Sometimes your iPhone just isn’t big enough to let you fully enjoy the best of iOS gaming. Grab your Apple fondleslab and download these games for some real fun.
As Apple moves to super-size its iPhones, the line between iPad and iPhone game has blurred. But if you’re looking for complex gameplay on a larger screen, Apple’s App Store has quite a few options.
Apple iPad games tend to fall within the $2 to $10 range, but you can find many free titles, as well as some whose price tags approach the $20 mark. Pricey for an app, but only half the price of your typical console title.
If you’re ready to game on your iPad, check out our list of 50 can’t-miss titles that will keep you entertained at home or on the road. Many play well on the iPad or the iPhone; some were even included in our best iPhone games list, too. Think we missed a game? Let us know in the comments.
Alto’s Odyssey, released in July, is the follow-up to 2015’s Alto’s Adventure. The new game continues the series’ ability to combine the mechanics of a smooth, endless runner with the breathtaking visuals of snowboarding. Travel down the mountain while completing goals, collecting coins, and earning upgrades along your journey.
2Angry Birds 2
There are more than a dozen games in the Angry Birds series, but sometimes there’s nothing better than the original. Mobile gamers lost their collective minds over Angry Birds in 2009, but 2015’s Angry Birds 2 added noticeably enhanced visuals and new gameplay mechanics to the same great casual demolition puzzles. Its heavy reliance on in-app purchases is annoying, but it’s one of the biggest and most beautiful entries in the series.
Bastion stands out among mobile RPG games for its impressive story, voiceover acting, and beautiful art design. You play a character who must venture out into a post-apocalyptic fantasy world to collect rocks that can power a mysterious device.
Blek is a simple game with intricate puzzles centered around touch-screen gestures and minimalistic art. Create patterns of movement to complete each level. It may not sound like much, but the game proved to be an excellent addition to the iPad’s stable of games.
Carcassonne may be one of the more expensive iPad games, but this digital version of the German-style board game is worth it. In this social game, you lay tiles and game pieces on a virtual board to build up a medieval landscape. The goal is to own completed developments, like cities, farms, and roads. But unlike that other property-ownership game Monopoly, Carcassonne is thought-provoking, and not too heavily reliant on luck.
Settlers of Catan sparked a revolution in board games, as the first so-called Euro-game to blaze the trail for worldwide popularity. Catan HD is quite a bargain, considering the boxed set costs nearly $50, and it’s suitable for kids and adults.
The popular turn-based 4x strategy series released a new iteration in 2016, and this time a mobile version came along with it. Control a nation of people, gather resources, fight your enemies, and build a new empire in Civilization VI.
Tower defense game Clash Royale is so popular that it’s become its own eSport. It combines elements from several different genres to make a fun multiplayer game on the go.
Try to survive in the world of Crashlands as you crash land on a planet filled with wild animals and raw material. Fight, craft, and strategize as you attempt to survive long enough for help to arrive.
Crossy Road‘s gameplay is nothing new. It’s just Frogger. Its central joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” is even older. But none of that stopped Crossy Road from being one of 2014’s breakout iOS hits. Helping a poor animal avoid busy traffic is a great premise for an endless action game. Elegant social features encourage friendly competitions for high scores without obnoxiously interrupting the single-player experience. Plus, who can resist the charm of a world and characters made entirely of colorful cubes?
11Cut the Rope
Cut the Rope is considered one of the best mobile puzzle games ever made. The goal is to cut a piece of rope tying a candy in place and maneuvering it so it ends up in a little creature’s mouth. Cut the Rope 2 is available for $1.99.
Darkset Dungeon starts out as a typical dungeon crawler, but this RPG quickly devolves into a truly nightmarish survival game. You manage a group of characters as you explore dungeons in a combination of real-time and turned-based combat. Keep an eye on each hero’s stress level, or bad things will happen.
Desert Golfing is the sports game for the fatalist in us all. In this endless expanse of brown, pixelated desert, there’s nothing but a ball and a hole. Dragging on the screen putts the ball toward the hole, and the controls provide a surprising amount of influence over the physics. But no matter how far under par you get, there’s no celebration, only another hole. This continues until the game becomes literally impossible, like life.
