Thousands of iPhone and iPad games are available to download for free.
The snag is a lot of them are awful to the point they’d be an embarrassment on a 1980s home computer – or they’re packed with enough freemium gunk to suffocate a hippo. However, the standouts are some of the best games around for mobile. That’s what we’re interested in at Stuff: the very best free iOS and iPadOS games.
To help you find your next mobile obsession, we’ve grouped our choices into sections, starting with racers, ending with puzzlers and taking in pretty much everything you can imagine on the way. If you can’t find something you like from these 40 beauties, you must be picky – or an ex-Amstrad CPC owner.
Best free racing game for iPhone and iPad: Asphalt 9: Legends
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 endlessly around gloriously sweeping bends; instead, it’s all about the need for speed, zooming around beautifully rendered and inventive courses, occasionally smashing rivals into a wall, just because you can.
It’s shoppy and grindy, and by default doesn’t even have you steer. Instead, you time actions and select your route. But it all works wonderfully, providing many hours of exhilarating racing, without you having to dip into your wallet.
It’s quite possible Data Wing is the biggest bargain on mobile. If there was any justice, someone would glue it to the top of the freebie iOS games charts forever. And yet it all seems so simple at first – a top-down racer, where you zoom about minimalist circuits, gaining speed from scraping track edges.
But the racing’s only part of what’s soon revealed as an expansive neon-infused adventure, featuring a deranged AI, a world that exists beyond the screen, and gravity-battling sections that recall classic 8-bit title Thrust. There are no ads, and no IAPs – just hours of enjoyable arcade action peppered with thoughtful, clever narrative.
Beach Buggy Racing 2
For whatever reason, kart racers don’t have a good track record on iOS, either having the speed and staying power of a Sinclair C5, or just being rubbish – like a Sinclair C5. Beach Buggy Racing 2 is a bit different.
From the off, the game properly belts along. Its lush visuals are bright and breezy. One course features a beach with giant crabs you can send flying with a bash; another has a huge dragon keen on turning you into a flambé special.
There’s grind and the odd difficulty spike; and the lack of cups is frustrating – you get just two races to choose from at any given moment. But otherwise this is right now the closest you’ll get to Mario Kart-style larks on your iPhone.
Disc Drivin’ 2
Surprise! It turns out the best freebie racer on iOS doesn’t feature cars and is turn-based. In Disc Drivin’ 2, it’s you against online opponents, flicking your disc around deviously designed courses suspended in space. You get up to two swipes per turn, and some handy boost power, to blaze past your foe, and then wait a bit to see how they respond.
It all sounds very odd, we’re sure, but Disc Drivin’ 2 is tense and compelling. And for those moments when you just want to barrel along for a bit, rather than waiting for someone else to take their turn, there are speedrun challenges and daily collect ’em up races.
In short, this unconventional mash-up of shove ha’penny and Wipeout really hits the mark.
Time-attack racers across tiny courses make demands on your arcade abilities as you eke out fractions of a second by cracking an optimum route. Code Racer instead has you accelerate your brain, plotting movements by way of simple programming-style commands.
If you’re young, think Scratch; if you’re ancient, Big Trak. But although the commands are few in number (turn; brake; forward), the ability to adjust power and timing gives you plenty of scope. This becomes very apparent as you progress from simple straights and turns to absurd tracks packed with jumps and twists – and amass new vehicles and tense chase modes.
Pocket Run Pool
Smacking balls around a real pool table can be pretty great. In gaming, the experience is often ruined by the computer opponent, given that its ‘brain’ can calculate perfect shots in a fraction of the time it takes you to blink. Pocket Run Pool deftly deals with this by eradicating opponents entirely, leaving a solo effort based on maths, strategy, and quite a lot of aiming.
The game’s played top-down, on a minimal table. Pockets have multipliers. Points are awarded on the basis of ball number x pocket multiplier; and when each ball is pocketed, multipliers rotate, meaning you must plan ahead to get the best score. In all, this is a really smart spin on pool for the solo player on the move.
Battle Golf Online
Golf: you either love it or are baffled by people’s willingness to trudge about all day, very occasionally hitting a tiny ball with a stick. In Battle Golf Online, though, you get stripped-back golf in fast-forward, which it turns out is breezy fun.
Two players thwack their balls over a lake, aiming for holes that periodically surface. And as you might have gleaned from the game’s name, you can play against online opponents, too. Just try not to bean them with your balls too often, eh?