It's amazing how quickly the gaming industry changes. Just a few years ago, no Apple device was viewed as a viable gaming platform, but the rise of iOS, the rapid App Store growth, and the sheer number of iDevices that are in consumers' hands has given Cupertino the muscle to snag a portion of game's revenue in the mobile space. In fact, Apple stated that it sold an incredible three million new iPad units within the tablet's first three days of availability. That's a lot of iPads out there, which means lots of people are looking to play games.
The iPad's large, gorgeous display gives gamers a more open, visual experience that isn't as restricted as the DS/3DS/PlayStation Vita's relatively small displays. This makes it an excellent device for any number of games, but it especially benefits those with large footprints, such as Words With Friends. There is one significant drawback, however: Unlike traditional video game portables, the iPad lacks physical controls, which can prove less than intuitive when playing certain titles that weren't built from the ground up with iOS in mind or demand intricate controller inputs. In those circumstances, Joystick-It Tablet Arcade Stick can come in quite handy.
Many iPad games fall into the casual and diversionary realm (Angry Birds Space, Quarrel Deluxe HD), but an increasing number of the best games are aimed at the dedicated, or ‘core' gaming demographic. 9MM, for instance, brings gun play and mature content; Infinity Blade 2 is a high-octane action-RPG with console quality graphics; DoDonPachi Resurrection HD is a 2D shooter (or ‘shmup' - short for shoot 'em up) that will obliterate the Fruit Ninja crowd. Apple's iOS has titles for gamers of all types.
Most iPad games fall within the £2.99 to £4.99 (Sonic CD) range, but you can find titles that are free (Temple Run), or carry price tags just shy of £15 (such as the £9.99 Espgaluda II HD). Still, that's about the half the price of your typical DS/3DS/PlayStation Vita title. If you're ready to iPad game, check out our story to discover what we consider to be 50 can't-miss games that will keep you entertained at home or on the road. The majority are dedicated iPad games, but we also include a few iPhone games that look great when played in 2X mode. If you want to check out our other video game recommendations, click the links below. Think we missed a game? Be sure to let us know in the comments so we can consider it for our next update!
Angry Birds Space to Temple Run
Rovio Mobile's Angry Birds Space, the fourth title in the mega-popular bird-slinging franchise, features the same simple, but addicting, gameplay as its predecessors. The plot, as usual, is simple and silly: alien pigs in mechanical suits have come through a wormhole to steal the birds' eggs, and the birds must blast off through the wormhole to rescue them in 70 interstellar levels.
Think of it as Pong for a new generation. Bit.Trip Beat HD combines charming Atari-like 8-bit graphics and a nostalgia-laced bleeps-and-bloops soundtrack, in a game that sees you deflecting musical enemy attacks with the on-screen rectangular paddle. Gamers use the accelerometer or touch controls to move the paddle up and down, bouncing beats back from which they came. Successfully chain beats, and obtain the megasphere to go for big scores.
Apples, bananas, and other assorted fruit feel your wrath in Halfbrick Studios' smash slice 'em dice 'em title. Fruit Ninja HD features eight-finger support, two game modes (Classic Attack and Zen Duel) worldwide leaderboards, and the addicting fruit-slicing gameplay that has made it a smash hit on multiple platforms.
Part Mega Man, part Sonic the Hedgehog, Gravity Guy HD puts players in the role of a sprinting hero in power armour who must use his ability to alter gravitational fields to navigate platforms and mazes as he evades the pursuing gravity police.
Halfbrick hero Barry Steakfries dons the legendary Machine Gun Jetpack and courage as he attempts to escape a mad scientist's stronghold in Jetpack Joyride. Touching the screen causes Barry to ascend and descend, while simultaneously raining bullets upon enemy grunts. You'll collect coins and complete missions to earn cash and buy new gear. You'll need sharp reflexes to avoid the enemy weaponry, which includes lasers, electricity fields, and guided missiles.
Pro Zombie Soccer: Apocalypse Edition combines sports, wacky power ups, and cartoon-like 2D graphics into an unorthodox shooter/tower defence hybrid that sees you mowing down wave after wave of the undead with your trusty soccer ball.
Robot Unicorn Attack HD began its life as a simple Flash game on AdultSwim.com, but the insane premise and catchy soundtrack grew in popularity so swiftly that it was ported to the iPad. Your mission: To run free by guiding the robot unicorn over pits and obstacles as you collect stars and butterflies to the epic cheese-fest that is Erasure's ‘Always.'
