Best games for iOS

We round up the top games for your en­ter­tain­ment

iPad&iPhone user - - IPAD & IPHONE USER -

Look­ing for the best games for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch? You’ve come to the right place. With games re­views, game­play videos and links to let you view, buy and down­load the games from the App Store, this round-up lists the 115 best games ever re­leased for the iPad and iPhone. From strat­egy and ac­tion games to puzzles and role­play­ing games, these are the finest iOS games you can buy.

We’ve di­vided our list into 15 gen­res or themes – click the area that in­ter­ests you to see the bril­liant games we rec­om­mend in that genre.

Best ad­ven­ture, point-and-click games Bro­ken Age Price: £7.99

Opin­ions dif­fer on this nos­tal­gic ode to the point-and-click ad­ven­ture games of yore, cre­ated by one of that genre’s most revered lu­mi­nar­ies.

Hard­core ad­ven­ture gamers – many of whom backed the pro­ject on Kick­starter – were dis­ap­pointed by how much it seems to woo the main­stream mar­ket. The puzzles are mostly easy (although trick­ier fare is promised in the sec­ond act) and you can play through in a few hours. There’s also no ‘look at’ com­mand or in­deed any­thing be­yond an all-pur­pose ‘in­ter­act with’: the in­ter­face is far sim­pler than those in Mon­key Is­land and its 90s ilk. The sus­pi­cion was raised in PC gam­ing cir­cles that these de­ci­sions had been made with touch­screens and mo­bile gamers in mind.

But I, and oth­ers, adore its heart-stop­ping vis­ual love­li­ness, its gen­tle but sub­tle story (which al­lows you to switch at will be­tween two par­al­lel comin­gof-age tales), its hu­mour – in­clud­ing a glo­ri­ously im­ma­ture raft of jokes about the word ‘stool’ – its

high-cal­i­bre voice act­ing and mu­sic, and the fact that you prob­a­bly won’t have to re­sort to online walk­throughs in or­der to solve any of the puzzles.

Shame it was split in two, as many have said, but the qual­ity and old-fash­ioned charm dis­played in act one mean we’re ea­gerly await­ing the fol­low-up (up­date: this has now ar­rived; up­date your app to add the sec­ond half of the story).

De­vice 6 Price: £2.99

A head-scratcher par ex­cel­lence, this one. While some have com­plained that it’s a brief ex­pe­ri­ence – and braini­acs will no doubt buzz through in a cou­ple of hours – we’ve only just fin­ished the sec­ond of De­vice 6’s five chap­ters, and can con­firm that the puzzles in this pri­mar­ily text-based ad­ven­ture are hard if you’re not keenly ob­ser­vant and will­ing to note down ev­ery­thing you see. Use of a pen and pa­per comes highly rec­om­mended.

The look is unique: an­ti­quar­ian and weirdly re­strained, with ju­di­cious use of black-and-white photos and il­lus­tra­tions to sup­ple­ment the words. The au­dio is richly at­mo­spheric (not to men­tion key to solv­ing the puzzles). And clever use of touch­screen con­trols and un­con­ven­tional lay­outs – the sen­tences snaking round the screen – helps make this an ex­pe­ri­ence like no other.

Grim Fan­dango Re­mas­tered Price: £7.99

I’m one of those poor souls (for­give the pun) who never played the orig­i­nal Grim Fan­dango on PC, but I was al­ways in­trigued by the premise. Af­ter play­ing the re­mas­tered ver­sion for iPad, I’m happy to re­port that the game’s hype is fully de­served.

Grim Fan­dango is a neo-noir mys­tery set in the Land of the Dead. Fans of clas­sic black-and-white films will ap­pre­ci­ate the witty di­a­logue, art deco style and slith­er­ing jazz sound­track, but it’s also a love

let­ter to Mex­i­can folk­lore: the char­ac­ters’ de­sign, in­clud­ing pro­tag­o­nist Manny Calav­era, are heav­ily in­flu­enced by calaca fig­ures.

It’s a point-and-click ad­ven­ture that in­volves talk­ing, think­ing and prob­lem solv­ing; this isn’t a game that fea­tures a lot of gun­play or ac­tion se­quences. But the cut-scenes and puzzles help move along the plot, which cen­tres around Manny un­cov­er­ing cor­rup­tion in the Depart­ment of Death, and then start­ing a jour­ney through the un­der­world that is both bizarre and hi­lar­i­ous.

The four-chap­ter story takes hours to ex­plore and the artis­tic aes­thetic is as cen­tral to the game as the writ­ing (which is con­tin­u­ally amus­ing). Im­merse your­self in this strange, funny and en­thralling world, and pray that Tim Schafer makes another.

Machi­nar­ium Price: £3.99

This clas­sic ro­botic point-and-click ad­ven­ture of­fers a unique ex­pe­ri­ence with more heart than the

av­er­age tin man. Each room has a puz­zle for you to solve, mov­ing you for­ward as you try to find your lady friend and thwart a das­tardly plot by some robob­ul­lies. You’ll scan en­vi­ron­ments for items to in­ter­act with, com­bine ob­jects in your in­ven­tory and solve a va­ri­ety of brain-teasers.

Machi­nar­ium man­ages to feel both elec­tronic and or­ganic. The hand-painted vi­su­als feel both car­toon­like and be­liev­able, and the sound­track blends am­bi­ent elec­tron­ica, jazz and dub­step. Rarely has a game felt so the­mat­i­cally and aes­thet­i­cally uni­fied.

Pa­pers, Please Price: £5.99

Who’s in the mood for fun? Let’s get the party started with a game about op­pres­sion and bu­reau­cracy.

You’re a bor­der guard in a fic­tional state, vet­ting the peo­ple try­ing to get into the coun­try. You do this by ask­ing ques­tions, comb­ing through their pa­per­work and look­ing for in­con­sis­ten­cies, but ul­ti­mately the de­ci­sion to al­low them in or not is up

to you. Big red stamp or big green stamp? Ap­prove or deny? Be warned, though, that choice is an il­lu­sion: ev­ery de­ci­sion you make is dou­ble-checked. Wave through some­one with a hooky pass­port be­cause their story moved you, and the lit­tle printer in your booth will curl out an of­fi­cial rep­ri­mand and (for re­peat of­fences) a fine. A fine which may mean you can’t af­ford to heat your home, or give a mem­ber of your fam­ily the medicine they need.

You get paid (very badly) by the num­ber of ap­pli­cants pro­cessed in the time al­lowed, and the in­creas­ingly com­plex immigration rules (which change, capri­ciously, ev­ery day) are a huge source of anx­i­ety. Be­fore long, ob­vi­ous dis­crep­an­cies be­come a source of re­lief: this bloke’s pass­port’s ex­pired, bril­liant, red stamp, get out of here, where’s the next one. The hu­man sto­ries start off as a fac­tor in your ver­dicts, then be­come a dis­trac­tion, then are tuned out en­tirely.

For a game about petty in­hu­man­ity, Pa­pers, Please is sur­pris­ingly en­joy­able – and it’s also won­der­fully sub­tle and in­sight­ful. If you want to know what games are ca­pa­ble of as a medium, you need to give this a try.

Phoenix Wright: Ace At­tor­ney – Dual Des­tinies Price: Free

Phoenix Wright: Ace At­tor­ney – Dual Des­tinies is a text-ad­ven­ture game that Cap­com orig­i­nally pub­lished for the Nintendo 3DS, but has now made its way on to iOS de­vices. Its bril­liantly an­i­mated and to­tally ridicu­lous world pro­vides an un­com­mon iOS ex­pe­ri­ence.

You play as lawyers Athena Cykes and Phoenix Wright as they seek to de­fend Ju­niper Woods, a shy sun­flower-hat-wear­ing girl who has been ac­cused of bomb­ing a court­room. But bear in mind that the Ace At­tor­ney games have as much to do with ac­tual lawyer­ing as the WWE has to do with ac­tual wrestling. Rather, you get a mix­ture of text-heavy ex­po­si­tion (dom­i­nat­ing the early stages of the game, but thank­fully re­duced later on) and a se­ries of minipuz­zles. In or­der to ap­prox­i­mate things like cross ex­am­in­ing wit­nesses and form­ing ar­gu­ments, Dual Des­tinies lets you present ev­i­dence (through care­ful in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the wit­ness’s state­ments) to prove that they’re ly­ing.

It’s cool to think how Ace At­tor­ney has trans­lated some of the finer points of court­room lawyer­ing – in­ter­ro­ga­tions, point­ing out in­con­sis­ten­cies, mak­ing it known when some­one has per­jured them­selves – and made them fun. The game of­fers hours upon

hours of cases to solve, with plenty of weird twists and chal­leng­ing puzzles.

The Silent Age Price: Free

The Silent Age is a point-and-tap ad­ven­ture game that takes place in two dif­fer­ent eras: your char­ac­ter’s present-day 1972, and a 40-year leap to the eerie, post-apoc­a­lyp­tic 2012. You play as an unas­sum­ing jan­i­tor at a large cor­po­ra­tion who stum­bles upon a time-trav­eller from the fu­ture; the time-trav­eller asks you to warn him about this meet­ing, and then dies, leav­ing you with a pock­et­sized time-travel ma­chine and a mys­tery to solve.

While many point-and-tap ad­ven­ture games can feel overly re­laxed, The Silent Age ex­pertly weaves an in­trigu­ing story line around its puzzles – room-es­cape-type puzzles, quite of­ten, which you solve us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of your time ma­chine and var­i­ous ob­jects you find in the en­vi­ron­ment – to give

you a sense of ur­gency. It’s also vis­ually gor­geous. The bright, vi­brant colours of the game’s 1972 con­trast per­fectly with the dystopian, muted greys and greens of 2012.

Fi­nally, the writ­ing is ex­cel­lent, from the witty com­ments made by the main char­ac­ter to the rap­port with the char­ac­ters you meet. The writ­ers do a great job of keep­ing you in­ter­ested and on your toes through­out the en­tire story line.

Su­per­broth­ers: Sword & Sworcery EP Price: £3.99

iOS games are sup­posed to be time-wasters: dig­i­tal trin­kets to dis­tract and amuse for a few com­mutes. Not Sword & Sworcery EP, an am­bi­tious, gor­geous and son­i­cally im­pres­sive ac­tion ti­tle.

The game feels like 1990s-era Zelda re-imag­ined as a point-and-click ad­ven­ture, but it’s so much more. The cryptic, fore­bod­ing di­a­logue and the fact that the game world is af­fected by the real world’s lu­nar phases make the puzzles a real chal­lenge,

but tight so­cial net­work­ing in­te­gra­tion al­lows you to of­fer and re­ceive guid­ance; and ev­ery step for­ward feels like a gen­uine ac­com­plish­ment. An ut­terly unique ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Walk­ing Dead Price: Free, Episode 1; £3.99, episodes 2 to 5

Tell­tale’s point-and-click ad­ven­ture se­ries, based as much on the orig­i­nal Kirk­man comic as on the AMC TV show, pretty much sin­gle-hand­edly brought the genre back to the main­stream. Mul­ti­ple short episodes mean that it won’t take four hours to play through one sit­ting, and the ‘moral choice’ game­play me­chanic lets char­ac­ters re­mem­ber the ac­tions you took in pre­vi­ous episodes, and treat you ac­cord­ingly.

It also fea­tures one of the great­est child char­ac­ters in the history of, well, any­thing. Cle­men­tine is brave, re­source­ful, and heart­break­ingly sweet, and is about as far away from the whiny, ma­t­ri­ci­dal Carl as it’s pos­si­ble to be. Both sea­sons are avail­able on the App Store.

Best board games Agri­cola Price: £4.99

A ‘Euro’ de­sign from its head to its toes, Agri­cola is light on con­flict (although not en­tirely de­void of it) and heavy on strat­egy. It’s a board game about farm­ing. Wake up at the back. In fact, de­spite that de­scrip­tion, Agri­cola is a bul­let­proof mod­ern clas­sic: a finely-tuned killer of a game that will drag you in and never let go.

It’s a worker place­ment: each mem­ber of your fam­ily gets to per­form one ac­tion each turn, whether that is col­lect­ing a re­source (wood, stone, live­stock), build­ing or ren­o­vat­ing a room, putting up fences, plough­ing or sow­ing the fields or (look away, grandma) ‘fam­ily growth’.

But the var­i­ous ac­tions can each be per­formed only once per turn – hence the worry that an op­po­nent will jump in ahead of you and grab what­ever you need.

You can’t die, but you’ll be amazed by how much it hurts if you fail to col­lect enough food for your fam­ily on one of the des­ig­nated feed­ing phases (know­ing when you can af­ford to ex­pand the fam­ily is key to suc­cess) and shame­facedly pick up one or more point-dock­ing beg­ging cards. And get­ting your farm run­ning smoothly, with the crops ripen­ing and an­i­mated baby an­i­mals ap­pear­ing at the proper time, is hugely sat­is­fy­ing.

I al­ways feel that the games end too soon: just one more turn, I think, I’m start­ing to get the hang of this. But that’s prob­a­bly a good sign.

Car­cas­sonne Price: £7.99

Turn-based tile-plac­ing game Car­cas­sonne di­vides opin­ion among se­ri­ous board-gamers; many of the hard­core find it twee or dull, but oth­ers swear by its sim­ple, en­gross­ing me­chan­ics. We think it’s an ac­quired taste, but a win­ner if you give it a chance.

Each lav­ishly il­lus­trated game tile fea­tures a bit of ter­ri­tory: build­ings, roads, mead­ows and so on. Each turn, a player draws a tile and has to play it next to a com­pat­i­ble tile that’s al­ready on the board – for ex­am­ple, a city piece next to another city piece, or a road con­nected to another road.

As the game pro­gresses, you and your op­po­nents take turns plac­ing tiles, as well as scor­ing points by drop­ping lit­tle game pieces known as ‘meeple’ on those tiles. The longer the road, big­ger the build­ing, or broader the meadow your meeple oc­cupy, the more points you score.

It starts to make sense once you get the hang of it. Give it half an hour and you’ll be count­ing meeple in your sleeple, too.

Catan Price: £3.99, plus £3.99 for each ex­pan­sion

Graph­i­cally, this is a faith­ful ren­di­tion of Klaus Teu­ber’s su­perb and de­servedly idolised tile-based

is­land con­quest game. Hav­ing the iPad han­dle those tire­some bank­ing du­ties and vic­tory point cal­cu­la­tions makes things far more fast-paced than the board game, and you can view sta­tis­ti­cal ta­bles at the end of the bout.

The com­puter play­ers can be ab­so­lute swines – they’ll mer­rily gang up on you in a way that most hu­man play­ers would con­sider be­yond the pale – but hard­core gamers may even con­sider this a plus. And the orig­i­nal game is such a work of ge­nius that this couldn’t help be­ing great fun, even if it’s not the per­fect iOS port.

