In his early life, the gamer listens to bullies call him a nerd, and later, he fields the complaints of his significant other, but throughout it all he argues for the time spent in front of the screen with a simple rationalization: sometimes, reality sucks. Games provide an escape. They’re less dangerous (and cheaper) than drugs and alcohol and provide a more interactive experience than books and movies. They allow a deep sense of connection with a narrative — not just through imagination, or audio and visuals, but an actual physical connection. When the gamer gets into the skin of a hero, he becomes the hero. When he adopts the guise of the villain, well, that’s fun, too.
Consoles don’t provide much in the way of portability (anyone else ever own this masterpiece of engineering?), and grown men carrying Gameboys often attract the wrong kind of attention, but mobile games offer interactive experiences on the devices that most of us carry every day. They allow us a bit of serenity when we need it most — in the airport, on the subway, at a questionable mid-life Bris. Here, we’ve provided a list of 50 of the best games made for iOS. Play at the risk of your relationship.
Evermore: This beautifully rendered 3D experience, which combines elements from both RPGs and rail shooters, puts you in charge of a magical crow. Navigate through four spectacular environments, and decide whether you’re the good or evil kind of fowl.
Minecraft – Pocket Edition
Virtual Legos: The award-winning build-your-own-adventure game appears as a pocket-sized port. Use the materials you gather/mine to build defenses, houses or anything else your heart desires.
Halo for iPhone: This first-person shooter has the aspirations of a console game, but not the glitches that plague other high-reaching titles. Go on foot or take vehicles and mechs as you shoot your way to victory.
Infinity Blade II
Best iOS Game Ever? Created by the same people who brought you Gears of War, the Infinity Blade franchise was originally made to showcase the Unreal Physics Engine. However, thanks to killer graphics, intense storyline and an intuitive combat system, it became the fastest grossing iOS app ever. The sequel builds on the success of the first, offering better graphics, more upgrades and monsters and the second installment of a fascinating story.
Infinity Blade III
Sequel to the Best iOS Game Ever? Just when you thought the Infinity Blade franchise couldn’t get better, Chair Entertainment and Epic Games released Infinity Blade III, the third and final game in the series. It offers the same beautiful visuals and intriguing story as the first two installments while adding more RPG elements and introducing the protagonist’s friend Isa as a playable character.
Wall of Shame
You’ve seen them, and you probably own them: the free, addictive mass-market titles that suck up your subway time and make you leave the bathroom stall thinking, what did I do for the last ten minutes? We love ’em for the virtual gems they give us, and hate ’em for the time they waste. Download at your own risk.
Hell, But Really Fun Hell: This 2012 Apple Game of the Year puts you in a dark room with a puzzle box and gives you a single task: solve it. The gameplay is simple, but it’s one of the most cerebral and beautiful games on the market. Finish it in one sitting (it only takes about an hour), or you’ll end up thinking about trying to solve the puzzles when you’re, you know, supposed to be talking to the in-laws or something.
The Room Two
Hell, But Really Fun Hell (Again): The sequel to one of the iPad’s eeriest and darkest puzzle games brings even more eeriness, darkness and puzzles. They’re more beautiful than the first go-round (if you can believe it); although the sequel costs more, it’s twice as long.
A Dark Room
A Darker Room: You start in a dark room…sounds familiar, eh (see above)? Though The Room and A Dark Room both contain similar horror elements and focus on narrative, they’re wholly different experiences, with A Dark Room sacrificing visuals for text. It’s the closest to playing a Cormac McCarthy novel you’re ever going to get.
Link Visits the Uncharted Seas: What do you get when the Finns shamelessly produce a Zelda clone? One glorious day, Nintendo will bring a flawless Ocarina of Time port to the iPad, but until then, Oceanhorn has your back.
Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP
Killer Soundtrack and Killer Monsters: Some of the best in-game music (and funniest voiceovers) comes from Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, an ambitious 8-bit point and click. Is the game effected by actual lunar cycles? Yes. So buy an almanac.
Get to the Portal: Many games take power from their narratives…and BADLAND, which won an Apple Design Award in 2013, is not one of them. It’s more like the high-end Chinese buffet of gaming, where you go to gorge yourself on tasty-looking morsels and experience a foreign atmosphere.
