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52 best free iPhone and iPad games to play today

Got an iPad or iPhone? Load it with the best iOS games – none of which cost a penny!

Best free iPhone games

Thousands of the best free iPhone and iPad games are available to download for free. The snag is many are awful to the point they’d be an embarrassment on a 1980s home computer – or packed with enough freemium gunk to suffocate a hippo. However, the standouts are some of the best free games around for mobile. That’s what we’re interested in at Stuff: the very best iPhone and iPad games to play today!

To help you find your next mobile obsession, we outline our new favourites below and then group older choices into sections, starting with racers, ending with puzzlers and taking in pretty much everything you can imagine on the way.

The best free iPhone and iPad games to download today

Get an instant fix of fun with the iPhone and iPad games tickling our fancy right now.

Knotwords

Zach Gage has cornered the market in subverting newspaper puzzles for mobile. With co-conspirator Jack Schlesinger, he’s had another crack at crosswords. This time, you get all of the letters, but they’re scrambled within Tetris-like pieces. It’s your job to figure out where each letter should go, in order to complete the puzzle.

Attacking crosswords from the opposite direction causes your brain to do a backflip and your muscle memory to scream. But it’s engaging stuff, whether you’re trying to blaze through a ‘daily mini’ or tackle the much trickier puzzles that rock up towards the end of each week. For a tenner, you can go premium; but even for free, there’s a slew of word game goodness here.

Download Knotwords

Dungeons of Dreadrock

There’s a whiff of the familiar about Dreadrock, which dumps you in a bunch of single-screen dungeons and has you set out to save a sibling who’s about to be inconveniently sacrificed. The action plays out in real time, with you exploring and defeating each puzzle by way of a mix of brainpower and dexterity.

The basic mechanics are something we’ve seen countless times on mobile, but rarely does everything come together this well. Beyond the game’s cracking pixel art, you get compelling and smart level design, and plenty of surprises – such as when a seemingly defeated enemy pursues you through subsequent (and then very tense) bite-sized challenges. 

Download Dungeons of Dreadrock

Racing games

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 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 works wonderfully, providing many hours of exhilarating racing, making it one of the best free games without you having to dip into your wallet.

Download Asphalt 9: Legends

Data Wing

It’s possible Data Wing is the biggest bargain on mobile. If there was any justice, someone would glue it to the top of the freebie 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.

Download Data Wing

Beach Buggy Racing 2

For whatever reason, kart racers don’t have a good track record on iPhone and iPad, 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.

Download Beach Buggy Racing 2

Disc Drivin’ 2

Surprise! It turns out one of the best freebie racers on Apple devices 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.

Download Disc Drivin’ 2

Sports games

Rocket League Sideswipe

Console sports game Rocket League dabbles with the absurd, combining footie and vehicles. Rocket League Sideswipe tackles how to make the concept work for mobile. It could have been a red-card moment – a stripped-back IAP-happy insult to fans of the original. Instead, this mobile effort is so fun it takes the console game to penalties.

The gameplay’s side-on now, with one or two rocket-powered cars on each side blazing around an arena, aiming to smack a gigantic ball into huge goalmouths. Seasons shake things up with modes based around other sports, such as basketball and volleyball. It’s hugely compelling and, at the time of writing, devoid of the skeevy garbage usually found in mobile games of its ilk. Top of the table, then.

Download Rocket League Sideswipe

Super Arcade Football

The best footie game ever is of course Sensible World of Soccer, and this freebie is the closest you’re going to get to it on an iPhone. Dinky players sprint about a pitch, booting the ball about in pinball fashion. Realism? Pah. But the game’s energy neatly recreates what you feel football to be like when you play.

Like the Sensi games, this one’s tongue is firmly in cheek. Some mean-spirited cut scenes are a mis-step, but otherwise it makes you grin with absurd pitch customisation (mud pits; meteor strikes) or the manner in which game have almost as much violence as Speedball 2, with the refs surprisingly reticent to hand out cards. A funny old game, then? Yep – but a playable and frequently exciting one too.

