It would take approximately 34,506,455 years to play through every single iPhone game on the App Store. We might have made that number up, but surely we can't be too far off.
The App Store is rammed with gaming goodies to keep thumbs busy, but not all iPhone games are born equal - which is why we've done the difficult job of playing through as many game as humanly possible in order to tell you which are best. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.
1. 80 Days ($4.99/£3.99)
In this decidedly steampunk take on 1872, you must get around the world in 80 days, because Phileas Fogg has a big mouth and last night bet a fortune on doing so. Gameplay involves you as the loyal valet, planning routes, managing your inventory, and making decisions as the story plays out, all while Fogg gripes and drinks, the lazy swine.
We've been after a decent futuristic racer on the iPhone for some time, but none of them really felt right. AG Drive bucks the trend, echoing Wipeout and F-Zero: breakneck speed is married with pitch-perfect tilt controls and suitably shiny graphics. Also, there's absolutely no IAP, so the only way you're going to win is with mastery and skill.
There are so many endless survival games for iPhone that we tend to gloss over when a new one appears. ALONE… is different, primarily because it's so brutal. It's one of the few games to take Canabalt's lightning-fast pace – and then ramp it up a notch or 10. Every game becomes an exhilarating adrenaline-fuelled rush through deadly canyons and meteor showers, with you urging your tiny ship on an extra few hundred metres.
Some time long ago, the gaming gods apparently decreed that racing games should be dull and grey, on grey tracks, with grey controls. Thankfully Gameloft chose to ignore their foolish omniscient notions - along with a large chunk of real-world physics – with Asphalt 8: Airborne. Here, then, you zoom along at ludicrous speeds, drifting for miles through exciting city courses, occasionally being hurled into the air to perform stunts that absolutely aren't acceptable according to the car manufacturer's warranty.
Bean Dreams is a great example of how a platform game can work on iPhone, but it needs the developer to rethink everything for touch. Here, the hatted bean jumps endlessly, making each level about figuring out a route and timing everything perfectly. Only then can you grab all the fruit, get jump bonuses and feel suitably smug.
One thumb is plenty when a game's so cleverly designed. Beat Sneak Bandit is part rhythm-action, part platformer and part stealth game, with the titular hero aiming to steal back the world's clocks from the nefarious Duke Clockface. You move on the beat, rebounding off walls, and avoiding guards and alarms. It's clever, charming and brilliant.
We've lost count of how many gem-swappers exist for iOS, but PopCap's Bejeweled has a long history, its maturity reflected in this iPhone release. Along with a polished standard mode, where you match three or more gems with each swap, there's Diamond Mine (dig into the ground), Butterflies (save insects from spider-ronch doom), and Poker (make 'hands' of gems).
This fantastic platform puzzler stars a bug who's oddly averse to flying. Instead, he gets about 2D levels by rolling around in boxes full of platforms. Beyond Ynth hangs on a quest, but each level forms a devious test, where you must figure out precisely how to reach the end via careful use of boxes, switches and even environmental hazards.
Blek is akin to shepherding semi-sentient calligraphy through a series of dexterity tests. Each sparse screen has one or more dots that needs collecting, which is achieved by drawing a squiggle that's then set in motion. To say the game can be opaque is putting it lightly, but as a voyage of discovery, there are few touchscreen games that come close.
This word puzzler's all about chaining. You drag tiles from the bottom of the well and make short words; do so without swapping any letters from the well's bottom row or the area you create the words and you start amassing huge points. Coolson's Pocket Pack is then a test of nerve, and your ability to not forget every single short word in the dictionary when under pressure.
This endless take on Frogger finds your cuboid character confronting countless deadly roads, train lines and rivers, before inevitable squashage. It's the characters that make the game, though – a varied roster of people, animals and 'things' won using a one-armed bandit, fed with coins collected en route (you can just buy stuff, too, but Crossy Road also lets you earn by watching videos and bestows regular coin top-ups anyway, making it the least obnoxious free-to-play game with IAP imaginable).
One of the first titles to truly make use of the iPhone gyro, Dark Nebula was a beautiful tilt-based steampunk adventure and dexterity test, with you leading a strange craft through maze-like levels. Dark Nebula 2 ramped up the beauty and complexity, and the HD reissue added iPad and Retina support. The title still feels fresh and is perfectly suited to mobile, rewarding speed-runs and careful exploration of each level alike.
