Love iPhone games? Love free things? Great! As you'll see in our roundup of the finest zero-cost driving games, sports sims, puzzles and shooters, some of the best mobile gaming experiences don't cost anything whatsoever.

This feature outlines the 40 free iPhone games we consider the very best. If you don't love freebie gaming after tackling these gems, seek help (or dig out your wallet and take a look at our list of the best iOS games).

New in our list this month: Fancade, Samsara Room, Pico Hero and Octagon 2: Extreme Evolution.

A quick note on IAP: Many free games make their money through the use of IAPs (in-app purchases). Sometimes these unlock cosmetic changes; sometimes it's almost impossible to play without them. Needless to say our 40 picks are all good citizens in this regard, but our reviews provide more detail.

Best free iPhone games

1. The Battle of Polytopia

At the start of The Battle of Polytopia, 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 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. However you play, it's an astonishing achievement, huge fun, and the best freebie game on iPhone.

IAPs: Extra tribes cost between 99p/99c and £3.99/$3.99. The more you have, the more you can take on in any one game - and on larger maps, too.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download The Battle of Polytopia

Best free iPhone games: The Battle of Polytopia

2. Pigeon Wings Strike

Evil minions have taken over the city, and only pigeons in biplanes can save us. This is what budget cuts get you. Fortunately, these aviator avians are the business, zig-zagging through buildings, subways, and tunnels, and blasting drones and flying fortresses to bits. At least, when they're not flying into walls. Which happens quite often…

Yep, Pigeon Wings Strike has a beak firmly planted in 'absurdly fast endless arcade game' territory. You belt along at insane speeds, wiggling your iPhone up and down to adjust altitude, holding the left of the screen to keep the throttle down, and prodding the right to boost when slipstreaming other pigeons - or unleash laser death when facing adversaries.

The tilt controls are pitch perfect, which given that they are, well, tilt controls is a bit of a shock. But then this is a freebie take on the already-confirmed-excellent Pigeon Wings, and so no-one should have expected anything different.

The only downside is the game's a touch one-note, but that doesn't really matter when it's as fabulous as this. And as an added bonus, do well and you can unlock all manner of critters for your hangar - a boost-happy frog; a speed freak skunk; a rabbit that encourages nearby pigeons to get all shooty. How can you say no?

IAPs: 99p/99c removes the ads forever, which, frankly, is a bit of a bargain.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Pigeon Wings Strike

Best free iPhone games: Pigeon Wings Strike

3. Disc Drivin' 2

When you imagine a racing game, turn-based play probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But Disc Drivin' 2 mashes shove ha'penny into futuristic racing fare like Wipeout, somehow creating something that's furiously compelling rather than ridiculous.

OK, it is a little bit ridiculous, but, most importantly, the game is huge fun. You select a track, kick off a race against a randomly selected online opponent, and flick your little disc onwards. Your aim is to hit speed-up pads and build boost, and to not end up hurling your disc into the abyss or getting it impaled.

Naturally, just as in traditional racing fare, a solid grasp of the tracks helps. Fortunately, you can spend as much time on them as you like in the speedrun mode, mastering every turn, and committing to memory jump and trap locations. But the actual racing bit is pleasingly unique, with its mix of snooker-like aiming, speed, and split-second decision making.

With 15 tracks, up to ten online races on the go at once, and a slew of unlockables to collect, Disc Drivin' 2 should keep you flicking for months. Moreover, it cements itself as being the best freebie iPhone racer, despite omitting many of the conventions you'd expect from the genre.

IAPs: You can buy stacks of coins to speed up unlocking cards. IAPs vary from £1.99/$1.99 for 100 coins to £38.99/$39.99 for 3,600. A better bet is the one-off £4.99/$4.99 'Premium' IAP that removes ads, ups your online race count to 25 (from 10), and gives you as many goes as you like on the daily challenge.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Disc Drivin' 2

Best free iPhone games: Disc Drivin' 2

4. Data Wing

First impressions of Data Wing are essentially "this is a quite nice top-down racer". You guide a little triangular ship about a minimal track, battling inertia in a manner similar to controlling the spaceship in classic arcade blaster Asteroids. But, unusually, your ship doesn't explode when it hits something; instead, Data Wing encourages you to grind track edges for boost, which flings you along at sometimes irrational speeds.

If that was all you got, Data Wing would still impress, but this game is far more than a basic racer. Sure, there are time trials, races where you must hit checkpoints before the clock runs out, and skirmishes against opponents. But some levels flip the game on its side and have you battle gravity. In these adventure-oriented mini-quests, you explore caverns, find keys, and figure out how to use the environment to clamber towards a distant - and very high-up - exit.

While all this is going on, there's a narrative playing out on the level-select screen, involving your job as a 'data wing', working for Mother, the AI at the heart of a machine. This becomes almost as engaging as the arcade action, delving into hacking, and affording you glimpses of life beyond the screen.

On paper, it's a strange mash-up that probably shouldn't work, and yet it does. In short, Data Wing's an iOS classic that's not to be missed.

IAPs: Data Wing has no IAPs or ads - it's totally free. Bargain of the year? We think so.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Data Wing

Best free iPhone games: Data Wing

5. SpellTower+

The original SpellTower remains one of the finest word games on any platform. Drawing from traditional paper-based word searches and crosswords, SpellTower subverted the genre by bolting on bits of Tetris. This mash-up provided lashings of word-based strategy, and appealed to a wide range of puzzle fans.

In its free form, SpellTower+ more or less is the original SpellTower, spruced up a bit visually, made free (with ads), and with the odd extra rule. It's still marvellous.

Your journey begins in Tower mode, facing a stack of letters and black squares in a well. You tap out words that can be formed from snake-like pathways - there's no 'straight line' limitation here! When they are submitted, gravity plays its part, and tiles left floating fall. Finding the longest word isn't always a high-score strategy - instead, you must make best use of what's on the grid.

Beyond Tower, you venture into modes that borrow from Tetris-like arcade puzzlers, growing the stack after each move or against the clock. You also get a daily crack at a Tower mode, and the new Search. The latter has you manipulate a square board packed with double-score tiles, and you only get one attempt to submit a high-scoring word.

