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HomeTechThe 40 best iPhone and iPad games right now

The 40 best iPhone and iPad games right now


How we scoffed when people suggested the iPhone would one day be a leading games platform. Had they not seen how rubbish mobile phone games were? Had they not noticed the iPhone was bereft of a D-pad and buttons? The fools!

Only things didn’t turn out as expected. Enterprising developers flipped everything on its head – shortcomings regarding tactile controls became benefits in terms of using new touch and tilt capabilities. Games became increasingly immersive as you interacted directly with content, ushering in new experiences through no longer being able to rely on traditional controls. And then the iPad did it all again – only bigger!

Today’s market is mired somewhat in freemium grindy hell, but gems nonetheless abound. Our list includes the very best premium titles the iPhone and iPad have to offer, handily grouped into sections, starting with racers, ending with arcade games, and taking in everything else you can imagine on the way.

UPDATED: If you’re not using your iOS devices for playing games, you’re missing out on some of the best titles mobile has to offer

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Racing games

Best racing game for iPhone and iPad: GRID Autosport

You hear the term ‘console quality’ quite a lot with mobile games, but GRID Autosport actually is the Codemasters AAA hit shoved into your iPhone or iPad.

This means you get 100 cars, 100 circuits, and a ton of options to adjust how everything works. If you’re a beginner, keep all the driving aids on and tootle around in a Touring Car, until you get to grips with everything. A veteran? Go for the toughest difficulty and get your cockiness handed to you by losing control and driving your shiny race car into a wall.

With tons of depth, great visuals, and decent controls, there’s nothing else quite like this on iOS.

Download GRID Autosport (£9.99)

Need For Speed Most Wanted

Fortunately, Most Wanted’s gameplay isn’t nearly as grey as the tracks that you find yourself zooming along for street-racer glory. Fairhaven would be better named Greyandverydrabville, but the arcade racing you get up to is of the gloriously breezy kind found in the likes of Sega’s OutRun 2.

You find yourself hurling your car recklessly off of clifftops (having, naturally, crashed through an advertising hoarding first), drifting around bends, or smashing up the Fuzz, if they’re stupid enough to get in the way of your race-winning ambitions while partaking in high-octane thrills.

Download Need For Speed Most Wanted (£4.99)

Repulze

Beaming in from the future, Repulze recalls Wipeout with its gleaming metal tracks that fling you about like a furious rollercoaster. At first, the challenge is slight, merely pitting you against coloured gates, but eventually you find yourself boosting through futuristic worlds while trying very hard to not be blasted into so much space dust.

Like the best gravity racers, the sense of speed here is nearly overwhelming, setting this futuristic offering far apart from relatively staid racers that plonk you in a car on boring tarmac. And although the controls are twitchy, they can be fine-tuned to your liking as you wrestle with them on your way to glory.

Download Repuzle (49p)

Reckless Racing 3

The original Reckless Racing was an amusingly ramshackle affair, with rickety trucks and cars screeching around car parks and scrapyards. The sequel added depth but also too much polish, losing the series’ sense of character.

This third entry gets the balance right, enabling you to power-slide through a wide range of settings, including an airport, a charming European hilltop village and, worryingly, an abandoned and very clearly leaking nuclear plant.

The physics is a bit light, and the AI a touch aggressive, but this is as fun a top-down racer as you’ll find on mobile. It also clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously, adding a ‘gymkhana’ mode where you rack up points for ‘precision stunt driving’ in a beat-up old truck.

Download Reckless Racing 3 (£2.99)

Pigeon Wings

Imagine a blazingly fast side-on racer that marries the twitch instadeath appeal of ALONE… with the slipstreaming of MarioKart, and adds an awful lot of pigeons. That’s Pigeon Wings.

Your heroic bird is charged with saving the city from an evil person with too much money, and trains by racing other pigeons between tower blocks and through subway tunnels. Naturally, they all pilot tiny planes rather than use their own wings.

When the feathered hero is deemed ready, he’s flung headlong into an intense dogfight with an enemy craft that dwarfs his plane and spews an endless stream of bullets. With pitch-perfect tilt controls and an oddball sense of humour, Pigeon Wings will make you as happy as a lark.

