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The best arcade 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.

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. (Also see our articles covering the best iPad action games and the top adventure games).

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 arcade 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!

Angry Birds Space (£0.69)

Rovio Mobile's Angry Birds Space, the fourth instalment of the mega-popular bird-slinging franchise, is still one of our favourite games. 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.

Bit.Trip Beat HD (£0.69)

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 whence they came. Successfully chain beats and obtain the megasphere to get big scores.

Fruit Ninja HD (£1.99)

Apples, bananas, and other assorted fruit feel your wrath in Halfbrick Studios' classic slice 'em and dice 'em title. Fruit Ninja HD features eight-finger support, worldwide leaderboards, and the addictive fruit-slicing gameplay that made it a smash hit on multiple platforms. It's an oldie, but still much fun to play.

Jetpack Joyride (free)

Halfbrick hero Barry Steakfries dons the legendary Machine Gun Jetpack 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 (£1.49)

Pro Zombie Soccer combines sports, wacky power-ups, and cartoon-like 2D graphics in 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 (£0.69)

Robot Unicorn Attack HD began its life as a simple Flash game on, 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."

Pac-Man (£1.99)

Namco Bandai's classic dot-munching title that took video games out of the basement and into the mainstream (and inspired a hideous pop song) graces the iPad with its simple but addictive gameplay. It's the game that you know and love, but with new iPad-specific navigation that lets you control the little yellow guy using swipes, the virtual d-pad, or the accelerometer.

Pinball Arcade (£0.69)

FarSight Studios' Pinball Arcade is an addictive game that exquisitely recreates the look, and to a certain extent the feel, of classic, trademarked pinball tables. The thoughtful detail in each leaderboard is really impressive. Connect online to play in tournaments or go head-to-head with your friends.

Road Blaster HD (£2.99)

Remember Dragon's Lair, the early 80s laserdisc game featuring insane Don Bluth animation? One of its sons is Road Blaster, Data East's take on the interactive animated game. Featuring artwork by Toei Animation – the Japanese studio behind Captain Harlock, Fist of the North Star, Voltron, and other classics – Road Blaster puts you behind the wheel of a high-powered vehicle as you pursue thugs by tapping the screen at specific moments to ram cars, dodge pedestrians, and more.

Temple Run 2 (free)

Temple Run 2 isn't radically different from the original – it feels very much like a 1.5 release – but it's hard not to recommend the title to fans of the original. It's fast, frantic, and free, which are the elements that made Temple Run 2 another smash success, just like its predecessor.

Zen Pinball (free)

The Pinball Arcade (above) specialises in delivering stunning recreations of classic tables, but Zen Pinball serves up original tables that are often based on licensed properties. The free download includes a single table, but in-app purchases (priced at £1.49 or less in some cases) open the door to Captain America, The Fantastic Four, Thor, Wolverine, and other Marvel Comics-based machines that feature realistic ball physics.