Pay up and you get a lot more, but even for free, SpellTower+ is a must-have for iPhone.

IAPs: The full game unlock IAP costs £4.99/$4.99. This removes the ads, enables you to peruse statistics, and provides access to Search, Zen, ExPuzzle, Double Puzzle, Bubble Puzzle, and Blitz modes.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download SpellTower+

Best free iPhone games: SpellTower+

6. Knight Brawl

Although occasionally veering into sensible (Undisputed Champ) and hyper-casual (Golfing Around) gaming, Colin Lane's best known for deranged sports titles featuring absurdist physics and barely controllable protagonists. Whether wrestling in Rowdy Wrestling or playing basketball in Dunkers 2, you battle how your player moves, rather than just the opposition. That line of thinking now comes to gladiator battles - and it's superb.

You start off with basic one-on-one matches, to get to grips with not horribly dying. A double-tap on an arrow button has your fighter lunge towards an opponent, potentially knocking away their shield or armour - assuming your weapon's pointing in the right direction. Deliver a killing blow, and you presumably get serious bragging rights offscreen at the videogame characters inn.

Where Knight Brawl shifts from amusing curiosity to essential download is in offering you so much to do. Beyond the basic battles, there are free-for-all scraps, and missions that edge into platform game territory. The odd design decision is questionable - you can quite often win multi-fighter skirmishes by hanging around on the sidelines and letting everyone else duff each-other up; nonetheless, Knight Brawl is buckets of fun and not to be missed.

IAPs: For £1.99/$1.99, you can remove the reasonably frequent but not horribly intrusive pop-up ads. Given how much game you get, that seems like a bargain.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Knight Brawl

Best free iPhone games: Knight Brawl

7. Shadowgun Legends

In this first-person shooter, stone-cold killers are treated like rockstars. There's a confidence and swagger here that's rare for this genre on mobile; but this isn't misplaced, because with its dazzling visuals, accessibility and depth, Shadowgun Legends is a first-rate mobile title.

It controls well, with your left and right thumbs, respectively, moving and aiming. Autofire takes care of any aliens dumb enough to get in front of your sights. Buttons then trigger special kit you're lucky enough to own, such as sentry guns.

The fast-paced missions are linear in nature, but have a sense of pace and rhythm that's invigorating and compelling. And because progression happens rapidly, it feels like the game rewards you for your time, even when you only dip into it for a few minutes.

There are downsides. The storyline is forgettable, and you'll eventually need to splash out on at least one IAP to unlock enough inventory slots for upgrades, without you otherwise having to be mired in busywork after missions. But other than those niggles, Shadowgun Legends has all you need from a solid mobile FPS: loads of shooty action; visuals to coo at; smartly conceived multiplayer; and adoring fans clamouring to build a massive statue of you in the game's central hub. (OK, so that last one's a bit odd, but do you really want to say no to them?)

IAPs: This one's stuffed full of IAP with heroic-sounding names, like Alien Hunter Pile (£4.99/$4.99) and Legendary Treasure (with a legendary £99.99/$99.99 price-tag). Once you're heavily into the game, you'll need to splash out on at least the cheapest IAP, to unlock dozens of extra inventory slots. Ongoing payments aren't necessary, though.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Shadowgun Legends

Best free iPhone games: Shadowgun Legends

8. PinOut!

The iPhone has seen radical reworkings of pinball, from Zen's highly animated tables through to puzzle-like precision flipper INKS. PinOut!, though, rethinks pinball as an endless runner of sorts. You face off against 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 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! demands you figure out the most efficient route to the next miniature table, which usually involves hitting a specific ramp. If you can grab dots along the way, to replenish the clock, that's a bonus.

It sounds simple - reductive, even, compared to 'proper' pinball - but PinOut! proves a frequently exciting, 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 varied tables and slightly simplified physics make PinOut! very suitable for iPhone - unlike traditional pinball titles, which feel fiddly on a smaller screen.

IAPs: PinOut! has a single £2.99/$2.99 IAP that unlocks checkpoints. In the free version, you have to start from the beginning every time.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download PinOut!

Best free iPhone games: PinOut!

9. Asphalt 9: Legends

If you've played a reasonably recent Asphalt game, you'll know the series left reality behind some time ago. What you get instead is unhinged arcade racing, where cars are hungry for nitro, drift for miles around corners, and regularly soar into the air, cartwheeling and spinning like a baton thrown by a particularly furious parade leader.

But Asphalt 9 breaks from traditional racers in another way: there's a system called TouchDrive, which means you don't have to steer. That nugget of information probably sent shivers down the spines of traditionalists - and now has them ranting about how mobile doesn't have proper games. The thing is, it really works.

While your car rockets along, you swipe to target obstacles (boost; ramps; entrances to skyscrapers you totally shouldn't drive through), and tap to nitro, drift, and perform crazy stunts. This doesn't remove the thrill of racing - instead, it's honed down to its purest essence. The game becomes the racing equivalent of those fab one-thumb platformers that taught gamers you don't need directional controls if the rest of the game is pitch-perfect.

That said, you can revert to standard controls if you wish. Either way, Asphalt 9's an exhilarating ride, whether you're in a smashy high-octane race against similarly nutcase drivers, or fleeing from the fuzz in exciting escape scenarios.

IAPs: It's an Asphalt game, so has a boat-load of IAP. In short, you're paying to avoid grind, and some (entirely optional) car packs are ludicrously expensive. However, the £1.99/$1.99 starter pack - some cash and a Porsche - isn't a bad buy.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Asphalt 9: Legends

Best free iPhone games: Asphalt 9: Legends

10. Super Cat Tales 2

The original Super Cat Tales felt like someone had shoved a classic old-school platform game inside your iPhone. Only instead of a dungaree-clad plumber doddering about, it starred a rag-tag bunch of moggies. In this sequel, the cats are back, to thwart the invasion plans of a mysterious tin soldier army.

Super Cat Tales 2's pacy, breezy platforming action, packed with secrets, urgency and excitement, ensures it grabs hold from the off. A nicely written slice of backstory draws you in, and before you know it your cat is leaping about, grabbing the suspiciously large number of levitating gold coins that appear in this kind of game, and hopping into the occasional massive yellow tank for robot-smashing action.

Although the bright, chunky visuals might feel like a throwback to the SNES, the controls in Super Cat Tales 2 are thoroughly modern. One thumb at each side of the screen is enough to let you run, dash, clamber up walls (and scrabble down them like a terrified kitten when holding on a second too long), and wall-jump like a feline ninja.

At first, it all feels alien as you rewire your thumbs; but the game soon beds in as a near-perfect iPhone platformer. Frankly, we'd be recommending this one for a tenner; for free - or five quid if you go premium - it's a bargain.

IAPs: The £4.99/$4.99 premium mode removes the ads. You can also pay to unlock levels if you haven't found the objects you need to progress.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Super Cat Tales 2

Best free iPhone games: Super Cat Tales 2

11. Fancade

If you ever get that nagging sense there's no longer any ambition in iPhone gaming, Fancade squashes such thoughts in style. However, it's not in the games themselves that the ambition really lies.

Yes, we said games, because Fancade is a collection of simple titles you dip in and out of on an overriding quest to reach the end of a pathway that zig-zags through floating isometric islands. What you're served is often familiar: two-button bouncy physics driving fare; path-finding and building twiddling, like a stripped-back Monument Valley; fleet-of-foot one-thumb platforming. But what initially drives interest is Fancade's bite-sized nature. Blow through a few levels of one thing, and you're on to another. It's gaming for the short attention span generation - the App Store reimagined as WarioWare.

This on its own would be quite impressive. Even if Fancade's mini-games aren't brimming with imagination, they are fun and polished. But Fancade also invites you to make your own games. If you're especially driven, you can do so from a blank canvas; alternatively, mere mortals can grab a pre-made kit and experiment with components to see what happens.

Even if you don't delve into making your own tiny worlds, Fancade is a must; and if you do, it'll likely stay welded to your iPhone indefinitely.

IAPs: There are non-recurring monthly (99p/$0.99) and annual (£9.99/$9.99) options, primarily to keep the Fancade servers running. But spend some cash and all wait timers are removed as a thank you.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Fancade

Best free iPhone games: Fancade

12. Beach Buggy Racing 2

For reasons we've never fully understood at Macworld HQ, the iPhone has always suffered a dearth of decent kart racers - so we're suckers for a good one when it comes along. And Beach Buggy Racing 2 blasts past that particular barrier.

If you've played kart racers before, you'll know the score. You zoom along larger-than-life tracks in tiny cars, race positions changing more often than the British weather whenever you decide to take a holiday. Periodically, you can grab power-ups to unsportingly use against opponents. Hit the chequered flag first and glory awaits.

With balanced controls, lovely visuals, and interesting course design, Beach Buggy Racing 2 ticks every box. Its upgrade and unlock path is fair, meaning if you don't splash out on IAP, you'll still regularly get new goodies (tracks; cars; drivers) - at least if you play often.

There's also plenty of track and weapons variation. You'll bomb past a medieval castle with fire-breathing dragon, blasting fireworks at all and sundry; the next race may find you bouncing atop giant turtles in a prehistoric wilderness, waiting for the optimum moment to encase your rivals in blocks of ice. It's a pity there are no cups - you at any point only have two races to choose from - but the compulsion cycle here is nonetheless rock solid.

IAPs: Coins upgrade weapons, gems buy coins, and you can buy gems - 99p for 90, up to £99.99 for 15,000. Or just grind for free. Now and again, limited offers appear, which are fairly good value if you need a boost.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Beach Buggy Racing 2

Best free iPhone games: Beach Buggy Racing 2

13. Sticky Terms

Philipp Stollenmayer has form in creating weird games, such as artsy puzzler Song of Bloom, surrealist bacon flipper Bacon - The Game, and acrobatic letter puzzler supertype. Sticky Terms veers towards the last of those, and although the letters here don't flip about, they need moving around for each of the game's puzzles to be completed.

In fact, what you see at first rarely resembles text. Often, the initial construction is akin to abstract geometric modern art. These puzzle pieces are pulled apart with a meaty pop, spun with a tap, and then rearranged in a manner that creates full words.

The twist is the words are untranslatable and distinctly weird. This is a game that has you recreate the likes of neko-neko (an Indonesian term for a well-meant idea that makes everything worse). Short of you having a dictionary in your head, success therefore relies on you recognising letterforms, and gradually piecing them together.

It's a simple concept, and it works superbly, from initial layouts that look like random symbols sprayed across your display to the little drumbeat that signifies success. Short of you hating word games and puzzlers, Sticky Terms should remain glued to your Home screen until you've worked your way through its dozens of handcrafted challenges.

IAPs: The game has no IAPs, but you need to watch an ad to unlock each set of words.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Sticky Terms

Best free iPhone games: Sticky Terms

14. Look, Your Loot!

If you've played Arnold Rauers's superb Card Thief, you'll know a 'living' grid of cards and a smattering of role-playing elements makes for a tense and exciting gaming experience. But if you're emptier of wallet than the bling-hunting heroes in that kind of title, Look, Your Loot! represents an excellent alternative.

The hero this time is a mouse keener on gold than cheese, and armed with spear and shield alongside disarmingly cute whiskers. The game takes place on a grid, most slots of which are filled with something dangerous and violent. The remainder then contain the odd power-up, or barrels you hack to bits, in order to see what's inside.

You slide your tile to move, and the mouse's life force depletes on attacking foes, but can be replenished with elixirs, or defended with shields. As you duff up monsters, new cards enter the grid. You must force an optimum path to stay alive. Best the boss that appears after a set number of turns and you get to choose a permanent skill before continuing your quest.

It's simple stuff, but captivating - and nerve-racking when you know everything can go wrong on a careless swipe. Varied modes will further cement the game to your Home screen, ensuring the rodent hero can get all stabby for many months to come.

IAPs: Three £1.99 IAPs exist - one removes the ads (and gives you a free booster per game), and is well worth grabbing. The others are a bling starter kit (100,000 gold and 60 gems) and a 50 per cent price cut for boosters. Either's fine for big fans but not necessary for enjoyment.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Look, Your Loot!

Best free iPhone games: Look, Your Loot!

