iPhone Gaming

With over 8000 games on the iPhone, we decided to see what gems we could find.

Mobile gaming has long been the redheaded stepchild of the gaming industry. Considering how there hasn’t really been a star-studded lineup of amazingly popular and successful mobile games, for a long time, mobile gaming came down to a choice between Snake or Solitaire. To be fair, cell phone gaming had a lot going against it. Multiple cell phone carriers, hundreds of handsets, differing chipsets, and no common point of purchase fragmented the market into hundreds of pieces. Tiny, low-resolution screens and a keypad meant for dialing phone numbers certainly didn't help the cause.

The iPhone's arrival changed everything. Calling the iPhone's App Store a success is an understatement. In just under nine months, Apple is close to announcing more than one billion downloads, with the total application count rising every day. According to the mobile analytics company Mobclix, there are almost 37,000 applications in total and more than 8,000 games currently available for the iPhone.

iPhone 3G iPod Touch

Unlike other cell phones, the iPhone has a lot of big advantages. The clout of Apple's iTunes install base certainly doesn't hurt it. Many customers are already familiar with the platform and comfortable purchasing music and videos through it. Adding the App Store to iTunes opened up one more avenue that customers could now travel. Low price points and free trials for applications definitely encourage users to experiment and purchase. Apple also made application installation on the iPhone very easy. After finding a game, you're no more than two button presses from having it automatically load onto the phone. It also doesn't hurt that anyone with an iPod Touch can join in the fun.

On the development side, the barrier to entry on the iPhone is absurdly minuscule: $100 gets you in the door and running with Apple's iPhone developer kit. Anyone with some spare time and a computer can effectively make applications for the iPhone. Independent developers like Ethan Nichols, who made the tremendously popular iShoot, have a better than usual shot at success. That's not to say that big companies haven't gotten in on the action. Heavy hitters like EA and even Kojima Productions already have games on the iPhone. Both companies released games based on existing franchises like Metal Gear Solid, Spore, and SimCity.

An added benefit of a totally digital distribution model and games made by individual developers, and companies alike, is responsiveness. Many gamers have left comments and found that their changes were later incorporated into the game. Tons of games have gotten better after their initial release, and quite a few get additional features like extra levels tacked on as time goes by.

With such a large base of applications, the App Store has had its fair share of growing pains, but it has chugged along this far without the wheels completely falling off. Before March, browsing the App Store through iTunes was akin to surfing the Web with a dial-up modem. Finding good applications without knowing the name continues to be difficult. Sorting apps by rating has yet to appear, and review sites struggle to keep up with the pace of development. In spite of whatever problems Apple has with the setup, the App Store continues to be the best game in town by a wide margin.

The Games

With more than 8,000 games in the App Store, you'll find games from just about every genre: puzzle, arcade, action, casual, educational, board, strategy, simulation, word, sports, trivia, adventure, role playing and more. Looking a little deeper, according to Mobclix, a little over 2,000 titles are free, which generally means they are trial versions of existing titles. Within the remaining 6,000 titles, almost 2,000 of them classify as puzzle games. A further 1,300 a piece fall into the arcade and action categories. The remaining 1,400 split between the other genres.

Control schemes on the iPhone make use of both the accelerometers and infinitely configurable touch screen. Some games make use of basic tilt functions and others incorporate virtual D pads and buttons. Between the thousands of games out there, chances are good that we haven't seen everything yet. The large high-resolution screen and hardware powerful enough to run 3D graphics give the iPhone visuals that one up the Nintendo DS, and at times rival the Sony PSP. Many games also make use of the built-in Wi-Fi and data plan to provide multiplayer gameplay. We've also seen a few games take advantage of the GPS unit within the iPhone.

But even with all this variety, you're going to have to wade through a whole lot of junk. As of right now, finding the best games will take some work. Click on the wrong link and you'll be left staring at a gigantic list of Sudoku clones. And yes, there's a clone of just about everything. Some "games" barely classify as games at all. In a manner of speaking, the App Store is about as “Wild West” as it gets, but this has its advantages. The low barrier to entry means we could see tons of experimentation with different kinds of games, and if even one good game evolves out of it, maybe 8,000+ games will be worth it sometime in the near future. For now, you can use this story to help figure out what the most popular kinds of games are, as well as find some of the better ones available now. The list here is by no means comprehensive--consider it a taste of what the App Store has to offer.

