Like most Apple devices, it didn’t take the iPad too long to shine. Only in its second year, the revolutionary tablet device saw plenty of great games in 2011. As we look back on the last year, lots of those great releases stand out as worthy of attention – but only five were good enough to make our Best of 2011 list.

Some of these releases were available on other devices, some of them weren’t, but all of them managed to play their best on the iPad. If you happen to be carrying Apple’s big ol’ touch screen in your bag right now and you don’t have these five games yet, we advise you to remedy the situation immediately.

#5 – Pulse

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Over the last few years, Cipher Prime has quietly built themselves a reputation as one of the top developers in the world of music games – and after playing Pulse it’s not hard to see why.

The studio previously responsible for Fractal and Auditorium released their first iPad-exclusive project back in May, and much to our delight, it seemed to be the kind of game that could only work on a big touch screen like the iPad’s. Players tapped circles as they came into contact with a “pulse” from a set of concentric rings – and we found ourselves tapping up a frenzy.

And the music? Wow. If you’re the kind of audiophile who relishes in finding great new tunes, you’ll only last minutes in Pulse before you head to iTunes and by the soundtrack.

#4 – Orbit1

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iPad games are often their most fun when shared with friends. That’s what’s so great about having such a big device – you can plunk it down in the middle of the table and get a game started with a whole group of people. And Orbit1 might just be the best example of this style of multiplayer that we’ve seen yet.

Each player will occupy a different corner of the screen, where a single button will be waiting for them. The color of that button corresponds to a ship in the middle of the screen. All you have to do is press the button to fight against gravity and try to collect more green item than your friends… all while trying to not crash into red items or get rammed into an early grave by the guy sitting next to you. It’s fast, it’s frantic, and it’s incredibly simple to grasp – in a word, it’s the perfect party game. And did we mention it’s free?

This one seemed to swim under everyone’s radar when it came out back in September – Gamezebo’s included, as you can see from our lack of review – but we’re hoping that 2012 will somehow bring Orbit1 the attention it deserves.

#3 – Ticket to Ride

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The iPad version of Days of Wonder’s popular board game Ticket to Ride is so good that it took the top spot in our Best Board and Card Games of 2011. So naturally, it’s earned a spot on our list here too.

Not only does this release faithfully recreate every element of the original tabletop game, but it offers online matchmaking through their existing Ticket to Ride Online service, multiple boards as in-app purchases, and a level of polish few would have ever expected. Like Carcassonne did in 2010, Ticket to Ride for the iPad has raised the bar on what digital board game adaptations can be. We can’t wait to see what Days of Wonder brings to the iPad next!

#2 – Tiny Token Empires

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You remember when Puzzle Quest was all anybody could talk about? Well what if someone had taken that idea – merging match-3 with a different genre – and applied it to Risk? But what if it wasn’t just Risk? What if there was a dose of Civilization in there too? And, what the heck, a little Puzzle Quest style combat too?

That, in a nutshell, is Tiny Token Empires.

It’s a game rife with personality, addictive gameplay, and plenty of strategy. It’s also a game that I’ve now lost days of my life to. And while it’s also available on the iPhone and Mac, there’s just something doubly satisfying about having a nice, big touch screen to move your troops around and swipe gems with. If you don’t have an iPad, it’s still worth playing – but in the world of little Caesars, this is clearly our device of choice.

#1 – Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery EP

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As a game that’s won countless awards since its release back in March, is anyone really surprised that it’s topped our list too? Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery EP was an adventure several years in the making, and well worth the wait. With a strikingly original sense of style conveyed through pixel art, witty and self-referential humour, and a Punch-Out!-inspired combat system that forces players to re-orient their devices, it’s an indie experience that’s unlike anything we’ve ever played before.

The game initially debuted on the iPad, and while it’s now available on the iPhone too, there’s no question which device this one feels more at home on. Of course if you really want it on your iPhone, you can always just download the soundtrack – Jim Guthrie’s tunes are so good that your humble narrator here even ordered it as a limited edition vinyl.

It’s hard to talk about Superbrothers without giving too much away, but at the same time, it’s a game we can’t recommend highly enough. If you’ve just finished reading this list and haven’t yet known the pleasure of Sword & Sworcery, do yourself a favour and make it happen.

Looking for more great iPad games of 2011? Be sure to check out Greedy Bankers vs. the World, Super Cosmic Word Snake, Monster Burner, SpellTower, Halcyon, and Assassin’s Creed Recollection.