Download Super Arcade Football

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, making it one of the best free games 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.

Download Super Stickman Golf 3

What a hazard: Deep Golf

If frenetic golfing shenanigans lead to you having heart palpitations, try Deep Golf instead. Its zen-like action takes place deep underground, on procedurally generated cartoonish courses as you swing and putt your way to the centre of the Earth.

Pumped BMX Flow

Following on from previous entries in the Pumped BMX series, Flow finds your frantically pedalling protagonist soaring into the air by way of ludicrously high ramps, in order to perform all manner of show-off stunts – and then ideally landing safely (i.e. not on their head) to do it all again and again.

In fact, Flow has procedurally generated tracks that can potentially go on forever – although even if you get really good, your fingers are going to give out at some point. Still, this is a BMX racer you can get properly ‘zen’ with, chilling out with courses that stretch into the infinite.

Download Pumped BMX Flow

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.

Download Pocket Run Pool

Platform games

Jump Jerboa

Think it’s tough being a mouse in a maze? That’s nothing compared to the existence of the titular rodent in this brutal one-thumb platformer. Having broken out from its cage, the leapy hero finds itself blazing through single-screen obstacle courses full of jerboa-killing hazards.

At first, you need to leap over the odd spike, wall-jump like a furry ninja, and make for the exit. Before long, though, you’re tackling cannons, portals, marching enemies, and keys that irritatingly teleport from point to point. It’s great stuff, especially the devious level design that gives the game a real one-more-go pull factor.

Download Jump Jerboa

Super Mombo Quest

You get the sense this speedy platformer isn’t taking itself seriously on realising its madcap hero can stick to walls using its massive tongue. That’s a pretty grim superpower, but the game’s a delight.

You make your way through interconnected levels across an expansive map, grabbing gems and jumping on enemies. But this is more than Mario welded to Metroid.

Each level challenges you to attain the coveted Mombo Combo by dispatching enemies at speed. There are deranged boss battles (giant laser cats!), alternate mombo forms, and tons of secrets to find. For free, it’s a steal – as, frankly, is the premium mode (no ads; play online) at under a fiver.

Download Super Mombo Quest

Super Cat Tales 2

In time-honoured videogame tradition, evil aliens have invaded and only the cats can save us! Or something. Well, at least it makes a change from implausibly indestructible muscle-bound hulks.

With its chunky retro pixels and old-school platforming action, you might initially think a hitherto unknown 16-bit classic has scrabbled into your iPhone. But in fact, Super Cat Tales 2 is modern in its approach and is one of the best free games around.

Levels are short but smart, encouraging mobile play and repeat attempts. Best of all, you can dash, leap, wall-jump, and blow up aliens using massive yellow tanks, all by using the clever two-thumb control system. It baffles at first (argh: muscle memory!), but when mastered makes you wish every virtual D-pad would be destroyed at the claws of a very angry cat.

Download Super Cat Tales 2

OCO

It’s hard to see how platform games could get any more minimal than OCO. This one’s stripped back to the point even Jony Ive might suggest adding additional textures. But OCO does an awful lot with a little, resulting in a beautiful, engaging game.

Each of its circular single-screen levels has you gather up floating bling (this is still a platform game, after all), and make for an exit. The snag: you automatically move and can only tap to jump. This forces you to think carefully about the route you’ll take, and make cunning use of power-ups.

Add to that a level editor, procedurally generated audio, and eye-popping visuals reminiscent of modern art, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Download OCO

It’s Full of Sparks

A firecracker’s life is brief. The fuse is lit and then you go out in a colourful, noisy explosion. But the doddering rockets in this game have had enough, and want to extend their life by extinguishing their sparks.

Each of the 80 levels tasks you with belting towards water, trying very hard not to explode along the way. Complicating matters is a trio of coloured buttons, used to toggle hazards, bridges, and helicopter rotors that can help and hinder.

This is a tense, fast-paced, frustrating, and entertaining platform game that arrives on your device with a bang – and whose spark won’t die until you’re done.

