Buyer’s Guide – Action

Last week, we gave you the straight dish on the best sports games available on the App Store. This week, we’re feeling a little frisky… so we’re going with action games! If you feel like kicking some ass and blowing stuff up, any of these games should do you just fine.

If you’re a little more particular about the brand of action you desire, we went to all the trouble of splitting things into separate categories. If you’ve already played what we feel is the best representation of a certain category, don’t hesitate to try out an honorable mention nominee… we wouldn’t lead you astray! So read on, and if the accompanying screenshots don’t get you fired up for some sweet action gaming, have someone check you for a pulse.

Best Anti-Air Game – Must.Eat.Birds.

Publisher: Mediatonic

Price: $.99

With a goofy sense of humor and a cheap asking price, Must.Eat.Birds. is an easy choice for this category. You must “nom” (eat) all the birds before they nom your delicious cake by slinging the freaky orange “nomster” out of a makeshift fork catapult. You can shoot multiple nomsters at a time, and if they collide in the air they’ll combine to form a giant nomster that will really send the feathers flying. The crazy-awesome art style really launches this one to the top of the heap.

Honorable Mention – Earth vs. Moon

Publisher: Benjamin Padget

Price: $3.99

Taking the missile defense formula to new heights, Earth vs. Moon is set in the upper reaches of our stratosphere. Like Missile Command, three interceptors with limited ammo have to repel attacks coming from above. A variety of retro-themed enemies from Space Invaders and Pong make appearances, and the game gets tough at later levels while still keeping you smiling at the goofy “Earth Times” newspaper headlines. It costs a few more bucks than Must.Eat.Birds, but the substantial challenge and humor are worth it.

Best Hack and Slash Game – Hero of Sparta

Publisher: Gameloft

Price: $.99

Obviously inspired by Sony’s God of War titles, Hero of Sparta doesn’t quite reach those heights on the iPhone, but c’mon… this game only costs a dollar! It’s the best sword slasher on the platform, and the solid graphics and controls will keep you enthused throughout the hours-long adventure. Once you collect all the different weapons, ranging from a bow to an axe, you’ll realize that mobile gaming doesn’t get much better than this.

Best 3rd Person Shooter – Terminator Salvation

Publisher: Gameloft

Price: $4.99

If you’ve already picked up this title, you hit the bullseye. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Terminator Salvation is a rollercoaster ride through the machine-ravaged world of the movie, complete with easy-to-use controls and some of the best graphics on the handheld. The story isn’t half bad either, taking you through a variety of locales and ensuring that there’s never a dull moment. We just wish the game could keep up the pace for a bit longer; it can be completed in about 2 hours. With that said, those 2 hours are the best you’re gonna get.

Best Top-Down Shooter – Siberian Strike

Publisher: Gameloft

Price: $.99

A completely absurd story (we love those) involving a communist robot exporting tainted vodka for world domination really sets the stage for an amazing shooter, and Siberian Strike is most certainly that. The three different characters all have their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own cutscenes. The graphics are colorful, the powerups kick ass and local wifi multiplayer is supported. For the cheap asking price, this is a no brainer!

Honorable Mention – Space Ninja

Publisher: Jormy Games

Price: $1.99

A shooter without any shooting? We know what you’re thinking… but seriously, Space Ninja is all sorts of awesome. 123 levels of projectile-dodging madness will have you tilting your device every which way to a pulsing soundtrack as you strive to be the ultimate “space ninja.” All you have to do is touch the screen to put things into slow motion, and powerups make it a bit easier to navigate the ridiculous amount of enemies. Online leaderboards will keep you fighting your way up the ladder for quite some time.

Best Open World Game – Car Jack Streets

Publisher: Tag Games Limited

Price: $2.99

We don’t really need to tell you what you do in a game called Car Jack Streets. Though it’s a bit familiar to anyone who has played a Grand Theft Auto title, everything here is well done. The story starts off with a bang, and although some of the delivery missions get a little repetitive after a while, the real-time payment mechanic (you owe $50,000 a week for your gambling debts) will keep you coming back for more. The attractive cartoon-style graphics and improved controls cement this as the best of its type on the App Store, even if it’s a little on the easy side.