D&D Lords of Wa­ter­deep Price: £4.99

Some gamers (this one in­cluded) may be tempted into this dig­i­tal board game adap­ta­tion be­cause it car­ries the Dun­geons & Dragons name. But the truth is that the cos­metic trap­pings of high fan­tasy con­ceal a rel­a­tively dry ‘worker place­ment’ game

that re­wards care­ful play and long-term strat­egy rather than der­ring-do. It’s a ter­rific game, but don’t ex­pect fast-mov­ing ac­tion.

You’re a lord: pre­cisely which lord is de­ter­mined by ran­dom chance, and kept se­cret from the other play­ers. (The dif­fer­ent lords gets bonus points for ful­fill­ing dif­fer­ent ob­jec­tives.) And you’re a lord who doesn’t do any­thing he can get some­one else to do for him. What you’ll be do­ing is re­cruit­ing ad­ven­tur­ers – fight­ers, wizards, cler­ics and thieves, just like the char­ac­ters in a game of D&D – and send­ing them on quests. But within the game, these re­cruits are just coloured cubes, and their ad­ven­tures ap­pear as static im­ages on cards. This isn’t about the glory of ad­ven­tures so much as the lo­gis­tics of or­gan­is­ing them. “Why yes, I would love to clear out the tem­ple of the spi­der queen. I just need one more white cube – I mean cleric – and two more gold coins.”

But it’s still grip­ping, be­cause you’re all com­pet­ing to send your agents to a lim­ited num­ber of build­ings where re­cruits can be found, and des­per­ately try­ing to get your hands on the re­sources you need. At the start there’s one build­ing that spits out fight­ers, one that spits out wizards and so on, and once a build­ing has a player’s agent in­side, it can’t be used by any­one else for the rest of the turn: so ev­ery move counts. (You can also buy new build­ings of your own, ex­pand­ing the range of op­tions.

Lords of Wa­ter­deep is a fine, men­tally tax­ing, in­tensely com­pet­i­tive game. It’s just that, for all its D&D brand­ing, at times it can feel a bit ab­stract. And if you’re okay with that, you’ll love it.

Gal­axy Trucker Price: £3.99, iPhone; £5.99, iPad

One of those phys­i­cal board games that many peo­ple thought would be im­pos­si­ble to recre­ate on iOS. But they’ve done it – and it works great.

Gal­axy Trucker is di­vided into two phases. In the first, the play­ers com­pete – with one another and with a timer – to snatch cards (which when flipped re­veal guns, stor­age tanks, en­gines and other space­craft com­po­nents) from a cen­tral pile and add them to the grow­ing, ram­shackle ves­sel in front of them. It’s a bit like Car­cas­sonne with a gun to your head.

There are op­ti­mal po­si­tions for the var­i­ous types of card and you need to make their con­nec­tors line up as neatly as pos­si­ble (be­cause bare con­nec­tors make your ve­hi­cle more prone to dam­age). But the lim­ited pool of cards – and the short­age of time as your op­po­nents con­stantly take the items you need – force you into com­pro­mises. Gen­er­ally ev­ery­one ends up with a mas­sive bodge job.

In the sec­ond phase, which is much more se­date, all the play­ers put their space­ships to the test. You line up on a stylised progress track and turn over fur­ther cards that trig­ger var­i­ous ‘ad­ven­tures’ (usu­ally be­ing at­tacked by space pi­rates or me­te­ors, but oc­ca­sion­ally get­ting the chance to col­lect valu­able cargo) and try­ing to get to the fin­ish line with­out dis­in­te­grat­ing com­pletely. The win­ner is de­ter­mined by points, al­lo­cated for fin­ish­ing po­si­tion, at­trac­tive­ness of space­ship, cargo col­lected, and so on.

The con­trast be­tween fran­tic tile-grab­bing and turn-based re­lax­ation is fun, as is the mo­ment when you all fin­ish your ships and look around to see ex­actly how badly the first phase went for ev­ery­one else. (Although one amus­ing el­e­ment has been lost, ac­cord­ing to fans of the card­board ver­sion: in that game, sec­tions of your ship that in the heat of the mo­ment had been at­tached by the wrong type of con­nec­tor would sim­ply drop off and float away, whereas the dig­i­tal game won’t let you form illegal con­nec­tions.)

But it’s a beau­ti­fully de­signed game through­out: a sim­ple con­cept ex­e­cuted per­fectly. The di­a­logue op­tions in the cam­paign mode are gen­uinely funny; the look is car­toon­ish but lovely; and this most char­ac­ter­ful and phys­i­cal of board games has made the tran­si­tion to the iPad with its soul in­tact.

Le Havre (The Har­bor) Price: £3.99

If you’re any­thing like us, you’ll need three or four games of Le Havre be­fore it clicks, and that’s a long

learn­ing curve for a board game. But if con­flict-light, strat­egy-heavy re­source man­age­ment games are your thing, it’s well worth the ef­fort.

Le Havre is another Euro game, like Agri­cola, and is if any­thing even drier and more an­a­lyt­i­cal. It’s based around the eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties at a bustling har­bour; each turn you can col­lect one re­source from the docks (fish, iron, grain or what­ever), build a mill, brick­works or other fa­cil­ity, or use one of the build­ings (pay­ing a fee, if the build­ing be­longs to one of your op­po­nents) to process one re­source into another or per­form some other func­tion. If you can do all that while feed­ing your work­ers and amass­ing enough wealth to win the game, you’re do­ing al­right.

It’s a good ‘un, this, with tremen­dous depth and highly re­ward­ing game­play once you get the hang of it, but make no mis­take: it’s hard. And as we said, it’s quite dry – the con­flict with other play­ers is all done in­di­rectly, and there are no mil­i­taris­tic op­tions.

New World Colony Price: £2.99

Most well-de­signed board games take pains to avoid the death-by-a-thou­sand-cuts feel­ing of im­pend­ing, in­evitable de­feat that hangs over the fi­nal 16 hours of the av­er­age game of Risk. In Catan, above, los­ing play­ers al­most al­ways have some­thing to aim for even if vic­tory is un­likely, and Small World (be­low) in­vig­o­rat­ingly flushes out the board ev­ery turn or two, giv­ing it a feel­ing of con­stant pos­si­bil­ity. New World Colony is not like that, but it’s still a great game, some­how.

Like Catan, it takes place across the hexag­o­nal tiles of a newly dis­cov­ered land­scape, with ri­val set­tlers com­pet­ing to es­tab­lish a thriv­ing base. But un­like Catan, it’s quite happy to pitch player against player in bloody head-to-head bat­tles – you can in­vade and dis­man­tle any of your ri­vals’ tiles if you have suf­fi­cient re­sources. This makes for a thrilling and al­most chess-like mid­dle game, but once you

es­tab­lish a sub­stan­tial ad­van­tage, things tend to re­vert to a process of mop­ping up. For this rea­son we rec­om­mend NWC as a solo game: com­puter play­ers don’t mind be­ing slowly crushed, but your real-life friends might.

Pan­demic: The Board Game Price: £4.99

Pan­demic is a pop­u­lar co-op­er­a­tive board game in which up to four friends work to­gether to de­feat four dis­eases sweep­ing the globe. Each turn you’ll travel from city to city, treat the sick and re­search cures, hop­ing that the ran­dom new in­fec­tions don’t strike in that worst pos­si­ble place and snow­ball into mul­ti­ple out­breaks. It’s un­be­liev­ably tense, and win­ning feels amaz­ing. And ev­ery­one is in­volved, since you’re each al­lo­cated a role with spe­cial pow­ers that will prove cru­cial in par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tions.

The iPad ver­sion works far bet­ter as a solo ex­pe­ri­ence, but it still in­duces a mas­sive (but

plea­sur­able) panic at its key mo­ments. And pre­sum­ably the eu­pho­ria of vic­tory is also sweet. But it also seems, oddly, to be much harder than the card­board ver­sion; on the easy dif­fi­culty level my own group wins more of­ten than not, but I’ve yet to do so on iOS. Per­haps this is a clue that I’m not the brains of my gam­ing group.

Puerto Rico HD Price: £3.99

Prob­a­bly the most mid­dle-class game ever cre­ated, Puerto Rico in­vites up to five play­ers (hu­man or com­puter-con­trolled) to com­pete in an en­tirely non­vi­o­lent way to es­tab­lish the most thriv­ing plan­ta­tion colony. You have to pick one of the iconic fig­ures from Puerto Rico’s history to play as – one of whom is a fe­male play­wright – and grow corn and cof­fee, build univer­si­ties and ha­cien­das, and gain in pres­tige by ship­ping re­sources back to Spain.

All of which makes it sound like the bi­ble board game that Ned Flan­ders makes his kids play, but

it’s ac­tu­ally bril­liant. One gim­mick we’ve not seen else­where, for in­stance, is a mech­a­nism whereby the var­i­ous phases of the game (build­ing, trad­ing, and so on) only hap­pen if some­one picks the re­lated ‘role’. Pick­ing the role that will ben­e­fit you and of­fer lit­tle to your foes is one of the ways you can twist the knife.

Small World 2 Price: £4.99

The me­chanic at the heart of Small World in­volves two decks of cards: one fea­tur­ing races of fan­tas­ti­cal, Tolkienesque crea­tures (trolls, elves, ogres, and so on) and the other fea­tur­ing ad­jec­tives (heroic, peace-lov­ing, wealthy). In each game these two decks are matched up at ran­dom, and on your first turn, and when­ever you elect to dump your cur­rent lot and try some­thing new, you get to pick a com­bi­na­tion. The two cards you get will dic­tate the spe­cial rules that ap­ply to your armies.

Be­yond that, Small World is ba­si­cally fan­tasy Risk with jokes: you con­quer ter­ri­to­ries with armies and

get points for the area you con­trol (and a few other things, depend­ing on your race and at­tribute). It’s fun, and sur­pris­ingly deep (par­tic­u­larly if you buy one of the ex­pan­sions – Grand Dames is great). But the best thing is the way that ev­ery game is dif­fer­ent, thanks to the ran­dom card-match­ing.

Space Hulk Price: £3.99

Space Hulk is a de­cent dig­i­tal recre­ation of a won­der­fully tense board game beloved of spotty teenage boys in the early 1990s. You con­trol a squad or two of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied su­per-sol­diers in im­mense suits of ar­mour, and trudge around an aban­doned space ship stuffed to the gills with evil aliens. (The AI player al­ways plays as aliens, but in the two-player mode you can take a turn as the bad­die.) It’s turn-based, keep­ing the slow-burn fear of the orig­i­nal, but with added kill an­i­ma­tions and at­mo­spheric first-per­son cam­era views.

It’s not per­fect, and we’d rec­om­mend play­ing the card­board game it­self if you can find a sec­ond-hand copy, but this is still a good ef­fort and a lot of fun.

Ticket To Ride Price: £1.49, iPhone; £4.99, iPad

One for the trainspot­ters, you might think, although ex­pe­ri­ence sug­gests that this sim­ple but en­gross­ing game will ap­peal to ev­ery­one.

You col­lect coloured cards (seen on the right and along the bot­tom in the screen­shot be­low), which you then use to build rail­way in­fra­struc­ture across the map, at­tempt­ing to con­nect up the cities named in your (ran­domly al­lo­cated) ob­jec­tives. Tac­ti­cally we be­lieve it’s rel­a­tively straight­for­ward, but the com­pe­ti­tion for crit­i­cal stretches can get fierce. And in the end there’s not much in life more sat­is­fy­ing than build­ing a rail­way.

On the iPad ver­sion, the de­fault map cov­ers the US, and there are Euro­pean ex­pan­sions avail­able as in-app pur­chases; on the iPhone there are sep­a­rate Pocket apps for the US and Europe maps.

Best card games As­cen­sion: Chron­i­cle of the God­slayer Price: Free

A deck-build­ing card game in the vein of the more fa­mous Magic: The Gath­er­ing, As­cen­sion dif­fers prin­ci­pally in that you build your deck while play­ing the game it­self, rather than in your spare time be­fore­hand – thus mak­ing the game far more im­me­di­ately ac­ces­si­ble, while per­haps com­pro­mis­ing a lit­tle on strate­gic depth.

You and your op­po­nent(s) start with 10 cards, each of which give you a sin­gle white ‘rune’ point (to spend on buy­ing new cards) or red ‘power’ point (to spend on killing mon­sters). Each turn you are dealt five of these, and you play them, then spend the points ac­quir­ing or killing the var­i­ous cards that sit in the mid­dle of the board.

There are tons of spe­cial cards, all of which demon­strate the un­usual (but we think rather won­der­ful) art style this game of­fers. And best of

all, As­cen­sion is free, although if you love the game as much as we do, you may find your­self cough­ing up £3 to un­lock (al­most) all the ex­pan­sion and promo cards too.

Dream Quest Price: £2.29

I’ve put a lot (a lot) of hours into this game, one of 2014’s most crit­i­cally ac­claimed, and fi­nally feel able to give it a strong rec­om­men­da­tion. But there are a cou­ple of reser­va­tions. Graph­ics-wise, this game… well, just look at the screen­shot be­low. The graph­ics are frankly ter­ri­ble, a mix­ture of The Saint- es­que stick fig­ures and hand-drawn gar­ish car­toons. If this is a deal breaker, look else­where (at least for now – the maker has said that a to­tal graph­i­cal over­haul could be in the works in a fu­ture up­date, af­ter a fan of­fered to do art­work at mate’s rates).

The dif­fi­culty is pretty off-putting, too: I fin­ished Dream Quest once with the thief char­ac­ter fairly

early on, but then died more than 100 times be­fore I could re­peat the trick with the monk. (You can off­set this by play­ing on the easy dif­fi­culty level, but that doesn’t un­lock achieve­ments or new char­ac­ters and there­fore feels a lit­tle point­less.) If you get dis­cour­aged by re­peated fail­ure, seem­ing un­fair­ness and death-by-ran­dom-event, you may find Dream Quest painful.

But there is so much to love here. In terms of game­play me­chan­ics it’s right at the cut­ting edge of cur­rent trends: a hy­brid deck-build­ing card game and rogue-like RPG. The dun­geons you ex­plore on each brief, 30-minute go are ran­domly gen­er­ated and filled with mon­sters (which you fight in card­based com­bat) and shops and unique events that of­fer the op­por­tu­nity to add cards to your deck or re­move ones that aren’t pulling their weight. Lev­el­ling up gives you more hit points and mana for cast­ing spells, but more in­ter­est­ingly gives you ac­cess to more ex­cit­ing and ef­fec­tive cards.

