While we all love free iPhone games, for in most cases just a few bucks, you can now download state-of-the-art iPhone games that would cost you several times more on other platforms and devices. So what are the best iPhone games worth paying for?
Dead Space ($2.99)
A truly horrific visual style wrapped inside a science fiction story — that’s Dead Space, EA Mobile’s iPhone and iPad entry into its Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 hit series. Putting players in the third-person shooter role of a secret operative code named Vandal, the game weaves a story of monsters and dismemberment, and is sufficiently gory to match. Dead Space is definitely not for young children, but it’s also the best horror experience you can get on an iOS device, and it creates a harrowing world in which disgusting and twisted creatures, once human, must have their limbs cut off to be killed. Dead Space is like playing a full console game on your phone — its production values and visuals are first-rate, and it’s packed full of foreboding atmosphere and popcorn-tossing scares.
Infinity Blade II ($6.99)
The follow-up to Epic Games’ Infinity Blade improves on its predecessor in every way. Whereas the first game was celebrated for its amazing Unreal Engine graphics, its hack-and-slash gameplay was somewhat lacking. In Infinity Blade II, players will find a much deeper storyline, even better graphics, and a lot more variety and content to keep them busy for a long time. New iPhone 4S owners will be particularly enthralled by how smoothly the game runs on their super-fast new smartphones.
In Osmos, you play a sort of single-cell organism floating in space with other cells. If you touch a cell smaller than you, you’ll absorb it and increase your size. If you touch one bigger than you, it’ll absorb you. This concept sets up some interesting and challenging puzzle play – sometimes you’ll be chasing cells around the screen in hopes of getting bigger, and other times you’ll be forced to carefully plan your movements in a tightly packed screen filled with bigger cells, threatening to destroy you at any moment. There are other things to consider as well. For one, every time you move, you do so by expelling a little piece of yourself – and that tiny cell can potentially spin off, become larger, and come back for you. Osmos contains a spooky ambient music soundtrack that is worthy of checking out on its own, and does a great job putting you in an atmospheric headspace as well as asking you to think in ways you otherwise wouldn’t.
Cut The Rope ($0.99)
Perhaps the most fun and innovative physics puzzler in the App Store is Cut The Rope, in which you’re means of solving the game’s multiple puzzles is, as you might guess, cutting various ropes. You do that by swiping across your iPhone’s touch screen, cutting the lines that hold up a piece of candy above a waiting pet monster who wants to eat it. The puzzles become progressively more complex, requiring you to cut ropes in succession or with precise timing to swing, drop, float or otherwise finagle the candy into the waiting monster’s gullet. Unlike the droves of “shoot the thing at the pile of garbage” Angry Birds knockoffs out there, very few games have managed to emulate Cut The Rope’s brilliance. It’s a perfect time-killer, addictive and challenging while easy to put down.
World of Goo ($2.99)
An indie PC darling that was a huge hit on the iPad, World of Goo finally made it to the iPhone to become just as big a success as it was on other platforms. The reason is clear: World of Goo’s great art style and fun, challenging and brainy puzzle mechanics make it a joy to play, or even just a joy to look at. The game is all about building structures by linking living “goo balls” together to make scaffolding-like edifices. Think of the construction of a suspension bridge and you’ll have an idea of how World of Goo’s structures work, except they’re quite a bit squishier. The result is hours of imaginative puzzle-solving in which you’ll build bridges, towers and numerous other objects in order to help the goo balls reach distant pipes — the fewer balls you employ, the higher your score. World of Goo is a perfect fit on iOS devices and among the most fun experiences you can get on your phone.
Jetpack Joyride ($0.99)
We have a new champion of the running game genre, and its name is Jetpack Joyride. You must guide Barry Steakfries deeper and deeper into a secret laboratory, avoiding lasers, electricity and even missiles while collecting coins. The further you travel, the faster he flies and the more bonuses you’ll unlock. It’s these achievements and items that keep you coming back for more. They may be sometimes tough to achieve, but they’re never impossible, and that’s what makes Jetpack Joyride so addictive: it’s incredibly well balanced.
Plants vs. Zombies ($2.99)
Plants vs. Zombies is the kind of game that’s fun enough and interesting enough to just watch. Sure, each level starts off a little slow, and it’s all about tower defense strategy, but developer PopCap has gone out of its way to make the art style of Plants vs. Zombies a cartoony delight of an undead onslaught, complete with scuba divers, pole vaulters, football players, and the occasional random traffic cone helmet adorning a decaying zombie cranium. You can also get into Plants vs. Zombies without much effort and get a pretty deep strategic experience, complete with resource management, deployment planning, and quick thinking. Players plant various seeds in their yard to grow plants that fend off zombies – some give you the ability to get more plants, some shoot zombies, some create a wall zombies have to eat through. How you place your plants, how you spend your resources, and how you prepare for the variety of enemies you have to deal with are all critical to success.
Scribblenauts Remix ($0.99)
This unique title was originally released on the handheld Nintendo DS to much acclaim. Though the iOS version offers less content, it’s still great value for the price with 40 classic and 10 original levels just for iOS. It’s a little different to most puzzle games because instead of merely using objects found in the world to complete levels, players get to bring them to life by choosing what they want to appear. Need a giant flying winged horse or a large red ladder? Just type it in. Want Cthulhu or a robot hippopotamus to appear from the skies? Your imagination is the only limit to solving the puzzles in Scribblenauts.
Angry Birds ($0.99)
If you pay attention to the iPhone app world, you’d have heard about Angry Birds. The game has had a meteoric rise to popularity since its release, mostly because it takes a great control scheme and makes you think in a different direction than you’re used to in order to play the game. In Angry Birds, you need to use a slingshot to fire your birds at pigs, who are usually protected by structures. Your goal is to collapse the buildings and squash the pigs inside, either by hitting them with a bird or making something heavy fall on them. The whole game comes down to figuring out where to fire your birds, which bird type to use (different birds have different abilities or work better against certain materials), and how to best approach each puzzle. But all you really do is pull back on the slingshot, aim your bird, and watch the mayhem – making for an easy setup that will have you scratching your head and aiming with practiced precision, looking for the best solution to each level.
Fruit Ninja ($0.99)
It may have been released a while ago, but Fruit Ninja has aged gracefully and continues to feel fresh and accessible with a unique gameplay mechanic that works perfectly on touchscreen devices. Your finger acts as a ninja sword and you must cut and slash your way through as much fruit as you can through three distinct gameplay modes. Once you get your skill level up, take on friends or strangers via the online multiplayer mode and unlock extra blades and other achievements. With so much available content-wise, Fruit Ninja is a great way to spend 99 cents.
Others in this series:
1. Best free iPhone games of all time
2. Best free iPhone apps of all time
3. Best paid iPhone apps of all time