FarSight Studios' Pinball Arcade is an addictive game that exquisitely recreates the look and to a certain extent, feel, of classic, trademarked pinball tables. The thoughtful detail in each leader board is really impressive. Connect online to play in tournaments or go head-to-head with your friends.
Temple Run couples great graphics with a very simple, arcade-like premise. In Temple Run, you play an Indiana Jones doppelganger clutching a golden icon, and your goal is to run away from evil eagle-gorilla monsters by tilting and swiping your way through obstacles in your path.
Dungeon Hunter HD to Sonic CD
Dungeon Hunter for the iPhone was dubbed a Diablo clone, but the iPad version ups the ante and gives the game its own feel. In this version, you create your own character with which to go adventuring in the world of Gothicus. Warrior, rogue, and mage classes serve as your in-game avatar. The isometric view and spacious screen show plenty of colourful character detail and animations, and you can (thankfully!) customise the location of the virtual controls if they don't your style.
The portable version of Rockstar Games' hit crime game has appeared on the Nintendo DS, PSP, iPhone, and iPod touch, but the iPad version is the best mobile version of all. The virtual D-pad isn't as intuitive or accurate as the real deals found on other portable gaming systems, but busting caps and jacking cars is much more fun on the larger display.
Chair Entertainment's follow up to the wildly successful Infinity Blade builds upon the original game by including new enemies, more powerful attacks, and iCloud compatibility that lets gamers transfer profiles and saves between devices. Infinity Blade 2 has new online components such as Clash Mob mode, which lets games participate with others in 'massively social' challenges to unlock rare weapons and exclusive gear.
This iPad port of the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC game features fast-running, smooth animation, and precise multi-touch gestures as you free run from rooftop to rooftop. After a handful of training levels designed to familiarise you with controlling the main character, Faith Connors, you're off to stop an Orwellian threat. The single-player campaign features 14 level and frequent save points - great if you're playing on the go. A head-to-head mode lets you play split screen with a friend, in both Race Maps (time trial) and Rival Maps (treasure hunt) games.
This port of the classic SEGA CD title sees the Blue Blur battling his arch-nemesis, Dr. Eggman, in order to prevent the villain for gathering the powerful Time Stones, which would give the madman control over time itself. Sonic CD features Retina Display support, achievements, leaderboards, and both the US and Japanese soundtracks.
9MM to Rage HD
Gameloft's Max Payne-inspired third-person shooter puts gamers in the shoes of John ‘Loose' Kannon, a hard-nosed cop who has no qualms with putting slugs deep inside criminals. The shooter features a small arsenal of high-powered weaponry and slow motion effects, that let you accurately dodge and distribute bullets.
Electronic Arts' sci-fi survival horror title makes the leap to the iPad losing very little in translation. Naturally, the virtual controls aren't as precise as physical ones, but the third-person alien-blasting frights are served up in abundance.
Max Payne, Rockstar Games' groundbreaking cinematic action-shooter that brought Bullet Time to videogames, arrives on the iPad as Max Payne Mobile. Like the console and computer version, this port features a noir-inspired story and plenty of slow-motion, John Woo-inspired gunplay.
The latest entry in Gameloft's first-person military franchise is gunning for the title of best tablet shooter. It features 13 single player missions, 12-player multiplayer battles, numerous vehicles, and a variety of weaponry. Modern Combat 3's incredible visuals prove that tablets can rival console in terms of graphical output.
N.O.V.A. 3, Gameloft's latest H.A.L.O.-inspired first-person shooter, follows the adventures of Captain Kal Wardin and his Near Orbital Vanguard Alliance space marines as they fight to liberate Earth from the alien Volterites. N.O.V.A. 3's features 10 single-player campaign levels, and 6 multiplayer modes that support up to 12 players.
Id Software's frantic first-person shooter brings console-quality graphics and shooting action to the iPad. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where mutants roam, you're plopped down in to the wasteland's television hit, Mutant Bash, to score big ratings. The £1.49 app gives you loads on weapons (pistols, shotguns, machine guns) that you can use to blow away those who desire to fill their guts with your flesh.
Chu Chu Rocket HD to Bejeweled Blitz
SEGA's quirky puzzle title that amassed a cult following on the ill-fated Dreamcast returns in an updated form, on the iPad. ChuChu Rocket sees players helping cute ChuChus escape the clutches of evil KapuKapus in a whopping 145 puzzles sprinkled between Normal, Hard, Special, and Mania difficulty settings. The house that Sonic built also tosses in 25 multiplayer maps that support up to four players via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, or, in a feature exclusive to the iPad, allows a quartet of gamers to partake in the action on the device.
