The iPad is the Swiss Army knife of gadgets. It works much like a laptop and also like a smartphone, capable of handling work, play, and everything in between in equal measure. It also doubles as a pretty darn good video game console, with its larger screen (compared to the iPhone) making it ideal for almost any kind of game, from RPGs to platformers and shoot-em-ups. Not only is it set up perfectly to play games, but its ever-expanding roster of titles makes it arguably one of the best gaming platforms around.
Of course, the problem with having so many options is that you often don’t know where to begin. Luckily, we’ve rounded up the best iPad games you can download and play right now. You may also want to check out our favorite iPhone games, in case you fancy some smartphone action.
Beyond a Steel Sky (Apple Arcade)
Revolution’s long-awaited follow-up to their 1994 dystopian point-and-click classic Beneath a Steel Sky, Beyond a Steel Sky is a puzzle-based adventure that truly lives up to its pedigree. You play once again as Robert Foster, who, in the search for a kidnapped child, is led to Union City, an ostensible utopia where people are monitored by a supposedly benign artificial intelligence (A.I.) — sound familiar? Aside from this interesting premise, the game looks absolutely gorgeous, benefitting from art direction courtesy of Dave Gibbons, the artist responsible for the Watchmen graphic novel. Not only does it look great, but the gameplay is laudably complex and rewarding, with the gameworld responding to your actions and with its puzzles offering multiple solutions.
Love Stranger Things? Oxenfree provides you with another way to get a Stranger Things-style kick. It’s a supernatural mystery thriller in which you play as teenager Alex, who, along with her friends, unwittingly opens a “ghostly gate” during a party on an abandoned military base. You then set about exploring the base, with in-game conversations and puzzles helping you along the way. It sounds fairly simple at first glance, but with multiple plot threads and a uniquely haunting graphical style, the game is pretty absorbing.
Hyper Light Drifter ($5)
Offering a slash-em-up/RPG hybrid, Hyper Light Drifter is one of the best adventure games you’re likely to find on iPad. It features an enticing (if you’re of a certain age) 16-bit graphical style, through which you explore a forgotten land in a bid to cure yourself of a seemingly incurable illness. The game’s world is vast and beautiful, containing threatening enemies, strange technologies, hazards, and long-buried ruins. Beyond avoiding pitfalls and predators, you can also upgrade your weapons and skills and find new equipment. If that weren’t enough, the soundtrack is surprisingly affecting and powerful, and along with the fantastic visuals and gameplay, it will keep you coming back for more.
Civilization VI ($20)
Yes, you may be aware that Civilization VI is one of the best turn-based strategy games you can buy for the PC, but did you know that you can also download (and buy) it on iPad? Well, you do now, and not only is this simple fact enough on its own to make budding strategists rejoice, but we’re pleased to report that the iOS port of the game is remarkably faithful to the original PC game. This means you can build all manner of complex civilizations and guide them toward growth and success, while the tutorial system will help anyone new to the series get to grips with all of its nuances. It is fairly pricey for an iPad game, but you can play 60 turns for free to get a taste of whether it’s for you.
PUBG Mobile (free)
Sure, you could check out Call of Duty: Mobile or some other mega-franchise name, but we’re giving the attention here to PUGB. It’s arguably the most hi-octane massively multiplayer online shooting game, with the iOS version letting you take part in 100-player battle royales, four-versus-four death matches, and the surreal zombie mode, where you have to fight against hordes of the undead (or play as the undead). The iOS version also includes the full range of maps PUGB offers, with each area confronting the player with different environments to navigate and learn. Assuming you have a recent enough iPad, the game also looks highly impressive, with the Unreal 4 engine giving it the kind of sharp realism that Fortnite lacks.
Genshin Impact (free)
Here’s an open-world adventure game that proves you don’t have to own a Nintendo console to enjoy Zelda-esque gameplay. Set in the lush world of Teyvat, you’re tasked with exploring its heights and depths in search of the gods of the seven elements. You’re given an impressive amount of free reign to wander from one corner of the game world to another, and you can climb mountains, swim in water, and glide in the air. The game’s combat system is also satisfyingly deep, and you can cast a variety of spells from seven elements, bolstering your use of your faithful sword. As a bonus, you can also play with friends, or you can just sit back and bask in the game’s beauty.
League of Legends: Wild Rift (free)
You may have heard your friends talking about League of Legends, and with good reason. Billed as a mobile online battle arena (MOBA) title, the game offers an addictive balance of strategy and action. It pits teams of players against each other as they vie to capture each other’s bases, with players capable of performing a variety of actions along the way in order to weaken their opponents. You can set traps, cast spells, or fight in hand-to-hand combat, with different characters possessing different strengths and weaknesses. It rewards tactical thinking and forward-planning, but you can also be pretty gung-ho as well if that’s more to your taste. Unlike certain other big iPad games, League of Legends is entirely free to play.
