Looking for the best free iPhone games? You've come to the right place. In this article we round up the 83 best free iPhone games for your delectation, from fighting and sports games to puzzles and RPGs.
When considering free iPhone games, you should watch out for annoying in-app payments and adverts, and various other irritations. (We discuss some of these issues in Freemium is the worst thing in the history of gaming: a rant and Why apps need to be more expensive.) And if you have kids, make sure they know the dangers of in-app purchases - we'd recommend the use of parental controls to avoid an unpleasant bill.
Nevertheless, there are some excellent free iPhone games out there that earn their money fair and square: with comparatively unobtrusive adverts, or genuinely optional in-app payments that simply expand on the existing gameplay. Read next: Best free iPad games
The 12 best free iPhone games of all time
Every one of the brilliant free iPhone games in this roundup is well worth a play. But if you are pressed for time you may only want to read about the very best of the best. Here, complete with links to the App Store, you will find our 12 favourite free iPhone games of all.
- Asphalt 8: Airborne
- Beneath The Lighthouse
- Cally's Caves 3
- Circle Affinity
- Clash Royale
- Crossy Road
- Frisbee Forever 2
- King Rabbit
- Leap Day
- Super Stickman Golf 3
- Threes! Free
But now on with the main list. Here are the best free iPhone games, listed in alphabetical order. Read next: Best free Mac games
From '1010!' to 'Coolson's Pocket Pack'
When creating the original version of Tetris, designer Alexey Pajitnov was heavily influenced by a box of tetrominoes, wooden shapes that you'd tip out on to a table and then attempt to fit back into the box. 1010! takes that basic idea, but adds the line-vanishing mechanic from Tetris, making for a simple, engaging and theoretically endless puzzler.
During each round, you're given three shapes, the smallest of which are one-by-one squares, and the largest of which are three-by-three blocks or long blocks a single square wide but five long. These are then duly dragged to the ten-by-ten canvas. When all three shapes have been used, you get three more. Complete a solid line horizontally or vertically, and it vanishes. All the while, you're scoring points and probably feeling a bit smug.
But while 1010! seems like the sort of game you could feasibly play in the background while doing something else, planning is key. At any point, you can be left with a tricky combination of blocks that makes removing lines tough. Manage your canvas poorly and you'll soon be lumbered with a shape that's impossible to place. At that point, it's game over.
Ultimately, there's little in the way of innovation here, but 1010! is nonetheless a pleasingly old-school puzzler that looks good, is easy to get to grips with, and yet gives you ongoing food for thought when chasing a high score. Craig Grannell
Read next: Best iPad & iPhone apps
In the iPhone's early days, it was the games that had you directly manipulate onscreen content that seemed most exciting. They felt like a slice of the future, rather than awkwardly trying to give you some kind of on-screen joystick. AGRAV pleasingly takes the former approach, having you direct a tiny spaceship about the place by using your fingers to fashion black holes.
It's a beautifully simple system, but in practice AGRAV can be frustrating, purely because it's so different. Initial tries will almost certainly find your craft smashed to pieces on hitting the edge of the screen, or zooming past the goal, in a manner that sets teeth gnashing.
But once it clicks, AGRAV becomes a compelling game. Soon, you'll be carving out elegant arcs by touching the screen at precisely the right moment; a second black hole in front of the ship will urge it on, to beat time limits. Eventually, you'll be deftly avoiding obstacles, grabbing pick-ups, and learning the benefits of multitouch on the more complex stages. For free, you get 30 to tackle; a single IAP unlocks another 60 if these virtual black holes suck you in. Craig Grannell
Read next: Best free iPhone apps
Another word game? Yes, but this one stars bears! Even better, it's really, really good, and dead easy to get into. You start out with a board with some letters on. Tap out a word and the space the letters took up is immediately replaced by bears, which are instantly surrounded by more letters.
Added complications arrive in the form of countdown timers. Letters start out as green, and then if unused over subsequent goes turn yellow, orange and then red. Ignore red letters at your peril, because they transform into rocks, blocking bears from expanding.
You might wonder about the use of 'expanding' and 'bears' in that previous sentence, but we haven't erred - the bears in Alphabear really do stretch to fill available space. So you'll get tall and thin bears, weirdly wide and squat bears, and there's the holy grail of the 'filling the entire screen' bear if you clear all of the letters. At the end of a round, such giant beasts result in huge scores and immense satisfaction.
There are some minor drawbacks to the bear-oriented antics. The game requires a constant internet connection for online sync, and there are in-game currencies - one essentially for 'energy' to enter new rounds and the other to skip ahead by more rapidly accessing treasure events. It's there you discover especially rare bears with special powers that seriously boost your score in various ways when selected before a new round; but this mechanic serves more to over-complicate the game than improve it.
Still, for free, you can play a couple of really fun rounds per day, and there's always an 'infinite honey' IAP (£3.99) if you can't stand to wait for your next furry fix. Craig Grannell
Read next: Best board games
Asphalt 8: Airborne
Reality's taken a leave of absence in Asphalt 8. In fact, given how nitro-happy the game is, reality's likely been burned to a crisp and gleefully blasted into the wind, dispersed ashen fodder for sports cars that zoom past, mostly on the ground but often spinning, whirling and leaping through the air.
This game is the antithesis to the staid grind of Real Racing 3. It's joyful, colourful, smashy fun that doesn't take itself seriously and is all the better for it. Branched courses weave through hyper-real cities, occasionally coming to life by way of a shuttle launch or deadly avalanche. All the while, you're aiming to reach the chequered flag, ramming competition aside, and driving like an idiot.
Given that this is a Gameloft title, it of course has an IAP-sized bubble dome welded to its dayglo Bugatti Veyron, and some events are cynically locked by requiring specific (frequently expensive) cars. But there's plenty of absurdly fun racing larks to be had for nowt, and in a good racing game you'll want to replay tracks time and again anyway. And one thing's for sure: this is definitely a very good racing game. Craig Grannell
Developer Colin Lane appears to be attempting to corner the market in ridiculous sports games. First, there was Golf is Hard, a side-on ball-thwacker that required you to hit a hole-in-one every time, because it's clearly wrong and evil to walk on the grass. Then came Wrassling, a demented wrestling (of sorts) game that looked like it had fallen out of a Commodore 64. Now, Lane's returned to hitting tiny balls with sticks in Battle Golf.
Again, this one's all about holes-in-one, but putting greens now emerge from a huge expanse of water. You must therefore tap twice (to set angle and then power) and hope for the best. Hazards include hole-blocking seagulls and occasionally having to carefully aim for the top of a giant octopus. Although perfectly fine in its single-player time-attack incarnation, Battle Golf really comes into its own when the 'battle' bit is added via the same-device two-player mode. Players face off at opposite edges of the water, and frantically race to five points. As a bonus, you can cheekily temporarily knock out your rival by smacking them in the head with a ball, giving you a few precious seconds to win a point without them interfering.
There's only one IAP - £1.49/$1.99 gets rid of the ads, although these are unobtrusive and don't interrupt your games. Only flinging your (ex) friend's iPhone out of the window when they get a last-gasp fluky shot to win 5-4 can do that. Craig Grannell
The Battle of Polytopia
At the start of The Battle of Polytopia (formerly known as Super Tribes), you find yourself in a little town, surrounded by the unknown, with a single warrior unit under your command. The game gives you 30 turns to explore, locate and ally with or attack other miniature empires, research technologies, and advance your civilisation.
Much of the game is based around careful strategising, making the best use of limited resource allowances. Would it be beneficial this turn to research hunting and utilise nearby (and tasty) wildlife? Or would the smart move be getting the technology to forge huge swords, subsequently enabling you to gleefully conquer rival cities?
In essence, then, this is Civilization in microcosm - a brilliantly conceived mobile take on 4X gaming (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) that betters actual Civ games that have appeared on iPhone. In limiting your turns and giving you a score at the end, the game also feels puzzlish, since you must figure out how to better your lot with very limited resources and time. (For more bloodthirsty players, there's also a 'domination' mode, where you play until only one tribe remains standing.)
The Battle of Polytopia could arguably do with a touch more hand-holding - you're often left to figure out the game's nuances; but perhaps that's apt, letting you discover it as your tiny citizens discover their little world. Craig Grannell
This ultra-moreish puzzle game takes the 'match three' mechanic and squashes it into minute-long blasts of dazzling colours and crazy point tallies. It's astonishingly addictive.
You have to swap coloured jewels within a grid, using simple finger swipes, so that three or more line up; the matched jewels will disappear and more will replace them. The tense gameplay, drip-feed of rewards and social-media integration combine to make a game that will expand to fill any time period available.
Beneath The Lighthouse
We've never been beneath a lighthouse. We'd always assumed it'd mostly be rocks. How wrong we were. It turns out that underneath a lighthouse - or at least this particular one - you find almost certain death, in the form of spinning rooms that have spikes all over the place. If you're a rotund boy trying to find his lost Grandpa and get the lighthouse's light shining again, that's a problem.
What you get here, then, is an action puzzler, where through a combination of deft finger-work and a bit of brainpower you make your way safely into the depths of the lighthouse. The clever bit is the controls. You drag the on-screen wheel to shift the circular rooms, and gravity gets your little chap rolling (or, as is often the case, hurtling) about. The other clever bit is the level design, which starts off very slightly challenging, and becomes increasingly murderous as the game goes on.
For free, you get access to everything, but there's a lives system in play. Get killed three times during any level, and an extra set for that attempt only becomes available on watching an ad. That seems eminently fair, although those lives soon vanish - especially if you want to speedrun through the game like a maniac, in order to win yourself shiny rewards. Craig Grannell
This fast-paced auto-runner hasn't got time to waste with storylines and subtlety. Instead, it dumps your grinning square into dozens of speedy horizontally scrolling miniature worlds, peppered with spikes, missiles, dangling spiders, and other horrors intent on your immediate destruction.
With weaponry in short supply for regular quadrilaterals, our hero's only chance of survival rests in its ability to leap and flip. To leap, you prod the right-hand side of the screen. Tap the left and the square zips beneath the landscape. Suddenly, every hill becomes a valley, as you belt along upside-down.
This is, of course, nothing new: flip auto-runners have been around for some time on iOS. However, Binary Dash makes this list because of some exceptional level design. As you progress, the game slowly turns up the heat, until the point you're cursing your thumbs for failing you on a particularly nasty piece of gaming choreography for the umpteenth time. It's brash, noisy, colourful fun. Craig Grannell
For free, Binary Dash gives you 48 levels: 24 normal and 24 hard. If you pay a one-off 99p IAP, you gain access to an additional 46 levels, and the ability to unlock 'skins' for your character by using keys earned during the game.
Ah, the open road. In this case, the open road that stretches on forever, with nary a bend in sight. Still, it's rather a busy road, with countless vehicles you must deftly avoid, because a single collision spells the end of your go. To drive the message home, even the slightest prang finds your truck hurled into the air, returning to the ground as a heap of twisted and blackened pixels. Dramatic!
There's not much originality here and the chunky visual style is overly familiar, but Blocky Highway is nonetheless compelling. You get a choice of touch or tilt controls, with the latter being a bit slippy and unwieldy, yet this oddly makes for a more exciting game. It's quite something for your chunky vehicle to zig-zag along a busy freeway, avoiding collisions by a hair's breadth.
