeds between rounds.

The game has a great sense of rhythm, and stunning visuals that make everything shine on the iPhone’s screen. It’s also layered, gradually revealing new ideas as you play. Early on, animal companion Fen will demand you match provided patterns to increase your score; within the adventure, you acquire new skills, and must strategically apply them within the main challenges.

In all, Evergarden is a distinctive, beautifully realized treat – even if you think you’ve already got quite enough mobile puzzlers installed on your device.



Dissembler is a match puzzler that seemingly has you methodically dismantle tiny geometric works of art. The mechanics will be familiar to anyone who’s played the likes of Bejeweled – flip two elements (flat colored tiles in this case) and try to make a match of three or more – only there’s no gravity in this game to fill blank spaces.

Instead, your matches vanish, and nothing else appears, which sometimes leaves single tiles isolated. At that point, you must undo moves and think again, figuring out the precise sequence needed to consign the entire artwork to oblivion.

It’s a deliciously captivating, tactile game, which also builds on its many dozens of hand-made puzzles with an intriguing endless mode, and extra daily free puzzles. In all, it’s flipping great.



In our opinion, Threes! is the iPhone’s Tetris – that absurdly addictive puzzler that’s perfect for the hardware, with simple rules but enough depth that you can conceivably improve your skills over a period of years.

It takes place on a four-by-four grid, within which you manipulate tiled cards. The aim is to merge matching pairs, which increases their face value and leaves an extra space for subsequent cards to appear.

Subtleties in the rules keep Threes! head and shoulders above countless App Store pretenders, and it’s also infused with personality. Even when you’re in a fix, it’s hard to be mad at a game where all the cards on the board have cute faces and natter away to each other.

Lara Croft GO


Following in the footsteps of Hitman GO, which astonishingly managed to transform that series into an adorable board game, Lara Croft GO reworks the adventures of the world's most famous tomb raider. It's another turn-based affair, with lashings of atmosphere, finding Lara carefully working her way past traps crafted by an ancient civilisation with a penchant for blocky design and elaborate moving parts.

There are also lots of snakes and deadly lizards about, which she's quite keen on shooting in the head. The five chapters are quite brief, but savour the game rather than blazing through, and you'll find something that merges early Tomb Raider's sense of adventure and solitude, Monument Valley-level beauty, and bite-sized touchscreen gaming that's perfect for iPhone.

Our favorite iPhone trails games, top-down racers, 3D console racing sims, and quirky time-attack challenges.

Table Top Racing: World Tour


Table Top Racing: World Tour more or less crashes Micro Machines into Mario Kart. It’s a zippy racer where you guide miniaturized cars around courses fashioned from tables, food, and various bits of hardware someone had lying around.

The controls are straightforward – this is arcade, not simulator fare. As such, the game’s easy to get into – although not to win. A few races in, you’ll feel the limitations of your vehicle, and be urged toward the garage.

At this point, most iPhone racers have you open your wallet, but World Tour is mercifully premium in nature. You earn coins by playing and racing well, and this income can be spent on upgrades. The progression curve is therefore gradual and rewarding. With multiplayer options, bright visuals, and a thumping soundtrack, this iPhone game is a great bet if you’ve a need for speed.

Street Kart Racing


Street Kart Racing eschews the kind of kart racing you most often see on consoles and mobile, which is usually packed full of cartoon characters and larger-than-life courses. Instead, this iPhone game seeks to portray a realistic take on belting along at 80mph an inch from the ground.

Despite a setup that suggests an uncompromising approach – no assists; no excuses – Street Kart Racing turns out to be quite approachable. The tilt controls are responsive, and you’re initially taken through the basics of mastering your kart and following the racing line.

After that, an almost overwhelming world of kart racing opens up, with you initially taking on AI opponents, but then battling other humans. With tracks that vary from professional circuits to grimy ones underneath city bridges, this racer has the stamp of authenticity, but most importantly is great fun.