Card play seems ba­sic at first but has sur­pris­ing depth. Cards are split into colour-coded types (red for at­tack, pur­ple for spell and so on) and clever deck-builders can con­struct pow­er­ful syn­er­gies: chains of cards that each let you draw more cards, mul­ti­pli­ca­tion buffs that lead to in­sane amounts of dam­age, fight-du­ra­tion ef­fects that stack and stack un­til you are caus­ing more dam­age than your op­po­nent on his own turn.

By the end, if things have gone right, you should be wield­ing a thrilling, stream­lined killer of a deck, and you’ll still prob­a­bly die be­cause the last-level bosses are bru­tal.

I rec­om­mend this game, then, if you can get past the graph­ics. It’s a strong pick for fans of deck­builders, and the rogue-like set­ting adds a pow­er­ful sense of theme to that of­ten-dry genre. Just don’t come run­ning to me when the Lich plays Dark Mend­ing and you smash your iPhone.

Hearth­stone: He­roes of War­craft Price: Free (in-app pur­chases)

Ba­si­cally Magic: The Gath­er­ing with War­craft char­ac­ters, Hearth­stone is a card bat­tle game. Build decks and strate­gies, sum­mon minions and cast spells. The dif­fer­ent classes and their spe­cific cards and abil­i­ties add a nice level of va­ri­ety, and the sin­gle-player ‘Curse of Naxxra­mas’ up­date means you don’t have to take your game online un­less you want to.

As with all trad­ing card games, Hearth­stone hinges to some de­gree on mi­cro­trans­ac­tions for new card packs, but the quest re­wards for ful­fill­ing

var­i­ous cri­te­ria (such as num­ber of mon­sters sum­moned or points healed) min­imise the ne­ces­sity of pay­ing for any­thing.

The turn-based setup makes it a per­fect game to play while wait­ing for the ket­tle to boil, and see­ing a long-term strat­egy pay off is sur­pris­ingly sat­is­fy­ing. Now they just need to add some de­cent char­ac­ter taunts.

Magic 2015 Price: Free (in-app pur­chases)

A time sink, a men­tal work­out, an ad­dic­tion and at its best a sheer unadul­ter­ated joy: the Magic: The Gath­er­ing col­lectible card game is a cul­tural phe­nom­e­non with vast in­flu­ence over the var­i­ous branches of the gam­ing in­dus­try. This dig­i­tal adap­ta­tion isn’t per­fect, but it’s slick and at­trac­tive enough to do what it needs to – which is get out of the way and let the card game soar.

Be­fore the start of a duel you spend a lit­tle time (okay, a lot of time) build­ing and hon­ing a deck of cards from your col­lec­tion. These are made up of spells (which sum­mon crea­tures or cre­ate mag­i­cal ef­fects, and which cost mana) and lands (which gen­er­ate mana, and can un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances only be played at the rate of one per turn). As the duel pro­gresses, each of you will get more and more land cards out, and there­fore gain ac­cess to more and more mana, and to more and more pow­er­ful spells; which leads to a pleas­ing built-in es­ca­la­tion in the way the game plays out.

But it’s much more sub­tle than just col­lect­ing fan­tasy mon­sters and play­ing them. There are

pro­fes­sional Magic play­ers; there are leagues around the world and mil­lions of peo­ple who de­vote their time to fine-tun­ing Magic strat­egy. And all of this is be­cause the bal­ance and in­ter­play of the cards has been tweaked and honed, tweaked and honed to cre­ate a game that some say ri­vals chess in its strate­gic depth.

So why are we play­ing Magic on the iPad in­stead of in the flesh? Two rea­sons. Firstly, while this app is pretty af­ford­able, the sec­ondary mar­ket that’s grown up around the rarer (real-world) cards can be fi­nan­cially crip­pling. And let’s face it, hav­ing boxes of Magic cards around the house doesn’t go down well with wives. In both re­spects the iOS adap­ta­tion wins out, although there are down sides; one of which is the loss of the hu­man, so­cial el­e­ment (the mul­ti­player mode is de­cent, but it can’t ri­val face-to­face com­pe­ti­tion).

We said this is af­ford­able: in fact, the app it­self is free, but be warned that this pro­vides only the bare

min­i­mum of func­tion­al­ity – for mul­ti­player games, the sin­gle-player cam­paign af­ter the first world and most deck-build­ing op­tions you’ll need to pay for IAPs.

Best ca­sual games An­gry Birds se­ries Price: An­gry Birds, 79p An­gry Birds HD, £2.29 An­gry Birds Space, free An­gry Birds Space HD, free An­gry Birds Star Wars, 79p An­gry Birds Star Wars HD, £2.29 An­gry Birds Star Wars II, free

They had to be on the list some­where, didn’t they? Yes, Rovio’s world-con­quer­ing vexed avians are about as main­stream a pick as you can imag­ine, but there’s a rea­son for their suc­cess: a strong idea backed up by solid level de­sign and physics. We wouldn’t rec­om­mend an An­gry Birds game as your first down­load, but they’re de­cent games.

We have a soft spot for An­gry Birds Space, but An­gry Birds Star Wars (and its free se­quel) are prob­a­bly the best. Star Wars fans will love their quirky mix of char­ac­ters, and Rovio de­serves a lot of credit for think­ing of ways to in­clude Star Wars-style ef­fects into the An­gry Birds game me­chan­ics. It’s a great way to while away a few hours.

Be­jew­eled Blitz Price: Free

So mor­eish that they might as well plug it di­rectly into your ad­dic­tion cen­tre, Be­jew­eled Blitz takes the ‘match three’ me­chanic of a bil­lion App Store puzzles and squashes it into minute-long blasts of daz­zling colours and crazy point tal­lies.

You have to swap coloured jewels within a grid (swip­ing in­tu­itively with a fin­ger) so that three or more line up; the matched jewels will dis­ap­pear and more will drop down to re­place them. But the tense game­play, con­stant drip-feed of re­wards (rare gems, boosts, coins and level-ups) and com­pet­i­tive­ness-pro­vok­ing Face­book in­te­gra­tion com­bine to make a game that will ex­pand to fill any time pe­riod you let it near.

Drop7 Price: Free

Ev­ery so of­ten a ca­sual game comes along that’s en­tirely sim­ple, en­tirely orig­i­nal and en­tirely

ad­dic­tive. In Drop7 you need to deal with ever-ris­ing rows of balls, each num­bered from one to seven. In or­der to make a ball dis­ap­pear, you have to use it in a row of ex­actly that num­ber; if you’re lucky this may spark a chain re­ac­tion, clear­ing the board in dra­matic bursts and mul­ti­ply­ing your score. Each new row of balls that ap­pears, how­ever, comes up grey and num­ber­less, and has to be cracked open by elim­i­nat­ing oth­ers around it. Like Tetris or Be­jew­eled, it’s easy to learn, dif­fi­cult to master and even harder to put down.

Eliss In­fin­ity Price: £2.29

Feel­ing a lit­tle too calm? Then why not amp up your stress lev­els with this slice of fran­tic puz­zle ac­tion.

Har­ness­ing the iPad and iPhone’s mul­ti­touch screens bril­liantly, each level of Eliss In­fin­ity chal­lenges you to or­gan­ise and de­stroy a se­ries of plan­e­toids, ren­dered in jar­ring retro colours. You can push them around the screen to keep out of trou­ble, push two of the same colour to­gether to cre­ate a sin­gle larger body, or split plan­ets by un­pinch­ing. The key thing is

to keep dif­fer­ent colours apart, be­cause when they touch they drain your energy.

Be­fore long you’re jug­gling mul­ti­ple sets, the iPad is com­plain­ing that it can only han­dle five fin­gers at once, and your brain is melt­ing.

Eu­flo­ria Price £3.99, iPhone; £5.99, iPad

Eu­flo­ria pairs sim­ple strat­egy with mood and style, off­set­ting tense game­play with calm­ing vi­su­als and an am­bi­ent sound­track.

Your job is to con­quer a pas­tel-hued pocket of space by di­rect­ing armies of ‘seedlings’ from colony to colony, wip­ing out any en­e­mies that lurk there and es­tab­lish­ing your own trees to gen­er­ate new seedlings. You’ll face tough de­ci­sions about how many seedlings you need to de­fend your own hold­ings and how many should be sent out to bat­tle.

The push ‘n’ pull strat­egy is com­pelling enough, but it’s the hand-drawn graph­ics and pretty sound­track that re­ally make Eu­flo­ria stand out as some­thing spe­cial.

Flight Con­trol Price: 79p

In Flight Con­trol, you as­sume the role of an air traf­fic con­troller. As an ever-in­creas­ing num­ber of planes ap­proach the run­ways, your job is to guide them all in for safe land­ings. Planes travel at dif­fer­ent speeds, and each is colour-coded to match the run­way it must land on. You tap ap­proach­ing planes and drag a flight path for them to fol­low for land­ing.

As you progress, this process gets in­creas­ingly manic, and not sur­pris­ingly, it’s loads of fun too. The game takes sec­onds to learn and mere min­utes to play. What makes it even more im­pres­sive is that we’ve spent hours guid­ing planes in and can’t wait to go and play again.

Fruit Ninja Price: 79p

This funny, quick game com­bines two ideal qual­i­ties: it’s easy to learn and fun to master. Fruit (and the oc­ca­sional bomb) ap­pears on the screen, and you’re

tasked with slic­ing and slash­ing it up, ninja-style. If you let three pieces of fruit es­cape un­scathed, or hit one of the bombs, your game is over. You slice by swip­ing your fin­gers across the fall­ing fruit, and the game sup­ports slash­ing with up to eight fin­gers at a time. Adding to the fun are great vi­su­als, in­clud­ing lots of fruit juice fly­ing with ev­ery slice, and a great, Eastern-in­fused sound­track. The iPad ver­sion adds lo­cal mul­ti­player, which is hec­tic, fun and highly re­playable.

He­lix Price: £2.29

End­less ac­tion games are a per­fect fit for mo­bile de­vices, of­fer­ing short ses­sions but a strong urge to keep play­ing un­til you dom­i­nate your friends on the leader­boards.

He­lix fol­lows in the foot­steps of clas­sics of this genre such as Su­per Hexagon, with strange low-fi graph­ics and a sim­ple yet quickly pun­ish­ing ap­proach to score-chas­ing de­sign. You build a

tally of en­emy kills not by fir­ing a weapon but by sim­ply en­cir­cling them on the screen by mov­ing your char­ac­ter in a 360-de­gree arc. The re­sult­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is tense and chal­leng­ing, not to men­tion un­pre­dictable.

He­lix may not look like much at a glance, but by putting the onus on fluid, con­stant move­ment rather than at­tacks and di­rect in­ter­ac­tions, this lo-fi won­der man­ages to feel wholly unique. It grabs your at­ten­tion and never lets go: each ses­sion may only last a minute or two, but good luck re­sist­ing the urge to play for hours.

Only One Price: Free

And here’s an ap­peal­ing free of­fer­ing. Only One is a cliff top brawler in which you fight off waves of en­e­mies armed with only your sword, an in­creas­ingly pow­er­ful range of spe­cial abil­i­ties and the glo­ri­ous power of grav­ity.

The look is charm­ingly retro and the com­bat sim­ple but faintly tac­ti­cal (among other con­sid­er­a­tions, shep­herd­ing en­e­mies away from

the edge makes for harder kills but bet­ter loot). It’s also rather funny.

Os­mos Price: £2.29, iPhone; £3.99, iPad

Os­mos was orig­i­nally a highly re­garded ‘am­bi­ent gam­ing’ PC ti­tle, but the touch­screen suits it per­fectly. It’s a tran­quil­lis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, with trippy vi­su­als and mu­sic.

You play a pul­sat­ing ball of light. The aim is to work your way up the food chain by mov­ing around and ab­sorb­ing smaller balls of light (mak­ing you ex­pand) and avoid­ing big­ger ones. Yet this sim­ple con­cept pro­duces an en­gag­ing ex­pe­ri­ence like no other. De­spite re­main­ing ut­terly serene, some lev­els can get fiendishly com­pli­cated, with dif­fer­ent balls of light act­ing in dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent ways. A clas­sic that de­serves a place in ev­ery iOS gamer’s col­lec­tion.

Peg­gle Clas­sic Price: 79p

At first glance, Peg­gle looks like a pretty straight­for­ward com­bi­na­tion of pin­ball and Puz­zle Bob­ble. But while the ob­ject is sim­ple – clear the stage of or­ange pegs – the meth­ods re­quire clever strate­gies, knowl­edge of ge­om­e­try and some lucky bounces.

You launch a pin­ball at the screen be­low us­ing a ro­tat­ing cannon; the ball will clear any block or peg it bounces against. Green pegs un­lock po­tent pow­ers,

pur­ple pegs in­crease your score, ball catch­ers can award you ad­di­tional balls to use, while ob­sta­cles con­stantly stand in your way. Peg­gle is an in­stant clas­sic and one of the most ad­dic­tive puz­zle games to come out in the past decade.

Su­per Hexagon Price: £2.29

This one is sim­plic­ity it­self. The epony­mous Su­per Hexagon is al­ways at the cen­tre of the screen, and other geo­met­ric wire frame shapes are con­stantly be­ing sucked into it. You play a tiny arrow on the edge of the hexagon, and it’s your role to ro­tate around the cen­tre to en­sure that you’re never crushed by the in­com­ing shapes. It sounds easy, and per­haps a lit­tle thin when I point out that you only need to stay alive for a minute to un­lock the 3 ex­tra lev­els. That’s mis­lead­ing – the twitchy game­play is so dif­fi­cult that stay­ing alive for those 60 sec­onds be­comes your own per­sonal Ever­est.

You’ll si­mul­ta­ne­ously love and hate the game, but it’s bril­liant: sim­ple and fiendishly mor­eish.

Sur­geon Sim­u­la­tor Price: £3.99

Those with a strong stom­ach and a cruel sense of hu­mour will get a lot out of this clumsy med­i­cal sim, which tasks you with a se­ries of life-or-death oper­a­tions and then de­lib­er­ately makes the con­trols as dif­fi­cult as pos­si­ble, just so you make lots of amus­ing mis­takes. Tools end up lost in­side rib cages, in­testines are wrapped around the pa­tient’s neck like a scarf, teeth go ev­ery­where, and the sur­geon fre­quently in­jects him­self with anaes­thetic by ac­ci­dent. It’s a cat­a­logue of er­rors: Some Moth­ers Do ‘Ave ‘Em set in an ER. Lots of fun, and great for show­ing off to friends.

