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, starting with racing games, ending with puzzlers and taking in pretty much everything you can imagine on the way.
And if you can’t find something you like from that vast selection, you must be picky, dead, or an ex-Amstrad CPC owner.
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.
If virtual D-pads and tilt controls make you fume in iOS racers, Pico Rally’s a better bet. It hones down the racing experience to a single button, used to step on the gas.
The experience feels a bit like slot-racing, with you carefully timing when to accelerate and brake to most efficiently overtake, scream round bends, and improve lap times. But since cars have the freedom of the entire track, races are more frenetic than any Scalextric set. This is even more so when scrapping with cops on skiddy backstreets, or blazing about maze-like road systems in Asia, trying to catch rivals rather unsportingly given a sizeable head-start.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.