The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

You've got yourself an iPhone and you want to play some games on it. You might not want to just plunge into the App Store—it's a jungle, full of deadly spiders, wild animals, and bad games. Here, let us help you.

Below, we've listed the 12 games we feel are a great starting point for iPhone gaming.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

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Here’s something unexpected: Rovio created something fun out of Star Wars’ prequel trilogy. The sequel to Angry Birds Star Wars improves on that game’s design ideas, with branching levels and character packs that let you swap out to try different strategies. And there are collectible toys now, too. Thankfully, you don’t need to buy tiny plastic toys to play this sharp sequel.

A Good Match for: Darth Maul fans. ABSW II offers you a chance to play as the evil pigs of the Pork Side. So, if you’ve ever thought that the titular birds were just too damn angry, here’s your chance to get revenge.

Not a Good Match For: Those looking for a lengthy relationship. Dedicated players can zip through the entirety of the story-centric levels in about an hour.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: The App Store.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

Do you know Doodle Jump? Knightmare Tower is a little bit like that, what with the constant jumping and trying to get higher. You can even tilt your tablet to help yourself along, rocking right to move to the right, and left to move to the left. But this game is different and, dare we say, better. You're a knight. You're trying to ascend a tower. You are trying to fly ever higher by bouncing yourself off of enemies that are flying up from below. The better you attack, the swifter you fly. The ascent is exhilarating, but you'll probably eventually fail. No bother. You're constantly earning new and better abilities that allow you to soar ever higher. Warning: this is a tough game to stop playing.

A Good Match For: More hardcore gamers who are looking for something on their tablet that rewards strategy and reflexes while wrapping it all up in a good bit of monster-slaying and constant leveling up.

Not a Good Match For: Those who want a long-session game. Your ascents in Knightmare Tower won't last long, so even as mobile games get a bit longer, this one is going to be over quite quickly again and again.

Read/watch our review.

Purchase From: The App Store.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

AreaCode's numerical puzzle game may be the most perfect short-session game ever created. As falling numbers land on a 7×7 grid, you need to make them disappear by matching the number of vertical or horizontal spaces match the digit. Yes, it sounds tedious but when the rules finally click in your head, it's a lifetime addiction.

A Good Match For: Anyone who spends a lot of time waiting for things or people. Whether it's stuck in traffic or waiting on a queue at the bank, a few quick levels of Drop7 will make any kind of stationary drudgery more bearable.

Not a Good Match For: Those hoping to stay productive. It take superhuman willpower to resist the siren call of Drop7 and if you want to get anything done after installing it, make sure your iPhone's out of reach.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: the App Store.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

You could call Device 6 a text adventure, but that would be selling the game short. What it is, rather, is one of the strangest, most mysterious and downright elegant games made for touchscreen devices… and it just happens to involve a lot of reading. Call it multimedia-enhanced interactive fiction. As you rotate and flip your device, chasing the winding map of description and design, you'll find yourself drawn into a strange and sinister adventure complete with one of the catchiest pop tunes ever included in a game.

A Good Match For: Spy fiction buffs, Lost fans, mystery novel readers, anyone with even a passing interest in typography or visual design.

Not a Good Match For: Those who want a lot of action or replayability, people who hate reading.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: The App Store.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

By boat, by land, by airship, by giant mechanized city with legs, do you have what it takes to make it… Around the World in 80 Days? That's the question at the heart of 80 Days, a fantastical re-imagining of Jules Verne's famous novel that casts you as Passepartout, manservant to the gentleman Phileas Fogg. As a valet, you are responsible for packing the bags, negotiating at markets, and planning the itinerary on your journey 'round the globe. Each trip will be different from the one before it, and thanks to the game's peppy writing and frequent surprise detours, each trip will be great deal of fun. 80 Days captures the joy and melancholy of travel with unusual wit and humanity.

A Good Match For: People who like interactive stories, geography buffs, fans of travel.

Not a Good Match For: Anyone looking for a low-investment, pick up/put down action game. Also, those who hate to read—the majority of 80 Days is text-based interactive fiction.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: The App Store.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

Threes is basically a game about kissing. And math. You slide a bunch of little numbers around a tiled pad, trying to get two like numbers next to each other. If you can do that, they'll get friendly and combine to form a new, bigger number. Keep on moving, keep on combining, and your score will climb and climb. Threes is an immaculately designed game made all the more winning for its aesthetics. Charming, musical, and deviously addictive, it'll become your new iPhone obsession.

A Good Match For: People looking for a simple puzzle game to play on a commute, anyone who likes competing with their friends for high scores.

Not a Good Match For: People hoping for a deep story, those who prefer sub-standard clones.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase From: The App Store

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

In Hoplite, you play a man in armor who has a blade, a spear and a very specific chess-like move-set. Each enemy has their own movement and attack rules. And each board of the game is ultimately a maze of survival, one hope, spear, stab or shove at a time. Bit by bit, you can make your guy tougher. Until you die. Then start again.

Our old favorite on iOS for this kind of game was 868-HACK, but we're now smitten with Hoplite. It's so simple, so pure, so damn hard by level 16, but also turns out to allow so many different approaches that it's hard to stop playing. Become a master at distanced spear-based attacking next time. Or upgrade your bashing ability and just push guys off the grid. Options, options, so many to tease your brain!

