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With iOS games reviews, gameplay videos and links to the games on the App Store, this roundup lists the 167 best games ever released for the iPad & iPhone. From strategy and action games to puzzles and roleplaying games, these are the finest iOS gaming apps available to humanity. Read next: Best free iPhone games
The 10 best iPhone & iPad games of all time
There are 167 brilliant iPad and iPhone games in this roundup, and they are all well worth a play. But if you're pressed for time you may only want to read about the very best of the best. In the video above, and listed below with links to the App Store, you will find the 10 best iPhone and iPad games of all time.
- 1. FTL
- 2. Don't Starve
- 3. Monument Valley
- 4. Legend of Grimrock
- 5. Threes!
- 6. Dream Quest
- 7. Carcassonne
- 8. Super Hexagon
- 9. Limbo
- 10. You Must Build A Boat
But now on with the list. Here are the best iPad & iPhone games, divided into 16 genres or themes. Read next: Best free iPad games
Adventure, point-and-click and story games
Banner Saga, and Banner Saga 2
Like many of our favourite games, the Banner Saga blends ingredients from multiple genres: adventure-style text-based decision making (although the potential unpleasantness of the consequences makes it more Telltale than Lucasarts), and the turn-based grid combat of tactical RPGs. It's a combination that works well, with both aspects of the game working in service to the overall themes of danger and sacrifice.
In any given skirmish you command a squad of up to six fighters, selected from a larger caravan of personnel that ebbs and flows in response to your decisions and performance; the characters can be upgraded and lightly customised over time. The grid-based battles play out like Final Fantasy Tactics or games of that ilk, with each turn providing the ability to move a hero a certain number of squares and then perform an action, whether it's a melee or weapon attack or perhaps a magic/support interaction.
And outside combat things are just as dangerous. You make decisions about almost everything, and you'll pay for your slip-ups. Even dialogue selections feed into how the storyline twists and turns on the road ahead.
The world-building is breathtaking, drawing inspiration and more than a little of the bleak outlook from Scandinavian mythology and Viking storytelling, to create a set of characters that are totally unlike anything else in gaming yet surprisingly easy to care about. And it looks and sounds quite beautiful.
The Banner Saga 2 doesn't make many dramatic changes to the formula of the acclaimed original, but the small enhancements to the sharp tactical strategy formula are meaningful. There's also a new race of characters - centaurs, sort of - and two story lines based on two main point-of-view characters.
They're not cheap, by the mega-cheap standards of mobile gaming, but these long-lasting and solidly replayable RPG adventures provide more than enough richness and value to justify the entry fee. But one warning: even though the second game may look like a better-value offer - a newer game with additional features for the same price - the continuity between the two stories is so strong that you really must play the first game first. David Price
Banner Saga 1: £4.99 | For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Banner Saga on the App Store
Banner Saga 2: £4.99 | For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Banner Saga 2 on the App Store
Read our full Banner Saga review
Opinions differ on this nostalgic ode to the point-and-click adventure games of yore, created by one of that genre's most revered luminaries.
Hardcore adventure gamers - many of whom backed the project on Kickstarter - were disappointed by how much it seems to pander to the mainstream market. The puzzles are mostly easy (although trickier fare is promised in the second act) and you can play through in a few hours. There's also no 'look at' command or indeed anything beyond an all-purpose 'interact with': the interface is far simpler than those in Monkey Island and its 90s ilk. The suspicion was raised in PC gaming circles that these decisions had been made with touchscreens and mobile gamers in mind.
But I, and others, adore its heart-stopping visual loveliness, its gentle but subtle story (which allows you to switch at will between two parallel coming-of-age tales), its humour - including a gloriously immature raft of jokes about the word 'stool' - its high-calibre voice acting and music... and the fact that you probably won't have to resort to online walkthroughs in order to solve any of the puzzles. David Price
£4.99 | For iPad and iPhone (Universal) | Broken Age on the App Store
A head-scratcher par excellence, this one. While some have complained that it's a brief experience - and brainiacs will no doubt buzz through in a couple of hours - we've only just finished the second of Device 6's five chapters, and can confirm that the puzzles in this primarily text-based adventure are hard if you're not keenly observant and willing to note down everything you see. Use of a pen and paper comes highly recommended.
The look is unique: antiquarian and weirdly restrained, with judicious use of black-and-white photos and illustrations to supplement the words. The audio is richly atmospheric (not to mention key to solving the puzzles). And clever use of touchscreen controls and unconventional layouts - the sentences snaking round the screen - helps make this an experience like no other. David Price
£3.99 | For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Device 6 on the App Store
Grim Fandango Remastered
I'm one of those poor souls (forgive the pun) who never played the original Grim Fandango on PC, but I was always intrigued by the premise. After playing the remastered version for iPad, I'm happy to report that the game's hype is fully deserved.
Grim Fandango is a neo-noir mystery set in the Land of the Dead. Fans of classic black-and-white films will appreciate the witty dialogue, art deco style and slithering jazz soundtrack, but it's also a love letter to Mexican folklore: the characters' design, including protagonist Manny Calavera, are heavily influenced by calaca figures.
It's a point-and-click adventure that involves talking, thinking and problem solving; this isn't a game that features a lot of gunplay or action sequences. But the cut-scenes and puzzles help move along the plot, which centres around Manny uncovering corruption in the Department of Death, and then starting a journey through the underworld that is both bizarre and hilarious.
The four-chapter story takes hours to explore and the artistic aesthetic is as central to the game as the writing (which is continually amusing). Immerse yourself in this strange, funny and exceptionally enthralling world, and pray that Tim Schafer makes another. Chris Holt
In Her Story, an interactive narrative mystery game, you play as an anonymous user looking through old interview tapes from a murder case in 1994.
Your job is to sift through hundreds of unorganised video clips; fortunately these have been transcribed so you can search for words using a free-input search box. When you start the game, the first search term has already been typed in for you: MURDER. There are few other instructions, which means solving this mystery is entirely up to your detective skills.
The script is well-written, unsettlingly realistic, and dark. And no two people will have the same experience playing Her Story: the experience depends on how you search, in what order you watch the tapes, how many tapes you watch, and what conclusions you want to draw. Sarah Jacobsson Purewal
This classic robotic point-and-click adventure offers a unique experience with more heart than the average tin man. Each room has a puzzle for you to solve, moving you forward as you try to find your ladyfriend and thwart a dastardly plot by some robo-bullies. You'll scan environments for items to interact with, combine objects in your inventory and solve a variety of brain-teasers.
Machinarium manages to feel both electronic and organic. The hand-painted visuals feel both cartoony and believable, and the soundtrack blends ambient electronica, jazz and dubstep. Rarely has a game felt so thematically and aesthetically unified. Jason Tocci
Milkmaid of the Milky Way
Poor Ruth has a tough existence. She might live in an idyllic Norwegian fjord, but making ends meet requires producing dairy products to be sold in the nearest town, which is more than three hours away. And a nasty storm has scattered Ruth's tools, meaning she must innovate to make her butter and cheese today. And a massive golden spaceship has just stolen all her cows.
If you're thinking one of those things isn't quite like the others, congratulations. But that's how this one goes - no sooner have you masterfully made some cheese in this old-school point-and-click adventure than you find yourself leaping aboard an alien craft. Only then does Ruth's destiny become clear. Which we won't spoil here, but we will say that across its short length of a few hours, Milkmaid of the Milky Way is an entertaining adventure, with cleverly designed puzzles and (milk) buckets of charm. Craig Grannell
£3.99 | For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Milkmaid of the Milky Way on the App Store
Who's in the mood for fun?! Let's get the party started with a game about oppressive bureaucracy.
You're a border guard in a fictional state, vetting the people trying to get into the country. You do this by asking questions, combing through their paperwork and looking for inconsistencies, but ultimately the decision to allow them in or not is up to you. Big red stamp or big green stamp? Approve or deny?
Be warned, however, that choice is an illusion: every decision you make is double-checked. Wave through someone with a hooky passport because their story moved you, and the little printer in your booth will curl out an official reprimand and (for repeat offences) a fine. A fine which may mean you can't afford to heat your home, or give a member of your family the medicine they need.
You get paid (very badly) based on the number of applicants processed in the time allowed, and the increasingly complex immigration rules (which change, capriciously, every day) are a huge source of anxiety. Before long, obvious discrepancies become a relief: this bloke's passport's expired, brilliant, red stamp, get out of here, where's the next one. The human stories start off as a factor in your verdicts, then become a distraction, then are tuned out entirely.
