Editor’s note: Contributor Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of mobile app discovery services Appolicious, AndroidApps.com and AppVee. Here are the Appolicious editorial team’s picks for the best iPhone and iPad games of the year.
In our previous post, we listed the top 20 iPhone and iPad apps of the year. But games are in a class by themselves, often pushing the limits of the hardware, software, and graphics capabilities of Apple’s iOS devices.
Instead of combining the platform’s great games with all of the other apps you should know about, here are our picks for the top 20 iOS games of the year:
Using state-of-the-art graphics and technology developed by ChAIR Entertainment, Infinity Blade II builds upon its plot-challenged predecessor and is the best game to come out in 2011. The sequel preserves all the coolness of the original including amazing Unreal Engine 3 graphics, tight, touch-based swordplay and a weird, beautiful world. Infinity Blade II showcases like never before what game developers can create on iOS devices.
The art style and effects in this running game are simply gorgeous. It’s full of tongue-in-cheek humor and references to other iOS titles, including main character Barry Steakfires who was introduced in last year’s shooter game Monster Dash. The soundtrack to Jetpack Joyride is also fantastic. Developed by Halfbrick Studios, creator of Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride is a game that is nearly impossible to put down.
This popular PC and Mac game transitioned beautifully to iOS devices, including a separate iPad-specific version. World of Goo has a delightful art style and a haunting bit of story going on in the background, but it’s really about well-designed puzzle levels and tight controls that make it a blast to play.
This prequel to the hit console game Dead Space 2, Dead Space is as engaging on the iPhone and iPad as it is on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC versions. Dead Space is a pretty gory third-person shooter, so it’s not for kids. It also manages to be scarier than just about anything else on the platform. The controls work well with the spot-on graphics and terrifying soundtrack.
Similar to the popular PC title Starcraft II, this real-time strategy title from Gameloft has players sending marines, tanks, robots and all kinds of other units to fight off the armies of their enemies. The game’s robust online multiplayer mode lets you take on as many as three other players in a big battle royale, or team up in a two-on-two skirmish. A separate iPad version is also available.
Warner Brothers did a nice job converting this hit Nintendo DS puzzle game to iOS devices. Players help the main character Maxwell solve puzzles by drawing or typing in tools like blocks or bridges to help them get from one frame to the next. Scribblenauts includes 40 levels, including 10 that are exclusive to iOS devices.
The main point of this resource-management game is to build a tower, complete with floors of apartments, entertainment, eateries, retail shops, and so on. The addicting gameplay blends well with the retro 8-bit graphics and a quirky elevator music-style soundtrack. Game Center integration helps players find new “Bitizens” to face off against in this freemium title.
Zynga’s social and silly adaptation of the classic game hangman has some innovative wrinkles to please the Facebook and iOS generations. Players can use the Instant Replay function, for instance, to see your opponents fail or succeed at solving your word. Turn-based gameplay also lets players tap into the casual title on their own time.
This game isn’t just a rehash of Cut the Rope, one of the most commercially successful games to ever debut on the iOS platform. Experiments introduces new tools and items to use in the game’s 75 levels, adding a great new challenge to the title while keeping it easy enough for seasoned rope-cutters to pick up quickly.
In the mold of Real Racing 2 and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, this title from Gameloft delivers a fresh spin to the racing game genre. Arcade style graphics, comprehensive gameplay elements to choose from, and exotic locations help speed freaks pass the time until Real Racing 3 eventually arrives.
Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP is the sort of title that tries to blur the line between game and art, and it succeeds beautifully. From indie developer Craig Adams with a soundtrack produced by singer/songwriter Jim Guthrie, Sword and Sworcery has players taking on the role of an adventurer and questing for a legendary book.
A first person horror title from Phosphor Games, Dark Meadow shares many qualities as our favorite game Infinity Blade II. The graphics and soundtrack of this combat title are state-of-the-art, particularly when leveraging the A5 chip inside the iPhone 4S. An interesting story and solid gameplay make up the core of Dark Meadow, and it brings a lot of spooky atmosphere along with it.
An iOS version of the Out of the Park PC game, this manage-only baseball simulator drew rave reviews from iOOTP veterans and newcomers alike. Whereas Bill James Baseball IQ invites armchair general managers, this game will have you in the virtual dugout and test your skills as a baseball skipper.
While it’s been two years since Rovio released its household name application, the company continues to bank on updating Angry Birds Seasons around significant holidays. The 25 new levels in the most recent Christmas edition aptly titled “Wreck The Halls”— also available for iPads — is the gift that keeps on giving to Angry addicts.
Atari re-imagined the classic Asteroids game for iOS devices with surprising and pleasing success. Compared to its predecessor, Asteroids Gunner has graphics that are out of this world. Nostalgia junkies yearning for the arcade era and fickle mobile gamers alike have reason to tap into this one.
Based on the classic NES series, League of Evil actually has more in common with Mega Man. It is also arguably the most addictive and challenging side-scrolling game you will find on any mobile device. The game has all kinds of obstacles waiting to kill your character in each of its short, quick levels, and requires a lot of skill and precision in its controls to get past them all.
A third-person shooter built on the beautiful Unity engine, SHADOWGUN brings a console gaming feel to the small screen much in the same way as other big name titles, such as Infinity Blade. It also packs some great production values, with some quality voice acting, sharp controls and lots of stuff to shoot.
Temples with booby traps and curses are what you’ll find in Temple Run, the best running game available for under a buck. The music and graphics are all good, and the game is very addicting. It’s definitely one of those games that you play “just one more time” over and over again.
Part Boggle, part Bejeweled with a bit of Scrabble thrown in, W.E.L.D.E.R. might become your new vocabulary-infused addiction. The tricky word-puzzler offers a game board full of letters and free tiles, and tasks players with rearranging the tiles one at a time in order to form words that clear the tiles off the board.
In addition to being the game that officially dethroned Angry Birds as the No. 1 paid app in the iTunes App Store, Tiny Wings is a simple and addictive arcade game that is well worth the 99-cent download cost. Players assume the role of a tiny bird with tiny wings that really wants to fly. The goal is to see just how far the bird can fly until the sun goes down.