Aurora Feint

Aurora Feint II Block Fun Ssss Menu Leaderboard

Aurora Feint II bills itself as "the first casual asynchronous MMO for the iPhone." We're inclined to call it a really fancy Puzzle Quest type of game. The game's innovative new feature is the ghost multiplayer functionality, aka the asynchronous multiplayer functionality. Using ghosts, you can fight friends or random folks from the game's network at your, and their, leisure. Much like with Mario Kart's ghost racer functionality, you record a copy of your gameplay that the game then exports to fight on your behalf. When you want to play against a friend, you're actually competing against your friend's ghost. It sounds odd, but it makes perfect sense considering that the game is on a phone. The chances of your getting a call midmatch are pretty high.

What's your favorite iPhone game? Drop us a comment.

Blue Attack/ Blue Defense

Blue Attack Base Ship Pew Pew Aieee Blue Defense Protect the egg!

Decidedly in the action category, Blue Attack and Blue Defense are both space based shooters. In Blue Attack, you're plopped into a little blue spaceship and tasked with protecting your base ship from hordes of red geometric attackers. The guns fire automatically, and you control the ship using either the tilt functions or the touch screen. You can upgrade your ship with more bombs, a bigger complement of wingmen, powerful guns, and much more. Blue Defense places you in a stationary planet with a rotating gun that swivels as you rotate the iPhone. As with Blue Attack, the gun fires automatically so all you have to worry about is mowing down scores of red squigglies, balls, and mean looking faces. With every level you pass, the game changes orientation occasionally placing you at the bottom of the screen to take out enemies from one side, or in the middle where you have to fend off attacks from every side.

Enigmo

Enigmo Drip drip Spillage A mess Success

Enigmo is essentially a game based around Rube Goldberg devices. The goal is to get various fluids into buckets using an array of bouncers, diverters, shooters, and more. Once you've figured out how you're going to get the contraption to work, you'll have to do it quickly to get a higher score.

Flight Control

Flight Control Easy Fabulous! Good Show!

Flight Control brings all the thrills of air traffic control onto the iPhone. The game makes use of the touch screen to draw flight paths and land incoming jumbo jets, helicopters, and small aircraft. Gameplay starts off slow enough, but the routing gets hectic mighty quick as more aircraft fly onto the screen from all sides. Standing in line at the grocery store was never this much fun.

What's your favorite iPhone game? Drop us a comment.

Galcon

Galcon Menu Triangle attack Better dead than red

Continuing the interplanetary geometric domination theme, we have Galcon. Using the touch screen, you send forth your little triangular fighters to capture neutral gray planets and your opponents colored planets. Attack a planet until it has zero fighters to capture it, with the final goal being to wipe out your opponents colored planets The game is about speed, strategy, and even a little trickery. Play against the computer or go online to duke it out with up to four other people simultaneously.

Geo Defense

Geo Defense How to Hairball Boom Warped

Geo Defense is your standard tower defense game with a few twists. Enemies march out from one side of the screen and travel along preset paths. Your goal is to set up offensive towers to mow them all down before they reach the end of the map. Each enemy you kill yields money, which you then spend to upgrade and buy more towers. Lather, rinse, repeat. Although the closer you let the enemies get closer to the end of the map, the higher the score multipliers go.

Light Bike

Light Bike Zoom Near Death Split Screen

Tron brought to the iPhone. Race your lightning quick bike in straight-line paths while tapping the sides of the screen to make 90-degree turns to cut other players off and make them crash into the colored wall you leave in your wake. Hit the middle of the screen to boost forward if you need that extra bit of speed. Light Bike even supports two-player split-screen play. That's right--split-screen on an iPhone. And if that wasn't enough Light Bike has Wi-Fi play for up to four people over two iPhones.

What's your favorite iPhone game? Drop us a comment.

Rolando

Rolando Rollin Smile Look familiar?

Ngmoco's Rolando plays and feels like Loco Roco for the PSP. Cute little blobs roll around trying to save other little blobs. You use the tilt functions to move Rolandos across the screen and the touch screen to interact with onscreen elements. The music from Loco Roco is decidedly more cutesy, but Rolando certainly holds its own.

SimCity

SimCity Oh yes So easy! Polluting Planning

Yes, that SimCity. EA released a version of the game on the iPhone, and it's about as complex as the original SimCity, but that's not necessarily a bad thing considering the horsepower and screen size of the iPhone. Using the touch screen, and some very forgiving tools, you can lay down roads, zones, and just about everything else.

Zen Bound

Zen Bound The tree Do you feel calmer?

Zen Bound is one of the oddball games for the iPhone. We're not sure what genre the game belongs to. With slow languid gameplay, Zen Bound acts like the proverbial rake in the sand. Using the touch screen or the tilt function of the iPhone you wrap rope around wooden bunnies, dogs, and more. Everywhere the rope touches the object it paints it. Your goal is to paint the object and tie off the rope on a nail.

