Looking for the best games for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch? You’ve come to the right place. With iOS games reviews, gameplay videos and links to the games on the App Store, this roundup lists the 100 very best games ever released for the iPad & iPhone, from strategy and action to puzzlers and RPGs.
New in our list this month: Meteorfall, Alto's Odyssey, Mushroom 11, Dissembler and Infinite West.
A quick note on IAP: Many games have IAPs - In-App Purchases. Be wary of overspending on consumable IAPs. Our reviews note when IAPs impact on any particular game.
Adventure, point-and-click, and story games
From old-school point-and-click to thoroughly modern touchscreen adventures, these interactive stories will keep you engrossed for days.
Banner Saga blends ingredients from adventure-style text-based decision-making and turn-based grid combat. 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 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 a magic/support interaction.
Outside of combat, things are just as dangerous. You make decisions about almost everything, and you’ll pay for 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 once you’ve replayed the game to death, you’ll be delighted to know an equally impressive sequel exists. David Price
It’s safe to say that Device 6 is unlike any other adventure game you’ll play on your iPhone or iPad. The introductory sequence has all the swagger and verve of the sassiest spy movie, but then it dumps you in a mystery, not knowing who you are or how you got there.
The really clever bit, though, is how the game is constructed. The narrative becomes the paths and corridors along which you walk, sentences darting around corners, or taking on the appearance of stairs and ladders. Dotted about are clues and brain-bending puzzles. Arm yourself with a pencil and paper – you’re going to need it.
The notion of a text-oriented game might not appeal, but Device 6 is not to be missed. This isn’t your parent’s (or grandparent’s) adventure – Device 6 is as far from Zork as GTA is from Pac-Man. It’s an essential, unconventional gaming experience like no other, which simply wouldn’t make any sense on a more traditional gaming system. In short, buy it. Craig Grannell
Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition
This is an odd game, in that victory is non-existent and death both inevitable and frequent. You’re dumped in a hostile wilderness and expected to get on with it. All the while, the game’s more interested in killing you than exploring your creativity. At least everything looks great while this is happening – all endearingly whimsical, faintly steampunk, Tim Burton-esque hand-drawn scribbles.
You must survive, then, against all possible odds and the continually encroaching hazards of (in usual order of priority) darkness, hunger, insanity, man-eating animals and bad weather. At first, you scrabble together berries and fungi from the undergrowth, and then build tools, fell trees and mine metals from the earth, build a shelter, till the soil and keep livestock.
Every game offers a different map, resources, weather, and creatures that wander bloodthirstily into your path. And there are many different deaths - which are permanent, of course, because things weren’t cruel enough already.
Don’t Starve can be a painful and time-consuming obsession, but it’s one that can’t come highly enough recommended. David Price
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 forwards as you try to find your lady-friend and thwart a dastardly plot by some robo-bullies. You 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
Minecraft is a hugely popular, widely available game, which provides you with the opportunity to create whatever you desire. Set in a blocky world, users must learn to survive the ever-changing environment, and to thrive and build weapons, armour, castles and more.
The default controls are a little fiddly at first, but after some tweaking, you’ll find your ideal play style; and if touchscreen isn’t the way forward, the game supports MFi controllers.
Part of the joy of Minecraft is multiplayer, and the iOS edition enables you to create, explore and survive alongside friends using mobile devices or Windows 10. Splash out for a monthly Minecraft Realms subscription, and you can also create your own always-on Minecraft world. This is great for worlds where groups of people are active, as it doesn’t require the host to be online all the time.
It’s a barrel of laughs and with a bit of help from online Minecraft tutorials, you’ll be sold on this blocky sandbox game. Lewis Painter
The Silent Age
The Silent Age is a point-and-click adventure game that takes place in two eras: your character’s present-day 1972, and a forty-year leap to an 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 adventures 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 objects you find - 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 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. Sarah Jacobsson Purewal
This point-and-click adventure feels like it’s stumbled on to your device after two decades in the wilderness. But that was the intention. Co-creators Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick said they wanted it to feel like “opening a dusty old desk drawer and finding an undiscovered LucasArts adventure game you’ve never played”.
For fans of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, this will be heaven. But even for newcomers, Thimbleweed Park is a treat. The interaction system – comprising tap-to-move, verb-based instructions, and an inventory – works well on iPad and iPhone alike. Being on mobile is ideal for this kind of game, too, when you’ve struggled with a puzzle for days, and suddenly crack it when in a supermarket queue.
And some puzzles really do take days to solve. Like adventures of old, Thimbleweed Park can be willfully obtuse. Still, there’s an in-game helpline when you get stuck, and tricky challenges are balanced by amusing writing and absurdist situations. After all, not every game features plumbers who moonlight as paranormal investigators – while dressed as pigeons. Craig Grannell
This ambitious roleplaying game is an algorithmically generated text adventure - think classic space trading game Elite crossed with a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The premise is 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 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 start chipping away at the underlying story. Craig Grannell
Walking Dead: The Game
Telltale’s point-and-click adventure series, based as much on the original comic book as on the TV show, pretty much single-handedly brought the genre back to the mainstream. Multiple short episodes mean it doesn’t take four hours to play through one sitting, and a ‘moral choice’ gameplay mechanic lets characters remember the actions you took in previous episodes – and treat you accordingly. (Tread carefully, basically, unless you want your arrogance to come back and bite you later on.)
It also features one of the greatest child characters in the history of gaming. Clementine is brave, resourceful, and heartbreakingly sweet, and is about as far away from the whiny, matricidal Carl as it’s possible to be. Two seasons and a couple of spin-offs are available on the App Store; any fan of good storytelling should seek them out. Adam Shepherd