As the world gets cold again, there’s little reason to venture out into the frigid darkness except for the occasional wander. So why not while time away with a good game on your iPhone? After all, a new console is expensive, and your phone is right there, just waiting for you.
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 iPhone apps available in 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 your iOS device.
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.
Legends of Runeterra
It seems like every game has to have a trading card game spin-off these days — but while they’re as good as Legends of Runeterra, we’re not going to complain. Set in the world of League of Legends, Legends of Runeterra has you collect classic LoL champions and new characters alike, as you battle other players. Unlike other collectible card games, there’s a heavy emphasis on dynamic gameplay that has you counter your opponent’s play with your own, so you’re not just sitting back and watching as someone else takes their turn. Like most other games in the genre, you can pay to increase your collection, or earn cards as you play.
The endless runner is one of iOS’s oldest genres, and Subway Surfers is the best way to experience (or re-experience) the most casual and fun of genres. The premise is simple — run along the subway, jump between cars, collect coins, and avoid falling off. The latest update added Seattle to the game, along with a cool new character, Andy. It’s simple, but it’s still a lot of fun.
You need a special skill set to become a tattoo artist, but not so in Ink Inc. Fill in your customer’s desired tattoos and grow your business, with hundreds of potential stencils to tattoo onto waiting skin. It’s certainly a chill game at heart — each tattoo has been stenciled in, and your job is simply to color between the lines and make sure you don’t mess it up. So really, it’s a paint-by-numbers simulator, but if you’re fine with that, then you’ll love this.
It’s the unexpected hit of 2020 that’s taken the world by storm and introduced the “gacha” genre to a wide audience. Essentially an open-world, free-exploration action game in the same vein as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Genshin Impact adds a large roster of unlockable characters, a wide range of magical powers, and a more populous world. Climb, fight, and glide your way across the massive map as you plunge into the game’s deep RPG elements and further the engaging story. This is no Breath of the Wild copy, Genshin Impact deserves to thought of as a legitimately great game in its own right, and you can play it from your iPhone.
Rome: Total War ($10)
One of the biggest PC games of all time and the engine behind a popular British TV show, it seems crazy that Rome: Total War is available to play on your iPhone — but it is. It’s not the same game that you might remember, of course, and the UI and controls have been adapted to allow it to work properly on a smaller screen, and while that may fill you with some trepidation, don’t let it. While there’s a small learning curve to get over, it’s fast and easy to use once you get used to it. Play as any one of many different civilizations at the time of Rome’s ascendancy, and lead them to greatness. Will you follow in Rome’s footsteps, or substantially change history? It costs $10, but if you love strategy games, it’s well worth the investment.
Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
If you spent countless hours locked into The Witcher 3, then it’s likely you also sunk far longer than you should have into the addictive Gwent side game. Well, Gwent is now available as a standalone game for your iPhone. Collect your favorite Witcher heroes, and battle with the computer, or other players. The base game is free to download, but you will have to pay if you want to buy additional card packs.
Every few months, we get a game of the moment that sets the internet alight. Among Us! is firmly on that list of games. The simple game based on the well-loved Werewolf/Mafia format has become a cultural icon, and it’s easy to see why. The game sees between four and 10 players on a spaceship, working together to keep it running in the vacuum of space. But not everyone is as they seem, and a certain number of those players are actually Imposters, placed there to sabotage the ship and kill as many players as you can. With no-one able to know who to trust, can you figure out who the imposter is, and can you trust your friend when they say they saw that person sabotaging the ship, or are they lying to you … ? Intrigue at its finest, Among Us! features crossplay between Android, iOS, and PC, and you can play on the internet or locally.
Bullet Echo is a player-versus-player tactical shooter where you play in the dark. All you have to see is your trusty flashlight, attached to the front of your gun, and your job is to sneak around the arena, taking out opposing team members. Your sight may be limited by the flashlight’s beam, but your hearing is not — your enemies will give themselves away with footsteps and gunshots, so make sure to use all the tools at your disposal to find them. You can play with friends or drop into a game, and there are a range of heroes with unique abilities to unlock.
Ministry of Broadcast
A game in the vein of classic adventures such as Prince of Persia and Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, Ministry of Broadcast drops you into the shoes of a man who has been separated from his family by The Wall. In order to get back to his family, he agrees to take on The Wall Show, a state-sponsored TV show where the contestants compete for freedom. But is this promise what it seems on paper? Jump, climb, and swing through various levels and precarious puzzles with our protagonist to find out the truth.
EVE Online is one of the world’s biggest and most engaging MMOs, and now you can finally play a similar game on your smartphone. EVE Echoes brings a lot of what made the PC MMORPG amazing — the open-ended player interactions, skill trees, and the enormous amount of risk — and transplants it into your iPhone. Start your EVE career however you fancy, whether that be by mining, trading, or hunting pirates, and work your way up, banding together with other players into Corporations and galaxy-influencing Alliances. Take part in massive PVP fleet wars, and leave your mark on New Eden’s history. EVE Echoes takes place in a completely separate parallel universe from the main EVE Online game, so you don’t need to worry about bumping into PC players who have had years to build up their powerbase.