Device 6 explores the concept of narrative and choice by using text to take you on a surreal journey. Though Device 6 is mainly a text-based title, the game is not really a “text adventure.” Device 6 is more akin to an enhanced digital novel with puzzles. The game isn’t for everyone, but gamers who dig experimental gameplay should give it a go.
Survival games are pretty popular these days, especially ones with random environments, permanent death, and other roguelike elements. Don’t Starve stands above the rest with its deep hunting and crafting systems as well as its sad but lovely gothic hand-drawn visuals. Think of this game as something of a Tim Burton-meets-Minecraft adventure.
Fallout Shelter puts you in charge of running a vault, a colony of survivors buried beneath the Earth, safe from radiation. In practice, it’s pretty similar to the countless other mobile resource-management games. However, clever and non-exploitative uses of in-app purchases, combined with the unmistakable Fallout feel, help Fallout Shelter appeal to casual and hardcore players alike. Whether you’re a Fallout fan waiting for your next fix or a mobile gaming fan looking for a free game that respects your time and money, Fallout Shelter is the post-apocalypse you’ve been waiting for.
17Five Nights at Freddy’s
Animatronic animals are horrifying. Five Nights at Freddy’s has finally turned that terrifying truth into a video game. As you play the role of a lone security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, you’ll soon learn that the only thing worse than being stuck in a Podunk Chuck E. Cheese knock-off is being stuck there in the middle of the night as the furry robots try to kill you. There’s an entire cottage industry of teenagers screaming at this game on YouTube, but that can’t compare with checking out the nightmare for yourself.
If you like puzzles and narrative better than you like high-intensity gameplay, FRAMED is for you. You control the events of the story by rearranging panels of a comic book in order to ensure that your character gets away from their pursuers.
19FTL: Faster Than Light
FTL: Faster Than Light simulates the tension, excitement, and sheer chaos of guiding your own spacecraft. The randomly generated planetary systems always have new challenges to offer.
Gorogoa is a completely hand-drawn puzzle game with absolutely no text in the entire game. While that means is you get to look at the pretty pictures unimpeded, it also means you have to figure everything out yourself. Good luck!
Blizzard may not make a ton of games, but the games it does make always have an impact. Starcraft turned real-time strategy into a televised sport. World of Warcraft created a massively multiplayer online world that’s arguably better than the real world. Then, the Warcraft spin-off Hearthstone demonstrated that a virtual trading-card game can be arguably better than real-world card games. Even if you’ve never built a deck or played a single session of WoW, Hearthstone will draw you in with its complex but approachable card battling system and not-horrible use of in-app purchases.
In most detective games, there’s an answer for every question. The solution may be confusing, obtuse, or unsatisfying, but ultimately every mystery can be solved. The game can be finished. But life isn’t like that. Life is ambiguous and often contains riddles that can never be completely understood. What makes Her Story such a captivating crime game is that, like life, it has no real end. As you watch its hundreds of video interviews with a murder suspect, the game only stops the moment you decide to walk away.
Hidden Folks is a fun little game that borrows from Where’s Waldo to provide intricate hand-drawn scenes filled with hidden objects. Since this is an iPad game, each scene contains many interactive objects. All music and sounds in the game were produced with sounds from the developers’ mouths.
Translating existing game franchises to iOS has always been tricky. Not all games can make the leap from a console with controllers and buttons to nothing but a single touch screen. However, Hitman GO skillfully captures the essence of everyone’s favorite bald assassin, Agent 47, in a more mobile-friendly form. You’ll be shocked how much this slick series of strategy board games makes moving figures on a flat surface feel like sneakily murdering people.
25Infinity Blade II
Fighting games don’t always work well on a mobile device, but the Infinity Blade trilogy does. The gist of this swords-heavy combat game is that you battle enemies and pick up gold that you find. The sequels also come with decent storylines, so you learn about your hardened character and why he is a swordsman as you play. With great artwork, scenery, and levels, Infinity Blade II is one that all video game-loving iPad owners should download. After the disappointing Infinity Blade III, this second installment remains the peak of the series.
