We haven't reviewed a huge amount of iOS games, but here are our highest recommendations based on those that we have. Click on the name of the game to read the full review.
The Very Best - Rated 5 Stars
Hearthstone (Free): Hearthstone is easy to play, yet it delivers an astonishing breadth and depth of strategy - and a simply brilliant interface. If you're looking for a fascinating, involving and highly addictive cerebral gaming experience, there are few finer than this.
Highly Recommended - Rated 4.5 Stars
Lara Croft GO ($4.99): A very well designed, beautiful-looking puzzle game that, while occasionally fiendishly tricky, is thoroughly enjoyable to play. It hits just the right balance of being tough, but not so difficult that you'll want to throw down your iOS device in frustration: the solution is always staring at you in the face.
Monument Valley ($3.99): A gorgeous-looking, wonderful-sounding puzzle game that provides an all-too-brief, but utterly memorable gaming experience. Brilliant.
Her Story ($3.99): Don't let the FMV trappings of Her Story fool you; it uses this format as a tool, not a crutch. Sam Barlow's murder mystery uses pre-recorded video to its advantage, giving the experience a gritty, voyeuristic feel that only adds to its sense of intrigue. Simply put, you've never played a detective game like this before. (PC review. iOS version is basically the same)
Vainglory (Free): A top-class MOBA that works extremely well on iOS devices. It looks beautiful, it's fun to play - and doesn't cost a dime to sample its considerable charms.
Hitman GO ($4.99): A shining example of a mobile adaptation done right, Hitman GO's creators clearly understand both the essence of the franchise and the limitations of the platform. The resulting synthesis is nothing less than brilliant.
Out There ($4.99): A sprawling, easy to play but surprisingly deep jaunt through the stars -- and one with a beautifully crafted atmosphere sure to keep you coming back for more.
Recommended - Rated 4 Stars
Magic Duels: Origins (Free): A great new direction for the series, and the best-playing digital version of Magic the Gathering yet. However, you will need to invest a fair chunk of change to get the most out of it.
Other Recommended Games
The following games haven't been formally reviewed by USgamer, but we believe they represent some of the best iOS gaming currently out there. This is a list of classic games and newer titles: all are great fun and offer plenty of replay value.
Real Racing 3 (Free): This fantastic racing game comes recommended with a large, waving caution flag. It's no doubt one of the best games of its type. Graphically, it's superb and, once you get used to the steering, it plays very well indeed. However, it comes packed with a freemium business model that can feel insidious and money-grabbing if you want to keep playing the game constantly. Play it patiently at the start and build up enough credits for some quality sessions, however, and you'll enjoy the best mobile racing game around.
FTL: Faster Than Light ($9.99): Take control of a Galactic Federation space ship and run the gauntlet of a variety of hazards as you deliver vital data to your headquarters. Of course, that's a lot easier said than done as you tackle all manner of nightmarish, uncompromising problems that'll tax your strategic skills to their limits. A brilliant game that has great touch controls, is involving, rewarding… and will sometimes break your heart.
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions ($4.99): The classic twin-stick shooter series returns in all its brightly lit neon glory, and it's as good as ever. It's hardcore arcade action all the way as you battle through 50 missions – as well as a variety of modes – blasting all and sundry. With great music, terrific graphics and gameplay that'll turn your thumbs into worn-out nubs if you're not careful, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is one of the best shooters money can buy.
VVVVVV ($2.99): There were initial worries that touch-screen controls wouldn't suit the pixel-perfect precision of this PC platformer port, but fortunately our fears went straight out the window the moment we started playing VVVVVV: it works great! Like other versions, it's brilliantly designed to be highly challenging, but it's really enjoyable and extremely addictive, taxing both your reflexes and your old grey matter as you figure out how the hell to navigate your way through the game.
Threes ($2.99): If you're looking for a solid, thoroughly enjoyable, number-crunching puzzle game, look no further than Threes. It's a true, stone cold classic. Like all the best puzzlers, it's conceptually simple - it's all about matching like-numbered tiles - but, of course, fiendishly challenging to beat. That mightn't sound like much fun, yet the game is exceptionally enjoyable and addictive.
Crossy Road (Free): An odd combination of endless runner mixed with Frogger, this absolutely brilliant game has you crossing a never-ending series of roads and rivers. It's a real joy to play, with excellent controls and some really nice attention to detail, such as other players' scores marked in the road so you know when you've just beaten them. The game also looks terrific thanks to its cubist/voxel style. What makes Crossy Road great is that it's just a blast to play, with a genuine one-more-go appeal.
Infinity Blade III ($6.99): Setting the standards for iOS graphics, this swipe-to-hack-and-slash game pits you against giant monsters in a series of entertaining encounters. It's fun and rewarding to play – especially when you swipe just right to deliver a killing blow – and packs a ton of collectibles.
Thomas Was Alone ($4.99): An abstract platformer starring a featureless block, Thomas Was Alone is a terrific indie title that works extremely well on iOS platforms. It's not the longest game in the world – it'll take you the better part of an afternoon to get through it – but it's so well written and designed that you'll more than get your money's worth out of it.
Bastion ($4.99): This lovely-looking action RPG doesn't exactly pack a huge amount of depth – it takes a few hours to work through – but it offers a great story to work through, and has narration that reacts to what you do, making your adventure feel very personal. The controls are a little on the fiddly side, it must be said, but overall Bastion works very well on iOS devices to deliver a really rewarding game that's packed full of neat little touches.