The Sims Mobile
This one is fairly self-explanatory — it’s The Sims and it’s on mobile. If you’re a fan of the long-running life simulator, then it’s likely you’ve already dived into this game and played the heck out of all its levels. For everyone else, The Sims Mobile is a chilled out and fun mobile game that you can sink time into without worrying too much about needing split-second reflexes. It’s free to play, but keep in mind it has a number of microtransactions available in the in-game store.
According to its description, Brawlhalla is a “platform fighting game,” which isn’t much of a description at all, if we’re honest. What it is, as far as we’re concerned, is a pretty strong Smash Bros. clone. Select a character, and take on up to seven other player-controlled characters in a 2D-style brawl where the objective is to be the last to be kicked off the stage. It’s an awful lot of fun, and not as intimidating as it initially seems.
The Formula One World Championship is one of the biggest racing syndicates around, and while you may never get the chance to get behind the wheel of one of these powerful machines, F1 Manager allows you to manage your very own team. Create a pit stop strategy, decide whether to go all out or sneak the lead on the final lap, and recruit and level-up real-life F1 drivers. It looks great and plays excellently — though keep in mind it has some items for sale, so lock down your account if you’re handing control over to a child.
If you don’t know what Minecraft is, well, you’re about to have a very good time. Minecraft is, without a doubt, one of the biggest games of the last decade. Essentially kickstarting the survival genre’s mass popularity, Minecraft drops you into a box-based world and tells you to survive and build. From modest beginnings of creating your first pickaxe and punching trees, you’ll soon be building yourself a house, starting a farm, and even adventuring into creepy other dimensions. Just watch out for Creepers — you’ll know when you find one.
Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom
While his games may not have made the lasting impression of long-time rival Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog is still a hot topic, thanks in large part to his recent film adaptation. Sonic Dash 2: Sonic Boom is an endless runner in the vein of games like Temple Run, and it’s really the most natural fit for everyone’s favorite hedgehog. You’ll play as Sonic characters from the recent popular Sonic Boom TV show, including Sonic, Tails, Amy, Shadow, and more.
Crying Suns ($9)
Explore a fallen empire as the commander of a fleet of spaceships, discovering the mysterious reasons behind the fall of the empire and taking part in tense battles between battleships. Coined as a blending of rogue-lite FTL and science fiction classics like Foundation and Dune, Crying Suns spares no expense with its vast world-building, offering more than 300 possible story events and six chapters of drama. It’s a rogue-lite, so expect to die often and quickly — but every mission takes you farther into the procedurally generated universe, and reveals more of the mystery at hand.
Our British and Irish history is a little hazy, but we didn’t remember much tennis. Regardless of historical accuracy, it turns out fantasy tennis is a lot of fun, and it means QuestBall thrives. Play as up to eight characters (including Boudica) with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses, and a variety of power-ups and special shots to exploit in your battles with royalty, outlaws, giants, and gods. A fun little time-waster.
If you’re looking to relax a little, settle down with Vía‘s collection of maze puzzles. It may seem like a simple premise to go from A to B, but hurdles will jump in the way, forcing you to think carefully about the choices you make while playing. It’s difficult enough to be challenging, but not too tough to put you off — and it’s oh-so addictive as well. The first 30 paths are free to play, but you’ll need to purchase the full game for access to all 10 journeys. However, it’s well worth your dollar.
War Tortoise 2
War Tortoise 2 is something of a genre defier. It styles itself as an idle shooter, but that’s not entirely correct. Loaded up on your War Tortoise, you shoot down bad guys that approach, gaining money and buying followers as you defeat them. Miniature army in tow, you trek off at a slow plod to the next area, fending off attacks as you go. It’s simple to control — just drag your finger to move your gunsights, and your pilot will shoot automatically. Upgrade your tortoise’s weaponry and armor, add to your army and upgrade their abilities, and keep plodding on. There are a few nice graphical touches too, like droplets impacting on the screen during the rain. A fun little time-waster.
If Found … ($5)
Another game from those who like stories to really make them feel things, If Found …‘s story centers around the diary of protagonist Kasio. It tells the story of her return to the west of Ireland, her conflict with friends and family, and the challenges she comes across — but it all leads up to one fateful night, where a black hole is set to destroy the world. Can Kasio stop the black hole from eradicating everything she holds dear? Stunning hand-drawn art and some storytelling that’s truly emotional means this game is an excellent way to spend a quiet evening.
Snipers Vs Thieves: Zombies!