15. Threes! Free

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 involves 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 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 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.

IAPs: Threes! Free has no IAPs.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Threes! Free

Best free iPhone games: Threes Free

16. Sky: Children of the Light

The aim in Sky is for the titular children to spread hope through a desolate kingdom by returning fallen stars to the heavens. A big ask for a kid, you might think, but you're not alone. And that's because Sky plays out as a massive multiplayer adventure, where you and others tackle puzzles together - while also spending quite a bit of time just larking about in the seven dreamlike realms.

If you've ever played Journey, you should be right at home, as you control an impish character who darts through beautiful 3D environments, occasionally launches into the air, and skids down hillsides in a manner that makes your feet wince. Progress typically involves poking around, unlocking doors, and finding elements that reveal new realms.

Often, you'll meet others, communicating through a limited range of parps and gestures. Sometimes, several players must work together to beat an obstacle. And occasionally, someone will take your hand and you'll both soar towards the clouds. During those moments, Sky is something else. Conversely, it can be trying when you get stuck, unsure what to do next or where to go. Nonetheless, for free this is a unique and beautiful gaming experience.

IAPs: You can buy candle packs, which start at 99p for three, and go all the way up to a gargantuan £48.99 for 150. A starter pack of 15 for £4.99 adds wing upgrades, and you can spend £19.99 on a winter musical pack. Our advice? Just play the game and avoid using IAP to blaze through it - and your bank account.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Sky: Children of the Light

Best free iPhone games: Sky: Children of the Light

17. Clash Royale

With developer Supercell known for some of the biggest-grossing (and, in IAP terms, grossest) games on the App Store, you might approach Clash Royale with suspicion. After all, it feeds off of a kind of collector mentality, and is stuffed full of IAP. But look past that 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. 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.

IAPs: Primarily, IAPs are to buy gems, which can be converted into gold with which to purchase/upgrade cards. A 'fistful' (80) costs 99p and is basically worthless, but 500 gems for £4.99 will give you a nice boost in the lower levels. Probably avoid the 'mountain of gems' at £99.99.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Clash Royale

Best free iPhone games: Clash Royale

18. Samsara Room

From the off, this point-and-tap adventure in a shoebox is deeply strange. You appear to be in a sealed room, with gaudy wallpaper, and a mirror on the wall that reflects… something. Is it you? Hard to tell. If it is, you're looking a bit peaky.

Start poking around and you find objects, possible clues and confusion. A little lizard is on the wall, but scurries off when tapped. There's a locked clock, and far too many candles. Sooner or later, you'll discover not everything is as it seems - a 'fake' item provides a path to something else entirely.

And then it all goes a bit weird. Things happen that defy the laws of reality, and you're sent spinning headlong down a surreal and entertaining journey of discovery. All of which perhaps sounds a bit vague, but the joy in Samsara Room is in the exploration and regular breakthroughs - along with seeing what shifts and changes happen to your locale on your way to 'enlightenment'.

There is the occasional bump. A couple of puzzles are a touch too obscure, and require too much of the old 'use every object everywhere' thinking that was irritatingly prevalent in old-school adventuring. But for the most part, this is an atmospheric, interesting, smartly designed room escape title wonderfully conceived and executed for small-screen play.

IAPs: There are no IAPs whatsoever. Free really means free in this case. Barg!

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Samsara Room

Best free iPhone games: Samsara Room

19. Bounty Hunter Space Lizard

You know how it is when you're a space lizard. There you are, getting by in your dirty space van, having alienated your friends. Your lover has left, and you're stranded in orbit around an annoyingly conservative planet, with terrible internet connectivity and food. Then your spacesuit springs a leak. Life is bleak - until you reason there is a way to live and feel alive: become a bounty hunter.

So perhaps lizards think a bit differently in what makes life worth living, but this is the set-up to a clever, challenging turn-based strategy title. Your dinky lizard sneaks up to marks and strikes them down. As you get deeper into the game, you must figure out how to avoid retaliatory gunfire, deal with portals, and dispatch the local bitey slime-based wildlife. Sometimes, it all goes a bit Bomberman, too, with you lobbing explosives about.

This is a finite quest, and so there is an ending to aim for. However, getting there isn't easy. Despite each level taking place on a single screen, it takes time for the rules to click, and for you to master the games various strategies and weapons. Throughout, though, it's a masterpiece. We realise it might not look like much, but this bounty is very much one to set your sights on.

IAPs: For £2.99, you can remove the ads.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Bounty Hunter Space Lizard

Best free iPhone games: Bounty Hunter Space Lizard

20. Power Hover: Cruise

If you liked the boss battles in the superb Power Hover, you're going to be overjoyed with Power Hover: Cruise, which expands those challenges into full-fledged endless stages.

Pyramid has you take on traps built into a colossal ancient tomb. You leap over ramps, weave through laser meshes, and squeeze through gaps in walls as the screen unhelpfully rotates.

Machine is all about belting along an underground tunnel, where concepts like 'floors', 'walls' and 'ceilings' cease to have meaning. In the distance, a crazed android hurls all manner of projectiles your way - and one hit spells death.

Dive sends you underwater, and Metro zigzagging through a city, avoiding countless spikes. But Air is our favourite, with you surfing atop a snake-like winding road in the clouds, taking on all manner of wildly spinning machinery.

Power Hover veterans will know what to expect in terms of aesthetics; and sure enough, Cruise is a gorgeous game, with a frantic, head-bobbing electronic soundtrack. It does, however, retain the original's inertia-heavy controls. We're fans of them, too, because they afford the game a unique feel that's rewarding when mastered; but we are aware some people find it tricky to get to grips with the way you arc across the screen rather than immediately dart left or right.

Given the ferocity of the stages, there's potential for frustration, but Power Hover: Cruise is worth persevering with, because it feels so good when it all clicks and you blaze along on a winning run.

IAPs: New bots/vehicles, each with unique attributes (including, in some cases, handy extra lives), are available via IAP. Prices vary from 49p to £2.99. Any one purchase removes ads from the game. All unlockables can alternatively be won by hitting pre-defined high-scores.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Power Hover: Cruise

Best free iPhone games: Power Hover: Cruise

21. Yokai Dungeon

The lantern festival is in full swing, and so of course yokai have crashed the place. They stomp about, being all weird and demon-like, flaunting the fact that precisely no-one invited them. It's your job as a kind of ghostbusting fox to blast the yokai back into Japanese folklore, leaving everyone to enjoy their festival in peace.