Download Pigeon Wings (£1.99)

Sports games

The best sports game for iPhone and iPad: Motorsport Manager Mobile 3

Football management’s fine, but do you really want to spend your time micro-managing entitled pig-skin hoofers? How about delving into motor racing instead, watching egotistical nutcases blaze around circuits at breakneck speed? That’s more like it!

In Motorsport Manager Mobile 3, you run a team, juggling drivers, sponsors, cash, buildings, research, and kit, before heading to the track for race weekends. Despite depicting discs zipping about a top-down circuit, races are tense and exciting – unless you lose, in which case they’re of course rubbish.

Put in the hours, and you’ll gradually improve your lot, take pole positions, partake in increasingly lucrative championships, and acrue a cash pile you’ll wish you could extract from your device’s Lightning port.

Download Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 (£5.99)

Touchgrind BMX 2

We remember our BMX days, where the most daring thing most people tried was an ‘endo’ shortly before being hurled over the handlebars. Such stunts are deemed pathetic in Touchgrind BMX 2 which instead has you barrel along absurdly dangerous courses, performing all manner of stomach-flipping stunts whenever you’re flung into the air.

The two-finger controls are what make the game – instead of a traditional gamepad, you have one finger on the handlebars and another on the seat. Flicks result in stunts, which when chained get you massive points, shortly before you get all cocky and crash into a bin down an alley.

A game that doesn’t suffer fools, then, but one that’s tactile, immediate and fun, and that properly rewards perseverance and mastery.

Download Touchgrind BMX 2 (free + £9.99 IAP for all courses)

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.

Download Super Stickman Golf 3 (free)

Touchgrind Skate 2

This one takes a rather literal stance regarding controlling a sports game with your fingers. The board appears on the screen and your fingers become tiny legs, enabling you to perform gnarly and rad tricks, man! Irksome lingo aside, this is a fantastic title that’s initially demanding but hugely rewarding once mastered.

You can also upload videos of your best moves and show off to your friends, and there’s fortunately no way you can skin your knees, unless you trip over while obsessively performing ollies, powerslides and heelflips while walking down the street.

Download Touchgrind Skate 2 (free + £6.99 IAP for all courses)

Astro Golf

If you fancy some fantasy golf, but the frenetic nature of Super Stickman Golf 3 doesn’t appeal, try this out-of-this-world effort. Recalling Desert Golfing in terms of its chill-out nature, Astro Golf has you belt balls between planets, gravity enabling you to perform all kinds of fancy slingshots.

In its standard mode, there’s no risk and zero stress. Instead, you just work your way deeper into an endless number of algorithmically generated levels. If you at some point want a stiffer test, delve into Hard Mode, which challenges you to get a hole in one to progress. Even then, you’ll be able to see your previous effort’s path, so that each subsequent shot should guide you closer to that magic putt.

Download Astro Golf (free + £1.99 IAP)

Strategy and word games

The best strategy and word game for iPhone and iPad: Mini Metro

For anyone immersed in the daily hell of a commute involving an underground, the notion of designing such a system – and for that to begin as a chill-out session – might seem unlikely. But Mini Metro is captivating from the first train you unleash.

It builds slowly. You connect a few stations by drawing a line, and passengers are ferried about, alighting at the first station that matches their shape. All along, your ears are serenaded by a tinkly generative soundtrack formed by the actions taking place on-screen.

The calm doesn’t last. As time passes, new passengers and stations appear, ramping up the tension and forcing you to juggle scant resources. Eventually, you’ll be overwhelmed and your subway will close. Still, a new one’s only a tap away. Just don’t lose yourself for too many hours in this minimal interactive underground.

Download Mini Metro (£3.99)

Civilization VI

You don’t get ‘proper’ games on an iPad, apparently. Which probably comes as a shock to anyone who’s installed Civilization VI. They’re probably also a bit gobsmacked that this really is the full 4X (eXplore; eXpand; eXploit; eXterminate) PC game shoved into Apple’s tablet.

It works really nicely, too, with smartly designed controls, and the kind of depth that can feasibly have a single game last for days. (Which might be a concern to Civ obsessives, now it’s on a properly mobile device.)

There are snags – no online multiplayer, some slightly fuzzy graphics on iPad Pros, and that whopping price tag (although the game is very regularly discounted). Still, if you want ‘proper’ games, you’d best get used to paying for them.

Download Civilization VI (£54.99)

XCOM 2 Collection

If you know your games, you’ll already be familiar with XCOM 2. If not, it blasted up the joint in 2016, firmly cementing itself as one of the best strategy games ever made.

