The best iPhone games that you can play right now
Fantastic games every iPhone owner should install right now...
Mobile gaming used to be a bit of a joke, a crude scattering of rudimentary time wasters played on glorified pocket calculators. Then the iPhone came along and shook the whole business up for the better - as these best iPhone games prove.
Nowadays some mobile games rival their console and PC cousins for sophistication and depth.
UPDATE: We've added 10 more classics to our list of the best iPhone games, including a bunch we consider all-timers regardless of what platform we're talking about. Lost dozens of hours to Hearthstone or PUBG? Or think you can't beat the smart puzzling of Mini Metro? Give our new additions an upvote below to send them up the ranking.
Of course, there’s also an awful lot of rubbish on the App Store. The rise to prominence of free to play mechanics hasn’t necessarily been good for the industry. But the following titles remain shining beacons of what the iPhone can achieve as a gaming platform.
As a quick side note, we’re not including any of the best Apple Arcade games here, nor will we be diving into Netflix Games.
These two subscription services are such rich provisions in their own right, they both deserve a shortlist of their own...
The best iPhone games
1. Monument Valley 2Download from the App Store
Monument Valley 2 is one of those rare video games that has managed to achieve true breakout success. It’s the kind of title even non-gamers will play, and which ends up being referenced on TV shows and in newspapers.
Part of this success is because of the game’s stunningly unique isometric art style, any screenshot of which would make for a beautiful wallpaper. But it’s also down to Monument Valley 2’s ingenious, twisting, Escher-inspired puzzles and its emotionally rich storyline.
2. Retro GoalDownload from the App Store
Retro Goal is a footballing revelation for your phone. If the beautiful game is part of your life, this is the iPhone game you need. Supremely simple to learn, yet seriously addictive, Retro Goal blends aspects of Football Manager and EA Sports FC (albeit on a much simplified level) wrapped in a nostalgic pixel aesthetic. You’ll deal with mis-behaving players, build the ultimate team, and mazily dribble your star players through defences to score stunning goals.
3. Mini MetroDownload now from the App Store
There are few things we’d rather spend £4 on than Mini Metro. For just slightly more than the cost of a meal deal, this BAFTA-nominated iPhone game delivers relaxing gameplay alongside brain-teasing problem solving by the bucketload. The premise is simple - connect stations with lines to help passengers travel to their desired destination. To start with things are simple as you reimagine the metro networks of London, Paris and New York City, but the challenges soon ramp up as you progress to Seoul, Santiago and beyond.
4. Plague Inc.Download now from the App Store
Imagine a world where a deadly virus is sweeping the globe… too soon? If events of recent years are enough in the past for you, Plague Inc. is an addictive mobile game where you step into the shoes of a humble pathogen with the aim of infecting the global population before scientists can work out how to stop you. Unlock mutations, and new ways to spread and infect to bring the world to its knees. It really is a lot of fun, honest.
5. Vampire SurvivorsDownload from the App Store
If you’ve never heard of Vampire Survivors, you’ve missed out on one of the biggest gaming sensations of recent years. This iPhone version offers the chance to correct that. At first glance, Vampire Survivors looks pretty amateurish, as you guide a crudely drawn pixel-art warrior around an open arena, auto-attacking the enemies that gravitate towards you. Pretty soon, however, you’re locked into a viciously compelling gameplay loop of endless levelling up, heady empowerment, and a frankly ridiculous number of enemies on screen at any one time.
6. RytmosDownload from the App Store
Floppy Club’s Rytmos is the kind of exquisitely stylish isometric puzzler that works so well on iPhone. This one has a particularly funky edge though, in the form of a rhythmic hook. Each abstract puzzle sees you sketching out a path that links together several pegs before completing the loop, but each action contributes to a steadily developing music track of bleeps, bloops, and clacks. The underlying musical themes take in everything from kosmische to Ethiopian jazz, making this the perfect game for thoughtful musos chilling out in between sides A and B.
7. BardcardDownload from the App Store
Everyone loves a game of Pairs, aka Pelmanism, aka the game where you keep turning over two cards from a face-down deck and try to memorise the ones that match. Bardcard takes that game and builds a charming roguelike RPG around it. Forming pairs will get you into deadly fights, award you powerful new weapons, uncover secret rooms, and bring you into contact with mysterious NPCs. It’s a quietly ingenious mish-mash of ideas that results in one of the freshest iPhone games of recent times, despite a resolutely retro aesthetic.
8. ReignsDownload from the App Store
What do you get when you combine a narrative adventure game with Tinder? Wait, no. Not that. Get your mind out of the gutter. You get Reigns and its two sequels, Reigns: Her Majesty and Reigns: Game of Thrones.
The game casts you as the ruler of a fantasy-medieval land, and tasks you with moderating the power of four vying factions. This is where the Tinder part comes into play, as you swipe left or right to make a string of interconnected binary decisions - the kind of decisions that will determine your immediate fate and influence subsequent runs.