There are no special ghost-obliterating contraptions in Yokai Dungeon - instead, you scoot about the place and shove objects at the roaming yokai, squashing them against walls. Deal with every yokai within an arena and coins shower down. Work your way through a number of levels, and you confront a massive boss that requires a few hits to kill.

With its cartoonish vibe and sleek controls, this is an excellent arcade effort. The basic gameplay recalls 1980s classic Pengo, and there's a pinch of Bomberman within as well. And with randomly generated levels, loads of characters to unlock, and special items to equip, Yokai Dungeon stands more than a ghost of a chance of staying on your device for the long-term.

IAPs: £3.99 removes all adverts, along with netting you additional goodies and a free continue. If you like the game, buy it, because ads appear quite often.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Yokai Dungeon

Best free iPhone games: Yokai Dungeon

22. Tile Snap

In 2018, Ian MacLarty's Dissembler kept us glued to the screen. It's a puzzler about unraveling abstract works of art - kind of like a minimalist Bejeweled if every time you 'matched three', the matched items abruptly flew off of the screen. Tile Snap takes the same basic premise, adds wallpaper-like patterns the 1970s would be proud to call their own, and serves up the entire tasty dish for free.

Throughout, you kind of wonder what the catch is. This is properly premium puzzling for no outlay. The visuals are lovely, with each tile being distinct. The interaction and animation as you flip tile pairs is pitch-perfect. And, fortunately, the puzzles themselves are solid as well.

Ultimately, it's all about thinking several moves ahead, making matches in the right order, so no tiles end up being isolated. But should that happen, Tile Snap doesn't do anything as gauche as serve up ads so you can continue - it instead allows you unlimited undos so you can try a different set of steps.

This makes for a lean-back puzzler that provides a challenge, but that also allows you the chance to relax for a bit, rather than feeling like your brains are being smashed out by a brick.

IAPs: There are no ads, but you can support the game by buying hints. Each walks you through an entire level. Five cost 99p, 12 cost £1.99, and a one-off £2.99 payment gives you a new hint every day.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Tile Snap

Best free iPhone games: Tile Snap

23. Pico Hero

Pico looks like a tiny ninja, but beneath an outer layer of black fabric and mystery lies a heart of green. And that's because this hardcore action hero is a friend of the Earth and animals alike.

Unfortunately, his idyllic life is rudely interrupted when a bunch of bad guys rock up at Pico Hero's farm, lob a few explosives about, and make off with his animal chums. Just to prove they are bad guys, said chums are caged, and placed at the end of snaking desert landscapes and city streets. Your mission is to get them back. And also to plant loads of trees, using seeds scattered about the place.

In terms of action, Pico Hero approximates a twin-stick shooter from that point, although aiming and firing happens automatically. You're therefore scooting the little guy about, avoiding incoming projectiles, dishing out wanton violence, and occasionally popping a seed in a convenient hole. Periodically, there are bosses to defeat, new weapons to master, and puzzles to solve.

There's something slightly off about the controls, which feel a bit slippy. But if you can grapple with them, there's loads of great game here, and it doesn't take itself too seriously. And if you find yourself having blazed through the entire thing, there's a level editor for creating and sharing your own ninja-baiting challenges.

IAPs: A piffling 79p/$0.99 eradicates ads that show up after a game, and nets you optional unlimited lives as well.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Pico Hero

Best free iPhone games: Pico Hero

24. Star Jolt

This brutal high-score chaser comes from the same school of hard knocks (and by 'hard knocks', we mean 'very very hard games') as Super Hexagon and Flappy Bird. In other words, it laughs in your face as your digits repeatedly fail you, ending games within mere seconds. But the compulsion loop is strong to the point that you'll want to have another crack immediately.

The actual gameplay is extremely simple. You're in a rocket ship blazing along a winding corridor. Brush the sides and you bounce playfully off of them. Hit an edge head-on and you explode. Game over. Said explosion is inevitable, given the snake-like corridor, and the twitchy slide controls. Your aim is during your brief seconds of life to scoop up as many blocks as possible with your ship.

All this is augmented by superb design: an old-school CRT effect that recalls ancient arcade games; endearingly silly nuggets of script; a jaunty tune bopping away in the background. Just be aware the game ramps up the frustration factor to the max - and may therefore cause your phone to end up having a journey of its own into a nearby wall.

IAPs: Ads show up after every few games - and given how rapidly you tend to die, they can irk. Remove them for £2.99.

For iPhone | Download Star Jolt

Best free iPhone games: Star Jolt

25. Zombie Football!

There's an old joke that if American football players are so tough, why do they wear armour? A sensible answer (yawn!) suggests protection from injury - tackling often involves running at someone as hard as possible. But in this game, it's to avoid being torn limb from limb. That's because Zombie Football! has a field packed with the undead.

In fact, it packs the field with more than that. Instead of perfectly manicured grass, gloopy mud is everywhere. Cones fence off areas, forcing you down narrow pathways. (Comically, your tough footballer can't just barge his way through.) There are occasional power-ups, too - speed-up arrows and food. Mostly, though, this game wants to stop you scoring a touchdown through your innards being torn from your shrieking form.

Clearly, it's bonkers, but it really works. There's a charm and an old-school sensibility here, which at once feels like the early days of the App Store, and also retro-gaming. Smart level design means you can't just breeze your way through either; and even when you do beat the game, you can try for faster times.

There's also a nasty surprise for any complacent virtual footballers: a 'survive the arena' minigame, where you run towards food power-ups in a walled-off arena, until inevitably overwhelmed by ravenous foes. Well, the crowd needs something to do at half-time.

IAPs: This game is free and has no IAPs or ads whatsoever.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Zombie Football

Best free iPhone games: Zombie Football!