If you can’t get enough of action-adventure RPGs, then Oceanhorn is another great example of the genre to try. In true RPG fashion, it sets you off in search of something — in this case, your father — who hasn’t returned after journeying to find the mythical Oceanhorn. It’s fairly similar to the Zelda series in that the gameplay offers a balanced mix of puzzles and combat, while the sailing element recalls The Wind Waker. Most importantly of all, the world you inhabit is invitingly rich and colorful, meaning that exploring its nooks and crannies is always a joy. If you finish it and want more, you can also turn to the similarly excellent Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm.
Among Us! (free)
Among Us! is a unique online multiplayer that plays almost like a very good board game. Its premise is that you’re on-board a spaceship preparing for takeoff, yet one of your fellow players is actually an alien imposter that’s trying to sabotage your plans and ultimately kill you all. The game unfolds with players completing a variety of tasks in order to prep their ship while also taking steps to discover who the imposter may be and vote it off the spacecraft. At the same time, the imposter needs to disguise its own moves while also surreptitiously hindering progress. The formula is fairly straightforward, but that’s precisely why it’s such an engrossing game. For four to 10 players.
Asphalt 9: Legends (free)
An iPad may not seem like the most natural home for an arcade-style racing game, yet Asphalt 9: Legends works exceedingly well on Apple’s tablet. It brings in a new TouchDrive control scheme that simplifies steering for you so that you can focus on the more exhilarating aspects of racing, while it also lets you customize on-screen buttons in case you want to drive the old-fashioned way. Beyond its accessible control system, the game offers over 80 tracks in real-world locations and a selection of some of the most desirable cars on the planet, from such manufacturers as Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Bugatti. It can be played in a variety of multiplayer modes, or you can enjoy the single-player Career mode, which spans more than 800 races across 60 seasons.
Samorost 3 ($5)
Here’s a point-and-click game with a difference. You play as a space gnome who has, for some inexplicable reason, happened to chance upon a magic flute. You then set off on a journey across nine alien worlds in order to discover the origins of this instrument, while along the way, you encounter a variety of puzzles, challenges, and colorful creatures. The game has a very whimsical sense of humor that will appeal to many, and while the lack of hints can make some of the puzzles a little head-scratching, the game’s art, sound, and overall aesthetic make the whole experience more than rewarding.
Ministry of Broadcast (free/$7)
We’re practically living in a dystopia these days, so what better game to commemorate our predicament than Ministry of Broadcast? It’s a puzzle-focused platformer in the mold of Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus or Flashback, where you have to help your protagonist reunite with his family. What makes this more interesting than the average 2D platformer is that his quest takes place within the confines of a state-sponsored TV program, The Wall Show. If that sounds intriguing to you, you’d be right, and the game’s head-scratching puzzles lead to some interesting story twists.
If Found … ($5)
We’re living in a golden age for story-based titles that really transcend the conventions of the bog-standard “video game.” If Found… is one of these titles, with the game being an interactive visual novel in which you play out the diary of protagonist Kasio. The game is set in 1993, with Kasio returning home to Ireland from college and spending winter break with her not-always-supportive family. The twist is that a black hole is destroying the world, while your swiping of the screen irretrievably deletes passages from Kasio’s diary. It’s a very unique premise, complemented by some great artwork and a very touching storyline.
Slayaway Camp ($3)
Here’s a highly original iPad game that mixes puzzle and strategy elements while also paying tribute to B-rated horror films of yore. It features grid-based gameplay in which you play a serial killer who has to work his way around each level, killing people. (Note: This game is not for children!) Each level assumes the format of a different “videotape” that pays tribute to slasher and horror flicks in different ways. You have to plan your movement through each videotape carefully, avoiding land mines and other hazards while also avoiding the police. Yes, the game is a little perverse (in a kind of cutesy way), but it certainly isn’t shallow. It also features a suitably retro hair metal soundtrack, replete with moody synths and gut-wrenching guitar solos.
If you’re a big fan of indie games, you may have played the excellent 2010 title Limbo. Well, this is from the same development team (Playdead), and it provides yet another excellent example of how to marry puzzle-platforming with a deeply atmospheric art style. You play as a boy who is trying to navigate what seems like a post-apocalyptic world, which is full of strange — and dangerous — creatures, not to mention a large smattering of deadly dangers. There’s not much to say about it other than that since the game is minimalistic but in a very engaging and affecting way. Yes, it may be a little short, but it’s entirely gripping while it lasts.
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