26Lara Croft GO
If you like the Lara Croft franchise, you’ll love what they did with this mobile game. Taking cues from Hitman GO, Lara Croft GO went a step further and added elevations to the game board. It feels just like a true Lara Croft game, with her having to climb up mountain cliffs and maneuver around chasms.
The perilous platforming challenges of Leo’s Fortune are so great they rival console classics like Rayman and Donkey Kong. Instead of running and jumping, players take on the role of a sentient pile of fuzz named Leo with the power to inflate and deflate himself on command. Looping levels force Leo to carefully control his momentum and size to solve puzzles and escape danger. If that’s not enough, Leo’s constant grandfatherly narration and the game’s overall old-world atmosphere never cease to delight.
28Minecraft – Pocket Edition
Fans of Minecraft will have no problem shelling out the money for this iPad app. Gameplay blends creativity with strategy. It’s a 3D sandbox-building game in which you place blocks made of different kinds of materials to build anything you want. And the object is to survive when monsters land on the scene. The game has three modes: survival, hardcore, and creative. The survival and hardcore modes are more game-like than creative mode, which is all about giving the player complete freedom of invention.
Monument Valley is a lot more than just that weird mobile game you saw on season three of House of Cards. It’s also a puzzle game that’s as beautiful as it is brain teasing. Players guide the tiny princess Ida as she attempts to ascend various abstract structures. The constant focus on optical illusions and M.C. Escher-inspired architecture means you’ll be staring at these puzzles for a while before cracking them. But the dreamy landscapes are so pleasing you’ll want to keep staring at them. When you crack it, move on to Monument Valley 2.
Oddmar just wants to find his way to Valhalla, but does he really want to get there by burning down the forest? This platformer takes you on a story you can truly become invested in, and the adventure will look absolutely stunning along the way.
31Old Man’s Journey
As the title promises, you take an old man through a journey, but there is so much more here. Old Man’s Journey tackles heartbreak and regret as you navigate the choices we all make in life to give the old man one last chance to set things right.
Guide a group of teenagers through a supernatural adventure on a mysterious island. Use a radio to talk to ghosts, unlock secret areas, and discover the truth. An interesting game mechanic in Oxenfree is that there are no cutscenes; all dialogue takes place during gameplay, so you can continue adventuring at all times.
This spin on a classic is like the original game but the level doesn’t end. There are cool new power-ups and enemies, but the biggest change involves the game’s namesake. Pac-Man 256 adds the infamous Level 256 glitch, meaning a deadly wall of numbers and characters will consume you if you’re not careful.
Not every game has to be “fun” to be worthwhile. Papers, Please commands you to inspect immigrants at the border of a fictional totalitarian country and determine who can enter and who cannot. It’s as soul-crushing and dehumanizing as it sounds, but it’s also an incredibly empathetic experience.
The Room series puts you in a locked door mystery—literally. Each game confines you to a single room and you must uncover clues and complete puzzles in order to get yourself out. There are four games in all.
What’s a ridiculous way to fish? How about hooking dozens of sea creatures, launching them into the sky, and blasting them all with a shotgun? It’s a pretty fun way to fish, too, if this iOS game is any proof. Like non-ridiculous fishing, there’s a lot here to master. Weaving your hook through fish takes skill, as does annihilating them in the most efficient way possible. Various upgrades add even more depth. So grab your iPad/fishing rod and take to the stylish, ridiculous, high seas in Ridiculous Fishing.
As a first-person, action-adventure video game with touch controls, Severed offers a unique level of interactive gameplay. Praise for this game centered on the stunning art direction and fantastic soundtrack. It won Apple’s 2016 iPad Game of the Year and has since been ported to several video game consoles.
In this casual puzzle game, you rotate objects in front of a light in order to reveal a shape in its shadow. The realistic renderings and impressive game mechanics put Shadowmatic in the running for one of the best of the year in 2015.