Over time, the game adds to the challenge through various means. Roadwork occasionally and abruptly blocks your way, and train tracks cross your path; in the latter case, the game offers a novel means to avoid speeding locomotives: huge pads that bounce you into the air. Other helpers infrequently appear, too - there's a helicopter that for a short while lifts you above the busy road, and a truck you can drive on top of that gleefully bulldozes traffic out of your way. And when your game finally comes to its smashy end, you get a chance to grab a few extra points by landing your bouncing wreck on other cars presumably driven by significantly more careful road users. Craig Grannell
It's not the best of days. The world is occupied by hostile invaders, intent on hunting you down. Worse, you just zoomed away in a spaceship clearly designed by an idiot. It never runs out of fuel, but has the steering capabilities of a cow on an ice rink. And although it boasts a boost function - handy for keeping ahead of, say, ferocious aliens with massive laser cannons - it's charged by perilously having your badly steering craft 'graze' flat surfaces.
What this makes for, though, is an exhilarating videogame. You blast through gorgeous 3D environments, avoiding obstacles in the desolate landscape, carefully timing boosts whenever your alien pursuer ventures a bit too near. Phantoms of your best and previous runs are displayed, so you can potentially execute a brilliant manoeuvre a second time round while simultaneously avoiding that less-brilliant move where you slammed into a massive wall.
We'd prefer Breakneck if the craft was more manoeuvrable - there's no deft weaving and zig-zagging here. Instead, you drift in a manner akin to the developer's own endless horror runner, Into the Dead. Still, that adds strategy - the environment resets every day, and your craft's inadequacies force you to find shortcuts and quickly learn the best routes. And when you're approaching the end of a zone, boost tank empty, and your siren starts blaring about an imminent alien attack, this is one of the most exciting 3D avoid 'em ups around. Craig Grannell
Cally's Caves 3
You'll probably be some way into Cally's Caves 3 when you start to wonder what the catch is. "Surely," you'll say, "the developers haven't given me an expansive and beautifully designed - if frequently frustrating and challenging in an old-school kind of way - platform game with oodles of blasting." At least that's what we said, cursing our thumbs whenever we died, and wondering at what point the game would lock up and start demanding money.
As it turns out, the developers are hardcore gamers and have no truck with terrible monetisation. Therefore, you get unobtrusive ads on static screens, and are otherwise left to your own devices. And the game is excellent.
The backstory involves Cally's parents being kidnapped for a third time by an evil scientist. She therefore resolves to rescue them, primarily by leaping about the place and blowing away all manner of adversaries using the kind of high-powered weaponry not usually associated with a young girl with pig-tails. Level layouts are varied, and weapon power-ups are cleverly designed, based around how much you use each item. The one niggle is the map, which is checkpoint-based - it's a bit too easy to find yourself replaying a trio of levels again and again to get to a place further along in your journey where you can restart.
Still, that merely forces you to take a little more care, rather than blundering about the place, and to breathe in the delicately designed pixellated landscapes. And should you decide you want to throw money at the developers, there are optional IAPs that unlock new game modes, or a load of coins if you want to splurge in the in-game store without working for your money. Craig Grannell
We do like a good word game, and Capitals is a very good word game. There are echoes here of Letterpress (mentioned further down in this alphabetically ordered feature), in the sense that Capitals combines Risk-style land-grabbing with the need to create words from a jumble of letters. However, while Letterpress for the most part benefits players able to fashion lengthy words, Capitals is more about where the letters you choose to use are located.
The game plays out on a hexagonal grid, either with two players using the same device or battling it out online thanks to a Game Center match-up. All letters on the board can be used to create a word, but only those attached to your territory flip to your colour on submitting a move. The important thing is to keep your capital surrounded by territory rather than letters. If you don't and your rival's move includes letters adjacent to your capital, it's captured. They then get a free turn, and since the objective of the game is total and utter annihilation, that extra move is often enough to gift victory.
For no money at all, Capitals is one of the best games around for word-game nuts, although we'll admit to being a smidgeon miffed about the ad model; in miserly fashion, it only gives up a solitary game for every advert watched. Still, since a game can often play out as a days-long tug o' war, the ads are hardly a huge drain on your time for what you get in return. Craig Grannell
Paid-for title Circa Infinity was an innovative, chaotic and relentlessly engaging platformer. With you essentially leaping into concentric circles patrolled by monsters, its dizzying and disorienting nature was strangely compelling and captivating. Circle Affinity is essentially a zero-outlay take on the original, offering an endless mode for free, and enabling you to get rid of the adverts for £1.49, or unlock the rest of the game's modes for £2.29.
For nowt, though, you get something that's quite brilliant and unique. The aim is always to enter the pie-slice section of the current circle and then leap into the smaller orb bobbing about within. But that's easier said than done when battling your brain's ability to track a little chap running here and there, flipping between the outside and inside of a disc, while also keeping an eye on various beasties roaming and flitting about.
Additionally, hang about too long and gigantic tooth-like spikes encroach from the screen edges, to the sound effect of some kind of malevolent alien predator growling that it's planning to chew your legs off. That's certainly an encouragement to get moving! Craig Grannell
Breakout was the original brick basher. Based on Pong, you directed a bat left and right to smash a ball back at a wall of bricks. Although conceived by Nolan Bushnell and Steve Bristow, the game was infused into the history of Apple through being built by Steve Wozniak (under the 'guidance' of Steve Jobs, who stiffed Woz on a lucrative bonus payment). Breakout then informed much of the design of the Apple II, because Woz wanted a colourful and noisy version running on the computer to show off to his pals.
There are countless Breakout iterations on modern Apple hardware, but Circle Breakout provides a new spin on things by having your bat hug a circular danger zone. And rather than you having direct control, you tap the screen to switch the direction of its automatic movement. With the bat's speed remaining constant, you're frequently in a risk/reward scenario: do you go for bonuses (bombs; multiballs; bullets) or play it safe, knowing you'll make the next shot?
The end result is an oddly tense take on a classic, not least because you know you're done for sooner or later. (Smash a wall of bricks and another nonchalantly slides in. There's no respite - ever.) Craig Grannell
With developer Supercell known for some of the biggest-grossing (and, in IAP terms, grossest) games on the App Store, you might approach its latest, Clash Royale, with suspicion. After all, it feeds off of a kind of collector mentality, and is stuffed full of IAP, which tops out at a mammoth $99.99/£79.99 for a 'mountain of gems'. But look past this and you'll find one of the most infuriatingly compulsive multiplayer titles around.
The basic set-up has you battling other players online, on tiny single-screen arenas. Each player has a King tower and two smaller flanking buildings. Units are placed on the battlefield by selecting cards from your deck (four being available at any one time) and each costs some 'elixir' (which slowly refills). Duels are all about figuring out how to best your opponent by countering their attacks and unleashing surprises of your own.
This could all have gone so wrong, but Clash Royale is a surprisingly fair game. Sure, if you want the best units and access to the top arena immediately, you're going to have to pay a small fortune. But if you're happy scrapping away in the lower leagues, you can play and slowly build a better deck without spending a penny. And even the timer system to unlock chests won in combat doesn't prove irksome, given that without it, you'd probably end up playing Clash Royale around the clock. Craig Grannell
Coolson's Pocket Pack
There's nothing like a cleverly designed and fast-paced word game for making you feel stupid, instantly forgetting every three-letter construction when it really matters.
Here, hand-drawn chocolate squares drop into a well, and you must quickly swipe them into empty slots, which quickly disappear in return for points. Linger and a wobbling and full column of letters explodes all over the screen, just to drive the message home of how rubbish you are. Conversely, a monocle-wearing penguin affirms his appreciation for any and all fish-based words by leaning into the screen and glaring at you.
So this isn't exactly Scrabble, then, but it's all the better for it. Coolson's Pocket Pack eschews much planning and pondering, instead fostering an obsession with speed, not least when you clock the chaining mechanic. Avoid swapping letters in the well or returning any from the slots and you quickly rack up huge points. This turns Pocket Pack from what was already a challenging affair into a word game of quick thinking and steely reserve, holding your nerve waiting for the right letter to appear, while several towers threaten major chocolate spillage. Craig Grannell
Want more games? We've only just got started! Turn to the next page to read more recommendations of brilliant free iPhone games.
From 'Critter Panic' to 'King Rabbit'
Welcome to our roundup of the best free iPhone games (which are arranged in alphabetical order). This is page two out of five. Our next recommendation is:
Sometimes you'll fire up a game and scoff that it's clearly far too easy. But the longer you play, your bluster will deflate and your ego will be chipped away as the game makes you eat your words. That's very much the case with Critter Panic.
To be fair, it does look absurdly simple at first. A stream of cute critters appears, and they must be sorted left or right, depending on where their permanently on-screen fellows are lurking. Soon, though, a third critter enters the mix, and then a fourth. It's around this point everything starts to go wrong. Last long enough and there'll be a small menagerie on each side of the screen. The countdown that initially seemed so generous will dip into single figures. And your thumb and brain will inconveniently disagree regarding which direction a goofy panda should be sent, denying you precious seconds as the game briefly locks up. You won't be scoffing so much then.
(Note that a paid, ad-free version of this game also exists on the App Store, the very similarly titled Critter Panic!) Craig Grannell
You've probably already installed smash hit Crossy Road. If not, do so immediately; and while you're waiting, have a quick read of why it's one of the finest freebies on mobile.
First, it's dead simple and entirely intuitive. Imagine Frogger with isometric graphics and a single level that goes on forever. That's perhaps not fun for the game's protagonist, who must hop across endless busy highways, train-lines, and rivers full of floating logs, before inevitably being squashed/drowning/ending up on the front of the 8:24 to Paddington. But it's great for you, because it's an endless, infinitely replayable challenge. And the controls - tap to jump forward or swipe to move in any direction - are pitch-perfect.
Secondly, it looks gorgeous. The visuals are bright and cheery, to the point you won't be too annoyed when your critter gets splattered, or grabbed by a terrifying bird of prey when you dawdle a second too long.
Finally, Crossy Road is the least obnoxious free-to-play title around, despite being packed full of collectables. Sure, you can pay IAP to get a new character (of which there are many), but alternatively you can grab coins as you play, view an ad to swell your wallet, or even just do nothing at all and grin as the game generously lobs a bunch of virtual cash in your general direction anyway.
You can then try your luck on a one-armed bandit that will reward you with anything from a vampire that turns Crossy Road into a bleak landscape bathed in red, to 'Doge', whose antics are accompanied by lurid Comic Sans phrases. Much hop! Very car! Craig Grannell
Does Not Commute
Does Not Commute starts with a simple driving challenge: get from point A to point B before the timer 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, driving a second vehicle on the same course. Only this time you need to contend with another driver on the road: yourself, following whatever route you just took in the first car. This repeats until the screen is dangerously and hilariously full.
There are lots of neat touches: the funny snapshots of each commuter's life and why they're in a hurry; the reckless jumps and shortcuts that you're heavily 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 timer-boosting powerups; and, best of all, the challenge of adapting to a vehicle that handles completely differently to the previous one, all within a space of seconds.
This is a free game, but but you can't save at any of the checkpoints until you upgrade to the Premium version, which costs £1.49. David Price
Down The Mountain
You might detect a whiff of Crossy Road (above) when first laying eyes on Down The Mountain. It has similar cartoonish, cuboid, colourful characters. There's instadeath when you mess up. And there's a hint of Crossy Road's collector mentality, in you gradually amassing a bunch of misfits to guide down the seemingly infinitely high hill from hell. But there any similarity ends, because Down The Mountain is simultaneously much simpler and far trickier than Crossy Road.