Best rac­ing games Does Not Com­mute Price: Free (in-app pur­chases)

What a bril­liant con­cept this is. Does Not Com­mute starts you off with a sim­ple driv­ing chal­lenge: get a car from point A to point B be­fore the time runs out. (The car runs au­to­mat­i­cally: you just tap the left

or right side of the screen to steer.) But as soon as you achieve this, the game rewinds time and asks you to re­peat the trick with a sec­ond ve­hi­cle on the same course. Only this time you need to con­tend with another driver on the road: your­self, scream­ing reck­lessly across the map in the first car. This re­peats un­til the screen is full of with high-speed il­lus­tra­tions of your own in­abil­ity to drive.

There are so many neat touches: the funny lit­tle snap­shots of each com­muter’s life and why they’re in a hurry; the dan­ger­ous ramps, jumps and short­cuts that you’re en­cour­aged to use in or­der to avoid traf­fic, but which nearly al­ways end in dis­as­ter; the des­per­ate rush to beat the clock and pick up the ex­tra-time powerups; and, best of all, the chal­lenge of adapt­ing to a ve­hi­cle that han­dles com­pletely dif­fer­ently within a space of sec­onds.

It’s free, too, but on the same terms as Smash Hit: in other words, you can play for free but you can’t save at any of the check­points un­til you up­grade to the Pre­mium ver­sion, which costs £1.49. We think it’s worth it, but have a try and see for your­self.

Hill Climb Rac­ing Price: Free (in-app pur­chases)

Hill Climb Rac­ing is an ex­cel­lent time filler which you can pick up and put down at a mo­ment’s no­tice.

The ba­sic game is free and in­volves driv­ing your 4x4 up hills, across bridges, down hills and then up more hills. Along the way you col­lect coins and fuel. Drive too slowly and you’ll run out of petrol; drive too quick and you’ll in­evitably flip the Jeep over and snap the poor hill­billy’s neck.

Us­ing your coins (plus bonus cash from jumps and flips) you can up­grade your en­gine, tyres, sus­pen­sion and 4x4 sys­tem. There are also 14 ve­hi­cles, 13 of which must be un­locked. You can earn a fair amount of coins by play­ing the game, but you’ll quickly re­alise that to un­lock most of the lev­els and ve­hi­cles you’ll have to use the in-app pur­chases to buy coins. It’s per­fectly pos­si­ble to play Hill Climb Rac­ing with­out spend­ing money, though. The real joy comes in mas­ter­ing the con­trols

since, once you do, you can get up the steep hills that you pre­vi­ously thought im­pos­si­ble and cover ground quickly enough (with­out crash­ing) to col­lect fuel cans. There’s just a brake and ac­cel­er­a­tor, and you must care­fully use both to avoid for­ward or back­ward rolls.

Joe Dan­ger Touch Price: 69p

Joe Dan­ger was orig­i­nally a down­load­able in­die gem for PlayS­ta­tion 3, but this iOS port is any­thing but a lazy con­ver­sion. A lot of thought has been put into mak­ing the tran­si­tion to the small screen on the move as smooth as pos­si­ble, with stunts, wheel­ies, duck­ing, lane changes, hops and ev­ery­thing else han­dled by sim­ple swipes of the screen. All of which leads to a game that pos­si­bly sur­passes the orig­i­nal, while man­ag­ing to main­tain the im­pres­sive colour­ful 3D car­toon style on a tiny screen. Mor­eish, and a gen­uine labour of love.

Real Rac­ing se­ries (but mainly Real Rac­ing 2) Price: £2.99, iPhone; £4.99, iPad

The orig­i­nal Real Rac­ing set the stan­dard for rac­ing games on the iPhone and iPod touch, but the se­quel (above) is even bet­ter. The most ob­vi­ous ad­di­tion is li­censed cars, in­clud­ing BMW, Ford and Nissan mod­els. You can race among 16 cars (up from six) across 15 lo­ca­tions in ca­reer, quick race, time trial, and lo­cal and online mul­ti­player modes. For­tu­nately, frame rates don’t suf­fer from the de­tailed tracks, gor­geous en­vi­ron­ments and ex­tra cars, which trans­late into more ac­tion and close calls. The ac­tion is but­tery smooth; steer­ing is pre­cise when us­ing ac­celerom­e­ter con­trols, and there are six other con­trol meth­ods to choose from. This is a win­ner.

Real Rac­ing 3, mean­while (be­low), is another beau­ti­ful and ac­com­plished rac­ing game but it of­fers it­self for free while tout­ing for in­come via in-app pur­chases. It’s gor­geous, even though there is quite a lot of pres­sure to spend real-world money.

Best hor­ror games Dead Space Price: £4.99, iPhone; £5.99, iPad

With Dead Space’s pins-and-nee­dles sound­track and thrilling at­mos­phere, you’re al­ways on edge. Your weapons are noth­ing more than mod­i­fied min­ing equip­ment, and you’re al­ways scram­bling to find ammo: ev­ery shot counts. If the beast­ies reach you, there are touch-ac­ti­vated quick-time events you can ini­ti­ate to push the en­emy back a few feet, and you can grad­u­ally up­grade your ar­mour and weapons. Aim­ing, shoot­ing and ini­ti­at­ing quick-time events by tap­ping is easy.

This isn’t just a great ex­ten­sion of the Dead Space fran­chise; it’s a fine game in its own right, both tech­ni­cally solid and evoca­tively ex­e­cuted.

Five Nights at Freddy’s Price: £1.99

An in­die ti­tle that has been tak­ing the hor­ror game world by storm, this started out scar­ing the

pants off the PC com­mu­nity be­fore mov­ing to iOS. You play a night watch­man in a Chuck-E Cheeses­tyle kids’ res­tau­rant with an­i­ma­tronic char­ac­ters. Ex­cept at night, these char­ac­ters tend to get a lit­tle bit… mur­der-y.

Stuck in your lit­tle of­fice, the only thing you can do is use the var­i­ous cam­eras through­out the res­tau­rant to keep an eye on your furry friends, and ac­ti­vate your of­fice’s se­cu­rity doors if they get too close. Watch your power lev­els, though – run out of juice and you’re toast.

The tense, claus­tro­pho­bic at­mos­phere and plen­ti­ful jump-scares make FNAF a nerve-shred­ding recipe for PTSD. Don’t play this on the bus un­less you en­joy your fel­low com­muters hear­ing your girl­ish screams.

For­ever Lost Price: £1.49 per episode; £1.99 in HD

One of our favourite point-and-click room es­cape games ever, For­ever Lost is set in a spooky, de­serted build­ing that seems to be an old hos­pi­tal.

You’ll need to find items and solve puzzles to es­cape. It’s chal­leng­ing but hugely sat­is­fy­ing.

Lost Within Price: £4.99

Lost Within prob­a­bly isn’t go­ing to wow you with its novel take on hor­ror. It’s what you’d ex­pect: a pointand-tap sur­vival hor­ror game set in an ap­pro­pri­ately ter­ri­fy­ing in­sane asy­lum. (You play as Deputy Pear­son, tasked with check­ing the aban­doned Weatherby Asy­lum for junkies and ran­dom kids be­fore the place gets de­mol­ished.) But de­spite Lost Within’s con­ven­tional set­ting and story line, it will scare the pants off you.

The in­te­rior of the build­ing is creepy in all the right ways – there are old gur­neys and wheel­chairs strewn about, eerie graf­fiti lines the walls, and ev­ery­thing is stained and rusted – and the at­ten­tion to de­tail is ex­cel­lent. You can read the graf­fiti, see the screws on the wheel­chairs, and tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween rust, dirt, and blood­stains on the floor. You can go up to any­thing and ex­am­ine it,

open­ing draw­ers and cab­i­nets and crawl­ing un­der desks and into sturdy old lock­ers.

As you progress through the asy­lum, you’ll start to in­ter­act with ob­jects that give you flash­backs to the time when the asy­lum was in use. What’s cool about these flash­backs is that they’re also de­tailed; so de­tailed, in fact, that you can move through them while you’re in the flash­back.

Game­play is an ex­cel­lent mix of sto­ry­telling and skill. You’ll feel chal­lenged, but not frus­trated, as you hide from mon­sters and try to es­cape the asy­lum. Highly rec­om­mended.

Year Walk Price: £2.49

Year Walk is a dif­fi­cult game to de­scribe, be­cause much of its power comes from its twist­ing, sin­is­ter nar­ra­tive and it’s ar­guably more about the ex­pe­ri­ence than the puzzles: this is a mul­ti­me­dia experiment in the form of a game, but it’s ef­fec­tive and af­fect­ing rather than arch.

Es­sen­tially all you need to do is con­trol the move­ment of an un­seen char­ac­ter through a win­try,

pa­per­craft-styled for­est, chain­ing to­gether par­tic­u­lar se­quences to fur­ther progress. Some of this is per­fectly in­tu­itive, some of it re­quires throw­ing con­ven­tional logic to the winds to some de­gree, but the over­all in­tent of the game is to make you feel lost and con­fused.

Best mul­ti­player games Draw Some­thing Price: £1.99

Draw Some­thing might be flawed, but for a while this Pic­tionarystyle so­cial puz­zler threat­ened to take over the world. Af­ter set­ting up a game with a friend or stranger (you can have sev­eral on the go at once), you are pre­sented with three ob­jects. You pick one, and then draw it. Later, your friend will see your draw­ing process as a video, and try to guess what it is. They’ll then draw a pic­ture, and you try to keep the

game go­ing as long as pos­si­ble: it’s col­lab­o­ra­tive, not com­pet­i­tive. The draw­ing in­ter­face can be a bit clumsy (we ad­vise us­ing a sty­lus), but the ba­sic idea is econ­omy-threat­en­ingly fun.

King of Opera Price: £1.49

We can safely say that King of Opera is the most fun you can have with four peo­ple and an iPad.

Like all great party games, it has an amaz­ingly sim­ple con­cept: there are four opera tenors, and only one spotlight to hog. When some­one else has the spotlight, ev­ery­one else tries to shove them off the stage to take it for them­selves. (Just like in real life.) For its ad­mit­tedly short life span this is a purely joy­ful ex­pe­ri­ence that any­one can pick up and play.

Space Team Price: Free

Space Team is per­haps the ul­ti­mate iOS party game. It’s cer­tainly the best iOS game if you en­joy

shout­ing non­sen­si­cal phrases at your friends. Each player’s screen shows a space­ship’s dash­board, pep­pered with ab­surd di­als and con­trols, and shows the ship it­self at the top. The mon­i­tor pe­ri­od­i­cally de­mands that you ad­just one of the con­trols or di­als to a spec­i­fied set­ting, and the speed with which you re­spond dic­tates how suc­cess­fully the ship es­capes the fiery ex­plo­sion on its tail.

Ex­cept that quite of­ten, the set­ting you’re sup­posed to ad­just isn’t on your screen at all – it’s on one of your friends’. Which means you have tell them to ‘set bat and ball to three’ or some­thing like that. While the other play­ers are try­ing to be heard with their own com­mands.

All of which adds up to an ut­terly stupid and to­tally won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence.

Vain­glory Price: Free

Vain­glory is stag­ger­ingly well pre­sented, with some of the best vi­su­als seen on the App Store: colour­ful and lushly de­tailed en­vi­ron­ments and well-an­i­mated fan­tasy char­ac­ters. But this isn’t a case of form over func­tion.

The game spot­lights three-on-three team­based ac­tion with (and against) fel­low online play­ers, and each squad must de­stroy the crys­tal at their op­po­nents’ base. It’s not just a mat­ter of over­pow­er­ing your foes in head-to-head bat­tle

– in­stead, you must work to­gether to take down en­emy tur­rets, use min­ion crea­tures as liv­ing shields and gen­er­ally make smart de­ci­sions in ev­ery phase of the game. The free-to-play de­sign thank­fully puts no lim­its on game­play: you can play as much as you want, but only with the cer­tain free char­ac­ters of­fered at any given time. If you want to use a non-free war­rior, you’ll have to pay a one-time fee with in-game cur­rency.

Vain­glory has the heart of a full-bod­ied mul­ti­player online bat­tle arena (MOBA) ex­pe­ri­ence. And like the top PC genre en­tries, it’s a re­mark­ably fair and fun free game that doesn’t pe­nalise play­ers who opt not to shell out.

Best mul­ti­player games Doo­dle Jump Price: £1.99

Doo­dle Jump of­fers ad­dic­tive, sim­ple, ad­dic­tive, mind­less, ad­dic­tive fun. And did we men­tion ‘ad­dic­tive’? You con­trol a hand-drawn crea­ture whose only goal is to get higher. As you tilt your

iPhone or iPad from side to side, the crea­ture jumps to­wards var­i­ous bouncy plat­forms. Most of these are sta­tion­ary, but you’ll also en­counter brown plat­forms that break if you land on them, blue ones that move and springs that pro­vide a boost. As you get higher you’ll en­counter mon­sters, UFOs and black holes that you can shoot (by tap­ping) or just avoid. This is the per­fect mi­cro-game: in­sanely ad­dic­tive and de­li­ciously re­playable.

Gun­brick Price: £2.29

Gun­brick is a hy­brid plat­former/puz­zler that tasks you with “shoot­ing and rolling your way to vic­tory,” to para­phrase devel­oper Nitrome’s de­scrip­tion. This chal­leng­ing ti­tle fea­tures stylised pixel­lated art, un­lock­able ad­ven­tures, boss fights, and of course, a gun­brick.

One side of the brick is a shield; on the other, a gun. You can use the gun to move around (you can

only go up by shoot­ing the ground, for ex­am­ple) or just roll around. These two tech­niques – shoot­ing and rolling – pro­vide the back­bone of the puzzles.

Un­der­stand­ing how to cal­i­brate your gun­brick in the world around you is es­sen­tial to pro­gres­sion, and the ini­tial lev­els do a great job of hold­ing your hand be­fore the puzzles get more elab­o­rate. You go from nav­i­gat­ing the world and de­stroy­ing en­e­mies to at­tempt­ing to solve com­plex tile and move­ment puzzles. Nitrome also boasts that Gun­brick doesn’t have any in-app pur­chases, and is safe for kids. While I feel like a lot of the sub­tle satire and dif­fi­culty may be bet­ter suited for adults, it’s not a bad game for pre­co­cious young­sters. Just be pre­pared to an­swer ques­tions about the game’s non­sen­si­cal plot and why the big-nosed duck-like pi­lot is fight­ing the po­lice. I have the same ones my­self.

Leo’s For­tune Price: £2.99

A vis­ually daz­zling, fast-paced and Ap­ple De­sign Award-win­ning plat­form game that’s fre­quently

a treat – if some­times a bit too tough for its own good – Leo’s For­tune in­volves ma­nip­u­lat­ing scenery to solve puzzles, zoom­ing along dizzy­ing loops, and re­peat­edly get­ting killed in tight, un­for­giv­ing cir­cum­stances. De­tailed, lush and rather charm­ing.