Too often, using a smartphone is an isolated experience. What makes Spaceteam so wonderful is how it turns your phone into a gateway for incredible, in-person socializing. You and your friends connect over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to become crew members on a spaceship. As the voyage continues, ship parts start to break down and only certain people can fix them. So to keep the space team together, everyone must shout wacky instructions to each other while listening for their own commands. Any game that gets grown folks to scream “Set Stunhoist to three!” is a game worth checking out.
40Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon
Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor was one of the first truly great iOS games, and 2015’s Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon is a worthy follow-up. As a spider, you’ll still be strategically weaving webs to catch and consume as many insects as possible. But now, you’ll have even more mysterious gothic environments to explore with clues to uncover and shifting weather patterns to contend with.
41Super Mario Run
Looking to get into the mobile gaming business, Nintendo launched Super Mario Run in 2016 to much success. Players take control of Mario in a side-scrolling endless runner through familiar franchise levels. Players can also go head-to-head against other players in a bid to gain the top score. Outside of the basic gameplay, you also collect coins to help rebuild and customize the Mushroom Kingdom.
42Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
From indie developers Capybara Games (which also made Might & Magic), Sword & Sworcery is an exploratory action-adventure game, made more interesting by an original audiovisual style. It’s downright dreamy. With your sword in hand, you battle enemies and call upon your sworcery skills to solve mysteries. But the real appeal is how well the three different aesthetics—music, visuals, and game design—blend.
Cloning popular games is a huge problem on the App Store. If you need a tragic example, just look at Threes! This adorable, endlessly addictive puzzle game, where players swipe multiples of threes together to earn higher scores, is arguably the greatest iPad game to date. And yet its inferior, free knock-off, 2048, got all the headlines for awhile there. This is your chance to atone. Recognize true greatness. Play Threes!
TouchTone is a game about a government agent hacking innocent phones to spy on suspicious people. Given our current security climate, it’s less of a game and more like an interactive documentary. TouchTone’s devious data puzzles eventually become so difficult you’ll feel like an actual black hat after solving them. The thick conspiracy atmosphere and intriguing emergent narrative add to the game’s contemporary relevance.
Transistor was one of the finest console games of 2014. While the game doesn’t control quite as well on the iPad’s touch screen, it’s still a gorgeous, intelligent, and mechanically sophisticated sci-fi action-RPG. Don’t let the premium price scare you away, and if you missed it the last time around, don’t make the same mistake again.
MOBAs, or “Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas,” are some of the biggest, most profitable games around. Just look up how much money a professional Dota 2 or League of Legends player can earn. But even if you aren’t a hardcore competitor, the genre still has plenty of strategic fun to offer. Vainglory features familiar MOBA tropes, like colorful characters to master and intricate maps to learn, with a touch-friendly control scheme perfect for newcomers. Plus, it’s one of the most beautiful iOS games, thanks to its use of the Metal API.
The Witness follows in the footsteps of the Myst series by placing you in a mysterious location and expecting you to figure out how to escape. You’ll be looking for clue and completing puzzles, but make sure you take in the scenery when you can.
48World of Goo
2D Boy’s award-winning Wold of Goo offers a slew of environmental puzzles that demand that you drag and drop squirming globs of goo to build bridges, cannonballs, zeppelins, and other odd structures to complete your mission. You’ll acquire goo with new abilities as you progress, which will help you solve the ever-increasing challenges.
49XCOM: Enemy Within
XCOM: Enemy Unknown rebooted the classic strategy game franchise and wound up being one of the finest games of 2013. Since methodically paced tactical games are a perfect fit on iOS, the iPad version of Enemy Unknown was fantastic as well. XCOM: Enemy Within takes all that was great in Enemy Unknown and enriches it with new features like extra side missions and enemy types. It’s the best version of an already-phenomenal game and definitely worth picking up if you’re a hardcore iPad gamer.
