The 20 Best iPhone and iPad Games of 2012… So Far

The App Store is a labyrinthine place, and it’s easy to get lost in it. Many gamers just stick to the top 10 or 25 apps and base their purchases on those, ignoring everything else. To help you out, we’ve made it our mission to search out the best games available, regardless of whether they’re the best selling or not. Here’s our list of the top 20 iOS games that launched in the first quarter of 2012.

20. Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy

There’s a reason Apple invited Namco onstage at this year’s iPad event to show off Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy– it looks great, especially if you play it on the new iPad. But whatever device you play it on, you’ll be soaring across the skies and gunning down bogies. The controls are tight as a drum and the missions come in an impressive number of varieties. There’s not much here to complain about– just be sure to wear your seatbelt.

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19. Scramble With Friends

If Words With Friends was inspired by Scrabble, then Scramble With Friends owes its existence to Boggle, the game where you look at a jumbled grid of letters and have to find words in the chaos. Like all games in Zynga’s “With Friends” series, you play with friends or strangers online over asynchronous multiplayer. Even if they had simply recreated Boggle, Scramble With Friends would’ve been fun, but they’ve also included power-ups that add a clever wrinkle to the game. Download this one if you’re a word fiend.

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18. Pizza Vs. Skeletons

Pizza Vs. Skeletons sounds like the product of a brainstorming session fueled by a few too many recreational drugs. In reality, it’s a gorgeous action game, in which, yes, you control a giant pizza and battle against an army of skeletons. But don’t let the strange premise scare you away, because this game packs loads of content and a truly surprising amount of level variety. It may sound silly, but the game plays it straight and delivers the goods. Who doesn’t like pizza, anyway?

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17. League of Evil 2

Run, jump, and punch. Those are the cornerstones of many great games dating back to the early years of the medium, and League of Evil 2 shows that they’re still all you need to make a killer game. Your goal is to avoid myriad obstacles and reach the end the bite-sized stages. This title sports an old-school level of difficulty, but it gives you the control precision you need to meet the challenge. And it’s a challenge that’s a pleasure to accept.

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16. Hunters 2

Hunters 2 is a sci-fi strategy game where you play as a squad of mercenaries, taking missions for the man. If you play through the game’s campaign, you’ll find a well-told, highly-cinematic story. Then, you can take daily missions to level up your characters and gear even more. If you’re a big fan of thoughtful, turn-based strategy games, Hunters 2 should be your next purchase.

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15. Frederic – Resurrection of Music Complete

Frederic Chopin’s haunting piano concertos are remixed and modernized in this fantastic music game. You play as a resuscitated Chopin, who has to destroy other bands in head-to-head musical battles. The hilarious animated cutscenes keep you interested in the story, while the Guitar Hero-like gameplay makes classical music engaging.

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14. Puzzlejuice

If you want your brain to hurt in the best way possible, download Puzzlejuice. The game seems like Tetris at first, but when you form a full row of blocks in Puzzlejuice, they don’t clear away. Rather, the blocks turn into random letters. To clear the board, you must form those letters into words. A lot of quick thinking is required to play the game, but this puzzler will absorb your attention so fully that time will pass unnoticed, and you’ll look up from your game to realize it’s an hour later than you thought it was. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, we don’t know what is.

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13. Run Roo Run

Platformers don’t get much more basic than Run Roo Run, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this game is easy. Your kangaroo character runs automatically, and the goal of each level is to get from the left side of the screen to the finish line on the right. Your only job is to tap the screen to jump. Of course, it’s the obstacles that complicate matters. Rocks, spikes, springs, ropes, brambles, and more are scattered throughout, along with unique level elements in each of the 20 worlds. And when you beat the game, you can try the extreme levels, which are certain to test your mettle in the best way possible.

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12. Smash Cops

Smash Cops aren’t the most subtle peacekeepers– they don’t knock politely, they just drive through your front door. In Smash Cops, you play as a brutal police squad that has to crash into evildoers before they can escape. The one-touch controls are brilliant, and we also loved the way a traffic copter follows the action, like you’re controlling a live police chase.

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11. Angry Birds Space

The most popular iOS game of all time gets a sequel too big for planet Earth. In Angry Birds Space, you’ll still launch your attack birds by slingshot, but instead of falling neatly to the ground in an arc, they’ll sail straight ahead through space or whip around planetoids. We especially love the game’s brilliant level design, which has you terminating piggies in many clever ways. Not only is Angry Birds Space immensely popular, but it happens to be a great game as well.