Limbo Price: £2.99

Sad, cruel and beau­ti­ful (this is start­ing to sound like the lyrics to a Roxy Mu­sic track), Limbo is a puz­zle­plat­form game set in a grim and homi­ci­dal after­life. You play as a small boy try­ing to re­trieve his lost sis­ter, solv­ing mov­ing-crate brain-teasers while var­i­ous haz­ards – rang­ing from cir­cu­lar saws and ris­ing flood wa­ter to brain worms and the scari­est spi­der you’ve ever seen – try to de­stroy you. It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence you won’t for­get quickly.

Mr. Jump Price: Free

iOS has seen its fair share of su­per hard games, usu­ally of the ‘end­less plat­former’ va­ri­ety – think

Flappy Bird and Ro­bot Uni­corn At­tack. But Mr. Jump isn’t end­less. Vic­tory is pos­si­ble, just very un­likely.

Each of the twelve lev­els (more are on their way) fea­tures pits, pixel-wide plat­forms to land on and other ob­sta­cles, and each level in­tro­duces a new game me­chanic or ob­sta­cle to watch out for. Your only goal is to get to the end of the level. Mr. Jump moves for you, and all you have con­trol over is when and how high he jumps, de­ter­mined by how firmly you tap the screen.

While lev­els will take you less than a minute to run through in one suc­cess­ful go, some took me near an hour to beat. I felt tense and scared, hop­ping from plat­form to plat­form. When I fi­nally make it past a spot where I al­ways die, I hold my breath.

Some­times You Die Price: £1.49

This enor­mously clever game is short on du­ra­tion but long on wit and sparkling ideas. Some­times You Die’s premise is that each time you die (usu­ally by fall­ing on spikes), your stricken corpse is left be­hind, al­low­ing your fu­ture self to use it as a handy prop.

Dy­ing there­fore be­comes a le­git­i­mate strat­egy. This is all summed up by the amus­ing in­struc­tion/motto ‘1) DIE 2) PROFIT’.

Aside from this in­no­va­tive game­play el­e­ment, SYD is en­livened by a pun­ish­ingly vig­or­ous sound­track and the stream of threats, abuse and quasi-philo­soph­i­cal mus­ings writ­ten across the screen and read out by a Stephen Hawk­ing-es­que nar­ra­tor. More of this sort of thing, please.

Stealth Inc Price: £2.99

We’ve filed it un­der plat­form games, but Stealth Inc also bleeds into the realms of puzzles and stealth ac­tion. You con­trol a se­ries of dis­pos­able clones, tasked with creep­ing around traps, cam­eras and ro­bot sen­tries and try­ing to stay alive long enough to hack into var­i­ous in­con­ve­niently lo­cated com­puter ter­mi­nals.

You need to think hard about the best route through each level, but once you plunge in the game is all about fast-twitch hand-eye co-or­di­na­tion – not just in or­der to get a good time, but to make

it through the lethal level fur­ni­ture, which churns and buzzes around you. Tim­ing and brains alike are needed. The look is per­fect, too, and Stealth Inc has a lovely sense of hu­mour. Highly rec­om­mended.

Sun­burn Price: £2.29

Sun­burn’s hook is its charm­ing, grim premise. You play a space­ship cap­tain whose cruiser was just smashed to bits and who, de­spite hav­ing no means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion or way of sur­viv­ing a long stretch in space, de­cides to en­sure that no mem­ber of the crew will die alone.

Which means gath­er­ing ev­ery­one up and plung­ing straight into the near­est sun.

It’s such a com­i­cally dire con­cept, yet quite beau­ti­ful con­sid­er­ing the cir­cum­stances. And Sun­burn sells it per­fectly with a colour­ful, retroinspired aes­thetic and plenty of hu­mour. The tricky plat­form chal­lenges feel unique, and re­quire care­ful tim­ing and nav­i­ga­tion: your task is to jet pack around and col­lect each sub­or­di­nate, at­tach­ing them all to one great big tether be­hind you.

Try­ing to float around fire­balls with half a dozen hu­mans and pets linked be­hind you is tricky, and it can be frus­trat­ing at mo­ments. But Sun­burn’s wit and charm go a long way. And there’s re­ally noth­ing out there quite like it.

Su­per Crate Box Price: £1.49

SCB looks like an old 8-bit plat­form game, but each level is a sin­gle-screen af­fair from the top of which en­e­mies large and small con­stantly tum­ble, then stomp their way to­wards a fiery pit at the bot­tom of the level. With very lim­ited room to ma­noeu­vre, you’ll

for­ever be in the way of these mon­sters’ sui­ci­dal march, and should they touch you, you die. Your job, mean­while, is to col­lect the crates which ran­domly spawn across the level. You start with a pis­tol, which is near use­less, but ev­ery time you grab a crate you’ll be given a new weapon at ran­dom.

The con­trols get in the way of the ac­tion rather than help­ing, un­for­tu­nately, but be­cause death is so reg­u­lar in Su­per Crate Box any­way they don’t wind up be­ing quite the prob­lem they first ap­pear to be. This is a fright­en­ingly com­pul­sive game of jump­ing and shoot­ing: who’d have thought col­lect­ing plain brown crates would be so tense and thrilling?

They Need To Be Fed se­ries Price: 69p, Episode 1; £1.49, Episode 2

Who are they, I hear you ask. ‘They’ are gi­gan­tic, Lit­tle Shop Of Hor­rors- es­que man-eat­ing plants, and you’re on the menu. And, un­usu­ally in the realm of games, you are ex­pected to help this hap­pen.

Clas­sic plat­form ac­tion is the or­der of the day, then, as your sil­hou­ette sprite bounces and dodges his way past ex­plod­ing spheres, mis­sile-launch­ers

and car­niv­o­rous bats, only to throw him­self into the jaws of an over­sized Venus Fly Trap. Vis­ually ap­peal­ing and beau­ti­fully con­structed, it’s ex­actly as an­noy­ing as a good plat­form game should be – which is to say, quite.

Thomas Was Alone Price: £3.99

Your en­joy­ment of this one may de­pend on your po­si­tions on two things: high-con­cept in­die gam­ing, and the co­me­dian Danny Wal­lace.

Ac­tu­ally, all kid­ding aside, Thomas Was Alone is a fine piece of work with a lot of heart. It’s been built from the sim­plest of in­gre­di­ents (a set of coloured shapes that can each jump and in some cases use spe­cial pow­ers), and the game­play is straight­for­ward too: each level is a puz­zle that de­mands the clever use of the shapes’ skills to get all to the exit. But it ends up be­ing men­tally tax­ing – if in truth never quite as hard as we’d like it to have been – and quite sweet. The shapes all have names and back sto­ries, re­lated in a jaunty voiceover that won Wal­lace a BAFTA, and the mu­sic

shoul­ders a lot of the emo­tional heavy lift­ing too. You end up car­ing about Thomas, and he’s a red rec­tan­gle, and you can’t say fairer than that.

Wak­ing Mars Price: £2.99

We’ve in­cluded this in the plat­form sec­tion, but this is a game with sig­nif­i­cant puz­zle el­e­ments and just a touch of ac­tion. Wak­ing Mars puts you in the boots of a jet pack­ing as­tro­naut/sci­en­tist ex­plor­ing the Red Planet for signs of an­cient life. It’s your job to find and plant seeds that spread veg­e­ta­tion around the caves, which in turn opens up new ar­eas.

You have to evade car­niv­o­rous plants and acid pits, and oc­ca­sion­ally you’ll need to kill off a plant to make room for another. But this is a game about cre­ation rather than de­struc­tion. It’s thought­ful and at times in­tense, not to men­tion in­cred­i­bly pretty: your char­ac­ter a tiny spec against dra­matic sweeps of red rock and vast open skies.

Best puz­zle games 10000000 and You Must Build A Boat Price: £2.29 and £2.29

10000000 (that’s ‘ten mil­lion’) and its se­quel, You Must Build A Boat, are hy­brid games: an ef­fort­less blend of match-3 puzzles like Be­jew­elled and dun­geon-run­ning role­play­ing games.

As your lit­tle pixel-dude wan­ders through a retro dun­geon, he’ll en­counter as­sorted ob­sta­cles – mon­sters of vary­ing chal­lenge, locked chests and traps – and you have to ar­range match­ing blocks in the bot­tom half of the screen to de­feat them. Match­ing three (or more) swords or staves dam­ages the en­e­mies; keys un­lock the chests; shields in­crease your de­fen­sive pow­ers; and so on.

You need to keep match­ing blocks – any blocks – to keep the board mov­ing and open up new op­por­tu­ni­ties, but you must also keep an eye on the state of play in the mini-RPG at the top of the screen, and fac­tor this into the matches you make. If you fail to pro­vide a de­manded match for long

enough, you’ll be forced off the left-hand side of the screen and your ses­sion will end.

10000000 of­fers this (dev­as­tat­ingly ad­dic­tive) setup and not a whole lot more – you can level up some of your gear and skills, but to a de­gree that pales in com­par­i­son with the boat-build­ing ac­tion that the se­quel’s ti­tle prom­ises. Your ves­sel be­gins as barely a dinghy but has grown to a sprawl­ing galleon by the end of the game, com­plete with hordes of re­cruited mon­sters, each pro­vid­ing a small stat boost, and shop­keep­ers wait­ing pa­tiently to up­grade your char­ac­ter. And since both games are cur­rently the same price, it would make sense, un­til and un­less the orig­i­nal hits a sale price, to plump for the later game. But both are won­der­ful.

Cut The Rope se­ries Price: 69p

There’s a sweet (or a few pieces of a sweet, or even a pair of sweets) dan­gling or float­ing some­where in each level of these hugely pop­u­lar physics-based puz­zlers, and you have to feed it to a mon­ster called Om Nom. And if you can grab the three stars while you’re at it, that’d be great.

Early lev­els be­gin with sim­ple ropes and bub­bles, and all you need to do is slice the rope with your fin­ger or tap to pop the bub­bles. But things get far more com­pli­cated later: some ropes only ap­pear when the sweet is near them, and you have to deal with haz­ards like spikes or hun­gry spi­ders.

The Cut The Rope games have a neat con­cept and cute art­work, but the games’ mas­sive suc­cess is down to their level de­sign, which is su­perb. Physics ef­fects are in­tu­itive, from ba­sic but per­fectly ex­e­cuted grav­ity and float­ing ob­jects to bungee-ac­tion ropes, and the dif­fi­culty curve is ex­pertly judged.

Af­ter the best­selling orig­i­nal game, Cut The Rope: Time Travel adds his­tor­i­cal set­tings and a sec­ond Om Nom (in pe­riod cos­tume) on each level. Cut The Rope 2 chucks in helper crea­tures with spe­cial abil­i­ties such as he­li­copter wings or stick­out tongues, and medals for com­plet­ing lev­els in spec­i­fied ways.

Of the three, we’d prob­a­bly go for Time Travel first, since CTR2’s in-app pur­chases are a bit an­noy­ing. But they’re all solid games.

End­ing Price: £1.49

Maze-based puz­zle ad­ven­ture End­ing is seem­ingly ef­fort­less proof that great game me­chan­ics can achieve far more than even the most strik­ing

graph­ics ever could. Ren­dered all in stark, monochrome sym­bols and lack­ing even a sound­track, this is ab­so­lute min­i­mal­ism – which frees you up to fo­cus en­tirely on the chal­lenge at hand: steer­ing an ‘@’ sym­bol through a se­ries of are­nas filled with roam­ing glyphs that will kill you in­stantly on touch. This de­vi­ous puz­zler will ei­ther make you feel very smart or very stupid.

Framed Price: £3.99

We’ve seen loads of games based on comic books, but Framed tries a dif­fer­ent ap­proach: it builds me­chan­ics from the place­ment of the pan­els them­selves, which is in­cred­i­bly clever.

This noir-soaked tale sees you al­ter­nately guid­ing a shad­owy man and woman away from po­lice and an un­known pur­suer. You’ll never di­rectly con­trol the char­ac­ters; all you’ll do is re­po­si­tion or ma­nip­u­late the colour­ful pan­els that ap­pear on the screen, in the hopes of cre­at­ing a safe path from top to bot­tom.

It’s sort of mes­meris­ing to see it in ac­tion, be­cause it’s in­cred­i­bly sim­ple – so much so that there isn’t a

spo­ken or writ­ten word through­out, even in the tu­to­rial mo­ments – but also supremely ef­fec­tive as a puz­zle me­chanic.

Short but su­per sweet, Framed re­ally is a pre­mium ex­pe­ri­ence de­serv­ing of your money. Be­yond be­ing a se­ri­ously smart con­cept, the noir art style is swell, the an­i­ma­tion is daz­zling, and the jazz score is just the cherry on top.

Hun­dreds Price: £2.99

The con­cept of Hun­dreds – so sim­ple, yet open to so many per­mu­ta­tions – is this: you make the to­tal num­ber reach 100. This is done by tap­ping on bub­bles, which grows the num­ber in­side. If one of the bub­bles col­lides with any­thing else while you’re touch­ing it, it’s game over. This grows from the in­tu­itive sim­plic­ity of a cou­ple of bub­bles bounc­ing lazily around to fiendish con­trap­tions, swarms of ‘en­emy’ bub­bles and, oh, all sorts. You’ll suc­ceed of­ten, you’ll fail of­ten, you’ll try again ev­ery sin­gle time, but what you’ll never do is pre­dict what the next level will be like.

Starkly beau­ti­ful, ooz­ing clev­er­ness with­out be­ing smug about it and con­tin­u­ally sur­pris­ing, Hun­dreds was one of the best games of 2013, and re­mains well worth your time.

Lyne Price: £1.99

And now for some­thing a lit­tle gen­tler. Each level of this iPhone and iPad puz­zle game presents a grid of tri­an­gles, di­a­monds and squares, along with a few oc­tag­o­nal junction boxes. By trac­ing your fin­ger across the screen you must draw a line con­nect­ing all of the yel­low tri­an­gles, another con­nect­ing all the red squares, and so on. You can use each con­nect­ing line only once and touch each shape only once.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of Lyne is al­most tran­scen­den­tally calm­ing – partly the re­sult of the time­less, thought­ful me­chan­ics, partly the rest­ful colour scheme, vis­ual de­sign and ty­pog­ra­phy, but mostly the re­sult of the new-age, pan­pipe-sprin­kled sound­track.

A true won­der: a game so min­i­mal­is­ti­cally el­e­gant that it can get away with pan pipes.

Mon­u­ment Val­ley Price: £2.49

Mon­u­ment Val­ley is an el­e­gant puz­zle game where you guide a young princess, Ida, through a maze of ru­ined mon­u­ments. You ma­nip­u­late the land­scape to let Ida get from place to place, us­ing op­ti­cal il­lu­sions to your ad­van­tage. Be­cause in Mon­u­ment Val­ley, when walk­ways ap­pear to line up, Ida can walk along them – even when you know that they re­ally don’t.

