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. 

£1.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Arkanoid vs Space Invaders

Best iPhone & iPad games: Arkanoid vs Space Invaders

Backfire

We don’t want to alarm you, but a massive idiot appears to have set up your ship in a manner that’s not entirely conventional. So rather than your gun firing from your craft’s nose, it instead does so from the rear. Also, again, we don’t want to alarm you, but you appear to be in hell, surrounded by demons, and under threat of your soul being forever bound there if you fail in your mission of shooty exorcism. Eep!

So that’s Backfire in a nutshell – scoot about each arena’s confines, blast bullets from your bottom, and try to not get horribly killed. Except that’s not _quite_ it, because that gimmick alone wouldn’t make for a great game. What ensures Backfire that accolade is everything else.

It looks superb, neon foes squelching from the arena’s walls, and darting after you like psychotic underwater insectoid creatures. It sounds genuinely creepy, mixing up pew pew laser noises with terrifying guttural growls from the creatures that are in hot pursuit. There’s also a cleverly balanced upgrades system, where you deck out your ship using collected ‘souls’, boosting your chances of survival in subsequent games.

That’s not to say Backfire ever becomes easy. The game echoes classic arcade fare, in the way it’ll hand your ego back to you in mangled form. But persevere and you’ll find one of the best – and most unique – blasters on iOS.

£2.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Backfire

Darkside

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.

£1.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Darkside

Holedown

Having impressed with touchscreen strategy title rymdkapsel, games creator webbfarbror AB has gone full-on casual with holedown. We were sceptical prior to playing – after all, the game looked an awful lot like a slew of freebie wallet-punching IAP-infused App Store nightmares. But although holedown retains some common ground with such titles, it ditches all the bad stuff, leaving you with an enjoyable progressive shooty game.

The idea is to dig deep into planets by shooting balls at numbered blocks. You’ve only so many balls per shot and limited shots overall, and so must carefully target specific blocks – not least those that hold up a small pile of impossibly high-numbered blocks that will tumble into the abyss once the supporting structure is obliterated.

Often, the best strategy is to get your balls through tight gaps so they spang about in enclosed spaces like angry wasps, rapidly depleting block numbers. Underpinning your missions is a nicely balanced upgrade cycle, which has you swap crystals you find for power-ups like extra balls and more shots. Do well enough and you’ll reach the core, get a ton of bling, and be able to unlock larger, deeper planets – and eventually an endless mode.

This game showcases that concepts and even grind aren’t the enemies of iOS gaming. There’s lots of repetition here, but it’s more hypnotic and entertaining than grating, because this game only wants to dig deep into your spare time – not your wallet. 

£3.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Holedown

Spitkiss

Imagine The Matrix was a story primarily about polyamory, featuring strange little creatures that spat bodily fluids at each other rather than bullets, and then someone decided to make a videogame conversion that mixed up single-screen platforming and Angry Birds-style artillery action. That’s Spitkiss. And of that intro hasn’t just made steam shoot out of your ears, congratulations – you’re in for a treat.

The basic aim across the 80 levels is to get an ejected glob to your love elsewhere on the screen. As noted, there’s a smattering of Angry Birds, with you dragging a line to fire said glob. If it reaches your love, well done. But mostly, the route is far more labyrinthine, requiring you deal with multiple surfaces, and avoid all kinds of deadly critters.

Fortunately, this magical mucus can leap multiple times, only needing to regain energy by temporarily landing on a wall. And if you’re thinking “actually, this doesn’t sound *much* like The Matrix”, Spitkiss slows to a crawl the moment you hold the screen, bullet time-style, giving you a fighting chance of dodging adversaries, and perfecting your shot. Also, the protagonists are dressed all in black. We’re sure the Wachowskis are smashing out a spitty sequel screenplay as we speak.

£1.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Spitkiss

Steredenn

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.

£3.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Steredenn

Best iPad & iPhone games: Steredenn

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. 

£14.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Best iPhone games | Best iPad games: Binding of Isaac