Posted by David Price 22 December 2014
The 10 best ever games for iPad and iPhone
Welcome to our countdown of the 10 best ever iOS games: the most brilliant games we've ever played on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
For a longer list of our favourites (and a video in which we discuss the ten games below), see: The 96 best iPad & iPhone games.
£2.99. Available for: iPad & iPhone
At number 10 it's… Limbo!
Look away, Candy Crush fans. Thematically and visually Limbo is incredibly bleak and incredibly dark, all silhouettes, shadows and barely glimpsed horrors, but it's also uniquely beautiful.
You control a little lad wandering through an unbelievably cruel and hostile world in search of his missing sister. What this simple concept translates into is a series of charming and cleverly designed platform puzzles, simple controls, and an atmosphere that is unparalleled in the gaming world.
Read our full Limbo review
9. Ridiculous Fishing - A Tale of Redemption
£1.99. iPad & iPhone
Our number 9 pick is pretty much the polar opposite of Limbo. Ridiculous Fishing is cheerful, retro-looking and utterly stupid. And wonderful, wonderful fun.
The aim of the game is to catch fish. But unlike in conventional fishing sims - it is called Ridiculous Fishing, after all - you do this via gameplay that is essentially a side-scrolling flying game put on its side. Let me explain.
You project your line hundreds and hundreds of metres downwards, moving it from side to side to avoid bumping into any sea creatures on the way down - because when you do hook something, your downward progress halts and the game goes into reverse. The line starts coming upwards, and your job now is to bump into - and thereby hook - as many fish as possible. Finally, you reach the surface and count your catch.
Wait, sorry, you throw all the fish in the air and shoot them.
It's exactly as stupid as this sounds but fantastically enjoyable: the simple, three-stage gameplay is a great concept beautifully executed and the range of collectibles is, just for a change, a nice bonus rather than a means of grabbing more cash.
Read our full Ridiculous Fishing review
8. Super Hexagon
£1.99. iPad & iPhone
Talking of simple: at number 8 it's… Super Hexagon!
If you do one thing, you'd better do it well. Luckily this game executes its single, repetitive mechanic with consummate skill.
You're a little hexagon at the centre of a rapidly rotating set of wireframe shapes (why? Because games, that's why) and you have to move a cursor around the hexagon to avoid the shapes as they move inwards.
It gets faster and faster and the patterns become more and more difficult to track, and the hectic music contributes to the sense of adrenaline and danger. Your aim on each difficulty setting is to survive for just one minute, and most of the time you won't get anywhere close: which gives an idea of how fast, how bite-sized and how challenging this brilliant game is.
Read our full Super Hexagon review
7. Stealth Inc
£2.99. iPad & iPhone
Number 7 is a game that used to be known by a different name. I hope you'll excuse my language for a moment: on the PC it was (and in fact still is) called Stealth Bastard Deluxe: Tactical Espionage Arsehole. But you can't get away with that kind of thing on the App Store.
Stealth Inc is a fast, tight, tough and funny puzzle platformer, in which you send an endless line of adorable clones to their deaths, impaled by spikes, crushed by descending ceilings or fried by lasers across a series of brutally unforgiving levels. You'll need to combine careful planning and fast-twitch hand-eye co-ordination to find a way through, let alone set a decent time, and the game is particularly cruel when you (inevitably) fail: throwing up abusive, mocking messages whenever you fall for its traps.
You'll keep playing, though, because Stealth Inc is great - which is why it's here at number 7.
Read our full Stealth Inc review
6. The Room 2
£1.99. iPad & iPhone
Number 6 is The Room 2.
This is the nearest thing to a horror game in this top 10: it's not a genre I'm massively keen on. But the creepy elements in The Room 2 - creepy is the word, rather than out-and-out scary - work for me because they’re combined with rich, evocative graphics and cunning puzzles.
It's a room escape, as the name suggests: in each level you have to solve puzzles, collect items, unlock boxes and do whatever it takes to get out. It's utterly gripping, as my largely ignored family could have told you last Christmas. But its visual ambition is also testament to the power of the iOS platform and the imagination of developers now working in that sphere.