Some re­view­ers have got the hump with Mon­u­ment Val­ley as it takes a rel­a­tively short time to com­plete and it’s not dif­fi­cult, but nei­ther of those mat­ter. It’s like a film, not a TV show, and while you’re there you’re com­pletely en­grossed. Each level is an art­work in it­self, and the beauty of the puzzles is such that you’re al­ways de­lighted when ev­ery­thing clicks into place.

Mon­u­ment Val­ley is the an­tithe­sis of high-ve­loc­ity, low-re­ward freemium games like Candy Crush. It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence to be savoured – and a must-have.

The Room se­ries Price: 69p, The Room 1; £1.49, The Room 2

Blend­ing the old-fash­ioned nar­ra­tive tech­nique of a locked box con­ceal­ing a se­cret with mod­ern touch­screen tech­nol­ogy and beau­ti­ful graph­ics, The Room games are a quiet (if gen­tly sin­is­ter) de­light.

The Room 1 is a thought­ful, at­trac­tive puz­zle game en­tirely set on and within one in­tri­cate safe, whose sur­faces are adorned by strange mech­a­nisms and logic puzzles be­hind which smaller, more chal­leng­ing boxes lurk. Great for ‘Eureka’ mo­ments, and the tac­tile na­ture of the whole af­fair works ter­rif­i­cally well on the iPad for­mat: spin­ning the screen to ro­tate the boxes, slid­ing to re­move letters from en­velopes or care­fully ro­tat­ing del­i­cate mech­a­nisms.

The Room 2 takes the first game’s for­mula and broad­ens its scope, spread­ing its puzzles across var­i­ous boxes (and other locked con­struc­tions) in mul­ti­ple rooms. The un­der­stated rich­ness of The Room’s vi­su­als are re­placed with some­thing more flam­boy­ant, as the player is dragged from jun­gle tem­ple to Vic­to­rian draw­ing room, and the first game’s hint of scari­ness is am­pli­fied to pro­vide plenty of at­mos­phere.

Shad­ow­matic Price: £2.29

You’ll quickly get the hang of Shad­ow­matic. In each level, one to three ob­jects are sus­pended in the air and il­lu­mi­nated by a light source, pro­ject­ing a shadow onto the wall be­hind. You’re asked to flip, ro­tate, twist, and move the ob­jects around un­til you can cre­ate a recog­nis­able shadow, which could be any­thing from an­i­mals and fish to tools and ath­letes in dif­fer­ent poses.

Each level is gor­geous and well-made, themed and full of de­tail. The ob­jects are all ren­dered in 3D with lots of tex­ture, and the tex­tures change to suit the themes (in the fish­ing-themed lev­els, the ob­jects look like they’re made of rusty me­tal and coral, for in­stance). There’s also a cool par­al­lax ef­fect: when you move your de­vice around, the back­ground moves to give you a more three-di­men­sional feel.

It’s gor­geous, in­no­va­tive, and clev­erly de­signed; if you en­joy per­spec­tive puzzles, such as Mon­u­ment Val­ley, Shad­ow­matic is right up your al­ley.

Threes! Price: £1.49

A beau­ti­fully sim­ple – and in­deed plain beau­ti­ful – puz­zle game that seems

likely to live on iPhone home screens for years to come, Threes has all the hall­marks of great­ness. It looks ter­rific, the game­play me­chan­ics are easy to grasp (ma­noeu­vre num­bered tiles around the board to match them, thereby cre­at­ing new, high­er­num­bered tiles) yet deep enough that lengthy threads have ap­peared dis­cussing strat­egy, it has lovely per­son­al­ity.

World of Goo HD Price: £2.99

At time of launch prob­a­bly the finest puz­zle game in the App Store, and still a com­pelling clas­sic. World of Goo presents you with a pile of small goo balls (usu­ally sit­ting at the bot­tom of the screen) and an open pipe (gen­er­ally up high) and asks you to in­tro­duce them to each other. Us­ing your fin­ger, you have to stack the balls up to reach the pipe: once you get your goo struc­ture to reach the pipe, it will suck up all the balls not used to build the struc­ture.

Each level is a chal­lenge and takes a great deal of thought (and struc­tural con­sid­er­a­tion) to com­plete. There’s a lot of strat­egy in­volved, and graph­i­cally, the game soars, its lev­els lit­tered with canyons, wa­ter foun­tains and vol­ca­noes. Few games are as fun, in­ter­est­ing and en­joy­ably com­pli­cated.

Best role­play­ing games 100 rogues Price: £1.99

Like Can­a­balt, this turn-based dun­geon crawler takes sadis­tic plea­sure in the in­evitabil­ity of death. And, since it’s part of the hard­core genre known as ‘rogue like’, that death is per­ma­nent: there are no pre­cau­tion­ary saves. (You can leave a game and re­turn later, though.) But don’t let that put you off a fun and en­ter­tain­ing ad­ven­ture.

Play­ing as a knight, wiz­ard, ro­bot, skele­ton or ‘di­no­man’, you head off on a quest to de­feat Satan and his minions. The game has strate­gic depth, and you’ll be amazed how much it draws you into its odd lit­tle world – be­fore kick­ing you out again when you make the small­est er­ror. Lov­ably bru­tal.

Bal­dur’s Gate se­ries Price: £6.99, Bal­dur’s Gate 1; £10.49, Bal­dur’s Gate 2

The Bal­dur’s Gate re­makes are se­ri­ous RPGs for se­ri­ous RPG fans. Recre­at­ing the 90s PC clas­sics

– seem­ingly in their en­tirety – for the iPad is a lo­gis­ti­cal tri­umph, and we’d ar­gue that the price tags (which are high for iOS games) are more than jus­ti­fied, con­sid­er­ing the wealth of story and game­play you’re get­ting for your cash.

That’s not to say they’re per­fect; the con­trols aren’t easy to master, of­ten re­mind­ing you that they were con­ceived with key­boards and mice in mind. But for qual­ity, in-depth role­play­ing ac­tion, these won­der­fully rich games are tough to beat.

The Ban­ner Saga Price: £6.99

Com­pared to the av­er­age App Store game, The Ban­ner Saga’s £6.99 ask­ing price is fairly am­bi­tious (although there are more ex­pen­sive games that we rec­om­mend in this list). But this long-last­ing and solidly re­playable RPG ad­ven­ture pro­vides more than enough rich­ness and value to jus­tify its pre­mium en­try fee.

You com­mand a squad of up to six fight­ers, each of which can be lightly cus­tomised and up­graded over time. The grid-based bat­tles play out like in clas­sics such as Fi­nal Fan­tasy Tac­tics and Tac­tics Ogre, with each turn pro­vid­ing the abil­ity to move a hero a cer­tain num­ber of squares and then per­form an ac­tion, whether it’s a melee or weapon at­tack or per­haps a magic/sup­port in­ter­ac­tion.

But out­side com­bat things are just as dan­ger­ous. The Ban­ner Saga fre­quently em­pow­ers you to make de­ci­sions about al­most ev­ery­thing, but it’ll make you pay for your slip-ups. Even di­a­logue se­lec­tions feed into how the story line twists and turns on the road ahead.

If you have a soft spot for nicely re­alised fan­tasy worlds, love ob­sess­ing over tac­ti­cal af­fairs, or sim­ply need some­thing com­plex and ab­sorb­ing to play on your iPhone or iPad this hol­i­day sea­son, The Ban­ner Saga’s ro­bust role-play­ing should be at the top of your App Store wish list.

The Bard’s Tale Price: £1.99

This iOS port of a clas­sic and much-beloved PS2era RPG is mem­o­rable not so much for its sparkling graph­ics or rev­o­lu­tion­ary game­play (though both are per­fectly ser­vice­able, and even sort of charm­ing) as for its ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic writ­ing.

Imag­ine a mix be­tween The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men In Tights; this game sets out to skewer just about ev­ery fan­tasy and RPG trope it can get its hands on. The Princess Bride com­par­i­son is helped by the fact that the tit­u­lar scoundrel is voiced by none other than the inim­itable Cary El­wes, who bick­ers con­stantly with the snarky, fourth-wall-break­ing nar­ra­tor (points if you can spot which clas­sic Dis­ney vil­lain he voiced).

The game­play is fairly stan­dard real-time RPG hack-and-slash fare, based pri­mar­ily on sum­mon­ing var­i­ous sup­port char­ac­ters to pro­vide buffs and aid in com­bat. How­ever, fo­cus­ing on game­play in a ti­tle like this would be in­con­ceiv­able.

Bas­tion Price: £2.99

Ca­sual de­scrip­tion does this painterly ac­tion-role­play­ing game few favours – games about beat­ing up beast­ies in ex­change for ex­pe­ri­ence points are a dime a dozen on the App Store, af­ter all. Where Bas­tion dif­fers is in its sto­ry­telling. A nearom­ni­scient nar­ra­tor com­men­tates your progress as you play, pick­ing up on your de­ci­sions and mis­takes as well as fur­ther­ing a som­bre, opaque tale with a voice that re­de­fines the very con­cept of gravel. It adds a huge amount of char­ac­ter, as well as lend­ing Bas­tion the eerie sense that it’s watch­ing you.

A beau­ti­ful game both vis­ually and in at­mos­phere, Bas­tion is for­tu­nately not so bogged down on its own grandeur that it for­gets to be a re­li­ably com­pul­sive stream of ac­tion too.

Desk­top Dun­geons Price: £7.99

This idio­syn­cratic turn-based rogue like is lots of fun. You’re the ad­min­is­tra­tor of a lit­tle ham­let which is

be­set on all sides by evil crea­tures, and re­solve to send var­i­ous fan­tasy archetypes (wizards, thieves, bar­bar­ian war­riors and so on) into the vil­lain-rid­dled swamps, forests and moun­tains nearby to sort things out. Each time one of your dis­pos­able he­roes goes on a quest, a dun­geon is ran­domly gen­er­ated, and it’s up to you to work out the best way of cop­ing.

I say that the game is turn-based, but re­ally it’s com­pletely static; mon­sters only hurt your char­ac­ter in re­sponse to your own at­tacks and the game of­fers a sta­tis­ti­cal pre­dic­tion of how your and their health bar will look if you choose to en­gage in another round of blows. Magic, on the other hand, leaves you com­pletely un­scathed, but chips away at your mana bar. And both health and mana can be recharged only by ex­plor­ing new ar­eas of the map, go­ing up in level or burn­ing through your lim­ited sup­ply of po­tions.

All of which means that Desk­top Dun­geons is al­most chess-like, and more of a puz­zle than an RPG in a lot of re­spects – the trick is to work out which

mon­sters to at­tack in which or­der, so as to gain enough ex­pe­ri­ence, col­lect enough equip­ment and con­serve enough health and mana to be able to take on the boss at the end. There is in­deed an ac­tual – and bru­tally dif­fi­cult – puz­zle mode, in which a range of pre-pre­pared sce­nar­ios must be nav­i­gated in pre­cisely the right way.

As threats are neu­tralised and loot piles up, you’ll be able to build or up­grade new fa­cil­i­ties and thereby un­lock new char­ac­ter types, equip­ment and mon­sters, all of which has an ap­peal of its own; and the writ­ing is con­sis­tently witty. But it’s the slow­paced, de­cep­tively brain-bruis­ing dun­geon crawl­ing which gives Desk­top Dun­geons its unique charm.

In­fin­ity Blade se­ries Price: £3.99, In­fin­ity Blade 1; £4.99, In­fin­ity Blade 2; £4.99, In­fin­ity Blade 3

They adopt the trap­pings of the fan­tasy RPG, but the In­fin­ity Blade games aren’t free-roam­ing and there’s very lit­tle ex­plo­ration. Yet that isn’t a crit­i­cism. The ge­nius of the se­ries is that it cap­tures and dis­tills the essence of role­play­ing games into some­thing al­most ex­is­ten­tial: an in­fi­nite loop of death and re­birth, fight­ing, learn­ing, loot­ing and start­ing all over again. All three In­fin­ity Blade games of­fer breath­tak­ing graph­ics – the back­drops are works of art – but In­fin­ity Blade 3 is un­sur­pris­ingly the best of the bunch, and given how lit­tle pre­vi­ous games have dropped in price, it’s def­i­nitely the one to start with.

The In­fin­ity Blade games are es­sen­tially a se­ries of epic swash­buck­ling one-on-one bat­tles with gi­ant mon­sters, care­fully pack­aged to suit gam­ing on the

go. You tap to at­tack, swipe to parry, ges­ture to cast magic spells and so on. In the end you’ll die, but that’s okay: there’s al­ways another go.

Knights of Pen & Pa­per Price: £1.99

Opt­ing to recre­ate the en­tire Dun­geons & Dragons fan­tasy role­play­ing ex­pe­ri­ence rather than just the glam­orous bits, KoP&P pulls the cam­era back to re­veal the dork squad sit­ting there with their 12-sided dice and cans of Vimto, di­rect­ing the heroic ac­tions play­ing out on the imag­i­nary stage in front of them. So you con­trol the mages, as­sas­sins and bar­bar­ians ac­com­plish­ing heroic feats, but also the pizza de­liv­ery boys, school bul­lies and lit­tle sis­ters play­ing as them.

It’s a bril­liant con­cept beau­ti­fully re­alised: charm­ingly retro in look, funny and com­pul­sive.

Leg­end of Grim­rock Price: £3.99

Ah, the sweet taste of old-school RPG ac­tion. Leg­end of Grim­rock, a sort of mod­ern re­make of Eye Of The Be­holder (or, go­ing fur­ther back, a game I’m not fa­mil­iar with called Dun­geon Master), is a fan­tasy dun­geon crawler, mean­ing that it takes place amongst the neatly right-an­gu­lar grid of an un­der­ground cat­a­comb.

The ac­tion takes place in the first per­son: you see through the eyes of your four-char­ac­ter party (made up of wizards, fight­ers and thieves, with the nicely weird op­tion of hav­ing them be gi­ant in­sects or mino­taurs as well as hu­mans), and tap big chunky but­tons to make them walk for­ward or back one tile at a time, turn, swing swords and axes, shoot bows and cast spells.

The graph­ics are quite lovely (although true again to EOTB in the walls of each sec­tion of dun­geon be­ing crafted from three or four iden­tikit tiles, adding to the sense of ex­ploratory con­fu­sion – par­tic­u­larly if you se­lect the harder mode in which no au­tomap

is cre­ated) and the move­ment and com­bat are fast, smooth and fran­tic. It’s pretty tough, too, with some truly mind-bending puzzles and plenty of mon­sters who can wipe you out in a few swipes, and more than long enough to jus­tify the price tag.