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10. Beat Sneak Bandit

Everything in Beat Sneak Bandit moves to the beat– the security guards, the alarm system, and you. You have to infiltrate the home of the sinister Duke Clockface and steal back all of his stolen clocks. But if you try to move on the upbeat instead of the downbeat, you’ll be stuck in place. The only way to collect all the clocks and win is to time your moves carefully, and watch each level for its unique patterns.

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9. Waking Mars

Most action games are about destruction: shooting, bombing, and killing enemies. Waking Mars, on the other hand, is about creation. It’s about planting seeds and growing biomass in barren caverns on Mars. From the hand-painted art style to the intriguing storyline, we can assure you that Waking Mars is quite unlike anything you’ve ever played before, and these days that’s a beautiful, rare thing indeed.

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8. Triple Town

We’ve played dozens of Match-3 games over the years, so it takes a particularly great one to stand out nowadays. Triple Town does just that. In this game, you lay down tiles like grass, shrubs, trees, and houses on a six-by-six grid. If you lay three of the same pieces in a row, they get sucked up into one more valuable piece. The goal is to combine and re-combine your pieces to rack up points, but pesky bears appear on the board to thwart you. It may not look like much, but trust us, there’s a lot of strategy and a ton of fun to be had here. Since the game is free to play, you have nothing to lose. Try it yourself.

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7. Fade: Case of the Stolen Diamonds

You’ve heard of X-Ray vision, but Fade may be the first game we’ve seen with X-Ray touch. By touching the screen, you can clear a path for a mouse detective as he chases down a thief. Walls will disappear, spikes will be rendered harmless, and bullets will pass straight through him– as long as you keep your finger pressed over him. A jazzy soundtrack and dozens of ingenious puzzles make this one of the most refreshingly unique iOS puzzle games of the year.

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6. Zuma’s Revenge HD

March Game of the Month runner-up!

Match-3 marble-shooting games aren’t passe yet, because Popcap just brought their smash hit series Zuma to iOS. Zuma’s Revenge HD is fast and furious, requiring you to quickly shoot colored balls to make chains and prevent them from reaching the end of the track. Bosses and challenge levels are just a few of the great additional features, but the core gameplay is finely tuned and incredibly addictive.

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5. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

February Game of the Month runner-up!

Ghost Trick is a delightful port of one of the most inventive games in the Nintendo DS’s library. You play as a recently-dead ghost who has to figure out how he died and prevent a few other deaths along the way. You can only interact with certain objects in the world, so figuring out how to manipulate them to achieve your goal in each scene is all part of the fun.

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4. Star Marine: Infinite Ammo

January Game of the Month runner-up!

Contra has been such a terrific series over the decades that it’s surprising we haven’t seen more clones on iOS. Star Marine: Infinite Ammo certainly fits the bill, offering just about everything we could ask for in a side-scrolling action game. With great graphics and pitch-perfect gameplay, Star Marine belongs on any retro gamer’s device.

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3. Jazz: Trump’s Journey

January Game of the Month winner!

Jazz: Trump’s Journey transports you back to a Silly Symphonies version of the 1920s, where a young jazz musician (based on Louis Armstrong) has to reunite his band and save his girl. The platforming is top-notch, but what we really love is the game’s soundtrack and sense of style. This is one of the best platforming games you can buy on the App Store, and it’s also one of our favorites of the year so far.

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2. Swordigo

March Game of the Month winner!

If you ever owned an NES and a copy of Zelda 2, you’ll be surprised at how much Swordigo brings those memories to the surface. Swordigo is a combination of platforming, adventure, and RPG elements. You’ll level up your character as you explore a large world full of pitfalls, puzzles, and opponents. The platforming controls work extremely well, and the backgrounds have a unique 3D perspective to them. Swordigo is a Must Have if you can appreciate old-school games.

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1. Fairway Solitaire

February Game of the Month winner!

Fairway Solitaire is not your typical App Store solitaire game. While the mechanics of matching a card from your hand to one higher or lower on the board stay the same, Fairway Solitaire offers so much more. You’ll get bonus points for a massive combo, complete with encouraging sound effects, plus each golf-themed ‘course’ has its own unique hazards and layouts. Fairway Solitaire makes any other card game feel dull in comparison– and most action games, too.

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  • Ernie Thomaso

    There are lots of games Zynga launched but I prefer playing with scramble with friends. It somehow enhances my vocabulary as well as IQ :D

  • Justin Cook

    Hey really amazing infromation

    but you missing one game :-Flappy Bat : Endless Flyer Game Free .I am currently totally addicted to Flappy Bat although that