Shoot ’em ups, twin-stick shooters and FPS games
When your thumbs are getting twitchy and you want to blow up some nasty alien slimebags, these are the games to buy.
Arkanoid vs Space Invaders
It’s in some ways a stretch to call this mash-up of two arcade classics a shooter. This mix of Breakout follow-up Arkanoid and seminal single-screen shoot ’em up Space Invaders has plenty of projectiles, but most are sent your way from chunky pixellated alien craft. Rather than arm you with a weapon of your own, your planet’s high command has seen fit to have you pilot a massive bat, the Vaus, used to bounce bullets back at those who sent them. Perhaps it cuts down on the bills.
Early on, the game’s sedate - even dull - with you deflecting bullets, aiming to blow up the odd alien or brick. But a couple of dozen levels in, Arkanoid vs Space Invaders clicks. Tight time limits combined with level targets (offing a certain number of invaders) make for an increasingly tense challenge. New strategies need to be formed, and power-ups (which arrive by way of cameos from much-loved Taito games) must be carefully considered. The end result’s a gloriously high-octane arcade thrill - if you stick with it past those duff early levels. Craig Grannell
At the dawn of gaming, Asteroids wowed the world, with its glowing vector graphics depicting your tiny ship and the many angular asteroids it was invited to obliterate. Today, it looks laughably crude, but Darkside shows the basic concept still works.
Darkside, though, isn’t your father’s (or his father’s) videogame. It does, admittedly, take the basic Asteroids concept, in you mostly contending with huge chunks of space rock that you blow into smaller pieces until they’re space dust. But this iOS effort wraps all that around planetoids packed full of mining kit, under constant invasion from hostile alien craft.
With power-ups and twin-stick shooting controls, Darkside is far more intense than the game that inspired it. Throughout its 100 levels, it proves to be an intoxicating mix of dizzying disorientation and pyrotechnics as the planetoid spins beneath your fingers and countless things blow up all around you. Craig Grannell
Deus Ex: The Fall
Stealth, gunplay, silent death moves and some roleplaying elements. Deus Ex: The Fall is the iOS port of a deep, ambitious and critically acclaimed PC game, and loses little in translation, offering thrills and spills in a beautifully realised sci-fi setting.
The story’s all about cybernetic enhancements and post-human ethical conundrums, but it never gets in the way of the important stuff: hacking your way through a computerised security door, crawling down a tunnel and shooting a man in the head. Lots of fun, if a touch brief. David Price
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved
This twin-stick shooter bucks the trend, given that such titles rarely translate well to the touchscreen. But here, the controls are precise, with subtle thumb movements corresponding near-perfectly in the game. Just as importantly, Geometry Wars 3 is fantastic fun throughout, delivering tense shootouts against an array of enemies, along with plenty of variety - there’s even a mode without guns – which might be the most entertaining of the lot.
The basic premise finds your little ship dropped into a grid that the game quickly loads with enemies. Early foes are simple creatures that slowly pursue, but before long you’ve got cubes that explode into smaller ones, glowing snakes that slither about, lengthy formations of arrows that bounce from wall to wall, and wormholes that’ll suck you in if you venture too close. The game thrives on chaos, and staying alive amidst the madness is a real test. Andrew Hayward
No Stick Shooter
There’s more than a hint of arcade classics Missile Command and Parachute in No Stick Shooter. You’re armed with a turret, and must protect your base from the advances of kamikaze enemies intent on your destruction. But unlike most games of this ilk, No Stick Shooter dispenses with virtual trackpads or joysticks - instead, you tap the screen like a lunatic, to hurl fiery death at your opponents in a frenzied battle for survival.
And it is frenzied. Like the games that inspired it, No Stick Shooter takes no prisoners. Even early levels, which have you hurl explosives at doddering asteroids, are no picnic. A few levels in, you’re attempting to juggle various weapon types (including crackling electricity and atomising laser beams), aliens that unsportingly dodge your shots, and vicious bosses that don’t want to die, no matter how much you shoot at them.
For the casual gamer, it’s a bit much. But for anyone wanting the best in high-octane neon blasting with a brain, No Stick Shooter’s one of the best games on iOS. Craig Grannell
Steredenn is a gorgeous horizontally scrolling blaster with a distinctly retro vibe. But this is no trip back to the 1980s. Although there are hints of R-Type lurking within Steredenn’s DNA, this is a thoroughly modern shooter.
You never get the same game twice, for a start. Every go pits you against randomly selected waves of enemies, which you must figure out how best to blow to smithereens with the ordinance strapped to your tiny spaceship. Periodically, you face off against huge bosses, which when beaten replenish your shields, and allow you to pick a bonus to boost your chances.
Also, Steredenn is bonkers. There are shiny craft and lush space backgrounds, but also huge chainsaws welded to the front of enemy vessels, and power-ups in the shape of swords, massive saw-blades and guns that spit endless casings into space. And, although this title doesn’t take itself seriously, it nails vital details like the controls - an upwards swipe to switch weapons; a crosshair to locate your craft should it end up under a thumb; MFi support for those who want to use a gamepad.
With such smart design and endless replayability, Steredenn is easily the best horizontal shooter on iOS. Craig Grannell
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
This oddball twin-stick shooter is confusing and upsetting in equal parts. It finds you controlling a small child roaming a series of bleak, randomly generated dungeons and caves. He fights hideously mutated versions of himself while becoming hideous and mutated in his own right. (Power-ups are signified by wounds, such as safety pins through his head.) The left joystick controls movement; the right one controls the direction of your attacks. If you die, that’s it – there’s no saving.
It’s a tough game, although there are plenty of unlockable characters and items to discover. So despite each playthrough being brief, the game has a good amount of longevity. Also, arm yourself with a MFi controller and you’ll up your chances. Either way, the quality of the gameplay and the unique atmosphere makes this a must-play. David Price