There are many thousands of games for iOS, and a lot of them are available for absolutely nothing.
The tiny snag is figuring out which ones are any good, given that quite a few freebies are so awful they’d embarrass a type-in listing for a 1980s home computer. However, the standouts are some of the finest games available for mobile; and that’s what we’re interested in here at Stuff: the very best free iOS games.
To help you find what you’re after, we’ve grouped our games into sections. On this page, you’ll find racing and sports games. On the next page you'll find platformers and endless runners, followed by strategy and word games. We then amp things up a bit with arcade and shooting titles. Finally, we relax with puzzlers and match games.
And if you can’t find something you like from that vast selection, you must be picky, dead, or an ex-Amstrad CPC owner.
Best free racing game for iPhone and iPad: Asphalt 8: Airborne
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.
Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed
Seemingly bored of scooting about in traditional karts, Sonic and chums are now equipped with transforming vehicles that soar into the air and scythe through water. In Transformed, you’re therefore as likely to barrel roll towards After Burner aircraft carriers and splash about in murky Panzer Dragoon waterways as zoom along colourful roads.
The vibrant visuals are to be expected from Sega, but we’re happy the company nailed touchscreen controls. Rarely has a racer felt so right on iOS, enabling you to drive, dive and drift with ease, before unsportingly flinging weapons at the opposition. The whiff of freemium sadly pervades, along with irritatingly linear events unlocks for the ’World Tour’ mode. Even so, there’s no better kart racer on the platform.
Presumably, caRRage depicts what all the nutcases in the Mad Max flicks do on their days off. In a ravaged wasteland, battered armoured vehicles zoom about post-apocalyptic circuits, aiming to smash up the opposition in a manner that would even give the dirtiest F1 drivers pause for thought.
Now and again, the game changes tack for a bit, sending you on a supply run where you drive a huge lorry to its destination, desperately fending off hordes of hostile vehicles intent on taking your cargo for themselves. Sadly, you can’t then use the lorry in the next race — that’d probably be a bit unsporting, even in this future (racing-obsessed) hell.
Crazy Taxi City Rush
We were fully expecting this to be awful. As huge fans of the original arcade/Dreamcast classic, how could Sega trample on our memories and turn Crazy Taxi into a freemium on-rails sort-of Temple Run clone?
Amazingly, it’s actually a lot of fun. Sure, City Rush can be grindy and has typically obnoxious fuel refills and timers; but ignore those (which is easy enough if you play in short bursts) and you’re left with a great-looking, fast and fluid take on Crazy Taxi that works nicely on the touchscreen.
Best free sports game for iPhone and iPad: WGT: World Golf Tour
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.
Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint
"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.
We imagine quite a few golfers have at one time wished their balls had wings, to sneak in a short putt. And this game’s all about the flapping, riffing off the Flappy Bird craze and smashing that title’s mechanics into the developer’s own Super Stickman Golf 2.
The net result is surreal and brilliant — a challenging and strange arcade game with a berserk online multiplayer mode, where four people desperately try to flap their balls into a hole.
New Star Soccer
If you've ever fancied yourself as the next Wayne Rooney, you can work your way through the footie leagues in New Star Soccer.
The simplified abstraction of life (keep everyone happy via success in minigames; buy all of the things) and matches (score goals; intercept passes; grumble as your teammates lack barn-door hitting abilities once again) are perfect for mobile play.