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The 25 Best iPhone Games

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The 25 Best iPhone Games

When we started thinking about the best iPhone games, we were surprised to realize that the iPhone is almost nine years old. We’re just about a year away from celebrating a solid decade of finding new ways to connect to people who live far away, while ignoring people sitting directly across the table from us. The iPhone has been a crucial driver in game development over the last nine years, introducing videogames to a broad new audience while providing designers with new tools and opportunities to explore. Paste has been there the whole time, covering the growth of iPhone gaming and the rise of the touch-screen interface. We’ve gone back over those nine years to find 25 games that perfectly sum up the breadth of iPhone gaming, from quick burst pick-up-and-play time killers, to visual novels, to unexpectedly thought-provoking celebrity tie-ins, to arty explorations that question what it means to be a game. We’ve only considered games that were originally conceived for devices like the iPhone, and that weren’t ported from other systems or based on preexisting boardgames. (Yes, Superbrothers came out for the iPad first, but we’ll let that one slide, as it only took a month to pop up on Apple’s smaller screen.) And to wrap it all up, we ranked them in no particular order. This isn’t a countdown, but an overview of what iPhone gaming has meant over the last nine years.

Threes

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Threes is an elegant finger-slider for the discriminating player. The goal is to combine tiles on a four by four grid by sliding them into other tiles with the same numbers on them. Two threes combine to form a six, two sixes form a 12, and so on. You don’t slide individual tiles or rows, though—you slide every tile on the board in the same direction whenever you swipe. The game starts with nine tiles on the board, and a new one appears every time you swipe. Once the board is full and there are no possible combinations left, the game ends and your score is calculated. It might look complicated in words, but it’s a simple concept with a surprising amount of personality.—Garrett Martin


Year Walk

You’ll get lost really quickly in Simogo’s sinister Year Walk—which makes it that much creepier when you stumble across one of the game’s many eerie puzzles and frightening creatures. I can’t remember the last time a game gave me the intense feeling of being completely lost and alone the way Year Walk does.—Luke Larsen


Downwell

Downwell is a crunchy, rapid-fire “Spelunky-like” (are we at that point already? Are we prepared to start describing games as “Spelunky-likes”?) but, instead of side-scrolling, Downwell occurs vertically, in a procedurally-generated dungeon that the player falls down through. The player’s sprite will often fall right past powerups, enemies, and treasure rooms, making the game wonderfully frenetic torture. Fortunately, the player is equipped with a pair of goddamn gun-boots—making you, the player, feel incredibly powerful for every second you’re not staring in shock at the Game Over screen. —Jenn Frank


Jetpack Joyride

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Videogames used to exist solely to suck up every quarter of our baby-sitting and paper route money. They offered short bursts of play with a goal no greater than making the high score board. Mobile games often share the same sensibility today, and Jetpack Joyride fulfills its end of that bargain better than most games. Few games stunned me more with “just one more time” paralysis than this infectious one-finger pursuit. No matter how far I fly with that jetpack (or dirtbike, or mechanical dragon) it will never be far enough.—Garrett Martin


Hitman Go

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Hitman Go transposes Hitman to the context of a board game, and in doing so makes every aspect it touches smarter. Guns and weapons are no longer tools of reckless aggression, but board tactics for puzzle solving and path opening, used only in careful consideration of cutting through the ranks of the other player’s men. People have always been pieces, and Hitman has always been about manipulating them to accomplish a grisly deed. Go focuses more on the former than the latter, to the effect of not burying itself in needless pulp.—Matt Akers


Drop7

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Drop7 was an early and essentially perfect puzzle game for the iPhone. The interface is slick and uncluttered, the controls are dependent on nothing but a slide of the finger, and the rules are immediately understandable. It’s not easy, though, offering up the kind of constantly escalating challenge you expect from classic puzzle games. It’s been seven years since Drop7 came out and it’s still the best example of this type of game for this type of device.—Garrett Martin


80 Days

Not only is 80 Days a near-perfect travel game, but it’s also a near-perfect game about traveling. Think Jules Verne meets a visual novel meets Oregon Trail and that should put you somewhere in the right neighborhood. On top of being beautifully illustrated this is also easily one of the most well-written games available on the App Store. The downside? If reading while you’re in a car (bus, plane, train…) often makes you nauseous, 80 Days should be the absolute last thing you reach for.—Janine Hawkins


Love Live: School Idol Festival

If you have access to a Japanese iTunes account, you might already be familiar with the vast world of “idol games.” Half collectable card games, half rhythm games, Idol Games are a slightly creepy offshoot of the Anime Industrial Complex. But if you’re just looking for a fun and challenging rhythm game you can play on the bus you can’t really go wrong with Love Live: School Idol Festival. Packed to the brim with personality, Love Live just wants you to collect and get to know these teenage girls, (yes I know how that sounds), but it really wouldn’t mind if you spend money on its many currencies. But no matter how exploited I feel, I’ll still fire up the game whenever there’s an event going on or a new SSR card to collect. I just really love those girls.—Gita Jackson


Alto’s Adventure

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Consider this like Canabalt with snowboarding, llamas, breathtaking mountain vistas, a day-night cycle, and cranky old people who will toss your ass down a hillside if you disturb them. So maybe not much like Canabalt after all.—Janine Hawkins


Ridiculous Fishing

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Ridiculous Fishing is a story about a man’s attempt at becoming one with nature in an attempt to settle a personal vendetta against the ocean. It is a story about a world that exchanges fish that have been liquified by gunfire for surprisingly large amounts of cash. It is a story about birds making fun of each other on the internet. Ultimately, and in a pretty roundabout way, it is a story about coming to terms with the infinite.—Joe Bernardi

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