It's much easier in the sense of the controls. Like Crossy Road, there's old arcade game DNA in Down The Mountain, but it's a Q*bert playfield of isometric cubes, rather than endless Frogger. But whereas other characters on the mountain have free movement, you don't - you can only bound downwards, to your left or right. The tough bit is everything else. The mountain is chock full of deadly hazards, such as bounding cars, stabby spikes, lava blocks and ravenous beasts. Some tiles temporarily reverse the controls, while others poison you, leaving mere seconds to find an antidote.
Down The Mountain, then, swiftly becomes a bit overwhelming, with you having to juggle all kinds of tasks and dangers. Games are short. Yet if you persevere and get yourself into 'the zone', it becomes a thoroughly addictive experience; and even if you get frustrated, the game's hugely charming nature always draws you back for one more go.
(There's IAP here, but it's all avoidable. If you'd like to reward the devs, though, 79p removes the unobtrusive ads, or gets you four keys that can be used to unlock crates that award you new characters. Keys are otherwise found on the mountain.) Craig Grannell
Like almost everything else Colin Lane has unleashed on the App Store, Dunkers seems to be a deranged lunatic's take on an otherwise perfectly conventional sport. Here, you're playing one-on-one basketball in a crazed cartoon world of arm-whirling and bouncy physics.
Initially, Dunkers feels barely controllable. You get two buttons, marked with arrows. One hops you left while the other has you leap rightwards into the air. All the while, your arms spin in the direction of travel, while you bound around as if playing basketball on the moon. It's all quite disconcerting.
But spend time with the game and you'll slowly master the timing needed to snatch a ball from an opponent and slam dunk your way to glory - at least some of the time. (Dunkers thumbs its nose at precision, instead preferring a merry little jig before falling on its face while laughing its head off.)
For no outlay whatsoever - unless you pay £1.49 to remove the adverts - you get an arcade mode (score as many baskets as possible before you concede), a 'career' (climb a league through wins) and a two-player mode. More importantly, you should get some belly laughs, unless you're dead inside. Craig Grannell
Easy Joe World
The creator of Easy Joe World suggests it's a callback to retro-gaming's basic visuals combined with mobile-friendly puzzles that are fast to complete. During play, we rather more thought of Easy Joe World as only just bordering on being a game, instead coming across like a semi-interactive cartoon.
This isn't a bad thing, because this title's brimming with inventiveness and charm. Across 140 short scenes, you follow the adventures of the mischievous Joe, a rabbit who seems to delight in everything from petty theft to using a helicopter to wrench the roof off a school and free bored tiny bunnies from academic drudgery.
Each scene is very much designed as a set piece with a smattering of puzzling. Interaction involves prodding the relevant part of the screen to kick off the next bit of the action, be it nudging Joe so he hops on to a new platform, or flipping a switch so an unfortunate actor is catapulted into a wall.
Occasionally, it's not terribly obvious what you're supposed to do next, and we'll admit to sometimes mashing the screen until something happened. But for the most part, there's an approachable cartoon logic to Easy Joe World that makes for an engaging and entertaining experience. Chances are, it'll never make your brain hurt, and it's possible to blaze through the entire thing in about an hour. But it's the perfect time-waster for a commute or slice of downtime when you fancy playing something rather than just watching telly, but can't cope with anything too taxing. Craig Grannell
Empires & Puzzles: RPG Quest
Empires & Puzzles isn't quite like anything we've played before; imagine Bejeweled with an RPG theme and you're around 10 percent of the way there. While other RPGs on the App Store may be presented as 3D or side-scrollers, Empires & Puzzles relies on you to battle Bejeweled-style by lining up matching colours.
However, it's much more tactical than that: each colour on the board is not only representative of a Hero in your deck, but also the type of power. In a similar way to Pokemon, green gems (grass) weaken blue (water-based) enemies, so the key is to align gems that rise up and strike the enemy above it.
If you line up a row of gems made from the weakness of your enemy, you deal more damage and can easily power your way through the wave-based combat to get to the boss (or bosses, in some cases). There are also power-ups that can really help turn the tide of a match and create stunning combos.
That's not all though: you also build and develop a stronghold which in turn produces meat, iron and heroes for you to train and use in battle. Once your heroes are strong enough, you can join alliances, battle huge monsters with the rest of the Empires & Puzzles community and even go head to head with other online players.
While there is a limit to how much you can play at one time (although you do earn more 'points' to use as you level up), we find that the combination of story, PVP and stronghold development was enough to keep us coming back time and time again. Be warned: you will become addicted, just like we have.
FREE | For iPhone & iPad | Download Empires & Puzzles
This one combines golf, solitaire and an occasionally irate gopher. Each course comprises three screens of cards, removed by tapping out those one higher or lower than whatever you last drew from the pile. The aim is to leave the fewest possible cards face down, which are then converted to a golf score. Get under par for the course and you unlock the next.
Which all sounds a bit dull; and that should hardly come as a shock in a game combining a sedate sport where you thwack a small ball about with a card game designed to be played on your own. Yet Fairway Solitaire is surprisingly breezy fun. The visuals are bright and vibrant, and there's plenty of character in the game, not least in the commentary track, and also strange cutscenes where the aforementioned gopher makes contraptions to avenge a fallen ancestor.
With this being solitaire, there's naturally frustration in the randomness of the cards; and you do feel in later courses the game is making things intentionally tricky, nudging you towards IAP for extending a turn. Still, with mulligans and clubs to update your current card, there's plenty of strategy for those willing to focus rather than chip away at random. Craig Grannell
Full of Stars
We've seen quite a few iPhone games using dynamics akin to old-school Choose Your Own Adventure books, but Full of Stars is something different. Rather than an interactive adventure with a smattering of inventory management, this game takes that foundation and welds it to a high-octane and surprisingly demanding arcade section.
The basic premise, as you find out within the first few minutes, is that there's a big war going on, and humanity finds itself on the brink of extinction. As the captain of a rickety vessel, your aim is to find refugees and shepherd them to somewhere safe.
The storyline that runs throughout the game is a branching narrative that often has you make life-or-death decisions. Which route will you take? When dropping off a few passengers on a bomb-scarred planet's surface, will you let them take the extra provisions they demand? On earning some hard cash, which bits of your ship will you upgrade?
When it comes to the arcade bit, you find yourself belting along in a rather crowded take on outer space. Rather than a vertically scrolling void, this universe is packed with tiny moons and asteroids to avoid, and all kinds of goodies to scoop up that power your weapons and hyperspace unit.
This mix of genres works nicely, shaking up the pace as you switch between intense arcade sections and the more thoughtful narrative. The flying bits are a bit too challenging at times, which may hamper longevity among the less determined, but if you can take the odd knock (most likely from a large moon you hadn't noticed), there's a lot to like here. Craig Grannell
You can play through Full of Stars for nothing, but can boost your chances through grabbing-in-game currency. Also, if you want to remove the energy timer that otherwise has you watch ads for extra goes, that costs £3.99.
Frisbee Forever 2
Flinging a plastic disc about may not seem like the ideal subject for a breezy arcade game, but Frisbee Forever 2 proves otherwise. Rather than aiming at a friend in a park, hurling the Frisbee here begins the first of many roller-coaster rides through colourful and varied environments.
The controls are dead simple - you use tilt or touch controls to nudge the Frisbee left or right. At first, the paths are slight and simple, with you grabbing stars and flying through the odd hoop. But before long you're swooping by pirate ships, scraping through tiny windmill windows, or plunging into a frozen canyon before zooming back towards the heavens.
Although this is a freemium title, the game rewards you for spending time with it. Even failing a level gets you virtual currency, which can be used to unlock new Frisbees (purely aesthetic in nature) or additional level sets. You can of course also buy currency via IAP, but there's no real need unless you're desperate to immediately unlock a new location. Either way, this game's elegance, charm, excellent level design and lovely visuals feel like a distilled Nintendo-style experience on your iPhone. Craig Grannell
Go To Gold 2
It takes a lot for a block-sliding puzzler to get us excited, but Go To Gold 2 delivers the goods in style.
First, it looks gorgeous. There's great clarity in your surroundings and all the puzzle pieces you have to deal with, but also a tactility that contrasts favourably with the typically sterile and unimaginative visuals you usually find in such games.
Mostly, though, Go To Gold 2 is all about smashing your brains out with a gold brick. The mechanics, at least, are familiar. It's more or less Sokoban, tasking you with sliding objects around small rooms, towards goal tiles. But here, the aim is to use statues to trigger switches that temporarily open coloured gates, potentially enabling you to slide another statue on to the treasure spot.
We say potentially, because this is a long way from a walkover. Even the earliest puzzles are extremely tight and clever, based around claustrophobic, carefully constructed rooms, and quite a lot of backtracking. It's the sort of game that'll have you stare at the screen for many minutes, steam pouring out of your ears. But when you get that eureka moment, it feels all the more rewarding. Craig Grannell
Grumpy Cat's Worst Game Ever
Presumably, this one's branded the 'worst game ever', on the basis its decidedly bad-tempered host - the titular grumpy cat - can't be doing with all the minigames, and would rather you go and play something else instead. Unfortunately for this miffed moggie, Grumpy Cat's Worst Game Ever is a superb WarioWare-style game for iPhone.
If you've not played this kind of thing before, you hit start and are confronted with a mini-game featuring a timer. You must instantly figure out what to do and complete your task before the timer runs down. Succeed and the game unhelpfully speeds up. Mess up and you lose one of your three lives.
As you might expect, a number of the mini-games are based around the life of a tetchy cat, with you helping to capture a laser pen light, or fling the hapless feline at a floating box. Before long, though, things start getting weird, such as when you have to grapple with kitty karaoke, or your cat starts karate-chopping wood like a furry extra from a Bruce Lee flick.
Colourful, silly and compelling, Grumpy Cat's Worst Game Ever is an essential download. Play for long enough and you'll unlock loads of new games and modes to try - much to the cat's chagrin. Craig Grannell
In-app purchases: You can buy coin packs to speed up unlocks, ranging from 99p for 1,000 coins to £3.99 for 10,000. You can also grab Messages stickers (99p) and remove the ads (£1.99). If you enjoy the game, by all means nuke the ads and buy the stickers, but the other IAPs aren't necessary unless you're really impatient.
If you're of a certain age (or your parents are and have old gaming kit stashed in the attic), you might have experience with Nintendo Game & Watch - little LCD handhelds with the kind of jerky graphics that would make a Pixar animator cry out in agony.
But what Game & Watch always had was simple, compelling gameplay. You always felt your fingers had failed you on hearing the tuneless game over jingle, and immediately restarted for 'just one more go'. At least until the batteries ran dry, which didn't take very long in those days.
All of which is a long intro to say: you should download HEIST immediately. With an iPhone 6/6s in your mitts, HEIST offers almost the exact dimensions of a classic Game & Watch, and its visuals are suitably authentic (although not too authentic, Nintendo legal team). The aim is simple: nip from bank to hot air balloon, grabbing coins along the way. Occasionally, the balloon is replaced by a cop, who bars your way. Additionally, concerned citizens intent on stopping your criminal behaviour lob all manner of heavy items in your general direction.