Rush Rally 3


Rush Rally 3 reasons rally simulations shouldn’t be restricted to PCs or consoles under your telly. Here, you get the full experience, whether you like belting along stages with a co-driver yelling in your ear in which direction to head, or grinding metal in furious rallycross competitions.

Visually, the game looks great. It runs at 60fps, and you get to race in all lighting and weather conditions. The game feels good, too – the car is weighty but responsive. And, sensibly, the controls can be tuned to make things more manual – or less, if you fancy a more arcade-oriented blast.

During testing, we had the rare odd moment, not least the car once rather unrealistically clambering up a steep incline. For the most part, though, this game really does feel like a slice of console racing on your iPhone.

Reckless Racing 3


Reckless Racing 3 is a top-down effort that features dilapidated cars and trucks battling it out across a surreal section of courses. Whereas the original in the series appropriately restricted itself to scrapyards and mall parking lots, Reckless Racing 3 features routes through a quaint European village, an airport, and a nuclear plant with a worrying amount of green goop sloshing about.

The handling feels a bit lightweight, but the races are amusingly smashy. And if you’re in the mood for something completely different, there’s a gymkhana mode for precision driving and drifting in your decrepit vehicle.

Grid Autosport 


Grid Autosport is a console-quality racer. That isn’t hyperbole; this is an accurate conversion of a game that has graced countless PCs and PlayStation 3s – all on your iPhone.

Naturally, not just any iPhone will do; you’ll need an iPhone SE or an iPhone 7 or newer, and at least 6GB(!) of storage space. But once the game’s installed, you can immerse yourself in by far the deepest racing experience mobile has to offer.

If you’re a simulation nut, turn off all driving aids, head into a full season and prepare to spend time spinning off into gravel traps. More cautious players can stick with quick races and rookie mode for a while, gradually learning car handling and tracks alike, and wondering why all mobile games can’t be made with such love.

Pigeon Wings


Pigeon Wings is a deranged side-on racing game, featuring wide-eyed pigeons belting along in tiny planes. The backstory involves a rich nutcase aiming to destroy a city by way of a heavily-armed gigantic flying fortress; the birds race it out to decide who gets the chance to stop him.

The game switches things up between strings of races and occasional battles. In the former, you slipstream rivals, bob and weave through the air by tilting your iPhone, and power up your craft through trophies won in-game.

The shooty bits are brief and intense – a nice change of pace, despite the fact you’ll likely be blown to bits several times before claiming victory.

Should you hanker after something marrying the intensity of ALONE… and the frantic racing of Mario Kart, Pigeon Wings is a must – in fact, you’d be bird-brained to miss it.

Mini Motor Racing


Mini Motor Racing is a top-down racer featuring tiny vehicles that blast about twisty-turny circuits. They auto-accelerate, so you’re left with steering, and periodic use of a turbo that rockets your vehicle forward a few car lengths, leaving you unable to steer in the meantime.

From the off, Mini Motor Racing is frenetic. The tracks are claustrophobic, and the cars respond (and even sound like) remote controlled vehicles – albeit ones seemingly driven by psychopaths. Once you’re a few dozen races into the game, it seems your opponents are keener on smashing into you than winning.

That grumble leaves Mini Motor Racing languishing in the slipstream of the best top-down effort on iPhone, Reckless Racing 3, but it still manages a podium finish. And that’s because it’s packed full of content, has a great multiplayer mode, and in its ‘remastered’ 2017 form looks stunning.

Riptide GP: Renegade


The core of Riptide GP: Renegade feels like it's been wrenched wholesale from the unhinged water-based faction of 1990s arcade racers. Renegade, for the most part, matches their energy and spirit, as you barrel along splashy tracks atop a souped-up futuristic jet ski, performing death-defying stunts to accrue boost that catapults you along at even more breakneck speeds.

The game's packed full of content, from single races to a challenging career mode, and the premium price means you need skill rather than cash to succeed.

There are times you wish the game would let go a little – the colors are drab and it at times takes itself too seriously - but when it fully unleashes as you blaze through factories or get hurled into the air by the wake from a rocket launch, Renegade is glorious.