Honorable Mention – Payback

Publisher: Apex Designs

Price: $4.99

A bit more serious take on the open world crime genre is Payback. This is a no-nonsense game with very little story: The scary man on the payphone gives you assignments, and you damn well better do those assignments without asking any questions. With plenty of cars to steal and people to light on fire, Payback delivers serious thrills and runs great while doing it. Multiple cities keep you from getting bored of one area, and the voice acting and licensed soundtrack are icing on the cake.

Best 1st Person Shooter – Wolfenstein 3D Classic

Publisher: id Software

Price: $2.99

The granddaddy of modern FPS games reclaims its throne as the king of the iPhone shooters with this excellent port. There are tons of customizable control options to choose from, and the game itself has held up over time, despite the dated graphics. There are dozens of levels to blast your way through, ensuring that you get lots of bang for your buck.

Honorable Mention – Doom Resurrection

Publisher: id Software

Price: $9.99

This more recent offering from id Software isn’t a traditional FPS. It’s on rails, meaning you don’t get to control the movement of your character. Instead, you’ll focus on shooting, and the shooting here is excellent. Tilting the device moves the crosshair, and you can dodge attacks and switch weapons at will. The pacing here is a little slow and the price is in the upper echelon of App Store games, but this is still a solid choice with great production values.

Best Twin-Stick Shooter – Isotope: A Space Shooter

Publisher: iDrinkApp.com

Price: $2.99

At first glance this looks like nothing more than Geometry Wars on the iPhone. That wouldn’t be half bad, but Isotope proves to be so much more. A single-player campaign mode offers a nice break from trying to get the highest score, shops to buy better ships and powerups add an insane level of customization and the creative enemies types make every encounter unique. The fantastic visuals and music make a great game even better.

Honorable Mention – iDracula – Undead Awakening

Publisher: Chillingo Ltd.

Price: $2.99

This twin stick shooter has you fighting off hordes of the undead in a hopeless battle. Death is imminent, but the longer you survive the higher your score. The controls and animation are superb, and the action is perfectly balanced so it never feels unfair when you die. Powerups, tons of weapons and a few different modes keep iDracula blasting away for a long time.

Best Dogfighting Game – F.A.S.T.

Publisher: SGN

Price: $1.99

You want dogfighting? You want it online, whenever you want? Then you definitely want F.A.S.T., one of the best action games out on the platform. 30 single-player missions await if you aren’t in a competitive mood, and the incredible controls and graphics keep you from ever encountering a dull moment. We wish there was some way to trash talk online, but with online multiplayer as rare as it is on the App Store, it’s a minor complaint.

Honorable Mention – Top Gun

Publisher: Paramount Digital Entertainment

Price: $2.99

Top Gun doles out everything you’d expect: a corny story, cameos by characters from the movie and gratuitous use of Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone”. It also offers up some surprises for a game based on a 20-year-old movie, like some seriously awesome combat encounters and easy-to-grasp controls. Throughout the 10 missions, you’ll need to avoid enemy attacks by staying out of the “Danger Zone” (get it?) and locking onto enemy craft in turn. The game gets pretty tough toward the end, keeping you in flight school until you get your money’s worth.

Best Shooting Gallery Game – Westbang

Publisher: Rake in Grass

Price: $.99

As a man of the law, you’ll have to be sharp in Westbang. Think you can fire on an unarmed baddie? Think again, you’ll have to wait until he pulls his firearm first. Almost like a glorified version of whack-a-mole, things get seriously crazy as civilians, outlaws and felonious bastards try to catch you off guard and get you to shoot at the wrong time. The sound effects, cutscenes and excellent graphics will keep you entertained as you work your way up the online leaderboards.

We’d venture to say that these games are exciting enough to give you a quick adrenaline rush in the absence of your morning coffee. Ah, the joy of having dozens of games available in your pocket at all times.

As always, give us a holler back in the comments if you feel like we missed out on anything special. Next week, things will get a little trickier as we put on our thinking caps and take a hard look at the best puzzle games on the platform. Until then, keep your finger on the trigger!