With a backlog of thousands of games, and more coming out everyday, we're barely scratching the surface here with the few we've chosen. There are many more quality games on the iPhone in virtually every genre. Feel free to call out any of the great games you've experienced on the platform in the comments.

What's your favorite iPhone game? Drop us a comment.

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Discussion

204 comments
mahk88596546216
mahk88596546216

Games are meant to be played in your spare time, Mobile phones are meant to be used on the go, I can't say I have much spare time when i'm on the go. Also I LMAO so hard when people are attempting to use their phone and walk at the same time, thanks to new phones with silly B.S to keep people busy I just want ot thank the mobile companies for treating their clients like lab rats... it's hilarious to watch!!! (Just yesterday 2 people, both walking with phone went "BAM!!!" face to face... batteries a flyin'!!!) these are good days for monkeys! keep consuming monkey!!!

captainoflust
captainoflust

Redheaded stepchild? As if they don't have enough to deal with... now they're getting crap from your feeble analogies too. Nice

franzito
franzito

iPhone gaming is BAD for the battery life of it

Ace-Killer
Ace-Killer

Is cool having games on your iphone but the games or not better than the psp's. So the portable gaming leave to the psp.

acsam12304
acsam12304

and u have companys saying we have to many plat forms to make gamesf or. they should just drop game companys chould judt drop the iphone platform

trw534
trw534

The iphone looks like a good device

Tung-R
Tung-R

Why dont have game for Blackberry? i have blackberry, dont use I-phone :(

Tung-R
Tung-R

Dont know about this gameplay, but see nice :D. i think it good for girl.

jimy1475
jimy1475

i just dont like apple overall. not because i dont hawe it, i just like nokia 6233.

horgen
horgen moderator

I like tapdefence and taptap revenge 2. The only 2 games I have played on my iPod Touch that I can say are worth playing.

Sarcian
Sarcian

Yes the battery life can be an issue. They need to add the iPod Touch as a portable gaming device on the site, because it is. It's like a less lame version of the DS. I like the touch screen on the DS, but I hate having two screens, it seems like an annoying waste. I have a DS, PSP, and an iPod Touch, so don't accuse me of just hating on one of them. they're all solid systems, but i like this one the best. Fieldrunners, TapDefense, (both tower defense games) Spawn Illuminati (random little app that's tons of fun to play with) Peggle Warfare Inc (starcrafty game with three races, good solid RTS play, minor slowdown with larger numbers of units, great for roadtrips though. Fantastic Contraption (best physics game ever, with GREAT controls for the ipod) Archers (free!!! physics based archery thing, lots of fun, multiplayer/turns) TapTap Revenge 2, best free game ever... think something like guitar hero. Anyway... the list goes on and on. Do a better job picking out games next time. EDIT: I do have to commend the fact that they did say 'we probably havent seen it all yet'. i take back what i said before, but there are countless great games for the itouch. just keep in mind it IS a gaming device just as much as the psp and dsi are media players. apple just, in my opinion, does most of it better.

jjwalker9600
jjwalker9600

I have to agree about the iTouch. I have downloaded about 10 games on it. It is easy to do and I play it all the time when I am traveling to and from work. My only problem is that it drains your battery so fast, and that includes the lifespan of your battery. I bought the 3 year extended warrenty and I have already sent it back to get a new battery. It is only 9 months old.

lbrown21494
lbrown21494

The ds and psp are good to, dont take my last comment the wrong way

lbrown21494
lbrown21494

To the people who say get a psp or ds. They probably dont have an iPhone or iPod touch It has better graphics than the psp or ds, check out 3D world, and cube, two great examples

ZenTigerpaw
ZenTigerpaw

I really like Sim City. EA did a very good job on that.

msuspartan11
msuspartan11

I've played this pocket tanks style game for the Iphone before I thought it was pretty good. I still don't believe it has much potential for serious gaming.

Tskasa
Tskasa

a lot of the I touch games are fun.

LA_CA
LA_CA

they forgot Fieldrunners and Texas Hold'em!

Thorpe89
Thorpe89

I'm addicted to Flight Control right now. There's an update soon that will bring some new features.

aekforever
aekforever

If you want real portable gaming get a psp.

xandyg
xandyg

wat about tap tap? wat about MGS touch? where are all the really good ones?

ssjdagas
ssjdagas

A lot like the early 80's when games took two weeks to make and everyone was pumping out clones. If only there was a way to easily find all good games...