Drift 'n' Drive


Madcap racer Drift 'n' Drive somehow appears to have arrived from a 1980s home computer and yet feels perfect for mobile play. It's an old-school overhead racer that pits you against a grid of crazed opponents, all fighting to get to the finish line first.

The game only scrolls vertically, and the controls are simple: steer by tapping near a screen edge or prod the centre for a temporary boost of extra speed. Tracks snake left and right within the screen's narrow confines, but sometimes do so abruptly, causing plenty of opportunity for massive pile-ups.

Manage to not crawl in last and you move up the grid next time round. Place better and you start getting cash to upgrade your car. Before long, you're laughing like an idiot while barreling along in a race of two-dozen tiny cars buzzing around the track like flies, boosting into walls, and occasionally wondering why modern racers are rarely this much giddy fun.

Horizon Chase

($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 IAP)

Time was racing games were all about ludicrous speed, gorgeous graphics, and the sheer rush of weaving through a sea of cars to the finish line. Horizon Chase briefly reverses back to such halcyon days, grabs the best bits from the likes of Lotus and Top Gear, before zooming back to the present as a thoroughly modern arcade racer.

It looks gorgeous, with some stunning weather effects, and an odd but pleasing low-poly roadside-object style; it sounds great with veteran games musician Barry Leitch on soundtrack duties; but most importantly, it handles perfectly, and is a joy until the very last track.

AG Drive


In the future, it turns out people have tired of racers zooming about circuits on the ground. In AG Drive, tracks soar into the air – akin to massive roller-coasters along which daredevil racers of the day speed, gunning for the checkered flag.

This is a pure racing game – all about learning the twists and turns of every circuit, and the thrill of breakneck speed. The only weapons you have available are strategy and skill. And this suits the kind of stripped-back controls that work best on iPad – tilting to steer, and using thumbs to accelerate, brake, and trigger a turbo.

Also, while some slightly irksome IAP lurks, there’s little need to splash out. The game’s difficulty curve is such that you can gradually improve your skills and ship, working your way through varied events until you become an out-of-this-world racing legend. (Or, if you’re a bit rubbish, an ugly stain on the side of a massive metal building.)

Our favorite iPhone blasters, from precision shooters to classic arcade shoot ’em ups.



Pachoink! has its roots in pachinko, pinball’s ancient and dumber relative. But rather than having you pull back the plunger and hope, this iPhone game provides boards that require skill rather than mere luck to defeat.

You get an inkling of this from the start, when you notice the layouts of your various targets, and discover each of them requires multiple hits to shatter. But before long, you’re faced with tiny fairground rides wheeling about, and teleporters that hurl your balls all about the place.

Although the visuals aren’t that pretty, and there’s a chance the background music might drive you to distraction, Pachoink! quickly proves itself a smart purchase. It retains the immediacy of the game that inspired it, but meaningfully updates everything for strategic play and long-term interest.



NimbleNaut is a vertical bullet-hell shooter with the cruft removed. So rather than having you blast through swarms of enemies, and only occasionally rewarding you with the prize of taking on a big bad, it throws bosses at you one after another.

Naturally, your ship is armed with a space-age peashooter. It spews out bursts of little green laser blasts, forcing you to strategize how, when, and where to attack your colossal foe – assuming you’ve time to think when you’re weaving between dozens of rockets or deadly (but pretty) neon bullets.

Progression is interesting: you can carry on when you die, but your score is reset. So if you want to see everything, you can do so in a single sitting. But proper shooter fiends will want to do things properly, and get a high score – right?



P.3 uses retro stylings and squint-inducing CRT fuzz and blur to infuse shooty proceedings with a jolt of retro nostalgia. But although the basics echo ancient vertically scrolling blasters, the stripped-back mechanics and sheer speed result in something that feels much more modern.

In P.3, moving left or right emits a blast from your gun. Hold both directional buttons and you unleash your super weapon – but then can’t dodge. This juggling act recalls ATOMIK, and at first the difficulty in P.3 is similarly brutal.