For a game about petty inhumanity, Papers, Please is surprisingly enjoyable - and it's also wonderfully subtle and insightful. If you want to know what games are capable of as a medium, you need to give this a try. David Price
£7.99 | iPad only | Papers, Please on the App Store
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies is a text-adventure game that Capcom originally published for the Nintendo 3DS, but has now made its way to iOS devices. Its brilliantly animated and totally ridiculous world provides an uncommon iOS experience.
You play as lawyers Athena Cykes and Phoenix Wright as they seek to defend Juniper Woods, a shy sunflower-hat-wearing girl who has been accused of bombing a courtroom. But bear in mind that the Ace Attorney games have as much to do with actual lawyering as the WWE has to do with actual wrestling. Rather, you get a mixture of text-heavy exposition (dominating the early stages of the game, but thankfully reduced later on) and a series of mini-puzzles. In order to approximate things like cross examining witnesses and forming arguments, Dual Destinies lets you present evidence (through careful interpretation of the witness's statements) to prove that they're lying.
It's cool to think how Ace Attorney has translated some of the finer points of courtroom lawyering - interrogations, pointing out inconsistencies, making it known when someone has perjured themselves - and made them fun. The game offers hours upon hours of cases to solve, with plenty of weird twists and challenging puzzles. Chris Holt
The Silent Age
The Silent Age is a point-and-tap adventure game that takes place in two different eras: your character's present-day 1972, and a forty-year leap to the eerie, post-apocalyptic 2012. You play as an unassuming janitor at a large corporation who stumbles upon a time-traveller from the future; the time-traveller asks you to warn him about this meeting... and then dies, leaving you with a pocket-sized time-travel machine and a mystery to solve.
While many point-and-tap adventure games can feel overly relaxed, The Silent Age expertly weaves an intriguing storyline around its puzzles - room-escape-type puzzles, quite often, which you solve using a combination of your time machine and various objects you find in the environment - to give you a sense of urgency. It's also visually gorgeous. The bright, vibrant colours of the game's 1972 contrast perfectly with the dystopian, muted greys and greens of 2012.
Finally, the writing is excellent, from the witty comments made by the main character to the rapport with the characters you meet. The writers do a great job of keeping you interested and on your toes throughout the entire storyline. Sarah Jacobsson Purewal
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
iOS games are supposed to be time-wasters: digital trinkets to distract and amuse for a few commutes. Not Sword & Sworcery EP, an ambitious, gorgeous and sonically impressive action title.
The game feels like 1990s-era Zelda re-imagined as a point-and-click adventure, but it's so much more. The cryptic, foreboding dialogue and the fact that the game world is affected by the real world's lunar phases make the puzzles a real challenge, but tight social networking integration allows you to offer and receive guidance; and every step forward feels like a genuine accomplishment. An utterly unique experience. David Wolinsky
£3.99 | For iPad & iPhone (Universal), plus there is also a £2.99 Micro version for iPhone & iPod touch only | Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP on the App Store | Read our full Sword & Sworcery EP review
This ambitious roleplaying game is essentially an algorithmically generated text adventure - think classic space trading game Elite crossed with a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The premise is that humanity has scattered across distant galaxies, and you're armed with a ship kitted out with alien tech. This enables you to belt along faster than the speed of light... but only to the centre of the galaxy.
The game largely involves hopping from planet to planet, trading goods, learning a little more about the history of the mysterious technology you're using, and figuring out how to swell your coffers by way of exploration, investigation, and not getting blown to pieces by pirates.
The algorithmic nature of Voyageur means you're often confronted with similar scenarios and descriptions; and the interface is never more than a few buttons to prod. But even when glossing over the text and simply continuing on your journey into the unknown, Voyageur proves compelling - not least when you do start chipping away at the underlying story. Craig Grannell
£3.99 | For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Voyageur on the App Store
Walking Dead: The Game
Telltale's point-and-click adventure series, based as much on the original Kirkman comic as on the AMC TV show, pretty much single-handedly brought the genre back to the mainstream. Multiple short episodes mean that it won't take four hours to play through one sitting, and the 'moral choice' gameplay mechanic lets characters remember the actions you took in previous episodes, and treat you accordingly.
It also features one of the greatest child characters in the history of, well, anything. Clementine is brave, resourceful, and heartbreakingly sweet, and is about as far away from the whiny, matricidal Carl as it's possible to be. Both seasons are available on the App Store, and any fan of good storytelling should seek them out. Adam Shepherd
FREE (includes episode 1; episodes 2-5 available for £4.99 each as in-app purchases) | For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | The Walking Dead on the App Store