Pac-Man 256 (Free): From the makers of Crossy Road comes an endless runner meets Pac-Man. Controls are always a concern with a fast-moving arcade game on a touch screen, but Pac-Man 256 nails it perfectly. Deft swipes sees the voracious yellow dot-gobbler scooting around corners with ease. And a good thing too, because this game is really quite challenging as you travel along an infinite maze chewing through as many dots and power pills as possible. Stylish looking, and absolutely terrific fun to play, Pac-Man 256 pulls off something very difficult – it takes an age-old theme and puts a new spin on it to make a game that feels incredibly fresh and addictive.
Transistor ($9.99): Similar in style to Bastion – which is understandable because they're both from developer Supergiant Games – this sci-fi themed RPG looks and sounds gorgeous, and plays incredibly well. Like Bastion, it's a little on the short side, weighing in at only a few hours playtime, but during that time you'll have a rich, compelling and highly enjoyable experience.
Legend of Grimrock ($4.99): Released on PC and Mac back in 2012 to wide critical acclaim, this oldschool-feeling dungeon-crawler has been perfectly ported to iOS and plays just great! Form a team and work through a series of puzzle-filled dungeons using magic and strategic combat in classic style. It's got plenty of depth, is thoroughly rewarding to play and packs a really decent challenge. Highly recommended to RPG fans that love oldschool stuff.
Papers Please ($7.99): This dystopian-feeling puzzle game sounds really dull. You play a border agent checking the papers of people passing between two countries that were recently at war. But while shuffling through people's credentials doesn't sound particularly exciting, this game is really compelling. It gets under your skin in a really odd way, and makes you feel emotionally involved in it. Very clever, and very much worth checking out.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX ($4.99): A perfect port of the console and PC versions, Pac-Man Championship DX takes everything that's great about the original Pac-Man game, and brings it bang up to date with some modern sensibilities. It's a case study of focused design that's all about high-speed, repeatable, highly addictive challenges. You just won't want to stop playing.
Galcon Fusion ($2.99): Imagine a real-time Risk/minimalist RTS turned up to 11, and this is it. Lightning fast fingers are required to send fleets of miniature spaceships to invade and take over planets. The more planets you have, the more ships you create. It’s very fast, it’s very challenging and it’s very, very fun. A classic iPad game – highly recommended.
Osmos ($2.99): Guide a floating amoeba-like cell around the screen, absorbing smaller cells than you by crashing into them, and making sure you don’t get absorbed by a bigger one. The more things you absorb, the bigger you get, and the objective is to simply absorb everything. Beautiful graphics, lovely sound and some great gravitational effects make this a simply phenomenal touch-screen game.
Puzzle and Dragons (Free): One of the most popular iOS games in Japan, this is a match three, dungeon-crawling, creature-collecting-and-evolving, RPG combat game. That’s a bit of a mouthful, but then Puzzle and Dragons is a huge feast of excellence. It’s not for everyone for sure, but it’ll quickly become apparent whether or not you’ll like it. And if you do, you’ll be playing it for weeks – and perhaps even months.
New Star Soccer (Free): Become a star soccer player and pursue an entire career from club through international games and championships. Individual games are simple affairs requiring you to take key shots and make clutch passes by tapping a moving ball, yet it’s still tense and compelling. If you love soccer, this game is a must!
Plague Inc ($0.99): Evolve a virus and kill everyone on the planet. How can you not resist that challenge? With a variety of different modes and a host of great challenges, this fast-action realtime strategy game it seriously twisted, brilliant and massively fun.
Ridiculous Fishing ($2.99): Brightly colored and sharply angular, Ridiculous Fishing is, well, a little ridiculous. The fundamental conceit is simple enough: you're a career fisherman with an unerring fondness for your job. However, Ridiculous Fishing's basic idea is augmented by an appropriately insane upgrade system, a library of fish for you to collect and season with gunpowder, a faux social media service and even a coherent plot and you have a game that's pure madness – in just the right way.
Drop 7 (Free): One of the best-kept iOS secrets – Drop 7 is one of the greatest puzzle games ever. It takes a few goes to figure out how it works, but the moment you “get” it, it’s like a choir of angels suddenly sing and you get sucked into one of the most addictive puzzle games in a decade.
Year Walk ($3.99): Bleak, minimal and absolutely unnerving, Year Walk's a stylish first-person puzzle game revolving around the eponymous Swedish myth. The idea behind a Year Walk, in case you were unfamiliar with the lore, is that folk wanting to look into the future will be able to do so if they fast for a day before meandering towards the local church at the stroke of midnight. Of course, such things come with complications. Monsters abound at such hours. You'll end up meeting many of these critters, in fact. Some of them will even demand your assistance in unsavory tasks, something you'll want to do if you desire to advance to your goal.
Ending ($1.99): Ending is a turn-based roguelike-like emptied of all pretensions. It's a dungeon-crawler with all the usual suspects but not of the frills. It's a puzzle game where the only goal is survival. Entirely monochromatic, Ending puts you in the role of an alias symbol. The objective, of course, is to make it to the exit without being pulverized by the resident beasties. To do so, you're going to have to outwit the aforementioned monstrosities, all of which are presented by delicate little symbols. While initially simple-looking, Ending moves quite rapidly into brain- twisting territory.
868-HACK ($5.99): 868-HACK is a roguelike-like masquerading as a hacking game masquerading as a neon-licked bit of raw, low-fi insanity. Like any good iOS game, 868-HACK operates on a simple idea: you need to get through eight data sectors. But like all good puzzlers, doing that is anything but easy. Indeed, it's downright challenging, but the game has that perfect one-more-go appeal that make the minutes fly by, and before you know it, you've suddenly sunk hours into the game. Brilliant!
XCOM: Enemy Unknown ($9.99): Don't own it on the PC? You should. It's glorious. And hard. Gloriously hard. However, if you're disinclined towards picking up a relatively stationary version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Firaxis Games has you covered. The iOS version is a spot-on port of the excellent PC game that works perfectly well, and is highly recommended to those who love a challenge.