Device 6 is first and foremost a story — a mystery into which protagonist Anna finds herself propelled. She awakes on an island, but where is she? How did she get there? Why can't she remember anything? The game fuses literature with adventuring, the very words forming corridors you travel along, integrated puzzles being dotted about for you to investigate. It's a truly inspiring experience, an imaginative, ambitious and brilliantly realised creation that showcases how iOS can be the home for something unique and wonderful.
Doug likes to dig, and he's an even bigger fan of bling. You, therefore, must help him go deep underground in Doug dug, unearthing gems and hacking to death any creatures that fancy a dwarf-shaped snack. Danger also lurks in lava that's dotted about and regular cave-ins – the latter of which are caused mostly by you getting a bit too greedy.
This overhead vertically scrolling racer is, for the most part, a mad scramble to the finish line. Tiny cars dart about, smashing each other off the road. Higher placement boosts your grid position next time round, and earns you money for upgrades. Maxing out your car and mastering the top difficulty level in Drift'n'Drive takes only a matter of hours, but you'll have a blast doing so.
Single-screen platformer Drop Wizard is infused with the soul of classics such as Snow Bros. and Bubble Bobble, but it's also part auto-runner. You can only run left or right, and your wizard blasts magic on landing. Strategy, therefore, involves careful timing, to avoid and zap foes, and then kick them into a tumbling combo that will bounce about in a pleasingly destructive manner before turning into fruit. Because that's what vanquished platform-game enemies all did in the 1980s.
One of mobile's most perfect puzzlers, Drop7 is all about dropping numbered discs into a tiny well. If a disc's face value matches the number of discs in its row or column, it blows up. But every few moves, a row of grey junk pushes up from the bottom of the well. Survival therefore depends on creating combos – well, that and a smattering of maths.
Eliss was the first game to truly take advantage of iOS's multitouch capabilities, with you combining and tearing apart planets to fling into like-coloured and suitably sized wormholes. Eliss Infinity, a semi-sequel, brings the original's levels into glorious Retina and adds a totally bonkers endless mode. Unique, challenging and fun, this is a game that defines the platform.
One of the finest arcade games made for any platform, Forget-Me-Not dumps you in procedurally generated mazes. The aim is to eat all the flowers, grab a key and reach the exit without dying. That's easier said than done, given that various critters regularly teleport into the maze, and set about not only attacking you but annihilating each other. Within a minute, the entire screen always erupts into a tiny retro war zone.
Evidence that even the most basic concept can wow when injected with some dazzling beauty, FOTONICA takes Canabalt's basic jump-and-survive gameplay and places it in a wireframe 3D world. The fragmented dream-like environments and floaty gravity mesmerise as the soundtrack slowly worms its way into your skull; the entire experience becomes hypnotic as vector platforms whirl in the distance and you enter 'the zone' to survive each stage.
We were big fans of the original Frisbee Forever, with its Nintendo-like fling-a-plastic-disc about larks. Frisbee Forever 2's essentially more of the same, but prettier, smoother and with wilder locations in which to fly through hoops and collect stars. It's lovely and costs precisely zero pence, so download it.
Jeff Minter is a shoot 'em up genius, and his Gridrunner series has a long history, starting out on the VIC-20, at the dawn of home gaming. This update riffs off classic Namco arcade machines but also shoves modern bullet-hell mechanics into a claustrophobic single screen. And in this version's survival mode, you have just one life. Argh!
Helix is all about quick thinking within a confined space. Your little craft is fragile and unarmed, but it can eradicate enemies by encircling them. Deft finger work is required to survive even a few waves, and things only get tougher when foes appear that force you to encircle them in a particular direction.
Square Enix would have been on a hiding to nothing converting its free-roaming 3D game to touchscreens, and so it's great to see the company do something entirely different with Hitman GO. Although still echoing the original series, this touchscreen title is presented as a board game of sorts, with turn-based actions against clockwork opposition. You must figure out your way to the prize, without getting knocked off (the board). It's an oddly adorable take on assassination, and one of the best iOS puzzlers.
