Game of the Month, January 2010: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Sometimes, we have a hard task picking the very best iPhone game from the hundreds we play every month. This month, however, it was no contest. Rockstar’s epic crime drama GTA: Chinatown Wars won hands-down.

GTA: Chinatown Wars is mainly a driving and shooting game, but it’s also a drug-running game, a taxi game, a police game, a tattoo parlor sim, and many, many other things. The astonishing breadth of minigames and side quests, like making molotov cocktails at the gas station or hijacking trucks loaded with guns and ammo, mean you will almost never run out of things to do.

The main storyline is equally absorbing. Three competing Chinese criminals are trying to outdo each other to become leader of the Triads, and you are tasked with helping all of them so that you can recover a stolen family sword. While the story missions are nicely varied, you can ditch them at any time to drive around the giant virtual city, scoping out drug dealers or taking random missions from strangers.

Our runner-up for GOTM is not quite as expansive, but it makes excellent use of the iDevice to deliver a unique, highly addictive RPG and card game experience. Sword and Poker is a combat-based card game where you lay down poker hands to inflict damage on your monster opponents. As you delve deeper into the game’s lengthy dungeon, you’ll find new magic spells and equipment, introducing scores of strategies.

Congratulations to Rockstar and GAIA for producing two incredible games this month.