26. AI Dungeon

Back in the 1980s, text-based adventures were big business. Most were rubbish, randomly killing you for having the audacity to type in a command. But some titles - notably those by Infocom and Magnetic Scrolls - pioneered a kind of interactive storytelling that was clever and deeply immersive. AI Dungeon ambitiously attempts to match such creations, but does so on the fly.

You kick things off by selecting a basic setting, such as 'fantasy' or 'apocalyptic'. If none of the options work for you, you can build a custom scenario by typing out a couple of opening sentences, and then jump right in.

Naturally, we decided to be an editor in the Macworld office, looking for a USB cable, while haunted by Jony Ive's eyes. Because the AI is a bit unhinged, things quickly went weird. We found ourselves in a conference room with Tim Cook and "family members of those who died in the fire", some of whom we were told were holding hands and "appear to be dead".

Yeah, we've no idea either, but AI Dungeon excels at surreal and often hilarious (if sometimes chilling) weirdness. It's like entering a dreamworld capable of (loosely) holding on to characters, objects, and ideas. You can only imagine the kinds of virtual adventures that will be possible as the system evolves.

IAPs: There are no IAPs within the game itself, but if you'd like to support AI Dungeon's development, its creator has a Patreon.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download AI Dungeon

Best free iPhone games: AI Dungeon

27. Total Party Kill

Sacrifices must be made, argues Total Party Kill. And that's what happens in each level of this amusingly dark platform puzzler.

The aim is simply to escape single-screen dungeons. The snag is they're full of spikes, and place exits inconveniently high up. Usually in this sort of game, you might move some boxes to make some steps. Here, the three heroes - a knight, a ranger, and a mage - reason they only have themselves to work with. And we mean that quite literally.

So from the off, you'll use the mage to freeze a friend solid, thereby making a platform. Or the knight will dispatch a chum with a massive sword, propelling him across the screen to thump a switch. The ranger has a bow and arrow, and can pin one of the party to a wall. (Quite why he doesn't use his seemingly extremely sturdy arrows to create impromptu ladders, we've no idea. Presumably, he's a mean one.)

As you work your way through the game, the routes and puzzles become trickier, giving the logic area of your brain a thorough workout. But escape always brings a smile as the victor celebrates - while his cohorts hang or lie lifeless, or remain entombed in blocks of ice.

IAPs: There's just one IAP here - you can remove the ads for £3.99. They show up fairly often, and so if you don't want to rob the game of momentum, splash out.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Total Party Kill

Best free iPhone games: Total Party Kill

28. OCO

The minimalism and refinement at the heart of platform game OCO is such you suspect Apple design guru Jony Ive would give it a polite nod, if he were into games. Its universe is one of subtle gradients and perfect shapes; its levels are single-screen creations, wrapped around a disc. The controls, too, are stripped right back - all you can do is tap to jump.

This might put you in mind of endless runners, but OCO is more cerebral at its core. Each level demands you grab a number of precisely placed collectibles - and they are the key to success. Each level therefore tasks you with finding the correct route through what becomes a kind of maze, perfectly timing jumps - which often align with a head-nodding background beat.

As you work your way through OCO, its world slowly reveals new ideas that force you to rethink how you play. End-of-level achievements for speed and fewest jumps add replay value to those tests you've otherwise completed.

On its own, this would be impressive enough, but OCO's not nearly done. Work through its 135 levels, and you can keep going with daily challenges, and even a built-in level editor, where you can create your own OCO landscapes to share with an online community. Simple, beautiful, and engaging, OCO is ideally suited to iPhone.

IAPs: 99p removes the ads. You can also buy gold bits for instantly unlocking level sets. 99p gets you 2000. Pay £9.99 and you get 50,000 - enough for everything in the game at the time of writing.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download OCO

Best free iPhone games: OCO

29. Spaceteam

In multiplayer game Spaceteam, a star has inconveniently gone supernova near your ship, and you must outrun it to avoid being turned into space vapour. The tiny snag: whoever created the control panel for your craft was a sadist - and a slap-dash one at that.

Controls are unhelpfully spread across the screens of whoever's playing, and instructions are dished out at a rate of knots. Instead of being able to blithely order "warp factor four" to an underling, you instead find yourself yelling "will someone please turn on the Spectrobolt?", while frantically trying to deal with whatever orders are being barked nearby.

What starts out as controlled chaos rapidly turns into a total madhouse when the control panels start falling to bits, leaking green ooze, and replacing words with symbols. You'll ponder that spandex-clad TV spaceship captains never had it this tough - but also that they never seemed to be having this much fun flying their ships either.

IAPs: A single £4.99 IAP unlocks a range of upgrades, including more challenges, symbols-only games, and a ship's cat (for 'companionship').

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Spaceteam

Best free iPhone games: Spaceteam

30. King Crusher

King Tease has decided he doesn't really want any other monarchs knocking about near his patch, and so he sets out to eradicate them all. Or, more accurately, given that he's a king and would sooner sit on a really expensive chair than get his hands dirty, he gets you to go out and eradicate them on this behalf. Classy.

What follows is something approximating an RPG combined with real-time strategy, played out in fast-forward, and shoved inside a tiny box. On selecting a mission - there are daily challenges, and a multi-part adventure quest - you select your little group of fighters, incant a hero, and set off.

Quests are effectively a series of battles, which play out on tiny three-by-three grids. Above this stands your enemy, which may be anything from angry goblins - armed with massive shields and pointy spears - to enraged wildlife. At any given moment, you must ensure your party is in the best position to strike, while ensuring they avoid enemy attacks.

Battles are fleeting, and even entire adventures often only last for a matter of minutes. But repeated play does unveil new strategies, and new capabilities to try your hand with. It still might not be the deepest of strategy titles, but the bite-sized and breezy action is perfectly suited to mobile play.

IAPs: Gems to boost your team and chances are available from 99p for 1000, up to £48.99 for 100,000. A better bet is the £2.99 option to remove ads. If you like the game and fancy a shortcut, the £6.99 mercenary pack - no ads; three epic leaders - represents reasonable value.

For iPhone & iPad (Universal) | Download King Crusher

Best free iPhone games: King Crusher

31. It's Full of Sparks

It's not easy being a firecracker. One minute, you're happily going about your business; the next, you explode in a shower of noise and pretty lights. Still, things are a lot worse when you're actually aware of all this, like the firecrackers in It's Full of Sparks.