Download It’s Full of Sparks

Endless/auto runners

Pigeon Wings Strike

When under attack from swarms of enemies with massive guns, most videogame leaders are massive idiots, sending out a lone fighter to shoot everything down. Pigeon Wings Strike goes one better, because the plane is piloted by a pigeon.

Fortunately, this pigeon can do pretty amazing things in the air, slipstreaming chums, obliterating drones, and weaving through tunnels and between buildings.

At least that’s the plan. In this deranged high-octane mash-up of ALONE…, R-Type and Pigeon Street, you’ll initially see a lot of pigeon pie filling. But once it clicks, and you master the wonderful tilt controls, this one will stay even more welded to your device than pigeon poop to the roof of your car. Only in a good way. This is one of the best free games out there.

Download Pigeon Wings Strike

Power Hover: Cruise

The original Power Hover remains a stunning mobile game, charting a robot scything across minimal landscapes, having choreographed adventures in a desolate but beautiful world. Power Hover: Cruise is a more intense affair, transforming some of its predecessor’s levels into tricky endless challenges.

Whether you’re racing after a demented machine in an underground tunnel, or soaring above the clouds on a trap-infested snake-like road, Power Hover: Cruise is a compelling, essential game. Although given how hard it can get, it would probably have been better entitled Power Hover: NYAAAARRRGGGHH.

Download Power Hover: Cruise

Will Hero

A princess is kidnapped. A hero appears, determined to rescue her and jump on anyone stupid enough to get in their way. No, it’s not Mario – this hero is named Will, and he’s a bit of a square.

We mean that quite literally – Will is a square who bounds between levitating islands, attempting to off enemies, and occasionally grab weapons from chests with which to cause yet more destruction.

The game’s fast pace is captivating, not least when you manage to ditch some weedy spears for heat-seeking missiles. The only downside is Will’s escapades end if you make a single blunder – Mario never knew he had it so good with those multiple lives.

Download Will Hero

Doodle Jump 2

Terrifyingly, we’re at the point where some iPhone games can be considered retro – or at least ‘classic’. If you were around at the dawn of the smartphone revolution, you’ll recall how Doodle Jump had countless iPhone users glued to the screen, as devices were tilted left and right in an effort to help a strange four-legged protagonist climb endless heights.

Over a decade later, this sequel is more of the same. That it’s still compelling is testament to the original game’s elegance and smarts, although you’ll need to go all-in to amass the ridiculous number of collectable stars required to unlock the later levels.

Download Doodle Jump 2

Arcade games

Catchee

Laser Dog says this game is its happiest yet. But although the songs are jolly and the visuals cartoonish, this title has the smile of a demon, ready to tear you throat out with sheer ferocity.

What you do is at least straightforward: swipe left and right to grab Catchables in a bowl. They fall in patterns dictated by the background song. Success builds a combo meter; failure means Catchables go splat, along with your hopes of a high score.

Catchee’s speed is such it’s the kind of game you play without blinking. But while it can be terrifyingly fast, it’s never unfair. Stick with it and you’ll find a grin-inducing title perfect for fitting into odd moments, along with confirming without doubt your reactions aren’t what they used to be.

Download Catchee

Mr. Traffic

A mobile game where you direct traffic by making cars go or stop with a tap? We’ve seen this all before, right? Well, sort of. While there’s no denying the tired nature of the underlying mechanics in Mr. Traffic, the execution is joyful. The vibrant cartoon graphics are pitch perfect and a step above the competition’s. More importantly, this game layers on madcap extras, like in developer Dumpling’s superb avoid ’em up Dashy Crashy

So while this game’s contemporaries have boring roads and boring cars making boring manoeuvres, poor old Mr. Traffic has to contend with giant stompy dinosaurs, ghost invasions, chicken rampages and runaway trams. Still, at least he gets regular new costumes, even if one does turn him into a slavering zombie. (Let’s hope he’s paid well…)

Download Mr. Traffic

Spaceteam

Mobile games are so often solo pursuits; even those claiming to be ‘social’ usually require battling someone you’ve only ever ‘met’ on Facebook or Game Center. Spaceteam is different – two to four players join on a local network, faced with a control panel of dials, buttons and sliders.

