The iPhone and iPad have become insanely powerful devices, with new A-series chips delivering even faster performance every year. That means mobile gaming keeps getting better and better, and 2018 had more than its fair share of groundbreaking releases.
Here’s our roundup of the best games from the past year, which features smash hits like Fortnite, as well as some lesser-known titles that every mobile gamer has to try.
Mobile gaming reached new heights when Apple started developing its own chipsets for iOS. We certainly had plenty of games before then, but with the release of the A4 processor in 2010, we could finally carry console-quality titles in our pockets.
Every year, as the iPhone and iPad have gotten more powerful, game developers have continued to push the boundaries of what’s possible on smartphones and tablets. And 2018 was significant in that it brought real console and PC games to iOS for the first time.
It started with the release of Fortnite — but that wasn’t the only game that impressed us this year.
2018’s best iOS games
Fortnite needs no introduction. It has been a staggering success over the past year, thanks to its unique and entertaining take on the rising battle royale genre. The game’s arrival on iOS in the spring was a sweet surprise for mobile gamers.
What’s great about Fortnite Battle Royale on iOS is that it delivers exactly the same experience as the console and PC versions. It hasn’t been watered-down at all; you play on the same map in the same game mode with all the same weapons and equipment. You can even team up with friends on other devices.
Fortnite is playable on the iPhone SE and later, and even supports 60 frames-per-second on Apple’s latest devices. It’s also completely free to play — there’s no need to cough up a penny if you don’t want to.
For a more traditional (and more realistic) battle royale game, there’s PUBG Mobile. Just like Fortnite, it offers the same experience as the console and PC versions, with impressive visuals and exciting gameplay.
PUBG also offers multiple maps, realistic weapons, and a slew of vehicles to help you get around. You can play solo or team up with friends on iPhone SE or later, and it’s completely free if you avoid the extra (and unnecessary) skins.
Download: PUBG Mobile
After a lengthy wait, popular construction simulator Tropico finally arrived on iPad this month — and it’s just as glorious as fans hoped it would be.
You play the newly-elected leader, “El Presidente,” whose mission is to provide the residents of Tropico with a better future. The island boasts ample untapped resources and enormous potential, but it’s underdeveloped and in desperate need of modernization.
The opportunities are endless, and there are countless hours of fun to be had — but you’ll need a fifth-generation iPad or later to enjoy it.
Pokémon quest is a unique and entertaining take on one of Nintendo’s best and most successful franchises. It’s not the experience you’re used to, but it’s still a must-have for fans of the original Pokémon RPGs.
Your mission is to travel the lands with your team of pocket monsters and do battle to uncover hidden items. Some of those items will help make your Pokémon stronger, while others are used for cooking dishes that will attract other creatures to your camp.
After completing all levels in a certain area, you will also be rewarded with camp decorations, each of which has its advantages, such as increasing the number of items you earn during battle.
Pokémon Quest is completely free to play, and although there are in-app purchases for additional items, they’re completely optional, and you don’t need them to progress or have fun.
Download: Pokémon Quest
Alto’s Odyssey is the much-anticipated follow-up to the beloved and award-winning Alto’s Adventure. It delivers a similar experience, but with stunning new biomes, fancy weather effects, and all-new gameplay mechanics.
Odyssey is a great time-waster that you can pick up and play at anytime — even if you have only 10 minutes to spare. It’s easy to learn and incredibly addictive, boasts an original and mesmerizing soundtrack, and also works on Apple TV.
If you enjoyed Alto’s Adventure, you’ll love this game — but you don’t have to have played one to enjoy the other.
Download: Alto’s Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed Rebellion
Assassin’s Creed Rebellion is a free-to-play strategy RPG in which players assemble a Brotherhood of powerful assassins to fight back against the Templars and the oppression in Spain.
As your Brotherhood grows, your fortress will expand and you’ll have the ability to improve your assassins’ skills, craft new equipment, and create new medicines. There are more than 40 characters to choose from, including legendaries and some brand new to the Assassin’s Creed series — plus limited-time events and premium access if you want it.
Rebellion is one of the first titles to take advantage of the extra powered offered by Apple’s latest A12X chip in the new iPad Pro lineup — and it looks spectacular — but it can be played on earlier iOS devices, too.
Download: Assassin’s Creed Rebellion
Brawl Stars is the newest game from the creators of Clash of Clans, and it has been getting rave reviews since making its debut on iOS earlier this month.
This fast-paced battle game lets you play solo or in teams as you fight to be the first to collect 10 gems and win the match. It also boasts its own take on battle royale, in which you play to be the last alive, and a number of other action-packed modes.
Brawl Stars is incredibly entertaining and highly addictive, with dozens of brawlers to choose from, upgrades and abilities to unlock, and limited-time special events. It’s also free to play.
Download: Brawl Stars
The Sims Mobile
The Sims returned to iOS earlier this year in their biggest and best mobile game yet. The Sims Mobile lets you create and customize your world with more detail than ever before, with careers, friends, and romantic relationships to explore.
If you’re a Sims fan, that’s really all you need to know. You’ll love having a true Sims experience in your pocket that you can enjoy anytime, anywhere. And if you’re new to the franchise, this is a great place to start, with just enough to keep you interested without being overwhelming.
Download: The Sims Mobile
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
Nintendo keeps killing it with its mobile games, so it’s probably no surprise to see Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on this list.
Pocket Camp puts players in control of their very own campsite, which you’ll decorate with items you’ve crafted yourself. The fancier you make your camp, the more animals you’ll attract, and the more adventures you’ll enjoy.
This might be a mobile game, but it offers countless hours of fun, and a staggering list of items to craft and collect. You will also enjoy staple Animal Crossing experiences like bug catching, fishing, and fruit gathering.
Download: Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp