5. Hero Academy (iPhone/iPad)
Chess meets fantasy in this asynchronous turn-based two-player effort. To win, you must obliterate your opponents or their gems, mastering and taking advantage of each of your team’s special powers. Multiple boards and solo challenges add further scope for play, and if you’re prepared to pay a little, you can buy additional teams.
4. Zen Pinball (iPhone/iPad)
There’s not much ‘zen’ in this highly animated, exciting pinball, which adds to classic metal-ball-spanging with dynamic table elements. Free table Sorcerer’s Lair gives you plenty to do as two siblings face off against an evil sorcerer. They must battle all manner of creepy crawlies, aided only by the power of friendly ghost Whisper, a smattering of mini-games, some dubious voice acting, and plenty of ramps, targets and multiball modes.
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3. Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint (iPhone/iPad)
Show-Off Billiards would be an appropriate alternative name for this game that forces you to unlearn and relearn how to smack balls around a pool table. Here, there are no pockets — instead, you play the craziest possible trick-shots (bounce off table edges; ‘buzz’ nearby balls) to score big points. As like-coloured balls stick together, you can create shapes for bigger bonuses. You get a bunch of tables for free, and more are available via IAP.
2. Asphalt 8: Airborne (iPhone/iPad)
There’s a point where arcade racers lose all connection with reality and they’re all the better for it. Asphalt isn’t bothered by trivial concerns such as an actual car’s inability to fly hundreds of metres through the air, or drift seemingly endlessly around gloriously sweeping bends; instead, it’s all about the need for speed, zooming around beautifully rendered and inventive courses, occasionally smashing your rivals into a wall, just because you can. It’s a touch shoppy and grindy, but there’s hours of exhilarating racing here without spending a penny.
1. Letterpress (iPhone/iPad)
There are mash-ups and then there’s Letterpress, the mash-up to beat them all, concocting an absurdly addictive stew from Boggle and Risk. The idea’s easy: find words on a five-by-five grid. But the cunning bit is any tiles surrounded by ones you’ve claimed are protected from your opponent during their next go. Letterpress therefore becomes a tug o’ war land-grab, more about strategic thinking than pure wordplay. For free, you can play two games simultaneously; £1.49/US$1.99 unlocks unlimited games.
READ MORE: The 200 best games of all time