Between you, everyone must coordinate to rapidly deal with silly time-sensitive instructions (“Set Shiftsanitizer to 1!”), lest the spaceship explode. It’s a hugely entertaining experience and also works across platforms, meaning your Android-device-owning chums needn’t sit out and wear a glum expression.

There’s some IAP, but only for entirely optional challenges and aesthetic enhancements, and those are primarily designed to support the indie who made the game in the first place. We’d say they’re well worth investigating, too, making some of the best free games available.

Download Spaceteam

Beat Street

Taking a classic scrolling brawler like Double Dragon or Streets of Rage and having it work on a touchscreen is tough enough. Making it one-thumb controlled should have been a punch in the face too far. Yet Beat Street is a miniature masterpiece.

Get past the whiff of freemium grind, and you have hours of fun beating the tar out of the anthropomorphic vermin that have decided to take over your city. And just like in the good old days, you can unsportingly cave in someone’s face with a baseball bat or brick if you’re lucky enough to chance upon such a weapon during your travels.

Download Beat Street

Knight Brawl

If you thought the battle with the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail was silly, it’s got nothing on Knight Brawl. This absurdist hack ’em up finds your sword-wielding protagonist whirling arms and bouncing about as if on a trampoline.

Wrestle with the controls and you’ll eventually elevate yourself to stabby mastery in a range of free-for-all scraps and one-on-one bouts. And when you hanker for bling rather than glory, you can partake in some pilfering and murdering, leaping about castles and unsportingly slicing unsuspecting guards up from behind.

It’s entertainingly bonkers, even if the sound is sadly limited to clangs and grunts, rather than an overly confident foe yelling “had worse” and yelling that they’ll “bite your legs off” when relieved of their own.

Download Knight Brawl

Shooting games

Shadowgun Legends

It’s the future, and so, inevitably, humanity’s at war with anything it can fire projectiles at. Equally inevitably, everything’s become a toxic gameshow stew, with mercenaries revered as celebrities, to the point adoring fans build massive statues of their heroes.

Being itchy of finger and big of head, you set out to become a legend yourself. This involves taking on missions, and partaking in quite a bit of wanton FPS violence. Mobile shooters are usually rubbish. This one isn’t. And although it can be a bit grindy, the controls and visuals are top-notch, and the bite-sized battles are perfect for gaming on the go.

Download Shadowgun Legends

Pixel Shooter Infinity

Arcade games originating on systems based around gamepads rarely fare well on a touchscreen. Shoot ’em ups are an exception, a single digit affording you the precision to weave between projectiles and merrily obliterate everything in your path.

Pixel Shooter Infinity draws from Japanese bullet-hell classics, but distils everything into single-screen rounds and dresses them in monochrome garb. The end result feels like Robotron: 2084 and looks like a 1980s vector game.

It’s constantly intense and exhilarating as you blow away enemies, temporarily halt to let your gun cool, and grab gems to power up your weapons. It’s tricky too – more like Pixel Shooter You’ll Be Dead By Level Ten than Infinity.

Download Pixel Shooter Infinity

Missile Command: Recharged

A relentless, bleak arcade classic, the original Missile Command has you desperately fend off an endless barrage of nukes, until all your cities are gone and the game coldly announces ‘The End’. Recharged rethinks the game for mobile, and is a rare retro remake that doesn’t muck things up.

Sure, purists might gripe about the lack of a cursor and an inability to control where your shots come from – here, you tap and launches are blasted from a random silo. But it’s fast-paced and frenetic stuff as you try for chain reactions and over time gradually build your defensive clout with power-ups and an increasingly deft tapping finger.