Chillingo's Contre Jour HD challenges you to navigate and survive a dark and dangerous game world. Using your finger, you morph the landscape - by pulling, swiping, and tapping tendrils, air geysers, and pulleys - to complete clever puzzles and propel the mysterious creature Petit to safety. Conte Jour HD also features an orchestrated soundtrack from composer David Ari Leon.
Cut the Rope is an addictive casual, physics-based game where players solve dynamic puzzles that sometimes feel more like obstacle courses. It's a family-friendly game, the kind you definitely want to have preloaded on your phone if you have boisterous kids who miraculously become quiet when engrossed in a good challenge.
Draw Something is OMGPOP's much-hyped take on Pictionary. Player 1 receives three options for words to draw. She picks one, and draws it on screen with no time limit. When Player 2 logs into the game, he receives a screencast of Player 1 creating the drawing and has to guess the word, with his clue being the number of letters of the word. Upon its debut, the game caught on by storm, because it's simple yet challenging, fun and funny, as well as highly social.
A Sharp's King of Dragon Pass blends text adventure games and civilization-building games. You make diplomatic, social, political, religious, and military decisions based on the information at hand. If you ever wanted to lord it over a kingdom, this is your game. It's an iPhone game, but there's so much going on in and relies on maps so much that it that it's actually more fun to play on the iPad in 2X mode.
One part Scrabble, one part Risk, Quarrel Deluxe is one of the most original iPad games. Wordsmiths, strategists, and gamers with varied tastes will find much to like in this game, where brains and brawn meet on equal terms to form one of the more quirky, but original, iPad games. Quarrel's multiplayer omission isn't vital, but disappointing - the game could've very easily ranked up there with Mario Party or Saturn Bomberman in terms of multiplayer fun.
One part Boggle, one part Tetris, Zach Cage's Spelltower is an engaging brain game that pits your wits vs. rising tiles that rise from the bottom of the screen. Forming words keeps them at bay, so you have to be fast and use a bit of strategy. If any of the letters make it to the top row, it's game over.
Jellyvision's classic '90s PC game show makes its debut on the iPad. The pop culture-filled trivia game features over 20 episodes that see the return of familiar segments such as ‘DisORDat', ‘Jack Attack', and ‘Funky Trash.' The bombastic announcer is also there, giving the game a touch of the wacky. Coming soon: more episodes and multiplayer play.
The game that Alec Baldwin can't put down brings word-creation action to the iPad. If you are a fan of the classic boardgame Scrabble, you'll find a lot to like here, with the added benefit of cross-platform play. If you don't want to shell out £1.99 for Words With Friends HD, you can download Zynga's free, ad-supported version instead.
2D Boy's award winning title offers a slew of environmental puzzles that demand that you drag and drop squirming globs of goo to build bridges, cannonballs, zeppelins, and other odd structures to complete your mission. You'll acquire goo with new abilities as you progress which will help you solve the ever-increasing challenges.
PopCap's Bejeweled Blitz is easily one of the most addicting games ever created. You have 60 seconds to strategise, match, and detonate as many gems as you can. If you match three or more gems, you can earn power-ups (Flame gems, Star gems and Hypercubes) that you can use to obliterate gems.
Battleheart to DoDonPachi Resurrection HD
Easily one of the most entertaining, time-consuming games on any platform, this cute 2D dungeon-crawler lets you manage your rogue, knight, witch, and other fantasy characters using an intuitive multi-touch control scheme.
A world in danger? Check. An emo protagonist? Check. Spiky hair? Check. Big swords? Check. Check. Eternal Legacy, Gameloft's tribute to the Japanese RPG, brings Final Fantasy-like storytelling (including full voice acting) and presentation to the iOS platform. If you're a fan of turn-based RPGs, this is your game.
Fans of Monjag's hit world-building game will find much to like in the iPad app. This mobile version retains the key features that made the PC version so popular, namely building structures and surviving monster raids. The survival and hard-core modes are more game-like than creative mode, which is all about giving the player complete freedom of invention.
When mobs of lumbering brain-craving zombies decide to invade your home, what should you do? Grip a shotgun? Grab a blowtorch? How about plant seeds? Popcap's smash zombie tower-defence games make the jump to the iPad with colourful, high-definition graphics, a spooky soundtrack, 50's-era sci-fi sound effects, 18 mini-games, over two dozen zombie types, and 50 levels. Gamers weaned on Popcap's special brand of casual games will find this one just as hard to put down despite the $9.99 premium price.