For old hands, HEIST is nostalgic fun; for young 'uns, it's an endless twitch survival game with a retro vibe. For Nintendo, it should be a lesson - quite why the company's not got its classic Game & Watch line-up on iOS, we've no idea. SNES-style Mario Bros. would be a disaster on iPhone, but Parachute, Turtle Bridge and Octopus would be perfect. Craig Grannell
This platform game has a great pedigree, coming from the people who unleashed the superb Bean Dreams. Initially, though, you might be forgiven for thinking High Risers is yet another throwaway one-button leapy game. It's set in a sky scraper, and you tap the screen to make your little runner hop to the next level. The hook is that each level may be missing one or more walls, and if the runner suddenly bolts on to thin air, they parachute to the ground.
This basic gameplay idea is quite nice, but only a step up from fairly vacuous fare you can play with half an eye on the television. Fortunately, High Risers regularly shakes things up to keep you on your toes. There are horizontal sections to jump across, like a precision Canabalt. 'Under construction' areas of towers have you bounce off suspended scaffolding that abruptly jerks upwards, ready for you to leap towards seconds later. And as you head towards space, the tower becomes thin and irregular, meaning that a moment's lack of focus results in failure.
So while this game might not initially look like much, it's an excellent freebie one-thumb platformer that offers a lot more than you first realise. Craig Grannell
You can use IAP in High Risers to buy new characters and locations that are otherwise slowly unlocked as you play.
Hill Climb Racing
Hill Climb Racing is an excellent time filler which you can pick up and put down at a moment's notice. Better still, it's an excellent free time filler.
You spend the game driving a 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 flip the vehicle over. There's just a brake and accelerator, but you must use these controls carefully - and mastering them is tremendously rewarding. Before long you'll be beating the steep hills you previously thought impossible.
Using coins you can upgrade your starting vehicle and unlock new ones. 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 rather than earning them, but it's perfectly possible to play Hill Climb Racing without spending any money at all. Jim Martin
There's a hint of Threes! about Imago, but this puzzler based on sliding tiles is more complex than its famous rival. Here, numbered pieces are dragged and merged in terms of size and score until they get too big. They then break apart into smaller pieces, but each one retains the score of the larger block. The aim is to think long term, trying to position everything so that your score rapidly ramps up. Get this right, and you can end up soaring into the millions - or even billions - during the final few turns.
Imago is quite complex, but eases you in gently. There are four modes, which gradually introduce key concepts of the game as you work through them. Get good enough and you unlock 'Imago', which won't break blocks apart unless they're a massive two-by-eight in size. The only fly in the ointment is a vile IAP pitch when you complete a game, offering additional turns for cash. This wouldn't be so bad, but even if you've beaten your high score, the game oddly says you're 'so close' and urges a purchase. But ignore that niggle and you'll find one of the best puzzlers on iPhone to enjoy. Craig Grannell
In this delightful cave flyer, your disgruntled lab-assistant character steals a machine-gun-powered jetpack (don't ask) and takes flight through the lab's never-ending string of long, tunnel-like rooms. As you jet or run along, you need 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. Dan Frakes
See also: Best free iPad games
Joan Mad Run
Here we go again - another endless runner. Only Joan Mad Run has plenty going for it, and manages to stand out from the crowd. The action takes place on a rapidly scrolling screen across three levels of platforms that Joan leaps between by way of vertical swipes. The timing of said swipes is critical, to avoid heavily armed guards blocking your way, security drones lazily bobbing up and down, massive saw blades left lying about the place by some kind of maniac, and the kind of laser meshes that are the bane of every videogame hero.
Fortunately, Joan can fight back. She's armed with a knife with which to get all slashy, and a massive gun. Along her way, she can also grab pick-ups, giving her a boost or providing temporarily infinite ammo for weapons that otherwise run dry frustratingly quickly. Every now and again, you battle a boss that's seemingly fallen fully formed out of someone's worst nightmares about a hell dimension. (The first is a kind of human/worm hybrid that belches blood when eviscerated. Even in Joan Mad Run's retro pixel art, it's fairly gruesome.)
Nigglers might gripe there's nothing really new here, but Joan Mad Run nonetheless feels fresh and compelling. The controls and on-screen demands together feel like juggling, and although this is a simple game to get started with, you'll need to make Joan madly run for some time before you're capable of staying alive for more than a scant minute or so of sprinting. Craig Grannell
We've played KANO a bunch of times and still have absolutely no idea what's going on. We know what we have to do, but this is otherwise a game of strangeness.
The gameplay, then, involves colour-matching. You control a platform at the foot of the screen, which has four coloured tiles. It can be spun with a finger, and stops with a prod, in a pleasingly tactile manner. The aim is to match the colour of a bouncing and endlessly transforming gurning 3D being when it lands.
At first, KANO is mind-numbingly easy, but that doesn't last long. Within a minute or so, the bouncing increases to manic pace, and you'll eventually miss a match. At that point, the tile disappears, leaving a hole into a lava pit; you'll then meet a furious fireball, which when it appears must be steered into the lava rather than allowing it to collide with any remaining coloured tiles. Now and again, there's a little bonus section, where you grab coins in space, boosting your points tally.
The game continues until you've only one tile left, at which point you're awarded with a score and get to have a bit of a breather. Rather amusingly, the sole IAP (£2.29 for 'premium') adds a 'turbo mode' at double speed. Frankly, we're not sure we'd be able to cope. Craig Grannell
You might expect a royal rabbit to sit on his royal behind all day, demanding to be fed carrots. But regal rodents soon amass enemies, and in this case they've kidnapped our crowned bunny's subjects. King Rabbit must therefore free them all, primarily by way of sliding things about in a grid-based puzzler.
Initially, the going is easy. The gold-hatted hero hops to it, exploring tiny islands, sliding about the odd box, finding keys, and finally freeing a caged rabbit (while doing an amusing victory jig that's quite unbecoming of royalty). Pretty soon, the game ups the challenge, showcasing that although King Rabbit's enemies are perhaps a bit too obsessed with setting carefully constructed clockwork traps, they certainly have an eye for design. So before long, you're figuring out how to dodge saw blades, avoid poisonous snakes, fling bombs about, and scoot through teleporter-like tunnels.
Really, there's not a lot here that you haven't seen before. But what King Rabbit gets so perfectly right is execution. The visuals are vibrant and clear, and the level design is clever and challenging, but has the kind of difficulty curve that sucks you in rather than slamming your face into a giant stone carrot. Craig Grannell
Want more free iPhone games? We've only just got started! Turn to the next page to read more recommendations of brilliant free iPhone games.
From 'Last Ninja Twins' to 'Path To Luma'
Welcome to our roundup of the best free iPhone games (which are arranged in alphabetical order). This is page three out of five. Our next recommendation is:
The Last Ninja Twins
There are so many auto-runners on the App Store that we suspect if every one of them was a brick, you could stack them up and make some kind of structure to reach the moon. On that basis, it's important newcomers do something reasonably original, if they want to stand out.
In The Last Ninja Twins, the aim is to reach the end of each short level, ensuring the little people clad in black don't fall down a hole or smack into a wall on the way. If this was a typical auto-runner, that would be simple enough, but the twist here is the 'twins' bit, with two people running simultaneously. You tap the right side of the screen to make the lead twin jump and the left to have the other one leap. Tap either side twice in quick succession to perform a double jump.
Tight level design ensures The Last Ninja Twins is more than just a gimmick. And if you want to grab the three gold coins within a stage, you'll need to commit every nook and cranny to memory, along with ensuring your thumbs do their job properly. Craig Grannell
Developer Nitrome has a habit of capturing the essence of popular genres, stripping them to the core, and cleverly reworking them for mobile. Leap Day is, ostensibly, a platform game. The only snag is the hero of the hour - a little yellow blob that looks like a kind of retro Muppet - automatically runs. All you can do to control it is tap the screen to jump - and then a second time to double-jump.
Limitations are also imposed on the game's environments. In Leap Day, each level is one screen wide but dozens high. Your aim is to climb to the top, avoiding death through being spiked or clobbered by one of the many beasties ambling about. Along the way, you grab fruit, which can be spent at opportune checkpoints that mean when you die (and you will die - frequently) you don't have to start from the beginning.
As with any platform game, Leap Day is primarily about timing. And as with any good platform game, it has excellent level design. You'll sit swearing at your screen about an impossible section, only to crack it and feel like a boss. Interestingly, a new level appears daily, giving an excuse to regularly check in. Craig Grannell
In this alarmingly addictive puzzle game, you and your opponent take turns to use the letters in a five-by-five grid to build a word, thereby causing the tiles you use to change into your colour. At game end, whichever player has turned more tiles to his or her colour emerges the victor. Serious fun for word game fans. Lex Friedman
Here's a video in which we discuss the iPad version of Letterpress, but the iPhone one's great too, and almost exactly the same.
Little Broken Robots
There are probably engineers staring at Little Broken Robots, complaining that repairing actual little broken robots is a tad more challenging than what's initially depicted in this game. In fact, Little Broken Robots's early levels are so sedate you worry it might lapse into unconsciousness. The aim is simple: fix malfunctioning cartoon robots by dragging wires of differing lengths around grid-based circuit boards, ensuring every single gap is filled.
At first, the puzzling barely registers. Early boards are tiny and the wires are short. Before long, though, boards become larger, forcing you to think about how and where to snake lengthier wires when you're pretty sure the others are perfectly positioned. Eventually, you're faced with junctions that accept multiple wires, resulting in seriously savage puzzles for what initially appeared to be a throwaway freebie. At this point, even the aforementioned engineers might concede Little Broken Robots isn't a pushover.
Yet even when your brains are being smashed out by an uncooperative circuit board, this title's never less than charming. An agreeable tune noodles away in the background, and the visuals are superb. Droids that are initially grumpy and glitchy watch with interest as you sort out their innards, gradually cheering up as things go well. When you're done, the happy droid is boxed up and sent on its way.
For free, you get plenty of puzzles to keep you entertained, but should you run out of broken robots to fix, a single £2.29 IAP unlocks endless randomised boards to fiddle with. Craig Grannell
Another entry from the 'rub your tummy, pat your head' school of game design, Loop Mania has the most simple of premises but is extremely tough to play. Your little disc speeds around the inside of a circle, eating up dots. Other circles gradually join you. Larger ones are slothful and smaller ones zoom along. If one of them smacks into you (or you smack into them), game over.
There is an exception: tap the screen and you leap to the other side of the circle. If while doing so you hit a trundling foe, it'll be knocked away, temporarily making your life a little easier. But the speed at which Loop Mania moves makes this easier said than done. It's surprisingly tricky to keep track of what's on screen, despite the entire game comprising a few coloured dots.
Further smarts come by way of a risk-versus-reward scoring system. Eat more dots without jumping and your score rapidly ramps up. But avoid jumping for too long and you'll risk a collision. It all feels a bit like someone mashed Pac-Man into Super Hexagon and ruthlessly simplified what remained, resulting in an immediate and addictive arcade gaming experience. Craig Grannell
The little critters in Los Aliens know how to make things hard for themselves. They're very much into exploring new worlds, but also create rigid rules about how to do so. For some reason, they can only move about like knights on a chessboard, working their way around grid sectors by way of L-shaped leaps. As they go, they dump fuel required to power their spaceship. Should a complete line be built vertically or horizontally across the current zone, the ship blasts forwards; do this enough times, and it heads into orbit, ready to zoom to a new planet.
