At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference this year, CEO Tim Cook confirmed that the company had sold more than 800 million iPhones. That’s one iPhone sold for every nine people on the planet. There are also more than a million apps — and a huge percentage of those are games.
If you’re a new iPhone owner, where do you even start? Easy: with these 10 games.
With so many new games coming out all the time, we’ll be sure to revisit this list fairly regularly to make changes as needed. As of right now, though, here are our picks for the 10 best iPhone games.
Who it’s For: Everyone. Absolutely everyone.
Why We Like It: Most puzzle games are a dime a dozen. It takes something really special to stand out as unique, and something even more special to be memorable. Tetris did it. Puzzle League did it. And yes, Threes did it. This is a game that deserves to be uttered in the same breath as those aforementioned titans of puzzling. It’s a simple game based around numbers, but no math skills are required. Players will slide the board to combine identical numbers to create the resulting sum. Lather, rinse, repeat. Sounds simple? Let’s see how high you can count.
Who it’s For: Gamers with a library card and a knack for terribly challenging mindgames.
Why We Like It: Interactive fiction is an intriguing genre, but it usually follows a set formula. Simogo, however, has created something unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Players will read the text, turning their device as it pivots along the screen, all while taking in some utterly bizarre sights and sounds. It seems like little more than an engaging narrative and cool presentation until you get to the end of the chapter and have to use everything you just absorbed to figure out how to proceed. It’s mind-numbingly puzzling in the best way possible.
Who it’s For: Those with impeccable rhythm. Gamers who like to be humbled.
Why We Like It: While the whole world was discovering the joy and frustration of Flappy Bird, twitch-loving gamers who’ve been around the block couldn’t help but snicker. Sure, there are plenty of games that fall into the “you’re terrible, why are you even still trying?” category, but Super Hexagon is their king. A thumping soundtrack, minimalist visuals, and constant rotation sees players trying to guide their pixel on an impossible journey through quickly-moving openings. It’s as fantastic as it is frustrating (and it’s incredibly frustrating).
Who it’s For: Those with fond memories of Contra and/or Gunstar Heroes. Amphibians with jetpacks.
Why We Like It: Platformers have had a hard time on the App Store, and action-heavy platformers dually so. KeroBlaster, like the honey badger, does not give a @#$%. Created by the brilliant mind responsible for Cave Story, KeroBlaster offers up a unique “slide and lock” control scheme for firing weapons. Just pick a direction and the game will auto-fire, allowing you to focus solely on the (wonderfully tight) movement controls to get around deadly environments and slaughter the bad guys. There simply isn’t a better side-scrolling action game on the iPhone.
Who it’s For: Tiny Wings fans on a Martian acid trip.
Why We Like It: No iPhone gaming list would be complete without an endless runner, and while more than a few have come out since Time Surfer, we’ve yet to find one that we return to as often. Time Surfer takes the slope-jumping mechanics popularized by Tiny Wings, adds in plenty of obstacles, and a Prince of Persia-inspired rewind mechanic that lets you back things up and try to undo that poor jump or untimely death. If you enjoy it as much as we do, be sure to check out developer Kumobius’ other App Store titles Duet and Bean’s Quest.
A Ride Into the Mountains
Who it’s For: Those who fell in love with the spirit of Journey orShadow of the Colossus. Effective multitaskers.
Why We Like It: Reminding everyone that indie games are at their finest when they take us by surprise, A Ride Into the Mountains knocked our socks off when it debuted in 2013. In fact, it managed to earn a spot in our Top 10 Games of the Year. The debut release from Lee-Kuo Chen, A Ride Into the Mountains tasks players with controlling both a horse and the archer that rides it. You’ll tilt to control your steed’s position while pulling back Angry Birds style to aim your bow. It creates a delicate balancing act that’s satisfying to master, and it doesn’t hurt that A Ride Into the Mountains is simply dripping with style, too.
Who It’s For: Gamers looking to unwind, be charmed. M.C. Escher’s extensive legal team.
Why We Like It: A game doesn’t have to put up much of a challenge to be magical. Monument Valley is beautiful in its aesthetics, its narrative, and its gameplay; but instead of putting up a fight, it welcomes gamers with a gentle caress. You’ll manipulate the landscape to create paths for your little hero, watching the geometry of the world change before your very eyes. The level design, and how you manipulate it, takes its cues from the art of M.C. Escher (in particular, we’re reminded of Waterfall). It’s charming in a wonderfully surreal kind of way.
The Room + The Room Two
Who It’s For: Puzzle junkies. Myst veterans.
Why We Like It: ‘Open the box’ sounds like a simple task, doesn’t it? But what If you don’t have the key? Or better yet, what if the key is a series of flips, switches, hidden panels and clues that you have to discover and manipulate, only to discover yet another box once you’ve opened the first? That, in a nutshell, is The Room – a puzzle game so successful that a sequel was downright inevitable. The second game offers a bit more to chew on than the first, but honestly, they’re too good to really try and recommend one over the other. Start with the first, but know that you’re going to end up buying both.
Infinity Blade III
Who It’s For: Those who doubt the power of mobile gaming and need a healthy dose of reality.
Why We Like It: The original Infinity Blade was a defining moment for mobile games. It proved we could move beyond casual-friendly fare like Angry Birds and play games with AAA production quality. It was big, it was beautiful, and it played like a dream. What’s more, it was a game that was clearly designed from the ground up for touch screens. We were swiping and tapping up a frenzy as we battled hulking behemoths beyond imagination. Infinity Blade II improved on the formula, and III did so even more. With plenty of combat, equipment to grind for, better storytelling than previous entries, and a second playable character, Infinity Blade III is the crown jewel in the series that no action gamer should be without.
Who It’s For: Hunters who like to fish. Fisherman who like to hunt. Hunterfish who like to man.
Why We Like It: It may have suffered the strange fate of being cloned years before it’s release (which, surprisingly, isn’t all that uncommon for developer Vlambeer), but as is often the case, the real deal was well worth the wait. Ridiculous Fishing tasks players with guiding their fishing line as low as it can go, only to catch as many fish as possible when you reel it back in… and then you’ll toss those fish in the air to blast them out of the sky with heavy firepower. Huh. So that’s why it’s called Ridiculous.