9. PUBG MobileDownload now from the App Store
Reckon you’ve got what it takes to defeat 99 other players in a battle royale arena? It’s time to prove it with PUBG Mobile, which quite literally parachutes you into an open battlefield as one of 100, where only one of you can secure ‘winner winner chicken dinner’ (i.e. be the last player standing). Less chaotic than Fortnite, and easier for newbies than Call of Duty, PUBG delivers an excellent balance of fighting and survival.
10. Heads Up!Download now from the App Store
Heads Up! has been around for over a decade, but it’s still one of the best iPhone games. It’s essentially a digital version of the Post-it note party game - hold your phone above your head and your friends shout out prompts for you to guess what word is being shown on your phone’s screen. There’s a wide range of card decks to choose from, and the app also records your friends as they shout out their prompts, giving you hilarious footage to watch back after each round.
11. Paper.io 2Download now from the App Store
If world domination runs through your veins, perhaps calm down a touch and instead download this free iPhone game. Take control of your moving painter block, and look to cover an entire country’s map in your winning shade, but be careful - there are others who have the same ambition. Controls are simple, move your finger to direct your block, but mastering this and taking over the world… well that’s a lot trickier.
12. Mario Kart TourDownload now from the App Store
You can now get your Mario Kart fill on your iPhone, which will be music to the ears of pretty much every Nintendo fan. It may not be the full Mario Kart experience you’ve experienced on Switch, Wii or SNES, but the familiar characters, fabulous course designs and vast range of customisation for karts and players alike will keep you racing again and again. And of course, the expected suite of weapons is also at your fingertips. Just keep an eye out for that blue shell.
13. Dicey DungeonsDownload from the App Store
It’s not unusual for a hit roguelike indie game to make its way from PC and console to mobile. It is unusual for such a game to feel entirely native to iPhone, as Dicey Dungeon does. This delightful game sees you working through a series of randomly arranged turn-based battles, where everything is decided by the roll of the dice. Values obtained by such rolls can be attributed to your character’s unique attacks, and it’s this tactical variety – not to mention a cheeky sense of humour – that gives Dicey Dungeons its endless appeal.
14. InsideDownload now from the App Store
This follow-up to indie hit LIMBO is another atmospheric 2.5D platformer with a deeply disturbing narrative. You play a kid on the run in a hostile world, but this one is all the scarier for being closely aligned to our own. Featuring brilliantly evocative graphics that make expert use of lighting, weighty physics-based puzzles, and a closing stretch that genuinely has to be seen (or rather played) to be believed, this is one of those games that will stick with you well beyond the closing credits.
15. AutomatoysDownload from App Store
Automatoys seeks to replicate the tactile joy of a particular strand of physical tabletop toy from the ’80s. Remarkably, it manages to achieve just that, and then some. Each automatoy is a self-contained 3D obstacle course, through which you must guide your tiny ball via a series of timed button presses. Mazes will rotate, flippers will flick, and bridges will wobble in a delightfully realistic way. Through a combination of stellar presentation, clickety-clack sound design, and fine-tuned haptics, you’ll swear you’re interacting with a toy rather than playing a game.
16. WreckfestDownload from the App Store
Like GRID (see elsewhere on this list), Wreckfest is a fully fledged premium console racing game that’s been brought over to mobile with no compromises. This one’s got a much more down and dirty angle to it, with a focus on scrappy banger racing and outright demolition derbies. It’s flat out automotive chaos all the way, powered by an impressive physics engine. Seeing a dozen cars hurtling around a figure-of-eight track, parts hanging off, at a steady 120fps (on newer devices) isn’t the sort of thing you would usually expect to see on your mobile phone.
17. MoncageDownload from the App Store
Moncage is a unique puzzler that plays with perspective in ingenious ways. Presented with a diorama-like scene held in a magical glass box, you must rotate the screen to align seemingly disparate components that will advance time. It’s like an optical illusion, a hidden object game, and a physics puzzler all rolled into one confounding contraption. Add in some sharp, stylised visuals and a poignant hinted-at narrative, and you have a game that’s worthy of standing with the App Store puzzler greats.
18. Roto ForceDownload from the App Store
Roto Force is a manic shooter indebted to the hardcore ‘bullet hell’ shoot-’em-ups of the ’80s and ’90s, but with a couple of decidedly modern twists. This time your craft is rotating around the perimeters a series of confined rooms, shooting at enemies in the middle and dashing perilously from one side to the other. Throw in a gaudily retrotastic 8-bit art style, slick twin-stick touch controls, a stack of bosses and some meaty weapons to discover, and you have a modern shooter classic.
19. Pocket Run PoolDownload from the App Store
Developer Zach Gage has made a career out of taking a familiar physical game (like chess or solitaire) and applying the kind of ingenious spin that only video games can facilitate. Pocket Run Pool presents a simplified game of top-down pool, then riffs on it to delicious effect. At the heart of this is a rotating set of score multipliers for each pocket, which forces you to take on trickier shots. There’s also a mode that applies crazy modifiers, such as oversized balls or pinball bumpers. It’s the kind of pool game that even non-pool-players can love.