As you work your way through the game, it merrily lobs new curveballs in your direction: limited moves or limited time; the requirement to collect native species; teleporters; and more. The visuals are vibrant, and the game's mechanics feel quite fresh, even if this is fairly standard puzzle fare. There are ads and timers lurking, as you might imagine. But if you play a little every day, the former won't irk, and the ads can be blasted into space by way of a single £1.49/$1.99 IAP if they begin to grate. Craig Grannell
Shaking up the rules of a game can reinvigorate it. In Moveless Chess, rather than playing out a standard game, you begin with pieces already scattered across the board. And instead of you picking up a piece to move it, you're a wizard with a penchant for playing fast and loose with the rulebook, transforming pieces already in play.
Your opponent doesn't have such skills, and can only respond by playing as normal, somehow restraining themselves from taking your wand and shoving it down your cheating throat. They also sometimes get the last laugh, because there are also strict limitations upon you. First, you can't move pieces - and can only transform them - which pretty much serves you right; secondly, you only have a limited number of action points. Want to transform a piece into a knight? A snip at three points! A queen? That'll be nine points to you, cheaty wizard! And you'll likely be able to do little else.
What you get, then, is 64 cleverly designed puzzles with a decidedly chessy theme. Visually, it's all very smart, and although the oddly medieval soundtrack might grate after a while, it seems perfectly apt for a game of chess in which some poor sap's facing off against an opponent who can transform the very pieces on the board. Craig Grannell
In-app purchases: The app has a timer system. When that runs dry, you can wait a bit and get four free minutes, or you can watch an advert for eight minutes of play time. Alternatively, you can stop being such a cheapskate and pay 99p to be rid of timers and ads entirely.
FREE | For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Moveless Chess
It's very easy on firing up a puzzle game to be dismissive, sniffily noting that you've seen it all before. You might think that on downloading Mr. Square, but what this game lacks in originality, it makes up for with dozens of enjoyable puzzles, and a tendency to never outstay its welcome.
The idea is to 'paint' every tile on the floor. The snag is that Mr. Square is seemingly on ice, and will slide until reaching a barrier of some sort. Furthermore, any painted tiles transform into walls that cannot be crossed a second time. You must therefore plan ahead, figuring out a path that won't leave you stranded, with one pesky unpainted tile taunting you from across the screen.
Two smart ideas propel this basic concept onwards. First, the game's divided into chapters, each of which throws something new into the mix - teleporters; one-way routes; a clone that copies your every move. Secondly, you can make and share levels of your own, or try those that other people have made. Most surprisingly, this is all offered entirely for free. Although you can buy coins to unlock chapters early, there's really no need, because 150 are generously given out on completing a level; and if tempted, you can get 100 more at any point by watching a video ad. Craig Grannell
NASCAR Heat Mobile
If your idea of racing is all about stock cars zooming about oval tracks, occasionally bashing into each other and causing eye-popping wrecks, NASCAR Heat's going to be your poison on mobile.
The game's split between on- and off-track elements. In the former case, you scoot about, attempting to slipstream opponents for a boost of extra speed. Controls are tilt- or tap-based, and although the graphics and car movement are occasionally a touch iffy, they work well enough on an iPhone.
Away from the tarmac, NASCAR Heat has you construct various buildings used to generate resources to support your racing team. It feels a bit 'busywork' at times, and might frustrate those wanting to just immerse themselves in action. But the 'Fan Zone' does afford the game a little extra depth, and provides you with various routes to potential victories.
Beyond that, it's all about objectives and the chequered flag. In earlier races, the latter's going to be out of reach, so you can instead gun for achievements such as making a set number of passes. These earn you stars for unlocking new races.
It's a pity NASCAR Heat didn't opt for a rather simpler arcade mode, or a full campaign. Instead, it rather falls between both camps, knocking its immediacy and depth. Still, it's good for a quick blast of speed, and nicely fills a sub-genre that's been rather empty on mobile. Craig Grannell
As you might expect, this one's full of IAP and timers. Run out of 'fuel' for race attempts and you can replenish that with an ad. Everything else is about virtual cash, but you can ignore that entirely if you're willing to grind a bit.
New Star Soccer
It's a testament to the brilliant gameplay that even football haters will get something out of this.
You're a striker starting out in non-league football and aiming for the big time. On the pitch, you're tasked with setting up and scoring wonder goals. But the game also deals with non-match activities: training, selecting clothes and kitting out your house in a load of tat. Alan Martin
With its 3D viewpoint and tap-based controls for hopping about, Nono Games initially feels a bit like Crossy Road got mashed into Temple Run with a fork. But you soon realise that this jungle expedition is something else entirely, and it has more in common with old-school platform games that demanded you to memorise a course and zoom through it as fast as possible.
Each of the shortish levels has you navigating a small patch of wilderness on a 'clockwork' island, along narrow paths surrounded by death. You tap to move forward one step, swipe left or right to move forwards and in the relevant direction, and swipe back to move backwards. You must take care to avoid getting eaten by a leaping shark, poisoned by a scuttling spider, or falling into the fetid swamp water. Timing is key.
What's especially smart about Nono Islands, though, is how it can be approached in various ways. If you like, it's possible to carefully pick your way through each level - and doing so is relatively simple. But really it's all about time-attack scores, especially if your friends are playing. You'll want to get to the end of each stage as rapidly as possible, and that means implementing a precise series of taps and swipes to shave fractions of a second off of your time.
For free, you rather generously get access to everything. You can also buy five checkpoint tokens for 79p or unlock all checkpoints for £2.29. Checkpoints mean you don't have to replay previous levels should you fail, although tokens can also be found within the game itself, and Nono Islands gives you one free attempt, and another after a few more minutes. Craig Grannell
One More Jump
With brutally hard twitch titles One More Dash and One More Line, developer SMG Studio went for the jugular. By comparison, One More Jump feels a much friendlier and more accessible outing. You're still immersed in a world of abstract shapes and vibrant colours, but instead of angular, lightning-fast movement, your little square jumps up and sails in a graceful arc before landing. It even wears a huge grin and leaves a rainbow trail in its wake.
Your aim is to reach a goal by only using white platforms, collecting three bonus circles along the way. Easy! Only soon it really isn't. One More Jump sneakily ramps up the difficulty as you play, gradually increasing the complexity of the environment. Before long, you bounce between walls, get hurled into the air by bumpers, and contend with tiny platforms where survival requires split-second jumps to be performed. Even the placement of bonuses causes teeth-gnashing through sometimes forcing you to perform circuits of tricky levels to grab everything.
The game isn't entirely without heart, though. Levels are short, and on reaching a goal any bonuses you've grabbed are permanently safe; next time round, you only need snag the remainder. Given that later levels unlock on the basis of overall bonuses collected, this makes the game that bit more approachable; even so, its savage side remains evident in separate challenge and endless levels, seemingly designed by sadists for nutcases. Craig Grannell
Why not give this slice of retro sword and sorcery a try?
It's a fantasy brawler, in which you (a sword-wielding maniac) have to defend a clifftop from all-comers, whether similarly armed warriors, archers, fireball-pumping wizards or coloured slimes. Bursting with personality, funny and so addictive that your iPhone screen will soon have a neat little sweat circle where the onscreen joystick appears. David Price
The original Pac-Man was a bit broken. If you had magic thumbs and could somehow reach the 256th level, you'd be confronted by a massive glitch. The right-hand side of the screen became all messed up, with no way through. Until now, that is. In Pac-Man 256, you get to venture beyond the glitch.
What's there, it turns out, is a kind of endless hell for the yellow dot-muncher. Pac-Man gets to traverse a never-ending maze full of spooks, eating pills until he finally comes a cropper. He can't linger for long, either, because the all-consuming glitch is always in hot pursuit.
Fortunately, Pac-Man has ways of fighting back. Power pellets from the original game are present and correct. Eat one and the ghosts turn blue, enabling you to gobble them down for extra points. New power-ups are also dotted about, and these become more powerful the more you play the game. If you ever thought, during the original Pac-Man, that it would be a better game if the rotund hero could spew laser death from his maw, then you'll be a happy camper here. Craig Grannell
A physics-based puzzler in which you bounce a cute little creature around a level and try to get him to the goal with as few shots as possible. Sort of like crazy golf played in mid-air with a scaly animal instead of a ball. We like this a lot, and the basic game is free. It's probably worth shelling out for the extra levels, though. David Price
The Path To Luma
It's not hard to spot the underlying message here, what with this game being sponsored by a US energy company big on selling green energy: clean energy is a very good thing. In fact, in Path to Luma, clean energy is so good that it's capable of bringing back to life seemingly dead, abandoned planetoids.
Planetoid-saving isn't quite as simple as flicking a switch, though. You must direct SAM - a Sustainability Augmentation Model - about the place, finding and repositioning solar batteries, utilising wind power and so on, manipulating the very planet with your fingertips.
There's quite a lot of hand-holding, and we can't imagine it'll take that long for most players to blaze through the 20 levels on offer. It's also a title that doesn't at any point meet its haughty description of being "a memorable story of heroism and the revitalisation of a civilisation".
What it is, though, is a really fab little puzzle game with a lovely soundtrack and some great visuals. We admit to going "ooh" the first time sun beams exploded down to clean up one of the game's tiny worlds. And perhaps we are now thinking a bit more about installing solar. Still, that's got to be better than a game trying very hard to get you to gorge yourself on chocolate. Craig Grannell
The iPhone has seen some fairly radical reworkings of pinball, from Zen's highly animated tables through to puzzle-like precision flipper INKS. PinOut!, though, reworks pinball as a kind of endless runner. You face off against what's essentially a single massive table, with the aim of getting as far as possible before the timer runs out.
This is a gorgeous game. The visuals are all glowing neon, like what we imagine the Tron bikers play during their downtime. Throughout, your ears are bathed in a fantastic synth-pop soundtrack. But this would all be for nothing if the game itself disappointed - but it's one of the best pinball titles on the iPhone.
Like the aforementioned INKS., PinOut! is best thought of as a precision shooter. Whereas a lot of classic pinball tables are all about combos and speed, PinOut! has you figure out the most efficient route to the next miniature table, which usually involves hitting a specific ramp. If along the way, you can grab dots that replenish the clock, that's a bonus.
It sounds simple - reductive, even - but this instead proves a frequently exciting and tense game, not least when you're running low on time and your ball hits a wall at precisely the wrong angle, costing you precious seconds. However, eight varied themes and a small selection of mini-games keep you interested and boost replay value. And the simple tables and slightly simplified physics make PinOut! very suitable for iPhone - unlike most pinball titles, which tend to feel fiddly on a smaller screen. Craig Grannell
PinOut! has a single IAP that unlocks checkpoints. (In the free version, you start from the beginning every time.)
Want more free iPhone games? We've only just got started! Turn to the next page to read more recommendations of brilliant free iPhone games.
From 'Platform Panic' to 'Splash Cars'
Welcome to our roundup of the best free iPhone games (which are arranged in alphabetical order). This is page four out of five. Our next recommendation is:
Platform Panic certainly has a lot of platforms in it, but you'll be doing the panicking. The premise is something something heroes abducted something, which ultimately results in you taking on some kind of quest that involves inevitable death after valiantly navigating your way through a number of dangerous rooms.
Movement is swipe-based - your little hero auto-runs and you swipe left or right to head that way or up to jump. For the most part, timing is crucial, because if you collide with a single hazard, game over.