Cycling into an imaginative world of madness, Dennis's mission in iCycle is to grab blocks of ice and try very hard not to die. The animated, beautifully conceived environments make survival tough, but even as Dennis is impaled yet again, you'll be dazzled by the Gilliam-esque landscapes he's attempting to work his way through.
Humans are again getting a kicking at the hands of nasty aliens and it's up to you to stop them. Cliches aside, Implosion offers a stompy slash-and-shoot experience that feels entirely at home on the iPhone but scratches that itch when you fancy playing something that resembles what you'd find on a 'proper' games console.
Leo's Fortune finds gruff hairball Leo in search of his gold, which has been dropped in a suspiciously trail-like manner across typically platform-game environments. As he scoops up coins, he finds himself whizzing round Sonic-style loops, solving puzzles by manipulating the environment, and negotiating increasingly complex and deadly pathways. It's a beautiful game, full of character, and well-suited to quick bursts on your iPhone.
What mad fool welds Boggle to tug o' war Risk-style land-grabbing? The kind who doesn't want anyone to get any work done again, ever, that's who. Letterpress is, simply, the best word game on the App Store. You make words to win points and temporarily 'lock' letters from your opponent by surrounding them. The result is a tense asynchronous two-player game with plenty of last-move wins and general gnashing of teeth when you realise 'qin' is in fact an acceptable word.
A boy awakens in hell, and must work his way through a deadly forest. Gruesome deaths and trial and error gradually lead to progress, as he forces his way deeper into the gloom and greater mystery. Originating on the Xbox, Limbo fares surprisingly well on iOS, with smartly designed controls; and its eerie beauty and intriguing environments remain hypnotic.
A game that could have been called Reverse Pool For Show-Offs, Magnetic Billiards lacks pockets. Instead, the aim is to join like-coloured balls that cling together on colliding. Along the way, you get more points for trick shots and 'buzzing' other balls that must otherwise be avoided. 20 diverse tables are provided for free, and many more can be unlocked for $1.99/£1.49.
If iOS is supposed to be no good for traditional 2D platform games, it's a good job no-one told the developer of Mikey Hooks. The mechanics aren't a million miles away from Nintendo titles starring a certain plumber, but Mikey's also armed with a rope that can attach to hooks dotted about the levels, enabling him to speedily swing to glory. An emphasis on time-attack racing and surprisingly solid controls round out a first-rate title.
In Monument Valley, you journey through delightful Escher-like landscapes, manipulating the very architecture to build impossible paths along which to explore. It's not the most challenging of games (nor one with the most coherent of storylines), but each scene is a gorgeous and mesmerising bite-sized experience that showcases how important great craft is in the best iOS titles.
Racing games are all very well, but too many aim for simulation rather than evoking the glorious feeling of speeding along like a maniac. Most Wanted absolutely nails the fun side of arcade racing, and is reminiscent of classic console title OutRun 2 in enabling you to effortlessly drift for miles. Add to that varied city streets on which to best rivals and avoid (or smash) the cops, and you've a tremendous iOS racer.
In the run up to Fallout 4, Bethesda has launched Fallout Shelter for iOS, in which you create your very own vault and play the role of the Overseer. Inspired by games like SimCity, FTL and XCOM, Fallout Shelter has a surprising amount of depth to explore as you ensure the happiness of your vault-dwellers, expand your vault, and ensuring its safety from intruders. It's free with in-app purchases, but you'll be glad to know there are no time paywalls.
This superb arcade puzzler is at times microscopic and at others galactic in nature, as you use the power of physics and time to move your 'mote' about. Some levels in Osmos are primordial soup, the mote propelled by ejecting bits of itself, all the while aiming to absorb everything around it; elsewhere, motes circle sun-like 'Attractors', and your challenge becomes one of understanding the intersecting trajectories of orbital paths.
The iOS Rayman games are considered by some to be reductive, overly simplifying console-style platforming to an instant runner with bells on. We instead consider Ubisoft's games distilled: they take the essence of platforming action — running, jumping, timing — and make it truly fit for mobile. Smart, varied level and character design, along with a well-considered unlock mechanism, ensure Rayman Fiesta Run's an iOS classic.