Get into the groove, though, and you’ll start grabbing power-ups that enable you to survive for more than a handful of seconds. Even then, games are short – but you’ll be grinning from ear to ear even as your tiny craft is smashed to pieces yet again.



Backfire is a shooter that pitches you as a coward who runs away from fights, blasting behind you as you flee. That’s fair enough in this claustrophobic horror world, where you’re relentlessly pursued by swarms of ferocious demons – or, for an occasional change of pace, one massive, deadly boss.

It’s worth noting this is a vicious, tough game. It feels ponderous at first, but soon your foes multiply in number and you end up darting through tiny gaps, blasting behind you, trying to eke out a few extra seconds of survival. Fortunately, you can upgrade powers between games, for a fractionally better fighting chance next time around.

Stick with it and gradual success feels very rewarding. And especially on iPhone, the touch controls are superb, movement feeling like fish darting about a pond – albeit one filled with glowing, demonic piranhas.



Steredenn is a side-on blaster with a retro bent but a modern feel. It’s packed full of delicate pixel art and you’d be forgiven for assuming it a port of a classic, but Steredenn takes full advantage of the iPhone’s power, flinging glowing bullet death about with merry abandon.

This is a smart shooter in every sense. There’s humor, with your ship endearingly expelling spent bullet cases, and a giant sword power-up, and you’re just as likely to find yourself battling swarms of craft with chainsaws strapped to their noses as laser-spewing behemoths. 

Procedurally-generated levels ensure Steredenn remains endlessly replayable, and refreshing your energy after beating a boss feels like a reward that also allows you to dig deeper into the game. 2019’s Binary Stars revamp – more ships, modes and content – further cemented its place as a mobile classic.

ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun


ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun finds the hero of the hour belting along hazard-infested corridors, attempting to obliterate evil-doers in a world where the local sun is dying. Unfortunately, said hero forgot their jet-pack, and relies on shooting a massive gun at the ground in order to stay aloft.

This becomes problematic when huge saw blades and the like need blasting. Shoot ahead and you plunge towards the ground (often covered in deadly spikes). The game therefore plays out like a choreographed juggling act, as you balance flying and shooting in its brutal, bite-sized levels.

Given how intense the game is (although you do get a shield and unlimited rewinds), it’s perhaps a good thing levels are short. But if you somehow don’t think it’s challenging enough, try grabbing every collectible; you can then rightly lay claim to being the toughest iPhone gamer around.

Super Crossfighter


Super Crossfighter is a modern take on classic blasting action that harks back to Space Invaders. But instead of lobbing the occasional pot-shot at lumbering green beasts, Super Crossfighter is a neon-infused affair, with bullet hell aplenty, and a thumping techno soundtrack.

There’s also the ‘crossfighter’ bit, which alludes to the way you can leap back and forth between the top and bottom of the screen. This can be handy for grabbing power-ups, un-sportingly shooting an enemy in the back, or simply escaping certain death when facing a hail of projectiles.

The touchscreen controls work nicely, and there are over 150 waves and an upgrade system to sink your teeth into. The game’s perhaps a touch ‘relaxed’ in feel at times, rather than super-intense, but otherwise this is an excellent iPhone shoot ’em up.



This neon-infused one-thumb single-screen shooter has you fire orbs into the void. When an orb stops, it expands into available space and is given a number. Hit it with subsequent orbs and the number decreases until the orb explodes, sometimes starting a chain reaction that obliterates its neighbors.

Your main concern is an orb returning over the line of death above your cannon. Orbital  therefore rapidly becomes a tense battle of nerves, accurate aiming, and space management.

Whichever of its three varied modes you try, it’s a gripping game, and there’s also a same-device two-player mode that pits you against a friend.

Our favorite iPhone extreme sports, golf, soccer, and sports management games.

Astro Golf

(free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Astro Golf puts an outer-space spin on mobile golf games. Instead of fairways, sand traps, and perfectly manicured greens, courses comprise celestial bodies. Your tee is on one planet or moon, and the hole often far away on another. The aim of the game, however, remains the same as ever.

