From football to managing a racing team, these are the games to install on your iOS devices.
Active Soccer 2 DX
This one harks back to the classic era of 1990s footie games, such as Sensible Soccer and Kick Off. It’s a fast-paced affair that finds the ball pinging about the place in a manner akin to pinball. At first, it’s unnerving and tricky to get to grips with. But persevere, and Active Soccer 2 DX becomes all-engrossing.
First up, this is a surprisingly deep game, with the option of full seasons and cups; but you can alternatively just have a one-off match between two teams of your choosing. Secondly, there are loads of settings to tinker with, from how the controls behave to the viewpoint used. But mostly, Active Soccer 2 DX excels because it’s a clear labour of love from a sole indie developer. It might lack the polish of FIFA, but during play it’s a lot more fun - like a kickabout with your mates rather than watching rich sports stars on TV. Craig Grannell
Football Manager Touch 2018
Early cracks at football management on iPad felt like cut-down takes on PC titles, but Football Manager Touch 2018 is the real deal. It’s a hugely comprehensive and involved game where you take control of your favourite team, watch matches, and headbutt the desk when your defenders inexplicably forget how to play football during the 89th minute.
Beyond a full career mode, there are scenarios to try your luck at, such as escaping from deep in the relegation zone when the season’s halfway done, or dealing with the impact of Brexit. But be warned: Football Manager Touch 2018 is a game that will make huge demands on your time, and must be mastered before you have a hope of emerging victorious. If you fancy something lighter (and that also works on an iPhone), check out Football Manager Mobile 2018 instead. Craig Grannell
£14.99 | For iPad only | Download Football Manager Touch 2018
Different sports games take varied approaches to realism. Some try to be as authentic as possible while others instead concern themselves with recreating the ‘feel’ of a game. This ice hockey title sometimes pits Santa Claus against an angry bear with a hockey stick, so you can probably guess it’s not firmly in the photorealism camp.
Weird players aside, Ice Rage nails the frenetic and frequently physical nature of ice hockey. As you speed about the tiny rink, battering your opponent and shooting for the goal, it feels like you’re in the middle of a cup-final tussle. And for the hardcore, there’s Rage-Off mode: a three-tie deathmatch with the emphasis very much on the ‘death’ bit. Craig Grannell
This basketball title has its origins in a 1993 arcade hit, and it’s fair to say that the iOS update isn’t entirely fussed about sportingly playing by the rules. In NBA Jam’s two-on-two matches, you’re positively encouraged to shove opponents to the ground, leg it to the other end of the court, and net an impressive three-pointer.
Visually, the game is also distinct, with goofy virtual takes on real-life stars; these can be made even more comical via a ‘big head’ mode. The controls are a minor blemish - fiddly on a smaller iPhone (especially given that some moves require sliding your finger between buttons) - but NBA Jam’s sense of fun and satisfying action make up for any shortcomings. Craig Grannell
Super Stickman Golf 3
Golf games can be a great way to unwind, but traditional fare on iOS is often subpar rather than under par (the latter being a good thing in golf, sports fans). Fortunately, Super Stickman Golf 3’s oddball side-on take on the sport is there to fill the void.
This cartoonish title has you thwack balls across and through all manner of madcap courses, from giant castles to space stations full of portals. But despite its zany nature, Super Stickman Golf 3 - like any good golf game - rewards anyone willing to learn the courses to shave the odd shot off of their score. Online modes (live races and turn-based two-player games) add to the fun, but you’ll need the £2.99 premium upgrade to access all of the content. Craig Grannell
Touchgrind BMX 2
Touchgrind games are built around the simple, brilliant idea that your fingers are the game’s protagonist. In Touchgrind Skate, they replace legs, directing a tiny plank on wheels about courses full of ramps and rails. Touchgrind BMX 2 lacks a direct substitute for limbs (your fingers control the bike’s handlebars and seat), but doubles down on the ‘extreme’ bit of extreme sports, with courses you’d have to be out of your mind to try in real life.
Fortunately, the only thing that gets smashed to bits here is your pride, as you battle to keep your BMX from flying into a wall or the abyss. And that’s not easy, given that you’re often airborne, twisting and flicking your fingers to pull off all kinds of show-off stunts.
It’s a tactile, exhilarating experience, and mastery reaps rewards as you figure out how to squeeze extra stunts into courses fully committed to memory. This is especially true on iPhone, to which the game feels ideally suited, unlike Touchgrind Skate, which works better on the iPad’s relative acres. But however you play, Touchgrind BMX proves to be an exciting mobile-optimised slice of extreme sports that marries immediacy and longevity.
Note that the initial download is free, which nets you a couple of courses; but grab the IAP to unlock them all, so you can experience the stomach-flipping drops in the appropriately named Vertigo city course. Craig Grannell
Touchgrind Skate 2
People talk about realism in videogames, but few sports titles are a truly accurate reflection of real life. Oddly, Touchgrind Skate 2 kind of is, and we say ‘oddly’ on the basis that two of your fingers become legs that drive a dinky skateboard about a virtual park.
This might feel like a gimmick, but Touchgrind Skate 2 works remarkably well, especially on an iPad. Little movements and flicks are enough to trigger all kinds of tricks. Do well and you’ll unlock new gear and skateparks.
Just be aware that skating like a pro isn’t something that comes instantly nor particularly naturally - the tutorials in this game aren’t so much to be breezed through as fully committed to memory unless you want to wipe out over and over. Craig Grannell