S2333
S2333

I have to say the app store was a good innovation on Apples part but there is a lot of junk on there to sort through to find decent apps.

Zero_x830
Zero_x830

I really like my Ipod, games like these are the reason and some really look awesome!

cjrock55
cjrock55

I'd have to agree with most here about the selection of games featured in the article. Of course, much of this is based on an individual's opinion, but with an article that supposes "we here at gamespot" have reviewed all the games and these are the best, well, you missed all the "top" games. I guess the best is to continue the thread by making our own personal suggestions. I find the best to be as follows: Spore: Origins (Very good quality) iDracula (My favorite) Hero of Sparta (God of War clone) Space Deadbeef (Amazing-gets very hard) Wolfenstein 3D (Better graphics than original, but marginal controls) Falling Balls (Really simple, REALLY fun) Echo (Simon) Sol Free Solitaire (FREE!) Baseball 2009 (Fun batting, but fielding is non existent) ChartFightSP (Battleship) Bubble Town (For the facebook people) ESPN Cameraman (Just like being at the bar)

mossongreens
mossongreens

...what if apple did make a console...the controller could be a touch screen like the itouch?!...

dev8stator_Ic9
dev8stator_Ic9

I don't get why you'd game on this, the DS and PSP are much, much better.

pardier
pardier

get stuff all games from teh store in my country :(

athenian29
athenian29

Best iPhone game ever: Falling Balls. Trust me, just download it. It's 100% free, and you'll either thank me for it because it's so fun or you'll curse me for it because it's so addicting. Either way, download it.

JackHoleFace00
JackHoleFace00

Does anyone know the battery life on the iPhone or iTouch (or both) when it comes to gaming? I'm curious Please respond with @JackHoleFace00 in the message so I can see if someone replied. Thanks!

Liam-1992-2006
Liam-1992-2006

@ratm247 geodefence does show its power graphics wise. if you play that game you cant not be astounded by its graphics yet perfect frame rate.

Aurora268
Aurora268

Geo Defense is the best game evverr, i love it, its so awesomee, get it now!

coaltango
coaltango

i like enigmo. for some reason the grfx are not that bad they are nice and shiny

ratm247
ratm247

@MrBrightside14: i agree with you in the purpose of the article, but it failed horribly. they did not demo any games that show off the iphones true gaming capabilities. these games could be played on almost any cell phone from the last 5 years, most people think all iphone games are dinky little minigames, glorified graphics tetris and sodoku. even the employees at my local ebgames had no idea that you could play games as advanced for a phone as brothers in arms, or the like. articles like this one only further the misconception that iphone games are a joke.

getheledout
getheledout

One of the Best Games I've played on My Iphone is Zombieville USA. It's a side scrolling shooter that is very addictive. If you get this game I guarantee you'll love it, but start off on easy level...anything over easy becomes very harsh fast. It's easy to pick up and play and very intuitive.

DarkFadi
DarkFadi

There is a silent hill on it.

Blue_Tomato
Blue_Tomato

Its nice with some iPhone game reviews, its almost impossible to find the good games on your own as there are about 95% homemade garbage games in iTunes. The feature is too shallow though, I wish Gamespot would give this platform more attention.

MrBrightside14
MrBrightside14

The purpose of features like this one, is to give those who are mostly unfamiliar with a particular gaming platform a chance at an educated buying decision for what is considered by many to be expensive hardware. The feature's purpose is not to tell you what to buy if you are already a regular user of the Appstore, but to help out others who may be on the fence about the device. I don't think it is worth mentioning whether or not the list helped you if you are already familiar with the Appstore's content.

Cooperace27
Cooperace27

This list didn't help me very much. I already had one or two of these games, and all the other games seem, well kinda stupid. I don't like this list very much, but that's mostly because I feel its missing the hardcore games on the iTouch/iPhone. Yes I did just say that, and I can't believe I said it.

Mkman221994
Mkman221994

My favorite Is Tap Tap Revenge 2 because its lots of fun and has AWESOME songs!

krazay88
krazay88

btw, my fav is ishoot, platypus, rolando, uniwar, reign of swords, geo-defence.. touchgrind got boring at one point.....

krazay88
krazay88

I Use my ipod touch a lot for games, some are addictive, i think i play more on my ipod then my wii. It's Easy to Start up and all, thats why, I mean there are a lot of good games, but some are really horrible. The day there will be priced a 20$ game, then real quality games will be arriving,

missonrs
missonrs

even though i find it fun to play games on the itouch. it really isn't designed to compete against ds. i mainly use it for music and such. (also if i spelled any words wrong my bad).

dashawnthl
dashawnthl

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]