Conscious of their impending doom, their aim is to sprint towards water and put out their sparks. But their world is one full of platforms and contraptions, intent on impeding their progress - even more so when the firecrackers don coloured shades that enable them to toggle the visibility of hazards and platforms alike.

Each of the 80 levels becomes a speed-run platform game with pathfinding puzzler overtones. You must figure out not only how to reach the blissful pool of live-preserving water, but also master the finger-dancing choreography required to get there in time.

Some levels stretch frustration too far. Mostly, this occurs when the slippy controls don't afford you the precision required to get through complex leapy bits. On the whole, though, this is an amusing fast-paced platform game, with clever level design and plenty of charm.

IAPs: The game replenishes firecrackers on a timer, but you can get 15 more at any time by watching an ad. A single £2.99 IAP removes this system and also all advertising.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download It's Full of Sparks

Best free iPhone games: It's Full of Sparks

32. Chessplode

This isn't the first game to reimagine chess for mobile, but it might be the most novel. If nothing else, it's certainly - as the name suggests - the most explosive. Although the basic rules align with chess, the initial setup rarely does, instead peppering the board with a semi-random array of pieces. But it's what happens next that blows up everything you knew about the game.

Take an opponent's piece, and everything in its row and column is obliterated - friend or foe. The only exception is if the king is in that row/column, at which point you get a standard boring chess capture with precisely no explosions.

Whatever your experience with chess, you'll recognise this rule change upends everything. You need new tactics to win, whether you're working your way through the range of puzzle-like challenges, or taking on players around the world. You can even design your own custom levels for others - but only share them when you prove your setup is possible to beat!

IAPs: There are two IAP types, both of which are optional. Within the settings is a tip jar, which is purely about rewarding the creator. The other is infinite undos, for £1.99. Whether you buy that is down to if you think chess should have take-backsies.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Chessplode

Best free iPhone games: Chessplode

33. Golf Blitz

This side-on crazy golf effort (with emphasis on the crazy) is a spiritual successor to Super Stickman Golf 3 - or at least that game's race mode. But whereas Super Stickman Golf 3 was perhaps better suited to iPad's screen acres, Golf Blitz has clearly been fine-tuned for quickfire phone-based play.

Bouts have you face up to three online opponents, and your aim is to race to the green, and putt first. As you might expect if you've played Super Stickman Golf games, the courses here aren't like anything in the real world. Instead, you're likely to be playing on jagged levitating islands covered in goo, or courses carved into tunnels deep below the ground.

Unlike Super Stickman Golf 3's race mode, which was more or less about hitting the ball as quickly as possible, Golf Blitz adds a modicum of strategy through a cool down timer. You're therefore better off planning shots, and making use of power-ups to get an edge, such as when using a fiery super ball to unsportingly blast an opponent's ball out of the way.

It's not quite a hole-in-one: the game's freemium nature and intentional semi-randomness in shots can frustrate. Sometimes, you'll feel you're playing opponents that are simply more powerful than you. Mostly, though, you'll have a thwacking good time.

IAPs: This game's packed full of IAP. A £2.99 starter pack gets you a special golfer and outfit, along with a bunch of gems and cash. It represents reasonable value. But anyone paying £99.99 for 18,000 gems should seek help.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Golf Blitz

Best free iPhone games: Golf Blitz

34. Octagon 2: Extreme Evolution

The 'extreme' bit in this game's name is apt, because Octagon 2 is not for the faint-hearted. It sends you barreling down twisting fragmented pathways, demanding you stay on solid ground or fall into the abyss and instantly fail.

This would be simpler if you just swiped left and right on a flat path. But an upwards swipe propels you towards the ceiling of the octagonal tunnel, and, well, keeping your bearings about you when you're already several dozen split-second decisions into a level isn't easy.

In fact, Octagon 2's punishing nature is likely to prove divisive. This is a game from the Super Hexagon school of hard knocks. A game-ending error is only ever a single wrong swipe away; but because levels are fixed in nature, it's your own inability to clock and crack each path's choreography that will keep you from success.

Smartly, Octagon 2 invites you to reshuffle a level if it's driving you nuts. You'll then get an entirely new test at the same skill level - of which there are five in the free version. Frankly, just the first few should keep most gamers occupied for a number of hours in what proves to be an exhilarating and intense arcade challenge wrapped around a frankly slightly masochistic core.

IAPs: The 'full game' unlock costs £1.99/$1.99, which gives you an endless mode and levels six through ten. However, since the game's procedurally generated, you can play new takes on levels one through five forever.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Octagon 2: Extreme Evolution

Best free iPhone games: Octagon 2: Extreme Evolution

35. Tetris

Assuming you haven't been living in a cupboard since 1984, you'll know Tetris. One of the most famous games of all time, it's compelling stuff as you arrange falling tetrominoes, aiming to create complete lines that then disappear. If your stack reaches the top of the well, that's your lot.

Problems with Tetris on iPhone have primarily been down to terrible controls and even worse business models. The touchscreen is no substitute for a Game Boy's physical buttons or the keyboard on a PC. But also, Tetris's previous iOS incarnations have been clogged up by cruft and IAP.

It's quite the surprise, then, to see N3TWORK's take be so bare bones. You get the classic game, augmented with a single hold slot and, well, not much else. There are local leaderboards and themes (including a rather lovely Game Boy one that explodes into colour when you zap four lines at once), but that's all - and the play area's also oddly dinky.

But it's… Tetris. It might lack ambition and imagination, but that doesn't really matter when all you want to do is play one of gaming's all-time greats on your iPhone, free from the trappings of modern freemium fare.

IAPs: In a marked departure from EA's take on the game, this one has a single IAP. A payment of £4.99/$4.99 removes the ads.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Tetris

Best free iPhone games: Tetris

36. Will Hero

Will Hero is a bouncing square, living in a world of other bouncing squares. They all lurk atop levitating islands floating above an abyss, awaiting the chance to do some violence. The hero's excuse is that he's in rescue mode, trying to free a princess. As for the bad guys - well, they're bad guys in a video game.