Download Missile Command: Recharged

ElectroMaster

Imagine for a moment the terrifying claustrophobic shooting action from Robotron: 2084 combined with an unhinged Japanese cartoon, all reimagined for the touchscreen. That’s ElectroMaster. And it’s deeply weird. From what we can tell, a schoolgirl is attempting to rescue her sister from, and we quote, a “swarm of b——ds”. Quite.

What this means for you is holding down a finger to charge up your blaster and then zapping foes off the screen, like a cross between a wannabe Marvel supervillain and a sumo wrestler. Periodic power-ups keep things interesting, letting you blaze around as a ball of energy – or just winning extra points for snarfing oversized fruit.

Download ElectroMaster

PewPew Live

A love letter to classic arcade games, PewPew Live is a grab bag of old-school gaming delights. Its twin-stick shooty larks recall Robotron: 2084 as you blast your way through hordes of enemies. Nuggets of Asteroids are dotted about another of the five modes, and the entire game recalls that seminal title’s gorgeous vector graphics.

PewPew Live is also old-school in being hard as nails. It has a ferocity that’s alien to mobile games but that should appeal to veteran gamers and anyone who loves a challenge. Plus, if the thing kills you within 30 seconds, that makes it a good bet to fill an odd and otherwise dull moment with a splash of colour and buckets of adrenaline.

Download PewPew Live

Stop the clock: Time Locker

If you thought bullet hell shooters would be easy if you could only pause for a bit, Time Locker suggests otherwise. This game’s dazzling blocky retro universe only moves when you do – bar a world-devouring void in hot pursuit.

Pico Hero

A nefarious evil gang has – for reasons that are never made entirely clear – stolen all Pico’s animal chums. This isn’t terribly smart, because Pico appears to be some kind of ninja with a penchant for weaponry and getting a bit shooty.

Across 100 levels, this retro-infused blaster has you stomp about, automatically gunning down nearby nasties. Timing, positioning and a little stealth are vital for survival – although stumbling across heavy artillery also helps.

Should you murder your way through the entire production, there’s a level editor too, for fashioning custom carnage and sharing it with similarly bloodthirsty friends.

Download Pico Hero

Puzzle games

Linia super

The original Linia caught Stuff’s eye some years back, with a mix of game styles we likened to “Fruit Ninja, as reimagined by a lover of precision geometry”. This follow-up’s in similar territory, having you slice your way through pulsating minimalist works of art, aiming to match a colour pattern at the top of the screen.

It’s an exercise in exactness and patience. As shapes whirl and dance, overlapping hues only occasionally display the sequence you need. Even once you spot it, nailing a perfect cut is tricky. But gorgeous visuals and a chill-out soundtrack make for a mesmerising challenge.

Download Linia super

Threes! Freeplay

In Threes! Freeplay, you move cards around a four-by-four board, merging pairs, which then double in value. The snag? Every time you slide your finger, all cards on the board move in that direction, assuming they’re not blocked. The other snag: after every move, a new card shows up in a random empty spot on the board edge you dragged from.

Threes! Freeplay therefore becomes a delicate balancing act: you have to think several moves ahead, because your game’s done when no more moves are available.

Cloned like crazy shortly after release, Threes! nonetheless shone compared to the countless cheap rip-offs, through its breezy personality and tighter rules. This free version is identical to the paid release, bar having to watch video ads to get extra goes. And, yes, you can queue up a load if you’re going to be offline for a while.

Download Threes! Freeplay

Slide to slay: Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle

Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle smashes Soko-Ban into Friday the 13th with a baseball bat. You direct Jason about a tiled board, so he can bludgeon victims to death in flurries of cartoon violence, while the levitating head of his dead mother offers sagely advice. Obviously.

Empty.

Striving for a level of minimalism even Marie Kondo would think a bit much, Empty. has you remove items from rooms until nothing remains. This is achieved by rotating each room so that objects merge into surfaces of the same colour, whereupon they vanish.

It’s a meditative experience. The gentle soundtrack engages and aids focus. There are no timers and no ads. It’s all about immersing yourself in tactile, hand-crafted levels.

