I should warn you now, the iOS version of Shin Megami Tensei is perhaps the most bewildering game you’ll play on your phone. The game world is unforgivingly nondescript, and you navigate it in first person. It’s very easy to get lost indoors and bypass important people and doors until you get the hang of navigating. I recommend you pause briefly before entering any room to see if a nameplate appears — otherwise you’ll be running in circles. Also, Atlus’ strange control panel shell for SMT is a little unwieldy. I played in landscape mode in order to take screenshots, but I highly recommend playing in portrait mode as the interface buttons are smaller, easier to reach, and not covering the game screen.
Shin Megami Tensei by Atlus Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: $7.99
You start off in the midst of a terrifying dream where spirits are being tormented by demons. You rescue your future teammates by saying their names, which breaks the demons’ hold. And suddenly, you wake up. A ghastly murder in a parking lot has set your bustling city on edge and a weird man named Steven is constantly sending you information about a demon summoning program. Yet your mother still wants you to go out and get coffee.
Alright, so the Iron Man-shaped hero in Robo Nativity is totally not licensed. I was unsure if he was supposed to be more like Mega Man until a helpful prompt informed me that for a minimal fee I could also play as War Machine. So, you’re definitely playing as Iron Man in this curiously named platformer-meets-endless runner.
Robo Nativity by Khary Menelik Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: Free
You start off running along the ground beneath various platforms. Enemies and obstacles require you to jump and fire as you collect as many gold coins as you can. As far as this being a nativity, you won’t encounter any babes in mangers, but the Mandarin-like baddies this not-Iron Man shoots do look a bit like wise men. So, don’t look for any new religions in Robo Nativity, unless you are way into the idea that Tony Stark is the messiah (I kinda am).
Jelly King ambitiously introduces himself as the king of all jellies…but that’s not quite true. Before he can take his rightful place as gelatinous royalty, he has to bounce his way through a harrowing adventure to collect diamond shards. No problem, right?
Jelly King by SmartStudy Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone/iPad Price: Free
Jelly King is the kind of platformer that works well on mobile devices. In his excitement, the jelly you control is constantly bouncing. All you have to do is guide him left or right as you clear obstacles or pick up powerups. Jelly King bounces a certain distance each time you move, so the challenge is to anticipate future moves based off of where you start. If you’re too far away from the edge when Jelly jumps over a gap he might clear the first obstacle, but swiftly fall off the next.
Dungeon Keeper on iOS is a free-to-play re-imagining of the classic Bullfrog Productions/Peter Molyneux PC game from the late ’90s. I really loved old school Dungeon Keeper as a kid, and it is one of the few tower defense/strategy titles I’ve ever enjoyed. So, no pressure on this iOS version, right?
Dungeon Keeper by Electronic Arts Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: Free
Unfortunately, the mobile version of Dungeon Keeper suffers from very predictable free-to-play problems. Expanding your dungeon was never totally carefree in previous version of the game, but as your imps work to clear out 3×3 or 4×4 spaces for new rooms, they’ll quickly plow through soft rock which takes a matter of seconds but suddenly run up against walls that can take an entire day to knock down! So the breakdown is a few seconds, four hours, or 24 hours. That’s not well balanced at start.
Darwin’s Theory is a simplistic match-three puzzle game charging you with the task of evolving insects into lizards (yes). You start off with a grid of caterpillars and snails. Each turn you can put different animals down on the grid, with the hope of matching three of them up. Of course that would be just too easy on its own.
Darwin’s Theory by Viacheslav Fonderkin Category: iOS Games Works With: iPad Price: Free
You’ll also have to contend with the only moving characters on the board, or the bacteria. Once you trap them in a square, they’ll turn into berries. And somehow, those berries turn into oysters. Seriously, I don’t know. Darwin’s made of magic.
Infinite runners are called infinite because they continue indefinitely. This is a fact, and one completely lost to the developers of Joe Danger Infinity. In this side-scrolling “racing” game, you tap the screen as Joe charges along any of the 100 toy stunt tracks provided.
You can unlock new bikes (or rockets) through the coins you collect in each stage or through micro-transactions, and generally you’re competing against other players to get the highest score.
Joe Danger Infinity by Hello Games Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: $0.99
That’s if you can figure out how to score more than a few hundred points at any time.
Touchscreens and platformers just don’t mix most of the time. Lots of developers try to make platformers for mobile devices, of course, and will continue to as long as our collective nostalgia for Mega Man and Super Mario Bros. remains. UsagiMan is a creative spin on Mega Man-like platforming that compensates for less-responsive touch controls by sprinkling in a little web-slinging.
UsagiMan by Shogo Suzuki Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: Free
UsagiMan is a rabbit-shaped hero bounding through levels overflowing with high ledges and murderbots. Rather than ducking down to avoid enemy fire and carefully maneuvering over precarious platforms, UsagiMan flings himself across the screen via a Spider-Man-like grappling hook. Players can also attack enemies by furiously tapping them, which sends the hook out in rapid bursts.
I went into Ark Saver expecting it to flounder about like the Noah’s Ark mini game in Bible Adventures on NES. I’m incredibly surprised that it is not only playable but pretty addictive.
Ark Saver by Ignacio Bononi Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: Free
The goal in Ark Saver is to match the next animal in a long line with its pair as quickly as you can. Each level gives you 30 seconds to pair 50 or more sets, and each level introduces more creatures to match. To get the highest score, you’ll need to maintain a combo streak that breaks every time you tap the wrong picture. Luckily, the only harm breaking a combo repeatedly has is decreasing your overall score.
I love games like Canabalt, even though a world of tricky endless runners flowed from that simple endless platformer’s success. Last Bunny takes the Canabalt style and introduces tilt controls along with jumping to give you more control over the fearless rabbit bounding over buildings.
Last Bunny by Ultrapped Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone Price: Free
You play as, well, the last adorable bunny in a world overrun by those grumpy stone blocks from Super Mario Bros. games and missiles. You jump from building to building trying to avoid bombs and pitfalls. Unlike Canabalt, you have control over the speed at which the bunny runs. By tilting your phone to the right or left, you can increase or decrease his movement to make jumping more precise. This is very helpful when blocks fall just outside the rabbit’s jump distance which will ultimately lead you to running into them unless you’re moving at a slower speed.
The Apache helicopter in Apache Candy is more like a friend to Jay Jay the Jet Plane than a fierce combat copter. He’s the little pink and purple avenger that could, and all he wants is to collect candy.
Apache Candy: Battle of Candy World by Rusdi Rozak Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone, iPad Price: Free
Apache Candy is another infinite side-scrolling shooter on iOS, but the cheery graphics are what drew me to it. It reminds me of the retro game Twinbee and other cute-em-up shooters that have you blasting your way through screen after screen of adorable-yet-lethal enemies. Apache Candy is nowhere near as deep–you’re really only collecting candy and trying not to die–but the look was enough to satisfy.