New iPhone for Christmas? Download these games first

Dec 22, 2010

Yeah, your brand-new iPhone does a lot of great things to help you stay productive. It’s great for checking emails and staying up on Facebook, and even translating words and taking photos with its camera. Oh, and you can make calls with it. But one of the most interesting and deepest functions of the iPhone […]

Yeah, your brand-new iPhone does a lot of great things to help you stay productive. It’s great for checking emails and staying up on Facebook, and even translating words and taking photos with its camera. Oh, and you can make calls with it.

But one of the most interesting and deepest functions of the iPhone is its gaming ability. There are tons of gaming apps in the iTunes App Store, and while many of them are a little mindless and not too impressive, many more are phenomenal — making innovative use of the iPhone’s touch screen, internal gyroscope and other hardware.

But how to wade through all the sub-par games to figure out what’s essential for your new game machine/cell phone? We’ve done the hard work for you: below are 15 games you should check out right away to get the most out of your iOS device.


Infinity Blade ($6.99)

Yes, the price tag’s a little steep compared to other games, but there’s a reason for that — Infinity Blade is the best-looking game available on the iPhone, bar none. This one-on-one sword-fighting action game has a tendency to get addictive, looks great and packs a decent challenge. If there’s a game to show off what your new phone is capable of, this is it.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light ($6.99)

Guardian of Light is a pitch-perfect port of the game of the same name that was available for download on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. With two-stick shooting elements, a top-down dungeon crawling feel, and a crazy amount of puzzles to solve and challenges to complete. Best of all is a great cooperative play mode that uses a Wi-Fi or 3G Internet connection and demands some intuitive teamwork and puzzle-solving strategy.

Eliminate Pro (Free)

The best part of this hardcore first-person shooter from ngmoco is that, like lots of its other games, it’s free. Eliminate is an online-only multiplayer deathmatch game that makes use of tilt and touch controls to play. It’s filled with in-app purchases, but you can’t beat a free chance to take on enemies all over the world, wherever you are.

N.O.V.A. 2 ($6.99)

N.O.V.A. 2 is the sequel to Gameloft’s iPhone clone of the Xbox 360’s Halo franchise, which contains quality graphics and first-person shooter action, using a combination of tilt and virtual controls to take the fight to various aliens. There’s also an online multiplayer deathmatch mode that’s a lot like Eliminate, but with a story driven single-player campaign to back it up. The original is also available for $4.99.

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Plants vs. Zombies ($2.99)

When it comes to strategic tower defense, there aren’t many better offerings than Plants vs. Zombies are attacking your lawn, and the only way to defend it is by planting various types of plants that block, blast and shoot the encroaching undead. The app packs 50 levels and was Apple’s choice for iPhone game of the year.

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Osmos ($2.99)

An imaginative game with a great soundtrack, Osmos is one of those apps that shows the innovative thinking that’s happening on the iOS platform. You control a single-celled organism and work through puzzles by absorbing other organisms, unless they’re bigger than you are, in which case, they absorb you. Osmos takes quite a bit of strategy and light-touch precision to master, and is one of the best games available on the iPhone.

Flight Control ($0.99)

This is one of those apps that’s super-simple and yet tough to put down. Your job is to guide various airplanes to their appropriate runways by tracing a line from the plane to its destination. The planes then follow the flight path you laid out for them, and it’s up to you to keep them from crashing into one another. Flight Control is also available in a recently released free version so you can try it before you buy it.


Trundle (Free, with in-app purchases of additional levels)

An interesting physics-based platformer that has you moving a gear around various levels by tilting your iPhone and jumping by tapping. You’ll solve environmental puzzles each time you advance to a new screen, with the only score being your need to explore further and master more of the game. Trundle offers a significant portion of the game for free, with more levels available for in-app purchase.

Pix n’ Love Rush ($0.99)

This pretty 8-bit style platformer with a great soundtrack is perfectly designed for mobile gaming. You control a little monster and work through endless, changing stages to collect “plus molecules,” while avoiding enemies and minuses, in order to better your score. Pix n’ Love Rush even includes a five-minute mode to be just the right bite-size game to play when time is short. It’s easy to learn but tough to master.

Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor ($2.99)

Spider is actually two games in one: it’s part platformer-arcade game in which you control a spider using touch controls, swiping to jump and building webs on different pieces of furniture in an abandoned house. The webs catch you bugs, which you eat to advance to the next stage. But at the same time, as you explore the house, you’ll slowly uncover more and more information about what went on there — adding a mystery element to your bug-munching spider fun.

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Cut the Rope ($0.99)

Another simple, yet nearly impossible to put down, puzzle game, Cut the Rope’s premise requires you to do exactly that — you must cut the ropes holding food morsels strategically, so that they swing and avoid obstacles to reach the mouth of a little green monster you need to feed. The levels get progressively harder, working in more and more elements like bubbles and walls. At only a buck, Cut the Rope is in the running for one of the iPhone’s best casual games.

Angry Birds ($0.99)

There’s a reason this is the No. 1 paid game in the App Store: Angry Birds is a physics-based game that’s a pretty fair mix of easy and challenging. You’ll pick it up fast, but Angry Birds will keep you blasting through its 195 levels as you use a slingshot and various different birds to exact revenge on a group of egg-snatching pigs. Each level has you trying to destroy structures that the pigs are hiding in by strategically crashing through them — it’s tough to master, and you get a lot for a dollar here.

Sudoku 2 (Free)

It may not be crazy in terms of graphics or physics-based controls, but Sudoku 2 is exactly the kind of game you’ll want for a plane ride or car trip. Featuring puzzles that escalate in difficulty, this version of sudoku is plain and simple which makes it ideal. It’s also available in a premium edition for $2.99, which throws in online leaderboards and a points system.


Tap Tap Revenge 4 (Free, with in-app purchases of additional tracks)

If you’re familiar with Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero or Rock Band, you’ll understand Tap Tap Revenge right away. It’s a rhythm game in which you tap specific spots on your screen along with the music — keeping the beat and thinking fast results in a higher score. With tons of premium track packs, plus free songs added all the time, there’s always a new song to play.


Real Racing 2 ($9.99)

Real Racing 2 feels like an expensive one, until you see how realistic and faithful this game is with its racing. There are more about 30 real cars include, and the game has some of the most impressive 3D graphics on the iPhone so far. It also supports up to 16 racers in its online multiplayer mode.




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New iPhone for Christmas? Download these apps first

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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