Like its predecessor, XCOM 2 finds you guiding groups of troops in turn-based skirmishes against nasty aliens, along with saving civilians and pilfering tech. It’s deep, tough and even years later hugely impressive.

Now, the entire thing’s on Apple devices by way of XCOM 2 Collection. The usual caveats of PC ports apply: you’ll grumble at it being fiddly on iPhone and it chews through battery on iPad. But this is full-fat AAA gaming – and at a price that’s a fraction of what the same content costs on Steam.

Download XCOM 2 Collection (£23.99)

Yee-haw: Infinite West

You, cowboy, have been wronged, seek revenge and… end up in a turn-based strategy. So, yes, Infinite West (free + £1.99 IAP) might stray from classic Westerns, but the Hitman GO-style shenanigans are compelling as you find optimum routes, use power-ups, end up in Boot Hill, and get to try again on all-new procedurally generated levels.

Wordsmyth

Modern word games increasingly diverge from lean-back chill-out newspaper puzzles of old, instead infusing their lexiconic challenges with timers, opponents to battle and stress. Wordsmyth wants nothing to do with all that – and instead goes for ‘Boggle meets bliss’.

Each day, you get a new puzzle that comprises a three-by-three letter grid. From that, you make as many words as you can. Can’t remember what you’ve already made? Swipe up. Stuck? Ask for clues – there are no penalties and no IAPs.

Calming visuals and audio add to the vibe, and although you might at times feel this game is so zoned out it might slip into a coma, it’s ideal for letter-game fans who want a new daily challenge that will also help them relax.

Download Wordsmyth (£2.99)

Cross words: TypeShift

Subverting newspaper crosswords, TypeShift (£free + IAP) provides columns of letters you move to make words in the central row. This tactile, smart system rewards thoughtful rather than brute-force play, not least in puzzle packs that add cryptic crossword-style clues.

Card Thief

Although it’s since departed this particular list, we at Stuff remain big fans of Hitman GO, which cleverly reimagined stealth as turn-based puzzling. Card Thief does much the same, but adds Solitaire to the mix. This means all your sneaking about involves figuring out pathways across a three-by-three grid of cards dealt on to the table.

It seems reductive and can get repetitive, but there’s plenty of nuance here. You must take care to conserve your stealth points, depleted when tackling guards, while simultaneously looting everything within reach. Escaping with your life isn’t too tricky – doing so with a bag of swag is much tougher.

Download Card Thief (£2.99)

Platform games

The best platform game for iPhone and iPad: Drop Wizard: Oddmar

The beardy Viking hero of this breezy platformer was an oafish layabout until acquiring special powers on munching a magic mushroom. Just as well, because his tribe’s vanished, and he must find out why, mostly by way of cut scenes played between levels of leaping, hacking at enemies with swords, and grabbing lots of bling.

That might all sound formulaic, but Oddmar builds on familiar platform game tropes with gorgeous cartoonish animation, lush and varied worlds, tons of secret levels, and multiple challenges per stage that boost replay value.

Even the touchscreen controls are top-notch in this mobile classic, whether you’re blazing through the forest to escape a furious screen-high troll, or riding a pig in a manner that totally wouldn’t be OK with the RSPCA.

Download Oddmar (£4.99)

FAR: Lone Sails

With its relentless rightwards march, occasional puzzles, and largely monochrome visuals, there’s a whiff of Playdead titles as you get to grips with FAR: Lone Sails. But the atmosphere here is very different – unease replaced with a feeling of freedom and curiosity as you power up a gigantic steampunk vessel and explore a desolate seabed, peppered with the remains of a lost civilisation. Keeping your craft going requires a mixture of brainpower and busywork, and there are set challenges when you chance upon monstrous contraptions that can further your quest, or find yourself having to repair your wheezing craft. But the delight here is in the journey – and the gaps in the story your imagination gleefully fills.

Download FAR: Lone Sails (£3.99)

Canned laughter: Telepaint

Another platform/puzzler, Telepaint (£2.99) is Portal meets Lemmings. It finds you helping clockwork automaton paintpots reach paintbrush pals via teleporters that splatter your gloomy surroundings with vibrant colour. Your brains will be splattered too, given the later tougher levels, and chances are you’ll never look at a can of paint in the same way again.