Yes, the insanely popular online card game Hearthstone has been squashed down to fit your iPhone screen - and it works surprisingly well. With less space to play with, the creators have rejigged the deisign slightly; it's still the same game, just a bit more considerate to your thumbs. It's also still compatible with the tablet and desktop versions so you'll be able to play against your friends on the move. Requires at least an iPhone 4S or 5th generation iPod Touch.
RGB Express is seemingly set in some kind of courier's clockwork hell. Little vans must pick up packages and drop them off, colour-matching vehicles, boxes and buildings where appropriate. To complicate matters, roads can be used only once. What follows is a brain-bending game of route finding as you attempt to grow your tiny delivery company.
If Ridiculous Fishing is what fishing's really like, we've been missing out all these years. An angular fisherman casts his line into the inky gloom, where you cunningly avoid fish by tilting your device. Snag one and the hero reels the line back in, and you jerk your iPhone from side to side, aiming to catch as many fish as possible. At the surface, the catch is flung into the sky, to be blasted to pieces by powerful weaponry. Longevity's secured by an amusing in-game store and social network parody, along with several fishing spots to visit.
SpellTower is a fantastic word game that starts off easy. You get a grid of letters and remove them by dragging out words. Your only foe is gravity, letters falling into empty space as completed words disappear. But then come new modes, with ferocious timers and numbered letters that won't vanish unless you craft long enough words. And there always seem to be too many Vs!
Ah, Super Hexagon. We remember that punishing first game, which must have lasted all of three seconds. Much like the next — and the next. But then we recognised patterns in the walls that closed in on our tiny ship, and learned to react and dodge. Then you threw increasingly tough difficulty levels at us, and we've been smitten ever since.
Logic? Pah! Sanity? Pfft! We care not for such things, yells Super Monsters Ate My Condo. It then gets on with turning the match-three genre and Jenga-style tower-building into a relentless time-attack cartoon fest of apartment-munching, explosions, giant tantrums and opera. No, really.
Apple's mobile platform has become an unlikely home for traditional point-and-click adventures. Sword & Sworcery has long been a favourite, with its sense of mystery, palpable atmosphere, gorgeous pixel art and evocative soundtrack. Exploratory in nature, this is a true /adventure/ in the real sense of the word, and it's absolutely not to be missed.
Threes! is all about matching numbered cards. 1s and 2s merge to make 3s, and then pairs of identical cards can subsequently be merged, doubling their face value. With each swipe, a new card enters the tiny grid, forcing you to carefully manage your growing collection, and think many moves ahead. The ingenious mix of risk and reward makes it hugely frustrating when you're a fraction from an elusive 1536 card, but so addictive you'll immediately want another go.
There are two sides to TouchTone. The foundation is a topical story about intercepting communications, ostensibly to make the world safer. The game itself involves reflecting signals to receivers, using a tiled grid where every item on a row or column moves as one. The story gives you added impetus to keep going, even when you've been racking your brains for days to come up with a solution to a particular puzzle.
There's some superb level design in this touchscreen take on Metroid, with you helping a tiny explorer bound about a pyramid. There are gems to collect, critters to kill and secret areas to unlock via the magic of cunning object placement. Equally cunning is the scoring mechanism – it resets on every death, unlike progress, which always continues. This means casual gamers can gradually work through the quest while the hardcore aim to get every gem in a single sitting.
We do like a good zombie yarn, as long as we're not the subject matter, having just had our brains eaten. Walking Dead successfully jumped from comic to TV screen, and it's just as good in its interactive incarnation. The first part of the story is free, and you can then buy new episodes; if you survive, season 2 is also available.
Year Walk preceded the same developer's iOS masterpiece Device 6, but is equally daring. It's a first-person adventure of sorts, with more than a nod towards horror literature and, frankly, the just plain weird. It's unsettling, clever, distinctive and beautifully crafted — another unmissable and original touchscreen creation.
One of the most tactile puzzlers around, Zen Bound 2 doesn't sound terribly exciting, in that you're wrapping sculptures in rope. But the atmosphere and polish combine with a nagging percentage bar, urging you to perfect each level. With no time limit, it's one of the more soothing puzzlers in this round-up, but it also never drifts towards the noodle.