While Christmas is over, the onset of a new year doesn’t mean you have to stop treating yourself. After all, the nights are still long, and that means there’s always time to curl up with your phone and boot up a great game.
While gaming phones are picking up steam, there’s no better phone to buy than the iPhone if you’re a mobile gamer. With more than a million apps available on the Apple App Store, the gaming options on the iPhone are nearly limitless. But finding the best iPhone games isn’t always easy. Not every game in Apple’s massive library is worth $1 — or your time, for that matter.
Luckily for you, we’ve taken on the burden of sorting through the heaving sea of titles to bring you some of the best iPhone games. So whether you’re looking for a casual puzzler or something a bit more epic, take a look at our list of the best games you’ll find on iOS.
Subscribers to Apple’s library of games — which we think contains enough gems to justify the price of membership — should check out our picks of the best Apple Arcade games. For more ideas, check out the best Android games, because many of them are available for the iPhone as well. And if you want to switch off that screen, the best board games could offer a welcome alternative.
Civilization VI ($10)
$10 is a lot for an iOS game, but getting the chance to play a Civilization game on mobile is something well worth paying for. It plays much like Civilization VI on a PC, with only a few changes made to accommodate touchscreen controls. If you’re unfamiliar with the legendary franchise, the premise is simple — play as one of a number of civilizations, and lead them to victory, becoming dominant through scientific brilliance, cultural glory, or just good old military might. The first 60 turns are free-to-play, and you only have to pay if you enjoy what you’re playing.
Hotel Empire Tycoon
We always have time for another idler game, not least because you don’t need to do much to advance them along. Hotel Empire Tycoon is, as the name suggests, a game about managing your own hotel chain. Build up your hotel, adding exquisite furniture, and hiring lifeguards for your pool, making your guests happy by fulfilling all their needs. It’s casual and easy to get to grips with, but there’s plenty to keep you entertained and building your hotel well into the early hours.
Love hockey? Well, this isn’t exactly a faithful representation of your sport — but it is a lot of fun. The only rule is to score and to do that you have to take down your opponent by any means necessary. It’s a fast-paced game with A.I. that adapts to your gameplay, with 15 cups to win. There’s an online leaderboard for competition, in-game power-ups, and five factions to take to the ice with.
The Elder Scrolls: Blades
It’s no Skyrim, but if you want an Elder Scrolls experience on mobile, The Elder Scrolls: Blades is a fun use of your time. A tighter and more linear experience than the major entries in the game series, Blades is nevertheless a lot of fun if you’re looking for a dungeon crawler that looks amazing. Some of the fun is blunted by some aggressive microtransactions and waiting for chests to open, but if you can live with that, the gorgeous visuals, world design, and combat are worth your time.
A twist on the usual drawing game formula, Draw It challenges you to draw as many objects as possible within an allotted time. Draw fast to beat the competition and you’ll win coins and unlock new word packs. It’s simple but entertaining — and there’s an optional subscription if you really end up deep within Draw It‘s community. Subscribe and you’ll get VIP word packs, free coins every day, and the ability to remove the ads from your game. However, that subscription is extremely expensive at $15 a month.
It’s a simple idea, but an engaging one. Tap to hook onto points in order to avoid obstacles and make your way to the end of the course. The game obviously pulls heavily from Spider-man’s web-slinging abilities, but that doesn’t detract from the fun. Later levels increase the speed you swing and speed along, ramping up the difficulty and keeping you interested. Playing unlocks new characters to swing with, including a lemon and a cheeseburger. It’s worth a quick download if you have a few minutes to spare.
What’s better than Minecraft on your phone? Minecraft in real life, of course. The gaming monolith has expanded into augmented reality with Minecraft Earth, giving you the ability to play your favorite block-builder in AR. Tabletop mode allows you to build and plan your amazing creations, and then blow them up to real-world size to view and explore. Others can take part too, helping you to build something truly amazing, while unique new mobs like the muddy pig and moobloom come to pay you a visit. A real treat for Minecraft fans.
Sky: Children of the Light
A new game from the creators of Journey and Flower, Sky: Children of the Light is a social adventure with more than a few heart-warming elements. As a Child of the Light, you must travel through a kingdom of Sky to return fallen stars to their constellations. Along the way, you’ll explore seven beautiful realms and encounter a number of other players on their journeys, who you can team up with to adventure into more challenging areas. A beautiful soundtrack brings it all together, and it’s so good, Apple named it the iOS game of 2019. It’s free to play, but you can pay for new outfits, adventures, and more.
Candy Crush Saga
If you don’t know what Candy Crush is, well, you’ve led something of a charmed life. King’s franchise is a mobile gaming legend, having dominated most-played lists for years now, and Candy Crush Saga is the latest and greatest of the massive franchise. A big part of the reason why is because it’s simply a really fun game to play. While the later stages can start to ratchet up the difficulty in order to wring money for extra lives out of you, if you resist the urge to splurge, there’s still good gameplay to be had here. It’s a fantastic game to play whenever you have a spare moment.