Gravity is what shakes everything up in this title. Smack a ball into space, and its path changes as it whizzes by planets and moons. This often results in fancy slingshots that would leave even the Rory McIlroys of this world bewildered and jealous.

This is also an iPhone game that wants to be played. Scores are tracked, but they don’t really matter. Even the hard mode, which demands holes-in-one, is an exercise in stress-free, enjoyable play. Out of this world, then? Quite possibly.

Desert Golfing


Desert Golfing streamlines smacking a ball with a big stick as far as it’s possible to go. It begins with you being invited to drag an arrow to direct a shot towards a hole. The course you’re faced with is side-on, jagged, and – as you soon discover – composed entirely of unfriendly sand.

There are no do-overs, but there is a score. Yet that becomes almost meaningless as you find yourself dozens of holes into a seemingly endless bout of golfing, deep in a minimalist desert.

What’s surprising is Desert Golfing is so compelling. Gradually, the colors change and the challenges increase in complexity. But even though some holes frustrate, you realize they’re ultimately fleeting. It’s a Zen take on golf, then – and an experience that’s far more satisfying than its appearance in still imagery would suggest.

Motorsport Manager Mobile 3


Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 is a racing management game without the boring bits. Rather than sitting you in front of a glorified spreadsheet, the game is a well-balanced mix of accessibility and depth, enabling you to delve into the nitty gritty of teams, sponsors, mechanics, and even livery.

When you’re all set, you get to watch surprisingly tense and exciting top-down racing (This being surprising because you’re largely watching numbered discs zoom around circuits.)

One-off races give you a feel for things, but the real meat is starting from the bottom of the pile in the career mode, with the ultimate aim of becoming a winner. It’s all streamlined, slick and mobile-friendly, and a big leap on from the relatively simplistic original Motorsport Manager Mobile.

Touchgrind BMX 2

(free + IAP)

Touchgrind BMX 2 invites you to coax a virtual BMX to the checkered flag in courses likely to usher in panic attacks and vertigo, while performing all kinds of stunts along the way. But unlike ostensibly similar fare on iPhone, there’s no rider on the bike – instead, you control it with two fingers.

You plant one finger on the saddle, and one on the handlebars, dragging left and right to steer. As you pick up speed and hurtle into the air on hitting a ramp, you perform stunts by flicking your fingers in various ways. Land safely and you get points.

Wonderfully tactile, and with superb track design, Touchgrind BMX 2 easily betters traditional BMX racing fare on iPhone. And although grabbing all the courses sets you back US$7.99/£7.99/AU$12.99, they’re worth the outlay.



Wonderputt is what might happen if Monty Python-era Terry Gilliam was hurled through time and charged with designing an iPhone minigolf game. The single 18-hole course is an exercise in surrealism and imagination from the moment tiny meteors smash into the ground to fashion the first hole.

Things then get weirder, with courses eaten into grass fields by cows (who are then whisked away by UFOs), and an impossible waterfall hole that looks like it’s escaped from a colored Escher print.

Fortunately, the game is more than a visual delight – it plays well too. Notably, a ‘smart zoom’ feature ensures you don’t need a magnifying glass to see what’s going on in the visually arresting miniature landscapes.

The only snag is there’s just that one course – but even if you only play it once, this game’s worth the outlay. And for perfectionists, there’s replay value in spotting visual details you may have missed, and getting all of the achievements.

Touchgrind Skate 2


A criticism leveled at touchscreens since day one is how they robbed gamers of ‘proper’ controls. Touchgrind Skate 2 highlights how ridiculous such a statement can be, because rather than having you perform tricks on a little on-screen board by manipulating a gamepad, two of your fingers become legs that dictate how the board behaves.

This is not an pick-up-and-play game, though. You really need to work through the tutorials and fully master them, before you try your hand at competition and jam sessions where you’re punished for mistakes, but greatly rewarded for strings of amazing moves.