What makes Platform Panic a cut above, though, is the huge number of rooms and hazards, their smart design, and how they're fired your way. Each room on your journey acts as a miniature puzzle to be bested and committed to memory. On encountering something new - pipes that suck you in and blow you out elsewhere; hero-frying lasers; huge spiked wheels - you'll likely be horribly killed. But the next time you face the room, you'll be ready for it and add a point to your tally - well, unless it's flipped the other way round, in which case you'll probably die again.
With rooms being presented broadly randomly, Platform Panic is endlessly replayable. It's also mobile-friendly, given that games are typically over inside a minute or so (unless you're a platform-game genius, in which case two minutes).
IAPs are lurking, but they're of the non-hateful variety. £1.49/$1.99 nukes the ads, and you can also buy coins, which can be spent on continues or characters. Three quid nets you 5,000, which is enough to buy every single character and still have change for a handful of continues. Alternatively, you can collect coins as you play, since each room has at least one. Craig Grannell
Pokemon GO is a hugely popular game that is slightly different from others in our roundup. Why? The idea of the game is simple – you're a Pokemon trainer and armed with your smartphone, you must go out into the world to catch Pokemon and battle rival gangs at Pokemon gyms. The difference between Pokemon GO and other games? You have to physically go outside and walk around to find Pokemon, gyms and Pokestops, which are usually points of interest that'll give you a free items to use, or even an Egg to hatch on your travels.
The type of Pokemon depends on the time of day and the area it's in – you're more likely to find water Pokemon by rivers and the sea, while grass Pokemon are usually found in grassy areas like Parks. Once you find a Pokemon, the next step is to catch it – and this is where the app showcases its best feature. The app uses Augmented Reality and your smartphone camera to superimpose the Pokemon in front of you in real life, wherever you are. From there, you need to throw Pokeballs to catch it and add it to your growing collection, with 150 Pokemon available to find.
There are gyms that rival teams can battle in for ownership, with the owner of the gym receiving Poke-coins for their achievements. These can be used to purchase bag upgrades, extra items, etc. There are, of course, in-app purchases that allow you to buy extra items if you run out, but these aren't required to play the game as it'll provide you with everything for free - you just might have to walk a bit further to get it.
In summary, it's a game that promotes exercise, and plays hugely on nostalgia of Pokemon in the 1990s. It's free to download too. So why wouldn't you give it a go? Lewis Painter
FREE | For iPhone & iPad | Download Pokemon GO
A combination of psychedelic kaleidoscope and shape-matching, Polywarp apparently wants to make your head spin and for you to rapidly discover your reactions aren't all you thought they were. The basics of the game, however, are brutally simple: your little polygon sits in the centre of the screen, and walls close in. Should you wish to survive, you must match your shape with whatever's about to hit it.
The controls are straightforward: tap the left or right of the screen to, respectively, decrease or increase the number of sides your shape has. So if you're rocking a little square, a tap on the left turns it into a triangle. Easy!
The tiny snag is Polywarp comes across like a fusion of lightning-fast match games and savage twitch classic Super Hexagon. The screen pulsates to the beat, shapes whirl, and beyond the initial level, everything moves at frightening speed.
At first, you'll swear Polywarp is impossible (or, if our experience is anything to go by, just swear). But manage to keep your lunch down, recognise that Polywarp comprises repeating patterns rather than throwing random shapes your way, and get into the zone, and you'll find a hugely rewarding - if relentlessly demanding - arcade title. Craig Grannell
In-app purchases: If you want to unlock additional colour themes more rapidly, you can grab a coin doubler for £1.99, which also removes all advertising. (Said colours can make shapes more distinct, but also lead to decidedly lurid visuals.)
FREE | For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Polywarp
On traditional handheld consoles, platform games are reliant on precise controls, but twitch efforts on iOS only have a touchscreen to work with - and mashing a glass screen is no substitute for buttons and D-pads. This is why the best iOS platformers strip back the genre, simplifying everything to its core.
In Raider Rush, you're apparently solving the mysteries of two temple towers, in order to restore world peace. Only the towers are quickly filling with lava, and happen to be full of saw-blades and spikes. All you can do is leap about - jumping left or right, depending on which side of the screen you tap.
This is all played out at insane speeds, to the point it evokes Super Meat Boy. Restarts are frequent, but once you get into 'the zone', you'll relish moments where you wall-jump up a narrow passageway and make it to the exit, having avoided something sharp and deadly by a single pixel.
For free, you get the first tower and an endless mode; a £2.29 IAP gets you the rest and removes the ads. Craig Grannell
Really Bad Chess
This is what happens when someone who didn't really like chess (but wanted to) nonetheless decided to make a chess game. You get the usual board and the usual pieces - just not the usual number of pieces in their typical slots. Instead, chances are you'll begin your first game armed with a surprisingly large number of queens, while the computer opponent is lumbered with a suspicious lack of anything that good. One swift win later, and you'll find in your next game that things are a mite more balanced. And so it continues, with the AI's ability never changing, but the pieces being altered to adjust the challenge.
For newcomers, Really Bad Chess therefore quickly becomes an interesting app for learning about the beauty of the game. For veterans, it might shake things up a bit, given that you won't be using your usual moves when facing off an opponent armed with a dozen bishops. And if you get a bit fed up attempting to up your rank (which does eventually become very hard indeed), there are daily and weekly challenges to try your hand at, along with a freeplay mode for just noodling about with. Craig Grannell
There are two IAPs in Really Bad Chess. The £2.29 unlock removes ads, provides local multiplayer, and adds new colour palettes. The 79p undos IAP adds 100 undos to your coffers.
This endless runner finds you saddled up, riding a buffalo, and weaving your way through a stampede. This in itself might seem a bit odd, but it's nothing compared with what follows. As you hold your thumb down, sliding left and right to dodge game-ending rocks, your steed eventually gets sick of you and starts bucking. Release your thumb and you'll briefly soar majestically through the air, the aim being to secure another ride rather than gracelessly faceplant in the dirt.
On riding new animals, cling on for long enough and you'll win their hearts. Once the stampede ends, you're then whisked away to a zoo that is rather impractically housed on a massive hovership in the clouds. At this point, Rodeo Stampede's metagame comes into play, with you creating enclosures for your animals, upgrading their lodgings, and having patrons pay for a quick nose around. Once you've had enough zoo time, a cannon unceremoniously blasts you back to earth.
In mashing together bits of endless runners and the basics of asset management, Rodeo Stampede provides a unique mix of play styles. And while there's undoubtedly some grinding for upgrades unless you're willing to spend real cash on IAPs, this is the kind of game where a daily visit should provide a quick blast of entertainment while also keeping your sky zoo ticking over. Craig Grannell
IAPs range from £2.99 for 3,000 coins to £9.99 for 15,000. Income doubler and unlimited missions IAPs are £5.99 each. The latter speeds up game progress and enables you to buy continues with coins rather than by watching ads.
Run Sackboy! Run!
Run, Sackboy! Run! (free) is a mobile spinoff from the Sony game LittleBigPlanet, a four-player side-scrolling affair that builds upon the approachable Super Mario run-and-jump formula while also allowing players to build their own levels. It's certainly streamlined by comparison: it's a strictly single-player affair, lacks in-depth character customisation and level creation, and does away with manual player movement. In other words, it's an endless runner on a platform that has loads of them.
But Run, Sackboy! Run! has an ace in the hole: being ridiculously charming. Even a simplified, free-to-play take on the LBP series can bring wide smiles to your face as you leap across colourful chasms, collect bubbles and avoid the goofy-looking monster on your tail.
And despite the silly tone, it actually proves to be pretty challenging. You can jump and dash forward via taps and swipes, respectively, and you'll need to use both at times to overcome long stretches of spikes, or to recover when you're about to hit an enemy. As the speed picks up, it becomes harder to anticipate obstacles ahead, which amps up the difficulty level.
And it's free, of course. And and so long as you're cool with probably never unlocking some of the pricier costumes - which cost an extravagant amount of in-game currency - there's plenty of entertainment to be had here without spending a penny. Andrew Hayward
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Plenty of developers have played with the conventions of solitaire, although mostly by hanging basic card-sorting games on free-to-play titles full of cartoon characters. Sage Solitaire is a much more minimal affair, but one specifically designed for your iPhone in portrait orientation. Developer Zach Gage asked why, when you have a phone that's not the size of a table, most traditional solitaire efforts ape the typical Klondike and FreeCell layouts, using tiny cards (in order to fit them all on the screen) and overly familiar strategies. His answer: a three-by-three grid, quite a bit of poker, and a virtual trip to Vegas.
In the basic Sage Solitaire game, you score by removing poker hands. The better the hand, the more points you get. Strategy comes by way of a rule that states you must use cards from multiple rows for each hand. With the stacks at the top of the screen being taller than those at the bottom, the latter's cards are best used sparingly. In addition, a randomly allocated suit is set as a multiplier, bestowing double points when one or more of its cards is used in a hand, and two 'trashes' exist to remove individual cards; one is replenished after each successful hand.
The Vegas mode, unlocked on clearing the entire board three times, gives you a virtual bank account, awards cash prizes only when using the multiplier hand, and ups your overall payout multiplier on clearing piles from the top two rows. Subtly different strategies are required for success, hence the initial lockdown - it's very easy to otherwise burn through your limited funds. But once you crack Vegas and hit $800, you can try your hand at True Grit. There, once your in-game money's gone, it's gone for good.
Note that there's no horrible IAP to refill your virtual coffers. The game's sole IAP (£2.29/$2.99) exists purely to unlock two further modes (Double Deck and Fifteens), remove the (unobtrusive) ads, provide stats tracking, and give you some achievements to aim for. Craig Grannell
There's a disconnect between the aesthetics of Seashine and its gameplay - and this initially makes for a rather strange experience. The game takes place in the inky depths of an unnamed ocean. Your tiny luminescent jellyfish has a glow that offers the only light to penetrate its surroundings. But the light is fragile and in constant danger of being extinguished.
Every flick you make propels the gelatinous protagonist in the relevant direction. But as soon as you're beyond the cosy starting point, a life bar rapidly depletes. The jellyfish must seek out plants or creatures to eat, which keep the lights on for a few extra precious seconds, thereby enabling further searching. There's naturally a food chain in operation, though, and so you're both predator and prey; you're never far into your journey before being pursued by a fish with a mouth full of extremely nasty-looking razor-sharp teeth.
Games therefore tend to be fraught, stressful experiences, at odds with the tranquil underwater burblings, tinkly soundtrack and gorgeous visuals. But there's a palpable sense of excitement when you manage to escape through a tiny tunnel a fish cannot squeeze through, or grab a morsel to eke out a few extra seconds of life.
Seashine does enable you to cheat death through the use of life-extending stars; unsurprisingly, these can be bought using IAPs. We're unconvinced about this part of the game, though - it feels like cheating, and quickfire visits to the abyss work more nicely on mobile. We might have been convinced to part with cash for a noodly endless 'zen' mode, however… Craig Grannell
Shibuya Grandmaster feels a bit like someone thought Tetris was a bit too complicated and then smashed the resulting stripped-down well puzzler into a match-three game. Consequently, you're tasked with managing slabs of colour as they float down from the top of the screen, and placing them into a very limited number of boxes.
The aim is at the very least to create matches. If two matching slabs are touching, they'll acquire a diagonal line and a tap removes them from the well, leaving more space. But doing this and no more results in a rubbish score - Shibuya Grandmaster wants you to strategise and take risks.