This is a one-thumb effort. Tap the screen and Will darts forwards. You must get your timing right, so you don't end up underneath a bouncing foe, or get walloped by a weapon. The landscape's also full of unexpectedly deadly windmills, with blades that slice you in two.

Fortunately, there are plenty of weapons chests lying around. Crack one open and you'll be armed with something suitably dangerous that's triggered every time you tap to move. Depending on the helm you're wearing (helms being available via IAP or through unlocking treasure chests), you might get spears, a massive axe, or - slightly moving away from the medieval theme - heat-seeking missiles.

It's frustrating when you get some way into a mission and are cut short by a fractionally mistimed prod of the screen. But otherwise Will Hero is a lot of fun, with its amusingly cartoonish gore, dungeon missions, and varied means of giving nasty evil-doers a serious kicking.

IAPs: You can buy crowns (for skipping quests) to convert into coins (for opening chests) - 80 for 99p, 500 for £4.99, or 1200 for £9.99. None of that's really necessary to play. If you fancy some specific helms, though, you can grab them for 99p each.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Will Hero

Best free iPhone games: Will Hero

37. King Rabbit

You might expect a sovereign 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 seemingly kidnapped our crowned bunny and dumped him on a chain of islands surrounded by deadly traps. King Rabbit must get free, 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 leaping into a portal. Pretty soon, the game ups the challenge, showcasing that although King Rabbit's enemies are 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, fling bombs about, and avoid terrifying scythe-wielding bipedal goats.

There's not a lot here that you haven't seen before. But what King Rabbit gets so right is its 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. And if that's still not enough carrot and too much stick, you can even design and share levels of your own.

IAPs: All IAPs are optional, and are for buying hints, time-slowing powers, and gems to spend on consumables. There's also a $3.99/£3.99 subscription that removes the ads, and gives you a few hints/time-slowing power-ups every month. This, though, doesn't strike us as particularly great value.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download King Rabbit

Best free iPhone games: King Rabbit

38. Drop Wizard Tower

You're not going to find a more affectionate love letter to classic 1980s platform gaming than Drop Wizard Tower - but this game has modern mobile smarts, too.

It builds on its equally impressive predecessor, Drop Wizard, and again features a little auto-running wizard, whom you direct left or right. The wizard's sole form of attack, to fend off adversaries that roam the single-screen levels, is magic that blasts forth from his wand when he lands on a platform.

Successful hits daze enemies, who can then be booted across the screen, potentially causing cartwheeling 'avalanches' through scooping up other foes in their wake. They then - since this is an old-school platform game - turn into fruit.

Unlike the original Drop Wizard, this sequel is designed in portrait. This feels more authentic (in a classic-era coin-op sense), and makes it a better fit for iPhone, with big directional control buttons at the foot of the screen. It also has you tackle all 50 floors of the tower in one go, rather than unlocking individual chunks of the game - a sterner challenge, although you can use collected gems to buy continues.

We suspect the auto-running component might alienate some old hands, but it really shouldn't. Instead, it forces Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros veterans to rethink tactics for this kind of game, and its streamlined nature is more suited to iPhone than any attempt at virtual D-pads and jump/fire buttons. Plus, frankly, Drop Wizard Tower's just really good fun - so check it out for that reason alone.

IAPs: A £3.99/$3.99 IAP removes the ads from Drop Wizard Tower, along with giving you a free continue.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Drop Wizard Tower

Best free iPhone games: Drop Wizard Tower

39. Tiny Tomb: Dungeon Explorer

From a visual standpoint, Tiny Tomb feels like it's filled with rejects from a Crossy Road auditions session. However, it plays very differently from that endless title, instead drawing from dungeon crawlers, but stripping that genre to the bone. So rather than fend off dozens of nasties, each chunky isometric piece of dungeon is more like a little puzzle, tasking you with getting from one side of the room to the other.

At first, the going is easy. You'll find the odd bear trap, but deft swipes let you leap away before it snaps shut. Enemies are snakes you can approach side on and unsportingly kick to death. But as you head deeper into the game, you end up in a dungeon infested with deadly goop and skeletons, and a maze-like temple littered with angry mummies and sawblades carving their way through the floor.

With some smart scripting (including a 'big bad' who's more ravenous than merciless, asking you to seek out food), forgiving restart options, and different dungeons every time you play, Tiny Tomb scratches the RPG itch when you're on the go. It might not have the depth of its console or PC cousins, but that doesn't matter when you're on your last life, leaping about, desperately trying to avoid poison darts flying through the air.

IAPs: You can remove ads for £2.99, and buy 'resurrection ankhs'. These bring you back to life after your inevitable demise. Ten cost 99p, or you can grab 100 for £4.99. Alternatively, watch an ad for a few freebies.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Tiny Tomb: Dungeon Explorer

Best free iPhone games: Tiny Tomb: Dungeon Explorer

40. Beat Street

In the 1980s, arcades were full of machines tempting you to partake in a mission that involved beating quite a few people to a pulp. These street-smart scrolling brawlers went by exciting names like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage. On iPhone, such games have tended to punch their own faces off due to the awfulness of their virtual controls.

This is why Beat Street is such a nice surprise. Not only is it imbued with a knowing sense of gaming's history (larger-than-life foes; regular boss battles; the means to unsportingly smash someone's face in with a brick you found lying around), but it's been properly designed for touchscreen play.

In fact, everything is controlled by a single digit - an absurdly ambitious proposition that somehow works. You drag to move, tap to attack, and hold the screen to grab hold of an enemy who can then be chucked at his cohorts with a swipe. Should you want something that feels more traditional, switch your iPhone's orientation to landscape and use two thumbs instead; but portrait feels right for Beat Street, and also gives you more background graphics.

The only real downside to the game is a smattering of grind. Beat Street really wants you playing daily in short bursts, and repeating levels on different difficulty settings. That gripe aside, this is a modern, smart, savvy take on old-school brawlers.

IAPs: A £4.99 starter pack is briefly offered, providing gems and other goodies. Other than that, you can splash out anything from £1.99 to £99.99 on gems, used to unlock chests or buy coins for upgrades. Any purchase removes forced in-game ads.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Beat Street

Best free iPhone games: Beat Street