From football to managing a racing team, these are the best sport-related games to install on your iOS device.
Something games often forget is they can be experiences rather than representations. We often see this in sports, notably on traditional consoles that march relentlessly into the uncanny valley, hoping someday to provide an interactive facsimile of what you see on the telly. Fortunately, mobile titles tend to prioritise fun over realism - and that's very evident in Astro Golf.
Devoid of club bags, endless greens, and polite ripples of applause, Astro Golf finds you belting a ball about the heavens. The goal remains to get the ball in the hole, but the setup alters the way you go about things.
Gravity - rather than sand or water traps - is your biggest obstacle. Smack a ball towards a planetary body and it'll influence your shot. Larger planets suck your ball in at speed. But slowly you'll master the way Astro Golf works, pulling off slingshot manoeuvres that'd have even the hardiest NASA scientist doff their cap in your general direction.
Echoing Desert Golfing's elegance and simplicity, Astro Golf also aims for zero stress, giving you endless shots to make your target. However, if you fancy more of a challenge, you can try your luck at Hard Mode's hole-in-one demands. Even there, Astro Golf wants to ease the strain, and provides a 'ghost' of your previous attempt that you can use to refine your next effort.
FREE + £1.99/$1.99 IAP | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Astro Golf
The paucity of realistic golfing games on iOS is an odd thing. Bar freemium grinder WGT Golf, you're more or less left with frenetic arcade fare that, although entertaining, doesn't really evoke the feel of golf. Given that mobile gaming often finds you leaning back for a relaxing time, this lack of golfing fare is curious, to say the least.
Desert Golfing doesn't have any claim to realism, but it totally nails the 'zen' element of immersive golfing games. It's also almost brutally simple, with a level of minimalism that would make even Jony Ive suggest it could do with a few more details and textures.
You start off facing a procedurally generated single-screen level, with a tee towards the left and a hole towards the right. You drag an arrow that defines your shot's direction and power, and then let go. With a bit of luck, your ball will sail towards its destination and net you a masterful hole-in-one.
As you work your way through the game, the courses become increasingly devious. You'll end up almost hacking your way towards the hole in some cases, or figuring out how a cunning rebound might win you the day. Eventually, your score starts to become meaningless, but that doesn't matter a jot. By that point, you'll be totally in the zone, losing yourself in seemingly endless ball-thwacking bliss.
£1.99/$1.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Desert Golfing
Football Manager 2020 Touch
Early cracks at football management on iPad felt like cut-down takes on PC equivalents, but Football Manager 2020 Touch is the real deal. Close to the desktop release, it's a comprehensive, involved game where you take control of your favourite team, watch matches, and headbutt the desk when your defenders inexplicably forget how to play 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. You can also try your hand at a number of tactical presets, use the tactical creator to devise something custom, or develop the club's entire culture across multiple seasons.
Be warned: Football Manager 2020 Touch is a time sink, and must be mastered before you have a hope of winning anything bar the odd match. If you fancy something lighter (and which works on an iPhone), check out Football Manager 2020 Mobile instead. Or if you're really old-school, try the iOS remake of the original Football Manager that came out for home computers in the early 1980s.
£19.99/$19.99 | iPad only | Download Football Manager Touch 2020
Motorsport Management Mobile
When you think of a sports management title, your mind most likely gravitates towards dealing with a team hoofing a ball about a green field. But Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 instead has you build up a racing team from scratch, directing all the big decisions bar those that involve wrenching the steering wheel in a particular direction.
This means you hire and fire, invest in your HQ, research car parts, and dictate race strategies. It's down to you when tyres are changed and if a driver should push their car more - or hold back if they're running on fumes and in a vehicle that may well fall apart any second, like something from a rubbish cartoon.
The really smart thing about Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 is that all this is accessible and relatively immediate. Although the intro screen bombards you with options, tutorials help you understand each area. And much of the time, you're growing Civ-like tech trees, deciding on sponsors, and managing the fragile egos of your drivers, all with a bit of deft tapping.
But while the game's simple to play and understand, it still has plenty of depth, with each of your decisions impacting on the future success of your team. As for the racing bit, it can't compare to you sitting behind a wheel, but it's still exciting when your drivers are vying for the lead as you watch them zipping about a track diorama.
£3.99/$3.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Motorsport Management Mobile
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/$2.99 premium upgrade to access all of the content.
FREE + IAP | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Super Stickman Golf 3
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.
FREE + IAP | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Touchgrind BMX 2
Touchgrind Skate 2
People talk about realism in video games, 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.
FREE + IAP | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Touchgrind Skate 2