Read our full The Room 2 review
5. Puerto Rico
£2.99. iPad only
The only board game to make this list, Puerto Rico is my number 5.
I used to joke with people about how middle-class, how non-violent and educational this game was, but that was before it got its hooks into me.
You're colonists settling the island of Puerto Rico: planting crops, building factories and recruiting workers. But it's got a killer gameplay mechanic: on each of your turns you get to decide what kind of a turn it is: a building turn, planting turn or whatever - and then everyone gets to join in with that activity.
Which means firstly that everyone is involved on every turn (which is pretty much the Holy Grail of modern board game design); and secondly, that you can be super-mean and ultra-tactical by picking a phase that serves your purposes and completely stuffs the player that you reckon is your biggest threat.
So sure - Puerto Rico is gentle, and calming, and educational. But it's got an edge to it too. It's a terrific, terrific game.
4. Baldur's Gate II
£10.49. iPad only
This is as far as I'm concerned the best RPG on the iPad, which might sound odd given its age - this is a port of a game that launched on the PC in 2000.
But in some ways being 14 years old is an advantage for this game, because many of the things it does so well simply aren't done any more, and would never be attempted when developing specifically for the iOS platform. It's vast, deep, statty, text-heavy, packed with story and lore and incredibly geeky - one of the most faithful interpretations of second-edition Dungeons & Dragons in video gaming.
It's also very expensive by App Store standards, but the hours of pleasure you will get from this game, wandering around, slaying monsters, upgrading your characters and saving the world, make it well worth the money.
That's Baldur's Gate II, at number 4.
Read our full Baldur's Gate II review
£1.49. iPad & iPhone
The game that launched a thousand clones. (For more on that depressing subject, see App cloning: the mobile software industry's hidden shame.)
Threes is the brilliant puzzle game that was ripped off by 2048 and all of its scumbag mates: a superb number-based tile-pusher in which you bump ones into twos to make threes, threes into threes to make sixes and so on, doing your best to build the biggest numbers you can and stop the screen filling up completely. It's elegantly designed, charming to look at (and listen to), and highly addictive.
And that's about all there is to say about it - which is perhaps a mark of the purity of Threes' brilliance. Play it and you'll understand why we've named it our number 3 iOS game of all time.
Read our full Threes review
2. Monument Valley
£2.49. iPad & iPhone
At number 2 it's… Monument Valley!
What a beautiful game this is. Inspired by the optical illusions of MC Escher, Monument Valley's puzzles are set in a series of weird, reality-defying structures in which you can do whatever you like provided you can make it look possible. By rotating objects and manipulating the viewpoint your little character can defeat gravity and logic itself.
The sweet, characterful graphics are perfect; the sound is perfect; the puzzles manage to be atmospheric while taxing the brain, and their difficulty is perfectly calibrated. The only issue some have had is that Monument Valley is relatively short, but I think it's exactly as long as it needs to be.
1. FTL: Faster Than Light
£6.99. iPad only
So which game managed to beat Monument Valley to the top spot? It's FTL, of course!
FTL will burrow inside your soul - I should probably be warning you about this game instead of recommending it. But it is without a doubt the finest game I have ever played on the iPad, and may well be my favourite game on any platform.
It's a procedurally generated strategy game set on a spaceship. You control the crew of the ship: you can tell them to repair damaged instruments or put out fires, fight off boarders, operate the ship's guns or flee to the healing bay. And you decide where the ship goes, whether it avoids confrontations or attacks, when to buy upgrades or fuel, and how to manage your resources.
Your crew members, who have names and upgradeable skills and who will grow very dear to you, are horribly, desperately fragile, and are prone to dying or disappearing at the drop of a hat. And death is permanent: there's no reverting to a save game if something goes wrong. This can be a harsh game.
But the thrill - the tension! You're always playing for keeps in FTL, because the save-game safety net has been taken away - and this makes combat incredibly exciting. And because the game is so difficult to crack, the satisfaction when you beat the boss at the end or unlock one of the new ships is fantastic.
Read our full FTL review
Well that's it for now - I'm sure we'll update this list in a few months time when something else blows us away and demands to be included. Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments.