There is no dearth of fantastic games on iPhone and iPad, even if mobile and tablet gaming is often frowned upon by so-called hardcore gamers. There’s much more to the App Store than just free-to-play games geared towards bleeding your wallet dry and we’ve tried to highlight those games in this list. We tried to pick at least one great game from most genres and even then we may have missed some top-notch games, which speaks volumes about just how many excellent games this platform has. Our list is slightly biased towards premium games, which means you’ll find many games that you have to pay for but we can safely say that if you like that genre of games, you’ll definitely enjoy our top picks. We’ve selected a mix of free-to-play and paid games for this list of the 30 best games on iPhone and iPad, listed in alphabetical order.
Based on Jules Verne’s novel — Around the World in 80 Days — this game is a narrative adventure tasks you with traversing the globe in 80 in-game days, with the game set in the 19th century. You’ll be travelling by road, trains, airships, submarines, mechanical camels, and many more fancy vehicles thanks to the game’s alternative history theme. Time never stops in Inkle Studio’s 80 Days which means a split-second delay could leave you stranded at one place for days. There are so many different encounters and possible routes to reach your destination that this game doesn’t get old.
Download: 80 Days (Rs. 399)
A Normal Lost Phone
A Normal Lost Phone is one of the weirdest games on iOS. The entire game is set inside a smartphone that someone lost and your goal is to read through the contents to piece together the owner’s story. The story is really well-written and well worth the effort it takes to figure it all out.
Download: A Normal Lost Phone (Rs. 249)
The endless runner genre of games had been done to death when Alto’s Adventure came along in 2015. This is an endless snowboarding game with serene music, amazing art, and an incredibly addictive core gameplay loop. The sheer joy of landing huge combos while chasing llamas and watching nights turn into days in Alto’s Adventure is unparalleled. If you like this game, you should also check out its sequel — Alto’s Odyssey.
Arena of Valor
China’s Tencent Games went ahead and made the best MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game for iOS in Arena of Valor. This game has two teams of five players each competing against each other for victory. It also has 3v3 and 1v1 modes, and one of the best things about Arena of Valor is that matches are usually 10 minutes long, which makes it easy to play on the go. What Dota 2 is to PC, Arena of Valor is to smartphones with both games being massive in the e-sports scene. Our favourite feature is the ability to play the game at 60fps with its high frame rate option, useful if you’re on a newer iOS device like the iPhone 7 or higher.
Download: Arena of Valor (free with in-app purchases)
An action role-playing game where you play as a cat trying to save a world full of cats, Cat Quest has everything you’d want from a great RPG. It has lots of good quests, a nice story, and lots of “purrfect” puns. This game has some cool boss fights against mammoth dragons and a neat balance between melee weapons and magic, which make it a lot of fun. It gets bonus points for its superb art and music.
Download: Cat Quest (Rs. 399)
If Arena of Valor is not exactly your type but you still crave for an easy-to-pickup multiplayer game, Clash Royale is a good alternative. This game combines elements from the tower defence, MOBA, and collectible card games. Each player starts with three towers and an array of units to defend them (or to attack the other player’s towers). You can also team up with another player for a 2v2 match, which is also fun to play. This is another mobile game that’s played in competitive tournaments but its fantastic art direction and loveable characters cements its place on this list.
Download: Clash Royale (free with in-app purchases)
Cook, Serve, Delicious
Cook, Serve, Delicious is a restaurant simulation game where you are tasked with turning your rat-infested eatery into a five-star restaurant. This game has been ported from PC to iPhone and iPad, and we think it works best on iOS. During the day, you’ll be swamped with customers’ orders and you’ll require some deft taps of the touchscreen to keep them happy. At the end of the day you’ll have to manage your restaurant’s stocks and equipment to prepare for the next day. It’s simple enough and it gets addictive very fast. We love the gameplay and the fact that almost all ingredients and equipment are unlocked at the beginning, giving you the freedom to take your restaurant in the direction you want. The only gripe is that you have to purchase this game separately on iPhone and iPad.
Why did the chicken cross the road? No one knows, but what we do know is that crossing the road has never been as much fun as it is in Crossy Road. An endless crossing game with a surprisingly long shelf life, Crossy Road is a great example of free-to-play games that don’t rely on aggressive money-making tactics. It has lots of characters, each of which alters gameplay slightly, and almost all of them can be unlocked by playing the game. You can pay to unlock these too but that’s totally optional.
Download: Crossy Road (free)
Danmaku Unlimited 3
Bullet hell or shoot ’em up games as they’re known aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, if dodging unending hails of bullets as the last defender of humanity sounds fun, then you must play Danmaku Unlimited 3. This game has lovely animations, some phenomenal music, and has been incredibly well optimised for touchscreens. The gameplay is not easy at all, but it rewards skill and with each failure, you’ll develop your skill.