Over time, then, you must figure out how to rack up bonus points by managing blocks so you can create larger towers of the same colour, or remove a bunch of combos at once. It's a smart juggling act made all the more devious through the game's rank-based reward system. If you want to progress, you'll need to practise and you'll fail often; but Shibuya Grandmaster is oh so satisfying once it clicks.
In fact, we'd argue the original Shibuya (from way back in 2010) was a cruelly overlooked App Store classic, and so we're delighted to see this follow-up, in all its beautiful high-res glory. From an IAP standpoint, it's almost absurdly generous: you can play as much as you like, forever; but if you want to support the dev, buy a new background (79p/$0.99 each) or 'everything forever' (£3.99/$4.99). Craig Grannell
"A giant beaver is approaching!" warns Shooty Skies, as your DJ cat in a biplane prepares for battle alongside temporary wingman Rocket Pug.
The beaver begins spewing spinning axes and giant acorns, any of which would bring instant death on colliding with your plane. You drag your finger to make your craft deftly weave between these projectiles, admiring the beaver's surprisingly awesome firepower - and, frankly, its ability to fly in the first place. Occasionally, you pause to charge your super-weapon, which lets rip the second you move. The beaver defeated, you mull over the fact that this strange scene isn't even close to the weirdest you've experienced within this very flight.
Shooty Skies, then, is a shooty game set in the sky. Think: old-school vertically scrolling blasters. But this one has a decidedly oddball bent. Strange cartoon characters in biplanes are attacked by memes and angry technology (arcade games that fire joysticks; enraged cassette decks; demented robots), until a single bullet spells death. The aforementioned super-weapon mechanism adds a dash of risk-versus-reward (you're vulnerable when stationary, but can clear the screen with the weapon's superior firepower). And everything's wrapped in a gorgeous if familiar visual style you'll recall from Crossy Road. (The teams for both games had lots of crossover, note - this isn't some third-rate knock-off!)
As in Crossy Road, you can unlock characters using a prize system or real cash. But there's nothing at all here that will ever pressure you into spending money. Shooty Skies is a generous and instantly playable game, albeit one you'll soon discover requires mastery if you ever want to make it past more than a couple of levels. Craig Grannell
Skiing Yeti Mountain
Slalom games are as old as the hills - snowy or otherwise. They existed on the earliest home computer systems, and so Skiing Yeti Mountain is hardly a rolling snowball of innovation. Nonetheless, through some great design and humour, developer Featherweight Games has managed to craft an essential mobile freebie.
The basics of the game are much as you'd expect: zig-zag your way down wintry slopes, passing on the correct side of gates (left of red and right of blue), and try very hard not to embed yourself in a tree. The controls only require a single finger, which you move horizontally to adjust how far to weave. Initial ham-fisted attempts at progress gradually give way to elegant swooshing about, along with heart-in-stomach moments as you zoom, inch-perfect, between a couple of trees.
Throughout, a cast of misfits adds some personality to proceedings, telling tall tales, getting surprise-eaten by Yetis, and in one case providing the only example on iOS of an in-app ad sting we've ever laughed at. (Thanks, Larry the 'guerrilla marketing expert', and your little jab that you're 'on commission'!) Craig Grannell
Typically on seeing the name Ketchapp, you know what you're in for: simplistic endless fare that's like a cheap snack - briefly satisfying but ultimately throwaway. Sky is different. The basic premise is nothing new, but everything's put together so well that it becomes surprisingly compelling.
In Sky's minimal isometric world, a yellow square moves along a zigzag track, gobbling dots. In its way: grey squares that must be avoided. A tap sends the yellow square into the air. A second tap while airborne results in a double-jump, for avoiding larger sets of grey squares.
Where things become interesting is on entering green tents that are dotted about. These 'clone' your square, which results in multiple iterations working their way along several tracks. All jump as one, but in combination they hoover up dots far more quickly than a solitary square. Sky therefore becomes a tense juggling act to ensure as many squares survive for as long as possible, before they again merge.
As you play, there's a pleasant noodly piano-based soundtrack, and the visuals look so polished you imagine they'd squeak on dragging a finger over them. A single IAP lurks (£1.49/$1.99), for turning off the ads (which appear as a strip across the bottom of the screen). Craig Grannell
We're not sure what vibe Sky Dancer is going for. With its gorgeous sunsets and moonlit nights, and landscapes that evoke Monument Valley and Lara Croft GO, there's a sense of elegance and endless beauty. But then you hurl yourself off of a platform, lurch all over the place trying to hit the next in a decidedly gut-wrenching manner, and watch helplessly as the protagonist plunges into the abyss. So: calming and panic-inducing in equal measure - an odd combination.
If you'd not already guessed, we're in endless runner territory here, only this endless runner takes place on sparse rocky platforms magically levitating far above a planet's surface. You run into the screen and dart left or right to collect coins and not blunder into rock faces. (As ever, in auto-runner land, the hero of the hour can't think to slow down for a few seconds.)
The tricky bit is when you fling yourself into the air and must position yourself to hit a platform below. Inertia makes it insanely easy to over-correct. In fact, you might initially think the game impossible. But stick with Sky Dancer, and you'll find your score gradually creeping up, and the great reward in nailing several leaps in a row. Over time, the patterns perhaps become a touch too familiar, but the game never becomes easy, and the aesthetics are such it's always pleasant to spend a few more minutes in this minimal world. Craig Grannell
In-app purchases: 99p gets you a robot character and 5,000 in-game coins. £4.99 doubles all coin pick-ups. Alternatively, there are the usual coin packs, going all the way up to a frankly insane 1.5 million of the things for £99.99. But no IAP's needed to enjoy the game, since all you can buy are characters and challenge skips.
FREE | For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Sky Dancer
We should be having a good old grumble about Sling Kong. Fundamentally, it does nothing especially original. It borrows the 'catapult something across the screen' mechanism from a dozen iOS mega-hits and then welds that to an endless vertical climber. Angry Doodle Fling, perhaps. The thing is, we can't stay remotely mad at Sling Kong, because it does everything so well.
Its little characters have this oddly bewildered look about them, as if they're as surprised as you that they've suddenly been dumped in an absurdly dangerous endless deathtrap. Their demise is always gleefully cartoonish and icky - fur flying when a monkey meets a saw blade, or an octopus splattering across the screen on suddenly finding itself between two large pieces of wood that have a particularly violent meeting.
The controls are superb, feeling nicely tactile as you drag back your little animal and let go to ping it across the screen. And the environment is the kind of chaotic nightmare that keeps you on your toes, ensures games are suitably short, but doesn't hit you so hard that you won't want to immediately have another go.
One of our favourite moments in Sling Kong is its prizes section. Gather enough coins and you send your little critter to get a serious headache, bouncing around a pachinko machine. Given that most other developers have had an imagination failure since clocking Crossy Road's 'random gift' model, it's great to see something a bit different when trying to win a new character. Craig Grannell
Glorious multiplayer fun, this - and the multiplayer part is essential. It's one of the few iOS games out there that you cannot play on your own.
Each member of the team sees a wonky-looking sci-fi dashboard on their screen, with a variety of read-outs and bizarrely labelled dials, buttons and levers. The screen will tell you to do something - "Set sprocket to 6", to take a random example. If the sprocket dial is on your screen, all well and good; but most of the time, it'll be on someone else's, meaning you need to tell them what to do. In no time at all you're all shouting nonsense at each other, and the world is a wonderful place. David Price
Mobile gaming's often as much about what you remove as what you include. SPINGUN's a case in point. The basic premise is survival, with your tiny little spaceship blasting foes within a claustrophobic arena. A typical - dare we say it, boring - developer would give you two rotate controls, a fire button and a thrust button. Not here.
Andrew Armstrong instead figured you could do without all but the first of those things. In SPINGUN, you shoot by holding both directional buttons down - which means while blasting away, your ship rapidly succumbs to gravity and slides down the screen. And thrust controls? It's surely more efficient to have you rotate and boost at the same time, right?
In the event, SPINGUN is a little like trying to control a petrified fly armed with a massive laser, semi-randomly buzzing about your living room and firing at things. You spin. You shoot. You grab the odd power-up. And then you die. (The last of those doesn't take long to happen.) It's like playing arcade classic Asteroids while wearing boxing gloves, having quaffed a little too much of whatever you quaff to make your head spin.
And yet what might appear to be an amusing but throwaway shooter has some depth. Like arcade classics of old, this is a game that takes a while to master, but where those who persevere can pull off surprisingly silky-smooth moves - well, until an errant boost smashes them into something deadly and spiky. Craig Grannell
SPINGUN IAP removes the ads, provides custom ships and boss fights, and a hardcore endless mode. Three payment levels are offered.
In the world of Splash Cars, everything is a dreary grey. Fortunately, magic 'splash cars' exist, leaving behind trails of colour and bringing new life to anything they speed past. Naturally, not everyone's thrilled about the prospect of a new and colourful world, and so local cops conspire to stop your painting antics, as does your petrol tank, which runs dry alarmingly rapidly.
Each level of Splash Cars is therefore all about you figuring out the fastest and most efficient way to colour in a neighbourhood. The controls are simple - just press on the left or right of the screen to turn - and it never really gets old seeing roads and houses livened up by a magic motor.
Work through the game and you'll gradually acquire faster cars, but also be faced with larger levels that are tough to crack with limited time and fuel. Unsurprisingly, there's IAP, but there's no need to dig deep into your pockets unless you're desperate to immediately unlock later levels or don't have the patience to wait a while for your car's battery to recharge after playing a half-dozen games. Craig Grannell
Want more free iPhone games? We've only just got started! Turn to the next page to read more recommendations of brilliant free iPhone games.
From 'Super Cat Tales' to 'Yo! Let's UP'
Welcome to our roundup of the best free iPhone games (which are arranged in alphabetical order). This is page five out of five. Our next recommendation is:
Super Cat Tales
When you realise the original name for Super Cat Tales was Super Cat Bros, you might have an inkling of what's in store. Although this game isn't quite a riff on a platform game series starring a plumber clad in dungarees (on which subject, do take a look at our review of Super Mario Run, which is in most respects an excellent game), it is resolutely old-school in terms of its breezy leapy gameplay, sense of urgency and excitement, and bright, chunky visuals.
Where Super Cat Tales diverges from old-school platdorm games is with its controls. Instead of a virtual stick, you tap the left or right of your screen to run in that direction. A double-tap sets the cat up to leap from the next ledge it reaches. You can also clamber up walls (scrabbling down them in a 'terrified kitten' manner when trying to hold on for too long) and leap from wall to wall like a feline ninja.
At first, Super Cat Tales feels alien as you rewire your thumbs to its unique controls. But give it time, and the game soon beds in as a near-perfect iPhone platformer. The animation throughout is full of character (not least when a cat is gleefully running through a field of dandelions). And the levels are short but packed full of nooks and crannies, with secrets to discover.
For a fiver, Super Cat Tales would come recommended. Given that you can play through the entire thing for free, it's one of the biggest bargains on the platform. Craig Grannell
There are IAPs for removing post-level ads (£1.99), the lives meter (£1.99), and world gates if you've not found enough hidden bells (99p each). IAP isn't required to complete the game, though. Also, if you do want to buy something, the all-inclusive £4.99 premium option is the best bet.
Super Dangerous Dungeons
You know, we'd think twice before venturing into a dungeon, let alone a dangerous dungeon. But the hero of this platform game is made of sterner stuff, making their way through a super dangerous dungeon.