Aion: Legions of War
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games aren’t restricted to PCs and consoles anymore. Aion: Legions of War is proof that a mobile MMORPG can be expansive, fun, and oh-so playable. Choose from a variety of heroes with a huge selection of weapons and skills to take down other players and NPCs as you journey across the war-torn Aion universe. There’s even a mobile-exclusive original story to rampage through. It’s free to play, but you can buy gems and bundles for real money. Also, be aware that this isn’t a casual game, and there’s a lot of content to uncover here.
Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle
Halloween may have come and gone, but our appetite for spookiness hasn’t gone anywhere. While not the creepiest of games, Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is a great download for horror fans of all ilks. Playing as a number of different versions of Jason, the game is a sliding puzzle that seems simple, but can get devilishly devious later on. Cartoonish violence calls back to the original gory films, but you can tone it down if you’re not a fan. It’s a fun little diversion — just don’t play it at any remote campsites.
Compared by some to the smash-hit Stranger Things, Oxenfree is a supernatural adventure about a group of teenagers who accidentally open a ghostly rift. Based on 1980s teenage horror flicks and using a synth-pop soundtrack to its best, Oxenfree is the game to download if you’ve finished Stranger Things and can’t get enough of that 80s vibe. The key aspect here is choice — every one you make will change the way the game’s narrative plays, altering the course of your friends’ lives. The opening is free to play and, if you want to continue, you can buy the whole game for $5 after that.
Mario Kart Tour
Nintendo has done a fairly good job translating some of its biggest properties to mobile, and Mario Kart Tour is the latest to hit little screens. It got off to a flying start, breaking the download records set by Pokémon Go — and with its simple gameplay and repertoire of charming characters, it’s not hard to see why. It’s free to start, but contains premium elements, and the fastest level of races is only available through the Gold Pass, which costs $5 per month. You also need to unlock new characters as you go, which could be a disappointment for fans of certain characters. Still, it’s fun, simple, and worth your time to give it a shot.
Rebel Inc. ($2)
From the folks who made Plague Inc., Rebel Inc. puts you in the shoes of a government official tasked with stabilizing an area of a country following a turbulent war. To stabilize the areas you’ve been sent to pacify, you’ll have to win over citizens with improved public services and initiatives, all while dealing with the subversive insurgents seeking to take over. You’ll need to balance using your own troops and foreign coalition troops, but be warned, spending too much money can lead to a rise in corruption that’ll bring your attempt down from within. An absorbing little game, and well worth the two bucks.
Anyone for golf? WGT Golf does exactly what it sets out to do: Provide a solid golf experience for anyone looking to get some swings in on their mobile device. It’s strong in simulation quality, including full 18-stroke play, a variety of club types, and even offers the chance to play on over a dozen of golf’s most well-known championship courses, including Pebble Beach, Celtic Manor, and Pinehurst. You can even join a Country Club and enter private tournaments. Go ahead and tee up.
It’s been a while since we’ve had Hearthstone on this list, but it’s been reintroduced for a very good reason. That reason is content. Hearthstone has done extremely well for itself, and Blizzard has rewarded the fanatical community with consistent updates. Most recently, Blizzard has launched new modes and new cards, keeping the game consistently updated and feeling fresh. There’s full interplay with the PC and Android versions of the game, so there’s no shortage of players. If you love a good collectible card game, Hearthstone is a winner.
Dead Cells ($9)
Dark Souls isn’t available on mobile, but Dead Cells is, and that should be good enough for most. “Kill, die, learn, repeat” is the Dead Cells motto, and it comes alive in its frantic 2D combat where you need to learn enemy patterns to survive. Progression is non-linear, so you can pick a new path depending on your current mood or build, and while your character permanently dies after every run, the castle changes too, so you’re never treading old ground again. It’s expensive, but spend a little time in its luridly-colored world and we think you’ll say it’s worth it.
We might not have Pokémon Sword & Shield on mobile, but Pokémon Masters comes closer than ever to giving us a true catch ’em all experience. Dropped onto the island of Pasio, you need to assemble a team of three Pokémon to face off against famous Trainers from around the Pokémon world, all while exploring and building your very own team of friends. It even has co-op gameplay so you can team up with friends from around the world to face challenges together — and what is Pokémon, if not about friends?
Stranger Things 3: The Game ($5)
Stranger Things is the 80s-flavored horror tribute we never knew we needed, and we can’t get enough. If you can get enough either, you can get your Stranger Things fix while on your mobile with the official puzzle game tie-in Stranger Things 3: The Game. Play as one of the 12 characters from the show and solve puzzles in a charming, retro-styled world in this adventure game, and team up with your friends in two-player local co-op.
Grow Empire: Rome
Mobile is the traditional home of the tower defense genre, and it’s here you’re likely to see the genre grow in Grow Empire: Rome. The game takes tower defense and blends it with role-playing elements to create a sprawling experience where you take charge of the Roman legions and seek to spread the glory of Rome across classical Europe. With thousands of upgrades and four enemy factions to defeat, it’s time to dust off your laurel wreath.