Download: Danmaku Unlimited 3 (Rs. 399)
Simogo is one of the most unique game studios we’ve come across. This company makes games that are hard to categorise but brilliantly designed. Device 6 is a text-based adventure game where you’ll spend most of your time re-reading its fantastic story and poring over images to find clues to progress in the game. This game rewards attention to detail and makes you think, but it can be a bit difficult to get into for some people. If you love Device 6, you should definitely check out Year Walk (Rs. 299) and The Sailor’s Dream (Rs. 299) — both made by the same developer.
Download: Device 6 (Rs. 299)
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
The long-running Final Fantasy series of games is best-known as a standard bearer for the JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) genre. Final Fantasy Tactics was first released in the late 90s for the Sony PlayStation and inspired so many other games in this genre. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is an overhauled version of that game, which was originally released on PSP and improved for its iOS release. You’ll be in charge of a squad that takes on foes in a turn-based combat system on a grid. It can get very complex if you want the best squad possible as there are way too many options that influence battle outcomes, which makes this perfect for those who love tactical strategy games on iPhone and iPad.
Download: Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions for iPhone (Rs. 1,099), Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions for iPad (Rs. 1,249)
Florence is an interactive storybook, which is an unusual kind of a game. This is a moving story accompanied by an equally moving soundtrack and wonderful illustrations. Most of the gameplay involves placing various objects in certain places on the screen to move the story forward, but this game is not about that. It’s more about the storytelling experience and that’s incredibly good.
Download: Florence (Rs. 249)
FTL: Faster Than Light falls under the roguelike genre of games and this game is best played on the iPad. Roguelike games can be frustrating because the levels are procedurally generated — so if you get unlucky you may end up facing an unbeatable horde of enemies or lose because you ran out of resources. FTL has all the features of a great roguelike — a gripping setting, excellent squad-based combat, and a wide variety of levels. You command a ship that can travel faster than light and it’s carrying critical information that could lead to the collapse of rebel forces that have defeated your side. Taking the information back to your camp is the goal and once you get into it, there’s no going back until you’re done. We really love roguelikes set in space with great stories and if you’re like us, you should definitely check out Out There Omega Edition (Rs. 299) too.
Download: FTL: Faster Than Light (Rs. 799)
Game Dev Story
Pursuing game development as a career is not easy, as you will find out if you play Game Dev Story. One of the oldest games on iPhone and iPad, Game Dev Story makes you play as the head of a game development studio. You design new consoles, new games, hire staff and train them to acquire new skills — all in a bid to create a million-selling game.
Download: Game Dev Story (Rs. 399)
The second Annapurna Interactive game on this list after Florence, Gorogoa is just as unique and pushes the boundaries of the puzzle genre. It looks really simple with four panels in every frame, but Gorogoa is anything but simple. It’ll require you to zoom into various panels, discover that some panels are actually two panels merged into one, separate those, and zoom in multiple times to find the answer to a riddle in the adjacent panel. Phew, that took some effort to explain but trust us, Gorogoa is totally worth playing.
Download: Gorogoa (Rs. 399)
At least one Blizzard online game has made it to every “best games” article we’ve written so far and that trend continues on iPhone and iPad with Hearthstone. It is one of the best online card games on any platform and its iOS version is particularly great thanks to great optimisation for touchscreens. This game’s has a fantasy setting so you’ll find yourself drawing cards, amassing an army of minions to protect your hero, and casting spells to outfox your enemies. It looks really simple but Hearthstone has incredible strategic depth which starts with building your deck of cards and reading your opponent’s game. The only gripe is that the iOS version doesn’t deal too well with app switching, so if you hit the home button quite often you’ll find your game disconnected and will have to start again.
Download: Hearthstone (free with in-app purchases)
Lara Croft Go
Lara Croft Go is unlike any Tomb Raider game you’ve played in the past. It’s a turn-based puzzle game where every move could make or break your perilous adventure through dangerous locales. This game has some truly inventive puzzles and is a shining example of mobile game design. Even if you don’t like the Tomb Raider series, you should play Lara Croft Go for the way it makes you use the environment to your advantage.
Download: Lara Croft Go (Rs. 399)
Want a chance to build your own version of the Delhi Metro route map? Mini Metro is the game for you. Yes, it has the Delhi Metro as a level you can play and it’s a lot of fun. In Mini Metro you see dots, squares, triangles, and other simple shapes on screen. All you have to do is draw a line to connect the shapes and assign trains to run on these lines. Pretty soon things will begin to go out of hand as more people use the metro trains and you’ll be fighting to keep your stations from getting overcrowded. The game is really well designed with a steady ramp in difficulty. From the aforementioned Delhi Metro to a Japan level complete with bullet trains, it has a lot of variety to keep you hooked.