A Good Match For: Careful planners who love facing impossible odds.

Not A Good Match For: People who want a please-undo-the-last-stupid-move-I-made button.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: The App Store

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

The closest mobile gaming comes to Criterion Games' Burnout series, Asphalt 8: Airborne is the premiere arcade racer on iOS. Simulation nuts can keep puttering around with their Real Racing 3 — this is a game about using speed as a weapon. The cars are as sexy speeding down the road as they are leaping majestically through the air into a pylon, and Gameloft keeps adding more of them every time we turn around.

A Good Match For: Hardcore racing fans, anyone looking for a console-style racing game on mobile.

Not a Good Match For: People who hate cars.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: The App Store.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

You're in a cold, dark room. First, you get a fire going. Then, you head out in search of wood. After that… well, things develop. To say more would be to spoil what makes A Dark Room special, but suffice it to say: This game grows far beyond its humble origins, and the journey from here to there is an engrossing one.

A Good Match For: Fans of management/RTS games, anyone who likes a little mystery in their games.

Not a Good Match For: Anyone hoping for cutting-edge visuals or production values. A Dark Room is text-only, with no audio or visuals to distract you.

Purchase from: The App Store.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

You wouldn't think that a game that stitches together fishing and firearms would be a sublime mobile experience. Well, maybe you would think that... but anyway, if you think that you're right, so good for you. Everything about Ridiculous Fishing: A Tale of Redemption is both as ridiculous and as great as the title suggests. You'll be playing, fishing, and shooting for many hours to come.

A Good Match For: Anyone who's ever been bored with real-world fishing. All that quiet and waiting and patience that usually comes with the ol' bait-and-line pastime gets thrown overboard in Ridiculous Fishing. Thank God.

Not a Good Match For: Those who want tilt-free gameplay. You're going to look a little silly with all the turning and twisting your 21st century smartphone in pursuit of crazy levels of fish death. But it's worth it, by God.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: The App Store.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

Super Hexagon is a game that will kill you in seconds. A pattern of geometric shapes flow towards the center of the screen to the beat of the music, and your task is to dodge them. You won't. You'll die. If you get really good, you'll die in minutes. And you'll love every one.

A Good Match for: Eye-hand coordination masters. Seeing the path your little dot needs to be in is one thing. Getting there is another thing entirely.

Not a Good Match For: Those looking for lengthy gameplay sessions.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: The App Store.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

Framed tells a comic-book tale of espionage, intrigue, and death-defying escapes, with a twist: You, the player, can re-arrange the frames of the story to change the outcome of a given page. That usually means figuring out the best way to set things so that the protagonist sneaks past their pursuers undetected, but it can mean a lot of other things, as well. Framed is a great deal of fun, with style to spare.

A Good Match For: Puzzle fans, comics fans, saxophone solo fans.

Not a Good Match For: Anyone looking for a substantive mystery or adventure. Framed is a pure puzzle game, with little actual story or character development.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: The App Store.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

Update 1/12/2015: Our list gets an overdue update as Framed, 80 Days, and A Dark Room bump off Infinity Blade III, Plants vs. Zombies, and Rayman: Fiesta Run.

Update 6/04/2014: Hoplite and Threes make their way onto the list as 868-HACK and Oceanhorn say goodbye.

Update 2/18/2014: With a new design comes an opportunity to totally overhaul the list. We've made a bunch of additions and subtractions: Goodbye Bad Hotel, Ghost Trick, Horn, Hero Academy, Need For Speed Most Wanted, and Temple Run 2. (All good games!) Hello Knightmare Tower, Device 6, Rayman Fiesta Run, Oceanhorn, 868-HACK, and Asphalt 8.

Update 09/20/13: There's yet another new iteration of the iPhone out today so why not update the list of games that we think are best for Apple's smartphone. Infinity Blade gets replaced by sequel Infinity Blade III and the same thing happens with Angry Birds Star Wars, as Angry Birds Star Wars II builds on its successes. If you have any money after getting a 5S, these games should be on your must-try list.

Update 04/18/2013: So long, Letterpress! You warmed our word-loving hearts but Ridiculous Fishing's outdoor mayhem cannot be denied. Lock and load, everyone!

Update 01/28/2013: This time, Temple Run 2 bumps off Lili from the iPhone charts.

Update 11/16/2012: Angry Birds Star Wars unseats Angry Birds Space, Letterpress writes Bejeweled out of favor and Need for Speed Most Wanted passes Jetpack Joyride in this change to our list of the most attractive games on Apple's mobile phone.

Update 09/21/2012: Ready for the iPhone 5? We've added two more Unreal Engine 3 games — Lili and Horn; the joyous frustration of Super Hexagon; the artsy and musical Bad Hotel; and the unique strategy stylings of Hero Academy. Apps dropped to make way for the new ones include Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, Edge, Eliss, Groove Coaster and Where's My Water.

The 12 Best Games on the iPhone

Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

The Best PC GamesThe Best PS4 GamesThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android GamesThe Best PSP GamesThe Best Facebook GamesThe Best DS GamesThe Best Mac GamesThe Best Browser GamesThe Best PC Mods