Hundreds of iPhone games get released each year on the App Store, and though some are quickly forgotten, others stay with us for a long time.
But what about 2015? This year brought us plenty of hits and numerous misses, but we’ve cut through the clutter to showcase a handful of sensational titles that do their genres proud.
Whether you want a shooter, a puzzler, or a racer that will keep you playing it long through 2016, the games on this list are examples of the excellence that can be found on the App Store. They surprise us, touch us, make us laugh, and ultimately deserve a long-term spot on your iPhone or iPad.
Alphabear is an adorable word game that offers you challenging boards that require you to use the letters on your screen to spell words and meet specific requirements. What makes this word game so special is that you can take collect cuddly teddy bears and take them with you on each game to gain bonuses, extra points, and even more letters. What’s more, with each board you finish, you’ll get a silly ad lib featuring your bear and the words you spelled. These bears are not only cute but resourceful too.
Tales from the Borderlands (episodes 2-5) ($14.99/£10.99/AU$22.99)
What truly sets Tales from the Borderlands apart from other games is its impressive writing and witty lines that make the story of a few unexpected friends come alive as they set out on a trip through the barren planet of Pandora. Familiar Borderlands characters and locations make an appearance in this point and click game, and your choices aren’t simply there for comedic effect – they can really change how your story plays out. Sit back and enjoy an engaging story and enjoy a few laughs while you’re at it.
The art of bonsai is a meditative experience, so if you mix in some puzzle elements and a simplistic yet elegant art style, you are bound to get a game unlike any other. Prune will relax you as you solve its puzzles that require you to trim a tree and let it grow tall enough to blossom. Growing challenges like a toxic sun or other environmental obstacles will leave you scratching your head in a good way as you attempt to help your tree flourish under adversity, perhaps even as a metaphor of life.
Implosion ($9.99/ £7.99/AU$14.99)
Never come back to Earth, he was told – but Jake, on the verge of landing on what seems to be a barren planet, didn’t listen. Implosion’s opening scenes set the stage to what is an impressive hack and slash title that’s dynamic, visually stimulating, and easy-to-control. Your goal in each of its bite sized missions is to reach your destination, but getting there is always different and makes for a surprisingly fresh experience. Levels will leave you in awe, and however you play it, we know you’ll enjoy the ride.
Fallout Shelter (free)
What was released as a game to appease people in anticipation for Fallout 4 has grown into a formidable strategy game that rivals others out there. What sets Fallout Shelter apart is its simplistic gameplay that doesn’t monetize the experience but instead makes you think under pressure to farm the resources you need when you need them. Assign your dwellers to the right jobs, and you may never need to worry about a thing. And as any good overseer knows, the success of a vault and its residents depend on your actions.
Guitar Hero Live (free)
Rebooting the franchise in a big way, Guitar Hero Live lets you turn into a rock star right on your phone and tap the screen to the beat of many popular hits either offline or against the world. If you’d prefer, you can also go all out and use its optional guitar controller and master hundreds of tracks that are sure to put your fingers in a dizzy. Its impressive music library will keep you entertained for days and its dynamic audience is sure to let you know how you’re doing. No pressure, but don’t mess up or you’ll get booed.
Chaos Rings III ($19.99/£14.99/AU$30.99)
A good RPG should make you invested in its story and compel you to spend hours of your time exploring its world, leveling up your characters, and enjoying all its intricacies. Chaos Rings III is one such adventure that does all that and then some. Featuring a unique narrative that follows a group of mismatched heroes, this expansive game will take you to a mysterious planet where everyone hopes to travel to so that their wishes may be granted. Exciting battles, beautiful backdrops, and an alluring soundtrack are all part of that majestic journey.
There’s a lot of nostalgia at play in the pixelated beauty that is PixWing, but even those who have never played a 16 bit game before are sure to appreciate its subtle touches that truly make this game a joy to see and experience. What’s more, its gyro controls turn your whole body into a controller so you can let the game track how many calories you burn while flying. Regardless of how you play, its colorful worlds and intricate missions within each one are sure to leave you in awe of their simplistic splendor.
I Am Bread ($.99/£.79/AU$.99)
I Am Bread is a unique game that does an amazing job representing what it would feel like to move as a piece of bread. You don’t have any limbs so you’ll need to rely on throwing yourself and folding your corners in just a way that propels you forward on your quest to get toasted. Find a toaster or any item that may get you nice and toasty but be sure to avoid hitting the ground or rolling over icky areas that may tarnish your glutinous appeal. A dirty piece of bread is a no-no, but this platformer is a delicious taste of the bizarre.
Lara Croft GO ($1.99/£1.49/AU$2.99)
An elegant puzzle adventure featuring everyone’s favorite tomb raider, Lara Croft GOshowcases that even a seasoned star can shine in a game that’s very unlike anything she’s been in before. Yes, you’re still exploring caves and discovering lost relics on your quest for the big treasure, but you’ll also need to use logic and decide which path will lead you to success rather than your ultimate demise. Its gorgeous art style, too, provides a pleasing backdrop to a game that’s quite bold, smart, and relaxing.
Horizon Chase ($2.99/£2.29/AU$4.49)
Horizon Chase is an amazing example of how a stylish racer can borrow from past games and produce an experience that’s both appealing to play as it is to behold. A silky smooth soundtrack and some eye-popping visuals will accompany you as you drive around the world on sidewinding tracks and courses with enough of a difficulty curve to quench anyone’s thirst for speed. Your opponents are no pushovers either, and with enough collectibles to keep you busy, this is one game you’ll be racing back to every time you take a break.
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions ($9.99/£7.99/AU$14.99)
Just like its console counterpart, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions brings fireworks of color to your screen with each geometric shape you shoot down. This simple yet effective twin-stick shooter is sure to test your quick thinking skills with its array of levels, modes, and score requirements ensuring you do more than just gawk at its sleek visuals and get mesmerized by its catchy sounds. Keep your finger on the trigger as enemies will come at your from all sides and impressive boss battles will test your quick-thinking skills. It’s fast, frenetic, and just plain fun.