In Year Walk, you take the role of a young Swedish man who wants to see the future. To do so, you must walk from your home at the stroke of midnight to the local church, encountering strange creatures and visions along the way. The game is ostensibly a point-and-tap adventure puzzler, but the emphasis is on mood and atmosphere, making it feel like more of a journey than a game. We highly recommend this one.
$1.99 Tiger Style’s Walking Mars puts you in the role of a scientist who is separated from the rest of his Mars exploration crew after a cave-in. Your survival demands that you navigate the red planet’s harsh environments, discover ancient ruins, and interact with alien lifeforms to cultivate the ecosystem.
Road Blaster HD
$4.99 Remember Dragon’s Lair, the early ’80s laserdisc game featuring insane Don Bluth animation? One of its sons is Road Blaster, Data East’s take on the interactive animated game. Featuring artwork by Toei Animation—the Japanese studio behind Captain Harlock, Fist of the North Star, Voltron, and other classics—Road Blaster puts you behind the wheel of a high-powered vehicle as you pursue thugs by tapping the screen at specific moments to ram car, dodge pedestrians, and more.
League of Evil 2
$1.99 Don’t let the extremely cute, 2D graphics lull you into thinking that Ravenous Games’ retro-styled platformer is a cake walk. Uh-uh. Like the 8- and 16-bit games it’s modeled after, League of Evil 2 features tough as nails gameplay that’s littered with spike pits and one-hit kills. If you weren’t weaned on old school difficulty, tread very lightly.
Metal Slug 3
$6.99 SNK Playmore’s classic run-and-gun shooter brings over-the-top gun blasting to Apple’s Slate. The $6.99 title has some control issues—it was original designed for the powerhouse Neo Geo upright, after all—but if you can look past them, you’ll find an excellent action title with lots firepower, tanks, rocketpacks, enemy soldiers, Yetis, and zombies to keep you busy.
$9.99 At $10, Carcassonne is one of the more expensive iPad games, but many players will be glad to spend the money on this digital version of a German-style board game. In this social game, you lay tiles and game pieces on a virtual board to build up a medieval landscape. The goal is to own completed developments, like cities, farms, and roads. But unlike that other property-ownership game, Monopoly, Carcassonne is thought-provoking, and not too heavily reliant on luck.
Cut The Rope HD
$1.99 Cut the Rope is an addictive casual, physics-based game where players solve dynamic puzzles that sometimes feel more like obstacle courses. It’s a family-friendly game, the kind you definitely want to have preloaded on your phone if you have boisterous kids who miraculously become quiet when engrossed in a good challenge.
World of Goo HD
$4.99 2D Boy’s award winning title offers a slew of environmental puzzles that demand that you drag and drop squirming globs of goo to build bridges, cannonballs, zeppelins, and other odd structures to complete your mission. You’ll acquire goo with new abilities as you progress, which will help you solve the ever-increasing challenges.
Free The Pinball Arcade specializes in delivering stunning recreations of classic tables, but Zen Pinball serves up original tables that are often based on licensed properties. The free download includes a single table, but in-app purchases (priced under $2 each) open the door to Captain America, Fantastic Four, Thor, Wolverine, and other Marvel Comics-based machines that feature realistic ball physics.
Free Remember Simon the addicting electronics game that hooked a generation of kids on replicating patterns of flashing light? It’s back, but this time in digital form. This free iPad game features four difficulty levels (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane), and Game Center compatibility for checking out high scores.
$14.99 Yes, fifteen bucks is a pretty hefty price tag for an iPad game, but this is Soul Calibur, one of the titles that sold the world on 3D fighting (and the Sega Dreamcast). Fast, flashy, and featuring hard-hitting action, Soul Calibur is translates well to a touch screen, but stick users may find the virtual controls lacking.
$4.99 Neuroshima Hex is a tactical war game that sees up to four players (a mix of human and CPU) battle it out in a war-ravaged world dominated by machines, mutants, rebels, and gangs. The app features asynchronous multiplayer combat, six armies with different war capabilities, and three difficulty levels. There aren’t many hex-based strategy games in the App Store, so it’s good to see one that’s worth the price of admission.
