Welcome to our roundup of the best iPhone and iPad games that are compatible with MFi Bluetooth game controllers, gamepads and joypads.
The touchscreen capabilities of iPhones and iPads lend themselves to strategy and puzzle games such as XCOM: Enemy Within and Monument Valley, but things can get a little tricky when trying to play more action-based titles. In response to this, many mobile gamers choose to use separate game controllers with their iPhones or iPads, in order to recapture the tactile joy and solid physical buttons of console or arcade gaming.
Once you've chosen a controller (here's our guide to the best MFi game controllers for iPad & iPhone), the next question is, which are the best games for MFi controllers and gamepads? In this article we've put together a list of our favourites, so you can grab your gamepad and level up your iOS gaming experience.
What is MFi?
To be sure a controller is compatible with your iDevice, it's best to make sure it's certified as MFi, which stands for Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad - a licensing programme run by Apple, which guarantees that third-party gamepads can be paired with your iOS device. MFi-certified products are allowed to use logos like this:
You can read more about Apple's MFi programme here.
We've divided our roundup of the best iPad & iPhone games for MFi controllers into several genres of game. Our first category is... platform games!
DuckTales is a proper old-school game from the 8-bit era, which means it doesn't really have a use for analog sticks and trigger buttons. But using a gamepad gives you a directional pad and at least a couple of dedicated buttons for jumping and using Scrooge McDuck's cane as a pogo stick or weapon, which make this updated classic a lot more enjoyable. Andrew Hayward
Austere, melancholy, yet often hilarious, this puzzle platformer is a work of art.
Nameless, largely faceless, you awake alone in a forest, knowing only that you need to run to the right to accomplish a mysterious goal. Obstacle-based puzzles appear, occasionally of a traditional sort (crates, platforms and lifts) but often in forms that will remind you of a particularly bleak nightmare.
Puzzle gaming experts may consume its evocative delights so quickly that they're left demanding more, while the less able may find the steep learning curve towards the end somewhat taxing, but both groups will find something here to love.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Unlike many of Sega's other retro apps, this is a perfect example of how old games should be remade.
The entire original game - blazing along, hurtling into foes, grabbing coins, and looping loops - is here, but fully remastered. It's now widescreen, and plays at a buttery smooth 60fps. There are save slots, new playable characters, and other updates that build on, rather than detract from, the original game.
Really, the only downside to this Sonic port is its controls: lucky, then, that it's compatible with MFi gamepads. Craig Grannell
Thomas Was Alone
Thomas Was Alone is built from the simplest of ingredients (a set of coloured shapes that can each jump and in some cases use special powers), and the gameplay is straightforward too: each level is a puzzle that demands the clever use of the shapes' skills to get all to the exit. But it ends up being mentally taxing and quite sweet.
The shapes all have names and back stories, related in a jaunty voice-over that won Danny Wallace a Bafta, and the music shoulders a lot of the emotional heavy lifting too. You end up caring about Thomas, and he's a red rectangle, and you can't say fairer than that.
What other platform games are compatible with MFi Bluetooth controllers?
If you're into platform games, the following games are also compatible with MFi controllers:
Metal Slug 1 (£2.99)
Metal Slug 2 (£2.99)
Metal Slug 3 (£2.99)
Mr Jump (FREE)
Rayman Adventures (FREE)
Rayman Classic (FREE)
Rayman Fiesta Run (£2.99)
Rayman Jungle Run (£2.99)
Shantae: Risky's Revenge (FREE)
The next category is... racing & driving games.
Many iOS games have tried to replicate the intense fun of anti-gravity racing classics like F-Zero and Wipeout, but AG Drive is the only one that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those greats. It looks fantastic and has thumping techno beats to match, and like Real Racing 3, mentioned later in this article, there's a precision upgrade to using a gamepad.
Using an analog stick makes steering feel much smoother and gives you more command on the track. And AG Drive isn't an easy game, so every little bit of added control helps. Andrew Hayward
£3.99 | AG Drive on the App Store
Asphalt 8: Airborne
While iPhones lend themselves reasonable well to the tilt-to-turn style of driving control, there's still nothing quite as precise for taking those hairpins as an actual controller. Using one on Asphalt 8: Airborne makes everything feel tighter and ramps up the tension as you battle in races with a number of real-life players online. As an added bonus you can even play it on your Apple TV.