There are 19 in all, which won’t take that long to beat, even if savoured at a relaxing pace. But like a favourite jigsaw puzzle, Empty. is always worth returning to when you need to unwind.

Download Empty.

pink (game)

Bart Bonte has form in the colour-based puzzle game department, having already released yellow, red, black, blue and green. You might think that’s enough. Nope: pink is another superb slice of brain-smashing logic puzzling.

The idea in each stage is to flood the screen with pink. How you do this rapidly becomes head-scratchingly tricky as the devious nature of the game’s creator becomes clear. Despite the confined single-screen set-up of these puzzles and the simple visuals, there’s plenty of creativity on display throughout pink’s 50 levels.

Naturally, there’s a help system (powered by adverts), but you’ll feel like a failure if you venture into that. When you need a break, instead restart the app and bob your head to the funky intro music and cool-as title screen flamingos.

Get pink (game)

10™

This one should come with a warning attached, because it’s one of those dull-looking puzzle games – think Tetris or Drop7 – that ends up eating into your time in a terrifying manner.

The game’s all about numbered discs, which you shoot into an enclosed space. Link up discs of the same number and they vanish, boosting your score, leaving space behind, and extending your go. Amass enough points and the field expands – and the numbers on the discs rise.

Initially, 10™ might baffle, but you soon figure out ways to last longer, building ‘towers’ to the field’s centre, to keep the edges clear. Before long, you’ll string together a ten, decide you’re a genius, and then on Game Centre stare aghast at the scores real 10™ masters achieve.

Download 10™

Match and rhythm games

Sticky Terms

Plenty of mobile games have you fashion words from random stacks of letter tiles. Sticky Terms instead hacks the letters to bits and leaves you to it. Each level therefore starts out resembling minimalist modern art. You need to figure out which bits go where and drag the pieces into place.

Everything about Sticky Terms is a joy, from the delightfully tactile interface to the subtle sound effects. And in a nice twist, the words you’re trying to create are broadly impossible to translate into other languages; so on completing a puzzle you’re given the word’s origin and definition. See – games can be educational and great!

Download Sticky Terms

Casual Metaphysics

Match games are best when they bin trying to rip off Bejeweled and instead do something different. And Casual Metaphysics is certainly different. The aim is to match similar shapes, which then evolve. Chain enough together in one sweep and you amass huge points. Dawdle and your existing score drops.

The other snag is you’re playing against opposition – either a human in single-device mode, or a freaky glowing computer-controlled hand ‘inside’ the screen. Early days are simple enough, against boneheaded AI and with few shapes. A few levels in, though, there’s not much ‘casual’ in Casual Metaphysics as you desperately try to find from within a sea of various forms a winning chain that’ll keep your lead intact.

Get Casual Metaphysics

Bejeweled

PopCap’s gem-swapper is one of the most famous games around, and it feels perfectly at home on the touchscreen. Along with the standard mode, you get several unique variations on the theme: in Butterflies, you must carefully consider every move, to ensure your winged creatures aren’t eaten by a deadly spider; and in Diamond Mine, you battle against the clock to dig ever deeper into the ground, blasting away at the rock with explosive special gems.

Download Bejeweled for iPhone

Download Bejeweled HD for iPad

Of the best: Six Match

Yes, another game of swapping gems, but Six Match is different, switching coins by making Mr Swap-With-Coins roam the grid. There’s a countdown too – if the number on the hero’s head reaches zero, game over. Sounds tough? Now lob bombs, diamonds, coin cages and poker hands into the mix.

Little Alchemy 2

This logic puzzler starts you off with a few items, the aim being to combine them into new things. Imagine a lazy universe-building god with an iPad and you’re there.

Sometimes, the combinations are obvious – a couple of ponds becomes a lake. But many are humorous (meat from a livestock and a sword – ouch), or require lateral thinking (merging a car and bird to make a plane).

In droughts between discoveries, there’s the temptation to tediously ‘drop all the things on all the other things’, but it’s always a blast when you find something new.