Puerto Rico HD
$7.99 The highly-praised European-style board game makes the transition to the iPad, and it’s an excellent spin on the classic game. Puerto Rico HD sees players attempting to become one of the island’s governors during the days of colonial Spain. You prospect for gold, plant crops, and build up your economy in a quest for island domination.
$2.99 Blazing Star, the thrilling, highly-regarded Neo Geo shmup, comes to iOS with numerous extras not featured in the original game. These include Mission Mode (in which you can select the stage order), co-op play over Bluetooth, and Game Center compatibility to post high scores.
If the idea of tapping a button in time with music isn’t to your liking after Guitar Hero and Rock Band flooded the market with plastic instruments and incremental upgrades, check out Groove Coaster. This music game—featuring a range of trippy J-Pop and house tracks—features beautifully retro vector graphics, and RPG-elements that let you level up as you proceed.
$10.99 Dariusburst, based on Taito’s 2009 PSP horizontal shooter, comes to Apple’s slate losing very little in transition. In fact, there are special mobile features that you won’t find in the PlayStation Portable version: an additional ship, new music, and fresh enemy attack patterns.
Crimson Steam Pirates
Free Crimson Steam Pirates blends steampunk and pirate motifs into a strategy game involving battles and plundering that take place above, below, and on the high seas. You navigate toward goals by tracing routes with your finger, while avoiding obstacles and destroying opposing vessels.
$0.99 FarSight Studios’ Pinball Arcade is an addictive game that exquisitely recreates the look and to a certain extent, feel, of classic, trademarked pinball tables. The thoughtful detail in each leader board is really impressive. Connect online to play in tournaments or go head-to-head with your friends.
Organ Trail: Director’s Cut
$4.99 Read the title again—Organ Trail isn’t quite the retro PC adventure game that you remember from your Apple II days. This quirky spin on that classic title retains the 8-bit visuals, dysentery, and grand sense of westward adventure, but adds flesh-eating zombies. The times have changed.
$4.99 Settlers of Catan sparked a revolution in board games, as the first so-called Euro-game to blaze the trail for world-wide popularity. Catan HD, at $4.99, is quite a bargain, considering that the boxed set costs $42. Catan HD is a highly recommended game that’s suitable for kids and adults.
The Walking Dead: The Game
$4.99 Telltale Games’ zombie apocalypse-based video game makes the jump from consoles and PCs to the iPad. Despite the change of venue, the adventure still serves up the same thrills and gut-wrenching choices. Fans of strong storytelling and blood-drenched maws, this is the game for you.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies
$6.99 The mobile version of the hit Call of Duty game mode features 50 “Dead-Ops Arcade” levels, a zombie- slaying gauntlet challenge. Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies also supports solo and multiplayer action (up to four players), and a feature rarely seen in iOS games—voice chat.
The Dark Knight Rises
$6.99 Gameloft’s The Dark Knight Rises, the tie-in game to Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster summer film, manages to capture the Batman feel by featuring hard-hitting combat, dark environments, and plenty of wonderful toys that you can use to combat thugs or navigate Gotham City.
Free Text-based adventure games may be the most niche game genre, but the category lives on the iPad in the form of Frotz. This free iPad game doesn’t focus on explosions or twitch gaming; instead it’s all about interactive fiction. In fact, you can download several free text adventure games, including the original Zork. If you like quality storytelling in your games, check this one out.
99 cents Celebrate 30 years of Pitfall Harry by firing up this reimagined retro title. Pitfall! takes elements from the likes of Temple Run and other free running games and as such has a new emphasis on speed. But you can still use your whip to take out classic foes such as the rattlesnake and scorpion. Note: Pitfall! You need an iPad 2 or new iPad to play.
$4.99 Namco Bandai’s classic dot- and ghost-eating title that took video games out of the basement and into the mainstream (and inspired a hideous pop song) graces the iPad with its simple, but addictive, gameplay. It’s the game that you know and love, but with new iPad-specific navigation that lets you control the little yellow guy using swipes, the virtual d-pad, or the accelerometer.
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