Drop Wizard

The jolly tunes, pixelated graphics and single-screen action here bring to mind 1980s platform games Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros. However, Drop Wizard is a thoroughly modern creation, perfectly suited to mobile. It boasts a bite-sized pick-up-and-play structure, short level sets ending with battles against ginormous bosses.

Most importantly, the controls are pitch-perfect. Instead of run/jump/fire, you can only auto-run left or right and fall down holes. On landing on a platform below, you emit a magic blast, used to stun roaming enemies. Boot them and they tumble about for a bit, potentially collecting fellow stunned foes, eventually turning into a tasty piece of collectable fruit.

This combination of controls and attack methods is a masterstroke, forcing you to strategise, and making the entire product feel chaotic, fresh and exciting.

Download Drop Wizard (£2.99)

Suzy Cube

Most platform games on iOS tend to be resolutely 2D affairs, even if some of them are eye-poppingly gorgeous (such as Oddmar, featured above). But Suzy Cube takes a very different approach. Riffing off of Super Mario 3D Land, the game regularly switches up the viewpoint, keeping it fresh, if a touch dizzying.

On iOS, this could have been a recipe for disaster, but tight controls and level design ensure only your thumbs are to blame if you fluff it when zooming down a snowy mountainside in 3D, or sprinting through a trap-filled side-on pyramid of doom like a blocky breakneck Lara Croft with bunny ears.

Download Suzy Cube (£3.99)

Ordia

A sentient eyeball emerges from the goop, into a colourful minimal world. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, yes – everything wants to kill and eat you, and possibly not in that order.

So you climb, pinging yourself between surfaces like a combination of cycloptic wingless angry gird and pinball, avoiding predators, and grabbing bling. Make your escape and there are 29 more journeys.

Ultimately, there’s little here you haven’t seen before, but Ordia is more about execution and polish than innovation. It feels perfect on the touchscreen, looks superb, and smartly keeps levels short while welding to them several challenges that reward repeat play.

Download Ordia (£3.99)

Adventure games and stories

The best adventure game for iPhone and iPad: Year Walk

Rich in Swedish folklore, Year Walk has you venture into the cold, dark woods, where strange creatures lurk and terrible events blur reality and fiction, past and present.

With an interface that resembles a creepy, twisted picture book, you must discern clues, unravelling the dark secrets of the forest. Literal horror awaits, along with one of the finest conclusions of any modern adventure title. The journey there will keep you transfixed, not least during those moments it’s scaring the pants off of you.

Download Year Walk (£3.99)

Device 6

You know you’re in for a treat as soon as Device 6 launches, unleashing a ballsy credits sequence any classic spy show would be proud to call its own. It then dumps you on a remote island with a name (Anna) and absolutely no idea of how you got there or what to do next.

You navigate the story — literally, since words form corridors you travel along — trying to make sense of what you see and hear, to complete cryptic puzzles and unravel the island’s secrets. To say more would spoil the surprises within, but suffice to say this is a modern gaming classic, and was one of 2013’s finest titles on any platform.

Download Device 6 (£3.99)

It’s a thinker: unmemory

It looks like an illustrated book, but unmemory (£5.99) soon reveals itself as something smarter as you zip back and forth between parts of an evolving story. Integrated interactive components reveal themselves as a mesh of interconnected puzzles within a mystery you seek to unravel.

Death Road to Canada

This game is like if someone had made The Walking Dead on the SNES, fashioning a home conversion lacking in gore but laced with black humour.

The randomly generated road trip has you travel from Florida to the reported safety of Canada. One moment, you’ll be scavenging for supplies with your little crew, smacking zombies with brooms, and finding a surprising amount of petrol hidden in toilets. Elsewhere, your fortunes are driven by multiple-choice narratives, and intense ‘siege’ scenes where you’re dumped in a claustrophobic space and told to survive.

The randomness can irk when one of your team loses half your supplies through having a hole in their bag, but it’s hard to remain mad at a game that lets you recruit dogs – and those dogs then out of the blue suggest making Molotov cocktails from fuel at an abandoned petrol station.

Download Death Road to Canada (£14.99)

Love you to bits

Love You to Bits is an old-school point-and-click adventure reimagined for touchscreen. Rookie space explorer Kosmo searches planets for parts of his robot girlfriend (don’t think too hard about that), regularly finding himself immersed in challenges littered with pop-culture references.