Download Little Alchemy 2

Strategy and word games

Super Auto Pets

This game’s creator describes it as a “chill auto battler”. That is a lie. It’s chill in there being no hurrying: you get endless time to fine-tune the team you send into battle. But for all its cute characters, this game will merrily tear your face off.

Much of that is down to how each unit affects others. At first, it baffles when you get obliterated in battle as foes power-up chums, belch out reinforcements and materialise a cartoon bus. But stick around and it will click. You’ll learn combinations that work – only to hit another wall you’ll have to climb. 

If you want your hand held, steer clear. But if you want a game that’s hugely rewarding if you put in the effort – and yet bite-sized per game, Super Auto Pets is a must.

Download Super Auto Pets

The Battle of Polytopia

Civilization’s a great free game, but there are two tiny snags on mobile: first, Civ games take forever, which isn’t good when playing on an iPhone; secondly, mobile Civs are rubbish on the tiny screen of an iPhone. Enter: The Battle of Polytopia, which takes the basics of classic Civ, but speeds things along nicely.

In this distilled, compelling and surprisingly tense take on becoming a world-conquering despot, there’s a real sense of focus: you’re by default up against a moves limit, and the maps are tightly packed. Yet it’s not reductive: you still get tech trees, cities to found and expand, and a range of enemies to administer a jolly good thrashing to.

Download The Battle of Polytopia

Belt up: Builderment

Earth’s low on resources – so, natch, has found another planet to plunder. In Builderment, you use your automation genius to concoct snaking conveyors belts that transport resources to factories. They then craft items that eventually result in packages being sent to Earth. Or possibly just slung over a hedge.

Cards of Terra

You’ve crashed on an alien world full of hostile creatures tearing chunks out of each other – and they’ve inconveniently kidnapped your crew. Fortunately, the alien princess protagonist has magic tricks up her sleeve, and pits her enemies against each other.

This all plays out as a combination of solitaire and collectable card game, with you moving cards atop ones of different colours, so they have a fight. That in itself would be a fine puzzler, but Cards of Terra excels itself with a range of superbly designed modes, tough boss battles, and cards with complex rules that have them perform independent actions, making the board feel alive.

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Bling king: Look, Your Loot

The rodent hero in Look, Your Loot has no truck with ‘quiet as a mouse’, instead stabbing monsters to death in this card-based dungeon crawler in a shoebox. Death is only ever a few swipes away, so you must traverse the claustrophobic dungeon with care, in this compelling mash-up of strategy, path-finding and RPG.

Kitty Letter

Come into this word game cold and you’ll wonder what’s going on. A lurid vortex is used to fashion words that then unleash columns of cats, which explode on contact with your enemy’s home. Said foe fights back in a similar way. Occasionally, a deer with the runs poops out a power-up you can collect with your marching moggies.

But this is the latest collaboration from the Exploding Kittens mob, and so in that sense it’s business as usual, with a deranged storyline and oddball Oatmeal art. However, like Exploding Kittens, there’s a great game here too – a compelling, smartly designed (if very strange) combination of anagrams and real-time strategy.

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Furry good: Alphabear: Words Across Tim‪e

Another game with letter tiles on a grid. But wait! Alphabear: Words Across Tim‪e also has bears, which squeeze and stretch into gaps when letters are removed. There are timers that turn to stone, foiling your colossal-bear plans. And there’s time travel and a unfathomable bonus system too. RAWR!

Salvagette

Bullet-hell shooters are tricky enough, let alone when some wag has nicked your guns and you’re in a battlezone that’s barely bigger than a shoebox. Fortunately, Salvagette plays out in turn-based fashion, giving you time to consider your every move, en route to ramming the opposition to pieces.

It’s an odd combination, but one that works as you track each foe’s glowing orb, which lets you know when they’re going to blast ordinance your way. And despite time only moving when you do, the game can become surprisingly tense as you plot a path to survival – or at least the in-game store, where you can grab handy upgrades paid for with the cash you get for blowing up your enemies.

Download Salvagette