MMORPG action comes to the iPad in the form of Order and Chaos Online, Gameloft's spin on World of Warcraft. After selecting a race, gender, and character class, you venture out into a thriving fantasy world to slay evil. A three-month subscription is thrown in with purchase, and you can extend it my subscribing on a monthly ($0.99/£0.60), quarterly ($1.99/£1.30), or bi-annual ($2.99/£1.90) basis.
Sunny Tam's Danmaku Unlimited is an excellent iOS ‘bullet hell' shmup (shoot 'em up) that's priced to move at two bucks. The game, like other entries in this genre, isn't very long, but there's tons of ways to replay the game, as you hunt personal/Game Center high scores and unlock the Boss Rush and Free Play modes. This well-crafted space shooter deserves a spot in the library of every iOS gamer who craves heart-pounding blasting action.
Cave, masters of the unrelenting shmup ‘bullet hell' sub-genre, brings hard-core shooting to the iPad with DoDonPachi Resurrection HD. The sequel to DoDonPachi Blissful Death features two game modes (Arcade, Smartphone), two unique scoring systems, and more neon enemy projectiles than one dares imagine.
Final Freeway 2R to Real Racing 2 HD
Final Freeway 2R is a blatant Outrun clone with its high-speed arcade racing and branching roadways, but it duplicates that addictive, arcade racing style so well, that you can't help but to wonder why SEGA hasn't produced an iPad Outrun. Final Freeway isn't just one of the best racing games, it's one of the best games on the platform.
Lane Splitter may involve cars, speed bikes, and the open road, but it isn't your typical racing game - it's a game of avoidance. The mission is to navigate traffic-filled streets using the iPad's tilt controls, and score points based on the length of your ride, wheelies popped, and how many cars you pass before wiping out. The premise is simple, but the tight controls and addictive gameplay will have you coming back for just one more ride.
Packed with over 30 NBA teams and unlockable legendary players such as Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, Dr. Jay, and exclusive iOS-only ballers, NBA Jam keeps the old school, over-the-top simplicity of the '90s arcade machines. Roster updates (something not available for the home console version) and local multiplayer over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi keeps the b-ball antics fresh.
If you're looking for the ultimate in mobile 3D racing games, Real Racing 2 HD delivers just that with beautiful, fluid, realistic graphics. Two new iPad 2-exclusive, gyroscope-based steering methods make hugging those curves even easier, since you don't have to touch the iPad's screen to steer.
The King of Fighters-i to Street Fighter IV Volt
The Street Fighter franchise is the fighting genre's poster boy, but SNK Playmore's King of Fighters - a series that launched in 1994 - has played a vital role in the genre's development. The £1.99 King of Fighters-i, the first KOF designed for the Apple iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad platforms, retains the look, style, and hard-core fighting action of previous editions. The only drawback? An abbreviated roster and (as expected) occasionally troublesome virtual D-pad.
Capcom's Street Fighter IV: Volt is an excellent spin on the console and PC game that features a simplified four-button control scheme, a ton of special moves, and Wi-Fi battles so you may take on World Warriors from around the globe. Street Fighter IV: Volt is designed for iPhone play, but it's easier to pull off moves on the iPad due to the larger virtual buttons.
Beat Sneak Bandit to Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
When all the clocks in the world are stolen by Duke Clockface and the world is in chaos, it'll be up to the Beat Sneak Bandit to steal them back. The game combines rhythm game elements with stealth elements. How does this work? You tap the beat to sneak past patrolling guards, security lights, trapdoors, and all the other freaky stuff and contraptions the creepy Duke's got in store for you.
Fill the king of pop's shoes with the Michael Jackson: The Experience HD. Guide the late performer through several of his hit songs and music video by recreating his famous steps with well-timed swipes. Stringing together successful moves builds your multi-tier combo meter, which nets you a greater score.
Picking up six years after the original N.O.V.A., Gameloft's Halo-esque FPS contains new enemies, new weapons, and more varied gameplay that lets you drive a motorbike and pilot a giant mech.
Sunside's Crow is an iPad game that beckons you to take flight through the dark side of existence in an adventure that lets you choose your own path. In it, you control an ebony bird tasked with eradicating evil from the land - or do you? A mysterious haunting story will keep you guessing as you determine your destiny.
Machinarium is award-winning adventure game developed by Amanita Designs, the makers of Samorost and Samorost2. Gameplay consists of solving a series of puzzles by hunting for items that are within arm's reach. The real treat here is the beautifully intricate 2D art that is simply a joy to behold.
Featuring pixel-heavy visuals that harken back to the 8 and 16-bit era, dynamic lighting effects, and incredible trance-like music, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP combines the best of the retro and contemporary gaming landscapes into a killer adventure game. The latest update brings Retina Display support, which delivers super-sharp visuals.