Told You Reading Was Fun: Is it a game or a novella — or both? Simogo, the two-man team behind Year Walk and Beat Sneak Bandit (see below), strikes gold again with this narrative-based thriller that combines puzzle elements with a novella experience.
The Longest Walk: One of those games you just have to play, as it gets its power from a twisted narrative and haunting visuals. Not for the faint of heart (oh god, what’s that horse head thing?!).
Beat Sneak Bandit
Time to Steal Clocks: As the Beat Sneak Bandit, you have to steal back all the world’s clocks, which have been stolen by Duke Clockface, who’s really kind of an asshole.
More Surreal Than a Magritte Painting: Enter the surreal world of Limbo, where you’ll interact with the monochromatic landscape while trying to uncover the fate of your sister. The name of the game could just as easily been “Atmosphere” — not because it resembles the terrific hip hop group that rose to prominence in the early 90s, but because it’s mad atmospheric.
Most Inter-dimensional Journey: Go old-school with this Megaman-inspired, side-scrolling platformer. As an added bonus, you can use a jetpack to teleport between two and three dimensions. Whoa.
Great Big War Game
Little Soldiers, Big War: Playing through this turn-based strategy game requires a bit over forty hours, and we promise that the jokes never get stale. Okay, maybe a little, but you’ll be too busy planning your next move to notice.
World of Goo HD
Gooiest: Goo, meet pipe. Pipe, meet goo. Oh, you can’t reach each other? Let me help…
Zen Bound 2
Ohm-iest: Tilt your iOS device to wind a rope around a beautifully-rendered wooden object. Thrilling? Not really. Relaxing? Now you get it.
Most Germ-Ridden: You’re a pig with a cold, which sucks, until monsters with a predilection for snot invade the land and you’re the only one who can stop them. Shoot your boogers into traps and save the world.
Touch of Death, Touch-Screen Style: If you like Tim Burton, check out Darklings, which puts you in control of Lum, the face of light. You can’t move, but as creatures attack, symbols will appear above their heads. Draw the symbols to perform a satisfying counter.
Real Racing 3
Realer Than Racing 2: Holding title as the most realistic iOS racing game, Real Racing 3 is almost like having Forza 5 in your pocket. Almost.
Asphalt 8: Airborne
Racing, With Jumps: Some people watch Speed and ask themselves whether or not it’d actually be possible to make that jump in a bus. Others wonder what it’d be like. For them, Gameloft made Asphalt 8: Airborne.
Not As Dull As Actual Fishing: So, uh, what you do is you drop your line, go as deep as possible while avoiding fish, catch as many fish as you can when you pull the line back up, and then blast the fish out of the sky with your upgradeable gun. Yeah, it’s pretty fun.
Snood on Crack: Using a rotating cannon, shoot a ball and try to clear the screen of orange pegs. As your ball bounces around the screen, it’ll touch green pegs, which unlock powerups, purple pegs, which increase your score, along with other obstacles and bonuses.
Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor
Charlotte’s Web Meets Nancy Drew: A mix between a puzzle game and a mystery game might not seem like it would work, until you tackle a hornet out of the air. Play as a hungry spider that (a) wants to eat and (b) wants to unlock the secrets of Bryce Manor.
Weed Not Included: Melt your mind with Groove Coaster, a colorful, rhythmic joy for the senses. Simply tap to the rhythm as your avatar cruises along a colorful track for an explosion of light and sound.
Pistols, Swords, or Battering Ram: The Calamity destroyed the world, and now you’re tasked with running through various nightmare landscapes, collecting weapons and killing bad guys in an attempt to make things right. As you do, a guy with a really gravelly voice tells you the history of your world, and says the word “gasbag” a lot.
Tetris, in Space: Sigur Ros. IKEA. Scandanavia fairly bleeds minimalism, and this game, made by Swedish designer Martin Jonasson, puts you in control of building a simple, colorful spaceship.
Rayman Fiesta Run
Run, Rayman, Run: If you’re the kind of person that’s mad we didn’t include Temple Run 2 on this list, you probably didn’t make it this far. But if you did, this one’s for you: an auto-runner that features all the levels, power-ups and artistry that the more popular Temple Run series did not.
Kingdom Rush HD
We Must Protect This House: Use your resources to purchase defenses against an invading army. It’s not an original idea, but Kingdom Rush HD is one of the most challenging and engaging tower defense games on the market.