From the makers of Snipers Vs Thieves, this sequel takes the simple formula from the last game and adds — you guessed it, zombies. But this time, zombies aren’t hungry for brains, they’re hungry for money. Whatever, the story isn’t the reason you’ll be playing this. Protect your cash from hordes of zombies by taking them out with perfectly placed shots, and use the cash you earn to upgrade your trusty weapon. The controls are simple — just drag the crosshair over a zombie and hold it there until your shot meter fills up. There are in-app purchases, as you might expect, but it’s fun enough that you’ll be able to play without paying.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
The latest Animal Crossing game has set the internet on fire, but you don’t need to own the Nintendo Switch game to get in on the magic. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is an excellent way to get your Animal Crossing fix right from your pocket. Set up your own little campsite, designing it however you like by collecting items from daily tasks and annual events. Want to set up a theme park, music festival, or an amazing glamping site? You can, and you can do it in the cutest surroundings possible. As a mobile game, there are plenty of microtransactions available, so it’s not the best game for anyone who struggles to hold back from spending too much. But if that’s not an issue, this is a great way to spend some time.
Angry Birds 2
If you don’t know what Angry Birds is, well, it’s one of the most legendary mobile franchises around. The sequel to the hit game that spawned a movie, of all things, Angry Birds 2 takes you back into the war between the birds and the egg-nabbing pigs — a war that can only be won by flinging miffed birds at piggy houses. Hey, we said they were “angry,” not “clever.” There have been a few changes to the original formula though, and you can now pick the bird you use, take on multi-stage levels, and impress the Mighty Eagle to win coins to spend in his shop. While that may sound like a lot, trust us when we say this is one of the best casual gaming experiences around.
There are classic board games, and then there’s Scrabble. Scrabble has a simple premise, a small learning curve, and a lot of depth, which probably explains why it’s lasted as long as it has. Scrabble Go now means you can enjoy the Scrabble experience from your phone. But unlike its board-based counterpart, Scrabble Go isn’t restricted to just playing with people in your immediate area, and you’ll be able to play with multiple people from around the world at the same time. Take a turn against one opponent, then open another game and take your turn there. There’s no turn timer, so there’s never any stress to get back to the game, and it’s completely free to play.
Disney Sorceror’s Arena
The turn-based battler has seen a big revival in the last few years, and Disney is the latest to create its own card-collecting version. Thankfully, it’s pretty good. If you’ve played one of these games before then you know what to expect — collect cards to unlock new Disney characters and use them to battle through a series of A.I. or human opponents to unlock more. Battles are conducted in a turn-based environment, and a lot of the strategy comes from choosing when to use each character’s special abilities. It’s compulsive, but be aware there are a lot of microtransactions.
Homicide Squad: New York Cases
Hidden object games are something of a guilty pleasure for many, and they shouldn’t be, because they’re actually a lot of fun. In this game, you take control of a pair of wisecracking detectives as they solve crimes and deliver justice in New York City. Examine murder scenes and find and gather your evidence. You have limited energy to play with, and you have to pay to recharge it — which makes it a casual game for everyone but those with deep pockets. Still, it’s a fun hidden object game if you enjoy them, and worth trying if you’re unfamiliar with the genre.
Hit the baseball as hard as you can with your bat, and see how far it flies. That’s all Baseball Boy! is, but there’s something beautifully compulsive in its extremely simple loop. Every hit earns you gold, which you can then use to upgrade your strength, ball bounciness, and other attributes. It’s dumb, but it’s an awful lot of fun, and by the time you start unlocking new cosmetic bats and balls, you won’t care how stupid it is — you’ll just care about getting to the next major milestone. A great little casual game that doesn’t push you into spending money.
Miss old racing games like Super Hang-On? Maybe Retro Highway is the game to scratch that itch. It has a nostalgia-triggering pixel-art style and challenging gameplay that emulates the feel of classic racing games, but on a modern smartphone. There is a range of challenges to complete, and scoreboards to compete with friends or with the rest of the world. You can collect over 10 types of bike and customize them with power-ups, and the races take you around the world, and even as far as a futuristic moon base. Now all you need is a killer soundtrack and you’re ready to ride.
Undead Horde ($6)
Sometimes it’s fun to be the bad guy, and it’s hard to get more vilified than the humble necromancer. Undead Horde is exactly that — an undead horde raised and commanded by you! The game is a blend of action RPG, strategy, and hack-and-slash as you raise your army and send them against the living and their leader, King Paladin Benevictor. Gather loot to upgrade yourself and your army, fight a wide range of enemies, from humans to scorpions, and reanimate them to continue building your horde.
Vertical arcade shooters are part of the fabric of gaming history, but they’re far from outdated. The old school shoot-’em-up genre can still be a real challenge, and if you crave that challenge, P.3 is an excellent way to relive the shooters of yesteryear. It emulates the look of a classic shooter, including a CRT TV overlay and attractive pixel-art graphics, and it’s just as challenging as the originals. We wish it was a bit more colorful though, and with only five stages, you may find yourself running out of game quite quickly if you’re good at it. But for the price of two arcade games, this is a pretty good deal.
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