Real Racing 3
Real Racing 3 (free) is the best simulation-style racing game on iOS, delivering loads of licensed cars and numerous real-life tracks to zip around. Switching to a gamepad makes it feel much more like a console-like simulation, offering more precise steering and better control over acceleration and braking. Andrew Hayward
What other racing games are compatible with MFi Bluetooth controllers?
If you're into racing games, the following games are also compatible with MFi controllers:
Beach Buggy Blitz (FREE)
Crash Drive 2 (FREE)
Crazy Taxi City Rush (FREE)
Joe Danger Infinity (£1.99)
Reckless Racing 3 (FREE)
Riptide GP2 (£1.99)
Tail Drift (FREE)
RPGs & adventure games
The classic console roleplaying game was always a joypad-based pleasure, and an MFi controller can help you get more out of your favourite iOS RPG too.
Games about beating up beasties in exchange for experience points are a dime a dozen on the App Store but where Bastion differs is in its storytelling. A near-omniscient and gravelly voiced narrator commentates your progress as you play, picking up on your decisions and mistakes and giving the eerie sense that the game is watching you.
A beautiful game both visually and atmospherically, Bastion is fortunately not so bogged down in its own grandeur that it forgets to be a reliably compulsive stream of action too. Alec Meer
£4.99 | Bastion on the App Store
After galactic delivery driver Flux Dabes has his ship destroyed, leaving him stranded on a strange planet, he has no option but to forage, fight, and create a little fun for gamers. This action RPG title features a strong crafting element, plenty of colourful aliens to avoid, and its tongue firmly in its cheek. The recent addition of game controller support now makes it an almost compulsory purchase.
£3.99 | Crashlands on App Store
Lego Star Wars - The Complete Saga
With Rogue One recently appearing in cinemas, what better way to celebrate the return of Star Wars than to play through the whole story with the aid of Lego versions of the characters?
The Lego games are brilliant, fun to play, and have a superb sense of humour that adds plenty to the occasion. What's more, you can download episode one for free and then upgrade to the complete saga - hours of quality entertainment - for £6.99. The games even make Episode II an enjoyable experience, something George Lucas could not manage.
If you're a fan of the Zelda series of games, Oceanhorn will be a familiar treat. This action adventure has you playing a young boy trying to trace the whereabouts of his mysteriously disappeared father. There are beautiful worlds to explore, magic to be learned, characters to meet and monsters to defeat. A real gem of a game.
£7.99 | Oceanhorn on App Store
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Octodad: Dadliest Catch (which at a push is probably an adventure game) is like nothing you've ever played before, in part because it's a game about hiding out in suburbia as an octopus amidst an unaware human family. It's also unique because to nail that "simulation", the developers made the game intentionally cumbersome, which is a very tricky approach for something you're meant to enjoy.
Octodad is a lot more fun with a gamepad, as it removes the frustration of needing to switch between upper tentacles (for grabbing things) and lower ones (for walking). Andrew Hayward
Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana is a wonderful action RPG with depth, humour and a great soundtrack. It's similar to The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past (and was the only rival to come anywhere near that game's greatness); the interface is slightly clunkier, but you have three characters in your party instead of one, and those characters have a vastly wider range of weapons and magic spells.
This iOS port keeps almost everything about the early 1990s original (including the imperfect interface - although you can now add a few quick-access shortcuts to favoured spells, weapon choices etc) but the onscreen joypad and buttons do make things a bit more challenging. Which is why we would recommend hooking up an MFi controller. Don't forget to go into the options and increase the transparency on the onscreen buttons so they don't spoil the view. David Price
£7.99 | Secret of Mana on the App Store
Transistor is an excellent action RPG from the creators of Bastion and another MFi-compatible title we heartily recommend.
In this game you play the part of Red, a jazz singer who has had her voice stolen and now wields a huge talking sword that accompanies her through the futuristic, Blade Runner style world of Cloud City seeking revenge. The visual and audio stylings are gorgeous, while the combat and problem solving are intelligent and challenging right from the get-go.