Un­der­croft Price: Free

An old-school RPG very much in the vein of Eye Of The Be­holder, Un­der­croft harks back to a sim­pler time when men were men and role­play­ing games were turn-based. Hasn’t been up­dated in a cou­ple of years – how we’d love the ex­cuse to dig out our old party – but its low-fi charms re­main undi­min­ished.

Best shoot­ing games 9mm Price: £4.99

This hugely en­ter­tain­ing third-per­son shooter, star­ring de­tec­tive John Kannon, is very much a

case of ‘shoot first, ask ques­tions once the bad guys are dead’. The graph­ics are su­perb, the di­a­logue is hi­lar­i­ous and the op­tional gy­ro­scope­based con­trols, while ini­tially tricky, make those first few kills all the more sat­is­fy­ing. The but­tons are con­ve­niently placed, with crouch/stand and the vir­tual joy­stick on the left, and shoot and run bot­tom right, next to a cool but­ton that al­lows you to dive in slow mo­tion. There are nu­mer­ous firearms to choose from, and a shop for up­grades. 9mm is a funny, great-look­ing game that’s kept fresh by the gyro con­trols.

Bioshock Price: £7.99

I hes­i­tate a lit­tle to rec­om­mend this game whole­heart­edly: the con­trols are a bit of a night­mare, for one thing (I won­der if a fast-paced first-per­son shooter will ever re­ally work on mo­bile), and while our ex­pe­ri­ence on an iPad Air 2 has been fine, many users on older hard­ware have re­ported crashes

and glitches. It’s not per­fect. But it’s also one of the great­est PC games of all time, on mo­bile, with most of its qual­i­ties in­tact.

You’re a ship­wrecked wanderer who dis­cov­ers a failed un­der­sea utopia: a de­cay­ing Ob­jec­tivist tax haven where ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tion and drug use are ram­pant and the walls are start­ing to leak. This is a shoot­ing game, and you can hap­pily boil things down to ‘bad peo­ple need to be shot’ (there’s a pretty stan­dard va­ri­ety of firearms, as well as some more in­ter­est­ing ‘ge­netic’ pow­ers that al­low you to play with fire, light­ning and telekine­sis), but there’s more at play than that: it wears it lightly, but this is a game with an eth­i­cal as well as a po­lit­i­cal di­men­sion.

The graph­ics look good on the iPad’s screen, even though they have been down­graded from the PC orig­i­nal, the story and world-build­ing is ex­cep­tion­ally strong, with a highly orig­i­nal 1940s/1950s-steam­punk feel, and the ac­tion is ex­hil­a­rat­ing (even though it’s far more dif­fi­cult to

strafe us­ing a touch­screen than with a key­board and mouse). At its core this re­mains a won­der­ful, land­mark game, even if some sig­nif­i­cant com­pro­mises have been made to deal with the con­straints of mo­bile. And the ‘in­vert Y axis’ con­trol still doesn’t ap­pear to work, which (if any­one is lis­ten­ing) would be a good one to patch.

We got this for £2.29, but this was ev­i­dently a tem­po­rary sale price; at time of writ­ing it’s go­ing for £7.99. That’s cer­tainly more palat­able than the £11 that was asked at launch and re­mains a solid deal for a game of this depth and scope.

Death Ray Manta (DRM) Price: £2.29

Don’t try to un­der­stand it. Don’t even think about it. You’ll only give your­self a headache. Death Ray Manta, aka DRM, is an ar­cade shoot ‘em up in the vein of Ge­om­e­try Wars (or As­ter­oids, af­ter drink­ing an aw­ful lot of Red Bull), but where so many of those try to do the re­flex-bat­ter­ing

‘bullet hell’ thing, this one is all about sen­sory over­load. A fast, fran­tic purely sin­gle-player game of skill, free from leader­board pos­tur­ing or cyn­i­cal mi­cro­trans­ac­tions. Lovely stuff.

Deus Ex: The Fall Price: £4.99

Stealth, gun­play, silent death moves and some role­play­ing el­e­ments. Deus Ex: The Fall is the iOS port of a deep, am­bi­tious and crit­i­cally ac­claimed PC game, and loses lit­tle in trans­la­tion, of­fer­ing thrills and spills in a beau­ti­fully re­alised sci-fi set­ting.

The story’s all about cy­ber­netic en­hance­ments and post-hu­man eth­i­cal co­nun­drums, but it never gets in the way of the im­por­tant stuff: hack­ing your way through a com­put­erised se­cu­rity door, crawl­ing down a tun­nel and shoot­ing a man in the head. Lots of fun, if com­par­a­tively ex­pen­sive for an iOS game (and quite brief, too).

Grand Theft Auto se­ries Price: £2.99, GTA 3 £2.99, GTA: Chi­na­town Wars £2.99, GTA: Vice City £4.99, GTA: San An­dreas

Ap­ple fans haven’t had much luck with the Grand Theft Auto games, one of the most suc­cess­ful se­ries of our times. The Mac hasn’t even got GTA 4 yet, even as Mac fans clam­our for news on whether they will ever see Grand Theft Auto 5 (above).

But if you’re will­ing to go back a gen­er­a­tion or two, there are some ter­rific GTA games on the App Store for iPad and iPhone own­ers to en­joy. For­tu­nately Rock­star have been mak­ing ter­rific games for years, and even their older stuff is great.

GTA 3, for in­stance (be­low), is a vi­o­lent, darkly hu­mor­ous ode to mafia films that first sparked con­tro­versy (and ac­co­lades) in 2001 and burst on to iOS 10 years later. Aim­ing and fir­ing can be tricky, but the touch­screen con­trols are oth­er­wise sur­pris­ingly ca­pa­ble. Con­tro­ver­sial sub­ject mat­ter aside, the game is stun­ning in its scale and bril­liance.

Max Payne Mo­bile Price: £2.29

This iOS in­stal­ment of the mighty third-per­son shooter fran­chise be­gins with Max Payne find­ing his wife and new­born daugh­ter bru­tally mur­dered and vow­ing to track down those re­spon­si­ble.

Nav­i­ga­tion is con­fig­urable, al­low­ing you to choose on­screen lo­ca­tions for the con­trols. There are nicely an­i­mated in­tros to take you into key el­e­ments of the game, an op­tional auto aim and a cheat mode al­low­ing quick pro­gres­sion to later lev­els if you so de­sire. All of which adds up to one of the best games to hit the App Store: it re­mains true to the orig­i­nal, and has all the ad­dic­tive qual­i­ties present in the com­puter and con­sole ver­sions.

Smash Hit Price: Free

A cun­ning mix­ture of first-per­son shooter and end­less run­ner, Smash Hit pushes you ever on­wards while you try to shoot ob­sta­cles with gi­ant mar­bles.

The graph­ics and sound are lovely – the ob­sta­cles are sat­is­fy­ing de­struc­tible, sub­sid­ing nois­ily into translu­cent shards – and a clever me­chanic means that your ammo count is also your life. Run out of mar­bles (don’t worry, you can re­stock them pe­ri­od­i­cally by shoot­ing des­ig­nated tar­gets) and you’ll per­ish. Great fun, not to men­tion free.

Zom­bie Gun­ship Price: 69p

From the cock­pit of a heav­ily armed air­craft, cir­cling above a bunker in which the last rem­nants of hu­man­ity have taken refuge from a zom­bie apoca­lypse, your job is to gun down zom­bies and save hu­man sur­vivors. Zom­bie Gun­ship some tac­tics in­volved in all this – your guns can over­heat or be up­graded – but it doesn’t get in the way of the blast­ing fun.

The grainy, sur­veil­lance-cam­era-style graph­ics help cre­ate an in­tense at­mos­phere, and the sound ef­fects are top-notch. The strat­egy, the graph­ics and sound, and the un­de­ni­able thrill of send­ing the

un­dead back to the grave they crawled out of make for a com­pelling iOS game.

Best side-scrolling games ALONE… Price: £1.49

ALONE... is what some would re­fer to as a cave flyer: you zip along a pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated land­scape at ever-in­creas­ing speed, try­ing your best to avoid the ob­sta­cles in your path and us­ing the bare min­i­mum of con­trols ( just up and down) to pre­serve your lit­tle space­ship.

It’s an in­cred­i­bly sim­ple, stripped-back game, but things like this live and die by their speed; or rather by the sen­sa­tion of speed that they are able to pro­duce. And ALONE... is bril­liant at this. The hec­tic sound­track, the speed lines and space de­tri­tus fly­ing past you, the barely con­trol­lable speed boost you get when­ever you’re winged by a small piece of de­bris and the grad­ual ac­cel­er­a­tion as the game

pro­gresses – all of this con­trib­utes to a tightly fo­cused thrill ride of a game.

This isn’t to say that the devs haven’t given any thought to the cos­met­ics of the thing: there’s some great mys­te­ri­ous back­ground im­agery (rem­i­nis­cent of Can­a­balt) and the shift­ing colour schemes are un­de­ni­ably lovely. You just might not get much of a chance to ap­pre­ci­ate them.

Alto’s Ad­ven­ture Price: £1.49

Alto’s Ad­ven­ture feels to­tally Zen. It hones in on a sense of seren­ity that the vast ma­jor­ity of end­less run­ner-style games com­pletely avoid, and when your time comes and you end up with a face full of pow­der (or worse, boul­der), the con­clu­sion doesn’t feel so dev­as­tat­ing. Just get back on the board

Most of the credit for this unique tone goes to the vis­ual de­sign, which es­chews re­al­ism in favour of build­ing big per­son­al­ity via daz­zling an­i­ma­tions, a stun­ning day-night cy­cle that re­ally changes the play ex­pe­ri­ence, and a rous­ing bit of mu­sic.

It doesn’t have an ar­ray of ab­surd tricks to pull off, but while Alto’s sim­plic­ity could rub some the wrong way, it’s worth stick­ing around and dig­ging deeper. You’ll al­ways have up to three ob­jec­tives to com­plete, and while the early ones are easy, the later tasks – a triple back flip, re­ally? – re­quire risk­ing your run on a sin­gle move.

Alto’s Ad­ven­ture might not have the game­play depth of your av­er­age snow­board­ing game, but spend a few min­utes soak­ing in these slopes and you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate its low-key ap­proach to a typ­i­cally ‘ex­treme’ sport.

Can­a­balt Price: £1.99

There’s some­thing night­mar­ish about this sparsely el­e­gant one-but­ton plat­former: you can’t win, you can’t es­cape, and even­tu­ally you’ll miss a jump and die. The aim is sim­ply to get as far across that end­less crum­bling rooftop as pos­si­ble. (It’s not even clear what catas­tro­phe you’re flee­ing, although the gi­ant fig­ures stalk­ing the land­scape be­hind are prob­a­bly a clue.) The au­to­matic ac­cel­er­a­tion

and hy­per­ac­tive sound­track ratchet up the energy lev­els beau­ti­fully, the su­per-retro graph­ics are glo­ri­ously evoca­tive, and it’s hard to imag­ine a more ac­ces­si­ble or mo­bile-friendly game.

Jet­pack Joyride Price: Free

Jet­pack Joyride is a de­light­ful and ad­dic­tive cave flyer that keeps us com­ing back for more. You play

the role of Barry Steak­fries, a dis­grun­tled in­di­vid­ual who breaks into a top-se­cret re­search lab, steals a ma­chine-gun-pow­ered jet pack, and takes flight through the lab’s never-end­ing string of long, tun­nel-like rooms. As you jet or run along, ever for­ward, you try to avoid elec­tri­fied bar­ri­ers, lasers and mis­siles while col­lect­ing coins.

The mix of re­spon­sive­ness and ac­cel­er­a­tion is just about per­fect, the com­i­cal graph­ics raise it above most of­fer­ings in the genre, and the ex­tras – in­clud­ing a su­perb ar­ray of ve­hi­cles – make Jet­pack Joyride a true stand­out.

Mir­ror’s Edge Price: 60p, iPhone; £2.99, iPad

Sprint, leap and slide as you at­tempt to es­cape the Or­wellian gov­ern­ment that op­presses the world. Swip­ing left or right will make your char­ac­ter run in that di­rec­tion, and com­bi­na­tions of up­ward and down­ward flicks make her leap over and slide un­der ob­sta­cles. Well-timed taps and swipes al­low you to run on walls, dis­arm trig­ger-happy bad­dies

and grind down con­ve­niently placed ziplines. EA some­how man­ages to re­tain the ac­ro­batic charm of the con­sole orig­i­nal, while mak­ing it min­i­mal­ist enough to work seam­lessly on iOS.

Ski Sa­fari Price: 69p

An avalanche is com­ing, and it’s up to you to keep skiing moun­tain dweller Sven one step ahead of icy doom, while nav­i­gat­ing hills, dips and other alpine ob­sta­cles. Tap­ping makes Sven jump, while tap­ping and hold­ing causes him to flip – you get bonuses for suc­cess­fully com­plet­ing a back flip (or two). The app takes a page out of the Tiny Wings hand­book by adding mini-chal­lenges that you com­plete to boost your­self to a new level. Ski Sa­fari lacks the sort of graphic em­bel­lish­ments you’ll find in other iOS games, but then again, it re­ally doesn’t need them; this is an App Store of­fer­ing that flour­ishes thanks to its out­stand­ing game­play.

Tiny Wings Price: 69p, iPhone; £1.99, iPad

For those who haven’t played it be­fore, Tiny Wings is a side-scrolling game based on a sin­gle con­trol. Touch the screen and your cute lit­tle bird furls her stunted wings and speeds down­wards at a rapid lick. Raise your fin­ger, and she flaps them and soars briefly, if you’ve gained suf­fi­cient mo­men­tum. Rac­ing against the sun (when it sets your bird goes to sleep and the game is over) you have to press and re­lease at the right mo­ments to nav­i­gate a se­ries of hilly, un­du­lat­ing is­lands as quickly as pos­si­ble, achiev­ing ‘flight’ as much as you can.

The ba­sic game­play me­chan­ics are sim­ple but exquisitely crafted, and the game is an aes­thetic de­light, from the cray­ony back­drops to the charm­ing mu­sic and ef­fects. But it was the re­cent up­date that cat­a­pulted an al­ready fine game to the top of our hit pa­rade. Aside from now be­ing avail­able op­ti­mised for iPad, the best new fea­ture is a mode called Hill

Party: a split-screen, knee-to-knee lo­cal mul­ti­player mode that’s quite, quite bril­liant (but only for iPad).

Brought to iPad with a bang, and now fea­tur­ing the finest party mul­ti­player we’ve seen on the de­vice, Tiny Wings is won­der­ful, charm­ing, in­ven­tive, sim­ple, beau­ti­ful, fun. Pick an ad­jec­tive.

Best sports games Desert Golf­ing Price: £1.49

This one is killing pro­duc­tiv­ity in the Mac­world of­fice right now. Which says a lot for its qual­ity (and per­haps for the flim­si­ness of our work ethic).

