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The best strategy, RPG and world building 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 – which we looked at here.

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 the last 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). Previously, we've looked at the top iPad action games, arcade games, and adventure games – so be sure to stop by and browse those articles.

In this final instalment, we're looking at strategy, RPG and world building 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!

Battleheart (£1.99)

It's an oldie, but it's still 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 via an intuitive multi-touch control scheme.

Crimson Steam Pirates (free)

Crimson Steam Pirates blends steampunk and pirate motifs in a strategy game involving battles and plundering that takes place above, below, and on the high seas. You navigate toward goals by tracing routes with your finger, while avoiding obstacles and destroying opposing vessels.

Eternal Legacy HD (£2.99)

A world in danger? Check. An emo protagonist? Check. Spiky hair? Check. Big swords? 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.

Kingdom Rush HD (£1.99)

Armor Games' smash title may very well be the best tower defence game in the App Store. The game features varied maps that range from forests to wastelands, over 30 cartoony fantasy-based enemies, numerous tower abilities, and incredible boss fights. If you're a fan of the genre, you must own this game.

Minecraft – Pocket Edition (£4.99)

Fans of Mojang'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 hardcore modes are more game-like than creative mode, which is all about giving the player complete freedom of invention.

Plants vs Zombies 2 (free)

Propelling the eternal battle between flora and the undead into the past, Plants vs Zombies 2 builds on its predecessor – but not in ways all casual gamers will appreciate. The game's now free-to-play, and the constant plea for money dulls the experience a bit.

Order and Chaos Online (£4.99)

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.

Silversword (£1.49)

Silversword is a perfect replica of a (non-existent) hit game of the late 1980s, designed perfectly for the iPad. It's hours of fun for anyone who was a fan of Ultima, Bard's Tale, or Wizardry. But it's the excellent support and updates from Silversword's passionate creator that make this a fave of ours, and an example of what a mobile app should be on the iPad.

The Sims FreePlay (free)

Electronic Arts has gave The Sims a free-to-play makeover with The Sims FreePlay. As the name suggests, Sims FreePlay lets gamers create, customise, and care for Sims without opening their wallets. Optional in-app purchases let you add life points, household goods, fashion packs and more.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out (free)

The Simpsons: Tapped Out is fun, despite being a mobile game filled with in-app purchases. So what makes the game work? Tapped Out has Sim City-like gameplay, high quality production values, and a heavy dose of self-aware hilarity that will keep you coming back for more. Your goal is to rebuild Springfield after a nuclear meltdown wipes the town off the map. Cameos by Springfield's colourful cast of characters keeps things lively.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (£13.99)

2K Games successfully ported its hit PC and console turn-based strategy game to Apple's mobile platform, and it loses very little in translation. In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you take control of the Extra-terrestrial Combat Unit (XCOM for short), which is tasked with defending the Earth from an alien threat. XCOM: Enemy Unknown has some relatively minor graphics and control issues, but overall it's an excellent paramilitary sci-fi title for those with strategy leanings.