Sports & racing games
From football to space-age wheel spin, these are the best sport- and driving-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
Speaking of retro, Drift'n'Drive doesn't look so much like it crawled out of a Dreamcast as the 1980s. But this cruelly overlooked overhead racer is one of the most compelling we've played on iOS. Dinky cars barge their way along vertically scrolling tracks, getting all smashy in an attempt to reach their goal.
At first, your car is underpowered and fragile, but as you improve your position, you can buy upgrades (only with earned in-game currency - there's no IAP). Eventually, you'll be kicking bottom racking up wins, at which point you can take on the next championship level. There's also a split-screen multiplayer mode, if you think you've got what it takes to beat your friends.
£2.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Drift'n'Drive
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
It's the year 2866. A third of Mars is terraformed. But humans are humans, and so the red planet's now a gargantuan golf course.
How gargantuan? Try 25.77 billion holes - all algorithmically generated to make your own personal course unique. Helpfully, we're told if a time traveller sent an iPhone 24,515 years into the past, and a tribe ritually played the game daily for 30 seconds, they'd only just be done today. And, no, we've no idea how they'd charge the iPhone.
All of which might lead you to conclude Golf On Mars is pointless, since it's never-ending. But that in itself is part of the point. Your score is logged but doesn't really matter. This is a game to relax with, idly working through an effectively endless zen-like quest into the unknown.
The mechanics are suitably simple for such a task: drag an arrow to define direction and power, and set spin with a second finger. The sandy surface means the ball sometimes catches on hills, and there are other hazards to contend with, like low-flying clouds. Occasionally, the algorithm makes your challenge almost - or literally - impossible, but 25 fraught shots later you'll get a skip button. Such moments are markedly less zen, but still don't take the shine off of this superb follow-up to classic ball-smacker Desert Golfing.
So we'll see you at the clubhouse. Just try to keep your scorecard under the 77-billion par.
£2.99/$2.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Golf On Mars
One of the criticisms often levelled at games on mobile is they're not 'proper' games like you get on consoles. Well, Grid Autosport is the highly regarded simulation-oriented console/PC racer squeezed into your iOS device. You get the full complement of tracks and cars (100 of each), and an almost bewildering array of settings.
Fortunately, beginners can ease themselves in gently, leaving on driving aids and nursing Touring Cars around tarmac tracks. But with mastery comes the rewards of tackling beefier cars, and gradually tweaking the set-up so you do more of the driving than the computer.
This is a game that demands perseverance and attention - you can't barrel into a corner at full speed and expect for anything to happen other than a head-on collision with a very solid wall. But if you want a rich, exciting, deep driving experience on iOS, you won't find anything better.
£9.99/$9.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Grid Autosport
Horizon Chase - World Tour
A love letter to classic arcade fare, Horizon Chase brings the likes of the Amiga's Lotus Turbo Esprit Challenge and SNES racer Top Gear kicking and screaming into the present. This one's all about insane speed, vibrant graphics, and fighting your way from the back of the pack - every time.
But just because Horizon Chase has one foot in 1992, that doesn't mean it's entirely retro. The controls are perfect for touchscreens, the career mode is finely tuned for mobile play, and the visuals boast a gorgeous low-poly aesthetic that's unique and modern, and yet evokes the feel of old-school racers - all without stabbing your eyes with chunky pixels.
FREE + £2.99/$2.99 IAP | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Horizon Chase - World Tour
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
Reckless Racing 3
Putting our political correctness hat aside for a moment, the original game in this series was perhaps best described as 'Redneck Racing'. Beaten up vehicles jostled around courses comprising a grimy mall car park and a wrecking yard. The sequel stripped away the character, but this third entry again gets the balance right.
If anything, Reckless Racing 3 is even more oddball than its grandparent, with a decidedly surreal edge. You smash and drift your way through airports, abandoned nuclear plants, and genteel Mediterranean hilltop cafes. And along with straightforward racing events, there's a Gymkhana mode, to test your skills at coaxing a rickety car around precision courses. The physics is a bit floaty, but get used to that and you'll spend many hours enjoying the best top-down racer on iOS.
£2.99/$2.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Reckless Racing 3
For all of the gripes we hear about hand-holding in games, players tend to like something to aim for. Repulsive is therefore disarming, in dumping you in a little world and leaving you to it.
The game channels arcade classic 720°, but provides many acres for your hoverboarder to explore. Neon litters the landscape, and cars hover, but buildings are ramshackle constructions, and the walled-off village oddly light on human activity. Notably - and amusingly - greenery appears to comprise holographic projections.
Fortunately, this grim veneer is offset by everything else. The visuals are vibrant, and the soundtrack engaging and chilled. And an experience that initially seems unfocused and unguided quickly transforms into you revelling in a real sense of freedom while you perform stunts in your own personal sandbox, leaping off of rooftops without a care in the world.
Should you choose to be a little more focused, there are missions of a sort. This world isn't entirely empty of goals: you'll at some point collide with an object that will display a counter, indicating how many more are waiting to be found. Repulsive then becomes a game of mapping, hunting, and in some cases figuring out how to get at targets that may float tantalisingly out of reach.
You might hanker for more - maps; moves; challenges. But elegant simplicity is the beating heart of this game, and being more conventional would threaten its very core. Ultimately, Repulsive succeeds because it brings something different to your device.
£4.99/$4.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Repulsive
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