Download: Mini Metro (Rs. 399)
Monument Valley is one of the most popular games on iPhone and iPad. It’s a puzzle game with mindblowing art, music, and some top-notch level design. You’ll find yourself having an “A-ha!” moment every time you figure out how to solve this game’s amazing puzzles. That involves manipulating the architecture and detecting various optical illusions. If you like this, you should buy the DLC and then check out Monument Valley 2 (Rs. 399).
Download: Monument Valley (Rs. 299)
A game that exploded onto the scene in 2016, Pokemon Go is now one of the best examples of a game successfully leveraging Apple’s ARKit development framework for augmented reality. AR games are often gimmicky, but Pokemon Go genuinely makes great use of the technology. It encourages you to explore your surroundings, catch Pokemon, and battle at gyms that are at real-world landmarks. This game does make you grind if you want to catch all Pokemon or reach a very high level, but it’s still incredibly enjoyable.
Download: Pokemon Go (free with in-app purchases)
There were several party games on our list but in the end we settled on Psych for this one. The game’s free to download and if you pick the right minigame in Psych, you could soon be in the middle of a party that’s laughing riotously. It’s essentially a bunch of questions for which you make up an answer. Then everyone playing sees all the answers people made up plus the correct answer to the question. If you select the right answer, you get points. If someone selects your made up answer, you still get some points. Just try playing it with your friends when they’re in the same room with you and you’ll see how much fun this game is.
Download: Psych (free with in-app purchases)
Really Bad Chess
If you’re already tuning out because you saw the word “chess”, stop! Really Bad Chess is not a typical chess game. It has the same chessboard but it gives you completely random pieces such as six bishops, two queens, and four knights. All pieces follow normal chess rules but the game is entirely different and extremely easy even for those who know nothing about chess. In the ranked mode, the AI keeps getting stronger pieces with each of your victories, so there’s a tough challenge for those who seek it as well.
Download: Really Bad Chess (free, Rs. 249 to remove ads and add local versus mode)
Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP
This is also one of the oldest games on the App Store. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP is a sidescroller adventure game where you traverse a mythical realm and battle monsters to solve mysteries. The writing in this game is great, with some really witty dialogues and puns. Its music and story also deserve special mention. If you’re into action adventure games, this one is right up your alley.
Download: Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP (Rs. 299)
Table Tennis Touch
There are plenty of table tennis games on the App Store, but none better than Table Tennis Touch. It makes superb use of the touchscreen on your iOS device and offers enough game modes for you to keep playing for months on end. There’s a career mode that’s quite challenging, normal single-player mode, lots of different bats to unlock, and the best of all — local and online multiplayer. We love the physics in Table Tennis Touch and we think it’s best played on an iPad as the iPhone’s screen sometimes feels too small for expansive shots.
Download: Table Tennis Touch (Rs. 299)
The Battle of Polytopia
A turn-based strategy game made by a one-person studio, The Battle of Polytopia is very addictive and can consume hours at once. The game is simple — pick your tribe, gather resources, build your army, and dominate the world. When you add online multiplayer to the mix, you have an amazing experience all for a very low price. The game’s free to play with no ads with four tribes and you can purchase additional tribes for Rs. 79 to Rs. 249 each. If you bought even one tribe, you get to play online multiplayer. You really should, because the AI is not that hard to beat.
Download: The Battle of Polytopia (free with in-app purchases)
The Room Two
The Room Two is still a great puzzle game that initially showed off innovative ways to use the iPad for a game. It required you to rotate your device to solve certain puzzles, among other uses of its hardware features. It has a nice story where you get letters from a scientist and you need to figure out how to solve puzzles in each room to find out what happened to the man who designed all these puzzles for you. The story is worth playing through and its puzzles have aged gracefully, five years after the game was first launched. Ideally you should play The Room before you try its sequel. You might also want to check out The Room Three (Rs. 299).
Download: The Room Two (Rs. 159)
When it first released in 2014, Threes! was unlike any other game on the App Store. It’s a game with a grid of 12 blocks where you can combine numbers in multiples of three. Two threes make six, Two sixes make 12, and so on until you hit 4096. Sounds easy, but getting 4096 is nearly impossible even if it never gets tiring thanks to this game’s soothing music and lovely animations, and the fact that each number has a charming personality.
What good is a list of best iOS games without a game from Supergiant Games? We’re huge fans of its first game — Bastion — that is great on iOS too, but Transistor is better on iPad. Its turn-based combat fits iOS perfectly and even if you don’t enjoy that aspect, you have to play Transistor for its story. Supergiant Games’ speciality is great narrative and Transistor’s tale is our favourite among the three games that the studio has released so far, even if we have a soft spot for Bastion’s clever reactive narrator. Transistor gets brownie points for incredible art and music too, making it well worth the price of admission.
Download: Transistor (Rs. 399)
Which is your favourite iOS game? Let us know via the comments.
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