How we scoffed when people suggested the iPhone would one day be a leading games platform. Had they not seen how rubbish mobile phone games were? Had they not noticed the iPhone was bereft of a D-pad and buttons? The fools!
Only things didn’t turn out as expected. Enterprising developers flipped everything on its head — shortcomings regarding tactile controls became benefits in terms of using new touch and tilt capabilities. Games became increasingly immersive as you interacted directly with content, ushering in new experiences through no longer being able to rely on traditional controls. And then the iPad did it all again – only bigger!
Today’s market is mired somewhat in freemium grindy hell, but gems nonetheless abound. Our list includes the very best premium and free titles the iPhone and iPad have to offer, handily grouped into sections, starting with racers, ending with arcade games, and taking in everything else you can imagine on the way.
Best racing game for iPhone and iPad: Need For Speed Most Wanted
Fortunately, Most Wanted’s gameplay isn’t nearly as grey as the tracks that you find yourself zooming along for street-racer glory. Fairhaven would be better named Greyandverydrabville, but the arcade racing you get up to is of the gloriously breezy kind found in the likes of Sega’s OutRun 2.
You find yourself hurling your car recklessly off of clifftops (having, naturally, crashed through an advertising hoarding first), drifting around bends, or smashing up the Fuzz, if they’re stupid enough to get in the way of your race-winning ambitions while partaking in high-octane thrills.
Beaming in from the future, AG Drive is more or less Wipeout for your iOS device. It looks superb, gleaming metal tracks flinging you about like the most furious of rollercoasters, while a gorgeous sunset or fierce electrical zap threatens to distract your attention for a fraction of a second too long.
The game totally nails the sense of speed that sets futuristic racers apart from those based around cars on tarmac, and the controls don’t let you down as you hover and speed your way to glory.
Riptide GP: Renegade
In the world of Riptide GP: Renegade, it’s been raining quite a bit. Consequently, rather than cheeky scamps skidding about the place street-racer style, they scoot along on souped-up hydrojets, flinging their vehicles into the air whenever possible to perform show-off stunts, and trying hard not to drown when it all goes a bit wrong and they smack into a wall of water at stupid m.p.h.
This is a breezy old-school arcade racer, bouncing you about its undulating tracks and revelling in the ridiculous nature of it all. We could do without the naff storyline, and the visuals have dialled back the blazing blues of GP2 for grittier (i.e. drabber) fare. But if you fancy a quality adrenaline-fuelled and decidedly splashy racer, Renegade is hard to beat.
Reckless Racing 3
The original Reckless Racing was an amusingly ramshackle affair, with rickety trucks and cars screeching around car parks and scrapyards. The sequel added depth but also too much polish, losing the series’ sense of character.
This third entry gets the balance right, enabling you to power-slide through a wide range of settings, including an airport, a charming European hilltop village and, worryingly, an abandoned and very clearly leaking nuclear plant.
The physics is a bit light, and the AI a touch aggressive, but this is as fun a top-down racer as you’ll find on mobile. It also clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously, adding a ‘gymkhana’ mode where you rack up points for ‘precision stunt driving’ in a beat-up old truck.
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.
The best sports game for iPhone and iPad: Super Stickman Golf 3
Super Stickman Golf 3’s ancestor is the same Apple II Artillery game Angry Birds has at its core, but Noodlecake’s title is a lot more fun than catapulting birds around.
It’s a larger-than-life side-on mini-golf extravaganza, with you thwacking balls about giant forests, space stations distinctly lacking in gravity, and strange fortresses with a suspiciously high deadly laser count.
The single-player game’s fun, but SSMG 3 comes into its own in multiplayer, whether you’re taking the more sedate turn-by-turn route or ball-smacking at speed in the frenetic race mode. Note that the free version has some restrictions (limited courses; fewer simultaneous turn-based games), but there’s still plenty of genuinely crazy golf here to take a swing at.
Touchgrind Skate 2
This one takes a rather literal stance regarding controlling a sports game with your fingers. The board appears on the screen and your fingers become tiny legs, enabling you to perform gnarly and rad tricks, man! Irksome lingo aside, this is a fantastic title that’s initially demanding but hugely rewarding once mastered.
You can also upload videos of your best moves and show off to your friends, and there’s fortunately no way you can skin your knees, unless you trip over while obsessively performing ollies, powerslides and heelflips while walking down the street.
If you’re the kind of person who gets off on using cushions to pot the odd ball in pool, you’ll love Magnetic Billiards. A sort-of physics puzzler take on the popular pub game, it dispenses with pockets entirely — you instead clear the table by building clusters of connected balls that then vanish.
Emptying a table’s the easy part, though — the real skill is in figuring out insanely complex trick shots to get to that point, ‘buzzing’ balls of different colours, and creating a pleasing magnetic shape before it vanishes into the ether. For free, you get 20 tables; RM7.80 nets you a ‘skeleton’ key that unlocks the rest of the game.
World Tour Golf
With EA having deserted ‘proper’ golf games on mobile for the arcadey nonsense of King of the Course, WGT thwacks a ball and gets a realism hole-in-one. This really is a quite astonishing game, from the delicate controls through to the eye-popping photo-realistic courses you play on.
A word of warning: it also takes no prisoners. There’s no nonchalantly spinning a ball in mid-air when you fluff a shot. Here, you’ll end up in the bunker, then overshoot the green, before multiple putts leave you embarrassingly over par. But put in the practice and you’ll be a virtual golfing superstar before long.