It’s testament to the quality of the iPhone’s gaming catalogue that stunning ports of home console games such as Street Fighter IV and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars don’t feature on this list. Indeed, many of the best games are those developed specifically for the iPhone. With literally thousands of games in the App Store, it was hard to narrow it down. But that we did. Here are our seven favourite iPhone games.
Has anyone not played Angry Birds? With over 50 million downloads across all platforms, Angry Birds is the top selling game on the App Store. The premise is simple (and suitably absurd): use a catapult to launch a variety of birds at pigs. See, the pigs have stolen the birds’ eggs, and the birds are, as the title suggests, angry. As the game progresses, different breeds are unlocked, each with their own unique characteristic; there’s the speedy yellow guy and the exploding black bird. It’s a neat move that keeps Angry Birds fresh and interesting, even hours into the game. As millions will attest, it’s a massively effective recipe that’ll demand – and I say this without conjecture – days of your time. You’ve been warned.
Another incredibly simple idea, perfectly realised. In iBlast Moki, you must plant a series of bombs to guide your little Moki to the goal. That’s it. It mightn’t sound like much, but the game exudes an abundance of charm through its soundtrack and cartoon-style graphics. The pace is almost soothing, and you’ll invariably find yourself grinning when you finally discover the correct sequence and timing for your bombs. The physics have been implemented flawlessly; this is where the game could’ve fallen flat on its face, but it never feels unfair or random. On the contrary, iBlast Moki is a genuine treat.
It’s fortunate that the title works rather nicely as an acronym; Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance is somewhat of a mouthful. Tongue-twisting name aside, N.O.V.A. is the best single-player FPS (or First Person Shooter, to non-geeks) for the iPhone. Period. While Archetype caters primarily to the multiplayer market, N.O.V.A. unashamedly sells itself as a handheld Halo, with a story-driven campaign that’ll keep you busy for hours. Graphically it's superb, from waterfalls in lush forests to the corridors of hulking spaceships. The controls, too, are surprisingly effective; by default, your left thumb controls movement while your right is used to target. Shooting space monsters in the face with big guns? Winner.
PC users are all-too-familiar with tower defence games. Developer PopCap didn’t so much see a gap in the market as it did a bloated corpse of a genre, but in Plants vs Zombies it miraculously managed to deliver something fresh and appealing. How did it do that? By inviting the player to plant an array of vegetables in order to thwart an undead invasion. Plants vs Zombies arguably works even better with the iPhone’s touch-screen, but in any case – it’s simple, smart, and crazily addictive. Just one more level before bed (yeah, right).
How does one begin to describe Drop 7? Tetris meets Sudoku? Yeah, that’s close enough. Drop 7 is essentially a puzzle game in which you drop numbered tokens into a 7x7 grid. If, at any point, the number on a token (from 1-7) matches the number of adjacent tokens in its row or column, it disappears, ideally causing a massive chain reaction in which lots of other tokens disappear. Still with me? Don’t worry, I was initially introduced to Drop 7 after a few hours in the pub, and couldn’t make head nor tail of it. But after a few minutes of play (ideally without beer goggles), you’ll be staring intently at the screen, planning your next big combo. Brilliant.
Osmos is more so a trance-inducing experience than a game. To say that it’s both visually and aurally absorbing would be somewhat of an understatement. In Osmos, you control a mote – a bubble-like mass floating around in space. The aim is to absorb smaller particles, thus increasing your mass and allowing you to absorb bigger and bigger motes, until eventually you dominate the screen. Colliding with a mote larger than yours will reduce your mass; if you don’t escape quickly enough, it’s game over. A hypnotic blend of Asteroids and Beautiful Katamari, words can’t do Osmos justice. Experience it for yourself.
If ever proof was required that gameplay trumps graphics, Squareball would be Exhibit A. Its closest relative, visually, is Pong on the Atari 2600. Seriously. It’s that basic. But make no mistake; as much as Squareball recalls the good old days, this is an insanely innovative game. You're tasked with guiding a, uhm, square ball through a maze of blocks to the finish line. The ball mustn’t leave the top or bottom of the screen, so precise touches are required to negotiate gaps in the floor and ceiling. Not-so-innovative so far, granted. But the twist is: you don’t control the ball; you control the maze. Squareball is tremendously tough from the word go, but never unfair. Infuriating? Yes. Relentlessly addictive? Absolutely.