In a sense, it feels weirdly like the real thing in miniature – which is more than you can say when your hands are fashioned into claws, gripping a traditional console controller.



If you’re a massive basketball fan whose nose will be put out of joint when rosters aren’t entirely accurate, or the game you’re playing is a bit weird, skip this game description and head on to our next entry.

Otherwise, try NBA JAM.

This game’s an updated take on a mid-1990s arcade game, which features weird photorealistic characters playing two-on-two matches. Sportsmanlike behavior’s left in the dressing room, as they muscle each other off the ball, and a big-head version of the visuals is deeply unsettling yet oddly hypnotic.

The controls are a bit of a virtual-joystick-and-buttons nightmare at first, but simple enough to grasp without sliding your fingers all over the place. And before you know it, you’ll be BOOM SHAKALAKAing it with the best of them. (Or hiding from the freaky oversized heads.)

Our favorite iPhone games based on anagrams, crosswords, and generally doing clever things with letters.



Wordsmyth is at its heart a straightforward anagrams game. Like a stripped-back Boggle, it has you find words from a jumble of letters, but gives your brain a more gentle workout than many of its contemporaries.

The visuals and audio set the scene for a contemplative experience, but it’s more than that. The interface is tactile and elegant. As you play, you can bring up tips that help you get at more words – with no penalties. At any point, you can check the words you’ve found and how many more are awaiting discovery.

A new puzzle appears daily, and the game keeps your most recent seven to dip back into. One for relaxing with, then, rather than frantically working against a timer or trying to one-up an opponent.

Up Spell


Up Spell is a no-nonsense speedrun word game. You start with a set of letter tiles at the bottom of the screen and drag them to a tray. Letters can be rearranged and the tray lights up when a word is formed. Tap it to dismiss the word and get new letters.

All the while, a clock ticks down, but Up Spell wants to lessen friction and frustration. You can at any point trash your letters. If the tray is full of garbage, you can empty it with a tap. And the lexicon is intentionally flexible to encourage fun rather than fussiness.

A duel mode, where you send a link to a friend so you start with the same letters and can compare scores, adds extra value to a sparse but effective and engaging spell ’em up.



Ord echoes ancient text adventures - or those branching-narrative gamebooks where the story progresses when you make a decision. Here, the narrative is pared back to just three words: a set-up, the choice you make, and the resolution. In the quest story, for example, you’ll be told ‘lake’ and have the options ‘swim’ and ‘fishing’. Naturally, one of those might have a single-word sticky end.

This all might sound reductive - even pointless - but it’s interesting how much atmosphere is built up in these tiny snatches of story, and tricky to find all the endings. Short jingles and subtle visual effects add further atmosphere as your mind fills in the blanks, constructing its own details to flesh out the minimalist stories. 

The basic nature of Ord. does leave a question mark around its longevity. But for the small outlay, it’ll splash a grin across your face during your first few dozen quests.


(free + $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 IAP)

SpellTower+ harks back to classic word games – paper-based crosswords and word searches you’d find in newspapers  –  but by mixing this up with puzzle-oriented arcade fare, it gives you something fresh.

In Tower mode, you face a stack of letters, which vanish when you tap out a snake-like word. Gravity then takes over, and you realize planning is vital to ensure letter tiles aren’t left stranded.

Mastering this mode serves you well when you venture to others. Some add new rows over time or when submitting a word. Search instead refines Tower to a merciless point, giving you just one chance to construct a word using a special letter.

For fans of SpellTower, this release is more a case of subtle evolution than radical revision. Even so, SpellTower+ is  –  like the original  –  among the very best word games on iPhone.

Word Forward


Word Forward injects strategy into the tried-and-tested formula of finding words in a grid. Rather than having you maximize your score from a randomized set of tiles, Word Forward demands forward thinking and precision. Each challenge is bespoke, and you must clear the entire grid.

Often, making big show-off words can later leave you stranded. But chipping away at the grid with very small words won’t build your collection of bonus tiles. And those can be vital, enabling you to swap letters, blow one up, or shuffle whatever’s left on the grid.