The charm offensive never lets up, from a 2D Monument Valley to a certain famous space cantina. And although the puzzles are typically quite simple and sometimes require crazy leaps of logic, the game’s ceaselessly clever nature, warmth and smarts means you’re going to love it to bits in return.

Download Love You To Bits (£3.99)

Her Story

In Her Story, your device is temporarily transformed into an ancient desktop PC. As it whirrs and clanks into life, you see a window for the L.O.G.I.C. Database, ominously pre-populated with a search term: MURDER. Hit ‘Search’ and video fragments appear, all of a woman being interviewed by police.

If you’re a remotely inquisitive sort, that’ll be it for you. Hours will be spent eking out clues from everything the woman says, and trying to unravel mysteries within mysteries. The database itself intentionally hampers you, limiting access to five videos (although listing how many were actually found). The contrivance is obviously designed to force you to delve deeper, but anyone who lived through the 1990s PC era will probably grin, remembering when software really was that user-hostile.

Download Her Story (£3.99)

Puzzle and match games

The best puzzle and match game on iPhone and iPad: There Is No Game: WD

Once upon a time, there was an annoying user – and that user was you. That’s how the programme helming There Is No Game: WD feels, initially trying to convince you that there is no game and suggesting you switch the thing off and do something else instead. Of course, you are annoying – or at least persistent and curious – and so you’ll poke around, gradually cracking TING’s devious puzzles. Before long, you’re down a rabbit-hole adventure that blazes its way through genres, bombards you with belly laugh jokes, and occasionally smashes out your brain. Do yourself a favour and play this one – but go into it as blind as possible. Don’t even watch the trailer. In fact, there is no trailer. Honest.

Download There Is No Game: WD (£4.99)

Dissembler

Each level of Dissembler begins as a tiny slice of digital abstract art – coloured squares that might in another life have found themselves on a gallery wall. But here, pairs of squares can be flipped, like in Bejeweled. As in that game, the aim is to make matches of three or more.

The twist is that in Dissembler, matched elements vanish, and nothing replaces them. You must therefore figure out the exact chain of swaps that will enable you to remove every square, rather than leaving some isolated.

Endless undos and simple early levels lull you into a false sense of security, but this game eventually becomes brain-smashingly tough. Still, you’ll feel like a genius every time you crack one of its later levels.

Download Dissembler (£2.99)

Flower power: Evergarden

Like a horticultural Threes!, Evergarden (£4.99) finds you merging flowers grown from seeds flicked on to a grid. Big points are on offer for matching animal companion Fen’s favourite patterns, and a smartly conceived narrative ensures this puzzler hits you in both the brain and the feels.

Euclidean Skies

This game’s predecessor, the sublime Euclidean Lands, wrapped Hitman GO’s turn-based stealth puzzling around a Rubik’s Cube. You twisted and turned planes to reach your foes, prior to getting all stabby. Euclidean Skies, though, enables you to break up the levels, while they get to work breaking your mind.

Now, increasingly complex 3D architecture can effectively be unravelled, so you can simultaneously prod switches and reach doors, or use a spinning rocky outcrop to obliterate unwary enemies. Like the original, it’s a tactile joy, marrying the best of dazzling visuals and deviously designed brain-smashing challenges.

Download Euclidean Skies (£2.99)

Trial and error: Bring You Home

His pet stolen, protagonist Polo falls out of a window and breaks his face. Fortunately, Bring You Home (£2.99) lets you adjust the scene to change the future. Cue: a cartoonish puzzle story where it’s fun to fail, since you then see yet another way Polo comes a cropper.

Day Repeat Day

You might have had your fill of match-three games, but Day Repeat Day tries something new, fusing familiar puzzling with a branching narrative – and sinister undertones. The game starts with you taking on a new role at the joli company, which utilises a match-three interface for packing goods. Chat to your boss, complete your tasks, and you can toil away for the rest of your virtual life.

If that was all Day Repeat Day had to offer, it’d be pleasant but unremarkable. But the built-in messaging system provides a second thread to the game, forcing you to make tough decisions with friends and relatives. Other details peppered throughout provide shrewd, satirical commentary on the work/life balance, and the denouement hits home in a manner you’d never expected from a game whose core is fundamentally a skewed take on Candy Crush.