At first, though, it seems more like a moderately perilous dungeon. Sure, your little character is always surrounded by various kinds of death, but early levels offer a gentle introduction as you leap about, find a key, and bolt for the exit. By the time you hit the second set of levels, everything changes. Massive maces whirl, and tides periodically flood the dungeons, drowning any adventurer daft enough to be caught short.
In the end, the game makes good on the promise of its title, testing your fingers, reactions and memory to the limits - not least during boss battles, where you're fleeing from something big and dangerous through horizontally scrolling caverns with awkwardly placed ladders and spikes. However, while Super Dangerous Dungeons is undoubtedly frequently frustrating, it's friendly enough that you'll pause after angrily quitting the game, and then go back for another try. Craig Grannell
Super Stickman Golf 3
This third entry in the Super Stickman Golf series is business as usual. A little golfer ends up perched on larger-than-life courses, probably wondering why he or she is tasked with smacking balls about moon bases, giant trees and rollercoasters when so-called professionals only have to contend with nicely tended greens and the odd bit of sand. Still, Super Stickman Golf 3 is a lot more fun than conventional golf games.
Despite the weird locations, the game is simple to get to grips with. You aim, set your shot's power and let rip. New to the series is a spin command, which can nudge a duff chip to the green towards the hole, or ricochet a rocket shot off of the ceiling in a manner thoroughly impossible in real life. As you progress, you win card packs containing extra skills and also game modes for multiplayer - turn-by-turn against Game Center friends, or frenetic four-player live races.
It's worth noting there are restrictions on the free game, in that you don't get access to downloadable extra courses, and have fewer turn-by-turn slots. There are also adverts. A one-off payment of £2.29 would remove all that (and bestows five card packs), but even for free there's plenty of ball-thwacking fun to be had here. Craig Grannell
Tappy Cat - Musical Kitty Arcade
A cat sits before a 'tree guitar' - two rubber bands stretched over some wood. Your aim: help the cat play a tune, ensuring no notes are missed, and that as many as possible are played at the correct time. Impeccable timing and song mastery results in fishy rewards and the attention of strays you can subsequently encourage to join your entourage with the aforementioned fish.
So: a rhythm action game, then, with a smattering of cat collection. But whereas most similar games seem optimised for iPad, Tappy Cat is a resolutely iPhone-oriented production. Note bubbles head outwards from the centre of the screen on four lines that can be reached with your thumbs. Colours clearly denote whether a bubble should be tapped, held, or tapped in time with another elsewhere.
At first, the bi-directional travel will get your thumbs in a twist, and Tappy Cat seems quite brutal when ending your go after a single miss. But the songs are short, the game's generous with iffy timing, and bubbles always appear in the same order and places, so you can learn the choreography of each tune. Not quite purr-fect, then, but certainly furry good. Craig Grannell
Ads appear on completing a level. You can get rid of those for 99p. It's also possible to buy endless lives for £1.99, and extra fish (£1.99 for 299; £3.99 for 999). If you don't fancy splashing out, you can recharge lives or get a handful of virtual fish by watching an ad.
Temple Run 2
Temple Run 2 is an auto- or endless runner: your character, a fleeing Indiana Jones-alike, is propelled forwards towards a series of obstacles - fatal drops, spikey boulders, walls - and you have to swipe at the right moment and in the right direction to dodge them. Death is inevitable, as is having 'just one more go.' Alec Meer
Every platform needs its perfect puzzle game, and on release Threes! made its claim to be the iPhone's. As with all brilliant examples of the genre, Threes! has at its heart a simple mechanic, which in this case involve merging cards within a tiny four-by-four board. But it's the details that propel Threes! beyond the competition.
The idea is to match numbers. Slide a blue '1' into a red '2' and they combine to become a single '3' card. Two 3s make a 6. Two 6s make a 12. And so on. The snag is that every move you make slides every non-blocked tile on the board as well. If you're fortunate or have planned ahead, this can result in several merges in one move; if not, you end up with a mess to clear up. And since after every turn a new card enters the board in a random spot on the edge you swiped from, planning is key.
It takes a few games for Threes! to properly click, but once it does, it never lets go. You'll be dying to see new cards (each is infused with a unique personality), and will soon spot how reaching higher-numbered cards boosts your score substantially. The free-to-play aspect is also generous: watch a video ad and you get three more games in the bank, which can be built up into a substantial reserve.
This gives the game a fighting chance against a raft of inferior Threes! clones (most of which have 1024 or 2048 in their names) that litter the App Store, and sucked life out of the paid version of Threes!. Our advice: stick with the original; you've no excuse now you can play for free. Craig Grannell
In this appealing fantasy-themed take on the tower defence game, you take the role of the mad architect who sets out to shred and perforate any would-be adventurer who dares to loot his dungeon's precious treasures. Waves of cartoonish heroes wander in, then meet a swift end by spinning blade, concealed spike or caged monster. You'll have to plan for several kinds of heroes, from tough knights to crafty thieves, and balance between planning ahead and spontaneous fire-fighting. Jason Tocci
Tomb of the Mask
With a visual style seemingly wrenched from a ZX Spectrum, Tomb of the Mask reeks of retro gaming. But this is otherwise a thoroughly modern mobile effort, with you swiping a little tomb raider around vertically scrolling tombs, trying not to blunder into the many deadly traps and adversaries along the way.
The mask of the title is glued to the hero's face on breaching the tomb, and bestows a flea-like superpower. Rather than climbing or walking like a normal person, Tomb's protagonist zips from wall to wall, responding to your swipes.
Such speed is necessary, because the tomb is rapidly filling with something glowing and lethal, which brings death from a single touch. Like in Pac-Man 256, you must keep ahead of this relentless destructive force, all the while grabbing dots and avoiding the tomb's many traps. But Tomb is a much faster game than any Pac-Man, and the difficulty level ramps up rapidly. Despite its inherent simplicity, your attention is split between tracking the glowing wall of death, angry bats, surfaces packed with blades, and gun emplacements, and finding a safe route through the tomb.
Tomb's freemium nature, with continues bought with coins collected in-game or through watching adverts, renders Game Center highscores broadly meaningless, since there's no equal playing field. After repeat plays, you might also hanker for a decidedly retro three-lives option as a premium IAP. But those are the only major niggles in this fast and furious endless survival game. Craig Grannell
In each round of this gardening-themed puzzler, you're presented with a chain of three plants to place on a tiny four-by-four grid of land. At the end of the round, you harvest something, freeing up space for subsequent rounds. Run out of space and your horticultural days are over.
This all probably sounds a bit familiar, and Topsoil is perhaps an easy game to dismiss. It's sedate, minimal, and familiar; moreover, during initial goes, it may seem pretty much impossible to not come a cropper within a relatively small number of moves.
Really, though, Topsoil is about planning ahead, and in that regard is quite similar in nature to Triple Town. The key is to group plants, because adjacent ones can all be harvested in one go. Also, harvesting flips the soil through a sequence of colours (yellow to green to blue), which act as independent regions.
It's critical to balance plant placement with carefully timed soil flips, to maximise space for planting. Additionally, you later uncover plants that take time to mature, and other nuances that transform Topsoil from ordinary to anything but. So while this puzzler takes a while to bloom, it's very much worth sticking with so you can become properly captivated by its initially hidden charms. Craig Grannell
Topsoil has a single 'infinite plays' IAP, costing £2.99. Otherwise you'll occasionally need to watch an advert to refresh your plays counter.
You know that idiot on a motorbike who tears along the motorway, zig-zagging between cars, and avoiding being mangled into the tarmac by a hair's breadth? Traffic Rider lets you be that idiot!
It's actually a lot of fun. You use your two-wheeled pride and joy - initially an underpowered and not terribly responsive motorcycle - to thread your way through traffic, along beautifully rendered roads that are suspiciously straight and flat. That won't bother you, though, because you'll be concentrating on completing each stage's challenge: covering a certain distance within a strict deadline, or overtaking a set amount of vehicles. (And you soon discover that the Traffic Rider definition of 'overtake' is actually 'graze a vehicle to the point where you're polishing its bodywork with your elbow'. Tough when going slow, but dangerous at speed!)
This being a free game, there is grinding and monetisation lurking within. In order to progress, you'll need increasingly powerful bikes, and they require cash, which is earned slowly in-game, but can be accessed a lot faster if you dip into your own wallet. There's also a nagging sense that the roads could do with at least the odd hill or corner, although they do at least provide plenty of variation in terms of scenery, weather, and traffic flow.
Still, such niggles don't detract from the exhilaration of belting along, narrowly avoiding a string of cars and trucks in a tunnel, and making it to a checkpoint with a fraction of a second to spare. Craig Grannell
Triple Town is a 'match three' game with a look and feel all its own. You're building a town on a grid filled with bushes and trees. Grouping items into threes makes them transform: three trees become a hut, three huts become a house and so on. There are even enemies (bears), although these are actually rather adorable. They wander about, getting in the way, but if you trap them into a single square they, um, die, turning into grave stones. Inevitably, you can match three of these, making a church.
The whole thing is fresh, addictive and challenging. Alan Martin
Two Dots is a cunning one for encouraging real-money spending, and those with weak self-control should be wary.
Like Watercolors (discussed later in this article), it asks you to trace lines between coloured dots, but in this case you're making the linked dots disappear, Bejeweled-style. If you can't clear the stipulated number of dots within the stated number of moves, you'll lose a life, and the only way to get these back is to wait... or pay up. Amy Moore
Vainglory offers some of the best visuals seen on the App Store. It was used as a showcase for the iPhone 6 handsets' power - not to mention the power of iOS 8's Metal graphics tech - when they were first unveiled, and you should bear this in mind when considering what hardware to run it on: it's compatible with iPhone 5s and up on the smartphone side, although it goes back as far as iPad 2 on the tablet.
Read next: 5 top Metal games for the iPad/iPhone
The game spotlights three-on-three team-based action with (and against) fellow online players, and each squad must work together to take down enemy turrets and destroy the crystal at their opponents' base.
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. It's a remarkably fair and fun free game that doesn't penalise players who opt not to shell out. Andrew Hayward
If simple, attractive puzzles are your thing, take a look at Watercolors. You have to swipe across various blobs of coloured 'paint', moving them around the level and mixing them with other colours where necessary. The idea is to colour all the nodes in the correct colour with the lowest number of 'brush strokes' possible.
It's a relaxing, neatly realised game and there's very little pressure to spend money on additional level packs - although you may well choose to do so once you've completed the free offerings. David Price
Yo! Let's UP
At its core, Yo! Let's UP is a tower-stacking game, where blocks whiz in from the left or right of the screen. The aim is to build a massive tower, rather than have it crumple in a heap. The twist is that rather than you tapping the screen to stop a block in its tracks, said tappage instead makes a little smiley face leap upwards. If the little critter successfully lands on a block, your journey to the heavens continues. If not, game over.
Actually, that's not entirely true, and Yo! Let's UP affords the player some strategic options. If you don't like the look of a block, you can leap over it, and wait for another. And if you're playing one of the modes where the tower isn't periodically straightened, you can make it increasingly rickety until it collapses. As long as you don't get donked on the way down, you can continue with your score intact.
There are nine modes in all, unlocked by completing various missions. Beyond that, you can collect hats for the leaping critter. In all, Yo! Let's UP is worth grabbing for its simple but compelling gameplay that does something a little bit different. Craig Grannell
An ad appears after every few games. A one-off £2.99 IAP removes the ads entirely.