Skip to main content

The best action games for the Apple iPad

The Apple iPad, in both the standard and mini varieties, is a highly underrated video game platform. The PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, and 3DS may command the attention of most "real gamers," but the iPad – despite lacking physical buttons and being most closely associated with Angry Birds and other casual fare – shouldn't be overlooked.

Only ten years ago, the mobile video game space was dominated by Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony – no other company made a significant play, especially in hardware. Then the rapid growth of Apple's App Store combined with the wild success of the iPad created the perfect environment for the mobile video game market to truly take off. And it's done so marvellously.

The iPad and iPad mini's expansive displays give gamers a more open visual experience that isn't as restricted as the smaller displays on the iPhone, Nintendo DS, 3DS, or PlayStation Vita. The screen size alone makes it an excellent device for many sorts of games, but it especially benefits those with large footprints, excelling at porting board games from Checkers to Puerto Rico.

Initially, most iPad games fell into the casual category (think Temple Run), but an increasing number of great iPad games are aimed at the dedicated, or "core," gaming audience. Gameloft, for example, has excelled at creating "inspired by" mobile versions of hit console games – for example 9MM is a rather entertaining Max Payne clone which we covered in our first article looking at the top iPad shooters.

Anyhow, this is another article in our weekend series looking at some of the best in games which are produced specifically for the iPad (with the occasional iPhone-only game that still looks great in 2X mode). This week, we’re looking at action games, so dive on in for our pick of the best. Think we missed a game? Let us know about it in the comments section!

The Dark Knight Rises (£4.99)

Gameloft's The Dark Knight Rises, the tie-in game to Christopher Nolan's blockbuster film, manages to capture the Batman feel by featuring hard-hitting combat and suitably dark and bleak environments.

You also get plenty of wonderful toys that you can use to combat thugs or navigate Gotham City.

Dungeon Hunter 2 HD (£4.99)

Dungeon Hunter for the iPhone was dubbed a Diablo clone, but the iPad version upped the ante and gave 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 can be picked from – and co-op multiplayer is available, too, should you wish to adventure with friends.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD (£2.99)

The portable version of Rockstar’s hit crime game has appeared on many platforms (Nintendo DS, PSP, iPhone, and iPod touch), but the iPad version is the best mobile incarnation of them 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.

Infinity Blade III (£4.99)

Chair Entertainment's hack and slash franchise has been wildly successful since the original hit game. The third outing features two playable characters, new achievements, and global “clashmob challenges” that let you team up with others to defeat monsters as a group and hopefully grab yourself some rare loot.

Metal Slug 3 (£2.49)

SNK Playmore's classic run-and-gun shooter brings over-the-top gun blasting to Apple's Slate. This game has some control issues – it was originally designed for the powerhouse Neo Geo upright, after all – but if you can look past them, you'll find an excellent action title with lots firepower, tanks, rocket-packs, enemy soldiers, Yetis, and zombies to keep you busy.

Mirror’s Edge (£0.69)

This iPad port of the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC game features slick, 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 – which is 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.

Pitfall! (free)

This reimagined retro title takes elements from the likes of Temple Run and other free-running games, and as such it has a new emphasis on speed. But you can still use your whip to take out classic foes such as the rattlesnake and scorpion.

Ridiculous Fishing: A Tale of Redemption (£1.99)

Ridiculous Fishing's gameplay lives up to its name. You toss your line over the side of a boat to hook as many fish as you can before it's eventually yanked back up to the surface. Once out of the water, the fish are flung into the air – so that you may blast them above the clouds and eventually into space with your weapon of choice. Yup, ridiculous. And great fun, to boot.