Hyper Light Drifter ($5)
Winner of multiple awards as a console game, Hyper Light Drifter has brought its intense slash-em-up gameplay to iOS. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, you play a Drifter, a collector of forgotten and arcane knowledge in a savage land. Afflicted by a mysterious illness, you journey in search of a cure, slashing and shooting as you go. The pixelized visuals are gorgeous, and the game’s style has to be seen to be believed. Though the touchscreen controls aren’t as precise as they would be with a controller, this is still a fantastic game.
SongPop 2 — Guess the Song
Who doesn’t like having their musical knowledge tested from time to time? SongPop 2 is a simple game, but a compulsive one. Choose your favorite musical genres and decades to compete with other music lovers on a global scale. The game is simple: You hear a snippet of a song and you’re given four options to choose from. Your job is to guess correctly, as quickly as possible. Sounds easy? Other players can challenge you with their own preferred playlists to make it a tad harder, but it’s still fun, and it’s a great way to find new music. There’s a free version supported by ads, or you can upgrade to VIP status for $5 a month, which strips out ads and gives you a bunch more benefits.
Intuitive and varied gameplay, an incredible soundtrack, gorgeous visuals, and everyone’s favorite sultry-smooth and adaptive narrator, Bastion is a strong entry on this list and another award-winning action RPG that’s well worth your time and money. Set in a world broken by “The Calamity,” your role as the Kid is to journey through the various floating islands, rescuing survivors and gathering resources to help rebuild your world. There’s a slew of upgradable weapons and abilities to collect, and listening to the soundtrack and narrator never gets old. Hearing “the Kid just rages for a while” while destroying boxes has to be one of our favorite and most unexpected moments in recent gaming. You can start playing Bastion for free, and pay for it once you’re sold on the experience.
Crush the Castle: Siege Master
Crush the Castle is one of the most notable classic Flash games around, and now there’s an updated version for iOS. Crush the Castle: Siege Master is essentially the same game as its predecessor — throw rocks at castles from your trebuchet — but with upgraded graphics, some fun bad guys, and the ability to change your projectiles for fun. Sure, it’s a simple game, but there’s something about lobbing 90-kilogram rocks 300 meters (as trebuchets are known to do) that’s very fun and very compulsive. It’s the perfect chill-out game, and best of all, it’s free.
Set in a world where all our forgotten objects dwell, Forgotton Anne puts you in the shoes of Anne, an enforcer tasked with keeping order in the Forgotten Lands, who is brought into a harrowing conflict between an impassioned ruler and the ruthless rebellion. A cinematic tale with platforming and light puzzle elements, Forgotton Anne has been lauded for its beautiful art style and heartfelt storyline. Be warned it won’t work on devices older than the iPhone 6S and the iPad Air 2 though.
In the Dream Daddy dating game, your goal — as a dad in a new neighborhood — is to meet and romance various other hot single dads. Who you will end up with is all down to you, and you can pick from a variety of dads, including Goth Dad, Bad Dad, Teacher Dad, and more. There are loads of paths to follow and multiple endings to experience — though through it all, you’ll have your daughter by your side.
Minit might not be much to look at, but there’s more to this retro-style adventure game than immediately meets the eye — you’ve only got sixty seconds at a time to make progress before the next day begins. During that minute, you must make new friends, complete quests, and find new tools to help you undo the curse that confines you to your daily time limit. It’s extremely easy to pick up, but we’re willing to say it won’t be as easy to put down again.
Love Final Fantasy and other JRPGs and wish you had a version you could take with you? That’s where Another Eden comes in. It promises to take you beyond time and space on a journey that’s oh-so JRPG in tone. Certainly one for the genre fans out there, it’s also worth downloading if you’re curious about the genre and want to give it a try. With an epic story and a huge soundtrack, Another Eden hits all the right notes, and with new content being added all the time, it’s worth a go.
Toy Story Drop!
Who doesn’t love a fun match-3 game? Toy Story Drop! is exactly what you’d expect from another match-3 game, but with a Toy Story aesthetic. You’ll travel to familiar locations, including Andy’s bedroom and Pizza Planet, and encounter various toys that help you to solve the puzzles. There are also a bunch of Easter eggs to discover and Playset pieces to collect. While it won’t do anything for anyone sick of match-3 games, this is a fun distraction if you still enjoy matching puzzle pieces on a board. “You’ve got a friend in match-3” indeed. If you’ve just got back from watching Toy Story 4 and are hungry for more, spend a few hours with this game while playing the original film in the background.
All hail El Presidente! A PC gaming staple, Tropico puts you in the shoes of a freshly elected leader of an undeveloped Caribbean island. From there, it’s down to you to take your island in any direction you see fit, whether that’s an industrial paradise, a bustling tourist trap, or a police state ruled with an iron fist. No matter which way you take your island, you’ll need to balance the attention and opinions of exterior powers, as well as those of your own people. At $12, it’s certainly expensive for an iOS game, but it’s pay once and play forever, so you won’t find additional paywalls blocking your path after you’ve paid.
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