20. Donut CountyDownload from the App Store
Some six years in the making, Donut County is one of the most lovingly crafted, weirdly uplifting, and just plain lovely iPhone games around. It’s all about hoovering up everyday objects using a roving hole, which in turn expands to allow you to swallow up even bigger objects. And people. And houses.
Each level is a virtual playlet of unexpected chain reactions and delightful Easter eggs. Stitching all of it together is a charmingly written story all about mischievous racoons and wanton gentrification. Like we said, it’s weird.
21. HearthstoneDownload now from the App Store
One of the biggest mobile card games in the world, Hearthstone pulls you into a powerfully competitive battle environment from 1v1 all the way to eight player showdowns. Collect cards, craft the ultimate deck and lay waste to the competition. Gameplay is - at least on the surface - straight forward, as you look to topple your opponent in a game of top trumps, but you’ll quickly realise there’s an awful lot more to collecting cards than first meets the eye.
22. Monopoly Go!Download now from the App Store
Nothing says “family" more than arguing over the correct rules for Monopoly. Thankfully, with Monopoly Go! you can get your fill of the iconic board game without having to negotiate a peace treaty between your brother and nan. The iPhone game incorporates the famous board into a wider world where you can team up with (or actively work against) friends and family to collect properties, build houses (and hotels), earn money, play mini games, and destroy other players. Delicious.
23. Rocket League SideswipeDownload now from the App Store
The car-football game originally exploded on console and PC, but now you can experience the fast-paced footy frenzy in the palm of your hand. It may be a slightly simplified version streamlined for iPhone, but the competition is no less ferocious. You can still customise your car, there’s a choice of game modes, and with each match lasting two minutes it’s easy to squeeze one in when you find yourself with a few minutes to spare.
24. Threes!Download from the App Store
Threes! is a true App Store legend, having ushered in a whole new sub-genre of mobile puzzlers - not to mention a fair few inferior clones. The idea is to swipe on a 4x4 grid to squish together adjacent identical numbers, then do the same with the doubled up results.
Repeat until the numbers grow too monstrous (quite literally, given the art style) to match. Then start the whole thing all over again. Few iPhone games have aged as gracefully as Threes!
25. Super Mario RunDownload from the App Store
Super Mario Run hasn’t been the most successful of Nintendo’s mobile games to date. Thanks to a divisive premium pricing system, it famously fell short of the company’s expectations. But we’d argue that Nintendo’s first mobile game remains its best.
The Japanese console giant has somehow managed to distil the pure essence of Mario into a bite-sized mobile format. While there are plenty of one-finger auto-running platformers out there, none play with as much depth or tactile joy as Nintendo’s effort.
26. Clash RoyaleDownload from the App Store
It’s difficult to overstate the impact Clash Royale made when it landed on the App Store in 2016. Here was a game that took the core ingredients of the popular MOBA genre (essentially small-scale online real time strategy scraps) and made it accessible to a more casual mobile crowd.
It does this by adding card battler and tower defence elements, which make it way more intuitive to send out your units to run the lanes and topple your opponent’s castle.
27. GRID AutosportDownload from the App Store
There are a few games on the App Store that feel like console racers. But GRID Autosport actually is a console racer. It’s literally the same GRID Autosport launched on console and PC in 2014.
And what a racer that is, with stunningly advanced graphics and accurate driving physics that stand up to this day, as well as 100 cars and as many circuits to unlock. You’ll pay a premium price for GRID Autosport, but then it’s every inch the premium game.
28. Guns of BoomDownload from the App Store
Call of Duty Mobile might be attracting all of the attention right now, but for our money Guns of Boom is the better mobile-focused online shooter. From its super-clean visual style to its nigh-on perfect controls and gunplay, this is the most natural-feeling FPS on mobile.
Guns of Boom hits that sweet spot between easy accessibility and skill, meaning you always feel victory is in your hands. The developer continues to support the game with fresh content several years into its life, too.
29. Card CrawlDownload from the App Store
If you still associate Solitaire video games with Microsoft Windows, Card Crawl will come as a revelation. It takes the basic premise of sorting a pack of cards and melds it with RPG mechanics.
There are cards that act as defensive shields and weapons, enemy cards that need to be attacked or defended against with said tools, and special-use cards that do all manner of weird and wonderful things. It all makes for an immensely absorbing Solitaire experience.
30. VaingloryDownload from the App Store
There had been several attempts to bring the multiplayer online battle arena (or MOBA) genre to mobile prior to Vainglory. But none quite managed to nail the formula until developer Super Evil Megacorp stepped into the ring.
So popular was this mash-up of real time strategy and action-RPG that it became a massive hit in the world of eSports. It remains a finely balanced, technically lavish and strategically satisfying online mobile game to this day. And you can now even play against PC and Mac players.
Additional reporting by John McCann
- Next, check out our shortlist of the best Apple Arcade games