On each hole, nat­u­rally, you start with the ball on the tee and the pin a short dis­tance away; as one would ex­pect, your ob­jec­tive is to get the for­mer to the lat­ter by us­ing as few strokes as pos­si­ble. Where it dif­fers from golf as it is com­monly un­der­stood (and com­monly rep­re­sented in com­puter games), how­ever, is that the round never ends. There is no re­set but­ton, and each one of the po­ten­tially thou­sands of holes, once played, is

logged in your score­card for­ever. This is strangely free­ing. The past can­not be changed, so you might as well fo­cus on the fu­ture.

Desert Golf­ing is An­gry Birds-like in its con­trol method: you tap and drag (any­where on the screen, not just on the ball) to set how hard you want to swing, and in what di­rec­tion. The level dif­fi­culty is all over the shop, but con­sciously so, since they were pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated. The maker ad­mits that there is a level some­where in the high 2000s that he at first be­lieved to be im­pos­si­ble, although some hard­core play­ers have since con­quered it.

The game’s retro look is as bare­bones as you could imag­ine, but pleas­ingly so. And it’s hope­lessly, dan­ger­ously ad­dic­tive: you will soon feel the urge to get your hole av­er­age be­low a cer­tain point, and then another, and then another. Get out now while you have the chance.

Football Man­ager Hand­held Price: £6.99

Seven years af­ter the Cham­pi­onship Man­ager team left to make Football

Man­ager and ruin so­cial lives all over again, this hand­held ver­sion of­fers a stream­lined man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence: in the iOS edi­tion of the game, sea­sons fly by in a night and Alder­shot can be Premier­ship cham­pi­ons in a week. That’s not to say it isn’t deep, se­ri­ous and (of course) com­pletely ad­dic­tive. While only football stats fans need ap­ply, that spe­cial breed will be en­thralled. Don’t for­get to eat.

New Star Soc­cer Price: Free

You’re a striker start­ing out in non­league football and aim­ing for the big time. On the pitch, this means set­ting up chances and scor­ing won­der goals. Off the pitch, it means train­ing, dress­ing for suc­cess and deck­ing your house in so much tat that MTV Cribs would stage a tack­i­ness in­ter­ven­tion. Pull back on the ball to set power and di­rec­tion, then tap at the right an­gle to set the curve, deftly plac­ing the ball where you want.

It’s a tes­ta­ment to the bril­liant game­play that even football haters will get some­thing out of this. While oth­ers strive for re­al­ism, New Star Soc­cer aims for the per­fect mo­bile ex­pe­ri­ence, and hits the back of the net.

Ridicu­lous Fish­ing Price: £1.99

It is ridicu­lous. It is in­deed about fish­ing. Ridicu­lous Fish­ing is also one of the finest games on the App

Store, ever. Fish­ing be­cause you play as a guy sit­ting on a boat with a fish­ing rod, ridicu­lous be­cause said rod can drop its line about a kilo­me­tre deep and re­turn to the sur­face with dozens of fish at­tached. At which point they’re thrown into the air, and you catch them by fir­ing a pis­tol, shot­gun, ma­chine gun, mini gun or worse at them.

A small, sim­ple idea re­alised with re­mark­able aplomb and high hu­mour, Ridicu­lous Fish­ing is a won­der­fully com­pul­sive game.

Su­per Stickman Golf Price: £1.99

As a sin­gle-player game, Su­per Stickman Golf is great. The con­trols are easy to learn – ad­just

tra­jec­tory us­ing large vir­tual but­tons, tap the Go cir­cle and tap a sec­ond time to choose power – and the physics feel just right.

What pushes the game into strato­spheric lev­els of ex­cel­lence, how­ever, is its mul­ti­player. You can chal­lenge up to three op­po­nents lo­cally over Blue­tooth or through Game Cen­ter, rac­ing in real time and scor­ing points when you com­plete a hole first – adding a speed el­e­ment to golf is a no-brainer that makes it laugh-out-loud funny. The retro look isn’t as cute as An­gry Birds, but the game is even more fun.

Best strat­egy and tower de­fence games Fiel­d­run­ners 2 Price: £1.99, iPhone; £2.99, iPad

Like the best tower-de­fence ti­tles, Fiel­d­run­ners 2 keeps your mind con­stantly oc­cu­pied. There are al­ways prob­lems to ad­dress, threats to deal with, tow­ers to up­grade or weak spots that need fill­ing. It’s a bril­liantly fre­netic game.

As the en­emy as­saults you with waves of troops, your job is to pre­vent them from get­ting to the other side of the screen by build­ing gun tow­ers in strate­gic com­bi­na­tions. Fun­nel the bad guys into bot­tle­necks and then shoot them to pieces. You have to last a given num­ber of waves to fin­ish a level, but it will then give you the op­tion of play­ing ‘End­less’ mode, and car­ry­ing on for a laugh. It’s a lot of fun, although sur­pris­ingly dif­fi­cult when played on any but the eas­i­est of set­tings.

The range of weapon tow­ers has ex­panded enor­mously. There are ra­di­a­tion, plague and

poi­son gas tow­ers (lovely), tow­ers that gen­er­ate a vi­cious laser rib­bon be­tween them and a tower that lobs bee­hives. And the fiel­d­run­ners now have medics who heal troops around them and haz­mat spe­cial­ists who are im­mune to your chem­i­cal war­fare. The graph­ics are vastly im­proved, too.

Sub­atomic has taken an ad­dic­tive lit­tle iPhone game and sharp­ened ev­ery­thing up. Fiel­d­run­ners 2 is about as pol­ished, well-crafted and en­joy­able to play as the hum­ble tower de­fence genre gets.

FTL: Faster Than Light Price: £6.99

A won­der­fully tense strat­egy game set in space, Faster Than Light also in­cor­po­rates many of the cru­eller el­e­ments of rogue like role­play­ing games.

You di­rect the small crew of a Fed­er­a­tion mes­sen­ger craft flee­ing from the ad­vanc­ing rebel fleet, and at each point on the map a ran­domly gen­er­ated en­counter may re­sult in new equip­ment, ad­di­tional crew mem­bers, or a dan­ger­ous fight with

another ves­sel. Any crew mem­bers who fall in bat­tle are gone for good, and los­ing a fight is per­ma­nent, too – hence the un­bear­able ten­sion, and the glo­ri­ous sat­is­fac­tion when things work out.

It’s a tough game, but well worth the tears it will make you shed. One of the best games on iOS.

Jelly De­fense Price: £1.99

In­stead of mak­ing you re­sist a horde of sol­diers, this tower-de­fence game opts for some­thing quirkier:

Jelly crea­tures. But this game of­fers more than just cute crit­ters, and the re­sult is a re­fresh­ing take on the genre. Your job on each level is to de­fend a set of crys­tals from jelly in­vaders trav­el­ling pre­de­ter­mined paths. You de­fend your­self by plac­ing bat­tle tow­ers (yes, jelly tow­ers) along the path; each one has a spe­cific weapon and at­tack range, and can only at­tack in­vaders of match­ing colours.

What makes Jelly De­fense en­joy­able is that it suc­cess­fully com­bines chal­leng­ing game­play, at­trac­tive graph­ics and a play­ful sound­track.

Plants vs. Zom­bies se­ries Price: 69p, Plants vs. Zom­bies 1; free, PvZ 2

Fi­nally: a game that com­bines gar­den­ing and un­dead slaugh­ter. We’re more in­clined to rec­om­mend the first Plants vs Zom­bies game (above), but there are cer­tainly good points to the se­quel too. In these un­usual and charm­ing tower de­fence games, you’re a home owner fac­ing a

zom­bie in­va­sion. Your best de­fence is to plant mush­rooms, squash and other deadly veg to fight back. The beau­ti­ful car­toon graph­ics are on the right side of zany and set a light-hearted tone: the zom­bies are silly-look­ing and dis­tinc­tive. (Each type has a spe­cific skill, as do the plants.) The game is ad­dic­tive and sur­pris­ingly deep, with a ter­rific sense of hu­mour: the zom­bies send you poorly spelled notes that will raise a chuckle.

Plants vs Zom­bies 2 is sad­dled with an in­tru­sive in-app pay­ments sys­tem (stuff like this is the pay­off for games be­ing free, guys) but is oth­er­wise su­perb. It’s free, so you might as well give it a go and see if you can stom­ach the IAP el­e­ment.

Tiny He­roes Price: Free

Fan­tasy gam­ing isn’t just about he­roes brav­ing dun­geons and slay­ing dragons. Equally im­por­tant is the mad ar­chi­tect who blud­geons, shreds and per­fo­rates any would-be ad­ven­turer who dares to loot that dun­geon’s pre­cious trea­sures.

That’s the premise of this ap­peal­ing tower de­fence game: as waves of car­toon­ish he­roes wan­der into your dun­geon, you pro­tect your trea­sure with spin­ning blades of death, con­cealed spikes and caged mon­sters. You’ll have to plan for sev­eral kinds of he­roes, from tough knights to trap-dis­man­tling thieves, and bal­ance be­tween plan­ning ahead and drop­ping ex­plo­sives in the thick of a fight.

Warham­mer 40,000: Ar­maged­don Price: £14.99

Let’s tackle the ele­phant in the room first: yes, by iOS stan­dards this is a very ex­pen­sive game (although do bear in mind that a £14.99 game would be con­sid­ered per­fectly rea­son­able on PC and an ab­so­lute bar­gain on PS4).

There are a few rea­sons for this, but the most im­por­tant one is the type of game we’re talk­ing about here. De­spite ap­pear­ances – de­spite the fan­tas­ti­cal sci-fi set­ting, de­spite the gi­ant walk­ing

robots and green-skinned aliens that sit among the wide va­ri­ety of troop and ve­hi­cle types – this is in essence a Proper War Game, and Proper War Games are sim­ply un­der­stood to cost quite a lot of money. (Get­ting the Warham­mer li­cence must have cost a bit, too.)

Per­haps it would be worth wait­ing for a sale, although we’re ad­vised that this par­tic­u­lar pub­lisher rarely drops its prices; check the older, me­chan­i­cally sim­i­lar and his­tor­i­cally themed Panzer Corps’ price tag for con­fir­ma­tion of that.

In any case, if se­ri­ous (or rel­a­tively se­ri­ous) wargam­ing is your bag, and if you’ve got the money to spare, Ar­maged­don is a strong pick: one of the deep­est and most re­ward­ing turn-based strat­egy games we’ve en­coun­tered on the iPad, yet one that’s leav­ened by a gen­tler and more wel­com­ing theme and story than you’d get in other war games.

There are tonnes of sin­gle-player cam­paign lev­els, of­fer­ing a va­ri­ety of chal­lenges (re­ward­ing both macro-strate­gic in­no­va­tion and adroit small-scale ma­noeu­vring – ex­ploit­ing dis­par­i­ties in shoot­ing range, for in­stance), and a ro­bust mul­ti­player mode; in terms of sheer size and longevity, you’ll be sure to get your money’s worth.

X-COM: En­emy Un­known Price: £13.99

XCOM is a re­make of an early 90s PC game called X-COM, which fuses turn-based ground mis­sions with real-time base build­ing, squad re­cruit­ment and re­search of hi-tech ways to com­bat an es­ca­lat­ing alien in­va­sion of Earth. XCOM is a more fluid,

high-speed take on the same con­cept, but re­tains the dual dis­ci­plines of tense, ter­ri­fy­ing bat­tles be­tween your squad of all-too-mor­tal sol­diers and an im­pla­ca­ble alien foe, and try­ing to con­struct a stronger line of de­fence and of­fence be­tween these.

Some­times it’s hard not to scoff at ‘tablets are the con­soles of the fu­ture’ claims, but this adap­tion of the hit turn-based, alien-hunt­ing strat­egy game is very much the real deal. While it might take a bit of a hit on the graph­i­cal front, it oth­er­wise in­cludes ev­ery­thing its rap­tur­ously-re­ceived con­sole/ PC pre­de­ces­sor did. The price will take some swal­low­ing, but it’s to­tally worth it: this tense, slick strat­egy game is one to keep you busy for weeks, not mere days.

Best word games Blackbar Price: £1.99

Part word-based puz­zle game, part po­lit­i­cal state­ment, Blackbar is all about cen­sor­ship. You

need to de­code the in­creas­ingly redacted mes­sages you re­ceive from a close friend, piec­ing to­gether as you do so the story of the op­pres­sive dystopia you live in, and your re­bel­lion against it. Pow­er­ful, funny, and never the least bit preachy.

Let­ter­press Price: Free

Be­cause Let­ter­press’s ap­proach is unique – sort of a clever mashup of Boggle and Strate­gery – it takes some time to ex­plain the rules. Once you get them down, though, this word game (with a healthy serv­ing of strat­egy) is alarm­ingly ad­dic­tive.

On your turn, you can use any of the letters in a five-by-five grid to build a word. Af­ter you sub­mit your word, the tiles you used turn blue. Then it’s your op­po­nent’s turn to make a word. The tiles he or she uses to spell a word turn pink. As you play, then, some tiles will go from blue to pink to blue again, if you and your op­po­nent keep spell­ing words with the same letters, but if you box in a blue tile with other blue tiles, it turns a darker shade of blue and stays that way. Once all the tiles have been used (or af­ter both play­ers skip a turn), the game ends. Which­ever player turned more tiles to his or her colour emerges the vic­tor.

Fans of word games won’t be dis­ap­pointed. Let­ter­press is se­ri­ously fun.

W.E.L.D.E.R. Price: £1.99

At its core, W.E.L.D.E.R. is a word search. You cre­ate words of four or more letters by swap­ping nearby tiles. If, for ex­am­ple, you’ve got the letters PUSN lined up, tap S and then N and the two letters change po­si­tions, form­ing PUNS. When this hap­pens, the letters dis­ap­pear, earn­ing you points, and any letters above drop down.

The steam­punk in­ter­face looks very cool, and just as un­nec­es­sary-yet-lovely are the am­bi­ent sounds that whoosh and tick along in the back­ground. Taken al­to­gether, W.E.L.D.E.R. is ad­dic­tive, in­struc­tive and a plea­sure for the senses.

Words With Friends Price: Free, iPhone; £6.99, iPad

(free ver­sion is also avail­able)

Words With Friends is a two-per­son crossword chal­lenge that ab­so­lutely isn’t Scrabble, though there might be a few sim­i­lar­i­ties. En­ter an email ad­dress and search for an op­po­nent us­ing Wi-Fi or 3G, seek out a ran­dom player, or in­vite friends to play through Twit­ter and Face­book. There’s also a live chat fea­ture with a pair of an­i­mated goo­gly eyes to show when a friend is online.

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