£4.99 | Transistor on App Store
What other RPGs & adventure games are compatible with MFi Bluetooth controllers?
Fond of RPGs? Here are some more that will work with an MFi controller.
The Bard's Tale (£2.99)
Batman - The Telltale Series (£4.99)
Final Fantasy III (£14.99)
Final Fantasy IV (£14.99)
Final Fantasy V (£14.99)
Final Fantasy VI (£14.99)
Final Fantasy VII (£15.99)
Nimble Quest (FREE)
Shooting & action games
The next category is shooting games for the iPad & iPhone. These are particularly helped by the improved accuracy of an MFi controller or gamepad.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
This twisted and brutally hard roguelike twin-stick shooter is a struggle with standard iOS touch controls, but with an MFi controller it's fantastic.
You control a maltreated and increasingly mutated child working his way through a series of caves and dungeons and fighting various hideous creatures, many of them differently mutated versions of himself. Pick up powerups and you'll change and distort your own form, generally in wince-inducingly unpleasant ways, in order to increase your firing rate, speed, damage and so on. David Price
£14.99 | Binding of Isaac on App Store
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved
No list of controller-compatible games would be complete without the frenetic excitement that is Geometry Wars 3. Playing on a fast moving 3D matrix you need to guide your spacecraft to safety, all the while battling enemies, big bosses, and a pounding techno beat. It's an exhilarating, difficult and rewarding game that's not for the faint of heart.
GTA: Vice City
Rockstar's all-conquering Grand Theft Auto series has been a mainstay of gaming now for over a decade. While there are a few classic GTA titles on iOS - including GTA 3 and GTA San Andreas - we think the heady slice of 80s nostalgia found in Vice City is a perfect match for the dark humour that permeates the world. Steal a car, a bike, anything with wheels, and cause mayhem. It's the GTA way.
£4.99 | GTA: Vice City on App Store
Modern Combat 5: Blackout
Modern Combat 5 emulates the Call of Duty console game template, and it feels right at home with analog sticks and triggers. The quick-hit missions are solid fun, and the multiplayer combat is a delight if you can find enough players to face off against. And it's free, albeit with an energy system and paid perks to contend with. Andrew Hayward
Like Geometry Wars 3, Xenowerk is an arcade-style game built for analog sticks, as you guide a gun-toting heroine through alien-infested facilities. This is a very fun little shooter to experience if you do have a gamepad, as the twin-stick controls work well for movement and blasting, and there's a visceral thrill to the combat. It can be repetitive, but it's very easy to get your money's worth out of Xenowerk. Andrew Hayward
What other shooting & action games are compatible with MFi Bluetooth controllers?
If you're into a spot of action, here are some more MFi-compatible games to look out for.
Jetpack Joyride (FREE)
Max Payne Mobile (£2.99)
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (£14.99)
Only One (FREE)
Our final category is... sports games.
Side-scrolling snowboard sim Alto's Adventure imparts a sense of serenity that most endless runner-style games completely avoid, and when your time comes and you end up with a face full of powder, the conclusion doesn't feel so devastating. Most of the credit for this unique tone goes to the visual design, dazzling animations and music.
The game doesn't have an array of absurd tricks to pull off, but it's worth sticking around and digging deeper. You'll always have up to three objectives to complete, and while the early ones are easy, the later tasks - a triple backflip, really? - require risking your run on a single move.
Alto's Adventure might not have the depth of your average snowboarding game, but we enjoyed its low-key approach to a typically "extreme" sport. Andrew Hayward
Sports titles don't get any bigger than the annual football festival that is FIFA. Adding a controller to the affair makes a massive improvement to the experience and really brings the furious action alive. FIFA Mobile features a range of management options, skill challenges, online gameplay, and a new Attack mode that pits forwards against defenders in a training ground-style challenge.
There are a few downsides, including a requirement for a constant internet connection and EA's standard barrage of in-app purchases, but if you want a game of footy on your iPad then this is the one.
FREE | FIFA Mobile on App Store
What other sports games are compatible with MFi Bluetooth controllers?
If you enjoy sporty games on your iPad or iPhone, here's one more worth trying:
NBA 2K17 (£7.99)