Brave New World: Tired of terrible-looking iOS games, game designer Ryan Payton decided to make his own. His Kickstarter campaign raised over $500,000 and resulted in République, a stealth/horror survival game that plays like Orwell’s 1984.
The World Ends With You: Solo Remix
Shibuya Shopping District: At $17.99 for an iOS game, you think the world might actually end. But this game, which features beautiful art, terrific music and an engaging plot, justifies its hefty price tag.
Killer 4(7) Hire: You’ve played the awesome Hitman games (and seen the terrible Hitman movie), so you might as well join Square Enix for the next iteration of the franchise, a turn-based iOS board game. Each level takes place on a different “board”, and you guide the Agent 47 game piece through grooves, knocking aside your enemy’s pieces when they’re looking away.
1 + 2 = Threes! Battle your addictive tendencies and look like Rain Man to spectators as you push tiles around a 4-by-4 grid to make increasingly large numbers. It takes two minutes to figure out and days to put down.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Press Y to Carjack: One of the biggest and baddest ports of all time, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas brings a whole lot of the console game’s magic to the iPhone. It’s not exactly the same experience, but for an iPhone game, it’s pretty darn cool.
Low-Res Theseus: Medieval 8-bit greatness hits iOS with gusto in this game, which lets you select from a handful of characters to do battle with giant worms, giant blobs and giant two-legged bulls.
Best Violent Release: Smash shit with marbles — and not just any shit, but glass, and things that feel like they should be smashed with marbles. Catharsis achieved.
Unhand My Fields, Ye Knave! In this German version of Settlers of Catan, lay tiles to develop the landscape. Easy to learn, easy to play, and unlike Monopoly, no one leaves the board with a bloody lip.
Call Me Danger. Joe Danger: Choose one of dozens of playable characters and race through a cartoon wonderland from behind the handlebars of motorbike. Unlike some of the more dedicated racing games, you can’t control your speed, but that lets you focus on avoiding obstacles and pulling off sweet tricks.
Super Stickman Golf
Fore! Simple sports at their best. The single player is fun, but, using Bluetooth, you can challenge up to three friends at over 250 holes, earning points by completing levels first. Setting your shot angle with the touch-screen arrows and your power with a timing minigame lets your ball fly.
Sonic for iPhone: It’s Sonic. For the iPhone. ‘Nuff said.
Absorb, Grow, Repeat: As you try to eat other, smaller, beautiful blobs, other, larger, beautiful blobs try to eat you. Almost worth it for the serene soundtrack alone.
FTL: Faster Than Light
Beam Me Up, Scotty: Faster Than Light is the closest you’ll ever come to your dream of commanding a spaceship. Make strategic decisions in this text-based adventure RPG but beware — one you die, there’s no coming back.
Playing on Escher’s Stairs: We could describe the game in a sentence, or we could link you to our rave review. Yeah, we’ll just do that.
Bug Heroes 2
A Bug’s Life Meets Game of Thrones: Control a team of two bugs…but not just any bugs. Choose from a Waterbug pirate, an Aphid sensei, a Bumblebee boxer, a grenade-launching Worm, and over 20 other miniature warriors. Take them into the battlefield (i.e., the countertop) and protect your base from your multiple-legged enemies.
Shakespeare Would Be Proud: A combination of RPG, tower defense and shooter, Bardbarian puts you in charge of Brad, a barbarian who gets tired to killing monsters and decides to turn his axe into a lute and drop some musical love on them instead. Unfortunately for the monsters, the musical love summons his allies, who do get excited about killing.
From the Makers of Adult Swim: Another tower defense game, except in this one, you’re actually defending a literal tower…or an evil lair, but, you know. Instead of setting up defenses on a prescribed path, you set them up inside the building, stopping the good guys as they try to rescue the princess.
Walking Dead: The Game
Game of the Living Dead: Based on the comic books series (not the TV show), this zombie-themed release from Telltale Games plays like a narrative-based thriller rather than a blood-and-guts shoot-’em-up. The first episode is free, but you can cop the next four for $20.
Skulls of the Shogun
Crush the Skulls of Your Enemies: Vivid artwork, hilarious writing, the ability to eat the skulls of your enemies…what’s not to like about Skulls of the Shogun, a turn-based strategy RPG?