Download Day Repeat Day (£4.99)

About Love and Hate 2

Love and Hate are two strange little creatures consumed by a desire to wallop a big red button. Unfortunately, they’re short of stature and so must leap atop each other – or utilise otherwise dormant lurking characters – to traverse the blocky landscape and reach their goal.

This style of logic test is commonplace on mobile, but About Love and Hate 2 adds a new twist by early on abruptly shifting everything into 3D. It’s one thing to figure out a multi-move sequence on a flat plain – it’s something else entirely when you’re spinning the landscape with your digits, making your head spin with all the possibilities.

With smart visuals and audio, endearing characters, and plenty of brain-smashing challenges, you’ll love this one.

Download About Love and Hate 2 (£2.99)

Shooting games

The best shooting game for iPhone and iPad: Steredenn

A retro-infused shooter with attitude, Steredenn is all raucous rock guitar soundtrack and chunky graphics. As the riffs are squealing in your ear, you pit your ship against waves of aliens, randomly hurled your way. Some are massive bosses, which when you defeat them replenish your shields. Others are nippy little buggers with giant chainsaws welded to their cockpits.

Fortunately, you can respond in kind. At any point, you can hold two weapons, which vary from huge lasers and guns that spew bullet casings to a giant saw blade and a set of jaws. Not exactly Star Trek’s boring torpedoes, then – and all the better for it.

Download Steredenn (£3.99)

Railly good: Super Crossfighter

Another blaster with old-school leanings, Super Crossfighter (£2.99) has you zip back and forth along a rail, blasting aliens that dodder about like their ancestors in Space Invaders. The twist: you can leap to the top of the screen and unsportingly shoot them from behind before they realise. Bet they weren’t expecting that!

Interloper

Fancy seeing the sights of the universe? Want to blow up lots of nasty alien scumbags while doing so? Got a strong stomach when you find yourself in a ship whirling about the heavens, making you feel as if you’re in a washing machine being attacked by elite fighter squadrons? Congratulations: you’re hired!

In Interloper, you get a full six degrees of freedom as you whirl about asteroids, dog-fighting for your life, going PEW PEW PEW like you’re a combination of Han Solo and Starbuck. It’s exhilarating stuff, with plenty of customisation options and a smart interface that adapts for landscape, portrait and different screen sizes.

Download Interloper (£5.99)

Holedown

This one should never have worked. It’s a premium take on that game where you spang a bunch of balls about, gradually depleting the numbers on bricks, until they explode and let you dig even deeper. But whereas most such games are after your wallet, Holedown merely eats away at your time.

Like its IAP-happy chums, Holedown is grindy and repetitive – but in a manner that’s compelling and hypnotic rather than annoying. This is down to its mix of polished visuals, amusing sound effects, and a smartly conceived upgrade cycle. Plus you’ll feel like a pool wizard on nailing tough shots that take down really high-numbered bricks with a dozen balls bouncing around like angry wasps.

Download Holedown (£3.99)

Backfire

In this freaky game, you’re on a mission to cleanse an ancient curse. This means your tiny green ship must survive arenas surrounded by goop that knackers you should you touch it, but from which vicious horrors emerge.

As they dart towards you, growling like dogs possessed by demons, your instinct – rightly – will be to run away. This is a good tactic, given that – for some reason – your ship only shoots out of its bottom.

This unconventional set-up wrongfoots at first, but rapidly becomes compelling. And even though the first boss will tear your face off several times before you have a chance of giving it a thorough kicking, you’ll keep coming back until you beat the game – short of it leaving you a gibbering wreck in the corner.

Download Backfire (99p)

Jydge

It’s the future, and instead of looking stern and wearing wigs, judges – or, rather, jydges, take law to the lawless, and sentence them with a bullet in the megacity of Edenbyrg. (Presumably, they long ago sentenced champions of the letter U.)

The actual gameplay is a curious mix of stealth and speedrun, with a big dollop of twin-stick blasting. So you’re dropped at missions where you blow away perps and rescue a bunch of happy hostages, aiming to do so in a manner where you don’t get killed yourself, and get out before the timer runs down.

The stealth and timer alike both ramp up the tension, and Jydge’s varied levels and scope for player configurations provide long term appeal – creep.

Download Jydge (£1.99)

Arcade games

The best arcade game for iPhone and iPad: Jumpgrid

In Jumpgrid, all you have to do is hop between nodes on a three-by-three grid, munching spinning cubes, before escaping through a teleporter. Easy. Except it isn’t. And that’s because this stripped-back mash-up of Frogger and Pac-Man has been fused to the screaming vortex of a Super Hexagon.

This means it’s fast. Shapes wheel and whirl before your eyes, like a combination of modern art and sadism, only too keen to smash your craft to oblivion. Discover the wraparound nature of the grid and you’ll feel smug for about half a second – right before Jumpgrid punches you again and again, on repeat, until you succeed.

It sounds like punishment. It’s actually brilliant.

Download Jumpgrid (£2.99)

Giant Dancing Plushies

Like something from a fever dream, Giant Dancing Plushies reimagines Hollywood monster movies by replacing toothy kaiju with giant stuffed animals strutting their stuff to a disco beat. The armed forces elect to blow the stuffing out of them, and so you must help them bop in time to the music, stomp baddies, grab bling and avoid civilians. (They’re not evil giant dancing plushies, after all — they’re just having fun.)

The swipe-based gameplay is immediate; and unless you’re as dead inside as a soft toy, the game’s guaranteed to raise a smile. There’s a smart progression tree too, where you gradually power-up your plushies (so they can take on increasingly deadly army forces), unlock new game modes, and replace the game’s soundtrack with whatever’s playing on your device.

Download Giant Dancing Plushies (£5.99)

Beat it: Beat Sneak Bandit

In Beat Sneak Bandit (£2.99), you’re the titular thief, sneaking about single-screen levels, trying to grab clocks and not get spotted. The twist: everything moves on the beat. The result is a unique, entertaining bout of clockwork madness that combines stealth, rhythm action, platforming and path-finding, all controlled by a single tapping thumb.

pureya (£3.99)

One for people with short attention spans, pureya is a two-thumb arcade test that shakes things up every ten seconds. You prod buttons to direct a snowboard down a mountain and then – boom! – end up blasting asteroids, helping a penguin leap across gaps in the ice, and more besides. After nine such mini-games, any marbles you collected along the way are lobbed into a pachinko machine. (The prizes: even more games.)

There’s little in pureya that you haven’t seen before. But like WarioWare – its most obvious influence – the combination of breakneck pace, colourful visuals and a real sense of fun sets it apart. It offers solid value too, in that every game you unlock can be played as a standalone endless high-score chaser.

Download pureya (£3.99)

An absorbing game: Osmos

You’ll find more spheres, tactile gameplay, and oddness in Osmos (£2.99, iPhone/£4.99, iPad), albeit at microscopic scale. Here, a mote ejects bits of itself (ew) to stalk prey in primordial soup. Anything smaller is lunch, in this fascinating ambient arcade game. Ronch.

Atomik: RunGunJumpGun

Originally dubbed RunGunJumpGun, this deranged arcade test subsequently gained an Atomik and dialled down the difficulty level from psychopathic to merely brain-smashingly hard. It features a lone hero, out to obliterate evil aliens; the tiny snag is the hero is a massive idiot.

Rather than strapping on a jetpack and arming himself to the teeth, he only thought to do the latter. So you can stay aloft by shooting downwards with a massive gun – thereby leaving yourself open to being horribly killed by what’s in front of you; or you can shoot ahead and plummet.

Dozens of levels of finger-juggling madness follow. And if that isn’t tough enough, masochists can opt to grab every glowing orb en route.

Download Atomik: RunGunJumpGun (£2.99)

Give it a wave: Sine the Game

Another novel level-based evolution of the basic Canabalt formula, Sine the Game (£2.99) has you control a waveform. You drag a finger to adjust its frequency, avoiding obstacles and grabbing collectables. Lovely graphics and immersive beats complete an auto-runner perfectly suited to the touchscreen.

Vectronom

Plenty of games have rhythm, but few evoke the feeling of dancing. But that’s where Vectronom heads, even if its minimalist visuals put you in mind of mobile classic Edge.

The challenge is broadly the same as in that game – get to each level’s exit; but here, the landscape and hazards are in thrall to the beat. Only by recognising patterns (such as when a path inconveniently turns into a deadly drop on beats two and four) can you swipe your way to victory.

Vectronom is a pulse-pounding triumph. The odd overly tricky bit aside, it brilliantly marries its varied soundtrack with expert level design, for a challenge that’s immediate yet fresh.

Download Vectronom (£1.99)

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