The interface is sleek, but it’s the mechanics here that take hold. Your brain gets more of a workout than your vocabulary, not least when you try to complete each puzzle without using special tiles, in order to win a bonus star.



Supertype is a word game more concerned with the shape of letters than the words they might create. Each hand-designed level finds you staring at a setup of lines, dots, and empty spaces in which to type. Tap out some letters, press the tick mark, and everything starts to move.

The aim is to get the letters you type to the dots. In some cases, the solution may be fairly obvious – for example, placing a lowercase l on each ‘step’ towards an out-of-reach dot at the top of a staircase, then having a p at the start tip over to set everything in motion.

More often, you’ll be scratching your head, experimenting, trying new approaches, and then grinning from ear to ear on cracking a solution.



Sidewords is a word game with a new twist. Each single-screen puzzle has a grid with words along the top and left-hand edges. You use letters from those (at least one from each edge) to create each new word.

On selecting a letter, a line shoots into the grid; where lines from the left and top edges collide you get solid blocks, which display the words you create. Blocks can at any time be tapped to remove them.

The aim is to fill the grid with these blocks – simple early on, but not when you’re staring at a seven-by-seven grid annoyingly full of gaps. At that point, the devious nature of Sidewords becomes apparent.

But this game’s nonetheless also forgiving and relaxing – there’s no time limit, and the vast majority of puzzles are unlocked from the start. There’s replay value here, too, despite the static set-ups, since for each puzzle you can save a solution, clear the grid, and try to solve it in a different way.


(free + IAP)

Games creator Zach Gage is seemingly on a mission to reimagine all those puzzle games that used to languish only in newspaper pages. With Typeshift, you get something that approximates anagrams smashed into a crossword.

But unlike on paper, the word grid here isn’t static – you drag columns to try and form words in the central row. When every letter has been used, the puzzle is complete.

For free, you get a smallish selection of puzzles, but many more are available via various IAP. If you’re at all into word games, you’re likely to devour them all.

The best of them roll another aspect of crosswords into the mix – cryptic clues. In these brain-benders, you can’t almost brute-force solutions by dragging the columns about and finding weird words – you must figure out what a clue means, eke it from the grid, and after a few of those probably go for a little lie down.



To differentiate itself from a slew of Boggle and Scrabble clones, word game AlphaPit tries something a bit different. Although the aim is, as ever, to clear a grid of letters, there’s more to AlphaPit than simply dragging lines through the grid, making words to remove tiles.

There are bonuses, which you can use strategically, to shuffle letters, or blow to pieces a tile that’s particularly annoying you. Spare letters also lurk, which can be swapped in at an opportune moment.

Perhaps most importantly, though, AlphaPit isn’t random – instead, you get 200 predefined levels to work through. This proves rewarding, transforming the experience into a set of puzzles you know you can beat – if only you can figure out the solutions.



Blackbar is fundamentally a game about guessing words. Yet it’s also a chilling commentary on the dangers of a dystopian surveillance society.

The game begins with you receiving letters from a friend who’s started work at the Department of Communication. Anything from them considered controversial or negative is censored – a ‘blackbar’ – which you must correctly guess to continue.

Over the course of a number of communications, the story escalates in a frightening manner, and you find yourself feeling like you’re beating the system (man), despite ultimately just tapping in words to best a basic logic test. If nothing else, this showcases the power of great storytelling; and filling in Blackbar’s blanks feels a lot more fulfilling than chucking more hours at a run-of-the-mill Scrabble clone.

Heads Up! 


Heads Up! is a digital take on the party game where you guess something written on a piece of paper clamped to your forehead on the basis of guess clues yelled out by friends. Here, though, words are housed on your iPhone’s screen, and you can blaze through many.

To get started, you select a category (several are included, and more are available to buy). During a round, you flip the screen upwards to pass or downwards when you correctly guess. At the end of your minute of glory, you’ll get a score. It’s simple, smart, effective and fun.


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